By Kumar David –
There are two not necessarily opposing, may even be complementary assessments taking root among analysts regarding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s intentions and his frame of mind. One view is that the regime is weak, cornered has no way out of crisis, the Resigned to Defeat (RD) option. The other view is that the regime is going to pull a rabbit out of a military hat, the Authoritarian Option (AO). Both seem to be on the table in the minds of those who decide these things.
What motivates today’s column is a report in the last week’s Sunday Times about a tamasha for military types that the President fêted. The feedback on my laptop and iPhone were of two varieties: RD theorisers who said this is Gotabaya’s swansong, his advance farewell party. Did they sing He’s a Jolly Good Fellow and Jayamangala Gaatha, the report didn’t say? The other lot were the conspiracy theorists who see a black-hand clenching a dagger behind every jeep. They say “Why is he feting the military on a grand scale? He is up the gum tree and has no option but a military-authoritarian grab. I am inclined to agree with the former proposition while keeping space for the latter. Let me explain why I sense the need for caution.
I received before Christmas from a comrade I have long had a close association an email whose gist was: “A ‘defence pact’ of the whole opposition is premature. We (he is an NPP man) should consolidate our base at working class and village level and become a powerful force. There is no threat of a militaristic intervention at this time. The government is too weak and there is no way it can get out of its mess. If the situation changes we can reconsider. At the moment there is space for us to work towards an alternative power.” You see he is 100% an RD theorist, meaning he judges the AO or authoritarian option to be beyond the reach of the regime.
That the government is screwed-up like a headless chicken and is sinking ever deeper into the mire is just what I have been saying for six months; so I have no problem with this sentence. But the “If the situation changes etc.” assurance is like a brave man who promises to take a life insurance policy after he kicks the bucket. Why “if” and “reconsider” after? Why can’t both be done now? How does all the opposition agreeing to a minimal defensive alliance obstruct “consolidating the base at working class and village level”? What stops anyone’s propaganda and programme work if the opposition takes a joint stand against the regime attempting militaristic hanky-panky? Somebody must teach this comrade formal logic.
The cost of misjudgement is high. An attempted military adventure will not blow over. It will lead to years of anarchic instability, bloody struggle and horror. The weaker the regime, the worse the anarchy and the civil war. The junta in Burma and Sudan are “too weak” that is why there is so much brutality, bloody repression, murder and rape. This is the consequence of a coup by an unpopular and weak junta. QED comrade.
Web report of the gathering at President’s House
“A 1,090 strong military contingent from the tri-forces were the stars on Wednesday night at a gala ceremony at the President’s House. There were drinks and dinner hosted by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Commander-in-Chief and Defence Minister. The guests included one-time Navy Commander Wasantha Karanagoda – now Governor of the North Western Province, Rtd. Air Chief Marshal Jayalath Weerakody, Rtd. Air Force Marshal Roshan Goonetilleke and one-time Navy Commanders Daya Sandagiri and Thisara Samarasinghe. There was no formal ceremony associated with the event but military bands from the three armed forces took turns in playing background music. One participant surmised that the event concerned those who were recruited to the Navy and to other related services after 1971. They had all been associated with Colonel Rajapaksa at different times”. (quoting Sunday Times Sri Lanka, 26 Dec 2021)