By Kumar David –
The style today is different; it’s not all on one theme, it is three short pieces on different topics for the reason that if I spread them over three weeks they would all be outdated. Timely comment assists in thinking through events as they unfold and is fodder for latter day historians reviewing analysts’ judgment of events and interventions prescribed. The sorry state of affairs in Egypt and crumbling of the Arab Spring is first. Second, I want to push on with a topic I recently injected into political discourse; is there a disconnect, or is it cunning coordination, between Rajapakse siblings, in recent events – Weliveriya, and violence against Muslims and mosques. The third matter is Sinhala-Buddhist (SB) extremism and the end of low key response by the Muslim community and leaders.
The debate whether the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) or democratic-radical-secular (DRS) groups including the youth movement Tamarod, did more to destroy the gains of Egypt’s Arab Spring, can go on all night. Growling “a pox upon both your houses” is the most appropriate allocation of culpability for the period prior to the coup. The bigoted and sectarian MB-Morsi government alienated every other shade of opinion and drove Egypt’s minorities and the DRS to desperation and folly. Then DRS jackasses, with a Judas kiss, delivered the people into the murderous jaws of the military.
The DRS first threw away the 2012 presidential election by putting forward a dozen candidates and opening the door for a runoff between Morsi and a candidate of the old establishment. From then it was all downhill as it staggered from blunder to blunder. Finally it paved the way for a coup and a de facto military regime. It is only a matter of time before the army shoots DRS activists like dogs on the streets if they venture out as the economy deteriorates and democratic rights are further trampled. (From Vannie to Weliveriya, a cynical Lankan would be wont to remark). Elections next year! What elections with MB, the country’s largest party for better for worse, crushed? Banana republic elections under a military heel!
The bloodbath, where over a thousand unarmed civilians including women with children were mowed down, suits reactionary interests. The army has safeguarded its power and privileges and would slaughter half the population if need be. Obama shed orchestrated crocodile tears but retained the $1.3 billion military aid package. Washington supports the coup and the military crackdown; let there be no doubt about that. Western leaders who saw slaughter coming put on a show of pleading for reconciliation, but none took a firm stand threatening an economic boycott which would have prevented massacre. Geopolitics and Israeli interests are central to the West and Saudi Arabia’s encouragement of the crackdown.
Despite the army firing into tens of thousands of protesters on August 14, rallies and marches still continue in many cities. The army still uses live ammunition and fires from helicopters into crowded places. These despicable blackguards have lost every vestige of moral decency and a revolutionary war led by religious zealots has commenced. A likely scenario is that after fake elections next year a puppet civilian government will be established with the military pulling the strings in full view. Since this puppet president would not have Mubarak’s authority, the relationship will be troubled. Popular disgust with army and DRS and a longer-term backlash is preparing the ground for a near inevitable Islamic state in Egypt in the future. The DRS must rue: “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley; an’ leave us nought but grief an’ pain for promis’d joy!”
He loves me; he loves me not!
A month ago I posed the question “Is there a rift between President and Defence Secretary or is it a put on show where the former tangos to please the international community while the latter does a kaavadi dance to give Sinhala extremists an erection?” I had to leave it unanswered at the time, but subsequent events indicate that the sibling team is intact (except of course for minor irritants) but has lost control of the SB extremists and sections of the army. What makes me say this? Firstly, the Weliveriya shooting; contrary to some, I doubt if Gota instigated it because it was foreseeable the consequences would be hugely damaging for the regime. Second, continuing extremist violence against Muslim places of worship and the associated vitriolic campaign is raising a scare that large pogroms will follow; this destabilises the regime. The sorcerer’s apprentices have broken free, and dance the devil with scant regard for their old masters!
Damage to the Rajapakses is not worth the supposed benefits of inciting religious extremism or using the military to teach demonstrators a lesson. Hence, these are probably not government orchestrated events but out of control occurrences. The military going out on a limb, in effect telling politicos to get lost, will keep leaders awake at night. Yes, the regime used police and military – admittedly not unwilling actors – to crush Tamils and journalists, and shield crooks, drug lords and rapists. You can play that game only thus far; then comes a point when slaves reflect “Why be pawns in other’s hands? Why not do as we please?” Similar remarks can be made of the BBS and two Ravanas. The regime used and incited them; but it is also going ahead with Northern PC elections, has not scotched 13A, and makes concessions to the Muslims when the going gets hot. None of this is to the liking of the extremists, so they now act without sanction of their patrons. It seems, minor disagreements apart, sibling collaboration is holding, but has lost the plot as extremist and establishment forces run amok.
A statement by eight Ministers and Deputy Ministers of the Rajapakse Government says, inter alia:
“The State has a fundamental duty to ensure that our religious freedom is preserved in this multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation . . . (T)ake decisive action to halt the trend of openly espousing religious hatred towards the Muslim community. . . The notion that there are elements in our society who can act with impunity should be totally eradicated from the public perception that has now taken root in our society.”
This from Ministers of the government, in black and white, is an impeachment of President and Defence Secretary. Even mild Jehan Perera of the Peace Council, usually careful not to give offence to the regime, makes an indictment:
“Although the attackers were clearly identifiable there are no reports of any deterrent action by the police in regard to apprehending the aggressors. The pattern of incidents that have taken place in the recent past is an indication of the threat to pluralism, multi-culturalism and religious tolerance in the country. The attitude of the law enforcement agencies to permit those who break the law and get away without legal sanction undermines the credibility of the government as a secular one. This lack of commitment has led to the fomenting of religious and ethnic tensions in post-war Sri Lanka”.
Still, the Rajapakses, infinitely thick skinned, will sit up only if the electorate speaks. But will it? The outcome of Central and North-Western province elections in September will be the first sign of a shift, if any. Much as I wish to see the UPFA’s nose bloodied I am not as foolish as most Lankans bereft of the ability to separate wishes from facts. Time to watch, not predict; there are good grounds for uncertainty.
The Yellow and the Green
The arithmetically rational, albeit morally unjustifiable element in SB paranoia is that Muslim men are more virile and their women more fecund. On average, Muslims are better built, fairer of complexion and sharper at business, perhaps feeding subconscious inferiority complexes. If growth-rate differentials are sustained the proportion of Muslims in the population will rise to 20% by the middle of the Century, and if Ceylon and Upcountry Tamils procreate with passion, increasing their joint total from 15% to 20%, the hegemony of Sinhala-Buddhism will be buried in perpetuity. Such trends will not be reversed however many Mosques the BBS-2Ravana consortium burns down, nor how garish its nightmares. Remember:
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
Such demographics need not be a formula for strife if Lanka had what it does not have, statesman-like leaders; but the last chance of that passed with NM and his team. I say this as one who opposed coalition politics, even when up to my neck in the LSSP.
A third term for Mahinda Rajapakse will exacerbate SB exploits against Muslims and Evangelical Christians and soon extend to Catholics. What! They shouldn’t be made to feel left out, eh? I reckon assault on Greens by Yellows will gather pace and the siblings’ half-hearted responses will be manna for assailants. Younger Greens are responding with energy and this will have easy to foresee consequences.