By Grusha Andrews –
“If you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.” ~ C.S. Lewis. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The quasi Mahinda era has begun. The ban on social media and communication features on mobile phones has been imposed and The Mahinda himself, like The Donald on a post school shooting day has spoken. In an ironic statement to the media and a laugh inducing ‘write up’ to Colombo Telegraph, written in language and tone that is suspiciously refined and erudite to the point of using terms such as ‘demographic reality’, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the de facto leader of the Pohottuwa has been quick to wash off his political blood stains from his bigotry tainted, talisman squeezing palms.
Rajapaksa (or his able ghost writer) with displaced nostalgia laced with romanticization of the past where Muslims and Sinhala leaders supposedly lived in harmony, places the blame on the Yahapalana government for its failure to establish law and order. He distances himself and his infamous brothers from the fostering and systematic institutionalizing of islamophobia and racism during his rule. He conveniently palms off the blame, stating “what was started by conspirators who are now in the Yahapalana government, for the purpose of dislodging my government, now appears to have taken on a life of its own and mistrust between the communities is growing by the day”.
The reality is that the ongoing violence is only a representation of the resurgence of militant Buddhist groups that first emerged in 2012 to 2014 during the Rajapakse reign. Compounded by the open political patronage of the Rajapakses, particularly that by Gotabhaya Rajapakse during the second term of government, attacks on Muslims began again over a six-week period in April and May 2017 and for two days in November 2017, where militants were supplied with political oxygen and political parenteral nutrition. This phenomenon was hallmarked by the consistent ‘failure’ of the Rajapaksa regime to prosecute those responsible for violence and hate speech. Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara, infamous monk leading the Bodu Bala Sena (loosely translated as Buddhist Power Army) became an emblem of misplaced Sinhala ‘nationalism’, fed by media, nourished by the government, in short, a political python in the making. That government, also membered by the current President Maithripala Sirisena was fundamentally a failure at establishing racial harmony or national cohesion.
The nonsensical continuum
The Yahapalana government which demonstrated little will to address the collective grievances of the very electorate that voted them in spent three years of political existence that can be summarized in one word: nonsensical. Although some positive achievements were made especially with regard to superficial sense of media freedom and general wellbeing of democracy, the President, the Prime Minister and the unity government demonstrated an abysmal failure at discharging justice in the spheres of corruption, establishing law and order, breaking the vicious cycle of racism that is an insidious issue and addressing the economic issues of the poor, farmers and the private sector. Crumbling in transparency and accountability within and without the government and the administrative machinery, the Yahapalana government is truly a headless chicken. There were three telling instances where the Yahapalana government showed early symptoms of a racially complicated, violence spiced, disunited, convoluted political mess. The axis around which the President and the Prime Minister make their decisions appears to be Mahinda Rajapaksa. The fact that Rajapakse is still the man who calls shots is obvious to any rational citizen. He remains the de facto leader not only of the Pohottuwa, but of the Republic. How did we become this sick democracy?
The symptoms, however, were telling. Those with even slight glimpses in to reality, political history and quite plainly any common sense or a twisted sense of humor knew that the inevitable bungled baby of Yahapalana failure was round the corner. The unholy trinity constituted three Bs. The bra, the bar and the brigadier. The first gravid symptom was the bra. Yes. That bra.
The bra – misplaced priorities
This nation is grappled with economic challenges, racial disunity, mistrust, rural poverty, unemployment, gender inequity, corruption, hurdles in consensus building and political instability. Just nine months in to his rule, the nation’s leader chose a bra thrown at a celebrity singer by a young woman in her fan-frenzy as a central talking point. The nation should have taken note and fair warning: not of the bra. But of its leader. Such stark immaturity, pettiness and unrefined world view should have warned the nation of the inability of a mind to capture the dynamic nature of culture, the randomness of human behaviour and the childish inability to let things go. The sheer lack of statesmanship and the misplaced prioritization of issues in the mind of a person entrusted with the decision of declaring war or peace on behalf of a nation was disturbing to the rational citizens. Thus the bra denoted an important hallmark of a rule that would reveal more of the same.
The bar – gender discrimination
The Finance Ministry, in mid-January 2018 announced that it would lift a decades-old ban on women buying alcohol and serving liquor in bars and restaurants. Within days of the announcement to lift the ban, President Maithripala Sirisena declared he wanted no part of the move and re-imposed the ban. The cabinet spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Health participated in a press conference expressing views that can only be explained in terms of misogyny and imbecility. He explained that “the freedom of women is not the freedom of Colombo women. Rural women want no such freedoms”. A new low, even for Senaratne. While the merits and demerits of alcohol consumption is a separate conversation, the fundamental failure of the government to view women as equal citizens is telling. This misogynous take also manifested in the form of resistance shown for efforts to legalize abortion, impose a minimum age of marriage for Muslim girl feature the failure of the government to incorporate women in to its genuine agenda.
Nearly fifty two percent of the Sri Lankan population constitute of women. Although not often highlighted, Sri Lanka’s political history is largely a tale of a bungling efforts at governance by male politicians or the widows of the same. Sri Lanka is a country attempting to propel on low quality testosterone, oppressing and leaving behind half of its population- the women. Little do the men who are hopelessly attempting to govern the nation understand that the mathematics (and common sense) stand against them.You cannot disempower half of your human wealth and achieve economic or social growth.
The brigadier- feeding racists
On the 4th of February 2018, Brigadier Priyanka Fernando, the defense attaché of the Sri Lankan High Commission in the UK made a throat slit gesture to a group of pro-Eelamist protestors. He was promptly recalled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a decision which in turn was promptly reversed by an angry President. The brigadier was only a symbol of misplaced nationalism and the emotional instability of a nation limited by racism and mutual distrust. Feeding his brand of racism for short term political benefit is one of the central failures of the government manifested today with a burning Kandy. The bungling brigadier only emblemized the easy inflammability of a nation that ascended his brand of deplorable immaturity to national heroism. The government’s un-stately reaction to his unacceptable conduct further forged the entry of the Sri Lankan society in to a choleric age via state sponsored validation of stupidity.
The Yahapalana government’s default mode for most of its existence has been the damage control mode. Its main objective appears to be pussy footing around Mahinda Rajapaksa, the actual ruler of the country. Guessing what Rajapaksa will do next and concocting ways to protect the Rajapksas appear to occupy the largest space in the minds of both the President and the Prime Minister. Bungling in to pits and climbing out of them depending on the wisdom, maturity and the intervention of few good men (as there are no women in this government) it its natural state. The folly of the choleric age can be distilled in to misplaced priorities, gender inequity and its inability to establish a meaningful racial harmony represented by the bra, the bar and the brigadier. Till this nation frees itself from these Bs, it will remain in a Lewisian place where “you feel as if nothing was ever going to happen”.