By Sarath de Alwis –
Forty days after the dismantling of the family politburo Mahinda Rajapaksa has demonstrated that his orgburo is well oiled and running.
With absolute fascination this writer watched a microcosm of Sinhala society hailing the event as a turning point.
‘I am beaten but not defeated. I shall not decline the outstretched hands of affection of my compatriots. What the country was experiencing was not a defeat but the consequences of a conspiracy.’
The trenchant proclamation by the former President confirms that he has an enormous war chest. He has the machinery in place to manage dozens and more such risings. The drone cameras captured the images of spirited youth, both male and female with well coiffured hair styles dressed in Paradise road attire waving posters of the Mustachioed Macho Patriot Supremo.
His expressed consent to return and the simultaneous call for mobilization was a mercurial synthesis of a thesis and an antithesis. The master of ceremonies at the Nugegoda concert was at pains to repeat over and over that the wildly cheering crowds were genuine concerned citizens who represented the 58 lakhs or 58 % of the Sinhala majority.
It was an efficiently executed logistical enterprise that sent out a significant political message to the reformers relaxing in graceless and graceful indolence.
Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka in his new discipline of Spin Science outperformed Marlon Brando’s Mark Antony. In a subsequent commentary he accurately and appropriately quoted the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen ‘Come on up for the rising, lay your hands in mine’ in conveying the spirit and purpose of the Nugegoda Rock Concert.
It was magnificent in attendance and deficient in content. The star performance was that of Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka who read out the message of the former President. The message was crisp. Mahinda was willing and able. He loved them all. Crafted in meticulous syntax it was classical Hegelian Marxist.
He insisted that his removal from the seat of authority was a conspiracy. He challenged the enthused participants to take a side. Obviously it was on the side of the hero plotting return from enforced exile- the perennial message of the epic from Rama to Ulysses.
Like it or not Mahinda Rajapaksa is more than a person- a phenomenon. When he says, though beaten he is not defeated he relies on the single asset that he holds intact- his authoritative charisma. Unlike any other leader in our modern history he was fortunate with an opportunity to carve for himself a place in our history.
Nothing alters that unique legacy however tarnished by subsequent villainy. It is this privileged perch on the consciousness of a nation that now permits him to distort a popular mandate for reforms as a conspiracy hatched not only against him but the country. To his mind he and country are one.
To this writer Mahinda Rajapaksa is an Autocrat, villain and Pagan monster. To a large segment of our populace presently frozen at 58 lakhs by head count and 58% of the total Sinhala constituency he is hero unmatched. In this cult worship Mahinda Rajapakse is associated with a set of values convenient to him. A section of the public perceive it as beneficial to the nation’s well-being or its very survival.
The Orwellian project of producing patriotism is best demonstrated in the text books given free to every child. All text books have a message from his Excellency the President .
His Minister of Education in the same text books informs the children that they are decedents of great generations whose creative power enabled them to carve statues of loving kindness and compassion out of hard heartless rock and compose graffiti of great literary value on the ‘Mirror wall’.
The Gobblesian purpose of the two messages to the innocent children is manifestly unambiguous. This urgency has been brilliantly summed up by Professor Nira Wikremsinghe in her paper ‘History as heritage in postwar patriotic Sri Lanka”
“Today more than ever, nostalgia permeates heritage practices in Sri Lanka. The return to heritage in myth-building and historisation is a process that was not born in the post-civil war years but received more state sanction in the ideological setting of a triumphant Sinhala-Buddhist state victorious over un-national secessionist forces” .
The patriotic project of the ‘Nugegoda rising’ is the first post defeat Rajapaksa initiative of re-tribalising the presumed balance 42% of the Sinhala majority.
It was a great afternoon for the fans and perhaps rewarding to those incentivized to attend.
To this writer it was stark reminder that Sri Lanka is yet to discover its place in the world. ‘The paradox of our times is that humanity is simultaneously becoming more unified and more fragmented.’ It is the principal thrust of change.
The unelectable coalition of left- outs of the Left and the Sinhala supremacist see the resurrection of the Mahinda Rajapaksa strategy of nationalist autism and international isolation is a reasonable price to regain their lost privileges and power.
The post war Rajapaksa rhetoric relied on folklore as history and insularity as a creative process.
The only overt concession it has made to globalization was the widening of pavements and McDonaldization of the nation’s eating habits.
Traditional Sinhala red rice is classified as Gourmet rice known as ‘Kalu Heeneti’ commands a premium price with a discount on one’s credit card. The rice that ‘Andare’ wanted the ‘Gama Rale ‘to feed him with before he lifted up the rock in the paddy field is an upmarket luxury. Had President Rajapakse won a third term further research could have been undertaken to produce the same grain in Maroon and offered at Independence arcade as an alternative to the Two hundred Rupee Hoppers.
The young patriot returning home after the ‘Nugegoda rising’ stopped at a take away joint on Pagoda road and bought himself a Cheese Mutton Koththu Roti. The clash of metal on metal fragmenting the ‘Roti’ into tiny bits reminded him of the poetry of virulence of Gunadasa Amsarasekera promising to tear in to Mangala’s letter to Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein the U.N High Commissioner for Human Rights. To ease his mind he next contemplated the serenity of the Buddha statue erected by public spirited Buddhists on public land restricting road space. The road side shrine was causing traffic congestion due to the many busses that brought the patriots to the urban quarter of the Kingdom of Kotte made famous by the sensual and descriptive poetry of Sri Rahula and the brothers who took part in the ‘Wijayaba Kollaya’.
*Sarath De Alwis is a former Journalist and a retired professional in leisure and aviation industries