By S. Sivathasan –
The mention of the word revolution brings forth thoughts of French, Russian and Chinese. The last among them being in 1949. Since then the world has seen less spectacular but as far reaching developments, brought about by regime change. This itself has been a product of slow gestation but pregnant with valuable consequences. Directly or through proxy the power of the people has displaced monarchies and dictatorships. Instituted in their place was the will of the people, the rule of the demos – the people – with the term democracy.
In 1952 Egypt displaced the Monarch, King Farouk in a peaceful army coup led by Gen. Naguib with people’s support to the hilt. After a while Col. Nasser replaced him and ruled as a popular leader. In the line of army personnel, the last one was General Mubarak.
His rule, good in the beginning and tainted with corruption and human rights violations latterly, failed to meet with people’s aspirations. Elections lost their credibility and discontent issued forth in a show of people’s power. This one was in the wake of Arab Spring and had its success in Egypt in 2011. The uprooting of an entrenched dictatorship was a remarkable triumph for the people. The images below and on TV showed how men and women with the youth as conspicuous partners surged in lakhs to secure victory.
The rule of Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran did not resonate with the people’s religious sentiments or their political orientation or their scheme of values. With the chasm widening by the day, the Shah increasingly alienated himself from the people. Every mode found in the book of dictators was used to muzzle thought and expression and to suppress dissent or opposition. Iran had slid fast into a ‘Police State’. Iranians had a rallying point, a symbol of their hope in Ayatollah Khomeini. But he could no longer remain in Iran and had to flee to France. From there he sent messages continuously, fomenting resistance if not rebellion.
With organization enveloping the countryside, anti-Shah venom could not be contained by the Police. Neither could their strength seen in numbers and verve be confronted with. After some firing, the military declined to fire at the mass of humanity. How impossible it is can be gauged from the surge of protesters as seen below in the images. A dictator blinded by the maya of power may think that the military will fire at a command. It doesn’t happen. A gun becomes less than tinsel at that moment. People’s Power turns the very alchemy of gun metal. In Iran it changed the timelines of history. The Shah preempted the impending catastrophe with an early exit. Khomeini advanced his reentry to Iran. History itself changed course.
The country writhed under the dictatorship of Marcos. It became infamous because of ill governance, rights abuses and limitless corruption. Hope of regime change disappeared after a sequence of rigged elections. Anti-Marcos Peoples Power Revolution loomed large in February 1986 and Rally for Governance Reform added zest to it. Mission was accomplished and an era of political murders ended. For Sri Lanka to take her cue from and to put her act together, herein lies a text book model.
Decades of iron handed dictatorship enforced by Gaddafi was purported to be for the good of all Libyans. With oil prices escalating from early seventies, wealth and fortune flowed into Libyan coffers. With the flow commenced the growth of rigours of dictatorship. In due course, came in the full complement of press control, suppression of free speech and of assembly and finally a Police State.
These happen when personal rule gets transformed into familial rule. Money flow through many channels makes necessary a diversified network of centres of power. With such a development, people were relegated to the very extremity. When they were chafing and smarting, appeared the Tunis example of a dictatorship being toppled by people’s power.
Forty years of violent rule needed very violent forms for its overthrow. The wealth of the state illegally siphoned off and stashed away is estimated at even as high as $ 200 billion. The huge amount explains the difficulty in uprooting the deep roots of corruption. This amount also gives a clue to the hoards of lesser suspected Presidents.
Commonalities in a Dictatorship
For most if not all, sinister intentions are cloaked in finer professions. Will to power is palmed off as benevolence towards society. When power grab is in place, money grab begins. After the dictator’s pockets are full, family pockets are filled. Yet there is no limit to power and pelf. Then thoughts of DYNASTY follow. Apprehensions of impermanence creep in. At this stage, Military support is deemed indispensable for permanence. Feathering the bed of the military then goes apace. Before the sojourn ends, peoples’ revolt begins and the dream ends. But thoughts are on continuing with the dream. Parliamentary means or facade are then cast aside to institute a naked dictatorship. At this conjunction stands Sri Lanka today.
Are the nine years in Sri Lanka Different? If not, why should the end be otherwise?
Karl Marx fortified by his mastery of history asserted that those entrenched in power will never vacate the stage voluntarily. They have to be pushed out forcibly. In Sri Lanka it was not power alone. The finances that went along with it are far too huge to let go. A titanic struggle is sure to be waged earlier than later with a share in the spoils as the reward for support. The struggle as the government would know is best fought by the trained. It is on them that the government will dance attendance. Vigilance and more would be required from the side of the Opposition.
With an awareness of such an eventuality, a demonstration of solidarity can help forestall a dangerous possibility.