By Emil van der Poorten –
There is a groundswell of opinion developing in this country for regime change.
The “ground realities,” as our pseudo-intellectuals call them, are several in number and, in order to provide some focus to this presentation, let’s name the major ones.
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s popularity
I am not the only commentator on the Sri Lankan political scene who has referred to the fact that our new monarch has built up a considerable fund of personal popularity. However, I do not subscribe to the theory that this is due to his heroism in battle as popularly accepted, particularly by the Rajapaksa Sycophancy. Considering that I advanced this fact a considerable time before the defeat of the Prabhakaran horde, it can hardly be defined as hindsight. The annihilation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could have been achieved with significantly less bloodshed (both Sinhala and Tamil) and the war ended several months before the butchery at Nanthikadal. However, a swifter end to that conflict would not have served a well-orchestrated publicity campaign with a mushrooming number of enormous “cut-outs” of the President, his brother of the intemperate tongue and an army commander described by the Rajapaksa siblings as “the best in the world” then. Let me emphasize the fact that what had ended up as a rag-tag bunch of nihilists, surrounded by the armed forces on three sides and with a sea of which they’d lost complete control on the fourth, did not have the capacity to resist, for any length of time, one of the largest armed forces in the world. Add to that disadvantage the fact that all those countries with the technical capacity to provide marine military intelligence were readily supplying it to the government of Sri Lanka which began to sink Tiger supply ships thousands of miles out of our territorial waters. No, the prolongation of “the war,” with the attendant casualties, was deliberate and the icing on that cake was a returning Chief Executive, kissing the tarmac at Katunayake airport in a gesture laden with symbolic importance if not originality given that it was pioneered by a pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church a long while back! Make no mistake, the Rajapaksa government deserves to be elevated to Public Relations Heaven for its masterly execution of a P.R. campaign that has had no equal in the history of Sri Lanka. Building on that popularity, every illegal act, totally contemptuous of even minimal democratic norms, became the reality in elections that the President called with monotonous regularity. To describe the UNFPA government as a political juggernaut during this time would be to understate the Sri Lankan reality!
The deliberate destruction of the Rule of Law
In addition, to fortify that dominance, the message went out, loud and clear, that whatever the Rajapaksa horde wanted to do, it would, any vestiges of democratic practice notwithstanding. The steady erosion of the rule of law was accompanied by an “in your face” arrogance, particularly by the most violent of its acolytes such as Mervin Silva. The power of the lowest in the Rajapaksa Hierarchy was constantly reinforced by the permissive impunity with which their every transgression was met. These were not only ignored but were often extolled!
The racist euphoria and triumphalism that followed Prabhakaran’s defeat has been followed by an erosion of the rule of law, deliberately driven by a government that wanted that euphoria replaced by an abject fear of rulers who would brook no opposition, not even the most minimal kind, and destroy anyone not prepared to bend the vassal knee to its corrupt machinations.
This segueing of euphoria into abject fear has been successful primarily because of a war-weary populace who was a stereotypical example of a population expressing a collective thankfulness at being hit with a five-pound hammer after being subjected to assault by its ten-pound sibling for nigh on three decades! As that old cry has it, “Anything for peace!”
That is the current “ground reality” facing those living in this country with no prospect of anything resembling relief, leave alone change for the better, in the immediate future.
The Rajapaksa Regime must go, but the question is how does one accomplish this without recourse to undemocratic violence? How does one effect “regime change” democratically after the electoral process has been perverted beyond recognition?
Peaceful protest and non-violent resistance is the only option available to those who still believe in the validity of human dignity and democratic practice.
In the matter of getting rid of a far more powerful adversary, the Indians, led by The Mahatma, showed the way. While India, sixty-five years after throwing off the imperialist yoke, is not where it could or should have be in the matter of social justice and equity, it is still one of the two behemoths-in–waiting in the matter of international economic dominance and that should tell us something about the possibilities for our small island nation. There is a way and it is one of non-violent protest and civil disobedience. In fact, I would suggest that it is, particularly given our predicament, the only one open to us. Whether Sri Lankans bowed and bent by years of conflict, have the will to engage in what is going to be a slow and painful process is anyone’s guess but I would venture to suggest that they have no other choice and would be far better off voluntarily engaging in such an effort rather than responding reactively and from a position of weakness when that option is forced upon us.
Make your choice – act pro-actively or reactively, but act you must if your human dignity is to be salvaged!