By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Oh! What an era we live in! Gotabaya Rajapaksa, most powerful sibling of the most powerful President Sri Lanka ever had, on a journey to the Bribery Commissioner’s Office! On the first of January this year did you, reader, ever imagine this journey? Even on the 8th of January Maitripala Sirisena had no clue that Gota will have to make his way to the Bribery Commissioner’s Office under his watch as President. Maitri was hiding that fateful day in a secret place fearing that Mahinda Rajapaksa would have Gota’s men get him and his family. Everybody feared Gota.
Such are the insecurities of politics. The Buddha had said that everything emerges, stays for a while and passes away. But nothing passes away as astonishingly as political fortunes do. We are surprised when it happens; yet we soon get accustomed to the imagination that politicos, once ensconced in the seats of power, are hard to get rid of. More than us, the politician himself will least believe his glory will end. The delusion of permanence is both the driving force of politicians in power and their eventual death knell.
The Daily FT of 24th April 2015 carried a report of Gota’s journey which compels comment. I like to share this with my readers. A large crowd of protestors had assembled in the premises defying a previous court order. Rajapaksas are experts at jana ganga (rivers of people). They had mastered the mobilizing technique from the JVP. We saw it at election meetings. We saw it at Nugegoda. With ample financial resources at disposal and a well -organized local mob leadership such jana ganga simply happens. Poor Basil, now in person, didn’t have it organized for him-maybe due to his slight fall- out from the Rajapaksa mainstream. His nephew, Yoshitha, had reportedly castigated the uncle for being primarily responsible for his Dad’s fall from power. Yoshitha does not admit his own contribution.
Back to the crowds. They carried an illegal Sri Lanka flag without the two stripes that represent the Tamil and Muslim communities. In other words, they stand for the ‘pure patriots,’ or, as Dayan Jayatilleka may say, ‘smart patriots.’ The racist rallying cry that has been marking the “bring –back MR campaign” was reflected here, too. The theory that minorities are guests who must live on the good nature of Sinhalese constitute the brain, heart, and soul of Sinhala extremism. Leading the crowd there was Gammampila, the break-away founder of the ‘Pivithuru Hetak,’ (pure tomorrow) campaign –whatever that may mean. We are familiar with Namal’s ‘Tharunyata Hetak (Tomorrow for Youth). The youth got nothing of that campaign of Namal except that the funds were reportedly outlayed for the Dad’s election campaign. Maybe night car races were also run on that money. In the case of Gammanpila, there is an admission that the current regime is not ‘pure’ (in character) and that we hapless Sri Lankans must wait until Gammanpila ushers that purity. A leader in a hurry, the circumstances of his suddenly leaving the JHU was definitely not the start of that ushering because it was transparently foul. Maybe, Gammanpilla has reformed after that furtive slip away.
Besides the crowds, Gota himself came out with some choice statements on the way to the Bribery Commissioner, according to the FT report. He was not after drinks. ““I served this country honestly as an official. If they can do this to an official like me, I don’t think any State official will work for this country again,” And what have “they” done? Summon him for questioning. Prey, what’s wrong with that? In the civilized world the law is supreme and even big wigs must allow to be examined for charges made. If the charges are not sustainable they are let go. No official will be discouraged to work in circumstances like that. If one is not guilty one can hang it. Next, Gota becomes the judge in his own cause when he says, ”all these allegations are baseless.” Obviously, the Rajapaksas were judges in their own cause when they were in power. If matters went pass them and their musclemen to court there were judges who would have acted “sensitively,” because it is the government that the judges are dealing with. Mohan Pieris proclaimed the doctrine that judges must be “sensitive to the executive.” In this part of the world judges are required to be sensitive to the law and the law alone. But now the pendulum has swung away. Mohan’s law and the Rajapaksas are no more.
Counsel for Gota, Kariyawasam, also showed his colours during that suspenseful journey. The charges had been with regard to financial transactions that had taken place while Gota had been Mihin Air Chairman. Kariyawsam stated ”in defense” that this was a period when Gota was busy fighting a war. Can lawyers be more stupid? If Gota was busy why did he take up the post of Mihin Air Chairman? So many better qualified persons could have been spotted in any nook and corner in Colombo itself. The rub is that it all must be kept in the family. We know what the Sri Lankan Airlines “family Chairman” had been up to.