26 October, 2020

Blog

Gotabaya Is Ready To Be President: What Is Sri Lanka Ready For? 

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

“Man by nature is a social animal …” ~ Aristotle

“Human beings are social animals. They are not individuals.” ~ Gotabaya Rajapaksa at Water’s Edge 

Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa has announced that he is ready to be a presidential candidate if the people are also ready for it. Not to be outdone, his oldest brother Chamal Rajapaksa has also declared his readiness: ‘If Gota is ready, so am I!’ It is immaterial whether these are conditional declarations, trial balloons, or, plain bravado to enthuse their respective sponsor groups. Gotabaya’s sponsors are the upstart professionals of Viyathmaga who see their Messiah in Gota. For Chamal, the instigators are the degenerate progressives like Vasu, Dinesh et al who are alarmed by the prospect of a Gotabaya candidacy and are clinging on to Chamal to protect their placements at the Rajapaksa political table. It is immaterial as well even if their declarations are co-ordinated mixed signals from the Rajapaksa house to keep Sirisena worrying and Ranil Wickremesinghe guessing. And who cares if the signals are only aimed at the decision-making Rajapaksas – Mahinda-Basil-Namal and no one else.

What matters is the political universe that Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR) seems to be sketching for the benefit of his followers and the attention of all others. At their most recent gathering, after being sidelined for nearly three months by the tumults of the Sirisena-Rajapaksa power-grab antics and aftermaths, Mr. Rajapaksa addressed his faithful in esoteric terms – lauding the virtues of nationalism as opposed to globalism, pitching for a Sri Lankan identity rising above the island’s ethno plurality, and asserting (falsely) the collective rights of society over the individual rights of its members. He got into some terminological twists (‘Jathikathwaya’ vs ‘Jathiwadaya’) in differentiating between racism or communalism (even casteism) and nationalism in the national language (a terminological pitfall in articulating the theory and experience of nationalism, that is common to almost all South Asian languages), but rescued himself by claiming that diaspora Sri Lankans, given their life on the global platform, appreciate the attributes of Sri Lankan nationalism better than resident Sri Lankans. 

The simple difference is that to every diaspora group, long-distance nationalism of the old country is the convenient antidote to the social and political alienation that a good number of diaspora members experience in their immigrant countries at least in the earlier years after their relocation. But what is a subjective human condition in the diaspora world should not be the basis for governance in Sri Lanka. Gotabaya Rajapkasa himself is a perfect illustration of this duality. A dual citizen of Sri Lanka and the United States, he successfully fought a war for the Sri Lankan government and now wants to be its President. But he must first renounce the US citizenship. Ay, there’s the rub, and more on it later.         

The crux of his message is that Sri Lankans must celebrate nationalism as opposed to globalism, must privilege collective rights over individual rights, and as “social animals” work together to liberate Sri Lanka and the poor among Sri Lankans out of their poverty. There could not have been a more glittering gathering in Sri Lanka, or elsewhere, for a political homily on poverty, than the Viyath Maga audience who assembled in their Saturday best to hear and cheer their political neophyte. And no one goes to Water’s Edge to talk poverty. No, poverty eradication is not on the agenda of the Colombo busybodies who are flocking behind Gotabaya Rajapaksa. 

They want to get back to the levers of power and influence at the commanding heights of politics and the economy from which they were suddenly wrenched off in January 2015. They want to restart from where they left and to them Gotabaya is the man who can take them back to the seats of power. They are fed up with the self-gratifying politics of Ranil Wickremesinghe and are frustrated after the Maithri-Mahinda power grab cockup in October-December last year. The Gota-for-President campaign they launched last May with the Shangri La bash has since been sidelined and ambushed by developments within the Rajapaksa tent and outside it. Now they want their man front and centre both inside tent and in the country at large.

Yet, the Gotabaya candidacy is not a certainty. It is certainly more potent than the mendicant candidacy of Maithripala Sirisena. GL Peiris could not and did not brush aside Gotabaya’s declaration of presidential readiness the way he (GLP) dismissed Sirisena’s vicarious overture through Nimal Siripala de Silva. Only Mahinda Rajapaksa can decide who the presidential candidate will be – that was Peiris’s putdown to Sirisena and Siripala. But commenting on Gotabay’s candidacy is clearly above GL Peiris’s pay-grade in the Rajapaksa universe. Leaving Peiris aside, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s apparent reluctance to forthrightly endorse his brother’s presidential candidacy might be due to his caution about Gotabaya’s ability to successfully transition from his military background to a winning presidential candidate. Many other reasons have also been suggested for the former President’s reluctance about his younger brother’s candidacy.

Individual rights in a social animal farm

A few days after the Water’s Edge scripted remarks on social animals and individual rights, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa seemingly tripped himself up talking about his US citizenship. Given the speculation that he may not be able to give up his citizenship in time to be eligible to be a presidential candidate, Mr. Rajapaksa spoke like an American. He told reporters after appearing before the Special Corruption High Court in Colombo, that his US citizenship is an entirely personal choice and he could withdraw it at any moment: “It is a personal choice and I can make any decision on that. I can either seek to withdraw it or continue with it … The US is the father of Liberal Democracy. The country cannot make a person a US citizen by force.” 

Personal choices are individual rights by another name, and by Mr. Rajapaksa’s Water’s Edge logic what is sauce for him as an American citizen may not be sauce for other Sri Lankans as Sri Lankan citizens. Sri Lanka is not in any enviable position like the US in having to deal with one of its (dual) citizens renouncing his American citizenship to be President in another country. But many Sri Lankans may consider themselves to be in unenviable positions if Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa were to become Sri Lanka’s President in the next presidential election. And they are the experiential victims of the illiberal effects, putting it mildly, of the Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency especially after 2009. Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as Defence Secretary, overseeing everything from national security to urban development to legal drafting, was a huge part of it. 

Every illiberal effect of those years and the direct or indirect experience of it involved individual rights. What was involved was the violation by the state and its official and unofficial agents of basic individual rights – the right of personal security, the right to personal liberty, and the rights involving private and public property. People were arrested without cause; people were kidnapped and tortured or killed; and people were just killed in broad daylight. Private and public properties were sequestered and abused for the corrupt benefits of those in power. None of them have been proven in a court of law, but there is no doubt that every one of them happened and there are direct and indirect victims and survivors, the living but helpless proofs, carrying the physical and mental scars of the violations of individual rights. The litany of victims is long and old and needs no recounting here. 

No one is accusing Gotabaya Rajapaksa or any of the prospective presidential candidates of anything. But is it unreasonable to ask every one of them, including Mr. Rajapaksa, as to what their position is in regard to unresolved crimes and unexposed corruption, and what they will do differently, if elected as President, to address them? Will Mr. Rajapaksa give the country the benefit of his understanding and the assurance that as President he will get cracking on them until every crime is investigated and resolved? He could of course ignore this plea and it would mean by implication that these individual loses are not worth the bother in the context of the larger schemes that he has in mind for the country. 

GR’s Viyath Maga professionals will of course whole heartedly agree. And that will take the country back to the slippery slope to the social animal farm, where it was heading until Maithripala Sirisena came out of nowhere and interrupted the slide. Given the special role he played as Defence Secretary under Mahinda Rajapaksa, the younger Rajapaksa’s Water’s Edge lecture on social animals and individual rights take on an ominous meaning for the future. It is too fanciful, and dangerously so, to dismiss individual rights to life and against arbitrary actions by the state as western constructs that are not relevant in Asian societies. These rights may have been formalized and codified in legal texts starting in the west but they embody the basic human urge and aspiration to enjoy them anywhere and anytime. They are also internalized as constitutional rights in Sri Lanka, India and every Asian country that is a constitutional democracy. The alternative is to allow the state and its agents to turn the Sri Lankan society into a social animal farm without individual rights.

Are Mr. Rajapaksa and his professional faithful telling us that we put aside constitutional democracy in order to uplift Sri Lanka from its lower middle income status to the higher middle income status? Just how many more people need to be kidnapped, forced to disappear, or killed, before our average annual income goes up by a few hundred dollars? There is no political or economic project that is worth the deliberate sacrifice of even a single human life. Hinduism and Buddhism, the two autochthonous religions of South Asia and Sri Lanka, do not permit the killing of not only humans but also animals – even if they are social animals. 

When human lives are expended and individual rights are infringed by the state, the real reason is not any larger economic or political goal for the greater good; the real reasons are corruption, cronyism and family bandyism, and the narrow political agenda to sustain them at all cost. And, nationalism, without constitutional democracy and individual rights, has a different name: fascism. Be a Hitler, so to speak.  

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 8
    4

    “Gotabaya Rajapaksha is equated to Hitler. If so, I remind you to be a Hitler in order to develop this country” Ven. Vedaruwawe Upali Thero, Anunayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter.

    Shameful of this priest to have uttered these words during his “Anusasana”. At least we respect is freedom of speech. A Sinhala Southerner such as Gotbaya Rajapaksha is not fit to rule this country. Is it worth risking our democracy to a Baiya such as Gota? Are we this dumb to give the reigns of this country to a rabid cow who has no respect to Buddhism, dishonest reverence, disrespect the teachings of Lord Buddha, immoral and has no values, do not fear retribution, has no piety, lacks civility and discipline and is uneducated and uncouth? Are we this dumb to replace our democracy with military rule by inviting fascists? Screw Viyuthmaga! Out motherland will be on the VIPUTH maga destined to HELL!

    • 2
      3

      He will at the least make a genuine attempt at delivering Sinhala Ghetto, so much desired by almost all Sinhala, the clergy do not mince words of this desire.

      The Sinhala Ghetto may not be whole Island.

      In the process, Sinhala may have to volunteer their share of population levelling.

  • 2
    0

    It is an old parlance to say politics is game, skills rather than knowledge… We have a lot of educated people and yet, they dare not to come into politics. They know that educated people can not win the games of politics .. Now, Sri Lanka suffers because educated people do not go to politics.

  • 3
    9

    “Just how many more people need to be kidnapped, forced to disappear, or killed, before our average annual income goes up by a few hundred dollars?”

    Who said people have to be kidnapped, forced to disappear, or killed to increase the income of people. No research has found a correlation between increased kidnappings, forced disappearances or killing and increase in income. Simply because you Demala guys hate Rajapakses for eliminating your ‘Sun God’, don’t come out with this kind of cock and bull stories.

    • 1
      1

      You are perfectly right. It is BS BS and BS. Bensen

  • 3
    7

    This guy is talking BS. Business community and professionals are fed up with the irreparable damage Don Juan Dharmapala reincarnated is doing to this country. The Governor of Central Bank in a recent speech admitted that the economy is heading for a disaster. Ordinary folks are struggling to survive and this dumbo is talking about preserving constitutional democracy and individual rights. Civil society jokers made a big ha ho about preserving democracy after Ranil was removed. Did putting him back in the name of preserving democracy made a difference to the people who are struggling to make their ends meet.
    ————————-
    At the moment this country is facing a great disaster with Sena caterpillar. But our dumb politicians are running around to convince the Mahanayakas about the new constitution instead of going to people and helping them. The biggest joke is Range Bandara heading these delegations. What the hell this guy knows about constitution. I bet he has not read the draft constitution and even if he read, I doubt very much whether he can understand what is in it.

  • 1
    2

    Take me to a village school in countries A,B and C of different political systems and allow me to watch the children . My heart will instantly say which system is better. Isms, ..acys, theories debated in bourgeois gatherings are irrelevant.

    Soma

  • 8
    4

    A message to the upstart professionals of Viyathmaga:
    Be careful what you wish for, for what you get may not be anywhere near to your liking.
    The much decorated war hero will do just what he likes, and will take no prisoners in the process. Shit-eating journalists will be hunted to extinction, and public moaners will be white-vanned to thy-kingdom-come. Only the odious Gandasara (he of the dirty robes brigade) and his ilk of racist shitheads will prosper. You have been warned!

  • 4
    1

    With 40% of our rural below 2 dollars a day what percentage are enjoying fruits of democracy? To see them sit and look around a hotel lounge, wait for a.consultancy appointment at a private hospital and pass by an international school at the opening hours. A housemaid coming after five years in the Middle East , on her way home from Katunayake can see the beauty of Democracy judging by the types of luxury vehicles on the road imported with the foreign exchange she earned.

    Soma

  • 3
    2

    If the political prisoners who are being held in detention for more than 10 years say they want to renounce their Sri Lankan citizenship and seek asylum in a foreign country, will the SL Government allow that? Mind you, as Gota says this is entirely a personal matter. And therefore, governments cannot deny such a request!

    There are cases in the US pending against their citizen Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

  • 3
    3

    Mr. Rajan Philips,

    An excellent write up on Gotler’s wishful thinking.
    Here, you have eloquently summed up Gotabaya Rajapukse’s disgusting record……and its consequences

    ———–
    ” People were arrested without cause; people were kidnapped and tortured or killed; and people were just killed in broad daylight. Private and public properties were sequestered and abused for the corrupt benefits of those in power. None of them have been proven in a court of law, but there is no doubt that every one of them happened and there are direct and indirect victims and survivors, the living but helpless proofs, carrying the physical and mental scars of the violations of individual rights”.
    ————-
    Do we need this US Gas Station Assistant and known murderer again to dupe us into a dream

    “to uplift Sri Lanka from its lower middle income status to the higher middle income status? Just how many more people need to be kidnapped, forced to disappear, or killed, before our average annual income goes up by a few hundred dollars”

  • 2
    0

    Ven Vendaruwe Upali Thero, the Anunayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter delivering an anusasana on the occasion of an almsgiving marking the 69th birthday of Gotabaya Rajapaksa said ‘If They Call You A Hitler, Then Be A Hitler And Build This Country’.
    Surely GR knows that the advice is not meant to be taken literally.
    Gotlerism is OK in ‘us vs them’ game but now the game is ‘us vs us’.
    .
    Rajan Philips asks, “…………What Is Sri Lanka Ready For?”.
    Beggars cannot choose!

  • 4
    2

    Gota hype is only to distract on-going Case and many more to come. He will never

    stand for any Elections once his and his family members Cases start rolling.

    • 2
      1

      Punchinilame, you are spot on.

      Gota has no political base without MR’s support.

      Gota is simply sending a veiled threat to the bench regarding the pending criminal cases against him. This ploy may perhaps have MR’s blessings only as a red herring.

      I suspect that finally Chamal will be the Pohottuwa choice for President. Aiyo Sirisena will of course (deservedly) be thrown under the bus at the last moment.

  • 3
    1

    Ranjan,
    Hope the CT will publish what I share with you in Sinhala because this is what the SLFP inner circle shared with a comrade of mine. Followed by this quote in Sinhala is the English translation. I will not reveal the exact source but MP Kumar Welgama and those like him who oppose Gotabaya really has a point.
    “ගෝඨාභය රාජපක්ෂ තුමා ගේ ලොකු ටෝක්ස් අහන්න යන බහුතර ගොන් හරක් හිතන්නේ ඒතුමා යුද්දය දිනුව කියල. මහින්ද ලොක්ක ගේ ගමනට වලකපන්න බලන අධිරාජ්යවාදී බටහිර කුමන්ත්රණයක ප්රතිපලයක් මේ ගෝඨාභය රාජපක්ෂ. මේක CIA ගේම් එකක්. බටහිර බලවේග වල මනදොල සපුරන රනිල්, සජිත්, කරූ හො රාජකීය විද්යාලීය මාෆියාව නොවෙයි.”
    And as promised, here’s the translation of the above. Majority of the buffaloes who go to listen to GotabayaR’s big talks think he is our messiah because he claims to have won the war. Little do they know that this is all a CIA conspiracy supported by Western imperialists. Their clandestine agenda is to trap chief Mahinda into his grave by plotting through Gota. This is a CIA game plan which they are trying to work through Gotabaya and not risk through Ranil, Sajith, Karu or their Royal College mafia even though we accuse them (RanilW) for peddling the Western imperialist agenda.

  • 1
    1

    I don’t personally buy the humorously expressed popular Sinhala saying: ‘Sinhalaya modaya, kavum kanna yodaya’. This means that the Sinhalaya is a fool but a giant or a real champion at eating kavum.
    On the other hand, the Sinhalese, especially their leaders, are extremely cunning, scheming and astute. For example, D.S.Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon, gave the solemn promise to the Thamil and other minority communities “no harm need you (non-Sinhalese) fear at our hands (Sinhalese) in a free Lanka.” He was speaking in the State Council in October 1945 when all the Tamil members had unanimously voted for the acceptance of the Soulbury constitution in a White Paper.
    “Do you want to be governed from London or do you want, as Ceylon, to help govern Ceylon? On behalf of the (Ceylon National) Congress (founded by Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam in 1919) and on my behalf, I give the minority communities the sincere assurance that no harm need you fear at our hands in a free Lanka.”

    But before the ink could dry on the Independence Act Senanayake went for the jocular. He deprived the 800,000 Hill country Tamils of their Citizenship Act No 28 of 1948 and in the following year 1949 he passed the Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Amendment Act No.48 of 1949 which stripped the Indian Tamils of their franchise.
    S.W.R.D Bandaranaike tore the Banda – Chelva pact in 1957 and Dudley – Chelva pact in 1968.

    What defies logic is why a section of the Sinhalese continue to support the Rajapaksas, especially Gotabaya who hands are dripping with blood.

    The foul murder of more than 20 journalists includingjournalist Lasantha Wickrematunga, the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda and the stage-managed murder of Wasim Thajudeen all happened with the knowledge of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Both aided and abetted the killings.

  • 2
    0

    It is up to people in Sri Lanka to decide who is needed for the country. Not the people outside SL . People who made comments here know how popular GR is. Ask yourself why. It does not matter how good or bad. Look every where else in the world.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.