4 December, 2023


Enter Homo Extremum? 

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“History, despite its wrenching pain,

Cannot be unlived, but if faced

With courage, need not be lived again”.

Maya Angelou (On the Pulse of Morning: An Inaugural Poem)

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s maiden speech as the SLPP’s Presidential candidate was a masterpiece in banality. It didn’t contain a single memorable sentence or one inspiring idea. That absence was no accident. The speech aimed not to fire the imagination of its auditors, but to quieten their unease, to reassure them, to lull them into a sense of complacency. Its purpose was to create a word-image of a new Gotabaya who is the antitheses of the familiar Gotabaya. This Gotabaya-in-the-making is a harmless but effective technocrat, not the terminator of men, but the terminator of corruption, as his brother Basil phrased it.

In her Nobel Lecture, Toni Morrison reflects on how language “is handled, put into service, and even withheld…for nefarious purposes.” Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s speech, and the campaign it foreshadows, would have us disremember that this man, when told that Gen. Fonseka had implicated him in the White Flag incident, spluttered, “He can’t do that. He was the commander. That’s a treason. We will hang him if he do that… He is a liar, liar, liar…” (BBC Hard Talk – June 2010). 

Not that man, who dreams of dispensing death, like Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s speech cajoles us to believe. That man never was. We imagined him. Just listen to this speech choking with unexceptionable platitudes that any politician anywhere would use: people-centric development, developing human resources, more jobs, more infrastructure, e government, middle class housing, war heroes, patriotism, national sovereignty… This is the reality of Gotabaya, not a terrifying killer, but a boring pedant, who deals not in violence but in safe commonplaces. 

What was sui generis about the speech were not the words used, but the words carefully left out – omissions not of forgetfulness but of memory, since the candidate was reading off a teleprompter. The speech made no mention of democracy, basic rights and freedoms, justice or rule of law. It condemned extremist terrorism but not extremism. All these absences clearly indicate what his presidency would be about – the rule of one man and his coterie, according not to laws or due processes but their wants, needs, whims and fancies.

Early in the speech, Gotabaya Rajapaksa introduced himself as a man who always made “every effort to deliver results that go above and beyond expectations.” That was a mistranslation, in all probability a deliberate one. The correct translation of the Sinhala sentence would be, When given a responsibility, I always tried to fulfil it without being constrained by limits and by going beyond norms.” (The Sinhala original is here ). That is the real Gotabaya: a man who respects no law, no constitution, no norm; a man who might have forged that Certificate of Renunciation of US Citizenship; a man who doesn’t understand that civilisation is about limits, a man who has no qualms about cavorting beyond the pale. 

An Extreme Man. 

Make Sri Lanka Safe Again?

In his maiden speech, Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised to make Sri Lanka safe again. 

When Gotabaya Rajapaksa talks about safety, he doesn’t want us to think of Khuram Shaikh, the British tourist hacked to death in the Rajapaksa bastion of Tangalle by a Rajapaksa acolyte. When Gotabaya Rajapaksa promises that under his rule women will be able to travel across the length and breadth of land with no fear, he doesn’t want us to remember Mr. Shaikh’s gang-raped companion, Victoria Tkacheva. 

Or perhaps he would have us believe that Ms. Tkacheva was neither raped nor sexually assaulted, as he – or his presidential brother – got Dinesh Gunawardane to inform the parliament on 11th July 2013. Would he make women of Sri Lanka safe again by turning rape into a forbidden word, even as it remains a permissive deed?

When Gotabaya Rajapaksa talks of ending crime, he wants us to forget the gun fight of the Mafia variety that took place in the Colombo suburb of Kolonnawa on October 8th, 2011. The principals were Monitoring MP of the Defence Ministry and Gotabaya-acolyte Duminda Silva and Presidential advisor and long time Mahinda supporter, Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra. The mini-battle ended with several deaths, including of Mr. Premachandra. As was established in two courts of law, the murder weapon was a gun stolen from the Elephant Pass camp when it was overrun by the LTTE in 2000. Amongst Duminda Silva’s gang was Dematagoda Chaminda, a notorious underworld boss. 

In 2016, Duminda Silva was convicted of murder by the Colombo High Court. The conviction was unanimously upheld by a five judge bench of the Supreme Court in October 2018. In his ruling, the then Chief Justice, Priyasath Dep said this: “Starting from the time the polling commenced and till the time it was drawing to an end, the 11th Accused (Duminda Silva) spent his day, marauding between polling stations with weapons, defying officials discharging their duties, and assaulting and victimizing people associated with Solangaarachchi (a rival candidate)… The only time they were not seen intimidating people were when the group was having lunch.”

When the Supreme Court gave its verdict, Duminda Silva’s supporters shouted, “We will bring back Gotabaya Sir to get him out, ” according to The Colombo Telegraph. Make Sri Lanka safe again, indeed!

When Gotabaya Rajapaksa promises us discipline, does he mean as disciplined as the mobs that besieged the British and the Canadian High Commissions, and the UN compound in 2010? The mob against the UN was led by Minister Wimal Weerawansa, another Gotabaya-acolyte. The police looked on as the mob forcibly entered the UN compound and some of its staff hostage. When the police tried to ensure the safety of the captive staff, the mob erupted in anger. “After police intervened Weerawansa made a call on his mobile phone…. The call was to Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa…Weerawansa spokesman Mohammed Mussamil said. Weerawansa passed the phone to the commanding officer who answered, ‘The Inspector General of Police ordered me to do this, sir’. Moments later he ordered his men back and the demonstrators erupted in cheers” (Reuters – 6.7.2010). But the mobs were disciplined. They didn’t besiege the embassy of the United States of America, the adopted homeland of their master.

In 2010, soon after his brother won a second term, Gotabaya Rajapaksa gave an interview, detailing his future plans for Sri Lanka. Foremost was bringing the judiciary in line with the regime. Two years later, his brother’s government realised that dream by illegally impeaching Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in gross violation of the limits imposed on him by his position as a public official, jumped into the political fray, accusing those who opposed the impeachment of terrorism. He called such opposition “a conspiracy…..hatched by foreign elements to topple the Rajapaksa regime… the country was facing challenges similar to those that existed during the military conflict.  Everyone knows that school children, university students, university lecturers and trade unions were used to create trouble… Today they are attempting to do it through the judiciary. They want to destabilise the country” (Daily Mirror – 29.12.2012 emphasis mine).

In his masterly book, Mussolini’s Italy, RJP Bosworth reminds us that Fascist Italy was “a deadly enemy of what is best or most humane about humankind.” That is true of every tyranny, and will be particularly applicable to any of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s making. The man has already decided to form a paramilitary force consisting of volunteers and headed by retired military officers, to ensure his own safety. History offers a parallel: Sturmabteilung; the SA; aka the Brown Shirts.

This is the man we are not supposed to fear. 

Brothers at arms?

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s maiden speech was most significant in what it didn’t say about Mahinda Rajapaksa. 

It made no mention of Mahinda Chinthana. It didn’t say that a President Gotabaya will tread the path of President Mahinda. Using strategic silences, the speech made clear that a President Gotabaya would be his own man who would go his own way. Mahinda Rajapaksa, a savvy political operator, would have heard the unspoken message. No wonder he barely smiled during the entire ceremony.

Our monarchic past was not exactly the haven of stability we think it was. Of the 58 Sinhala kings covered by the Mahawamsa of Bhikku Mahanama, only 17 reigned for more than 10 years (two presidential terms by current reckoning). Many kings with short reigns were deposed by their closest kith and kin. A Gotabaya Presidency may well return us to this glorious past when power struggles within royal families was a fact of everyday life.

A week before his younger brother was anointed the SLPP’s presidential candidate, Mahinda Rajapaksa made a portentous statement to The Virakesari. The newspaper had questioned Mr. Rajapaksa about minority angst concerning a Gotabaya presidency. He responded with a standard denial, and this: “In reality, further to the (19th) constitutional amendment, the Prime Minister has more powers. I’m the Prime Ministerial candidate. So we have to work together” (The Hindu – 10.8.2019 – emphasis mine). Mr. Rajapaksa’s statement is a declaration of intent on what kind of prime minister he plans to be. It is also a warning of the power struggles that will roil the Lankan state under a Gotabaya Presidency. Mahinda Rajapaksa, though not the oldest of the Rajapaksa siblings, inherited DA Rajapaksa’s political mantle. For decades he had been the political paterfamilias of the entire Rajapaksa clan, the sun around which siblings and offspring, nephews, nieces, and cousins revolved. His statement to The Virakesari indicates that he has no intention of relinquishing that pre-eminence to his younger brother. What he feels when leading Sinhala-Buddhist monks hail Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the new Dutugemunu is all too easy to imagine.

If Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins the presidency and Mahinda Rajapaksa becomes the Prime Minister (both outcomes seem likely at this moment), there will be a full scale political civil war between the two brothers for every scrap of power and every inch of ground. In this politico-familial conflict, they will be ably assisted by their loyalists. Some of Gotabaya-loyalists have already begun to publicly criticise Mahinda Rajapakasa. Nalin de Silva, who was a prominent attendee at last Sunday’s Gotabaya investiture ceremony, launched a broadside against the former president just two weeks ago. “Mahinda has no vision. He is merely engaged in popular politics. Mahinda has a backbone. But he is being manipulated by Basil and others… Even President Sirisena might be manipulating him” (Kalaya – 27.7.2019).

 Mahinda Rajapaksa has almost a childish love for over-the-top accolades (‘the Lion in the Lion Flag’, ‘Father of the Nation’ and the ‘Wonder of the World and the Universe’). He clearly enjoys seeing his own face staring at him from a thousand billboards and a million posters. He liked being called Maharajaneni (high king). He is likely to do his best to get his brother elected president, because therein lies his path to premiership. But that unity would be tactical, and is unlikely to last beyond election night. Being eclipsed by his younger brother is unlikely to be the future Mahinda Rajapaksa intends for himself. He’d be able to tolerate a President Gotabaya only if the presidency is pared down to a ceremonial role. And he will try to attain that goal using the 19th Amendment as his suit of armour and his Excalibur. 

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who believes in being his own king and has developed his own coterie consisting of retired military men, active businessmen, and tame professionals, is unlikely to succumb to his older brother’s demands. Since neither brother respects the rule of law or due process, we will not be able to depend on the judiciary to settle any future turf war between them. With no institution capable of acting as an arbiter, the Brothers’ War is likely to escalate, turning the state into a battleground, and compelling politicians and public officials to take sides. This total power struggle between the two brothers, their nuclear and extended families, their black-coated or saffron-robed advisers, and their armies of supporters might be what posterity most vividly remembers about a Gotabaya Presidency. 

And those who willingly bartered their rights as free men and women for the dream of stability would find themselves chasing mirages in a desert bereft of compassion, decency or peace. What other outcome is possible in a country ruled by Homo Extremum, a man who believes himself to be beyond the limits of human condition, and of the boundaries that mark and guard the territory of civilisation.

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Latest comments

  • 10

    dr dayan
    what do you have to say to this or will you take the easy way out by remaining silent

    • 6

      Right at these days, DJ has been caught by both sides and has to stay mum. If not he would have to face it again, a recall by President Siirsena.
      That may be the reason, Mr Selfproclaimed to stay mum since his GOTA is announced as the nominee in their camp.
      Anyways, we need to open up as much as we can, in improving the awarness of the rank and file.
      Misleading can us being ended up in a misery as is the case in Zimbabwe.

    • 8

      Thisaranee: US citizen Gotabaya and Sri Lanka electorate is being played by Trumpland who also owns and operates Bondscam Ranil.
      The US game with goon Gota and Ranil is “heads I win, tails you lose” either way Lanka is screwed!
      But while everyone is distracted with the elections circus, media and commentry is curiously silent about the role of Saudi-US Special Operations Forces (SOF) in Sri Lanka’s Easter terrorism.
      Today the same SOF have set off bombs at a wedding party in Afghanistan targeting the Hazari minority, just as they did on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka targetting minority Christian Tamils. Taliban has denied the attack in Afghan, and it is clear that this is another fake US owned IS project to distract and de-stablize the region.
      US is continuing to wage “Economic Terrorism” in Sri Lanka and South asia and weaponizing ethno-religious identity politics in the South Asia region to divide and distract everyone from the fact that Trumpland is the biggest Rogue State and exporter of Terrorism in the World today – waging war on China and Iran to crash the growth of Asia.

    • 5

      The real gota is depicted here in this article written by Karu Jayasuriya: Pl read to the end.
      The Sunday Leader newspaper has reported in their latest edition that Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, has abused their Editor Ms Frederica Jansz in obscene language, threatened and intimidated her.Journalists in Colombo protest against ‘media suppression, abduction of journalists and intimidation’-He is quoted, among others, as having told her “You are shit, shit journalist. A f……g shit. A pig who eats shit….. I will put you in jail… People will kill you. People hate you…… They will kill you. I am not afraid of the bloody courts.”
      The state run media which names and shames anyone who expresses dissenting views has, however, not reacted with lightning speed to deny the report. Nor has the Ministry of Defence, one that is also equally adept at naming, shaming and even threatening the media.There remains an unpleasant record of their dealings with the media.One can only conclude therefore that The Sunday Leader account is an accurate report of conversations with Defence Secretary. As the Defence Secretary, this is the first time ever, an official of such high stature has thought it fit to use vulgar, obscene language and intimidate a journalist. This is also the first time an official has spoken publicly so contemptuously about the law courts in this country. Can the public have confidence to seek any fair play and justice from such a high official, who is behaving like a dictator? His conduct can only bring shame and disrepute to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his entire cabinet. Equally, it can give the country an even poorer image as the Government struggles today with their High Commissioners and Ambassadors abroad to give the Sri Lankan image a clean look.

    • 6

      nalmen – Dayan the public racist#1 and warmonger prefers to drop his bogus doctorate!

      • 5

        It is naive to have given up his American Citizenship. He should have contested the US after Trump. Imagine the whole world at his feet and not just Sri Lanka alone. If Gota becomes the President the Sri Lankan Population will be minus the 6.2 mil. A wonder no other country has achieved in reducing the Population even through Family Planning.

  • 13

    A well-written and most frightening article about a future that portends an existential threat to ordinary people exercising any freedom of expression. It is deeply unfortunate that the masses always get swept up in emotion and group dynamics and sway with the tide, cleverly orchestrated by international public relations agencies. No amount of rational argument against a potential fascist dictatorship will reach the ear of most voters. In contrast, they will be awed by the spectacular images flashed across television screens of a new king in the making and bolster their ever-unrewarded hopes for a better life and promising future in the Wonder of Asia. One point about the brothers falling out does not seem likely as they also know how to share power within the family.

  • 5

    pre election correct
    post election wishful thinking

  • 12

    Sinhalese have not provided a single politician who could lead a united nation to peace, prosperity and progress in the last seventy years.

    I have my grave doubts if they will provide one in the next 30 years.

    • 6

      President Jayawardena could have changed this country if ‘Para Demalu’ did not kill 13 soldiers and declare war against the Government. ‘Para Demalu’ did that on the instructions from our neighbor who was keen to destabilize this country. Hindians trained the terrorists and armed them to ruin this country.

  • 5

    The Armed Services will decide. They are being wooed by MS. Yesterday 31 colonels were promoted Brigadiers. Diplomatic appointments to retired Armed Service Personnel.
    The family which created the Law-unto-Themselves Armed Services may get what Mugabe got from his Armed Services.
    We, layLankans, will pay for all this.

  • 2

    I heard Americans had said, Gota do not worry about court cases, that is just for their security. Only expectation is approve and say OK to all the agreements. Yahapalana govt approves some other legislation to sell Sri lanka to MCC, NATO and to american companies.
    See how mighty PSC is doing, all are national list MPs appointed for some one’s need. Some are known corrupts and bond scammers. Others are filthy rich because of Arab money and is working for hidden hands. They are both in the witness stand and as Judges. These appointed agents inside parliament want to summon President, a man elected by the PEOPLE or the citizens, to be in front of them to find out whether President knows the hidden hands behind the ISIS attack, and how the Intelligence net work operates in sri lanka.

  • 9

    If GR comes into power then Sri lanka as a nation is in for a hard time. The man is going to rule with a iron hand without mercy and all lankans are having to walk in line with him or face the consequences.
    Prosperity and progress economically will not be the issue but prosperity and progress with regard to power and jack booting will be the priority. There will be no free speech, free press and freedom and all talk will be in hush hush tones. A data base of every citizen will be created, full address, religion, phone numbers, contact details, etc etc. One can run but cannot hide. You will have to carry your id card at all times and all info on that card will have to be updated otherwise the consequences will be many.
    GR will recruit his own private informants from all society ( rich, poor, middle class ) and they will be given special perks to report any dissidents. Dissidents will not be tolerated.
    Police will be given stop and search powers at all times and so will the armed forces.
    Gone will be the days of public strikes and public demonstrations will be according to his will.
    If any one knows what East Germany was in the good old days with the infamous Stasi in command then one will know what is in the future for SL. Another example was the infamous Mukhabarat secret police force of Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad of Syria.
    Sri lankans over the years have failed to understand the value of the blessed land they live in and all that is about to change. Only a miracle can save Sri lanka and there is much doubt that God will intervene.
    Colombo Telegraph will be the first web site to be blocked in SL.
    Dont hope much from Sajith Premadasa as a President because the man lacks wisdom in governance and his father’s skeletons in the cupboard need to be put to rest in peace.

  • 3

    Gota is also a patron of the Budu Bala Sena.
    This gives him a clout among the saffron brigade.
    The judiciary is dumb and/or frightened, and has given him enough time – bail – to contest.
    No other candidate ever, was favoured like this.

  • 1

    Already Old brother Prince has told New King that somebody (LTTE?) with Malaysian guns is trying to shoot him, Deva and Karuna. Before other things, the first action of the security system should have been to inform Malaysian security system and alert them too. That is what India did when it found TN ISIS. But that is not going to happen as it would foil the whole preparation.

    New King has ordered TID to investigate this. But he was the one did nothing when India warned so many times about the impending ISIS attack. During the coup they used the ISIS operatives to shoot two policemen. Then to protect the ISIS they arrested Tamil Ex. rebels under PTA. Same ISIS was used to break Greek Buddha statues to make rise up Modayas to bring some troubles to Muslims. After bomb blast, without any connection they declared it was the ISIS shot the policemen and they had handed over even the gun used to shoot. But why would somebody who was rolling in billions would carry a stolen gun for months while they could have bought missiles with the money they had?

    ISIS team was given bombs from Welisara Navy camp. The ISIS operatives were protected by a Muslim CID spy. He arranged a secure house in Sainthamaruthu for the operatives’ family. They hired a Sinhalese driver to Transport the family to Sainthamaruthu. They latter bombed the family inside the Sainthamaruthu home, to hide all secrets. But to hide the Sinhala driver’s case, they bribed him 50 million as present to show the house of hideout. Though the driver was presented 50 million, they claimed it was the neighbors had the gramasevaka to have the hiding family arrested by army. Now they are taking selected tourist to create fake witnesses to hide the real evidences of Army bombing the house. They are claiming the suicide bombers inside the house only killed them, but let the boss’s family to hide in a safe place.

  • 8

    “This is the reality of Gotabaya, not a terrifying killer, but a boring pedant, who deals not in violence but in safe commonplaces.”

    Must be hard for TG to digest. Even the most battle-hardened soldiers and politicians don’t spend all of their time killing or thinking of ways to kill. We have one example in history, Asoka, who did more to spread Buddhism than anyone except the Buddha himself. Gota will continue his plans of beautifying Colombo, increasing economic development with Chinese assistance, etc. Of course, if some elements want a new fight, Gota will not hesitate to give it to them. Gota is not patient like his brother, so these elements (Sampanthan, Rudrakumaran, Islamic bombers, etc). should be careful. He will bring the house down on them quickly.

  • 4

    Superb article.

    Adding with above enormous details, family power based cold war shown significant examples.

    1. Namal baby vow at preamble we will not pollute by banners, hoardings & posters. Reality his voice not on count.
    His displeasure was environmental concern.

    2. Namal Rajapaksa not allowed to wear family customary red shawl “saatakaya” which SLPP presidential candidate Gotabaya avoids with/without reason.

    3. Rajapaksas hardcore henchmen and loyalist gradually divided into camps.

    4. Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksas frontlier political operatives missing in grand candidate revealing ceremony.

    5. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa yet not felt comfortable to have family members in his unexpected political milestone, or suspicious on further steps.

    6. Non of SLPP politicians branded their forthcoming presidential determinations including Rajapaksa team arrangements.

    7. Gotabhaya Rajapaksas failed to review previous regime credentials which his President brother was key instrument to became this stage.

    Gotabhaya Rajapaksa SLPP presidential candidate a statement indirectly Mahinda Rajapaksa’s retirement plan from infinite restless fellow crooks and opportunity of announce his heir as Lion King movie.

    If Gotabhaya Rajapaksa nomination refused or by any means defeated.

    40 plus years political experienced former president cum a party leader will definitely quote as below.
    “International Conspiracy & Diaspora NGO operatives overruled my brother’s sacrifice to uplift the nation, now my elder son be yours.
    im willing to sacrifice anything for my family in power (sorry a mistake unable re -write it’s actually spells “my country in service “)

    Thisaranee G spare me, its your article inspiration to write this toddler comment.

  • 2

    Wow ! Homo Extremum;? Who are you talking about Ranil or Gota?

  • 2

    Every one is back MR, GR, BR, Shavendra, Karanagoda ( they just took some time off) except Duminda Sir. I am sure he will be back too, hopefully with his memory intact. Jeyawewa. Country like no other. We do not need US,EU,UN , Diaspora or LTTE, when we the Lankans can do. Just be careful not to step on Trump, who is much crazier than you all.

  • 2

    The 19th Amendment was brought to checkmate the Rajapakses; Is it not an irony that the Rajapakses have manipulated events to turn this amendment to their advantage?
    Once MaRa and GoRa are in the saddle, Hitler and Mussolini will seem to be small fry!

    • 2

      Really Plato so people in Sri Lanka can expect death camps mass genocide indiscriminate killings, stars as identifications? And the ghettos to be built how soon this will start immediately.
      A pseudo name like Plato you must be one of the most sort after philosopher in Sri Lanka. Or to paraphrase you are you a “Tiny tiny small fry” with your own tiny ideas.
      I implore you to consider changing aka from Plato to “Small Fry”

  • 0

    Really Plato so people in Sri Lanka can expect death camps mass genocide indiscriminate killings, stars as identifications? And the ghettos to be built how soon this will start immediately.
    A pseudo name like Plato you must be one of the most sort after philosopher in Sri Lanka. Or to paraphrase you are you a “Tiny tiny small fry” with your own tiny ideas.
    I implore you to consider changing aka from Plato to “Small Fry”

  • 1

    Is this a snide attack “Homo Extremum” rumors about R.W calling him a “Extreme Homo” by Tissaranee in the guise of attacking Gota.
    Very clever please show some tolerance to LGBT world has moved on.

  • 1

    My ghosh! I am anything but an admirer of the Rajapakse cabal. Pl.read my comment again to see context and sarcasm!

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