14 August, 2022

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Militarisation Vs The People: Will There Be Confrontation?

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

From mid-September to late November the autocratic ambitions of the Gotabaya regime were in retreat, but the President’s hard-core has rallied and in the last fortnight we see a toughening tone. But is there substance to this posturing or is it a confused government running in circles around itself like a headless chicken? Can a stricken regime make an illegal grab for power? You may say stranger things have happened but the “best laid schemes o’ Headless Chickens an’ Men (usually) gang aft agley”. Take the Third Act of a recent comedy; the Daily Financial Times of 7 December says “President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has decided to establish a Green Agriculture Operative Centre to systematically and sustainably fulfil the priorities identified to make Sri Lanka a ‘green’ country to be implemented under the direction of Army Commander Shavendra Silva”. It goes on, after an interminable list of whistling in the dark instructions, to stipulate that Army Silva and his minions will “coordinate all officials from the highest level to the ground level involved in agriculture, distribution of food crop products and the promotion of health education and communication programs on organic food consumption.” Or to put it briefly the military will boss of the public service.

Given the mood in the country, in the public service and among trade unions, efforts by the military to throw its weight around extra-constitutionally will be ignored if not defied. Act One of this lost in the woods malaise was on 10 May 2021 when the Presidential Secretariat issued a proclamation establishing a “Presidential Task Force on Creating a Green Sri Lanka with Sustainable Solutions to Climate Change” chaired by Basil and consisting of 46 (yes that’s right!) strong throng including five Cabinet Ministers, a Governor and highlighting the inclusion of a “female member of Parliament” (sic!). Has this august body ever met? What has it discussed and decided? What has it done? Or is it all just humbug!

Most likely it slumbered; so what next? “President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a top-level task force of 14 to transform the Government’s green agriculture agenda into fruition, thereby enhancing its contribution to sustainable socio-economic development”. Chaired by Vijith Weikala, said the Daily Financial Times of 18 October 2021. This was the ersatz Second Act in a merry-go-round of a prancing headless chickens.

Pandemonium in other spheres of government is no less a theatre of the absurd. Here are two reports (on the same day) in The Island of 10 December 2021. One says SLPP MP Gevindu Cumaratunga held a press conference to condemn government and Cabinet policies and the President. Worse, another story followed up: “Cabinet ministers Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila yesterday made representations to the Supreme Court in support of the fundamental rights cases filed against the transfer of 40 per cent of government shares of the Yugadanavi Power Station to US-based New Fortress Energy”. (Anura Kumara Dissanayake told parliament that the avowal by these three jokers that the Cabinet did not approve the LNG deal at a Zoom meeting is a fib; Sunday Morning 13 Dec). Rather quaintly the Island added: “There hasn’t been a previous instance of members of Cabinet moving court against a Cabinet decision”. Yes, Cumaratunga, Nanayakkra, Wimal and Udya know the consequences of fork-tongued frolicking. The ship is sinking, the rats are leaping overboard and the regime is approaching its denouement. This is not say that it will expire before its constitutionally prescribed funeral date, but an obituary notice is being released in anticipation.

Can a muddled regime set out on a militarist extra-constitutional adventure? Well, deranged persons will attempt anything, but pause for a moment and look at the cards stacked against such folly. The public is outraged by uncontrolled cost of living inflation; the trade unions (electricity, station masters, teachers, health sector and others) are girding their loins for a show down. Farmers are on the warpath, the Catholic and recently the Tamil minorities have thrown down the gauntlet. “Conspiracy” holler the former, “External Self-Determination” proclaim the latter; the SLMC stammers “13A”. Foreign coffers in the Central Bank are as bare Mother Hubbard’s cupboard; Biden is taking aim at sundry human and democratic rights offenders; the Chinese are taking Lanka’s public institutions to the law courts and India rubbed the nose of the impecunious visiting Finance Minister on the toilet floor.

Can a regime in a pickle attempt a fix-all military adventure? Can it bring back the white-van, bump off critics and lockdown press freedom? Well yes it can; worse things happen when a red rag is fluttered in the face of a goaded bull. But an attempt at a putsch will provoke mass popular resistance; a military adventure will be the forerunner to an uprising and all sides will lose. Public response will be defiance and as Einstein said “after the Third World War everyone will be left only with sticks and stones”. Lanka will enter a dark age of protracted turmoil – vide Burma and Sudan. The regime’s leaders will be hostages, and worst of all is that what the end will be is uncertain. Lasting chaos and anarchy, untethered minorities, an Indian game plan, and a deprivation of Chinese bail-out cash. All this and more is likely.

But whether things come to such a pass does not depend on Gotabaya, his military brass and his screw-loose advisors. It depends on us! Yes, you heard me right, it depends on us! A formidable and unified opposition will stop conspirators and putsch seekers in their tracks. They have to be frightened off before they dare start. The opposition must be manifestly united and well organised for this minimal task of self-preservation. This is not asking for much, it is not asking for a political alliance, a commitment to coalition government or a joint socio-economic programme. Sure, let the JVP, the SJB, the TNA and anyone else (SLFP, Dead-Left or SLPP dissidents willing to part company with conspirators) remain free to retain their platforms and their programmes to set up governments of their liking and making in the future if they can. There is room for sectarians as well. There will be explicit appreciation, as with the Single Issue strategy in 2015 that the purpose is to throw back a common threat. There is no expectation of consummation in a coalition government unless that is explicitly agreed between some partners. At the same time all will be free to grow their own strength; actually those seen to contribute the most to a common defence strategy will win the greatest individual strength.

Of course this presumes that these parties see that a grab for power in some form or shape is emerging. If they don’t see any danger I guess they will reckon that I am baying at the moon, that the sudden prorogation of parliament is routine, that the CEB power outage last week was not the work of a ‘black hand’ hopeful of the a State of Emergency and that pushing the public service under the military is customary. If they do not perceive an existential threat to democracy the studied complacency of the JVP, SJB and TNA avoiding defensive congregation makes sense. I grant that the previous drift of this essay has been to boohoo the gorillas, nevertheless isn’t it quaint to see maiden coyness from much ravished madams? All blush to be the first to declare “Let’s couple consensually”; they don’t know what they are missing! The TNA goes to Washington to wax eloquent that Lanka is on an authoritarian trajectory and holds forth that militarisation and a trend to dictatorship are intensifying. Really Abraham, you mean it! Or do you remember that only when you fly over the Statue of Liberty? When has the TNA said at home that unity of all communities, peoples’ organisations and parties for defence against a common enemy of democracy is imperative? Unity in practical actions will build a hundred stronger bridges between communities than denunciations of communalism.

The JVP and the SJB which should be taking the lead in this respect are no better; though the front liners they are sloppy. If you listen to Anura Kumara’s well researched presentations or hear Sajith, Eran, Harin and Harsha in parliament, you will be persuaded that the country is already in the jaws of a lion. But do they only espy a benign lion as did Androcles? Switch off the TV and there is no summons from these worthies to fortify a common defence. I would hate to have to one day say “I told you so” over the wreckage of a moderately democratic nation. My point is very humble, stop the State’s gross infractions of democracy before it gets any further. This can be done by a determined declaration of unified opposition. And there is a vital corollary to this strategy; when people see the consummation of a formidable phalanx, ten becomes one hundred; others are drawn to join because strength advances credibility.

Am I naïve to gape in bewilderment at the frivolity of JVP, SJB, TNA and Muslim leaders in that they are reluctant collaborators in repelling a common existential threat? Mind you I am only paraphrasing their own assessment of how dangerous these times are. Phew, I need a stiff drink!

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Latest comments

  • 4
    2

    People have lost confidence in the Rajapaksas. None of them are reliable. It is time to realize the situation during the French Revolution. The Armed Forces itself will turn against the Rajapaksas. It is a lesson for Sri Lankans as to why the British favoured Lord Atlee to be the Prime Minister instead of Sir Winston Churchill who really was instrumental for the victory of England during the 2nd World War. Rajapaksas may have won the LTTE, but are very poor in fighting against the deteriorating economy of the country. They don’t have a proper planning other than violating the human rights and plundering the wealth of the country. They also lacked diplomacy in confronting evil China.

  • 3
    1

    Again and again.
    Sri Lanka is ALREADY under a military rule backed by 2/3 in Parliament, officialy confirmed from the day 20A was passed. How come these imbeciles are so blind to such an obvious fact?
    A military style take over is necessary only if there is a looming danger of falling below 50% in the house ( similar to that 51 day nari naadagama) – nothing of the sort in the horizon.
    Our slavish sycophants will stick to their boot licking , come what may.
    What for any further militarization can someone please tell me.
    I am commenting even before reading this horse shit.

    Soma

    • 1
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      Soma, at least you among very few here , is able to recognize the fact that Silly Lanka is already under military rule. I feel pity for those who dream of NMSJ among many others , without realizing , we already are under one family one country one law .

      • 1
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        Chiv
        Gotabhaya will throw himself out?

        Soma

  • 4
    1

    I believe so called ” Green Agricultural Revolution ” of Gotabaya came in to being due to lack of knowledge. . Even if the idea may be good but we everyone is aware that even rich countries have failed turning their agric fields to fully carbonic manure dependent. Besides as a state leader the elected he should have studied it profoundly. Above all if any one would join the argument by defending him today/ should be clear all these were based on naivity of a man whose political knowledge is similar to that of Dhammka paniya maker whose thoughts sounded ” i would love the people and eliminate Covid “. To me looking back not single step taken by Gotabaya so far is pragmatic/ but absurd by every means.we should be ashamed as a nation whose literacy rates are the highest in that south Asian region.😎🐃🐕😎🐃🐕😎🐃🐕😎🐃🐕 and srilanka s debt burden should be clear to him as the first thing that the nation has to settle before trying to touch the sky.. the level of naivity is beyond estimation 🐃🐃🐃🐃🐃🐃

  • 2
    3

    KD, 1) I doubt Majority has the guts to form a military backed government due to international pressure not because of any domestic concerns. 2) Our public and opposition do not have the back bone or courage to stand up to a military regime 3) Our public is good in creating pogroms organized and supported by governments but not resisting governments. 4) Yes there were two insurrections but we know the outcome of both where public and revolutionaries turned against each other., and left country in utter chaos and confusion 5) On this occasion the public cannot unite in the first place because they were through out behind Rajapaksas immoral activities for decades. It will be a typical Venezuela situation where government sponsored supporters who turn militants, armed thugs, vigilantes go around taking care of protesters so that government and militarily maintain innocence by looking the other side. Now it’s truly Rajapaksas war against country and lets wait for the outcome. Is any of these developments are surprising, not at all ?? Lanka should have gone down this path long before but sanity prevailed, that is what makes Rajapaksas special. Enjoy the ride.

  • 3
    3

    Well, not sure about “militarisation”. However, whenever a disciple of the Gothama Buddha has emerged in the island, historically, the leader of the land has always given assistance to propagate the Dhamma with official backing. This happened when Mahinda Thero visited the North of the island from the East and met Devanampiyatissa. Granted its been 1800 year hiatus and things take a while to come together. Although it’s been 11 years now. It’s about time this happened.

  • 4
    1

    Panama papers show how much Rajapaksas as a family has amazed for a rainy day. True or not we heard how Afghan leader left with plane loads of greenbacks at the time of exit. We heard lot of talk in the beginning but not a lately not a murmur. Why do you think for the first time in history Lanka is bankrupt of forex. Decades of war didn’t wipe out forex when 75% GDP was spent on defense how can just 2years of pandemic do it, is for economist to answer. They decided to hoard dollars not our worthless LKR.

  • 6
    4

    All these, after taking 30 years to beat a bunch of untrained 5000 odd amateurs.

    Imagine the pomp and ceremony if we had won a real war!


    Did Eagle Eye go to war dressed in stark Red …… like these 2 dudes?

    Would’ve been a sitting duck for snipers! …….. No wonder, he has half his brain shot off ……….

    • 4
      3

      LTTE itself admitted to 23,000 dead Mahaveers in battle. So your 5,000 number is a sham.

      LTTE had 13 brigades. Only Makkal Padai is left. All others died in war. That is after the 23,000 admitted mahaveer deaths in November 2008. So the total LTTE dead must be 60,000+.

      And there are 89,000 Tamil war widows in the north and east alone according to a UN fact finding mission.

      • 2
        0

        Large numbers died swallowing cyanide pils.

        Soma

        • 2
          2

          Tens of thousands of Tamils killed in the seas are often disregarded because of their caste.

          LTTE, EROS, EPRLF, Tamil National Army, TMVP, UM group, PLOTE, TELO, etc. cadres killed by each other are also kept hidden for obvious reasons.

          • 0
            1

            “Tens of thousands of Tamils killed in the seas are often disregarded because of their caste.”
            Only Hindu/Christian Vellala class is entitled for a political solution.

            Soma

        • 0
          1

          A friend of reminds me that those cyanide capsules were fake. Is that true?

          Soma

  • 2
    1

    One good thing Rajapaksas did was they dragged Buddhism too to hell with them. Now people have no regard for both.

  • 1
    2

    ‘bunch of untrained 5000 odd amateurs’
    .
    I don’t think VP would appreciate that comment. The LTTE were highly trained (partly by India) and motivated. They were financed (partly by India) through international crime. ‘Thirty years’ was because of vacillating leaders, international pressure and Indian threats of invasion. Have you forgotten how the SLA closed in on Vadamarachchi and were only stopped by Indian jets invading our airspace? No shortage of Dhal that year. Besides, the initial years were hardly a war, merely local terrorists (now in government). Think before you type.

    • 3
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      Excuses, excuse, excuses ……….. 30 years is 30 years …….

      If we crow about ourselves so much for beating some minnows ……… how if we had beaten the might of the USA like the Vietnamese ……….or the might of the Soviet Union and the USA like the Afghans?

      Shouldn’t the bragging and the celebrations reflect the achievement? ………….. Unless of course it’s to cover a weakness like insecurity …….. or to gain political power/longevity to loot the country ………

      After getting their ass kicked by the Vietnamese ……… the USA also had a ticker tape parade after beating Granada! Any similarities? :))

      Yeah, think before you type ……..

      • 0
        0

        Granada —> Grenada

        The country is so insignificant …….. not many people know even to spell the name!

        Granted, the LTTE might be a little better known ………..

  • 0
    0

    Very soon people are going to attack Police for their illegal actions against civilians.

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