By Dayan Jayatilleka –
As my dear friend Rajiva Wijesinha would recall, I have, even at my most acerbically critical of the policies, ideological doctrine, structures, policy process and personalities of Govt and State, always and explicitly exempted Mahinda Rajapaksa from that critique, except for his sins of omission. As such I have never advocated the defeat/removal of Mahinda Rajapaksa and would have done so only if it represented a step forward, which would have been the case ONLY with a Sajith-Karu ticket (i.e. with Sajith or Karu as candidate, and the other as PM). At no time would I have thought positively or charitably of a post-Mahinda dispensation in which the dominant personalities were Ranil and CBK. I regard such a prospect as a dangerously reactionary retrogression.
I daresay Rajiva would have read our mutual friend Tamara Kunanayakam’s piece in the Daily Mirror, re-posted by DBS Jeyaraj under the telling caption, excerpted from the text “A Vote for Sirisena is a Vote for Ranil”. I agree with her lucid reading.
I did hope that the Maithri accord with the JHU offered the opportunity of a mid-course correction, effecting a shift from abolition to the slimming down of the Executive Presidential system, and I said this to Maithri, but that hope was belied with his Dec 10th Human Rights Day speech to the Civil Society conclave, the Maithri Manifesto and Ranil’s exegesis at the recent Business Forum.
As my good friend Rajiva knows, I have been totally against the abolition of the executive presidency, and totally for its retention in modified form (with the restoration of the 17th amendment). Even in the years of armed radical left opposition to the Jayewardene regime, for which I was indicted under the PTA and the Emergency, the executive presidency was never a target of our political or ideological attack. I am acutely aware that almost all left/progressive administrations in Latin America and elsewhere are supporters and incumbents of executive Presidential systems. I am also conscious that the executive presidency was the product or resultant of revolutions generated by progressive political thought, both liberal-bourgeois and radical and are therefore in evidence in the USA, France, Russia and China, while the parliamentary model in that of Britain with its comparatively un-revolutionary, conservative tradition.
It was clear to me by Dec 10th 2014, three days after my discussion with Maithri, that the fast-track (100 day) surrender of executive power and authority was a serious commitment and that we shall find ourselves in a situation in which the most powerful person in the country is not Maithripala, but precisely Ranil or CBK.
Given my long held and articulated views, I have two major reasons– the Exec Presidential system and the RW+CBK bloc–to support Mahinda Rajapaksa as the lesser evil. As for Gotahaya, while my policy criticisms of him remain, at least he is indubitably a patriot, unlike the pro-Western appeasers of fascist separatism, Ranil and Chandrika, who will rule the roost after Maithri abolishes the exec presidential system and abdicates power to parliament and the Cabinet on/by April 20th.
How can anyone find surprising my decision to oppose an outcome in which Ranil Wickremesinghe the official representative of the global Right, the International Democratic Union headed by the US Republicans and the British Conservatives, emerges a key decision maker, while Mahinda Rajapaksa, a staunch advocate of national sovereignty, is sent packing?
My critique of Ranil, quite unlike that of Rajiva, has remained consistent since the day in the late 1990s that Ranil linked up with the IDU and shifted the UNP’s stance on the LTTE in line with the Liam Fox agreement. Rajiva would agree that Ranil has been pretty consistently positioned (except during the Premadasa presidency and its immediate aftermath) on the ideological and programmatic rightwing of the right-of-center UNP. It is Rajiva who most memorably reminds us of Ranil’s conduct during the days of JR Jayewardene; conduct which appalled their distinguished uncle, Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe. Luckily for him, he passed away before Batalanda.
As for the Foreign Ministry and foreign policy, I’d rather take my chances with Mahinda and GL, — and yes, even with Gota in the mix—rather than with Mangala Samaraweera under Ranil or CBK, especially since the Maithri manifesto fails to mention ‘ non-aligned’ or ‘non-alignment’ even once, and the opposition campaign is marked by Sinophobia.
Rajiva would recall my stance during the impeachment motion against President Premadasa. It is the same compulsion– rather than any carrots and sticks– that make me get off the fence, come out in defense and support of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
I think it has always been fairly evident that I would support an electoral replacement of Mahinda only by Sajith Premadasa, while I would certainly have considered it had Maithripala Sirisena not been willing to abolish the executive presidency, leaving Ranil and Chandrika as the winners.
To conclude on a note that is at one and the same time personal, ideological and conceptual, I regard Mahinda just as I did Premadasa, as a tragic hero scorned by the Colombo elite, and my support for Premadasa and Mahinda are in perfect congruence with Rajiva’s recollection of my ideological disposition in our first substantive conversation, at Radhika’s birthday party I believe, exactly three decades ago. In my perspective and Weltanschauung, the central categories have remained the triad ‘State-Nation-Hero’; a triad with ancient roots in political and philosophical thought as well as literature, as Rajiva well knows.
I believe that the political parting of ways between Rajiva and me, just as that between me and erstwhile ideological comrades who are well-regarded commentators with a consistent track record of frontal opposition to Mahinda since 2005, is sourced in the following: their perspective is essentially that of civil society and privileges issues of governance, while mine is state-centric or statist, and privileges and operates on the axis of the dialectic of the State and the individual (tragic) hero.