By Harshana Rajakaruna –
No Western political theory in my mind can explain, fully and completely, the new unveiling of the on-going political stage-play in Sri Lanka. The scripted events that fall in line, in sequential and logical order, in the current political stage-play, presents a new opening for the ‘faithful-69’, the majority pro-nationalists who elected the government, to come up with a fresh ‘Singhalese-Buddhist’ political theory that explains it all. I cannot! Nationalist historians would not disagree, so would I, had the now-famous Prince Ravana lived to this date, he would, if so, be very proud of it! Seeing the forty years of struggle the country had gone through to bring democratic reforms to our constitution to what it was a few days ago, as for me, I do not fully grasp how a dictatorial amendment has been passed by a two third majority of the newly elected parliament, presumptuously misrepresenting majority of their own people’s mandate; will and aspirations; turning the constitution back to the likes of its original autocratic form of JRJ’s or a worse. The popular idea for which, was that they were sold out to a clan of crooks, who served only self-interests but the interests of the country and its people. It cannot be forgotten that the amendments they are now settled for, reverse the constitution to the likes that led the country to a standstill for years, destroying the lives of the ordinary folks, murdering more than 60,000 people, mostly youth, in cold blood, turning the country into a killing field.
The political drama that unfolds today seems setting the same stage again, foreseeably and unsurprisingly, the closest being, to feel what it had been, to grasp it, and to connect with it in abstraction, the artistic expressionism of Picasso’s Guernica. The Guernica, as Picasso envisioned, is a monumental piece of art that expresses the pain and suffering inflicted upon the oppressed, the chaos and destruction of systems in place and the lives of the ordinary folks, and eventual defeats of those revolted, as it was so, in the history of the world, as well as in Sri Lanka, in the hands of totalitarian regimes. The commonality and the generality of Guernica that spans across borders, perpetually reminding us of tragedies of brutal wars, atrocities, treachery, and civil unrest under such regimes, has brought it a universal appeal as the most natural to be arisen and expected under conditions in such. I wondered if what Guernica is reminiscent of, is worth a recall, and how I myself could fit in the next Guernica of Sri Lanka in the making.
The Guernica of Sri Lanka
In our context, in Sri Lanka today, the mad wide-eyed bull in the Guernica will represent the massive autocratic powers transferred back to the president by the new constitutional amendments, and the horse will represent the parliament set to run with or after the president, in despair, trying to control over the potential mess that such absolutist system would create -the potential rampaging of the bull being the major motif of destruction, the onslaught of the dictatorship. The bull will stand over the grieving woman; the common people of the country; holding a dead child in her arms; the death of their hopes and aspirations. The horse will fall in agony, with a large gaping hole in justice and peace run through by a spear; with bull’s coercing. The chain mail armor, which the horse’s wearing, will symbolize the newly rich crooks and thugs in and around the parliament and the system at large, who run away from justice, protecting and being protected by the underground. The revolted youth on the ground will eventually be defeated –right-hand grasping a shattered sword, symbolizing his revolted vigor, which was the ideology behind the uprising, through which a flower, the freedom they lost, may grow someday. The symbol drawn on the palm of his left-hand will represent the ‘Singhalese-Buddhist’ ideology, popularized lately among the pro-nationalists in the country, but had no hold or strength in the eventual ground realities of the people’s struggle and suffering. A bare light bulb, in the shape of an eye; the human rights watch; will blaze over the horse; the country’s governing body running a phantom democracy, but only witnessing the events on record without power. The frightened female, who has witnessed the same in the past, repeatedly, representing the old folks of the country, will appear from inside, witnessing the same again. The flame-lit lamp she carries, with a blank stare, will indicate it wasn’t an unexpected repetition in the end, suggesting the unwholesome ignorance of the people and the bleak future of the country.
The brutality and darkness of the last Guernica of Sri Lanka were reminiscent of Picasso’s prophetic. Reminding me of which, at the time of Premadasa, who took the office after JRJ, together with his “bull-constitution,” every night, somewhere in the country, we heard gunshots and smell of burning tire and human flesh. Every morning, somewhere in the country, we witnessed tortured, slaughtered, shot youth, heads stuck on poles, some disturbingly wounded, brutally massacred, half-burnt, displayed inhumanely and disrespectfully at almost every major road junction. In a country of majority ‘Buddhists’, who self-proclaimed as “ultra-compassionate,” in high-opinion on themselves as if they were “holier than thou,” and “the symbol of peace,” dared reach out to save a half-baked or half-killed fellow youth, dying in the street, crying out for life, and some begging for a sip of water. The horrors of seeing the tortured, the tormented, and the dead were insurmountable. The sorry state of affairs demonstrated how a ‘bull-constitution’ can easily unsettle; bring chaos and destruction to a country; and how long it takes to rebuild a society with a culture of mutual trust and respect. The dictatorial JRJ’s constitution turned the so-called “compassionate country” with a “dhaarmishta samajaya” into a pure and horrific killing field. I have only very little doubt in my mind if not the new political stage will take our country into another similar Guernica in my lifetime.
Knowing where the country is now heading, such that, the next inevitable Guernica will soon be in the making with a script written by an autocratic system in place, as a rational human being, I wondered where my personal market niche resides in it to make a buck for myself.
Supposing the country decides to go East; China will be delighted that our democratically elected parliament has been already proven “classless” being sold to crooks, despite it being in the primitive nature as per the progressive stages delineated by Marx on human socio-economic formations. Whether our parliament evolves backwards or forwards, it will be great for China that, either primitive or advanced, on both ends of such progression are again “classless.” The democratically inclined youth, oppressed by the tyranny of the expected totalitarian regime, will consequently pray to the West to drop bombs on our heads, resulting in the Guernica, which the world’s history has repeatedly witnessed.
Supposing the country decides to go West; given a rising of despotic states of affairs, naturally, there will be a market for books on ‘revolution’, demanded by the uprising youth, in the wake of the unrest and repression in the coming years. Coincidently, the JVP has released a video lately, reminding us of the Red October. In which case, I will intend to exploit the opportunity presented to me, and sell those to whoever will need them, regardless of their intent. I might have to perhaps compete with the capitalist Americans for the same market niche. Regardless, given how superpowers are already in the shadow of the government to secure their stake, people of the country will finish up in the Guernica in the end.
The point is, either way the country decides to go, East or West, with a dictator in the making, undermining the order of the rule of law and democracy, the stage will be set right for the next Guernica in the end.
The bottom line is, under the new dictatorial constitutional amendments, the democratically elected government of the country will soon be busy, naturally, in the making of another dictator, who is already in business freely and at will with superpowers, disregarding the democratic voices of the people. With heads up, anticipating the next Guernica in Sri Lanka, I will be busy dusting books in demand to be sold to the next generation of oppressed youth, who will soon be rebelling against the anticipated tyranny had the government decided to go West, or who will be inviting the West to drop bombs on our heads had the government decided to go East. As for me, I will be better-off either way, and be “mindful” of my own business in a country where we are all morally sick, politically illiterate and malnourished, and suffering clinically from insanity. However, the next Guernica will be the inevitable, and will keep us reminded ever and ever again the cycles of non-evolving non-progressive mindsets of ours, and reinventing and remaking of the same old monstrous ‘bull-constitution.’ Well, as for me, I am now in business, like all superpowers already flocked around the country, like a scavenger seeing a carcass.
*Harshana Rajakaruna, Ph.D. is a Sri Lankan born Canadian scholar in mathematical biology, now working in the United States as a mathematical cum a statistical modeler in numerous collaborative bio-ecological research projects, working on issues related to microbial dynamics in marine systems, killer T cell dynamics in immunological systems, stock assessment and statistical ecology, and theoretical invasion ecology. He enjoys his leisure traveling across borders, exploring different livelihoods, art and culture, religions, food, architecture, and nature, and loves cycling, abstract expressionist painting, playing music, cooking and reading.