By Kusal Perera –
“There are people who now say, I cannot contest for the third time. They say it at different places. But why bother? It’s the people who decide. Let the people decide that. Otherwise they can go to Courts.”
President Rajapaksa was quoted so, at a meeting of health sector employees called to Temple Trees a week or so ago. The Court that he says the people can go to is not that in Bengaluru which delivered a verdict on TN CM Jeyalalithaa. The Court he says the people could go to is next to “Saanchi Arachchie Watte”. That’s where political stooges ruined the system. Over the past decade or two, nefarious men and women with personal greed for power and position, ruled the nest at Hultsdorp, went into deals with the ruling head and had ditched the same too. Also on deals, with the next in line. To this Court Rajapaksa says, anyone can go for a ruling.
This country, to be precise the part of the country politically called the “Sinhala South”, lives to accept Sinners from high posts as heroes and heroines. Sinners that in any decent and civilised society would have been indicted for saying, “Pardon me. I did a wrong. If not for me, he would have even been in prison”. A public acceptance, a ruling was knowingly and intentionally given that went against the people. Given on the strength of the position held that goes unquestioned. It’s plain abuse of a powerful position, against the people. Yet the Sinhala South is there to applaud him and treat him as a hero. The Sinhala Opposition is naive and frustrated. It is opportunistic too. It provides red carpets to these Sinners to have their dirty linen laundered publicly and with admiration. Here is a Sinhala Buddhist society any sinner, any dirty crook could swap characters overnight and move on as heroes by simply opposing the Rajapaksa regime.
The JVP does it, after installing the Rajapaksa regime and defending it right through war. It defended the Rajapaksa regime as patriotic and venomously labelled everyone who opposed the Rajapaksa regime as “traitors, LTTE informants” or as “NGO dollar crows”. For the JVP, there was no crime committed, no democracy curbed, for it was a necessary “humanitarian” war that was waged to eliminate “Eelam terrorists”. What then is wrong with this regime for the JVP to oppose it now? Only thing wrong in this regime for the JVP is that a single family takes home the whole booty.
On the same path, now comes a Buddhist monk, Athuraliye Rathana leading the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) to the laundry. How clean is the JHU and what moral right has it to accuse the Rajapaksa regime for omissions, misrule and corruption? The JHU was a whole hearted campaign partner of “patriotic and Sinhala nationalist” leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 2005 November presidential elections. Thereafter they sat in support of everything done by President Rajapaksa’s government. From January 2007, the JHU officially joined the government and Champika Ranawaka since then is a Cabinet Minister (he manipulated to have himself appointed to parliament from the National List, for which Omalpe Sobhitha thero had to resign). This Minister Ranawaka, thereafter came out as the strongest advocate for a brutal war and against minorities. In late February 2007 he said, if law cannot remove extremism, then there has to be other means. “We know about Ravaya and we know what Ravaya is up to. We know that Ravaya sheds tears when Tamils (using a very derogatory Sinhala term) get killed. This is the same thing done by the bunch of so called Leftists. Nothing can be done because of the wild ass freedom in this country.” He was quoted almost verbatim.
This was JHU thinking and their conviction. It is, even now. Their interpretation of “democracy” is one for the Sinhala Buddhist majority only and not for other “wild asses”. Their form of “democracy” would allow any brutal attack on any minority community and would justify such attacks with unbelievable fictional stories spun as facts. They came out with such fabrications, post Aluthgama-Beruwala anti Muslim riots in June (2014). During these 07 years and even before, they were comfortable with all shady and corrupt deals the Rajapaksas are accused of. They sat through consenting to eccentric projects like the 11 bn rupee 1,150 ft tall Colombo Lotus Tower claimed as Asia’s tallest tower, with a garden at the highest elevation. Was pressing to curb all powers given to PCs and agrees without hesitation in having the military deployed in the North and justifies all its repressive activities.
They are still part of this Rajapaksa regime that is held responsible for an extremely politicized and corrupt police department, a politicized and inefficient judiciary and therefore breakdown in law and order. Can Rathana or Champika claim they are not responsible for this rising wave of crimes in the past 07 to 08 years ? Can a silly 12 point demand list put forward by Rathana thero that does not propose answers to the major issues the country is facing, wipe them clean? Their 12 point programme accepts the North and the East to be what they are under military rule.
In a stupid effort to defend themselves, Rathana in an interview with Lankadeepa newspaper (23 October) says they could not see far enough on the 17 Amendment and therefore agreed to its abolition. On the day he launched his “Pivithuru Hetak” he said they voted for the 18 Amendment, but now feel it was wrong. Can political duds who had no idea what they did on very serious issues that were politically fatal to the country, be taken seriously ? Can such irresponsible men come up with a list of fair and just solutions ? They retain their extreme racist veneer in everything they say and do not meet the present challenge of redefining the future of this country to move forward as a decent, civilized country.
Therefore the most important question is, “what is a broad alliance for that is talked of with much fancy and as necessary to defeat Rajapaksa ?” Here in Sinhala South, a broad alliance, a “party front” is talked of as bringing together a “big list” of men and women who claim they are leaders. This old fashioned front today can bring together dozens of such individuals on a political stage who will only criticise the Rajapaksa regime, but cannot offer a comprehensive programme that would provide answers to what the people now need. On electoral politics, these loud voices cannot collect votes either.
In a national election like the presidential polls, the indication now is, people don’t vote to see their “x” go waste. Uva PC elections proved the shift has begun without any opposition alliance. The trend now is to gather in the two main camps. That was why Fonseka’s party which polled 06% in the South got wiped out completely in Uva. Why the JVP that polled over 09% in the South, was reduced to a mere 05.3% in Uva. In a presidential poll, these opposition groups will shrink more.
Already an exodus of 23% in Moneragala district was seen leaving the Rajapaksas at the Uva PC elections. Even in a provincial election that usually gives the ruling party an edge, an advantage in mobilising voters, it was a massive departure of 21% in the whole province that has a 84% Sinhala population. Without any political alliance, without the UNP offering an alternate programme, in Uva, 19% of the people who left the Rajapaksa camp, encamped with the UNP. This trend does not necessitate any compromises, any gathering for any “front” against the Rajapaksa. It only needs an attractive and a viable programme the large numbers who leave the Rajapaksa fold would want for their future.
It is therefore important to read the emerging Sinhala South that has changed priorities, 05 years after the war was concluded. The Sinhala South has been pushed into an insecure, uncertain life under this Sinhala Buddhist dominance in governance. In Sinhala rural society (11 of the districts have over 85% Sinhala people), local political power had been transferred to thugs and criminals who are now Pradeshiya Sabha or Urban Council Chairmen and Vice Chairmen. They are local “Al Capones” who sit over people’s daily life. It is their feeling of insecurity where education has little hope in giving their children a decent and a secure future. A feeling of insecurity having got to live with increasing molestations and sexual abuse of children, increasing trend in sexual harassment, rape and murder of women, wide spread and almost open peddling of drugs in villages, custodial killings, extortions and brutal killings along with a police department that has lost social trust, that has changed priorities from voting a Sinhala Buddhist leader.
Getting out of such brutality that haunts their daily life, is now high priority for them. Even above the “cost of living” that keeps biting into their meagre incomes. Obviously, life is dear and more important than holding onto a Sinhala Buddhist regime. One that does not take notice of ordinary life in the village. Uva will not be an exclusion from the ordinary. Today, the ordinary is Uva. But that large protest has to have answers. Answers to get back to a decent civilised life. Compromises with Sinhala Buddhist extremism will not provide answers to these frustrated Sinhala Buddhist voters. UNP will have to address the nagging social insecurity instead, if they want to outflank this “Mahinda and the Monk” combination, publicly and rhetorically opposed to each other, but not so in real politics.