By Kumar David –
Dead-Left, SLMC and UNP-detritus, an invitation to S-B hegemony – Rotten leaders: Grist to an extremist mill
There is an old adage that every people gets the government it deserves; this is true except when nations are subdued by force, say foreign occupation or military dictatorship. The same is true of communities. Arguably, the Sinhala-state and chauvinism was an imposition on the Tamils of which the LTTE was a manifest excrescence; but also had the Tamils chosen another path such as Karalasingam pleaded for in Way Out for the Tamil Speaking People their destiny would have been different. I see no other liberal-democratic options for the Tamils than what they tried from 1948 to 1983 culminating in disaster. The alternative was the left which they rejected. To say the left “betrayed” the Tamils is a post-1972 narrative, for 25 years before that the left tried but the Tamils were immune; stone-deaf and midnight-blind. But yes, two wrongs don’t make a right.
Turning to the Muslim community, its current leaders are self-seeking, cowardly, corrupt operators; but they are the community’s choice. Then, are not the people largely to blame for finding themselves traumatised? As a leftist my usual vitriol is reserved at the Dead-Left, but take a step back and look, the Muslim leaders are no better. They are worse; Dead-Left leaders are not graft prone scoundrels. But think of the wads of lucre which lubricated SLMC palms in the 18A episode; plus portfolios and deputy ministerships. Here lies the irony of any community’s inability to climb out of a democratic hell-hole it digs for itself. Leaders are knaves, but what if the people themselves anointed them?
In like vein it is indisputable that Mahinda Rajapskse is the flower and fruit of Sinhala- Buddhist (SB) sentiments. You may love it, you may hate it, that’s another matter, but MR is the cynosure of SB eyes. The UPFA majority is indeed cloned in a squalid test-tube, but I do not wish to pursue this thought further and digress from my topic of the day, which is the predicament of minorities and the folly of their leaders. I make an exception for the Ceylon Tamils, but only for the period after the end of the civil-war, the reasons I will explain anon.
Rajapakse game-plan and project
I must take a step back to put my arguments in the context of the strategic bearing underlying the totality of the Pakse Project. Pakse is used here as a collective to include siblings, offspring and cronies. Dimmer members of the collective may not be self-consciously aware of its totality as an integrated strategy, but the smarter ones are explicitly aware of some at least of the elements I enumerate next.
a) Dynastic commitment: The Pakses are committed, perhaps at all cost since loosing power entails unthinkable peril, to retaining the reins for a long time more in the hands of the family.
b) A Corporatist State: Many people misunderstand this term; they think it means the family taking control or having a finger in powerful business enterprises. No, it is more than that; a Corporatist State is built on the Mussolini model where power is centralised in the leader (El Duce), and businesses, trade unions, political parties, ethnic communities and even the church acknowledge and kow-tow to the leader. We are a good one-third of the way there already.
c) Power restructuring: The organs of law and order (police, military, attorney general, bribery commission), the judiciary, and the state administration are manipulated by, or grovel before siblings and offspring. This has been achieved to a very substantial extent.
d) Flexing Sinhala-Buddhism as a hegemonic national ideology and as a tool to cow down critics, political actors, minorities and the media. Unleashing extremism (BBS, Sinhala Ravana, Ravana Balaya, Hela groups, and nefarious secretive entities) as storm-troopers is a crude but effective ideological strategy. Whether Gota is knowledgeable of ‘hegemonic’ as an abstract concept relating to the fascistic toolkit, I do not know; but de facto this is how things are unfolding.
Unfortunately, at this point in time I am a pessimist; that is, I reckon the odds are that Mahinda Rajapakse will secure a third term. The unprincipled Dead-Left, the avaricious SLMC and the UNP crossover detritus are now disfigured by moral responsibility for tilting the swing vote on 18A. The consequence is that the odds of a Rajapakse re-election are now positive. This catastrophe can be averted by a single-issue common-candidate behind whom the opposition rallies, or by a hard international knock. Both are open questions to which answers will crystallise later in the year.
Spineless minority leaders
There are times when discretion is the better part of valour and shirking confrontation is wise. At other times kneeling at the feet of a bully is an invitation for more humiliation; firmness may stop the torment and nip the problem. It seems clear that the slavish SLMC is imbuing politically drunken SB extremists with confidence. Political and religious leaders backed down on the halal issue only to face attacks on business premises; then another and another retreat was demanded. The propaganda assault on women’s attire is mounting; the extremists have sworn not to stop till they rip it off. The real issue is not halal, hijab, burkha or any specific thing; the real issue for extremist bigots is the Muslims themselves!
After prostituting themselves on 18A there is precious little the SLMC can do to get the regime to deal firmly with thugs enjoying free-of-charge riots at the expense of the Muslims. It no longer has the gumption to quit the government and stand with the people in the regions when mosques are attacked or businesses torched. If they did, state and law enforcement would come under pressure to do a better job. They dare not ask the Muslim world to add its voice since these clowns are in the government. It is comic to appeal for pressure on a government if you are a part of it! Furthermore, the Rajapakses will permit none of it and the SLMC will be expelled if it did this. Most of all, the Rajapakses know that hangers on lusting for plums of office and opportunities for graft will not abandon their sinecures even if a stack of Korans were burnt before their eyes.
There has been a spate of attacks on Christian Evangelicals (CE) in outlying areas and churches have been torched. Initially the pastors spoke in a firm voice and threatened to take the issue international, which is significant since CE is strong in America. Quickly this ebbed. Has the CE hierarchy decided to follow Muslim leaders and hide under the bed and hope the storm blows away? Other churches will rue the day they choose to bow down before extremism, following the example of the Catholic Church and Malcolm Ranjit. The thugs, superficially, are loonies running amok, but there is an inner logic to events. That process I have denoted as a five pronged Pakse Project. Part of it is conscious strategy, and part, say item (d), an allied and ancillary unfolding. Kristallnact was part orchestrated by Nazi leaders, part an outburst of SA storm-trooper viciousness. This too was a kind of ‘Combined and Uneven Development’ (apologies to Trotsky).
NP Chief Minister stands firm
The Ceylon Tamil community, despite the after effects of the defeat of the LTTE in an ethnic war, is now batting on a firmer wicket. At home and abroad its batsmen deploy aggressive stroke play. The diaspora has got the Rajapakses on the back-foot with tireless bodyline bowling in London, Delhi and Washington. OK, I know many readers are not fond of the Tamil diaspora, but the point here is different. Aggressive play yielded results, but the timid and cowardly Muslim leaders are mesmerised by Rajapakse spin. TNA batsmen in parliament, captain Sampanthan and opening bat Sumanthiran, have kept their eye on the ball. The NPC elections were won handsomely; the devolution issue can now be canvassed in the Sinhalese South on a wicket that is not sticky; and very important, the Tamil issue is much on the global screen. Rajapakse is on the defensive, poking around haphazardly to silly-point. Astute China, fielding at deep third-man, keeps carefully aloof of the ethnic ballgame, leaving UNHRC play to the West.
A wonderful surprise has been C.V. Wigneswaran (CV) whose acumen and ability I much underestimated before he took office. He has been decorous in according the President, Ministers and officers like the Jaffna Prisons Commissioner, appropriate propriety at all times. However on matters crucial for development, reconstruction, democratic rights in his demesne, and utilisation of powers conferred under 13A, he has been firm and uncompromising. Examples are demilitarisation, exclusion of a military governor, budget and finance, the right to be consulted on key appointments, and selection of personnel to build an effective and efficient administrative team. Is there another Chief Minister or Cabinet Minister in this Rajapakse circus who can speak with a fraction of the authority, clarity and probity that lit up his presentation at the ICES Seminar in Jaffna two week’s ago?
Authoritarian leaders fear alternative sub-centres of power that are Disciplined, Dutiful and open to Dialogue. Liberty in one corner erodes dictatorship all over the country. Corrupt and incompetent local authorities are shamed by successful ones. Chauvinists detest the “other” when it shows how much can be achieved in Sinhalese areas too if only competent and uncorrupted leaders were allowed to surface.