By Mass L. Usuf –
His post war victory speech in May 2009 still reverberates in our ears. The then President Mahinda Rajapaksa went on to say, “There are no minorities…. we are one nation…. We must live like children of one mother…. All people in this country must live without fear and suspicion…. To protect the Tamil speaking people is my responsibility.”
Noble were the intentions expressed to the nation, in a display of statesmanship by the Head of the State, from the sanctum sanctorum of the legislature. It was a soothing balm to the vanquished and an imposition of a duty and responsibility to the victorious. It was received by the population as a proclamation of a new era to our country. The hope of a nation without prejudice and the promise of developmental prosperity to all.
Unfortunately, this euphoria did not last long. Seemingly, the noble expressions turned out to be despicable political rhetoric. In contrast to the humbleness of winning the hearts and minds of the people, what became manifest was an oversized Maha Rajanano ego. Those around the Maha Rajanano were massaging his ego to ecstasy. His priorities shifted to self-consolidation and enrichment of his family. While the cohorts around him were salivating to pick up the crumbs that fell from his plate.
Either misled by his advisors or emboldened by the victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Mr. Rajapaksa chose a strategic ultra-nationalistic racist path. The constitutionally fixed two term limitation for Presidency and the independent commissions put in place as a check on the Executive were unceremoniously thrown out. The dreaded 18th amendment was introduced as an urgent bill and was whizzed through Parliament. An unintended consequential fascist regime was in the making. Sri Lankans were beginning to see a fast mutating Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Growth of ultra-nationalism as a protective mechanism against foreign machinations is to some extent explicable. It was, however, incomprehensible to see such a force being encouraged targeting one’s own people. Ultra-nationalism was bolstered by the addition of racism. It was becoming evident that a state sponsored differentiation of the ethnically cohesive polity was in vogue. The natural culmination of such a scheme would be the compartmentalising of the homogeneity of the social structure.
Mr. Rajapaksa’s aim was to build up a Sinhalese vote bank which he mobilised through his racist agents. The coterie consisting of racist politicians, ultra-nationalist political parties, monks and monk led institutions. A majority of the people comprising the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and Malays, responded firmly by de-seating him.
The higher you rise, the harder you fall. The double whammy – setback at the Presidential and general elections – in the year 2015 was an extremely depressing period I believe, in his entire political life. The battered oversized ego was psychologically distressed and at its nadir. Mr. Rajapaksa is reputed to be a fighter and a strategist who would bide his time. He had a band of lieutenants executing his comeback plan. The efficiency of some in that group funnily enough did not stem out of the patriotism to the country or loyalty to Mr. Rajapaksa but the animal instinct for survival. It was a do or die situation for most of them. So, there only salvation was the dream of a media headline, “Rajapaksa, reclaims power”. The consecutive defeats in the elections meant the wrongdoers were now hooked. The yahapalana folks contested on the unequivocal promise inter alia, to put those found guilty behind bars.
The ‘Pohottuwa’ and the events presently experienced are the results of a well organised and meticulously planned execution of the Rajapaksa strategy. In this context, the disorganised yahapalana and its brouhaha over corruption stinks to high heavens. If a person is accused of a crime such person should be prosecuted. It is not yahapalana at all to accuse someone of criminality and then leave it at that, causing damage to reputation and integrity of the person so accused; Whoever that may be. I remember once seeing the following lines printed on a mug (quoting with apologies): ‘Your all fart no poo. When I fart, I follow through’.
2020 Is Coming
In his preparation for a comeback in 2020, Rajapaksa may have to consider reviewing his political strategy. One of which will be the total reliance on Sinhala Buddhist nationalistic card. In the past, this has done immense damage to his reputation not only amongst the minorities but also among a large section of the Sinhalese people. Mr. Rajapaksa must think of himself as a national leader and not as a leader of the Sinhala race. It is incumbent upon him to embrace all communities. Treating the minority community with respect is not condescending but would be considered noble. It behoves a national leader to uphold such qualities. The Muslim community, as much as every other peace-loving community, is grateful to Mr. Rajapaksa for bringing peace to this nation with the help of our valiant and brave soldiers.
Muslims, Hate Or Fear?
This is a question that needs to be answered because there is a wrong perception about the Muslims’ in relation to Mr. Rajapaksa. Some even go to the extent of saying that Muslims hate him. The truth is that Muslims do not hate him but they disliked him. The cause for the dislike was because the Muslims feared. Rajapaksa’s camaraderie ship at that time with the ultra-nationalist racists were a potentially lethal combination. Muslims never fear dying but they feared being the cause for destability, political anarchy and communal riots. These would cause death and destruction for everyone.
The Muslims were exceptionally patient and bore the brunt of umpteen number of provocations of different sorts. This forbearance and maturity of the Muslims spat on the face of those ‘mike heroes’ who at that time made inciteful speeches stating that there were Muslim ‘jihad kalli’. If there were ‘jihad kalli’ as falsely stated, this country would be in the hell of another war. ISIS would be more than happy to be a part of it. This gives us a vicissitude of our so called self-serving patriots and opportunistic nationalists.
This time around Mr. Rajapaksa regained some of his lost Muslim votes. The Muslims were disillusioned by the lackadaisical approach of the Yahapalana government on the face of the racial attacks and the breakdown of the rule of law.
I firmly believe that the Tamil people too, who are Sri Lankans just like any other, would like to mend fences. After all they too wish to live peacefully in an environment of equality and mutual respect to each other’s ethnicity, religion and culture.