By Mohamed Faizal –
Presidential election 2019 is over. Gotabaya Rajapaksa has won, and this has made some people happy, and others unhappy. Happy people believe that everything will be hunky dory from now on, and the Unhappy people believe that hell will break loose. Both parties are wrong: violence or peace, progress or decline, and development or poverty do not depend on individuals – no matter how powerful the individual leader is.
Irrespective of how powerful a leader is, he always shares power with the clan that surrounds him. This may include ministers, leaders in the armed forces and the police, judges, high ranking bureaucrats, religious leaders, business magnates and so on. The dominant opinion in this influential group always determines how he rules. Any leader who disappoints sufficient number of people from this influential group effectively puts his job on the line, but no leader is foolish enough to do that. They all throw their principles out of the window – that is if they had any in the first place – and compromise.
A lot of the minority voters, especially the Muslims, are very unhappy tonight, as if they have lost the silver bullet in the defeat of their favourite candidate Sajith Premadasa. Little do they seem to realise that had Sajith been successful, he would have ruled exactly like how the outgoing president Maithri ruled. Maithri was the minorities’ favourite candidate last time, but anti-minority violence under him did not cease. This is because the dominant opinion in the influential clan sharing power with the president, is favourable for anti-Muslim violence. Any leader, be it Maithri or Sajith, has no choice but to respect this opinion and appease this influential group.
Politicians have the most accurate understanding of the nature and the psychology of the people. They know that it is harder to reason with them, but much easier to racially provoke them; and therefore, they always choose this easiest option.
Racism helps win votes. Modi in India, Trump in the US, and Bolsanaro in Brazil – all won power by provoking racism. So did the Rajapaksas. The reason for the overwhelming rejection of Sajith Premadasa in virtually all Sinhalese electorates is his inclusive political approach. Thanks to the provocation of racism, people can now only think in dichotomies: Us Vs Them: a politician is either for Them or Us. In this racially conscious political climate, no politician can afford to ignore the whimsies of racists. Any politician reusing to be so and attempting to be inclusive will be perceived as representing the Other and will be soundly rejected, as Sajith was.
If a politician were to woo minority votes without alienating the racially conscious majority, inclusive policies isn’t an option for him; he should have policies that are racist, but less so when compared to the opponent who depends for his victory solely on the majority votes. Keeping the policies “racist” would satisfy the racially conscious majorities, while being the “lesser racist” would satisfy the minorities. The quality of politics among the Muslims are an all-time law. Politics for them now is simply choosing the lesser of the two evil. There is no principles for standing up what they believe to be the truth and struggle for those beliefs.
One would have thought that the most vocal against this racial politics would have been the Muslim leaders themselves for Muslims are its most seriously affected victims. But alas! They seem to favour racism the most.
Presence of racial politics among the majority benefits these Muslim politicians in many ways: it feeds the “counter” racism among Muslims, and it helps keep the Muslim masses weak and defenceless so that their impotent leaders can pretend to be the knights in shining armours standing between the majority racists and the “innocent” Muslim victims.
Some of the Muslim politicians and civil leaders are on record saying that Muslims must vote for Gota because he is the most evil, and the safest place to be is the closest place to the tyrant. Such is the level of cowardice and opportunism among the Muslim leadership. There appears to be not one principled leader who would bravely struggle to change the current, diabolical political culture, in the interest of the whole nation.
The challenges before us are so uphill, but we cannot afford to lose hope. Those who want peace, not war; progress, not decline; and development, not poverty must focus on the dominant ideas among the influential people, which facilitates the current anti-Muslim politics. This is no easy task, but there is some hope. Mahesh Senanayake the former general, for example, has talked about how peace-loving people from among all communities can come together and work to change this toxic climate. And there are many like him in the Sinhalese community and some among the Muslim community.