By Kumar David –
Sun Tzu say: “If you know enemy and know yourself, no need fear hundred battles. If you know yourself but not enemy, for every victory you suffer one defeat. If you know neither enemy nor yourself, you succumb in every battle.”
First the Easter carnage and after that mob riots have put a different focus on upcoming elections. The presidential falls due between 15 November and 15 December and it seems our choice is limited to an alleged war criminal or a non-achiever; clueless Sira, now monkeying with geishas in Japan, is not a serious starter. Mob violence evokes bitterness among Muslims, one writes: “There is evidence police in affected areas are not protecting Muslims. The majority, themselves Sinhala Buddhists, want to join the melee. Rioters should be shot but electoral benefit will go to the Rajapaksas who incite extremism”. While it is true that SLLP and the Paksa-Brotherhood did encourage SB extremism and collude with the dregs in the past, to be agonizingly fair, there is no evidence the Brotherhood or the SLPP did by word or action encourage the post Easter Sunday mobs; at least I have so far seen no evidence and it is unjust to convict on reputation alone. Let us hold our tongues unless real evidence comes to light.
I have concerns because there is talk of “a hidden-hand” or “a black-hand” moving mobs into riot torn areas from outside and there is fear that a higher power may be behind military collusion with goon squads such as here (Colombo Telegraph).
One is justified in fearing that goons from, say Kulyapitiya were moved to Minuwangoda to burn and loot, while a reverse movement creates mayhem in Kulyapitiya, and so on. Muslims whose shops and homes were gutted say: “Our families have been living here for generations. We have been educated at Sinhala schools. It’s very unlikely that the villagers orchestrated this attack”. Another from the village who lost everything said: “It was our Sinhalese brothers and sisters who helped us in this situation. We don’t believe anyone from our neighbourhood in Kuliyapitiya was involved”.
It is impossible to transport and switch goon squads around without connivance of the guardians of “law and order”. So is there a black-hand fermenting trouble? If so who is the likely suspect? The Army Commander will much better serve the nation if instead of “humbly” begging rioters to stay off the streets he can get his men to do their duty with firmness! Major Prabhath Bulathwatte, commander Tripoli Military Intelligence Platoon, allegedly responsible for assassinations, abductions and attacks on journalists has been recalled to active service by the Army Commander. Is the Sri Lanka Army incapable of ensuring sound intelligence without depending on rotten apples out on bail? “Kadavule!”
In my column last week I did insist: “Lanka will heal and recover more quickly than Cassandras and prophets of gloom predict. I detect fine-tuned judgement in people’s minds and more caution in jumping to conclusions. This is not July 1983 when Lanka was a JR-inspired cannibal. We have learnt our lesson and the mood is different. Jihadism will not defeat us; it will not overpower the Muslims. It will be eradicated, it has no indigenous roots, its eschatology is of foreign provenance. Those baying for Muslim blood and the rabble rousers will be vanquished”. For this I was rebuked, “Wishful Thinking is the Mother of Delusion”; however, though a little dampened, my optimism remains. Buddhist monks are visiting and helping clear up debris in bombed churches, mosques have offered to open their doors to Cardinal Ranjith, there is widespread indignation at both jihadist killers and racist goons, and I note that ‘Comments’ in Colombo Telegraph on rehiring Bulathwatte express near unanimous outrage. Such things we did not see in 1983. Come on Lanka, let’s vanquish the prophets of gloom; let us prove that we are not deluded!
Firmness will restore order on the streets within hours but as Sumanthiran lamented: “It is of particular concern to hear reports of attacks taking place during curfew with security forces not taking steps to stop the violence”. Quite justifiably and forebodingly he added “If people think that government and security forces are unable or unwilling to protect them, they will defend themselves. Don’t let that happen! Don’t let yet another community feel that to survive it must fight for its life”. Sinhala racists, the compromised armed forces and the government are, by inaction, laying the ground for a repetition of the Tiger story. We the people must turn back this time bomb.
This brings me to the matter promised in the title of this piece. Gota, Ranil and Sira are worse than useless. The first is an alleged war-criminal, a white-van fan and a danger to Tamils and Muslims; the second is effete under fire (Mrs B had bigger balls) and the third is a moron. Realistically, that in purely electoral terms, unfortunately is that we will only have a choice between Gota if he gets the US to confirm his citizenship dump, and Ranil. If that be the case how should one vote? I mean the second preference vote, no ways should any in this deplorable triumvirate get a first preference vote. This is a topic I will return to nearer the date and after Gota’s citizenship puzzle is clarified.
The thrust of my title is that in the first instance (first instance means before reflecting on the second preference vote) we must eschew all three in this good-for-nothing triumvirate. We must put up a New Alternative, a candidate who can reflect ‘the fed-up voter’, those who rallied to the January Eighth Movement of 2015, the Left, the Liberals, the Democrats, the TNA, Mano Ganesan, women’s and non-governmental bodies, the and if it joins, the JVP. It’s not at all too early to call a Unity Forum(s) to take up the idea. Of course we won’t win or come second, but Rome was not built in a day and I daresay the builders toiled for a while before the job got done. If the people in their majority choose Gota, Ranil, or some other rascal nominated by the SLPP or UNP, well they will suffer for five more years but the effort to get past such obstacles has to start now and the builders have to be patient and tireless. Many people say this, but a concrete call for a Unity Forum has yet to be issued.
A threat to the constitution and to democracy – are military and black-hand smacking their lips? – has been aired in recent weeks. The safeguard is mobilisation of the people. Mobilisation in this context is to extensively discuss it, vigorously oppose the concept in the media, and in the worst case oppose it with a general strike. The three blind mice of the triumvirate will not mobilise the people to meet this threat; my putative new initiative can include this task on its agenda.
A core element in the programme has to be rejection of ethno-politics, that is slavery to identity obsession. Eradication will require intervention on many fronts; education, creating a new consciousness and changing the constitution. Embedding religion (the so-called rightful place of Buddhism) and special mention of Sinhala in all constitutions since 1972 has encouraged a narrow and profoundly divisive state of mind in the people. A plural, democratic, modern and progressive philosophy cannot be stimulated in the country unless the Chapter on Buddhism is repealed by assertion of secularism and all differential or unbalanced references to language are removed. None of this is going to happen overnight but it is time to boldly place this on the agenda. No one in the good-for-nothing triumvirate will dare say any of this.