By Suren Rāghavan –
Mahinda has won. Statics of 44.46% is never an indicator of the density of the people’s political will. Now he is even more powerful than in post January 2015. Because in a post state world order in a country that tries to negotiate postwar-ontological anxieties no policy is valid. No project is delivering. From Trump to Markel to Modi it is a person who people are willing to look up to. Liberal political theorists may still disagree in their lofty analysis over a glass of wine. However, the reality especially the South Asia political cultural reality is that we seek an individual who could deliver no matter how great or not the guiding principles are. World famous Time magazine said only a 15% chance of Trump winning just 48 hours before the election but confessed the chances were as high as 90% on the night of the election. That how far the liberals have lost the reality world over. Voters did not defeat the Yahapālana. They in fact defeated the lack of it or the bogus gang mascaraing in the pretext of such good governance ideology. Sinhala Buddhist voters have taken a political punishment on themselves. They knowingly the danger of repeat of a Rajapaksa regime have still voted because they wanted to punish Ranil and the repugnant crony Royalists mob who neither have a sense of the deep concerns of the rural south nor the ability to stand the rigours scrutiny that is demanded by the modern market based open democracy. Instead Mahinda provides the Messianic hope to the largely Sinhala Buddhist constituencies and their societal sub-consciousness at least in words. The three years record of the Maithri-Ranil rule is one of the least performing instead largely problem creating first three years of any government in Sri Lanka in the known memory. There is no Prabhakaran or his terror squads to kill these VVIPs. There was no EU or Geneva that was waiting to invade us in different forms. There were no Mahanaayakas threatening to burn themselves, Except for the SAITM faded jeans drama once in 2 months. Champika the mike hero surrendered and slept for full three years in his dream of becoming the next PM. The official opposition – Sampanthan became even more smooth and sober and never challenged the government on any single issue. In summery the Maithri-Ranil rule was one without a single contender.
However, it is this easy-fancy front foot stand that gave Ranil and his royal round to be ultra-insensitive and unlimitedly arrogant about the state and its management. If not who on a drunk day dream will appoint a foreigner like Arjuna Mahendran and let him rob a Central Bank over the phone. Ranil still defends Arjuna even while a Presidential Commission has proved that he let his son-in-law do a shady deal. This is in parallel to the claimed 18 billion robed by Mahinda- as according to non-other than the finance minister Mangala Samaraweera. Not a single person had been convicted or punished even after 1000 days had gone. The Sinhalas know and remember well. They remember 1971 and 1988, that is why they don’t vote for a JVP which still refuses to accept and confess that killing their own school teacher and native doctor was more Khmer Rouge tribalism than Marxism. In the same way they also remember the terror politics and the abysmally dictatorial Rajapaksa clang and their goonies. Still they traded off a better/smart robbery to a weak and unproductive robbery because in the previous one at least they received the opportunity to go home in Matara in 90 minutes has as never happened in the entire history of Lanka.
True-democrats and minorities like me are worried, because we are a double or even tribble minorities. We oppose the rogues of capitalist market, extreme ethno-nationalists in the south as well as the extreme Tamil Nationalists who seems to be merging in the north. Because the hidden extreme ethno-nationalists who are gravitating around the hope of bringing Gotabaya as their leader in 2020 will surely make this platform to launch a neo-racist agenda that promises to win more voted in a 2020 election. Knowing him – and his total (in)ability to give leadership to any new process, Maithri will be tempted and compete with that Sinhala racism to win more votes and the JVP will struggle whether to embrace modernist or remain where they are.
All these are a seriously emerging signs of a terminal ill democracy like ours. This election though I doubt it will bring any structural changes in the immediate time frame shows very clearly that Sri Lankan democracy is imprisoned between the crony capitalists and an ontologically insecure Sinhalaness leaving the possibility of a modern pluri-nation state – a dream only good as a dream. What Ranil did in the last three years is to deeply bury the possibility of the Sinhala South ever entering the modern democratic political space.
Maithri to establish his statesmanship could sack Ranil and his government and call for an early general election and let Mahinda test his ground and deal with the outcome as he has only two more years in that seat ever. Even if he goes back on his word and contest for a second term he will be defeated in style. Unfortunate – He knows but not his advisors.
The next foundational sociopolitical question that remain is Can we ever make Mahinda a moderate democrat? If not what are our options left? I hope those who desire democracy will deliberate such delicate debates without much delay and as urgent as possible. Because our civilisational question should be not who wins the next government but how shall we live then better?
*Dr Suren Rāghavan PhD is a Resident Research Scholar at the Department of History, University of Colombo, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org