By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
““When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory–*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it”.- Mark Twain (The War Prayer)
The Rajapaksas lost the Round I of the anti-devolution battle.
For the Siblings losing has become an unaccustomed experience. They have won almost all the major political battles they unleashed since 2009. Perhaps the only significant exception was the attempt to introduce a fraudulent private sector pension plan. It took the united effort of the country’s private sector employees, and one young life, to beat back that Rajapaksa plan to buttress their tottering finances by robbing private sector workers.
Since then, the Rajapaksas have grown stronger and the opposition weaker. Post-impeachment, the upper judiciary has become nothing more than a Rajapaksa muppet-show. Given this devastating disparity in the actual balance of forces, defeating the incessant Rajapaksa power-and-money-grabs has become harder than ever.
The Siblings would have been able to win the Round I of the anti-devolution battle with ease, had the balance of forces not undergone a dramatic change, momentarily, due to the activation of an external factor:India.
Indians were predictably outraged by the latest Rajapaksa attempt to disembowel the 13th Amendment. According to DBS Jeyraj, an enraged Indian official had asked, “Does President Mahinda and Prof. GL think we in New Delhi are blithering idiots who can’t see through their hocus pocus”?[i]
The answer to that is, ‘yes’; the Rajapaksas think that everyone can be fooled some of the time and many can be fooled all the time.
A still unfolding issue is indicative of this Rajapaksa modus operandi. The Uthuyan newspaper reported about a planned attempt by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to shift the almost-two-centuries-old Sri Poomari Amman Kovil from its present location near the Temple Trees, to create a new car park for the visitors to the Presidential abode. Dripping with righteous indignation, the Director General of Media Centre for National Security refuted the story: “…Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has distinguished himself by his dauntless bravery…. The emergence of Colombo as a beautiful garden city is a result of the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project which is a concept of the Defence Secretary…. the Uthayan newspaper is just a spurious publication that is of no value to anyone. Therefore, the concocted news items that it publishes does not carry any merit. It is a newspaper that tries to disrupt peace and harmony in the country”[ii].
It all sounded so sincere, so truthful, so absolutely heartfelt.
Today, Sri Lanka Mirror reported that the Kovil will be shifted and that the administrators of the Kovil have been given time till June 20th complete the task[iii]. (Little wonder Gotabhaya Rajapaksa called websites/social media a major threat to ‘national security’. Once the ‘Media Ethics Act’ is in, that ‘enemy’ can be obliterated, legally).
The Rajapaksas are maestros of evasion. Their ability to slither out of a tight corner will put an eel to shame. When confronted with strong resistance, they make a feint of retreating, without conceding any real ground. Once resistance has been disarmed by lies/false promises, they return with lightening speed, without giving their distracted opponents the time to rearm.
That was how the game-changing 18th Amendment was won.
The Round II of the anti-devolution battle will commence soon.
Will the Rajapaksas use their usual carrot-and-stick method to propel the SLMC and the UPFA left parties back to their original and customary non-vertebrate position? Or will they use their puppet Chief Justice to postpone the Northern provincial election via a judicial order? If the election is postponed by the Supreme Court, then the Rajapaksas can claim that they are merely abiding by the judiciary’s decision and being respectful of the rule of law. For the Rajapaksas, the Indian factor will lose most of its import once the HambantotaCommonwealthis concluded. Post-Commonwealth, the Rajapaksas can use the Chinese card to confound Indiaand complete the task of unravelling the 13th Amendment.
Undermining Sri Lanka
Under Rajapaksa rule, the necessary demarcation lines between state, government and the ruling group have been effaced. This was no accident; it was done deliberately, to facilitate the transformation ofSri Lankafrom a flawed democracy to a familial oligarchy.
An inevitable – and expected – outcome of this process is the equation of national interests with the political interests of the Ruling Family. This way the power agenda of the Ruling Family can be promoted under the banner of nationalism/patriotism while opponents of the Ruling Family can be labelled and punished as traitors.
Thus the disembowelling the 13th Amendment, which is solely in Rajapaksa interests, is being depicted as an urgent national-security need.
The Siblings do not believe in the existence of an ethnic problem. According to the Rajapaksa narrative, the Original Sin in the Lankan story is the de-prioritisation of national security, post-Independence, and the concomitant neglect of the military – as Gotabhaya Rajapaksa opined in his recent speech at theKotelawalaDefenceAcademy. According to this flat-earthist worldview, the JVP insurgencies and the Eelam Wars were caused by the inadequacy of military muscle and weakness of intelligence-gathering capacity.
This simplistic, one-dimensional reading of history leaves out all major politico-psychological and socio-economic causes ofSri Lanka’s wars and upheavals. According to this kindergarten rendition of history, Sinhala Only and Standardisation made no contribution to the birth of the Eelam War; and the Black July’s sole relevance is the creation of a Tamil Diaspora. The complex pre-history of the war is thus reduced to a tale of ‘disobedient Tamils’, ‘interferingIndia’ and ‘deceptive international NGOs’.
Since there is no ethnic problem, devolution is unnecessary and the 13th Amendment a ‘Trojan Horse’ of Indian making which must be dismantled at the earliest possible opportunity.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa thinks that the BBS and other organisational expressions of Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism are a reaction to minority extremism: “The increasing insularity and cohesion amongst minority ethnic groups has also led to the emergence of hardline groups from the majority community; the popularity of certain political groups and movements can be viewed as being largely a response to this trend[iv]. Clearly the Rajapaksas belong to that category of Sinhalese who believe that Black July was an unfortunate but understandable response to the killing of 13 soldiers.
How can such a ruling clan be capable of comprehending the lethal consequences of disembowelling the 13th Amendment?
Defeating the LTTE did not create a united Lankan nation.Sri Lankatoday is what she was after 1956: one and indivisible, with marginalised minorities and seeds of separation germinating underground.
Maximalism is a mindset, a way of looking at the world and living in it. It is a habit that dulls the eyes, stops the ears, blunts the intellect and silences the conscience. It is a habit which makes one do not only what is wrong but also what is counterproductive.
That was the Tiger way. That is the Rajapaksa way.
Many an ordinary Tamil would think that had Vellupillai Pirapaharan been alive and the LTTE remained a potent politico-military force, the Sinhala establishment would not have dared to disembowel the 13th Amendment.
Sadly and unfortunately, they would be right.