By Sarath de Alwis –
“Under a democratic government, the citizens exercise the powers of sovereignty; and those powers will be first abused, and afterwards lost, if they are committed to an unwieldy multitude.” ~ Gibbon – Decline & Fall Roman Empire
Sirisena our president may not have read or heard of Gibbon. The matter did not cross my mind when on 8thJanuary 2015 I voted for Maithripala Sirisena- the common candidate. At the time I wanted Mahinda Rajapaksa out of the presidency.
For that matter, I did not think it was important to verify if candidate Sirisena had read anything at all. I vaguely remember him claiming to have read Maxim Gorky.
Now, having made the man our president, I am doing the maximum gawking in front of my shaving mirror. This morning I spat on my bathroom mirror and told the image in it ‘you dumb bastard.’
In retrospect, there were signs that shit may hit the fan. The appointment of the brother as the boss of telecom indicated his idea of not encouraging Rajapaksa type nepotism.
When he made the briefless solicitor son in law of Austin Fernando the consular officer in the London High Commission we got a slight inkling of his idea of meritocracy.
But then, such presidential folly faded to nothing when the Prime Minster inaugurated his carnival with Paskeralingam on the merry go round, Arjuna in the magician’s tent and Charitha showing bioscope with Washington’s Millennium Development Corporation.
So, we knew that sooner or later shit will hit the fan. But I never expected ‘Gamarala’ to get hold of ‘Appachchi’ and lift bucket loads from the cesspit we closed on 8thJanuary 2015 and painstakingly pour on to the ceiling fan on the 26thOctober 2018.
You see! I am not a political stooge. Mine is an ordinary mind very conscious of the fact that I am in the autumn watching leaves fall. I detest the Rajapaksa caravan.
Mahinda Rajapaksa is the war winning patriot.
He and his brothers are in a never-ending spring. In their world, flowers are in eternal bloom, fruits are always in season, ripe ready for picking.
“Oya Range da? Oya dan awoth cabinet position ekak denta puluwan”
[Is that Range? If you come now, you can have a position in the cabinet.]
S.B. Dissanayake’s oily voice clip has is now gone viral in cyberspace.
Our free media, both print and electronic has efficiently and determinedly normalized the regime that began with the sudden hijack of the constitution by installing Mahinda Rajapaksa as our new Prime Minister.
Anticipatory obedience is the order of the day. Parliamentarians are bribed and beguiled by the hijackers of our fragile democracy. Their purpose is to construct the chimera of a nonexistent ‘popular will.’ Our Buddhist monks chant ‘Pirith’ and wish them Godspeed.
A slight digression. My Children are under strict instructions not to perform the mumbo jumbo of ‘pansakula’ by sullied saints in saffron shrouds, when I take the ferry across. I just cannot stand the lot.
Now, I come to my thesis – how democracy dies.
Political Scientist and diplomat Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka has greeted Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second coming as a revolution. His theory of a Revolution by purchasing a parliamentary majority is ingenious to say the least.
For the record it must be stated that he has articulated several Dos and Don’ts for the New Prime Minister as a comrade citizen and not as our Ambassador in Putinland.
He has sent the email to the attention of PM Mahinda Rajapaksa through comrade ‘Vasu’ whose charlatanism is ‘pari passu’ with his Marxism.
He cautions the new Prime Minister sagely. Don’t allow the initiative to see-saw. It is just too bad that MR has not taken his advice. At the time of writing this missive the see-saw indicates 118 at the other end.
Comrade Dayan summons all the revolutionary zeal of a botched Bolshevik and a castrated Castroite and pontificates “reactionary forces should never be allowed to consolidate and sustain a parallel power center/command center at Temple Trees.”
He calls the US state department statement “a blatant interference in our sovereignty’ which must be countered.
The realist in him overpowers his political allegiance. He says “In the battle of arguments, ideas and ideology, the enemy is on the offensive and we are on the defensive.”
Comrade Dayan need not worry. There is a solid Mahinda Rajapaksa base that is oblivious to the battle of arguments, ideas and ideology.
That base knows that the representatives they elect will auction their consent. There will be no corrupt politicians if the electors do not condone corruption.
We are not a perfect democracy. We aspired only for a livable democracy where we could go about our business of living knowing that S.B. is a liar and a crook but can either win an election and reach parliament or lose the election and yet reach parliament.
There will always be a political scientist like Dayan who has read Max Weber’s Politics as a vocation and Trotskyite Marxist like Vasu to march with parvenus such as SB to perpetuate the kleptocracy of the Rajapaksa family.
We must grin and bear because we were content to draft the message but chose the wrong messenger.
We mistakenly think that democracy fails and dies with a loud bang and a spectacle. It does not. Usually democracy is throttled and suffocated in the dark corridors haunted by political avarice. Such was the silent villainy on the night of 26th October in the presidential secretariat.
Reclaiming our parliamentary democracy by foiling the attempted capture of the constitution as amended by the 19th Amendment is a tricky task.
It is a Touch and go battle.
It is a touch and go battle. To this date we do not know who said what to whom in the early hours of 9thJanuary 2015 at temple trees when Ranil met Mahinda. As Marx pointed out history repeats a second time as a farce. Gotabaya met Ranil at dusk on Thursday at Temple trees. We do not know what passed between the two.
I have no quarrel with the JVP when it labels this power swaps as ‘Playing Roulette with Political Power.’
Therefore, we must not confuse our task of reigniting the democratic discourse with the UNP executive committee’s hopes of restoring Ranil to his Prime Ministerial perch.
Restoring Ranil’s premiership must not be the purpose of reconvening parliament. Its focus should not be Mahinda centric.
We know what Mahinda wants – power. He has a substantial populist base. Why at this point is a matter that needs little explanation.
On 21st February 2015 in an article in the Colombo Telegraph I wrote about his comeback trek that started with the rally “Nugegoda rising’ just forty days after his defeat.
I said, “Forty days after the dismantling of the family politburo, Mahinda Rajapaksa has demonstrated that his ‘orgburo’ is well oiled and running.”
In a message read out at the event he said
“I am beaten but not defeated. I shall not decline the outstretched hands of affection of my compatriots. What the country was experiencing was not a defeat but the consequences of a conspiracy.’
I captured the zeitgeist of the vent in these words.
“The trenchant proclamation by the former President confirms that he has an enormous war chest. He has the machinery in place to manage dozens and more such risings. The drone cameras captured the images of spirited youth, both male and female with well coiffured hair styles dressed in Paradise road attire waving posters of the “Mustachioed Macho Patriot Supremo”.
That is what he was and that is what he is. So, let us not blame the man for what he did. Although how he did its questionable Napoleon did not actually shake hands with his jailors on leaving Elba. Forget Mahinda. Focus on Sirisena the president.
In January 2015, the newly elected President made Ranil prime minster at the independence square. The event was nationally telecast.
Hush hush swearing in of MR who crossed over from nearby Hilton at the appointed hour was not a transparent democratic act but an attempted capture of the constitution as pointed out by Professor Jayadeva Uyangoda.
When a democracy is strangled it is not done with specular élan. It has a ceremony of its own. The conspirators move in the shadows. They don’t even trust each other. They breathe a sigh of relief only when wiping their hands clean. Then they take turns in addressing the nation with prepared scripts. Until the organized cheer squads are brought out the preprinted posters and profiles express the peoples will from lampposts and bill boards.