By Vishwamithra –
Address to the nation by her principal leader is a big deal; it’s an occasion which is used not so frequently by a Head of State; if and when a nation is on the brink of peril, such addresses are delivered and yet they invariably contain within themselves a change in the direction of the country or a significant alteration of the strategic thinking of those who handle Affairs of State. In a democratic republic such addresses are a set of ideas, ideals and a roadmap to those ideals. They certainly are not decrees which are the usual expressions of desires and commands issued by dictators and kings.
Given the current context of our political milieu, the people of the country eagerly await such speeches with fresh frames of mind. They most unsuspectingly hope for a fresh combination of national goals defined by their commander in chief, whom they so enthusiastically elected to office two and one half years ago. With all their hopes dashed, dreams shattered and faith shaken, they yet continued to believe that their leader would not tell boldfaced lies. They justifiably try to lend credence to the massive false-image that was built around him when he was running a campaign for President.
But when the queues kept lengthening and commodities began their sudden disappearance from the shelves, in addition to being overly priced beyond their stagnant earnings, the people began to wonder. They started to exchange their anger and frustration with their neighbors and friends, with their colleagues at the working place and relatives whose visits became more sparse than usual.
The disillusionment first had its entry into their wearied minds with reluctance; though it was too little too late for a keen intellect, for the ordinary and mundane it still was a sudden surprise. Their blind faith in the leader, however, could not withstand the daily assault on their day-to-day chores. Fathers lost their hopes, yet, if gainfully employed, kept coming back home with meager household needs purchased with meager earnings. Mothers moved on despite unbearable pain of mind; their unshakeable stoicism with which all women are credited, sustained the home life without any complaining and the usual nagging. Children, if not old enough to comprehend the subtle changes in their daily diets and lack of new clothes to wear to school, just took everything in their stride, far beyond their years. Such was their upbringing- calm, collected and principled.
But, if the children are of older age, reaching late teens or twenties, the story that is unfolding could be extremely alarming on the one hand and exhaustively depressing on the other, for they, the youth of the country, can be devastatingly expressive in their own intrinsic ways. Deep down in their collective psyche are the demons of aggression; in those volatile minds reside roots of many an unruly crop that could wreak havoc in the countryside.
It is to this audience our President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivered his ‘Address to the Nation, a couple of days ago. The audience waited to hear the dimensions of the crisis, its origins, its projected path and plans- specific plans or a roadmap- to minimize the symptoms of the crisis at first and its elimination altogether afterwards- but instead heard an excuse of a ‘Presidential Address’, literally passing the buck to the Covid pandemic and a global predicament. Such unpardonable disingenuousness, hypocrisy and pointblank dishonesty should have no place among statesmen. Yet, we may well have overestimated the candor and honesty of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
His body language was one of sinister-kind. With fisted hands and taut countenance, he was a personification of tension, desperation and plain stupidity. Whoever wrote his speech needs to be nailed to the closest cross one can find. Devoid of empathy for his fellow countrymen, Gotabaya exhibited complete deficiency of understanding of the situation. Not only are his speech-writers, his closest advisors, if he has any, either taking him down a path that has no return from or they themselves are well fortified against the mounting shortages of essential household commodities and as a consequence do not feel the pain of the ordinary man and woman.
Victor Hugo in Les Misérables writes: “Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces. If the soul is left in darkness sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.” Our men and women, whether they live amongst the concrete structures in town centers or thatch-roofed shacks in the farthest corners of rural country, whether they have air-conditioned environments or been fighting to sleep in sweltering heat, whether they have gainful employment or simply unemployed, they all understand one stark single truth and that is that when they elect leaders to office, their expectation of a return for their votes is something tangible, proportional and natural and unrestrainedly justifiable.
Gotabaya did not display any of the salient features of governance such as ‘all men are equal before the law’. On the contrary, he pardoned and thereafter appointed convicted murderers to high-paying government jobs and that is immoral. Holding rulers to the lofty ideals of human development is of utmost significance and accountability and transparency of governance is a fundamental element of a democratic republic. Nuanced features of governance seem to evade Gotabaya’s cognitive skills. He obviously has not learnt that reasoning and intellectual inquiry which are central to wise governing. Believing in his own lies and half-truths, Gotabaya seems to be on a roll to continue his destructive power-journey dismantling the strong and stable democratic structures. Sometime back they were manned by superior men and women. Yet now they are being occupied by mediocre officers who themselves have become part and parcel of the corrupt system the Rajapaksas have been striving to sustain further. They are consuming the whole nation as short-eats available for sale on roadside.
In that now-infamous ‘Address to the Nation’, Gotabaya Rajapaksa strained to mention two words only one single time: parliament and Cabinet. In a democratic republic, the legislature and the Cabinet of Ministers are the main tools of executive power. This passing mention of these two words was no accident. It reflected his harsh and unsophisticated mindset overly consumed by personal greed and ego-centered perception of things and occurrences around him. We heard no mention about the main enemy of the country- corruption and nepotism. Corruption and nepotism has brought about the economic crisis and the dollar crunch, which seems to overwhelm everything about our current economy, are a direct consequence of the Rajapaksa doctrine. It is not socialism, it is not capitalism nor is it even crony-capitalism, it’s a new doctrine of governance that is in play and the players are undisciplined and the audience is held spellbound. Reduced to mere impotence they are grappling in darkness, nowadays literally without power!
His family, his siblings and his cronies take the pride of place. Everyone and everything else is secondary. His Ministers are continuing to plunder the country’s coffers at super high speed; at no time have they been brought before a court of law and nor have they been asked to explain as to why so many allegations are being made against them. Ignoring the allegation-current is no option. The currents are too strong and tend to drag the dregs and muck without remorse. The country would not care if President Gotabaya too will get dragged along with the muck, for they do not see a difference between muck and Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The country’s leader is entrenched in a gory quarry of self-hallucination. His idea is to muddy the water so much that those who stand aside would not dare do any of the swimming against the current. Because of his arrogance, his stupidity and his ignorance, the country has to pay a very heavy price and that price is becoming progressively exorbitant by the day.
It is ridiculous to see a country so gripped by long lines for kerosene, petrol and diesel and unending power cuts. Even a basic need such as Panadol, a medicinal tablet every household has for the mildest of headaches, is scarce today.
Reporting by the global media is being centered on the possibility of the gravest of all likelihoods- bankruptcy. Another Panama, another Venezuela, another Greece or another Libya is making its hazy appearance on the horizon. The people handed the country to the so-called soldier who is mistakenly called the one who won the war. Now they are paying the price for that unforgivable error in judgment.
I wrote in one of my previous columns that Gotabaya Rajapaksa has two options: either hold elections on due date and rig the process and retain power or assume dictatorial powers and continue without the legislature. Signals are all pointing towards dictatorship. The Twentieth Amendment further strengthened the power of the Executive President. He will not be challenged in courts. The Judiciary, legislature and the Executive are all in the hands of one man who happens not only to be arrogant, stupid, ignorant, but also demonic.
*The writer can be contacted at email@example.com