By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“An irrational form of political loyalty emerges that binds the beguiled victims to the beguiling political gaslighter”[i]. – Bryant Welch (State of Confusion)
Just days after the gala-opening of the Katunayake-Colombo expressway, a bridge on the Colombo-Avissawella Low Level Road[ii] partially collapsed.
Having announced its intention of surrounding the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, the BBS worthies had a change of heart and delivered a petition, walking decorously through the ring of riot-police protecting the military.
The first set of incidents reveals the tottering reality behind Sri Lanka’s glitzy infrastructural development. The second set of incidents demonstrates the sordid truth about the astronomical rise of violent Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism in Sri Lanka.
The ‘rationale’ behind Rajapaksa-economics can be gleaned from the Rajapaksa decision to hold the Commonwealth opening ceremony and the summit proper at two different venues. This splitting will cause costs to hike-up even more and create an unnecessary logistical and security nightmare. It will also exacerbate the hardships imposed on the citizenry (woe betide any ordinary mortal unintelligent enough to develop a medical emergency during the Commonwealth days).
But this insanely illogical decision makes perfect sense from a Rajapaksa perspective. The summit will take place, not in South Asia’s largest convention hall in Hambantota, as originally planned, but at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall. The delegates will arrive not at the Mattala Rajapaksa Airport but at Katunayake Bandaranaike Airport. Given this surfeit of the ‘Bandaranaike’ name, the Rajapaksas would have keenly felt the need for ameliorative measures. Thus, against all normal sense, the opening ceremony will happen at the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre[iii].
That is how decisions are made in this resplendent-isle.
The criminally and asininely juvenile nature of Rajapaksa thinking must be hidden from the Sinhala majority at all costs. The masses must be prevented from seeing the link between their socio-economic trials and travails and the egomaniacal activities of their rulers. They must continue to regard the Rajapaksas as necessary heroes and indispensable saviours.
Particularly since 2014 is destined to be an election year, with a presidential/parliamentary election.
The politico-electoral playing field was structurally tilted in Rajapaksa-favour with the 18th Amendment and the fraudulent impeachment. But the Siblings would not want to just win; they would want to win a landslide. Since the world is looking, they would want to obtain this massive victory with minimum levels of violence and rigging.
The best way to achieve this aim would be to get ‘people to consent to the state of affairs in which they are living… the state of servitude’[iv], as Aldous Huxley phrased it. So the Sinhala South must be befuddled with euphoria about non-existing developmental miracles and inflamed with paranoia about non-existing enemies.
The Rajapaksas are not economic populists of the Hugo Chavez/Evo Morales type. They are ethno-religious populists who scapegoat the various ‘Others’ to conceal their extremely anti-people agenda (rather like the American Tea Party leaders). Rajapaksa populism can be most accurately described in the following words of Noam Chomsky “…the idea that they are taking our country away from us, poisoning our culture and society, stealing our hared-earned money, particularly salient now with a growing recognition that whites are becoming a minority…”[v]. Of course in Sri Lanka the Sinhalese are not becoming a minority; but that anti-factual myth too is being spread to intensify Sinhala-Buddhist fears.
Wole Soyinka points out that the use of religion as a mobilisation-tool can be deadly effective because “….all a man needs to be told is that this is a religious cause. All they need to be told is that this is an enemy of religion and they are ready to kill”[vi]. Sinhala-Buddhism encompasses both an ethnic and a religious identity; it can thus be used to inflame and befuddle the Southern-mind at two levels.
The Wahabist variety of Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism championed by the BBS et al provides the intolerant, ‘us or them’ approach of the Rajapaksas with a ‘religious cover-cum-rationale’. As Rev. Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thero stated, in justification of his new anti-Halal war, “This is not a time to meditate. This is a sick society. We need to act harshly to cure this society. We have to use strong words. We can’t be patient and wait until we are beheaded. The Buddha also stood for his community until he became enlightened”[vii].
This interpretation is a total distortion of what the Buddha taught. Little wonder that the regime is readying a bill to regulate Buddhism-related publications. The Vice President of the Sri Lanka Book Publishers Association has warned “that this act would be a severe blow to freedom of expression…. this Act could be used as a tool to suppress views conflicting with that of the government on this subject”.[viii] This way, children can be taught BBS-Buddhism in schools and temples sans contradiction/opposition.
And the future of Rajapaksa rule will be assured, at the cost of Sri Lanka and Sinhala-Buddhists.
Voltaire famously ridiculed those societies which unquestioningly and uncritically accept colourfully apocryphal as historical facts: “Fabius Pictor relates, that, several ages before him, a vestal of the town of Alba, going to draw water in her pitcher, was violated, that she was delivered of Romulus and Remus, that they were nourished by a she-wolf. The Roman people believed this fable; they examined not whether at that time there were vestals in Latium; whether it was likely that the daughter of a king should go out of her convent with a pitcher, or whether it was probable that a she-wolf should suckle two children, instead of eating them: prejudice established it.”[ix]
The Rajapaksas have their own myths, about politics, about economics, about governance.
Take, for example, that psychological corollary of militarization, the belief that militarization is necessary, good – and cost-free. The militarization of the economy is being justified as a boon because it ‘saves public funds’. This specious argument ignores that far greater amounts of public-funds are being spent on maintaining a gargantuan military totally apposite with peacetime needs.
People must be prevented from realising such uncomfortable and inconvenient truths. Organisations such as the BBS play an important role in this process of public-stupefaction by demanding that Defence Ministry should take over the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and the Department of Archaeology.
Another example is the correlation between the regime’s glitzy projects and people’s woes.
Some months ago the opposition revealed in parliament that the government levies a Rs.25-tax on a kilo of dhal and a Rs.75-tax on a kilo of dried fish[x]. “Efforts to determine whether water in Dorape, Galle, had become polluted by toxins allegedly emanating from a factory in the area have stalled for almost a month due to lack of funds”[xi]. The amount needed is Rs. 250,000! Meanwhile the government has spent Rs.15 million to create a website for the Commonwealth.
The costs of Commonwealth-binge will be met partially by imposing more indirect taxes on the people (the opening ceremony alone will cost Rs.50 million[xii]). That would be one reason to expedite elections (other would be astrological).
Once elections are over, the regime can resume its economic war on the people while inciting the Sinhalese to make war on Tamils/Muslims/Christians.
[i] “Gaslighting is a type of projective identification in which an individual (or a group of individuals) attempt to influence the mental functioning of a second individual by causing the latter to doubt the validity of his/her judgements, perceptions and/or reality testing in order that the victim will more readily submit his will and person to the victimizer… Gaslighting is an important aspect in many of the brainwashing and indoctrination techniques…” (Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis – Theo L Dorpat
[ii] This is a key access road to Colombo. According to some news reports the bridge was newly built.
[iii] An e mail with the Commonwealth schedule is reproduced for the information of readers in Sri Lanka
1. 12th, 13th & 14th November – Head of the states will arrive, below routes will be closed from time to time based on their movements.
From Katu Highway to Kelaniya Bridge
Baseline Road from Kelaniya Bridge to Borella Cemetery Junction
Bauddhaloka Mawatha to Thummulla Junction
From Thummulla Junction to Bambalapitya Junction
From Bambalapitiya Junc on Galle Road to the Hotels
No advance timings of the closure will be given due to security reasons.
Some Private Jets of the Heads of State will land at the Ratmalana Airport. So that whole stretch on Galle Road to colombo will be closed without warning from time to time
15th November The opening Ceremony at Nelum Pokuna. This has been declared a National Holiday as most roads will be closed.
Pre-CHOGM FMs’ meeting
13-14 November 2013
Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), Colombo
CMAG meeting on Harare Declaration
13 November 2013
Pre-CHOGM Media briefing
13 November 2013
Daily CHOGM Press conferences
14-17 November 2013
Foreign Ministers’ spouse programme
13-16 November 2013
Colombo, Galle, Kandy
Heads of Governments’ spouse programme
15-16 November 2013
Commonwealth Youth Forum
10-14 November 2013
International Convention Centre, Hambantota
Commonwealth Business Forum
12-14 November 2013
Cinnamon Grand, Colombo
Commonwealth People’s Forum
10-14 November 2013
Chaya Tranz, Hikkaduwa
CHOGM 2013 Week
10-17 November 2013
Colombo, Hikkaduwa, Hambantota
CHOGM 2013 Opening Ceremony
15 November 2013
Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, Colombo
CHOGM Main meeting: Executive Sessions/Retreat/Bilateral meetings
15-17 November 2013
BMICH/Waters Edge, Colombo
15 November 2013
Civil Society Roundtable
14 November 2013
Commonwealth Games Federation Sports Breakfast
16 November 2013
Waters Edge, Colombo
Concluding Press Conference
17 November 2013
[iv] The Ultimate Revolution
[v] Hopes and Prospects
[ix] Philosophical Dictionaries