By Vishwamithra –
“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” ~Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
I woke up late last morning. Usually morning dawns on me quite early. For some the wee hours are the most miserable part of the day, while for others the most exciting and vibrant time before sunset as it is for me. Writing at that time, early hours, of the day is more than a mere pleasure; it’s more than a livelihood and a profession; it’s an obsession, in a very positive sense. I sat down to write this column, as I always do before the dawn of the day, a very strange, unnamed emotion swept across me, enveloping my whole being, an emotion which rarely manifests itself in real and stark terms and charms. In a perfect world where meadows are green and grass looks more like a neatly woven carpet and sheep graze at regular intervals with uncommon precision, which is customarily attributed to consummately organized organisms.
To control such an emotion without being emotional is the key to successful writing. And that remains my goal. When writing about the past regimes, their varied successes and failures, their idiosyncratic behavioral patterns, their influence on the socio-economic and cultural landscapes of Sri Lanka invariably become interesting and stimulating subjects for the curious writer. Yet that curiosity needs to be tempered with discipline and taste; it needs to be sustainably aggressive yet equanimously narrated with calm and composure.
The still-unfolding story of the Rajapaksa clan that held the reins over the affairs of the country for more than a decade, from 2005 to 2015, does indeed promise a very exciting and stimulating premise for writing. Albeit the story has not reached a closure, the immediate past presents some fascinating topographies of societal ills, how those ills were caused by some ruthless yet emotional political decisions made by the Rajapaksa & Company and perpetuation of a system and fine-tuning it exclusively for its abuse by the siblings who are the major shareholders of the Company, is yet being narrated by the servile henchmen of the Company. The siblings are facing many a financial scandal; their imprudent and avaricious approach to statecraft has been exposed beyond any past precedent; the trickledown effect of their corrupt way of handling statecraft and total absence of accountability and transparency in that handling are being felt today at every level of the government sector. From politician to the government KKS and driver have been infected with that deadly disease called corruption.
In all their dealings what is most apparent is their naiveté in being emotional in respect of every serious and significant political decision they had taken during their time. What are those political decisions that appeared as normal and regular at the time they were taken, but in the midterm and long-term context, those decisions played a decisive role in the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections held in 2015. One was the ouster of the Chief Justice and replacing her with a Rajapaksa-crony. Two was the unmerciful imprisonment of Sarath Fonseka, the widely acclaimed hero of the war-victory against the LTTE.
Dethroning the then Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayake was purely an emotional outcome to a not-so-complex problem of very elementary kind. Per Wikipedia, following is an anatomy of one emotional political decision and its radical undesired results:
“Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill
The Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill was published in The Sri Lanka Gazette on 17 October 2011. The bill allowed the government to declare any land in a municipal, urban development or road development area as a “protected”, “conservation”, “architectural”, “historical” or “sacred” area and to acquire that land. According to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, most land issues are devolved to the provincial councils. The Sri Lankan government introduced the bill in parliament on 8 November 2011. The bill’s constitutionality was challenged by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu in the Supreme Court. The court (Bandaranayake, Chandra Ekanayake and K. Sripavan) met on 21 November 2011 to hear the petition. The court’s determination (S.C. Special Determination No. 03/2011) was conveyed to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, another brother of President Rajapaksa, on 2 December 2011 and on 3 December 2011 the Speaker announced the determination to Parliament: the bill was in respect of matters set out in the provincial council list and therefore cannot become law unless it has been referred to every provincial council. The government withdrew the bill from parliament and referred it to the nine provincial councils. The provincial councils expressed concern about the bill and suggested amendments. The bill was opposed by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal, both members of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), President Rajapaksa’s party, as well as the opposition United National Party. Faced with opposition, the government abandoned the bill in April 2012.
Divi Neguma Bill
The Divi Neguma Bill was published in The Sri Lanka Gazette on 27 July 2012. The bill established the Department of Divi Neguma Development by amalgamating the Samurdi Authority of Sri Lanka, Southern Development Authority of Sri Lanka and the Udarata Development Authority, and created numerous community organizations, banks and banking societies. The Department of Divi Neguma Development would be controlled by the Ministry of Economic Development headed by President Rajapaksa’s brother Basil Rajapaksa and would carry out development activities. According to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, most development activities are devolved to the provincial councils. The Sri Lankan government introduced the bill in parliament on 10 August 2012. The bill’s constitutionality was consequently challenged by four petitioners on three petitions in the Supreme Court. The court (Bandaranayake, Priyasath Dep and Eva Wanasundera) met on 27 and 28 August 2012 to hear the petitions. Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa announced the Supreme Court’s determinations (S.C. Special Determination No. 01/2012, 02/2012 and 03/2012) to Parliament on 18 September 2012: the bill was in respect of matters set out in the provincial council list and therefore cannot become law unless it has been referred to every provincial council. The UPFA controlled eight of the nine provincial councils and between 25 September 2012 and 3 October 2012 all eight approved the Divi Neguma Bill. The ninth provincial council, Northern, had not been functioning as an elected body since it was established in 2007. The bill was approved by the Northern Province’s Governor G. A. Chandrasiri who had been appointed by President Rajapaksa.
The bill then returned to Parliament and a further eleven petitions were placed before the Supreme Court challenging the bill’s constitutionality. Amongst these petitions was one filed on 4 October 2012 by opposition MP Mavai Senathirajah challenging the legality of Chandrasiri’s approving the bill. The court (Bandaranayake, N. G. Amaratunga and K. Sripavan) met on 18, 22, and 23 October 2012 to hear the petitions. The Supreme Court’s determinations were passed to the president on 31 October 2012. Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa announced the Supreme Court’s determinations to Parliament on 6 November 2012: clause 8(2) was unconstitutional and needed to be approved by a referendum; twelve other clauses were inconsistent with the constitution and needed to be passed by special majority (two-thirds) of Parliament; the governor of the Northern Province does not have the power to endorse the bill and therefore Parliament needed to pass the bill by special majority”.
Either the Rajapaksa & Company was not alerted to the deficiencies if their respective bills by the Attorney General’s (AG’s) Department or they deliberately disregarded the advice, if such advice was sought, rendered by the AG’s Department and went ahead and became entrapped in the web of statecraft. Their solution for this ungainly situation was the impeachment of the Chief justice- a wickedly planned out and unmercifully yet shoddily exercised execution of the leading occupant of the seat of the country’s Judiciary. Whoever was found short in strategizing, the one who suffered insufferable indignity and humiliation was Shirani Bandaranayake who once was the hand-picked Chief Justice of the Rajapaksa government. Emotion played a pivotal role and the Rajapaksas had to pay incalculably for the crime of emotional judgment.
The second of such warped judgments was sending Sarath Fonseka to prison and the humiliation hurled on him by a sordid and sinister attempt to paint a great soldier and patriot as a traitor. About Sarath Fonseka, I’m sure that our Tamil brethren would like to indulge in their usual mud-slinging without a shade of evidence, as a soldier involved in genocide. Such drastic words as genocide, human rights violations and racist, specifically used against Sarath Fonseka by the Tamil Diaspora did not hold any water and that was illustrated in the votes he received in the North in the 2009 Presidential Elections. More than 75% of the Northern Tamils voted for Sarath Fonseka. No Tamil would have voted for a person who had committed genocide against his own community.
Politicians in a perfect world would not have committed these elementary blunders. We are not living in a perfect world, nor are we pretending to do so. His meadows are not green and his path is curvy and winding with steep valleys and unreachable summits.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org