Colombo Telegraph

Give Mahinda An Army? Can’t Joint Opposition Stop Joking? 

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

I tell you, these guys in the self-styled Joint Opposition (JO) are plain crazy. Imagine an opposition demanding full-scale military security to their electorally defeated leader to enable the latter to go round the country at will and pleasure with the sole and concentrated purpose of undermining the government! Scores of military men and policemen hanging around him from Dondra to Point Pedro and buckets of money as attendant expenses for fuel and salaries and overtime? All this day in and day out? At taxpayers’ expense? That is simply outrageous.

I scaled the history of governments world over in order to see if anything like this privilege had been granted to a fallen leader. “Nope,” is my answer.

Mahinda is testing his luck in a context where he and his family are under scrutiny for various alleged misdeeds and serious frauds. Any decent statesman will lie low and gladly submit himself and his kith and kin for examination in order to clear his and their names. That’s the most appropriate thing for him to do. On the other hand, Mahinda Rajapaksa wants all investigations stopped. Does he recommend such a privilege to ordinary private citizens? Giving up the lawful and civil course, Mahinda Rajapaksa is organising a revolt against the yahapalana government. Bring down the government and crush the investigations!The strategy is “attack as the best form of defence.” In the unlikely event that the government will crumble all investigations will come to a halt. And if he gets back sufficient domination in a kind of counter revolution all government leaders would probably be safely under lock and key; if not missing altogether.

Mahinda’s ruling record was developing into such brutality. With the 18th Amendment under his sleeve what couldn’t he have done? Mahinda Rajapaksa as President never listened to anyone but himself and never thought of anyone but himself and his. I am reminded of Trujillo, the Columbian dictator, who figures in the novel tilted “The Feast of the Goat,” written by Nobel Laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa. When Mahinda jailed Sarath Fonseka and when he sacked the Chief Justice he showed his true character.

On the general question there is no denying that a past President should be allocated adequate security. Also, there isn’t any doubt that given his relationship with the Tigers Mahinda Rajapaksa in particular should be given strong security. There is, however, an assumption behind such a gesture,namely that security is given while he performs standard functions and duties as a civilian. As a matter of fact, his risk limit would be assessed lower if Mahinda does confine himself to such functions that normally retired heads of state do carry out. In the case before us, however, we have a preceding head of state back in active politics going the full hog to destroy the government that is supposed to offer him personal security. He employs all kinds of rhetoric-falsehoods, distortions and emotional innuendos as his arsenal. He gathers big crowds around him and,by his demeanour, inspires Parliamentarians to resort to violence inside the well of Parliament.

The former President is pursuing an active political goal that carries with it,as all political or power-pursuing roles do, the potential for violence. The hidden subtext of his campaign is to encourage even a violent overthrow of government. Thus the circumstances of his requirement for security becomes problematic. In this way he ups his own security needs by his own doing and volition while,simultaneously raising security concerns for the government itself.

The Prime Minister announced that Mahinda will be given full police security and even permitted him to pick his own cops and intelligence men for the purpose. That’s it and caput. Why isn’t this enough? Does he want to employ an army core in order to stage a coup?

Tuesday, we saw a hideous tragedy in the well of Parliament when Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka rose to comment on the issue. One UNP MP was assaulted and is now in hospital. The UNP would not have assaulted its own men and so this grubby job would have been presumably executed by a JO muscleman. The investigation committee came out with a report charging two MPs-one a government Deputy joker and the other UNFPA clown. The report also stated that Messrs Dinesh and Bandula-two very senior Parliamentarians- had rushed toward the chair in ugly fashion and abused the Speaker. Media Minister Gayan said this was “Rajapaksa Culture”- confronting different points of view with thuggery.

The fact that this kind of incident can happen freely in the well of the House of Parliament portends something very foreboding. Politics, particularly in the Sri Lankan environment, bears a clear potential for violence. It is power against power.

Hence,If a retired head of state wants to continue in a political role it is farcical and asinine that he be offered military assistance on a platter to do so. In the case of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the fact that he and his family are under existential threat from the law compounds the folly. Furthermore, such a concession would take an ironical comical character when one realises that Mahinda Rajapaksa himself showed no such grace to his opponents.

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