10 July, 2020

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The Creep Of Institutionalised Tyranny

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

“No one seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it” – George Orwell

“The former government harboured an intense resentment towards the army, which preserved Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and integrity at great sacrifice. They tried to poison the minds of the people by trying to portray the army as unsavoury elements, who rob, kill and plunder. However the masses have always stood by the country’s armed forces and hailed them as heroes who did their duty by their motherland” – Mahinda Rajapaksa: Sunday Island 22 Dec 2019

What Mahinda Rajapaksa says here encodes an essential element of GR-MR thinking. But not enough attention has been paid by political analysts to the linkage of three, not two, factors; Sinhala-Buddhist nativism, institutionalised militarism and third populism. MR’s comments underline the nativism-militarism nexus. It is integration of the third element that is usually absent in appraisals of authoritarian and fascist regimes around the world; that is the link between populism and both nativism and authoritarianism.

Populism in the West is the consequence of shifts in the global distribution of power; it is a reaction to the loss of power by a once hegemonic West; immigrants are most easily blamed. In the less developed world the enemy within (Muslims in India, minorities in Lanka) is the villains. Economist Mancur Olsen makes the point that a “roving bandit” only has an incentive to rob whilst a “stationary bandit”, an autocrat, encourages economic popularity as he expects to remain in power long enough to benefit. The quintessential authoritarian Olsen says, focuses on state security and profit protection – enter Gota. What’s the difference from Lee Kwan Yue you may ask? Enormous I will reply. Lee was incorruptible, ruthless in hostility to communalism and firm in commitment to the primacy of civilian power; three qualities that were the saving grace of Singapore. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is beholden to racist monks, he is the champion of the military and how can he clean out a decade of Rajapaksa-clan Augean Stables?

A useful corrective to the deficiency in the study the authoritarianism-populism nexus is Hitler’s Beneficiaries: How the Nazis Bought the German People a book by Götz Aly, translated by Jefferson Chase; Verso, 2007. I do not have the book but an old friend who carries a knuckle-duster in his pocket and keeps me awake at night with harsh appraisals my column, sent a review of the book by John Connelly in the London Review of Books of 27 August 2009. I quote extensively from the review.

QUOTE:

“Aly asks at the outset: ‘What drove ordinary Germans to tolerate and commit historically unprecedented crimes against humanity, in particular the murder of millions of European Jews?’ His answer is that ordinary Germans co-operated in genocide because they benefited from it in material terms. According to Aly, the Nazi dictatorship was built not on terror but on a mutual calculation of interest between leaders and people. This claim entails a further shift in our understanding of the regime: not only did it serve the welfare of the common people, but if there was fear, it was the fear the regime felt of the people, not the other way around. Top Nazi leaders worried that their regime would be toppled by popular unrest if the people’s mood soured: their ‘satisfaction’ had to be ‘purchased’ every day. Aly alleges that in 1943, Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, who carefully monitored the popular mood, called for urgent measures to prevent the German populace from rising up against the regime”.

……..

“The most memorable examples concern the activities of German soldiers outside Germany. When they occupied other countries, Germans in uniform fanned out into the local economies and helped themselves to everything not nailed down, sending huge quantities of loot back to their families. One of them was the writer Heinrich Böll, whose letters home were published in 2001. As cited by Aly, Böll’s six years in the Wehrmacht appear to have been one long shopping spree. Because of special rates of exchange, he was able to buy merchandise from every corner of the Continent. In 1939 he was posting packages of coffee from Rotterdam, and the following year butter, soap, engravings, cosmetics, onions, eggs, women’s shoes and nail scissors from France. His parents became accessories by smuggling currency to their son inside books and cakes. In 1943 he was transferred to the Crimea and sent home butter, before suffering a fortuitous head wound. While recovering in the Ukraine, Böll frequented the local bazaar, from which he sent home chocolate and soap. Aly invites us to multiply Böll’s case by a million.

A more insidious form of looting took place behind the scenes. Aly is the first historian to study systematically what happened to Jewish possessions in Occupied Europe. Using recently opened archival collections he describes in exhaustive detail the arrangements made by officials in the German finance ministry to transfer stolen Jewish wealth into the state budget.”

END QUOTE

Aly’s then explores the link between populism and German nationalism; Germany’s rata jayhika abhimane. German nationalism at this time was a commitment to a belief in the Volk, the people. We detect in MR’s statement a clever conjoining of nationalism as faith in the military (the great army of the people) with authoritarian militarism which is GR’s presidential project.

QUOTE

“So why did the complaining women in Berlin, the bombed-out in Cologne, or millions of other disgruntled Germans fail to rise up against the regime? . . . Ali suggests a simple answer: because it never occurred to them. Loyalty to Germany transcended any momentary doubts. Late in the war people lost their lives for doubting that Germany would win, even when defeat was certain. But were these martyrs or otherwise loyal members of the Volk who momentarily forgot to be cautious? Until very recently professional historians in Germany disparaged the notion of Volksgemeinschaft, or a ‘people’s community’, arguing it was no more than a propagandistic fiction serving no real interest”.

END QUOTE

To repeat myself for the umpteenth time, stable authoritarianism will need reorganisation of the state. This will not resemble the exhaustive assimilation of institutions by the Nazis or the powerful party committees functioning side by side with formal management in Soviet-times or in present day China. Nevertheless, when GR-MR begin subversive redesign of institutional structures to blend into control of strategy it will be deadly. It is the potential longevity of a Rajapaksa-clan-regime that puts this option on the table. Trump’s attempt to bring the Departments (Ministries) of State, Defence and Justice to their knees boomeranged. There was rebellion in the impeachment hearings by senior officials. The separation of powers is deeply entrenched in the US system; Sri Lanka’s weakly anchored institutions are liable to manipulation and mechanisms of checks-and-balances are pathetic.

Pradeep Ramanayake says in World Socialist Website (11 December) “Gotabaya Rajapaksa has made significant appointments of former military officers to bolster his already extensive powers and give the armed forces greater control. Most important is selection of Kamal Gunaratne, already defence secretary, as Chairman of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission which has power over internet and social media, licensing of radio and TV and investigating complaints against media platforms.  Rather than appoint a defence minister Gota has brought defence ministry functions and law-and-order under control of an unelected bureaucrat— the defence secretary. This breaches the constitution which bars the president from holding ministerial positions”.

One last abbreviated quote from Lankaenews of 10 Dec:  “Rajapaksa take over Attorney General’s Department: Three strange posts: The AG’s Department added three new posts as the Rajapaksa cases are being prosecuted. At-at-Law Nishara Jayaratne has been assigned to the Presidential Secretariat as Additional Secretary. Induni Punchihewa has likewise been assigned to the Prime Minister’s Office as Additional Secretary. In addition, another strange position has been assigned to the AG’s Dept.  A close Gota associate, Sumathi Dharmawardena (SD), has been appointed Additional Solicitor General (Administrative) and is now acting AG.  SD ran a private security service with the support of Gota; much of the work was done by army deserters. Previous Presidents and PMs have not held such strange positions in the AG’s Department.  If new positions are introduced they should be approved by the Public Service Commission”.

Populism is both the product of the inability of bourgeois-democratic liberalism to create a nation state and a backlash against globalisation. Its relationship with authoritarianism has in most instances not been as well documented as in Götz Aly’s book. A further ubiquitous turn to populism in Sri Lanka will accompany the run-up to parliamentary elections next year. As Gota fans cheerily tell me: “We will do everything necessary to get a two-thirds majority. We will reduce prices all round and give all types of wage and welfare concessions. Of course after the elections we will have the opportunity to rebuild the economy systematically”. Thus the election campaign will signal a spending bonanza which the masses will welcome. Populism will be used as Mussolini, the Nazi’s and Peron did to underpin authoritarianism. And there’s bugger all anybody can do about it!

NOTE: You will be pleased that I close this final 2019 column with good news for you dear reader. No longer will you need to suffer me every week; Editor willing I plan to inflict a column on you only once a fortnight. That is 5 and 19 January 2020, then 2 February and so on. This will give me time to research and reflect more wisely and reduce the volume of garbage that I impose on you. So relax and enjoy the Sundays in-between free of me.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    1

    Wow….so it has begun.
    Any person of average intellect knew what the main objective of the Rajapakses in grabbing power was; to extricate themselves of past allegations and the ongoing legal cases, and bury them.

    The masses don’t care about that, so they happily handed that opportunity to them on a platter…

    So, things not looking good for Sri Lankans…there may be some economic and technological developments, but no efforts to mend the society fractured and divided on communal lines.
    So those with poisoned minds will continue to shout loudest and act with impunity, spurred on by
    so called Buddhist ‘monks’ and a state apparatus that will turn a blind eye, even facilitate them…

    • 2
      0

      all thugs of MR party who opposed American and Jews, now love them because Jews are writing daily propaganda articles and hand them in to Rajpaksas’ supporters to publish in Lankaweb and other websites. Jews determined to keep Rajapakses in power.

      Now you see all the crooks & criminals who were funded by Jews, prevously were in UNP govt and now in New government.
      Remember that guy who threatened to change constitution already in Gotha’s cabinet. This guys and other crooks and Criminals suppose to be in jail

    • 2
      7

      Lankan,
      “but no efforts to mend the society fractured and divided on communal lines.”
      —-

      British who ruled this country and the Wellala Demalu who licked the *** of Suddas are responsible for creating the rift between Native Sinhalayo and Dravidians brought to this country by colonial parasites. Even now racist Malabar Wellala elite politicians are responsible for maintaining the division for their political survival. Now more than 50% of Demalu from North and East live in Sinhala areas without any problem. But ‘Para’ racist Wellala politicians say ‘Sinhalayo are not welcome in the North’. It is up to these racist bigots to get their act right if they want to live with Native Sinhalayo peacefully. Do not blame Native Sinhalayo who gave citizenship in Sinhale to these Stateless ‘Para’ people.

      • 5
        1

        Not going to waste my time arguing with you

  • 5
    1

    /b>Dear Prof. Kumar David,
    .
    I think that many of us who read you were very happy with your columns being quite frequent. Some may have avoided you altogether, but why worry about them?
    .
    You’re always interesting and you reflect moral concerns that are very important to us all. What if some of your predictions were wrong? It’s better that way than saying safe hypocritical things.
    .
    And remember this: You contribute a great deal bu writing in such sparkling English. If nothing else, you’re teaching good English. I hope that doesn’t sound a back-handed compliment.
    .
    Happy 2020!

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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  • 0
    0

    Are the follwing 3 quotesgood food for thought?

    Pastor Martin Niemöller

    “What is the truth cannot be destroyed, and what is not the truth, doesn’t exist anyway!” Registered Corporations are regulated by the
    Sovereign Government of a Country, the Sovereign Government is Regulated by ALL the People of the Country, any Government that is registered as a Private Company like the Commonwealth of Australia
    (Registered in USA SEC CIK 0000805157) IS NOT ASOVEREIGN GOVERNMENT they are illusional dictator type rulers and are committing crimes against the people.”

    “The nature of the universe is such that ends can never justify the means. On the contrary, the means always determine the end.”
    (Aldous Huxley)

    We must remind ourselves that peace is NOT the absence of conflict. Silence is not just the absence of speech.
    If war is politics by other means…should “peace” be read as war by other means?
    (Chandi Sinnathurai)

  • 3
    0

    Your comments were very informative. Very few if not none had the depth of analysis in any of the so called National press.Hatthotuwa is also backing out.Could not get Ravaya this week.Hope that this is not symptomatic.

  • 1
    2

    KD,
    As usual, you have left out Marxist autocracies; they have been worse than MaRa/GoRa clan hegemony!

    • 4
      0

      Donkey Poo D P,

      Are you not once again being an dishonest fraudster being a Rajapakse clan acolyte and empathiser, falsely accusing Prof Kumar David through the ignorance of not having read most of his other contribution to the CT as well as due to your apparent lumpen prolitairet SB partisan mindset?

      Are you not repeatedly indicating through your crooked error prone pieces that you are one of low birth and beginnings with hardly any moral scruples trying gain some recognition from those who know you whilst concealing your true identity to others ? How much are you being paid for this, other than placating your vanity and expecting crumbs from the tyrants?

  • 0
    0

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  • 0
    0

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  • 1
    10

    This is one of the saddest article I have ever read in CT. Kumar David, a man of enormous talent, has decided to follow balderdash analysis of Nazis et al and draw comparison with Lanka under Gotaby. This is meaningless. Gotaby is the peoples manifestation of the years of fear of that stalks the land of Lanka (such as ISIS and radical Jihadi Moslem terrorism) and disdain and anger towards corruption and they expect him to fix those things and bring peace, stability and prosperity to them. The comparisons of Lee of Singapore of any other leader is insipid, they are from another time and another place and do not apply to Lanka. This country is steeped in Buddhist ethos and the distance between those ethos tand Tamil Hinduism and Catholic and other established churches of Lanka are miniscule or non-existent. They can easily co-exist and thrive. The problem is with radical, fanatic Moslems, who are over 80% radicalized. Gotaby I am sure will do something about this soon. Now, that cannot be helped, and any collateral damages should be borne by Lankans. When eliminating pestilence and the bubonic plague strongest fumigation should be used and innocents should wear gas masks for protection. Still some irritation of the eyes and membranes is inevitable and maybe even some allergic reactions leading to death. But you are eliminating the plague! So you have to be strong and stoic and live with the collateral damages.

    I think under Gotaby Lanka will reach its zenith as a country and I wish the people strength and I hope they will brave in the face of challenges. Kumar David will be able to change his mind soon, in my opinion within next 12 months. Upon said manifestation I hope he will have the gumption to admit he was wrong and admit that Gotaby did good by Lanka.

    • 1
      0

      Jay,
      May God help your wish come true. If not, instead of reaching Zenith, we all be in Zero!

  • 1
    0

    It used to be said that old revolutionaries never die, they just keep marching on, and on.

    I trust it will be a case of less is more, because 2020 will be the year when Gotabaya will unfurl the full panoply of his plans for our island paradise. What will the sprightly professor write of the coming machinations.

    More ink in your pen for the New Year.

  • 2
    1

    Dear Dr David,

    As the LSSP and CP are part of SLPP
    is SLPP a left party?

    Or has the LSSP and CP given up their fundamental left idiealogy?

    • 2
      1

      Wimply Kid
      “As the LSSP and CP are part of SLPP, is SLPP a left party?”
      SLPP is Buddhist-Sinhala Only right-wing and Sinhala-nationalists. Ex-Minister Champika Ranawaka has proved to the two sides that JHU is just that. He is told “Not quite”
      “Or has the LSSP and CP given up their fundamental left idiealogy?”
      Yes, they did way way back.
      Of the yester-year ‘Left’ only NSSP has not wavered.

      • 1
        0

        Thanks KP

  • 4
    0

    Journalism at its best. Thank you Kumar David.
    God Bless You,
    Stay safe.

  • 1
    4

    Once again the Professor gets it wrong!
    *
    He can’t get past Populism = Fascism and anyone who is a populist is a racist and a terrible human being. The same narrative being promoted by the Mainstream Media and the Left.
    *
    It’s all false! Supporting a different policy does not make anyone a bad person or a racist.
    *
    Populism represents the Will of the People. That’s called Democracy.
    *
    People are fed up with out of touch self appointed “Elites” talking down to them and telling them they are terrible people. The Left still can’t understand the link between doing this and getting destroyed in Elections.
    *
    I’m a big supporter of BREXIT. It’s about taking back control of the Sovereignty of my country. And yes – that includes being able to decide who we let in. I don’t want to see any more low IQ, Culturally Incompatible people being let in. Multiculturalism has been a complete disaster. And that awful Lord Mayor of London Sadiq Khan needs to go asap imho.
    *
    I oppose:-
    *
    – Open Borders
    – Globalism
    – The EU
    – Socialism
    – Communism
    – Political Correctness
    – Post Modernism
    – Multiculturalism
    *
    None of the above makes me a racist or a bad person. If people want to call me a Nationalist then I’m fine with that. That doesn’t make me a Fascist.

  • 3
    1

    By Kumar David –

    Prof. Kumar David

    “No one seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it” – George Orwell

    “The former government harboured an intense resentment towards the army, which preserved Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and integrity at great sacrifice. They tried to poison the minds of the people by trying to portray the army as unsavoury elements, who rob, kill and plunder. However the masses have always stood by the country’s armed forces and hailed them as heroes who did their duty by their motherland” – Mahinda Rajapaksa: Sunday Island 22 Dec 2019

    *** Some one after getting drunk over Christmas wrote this is Gothas best year.. His head needs to be examined so does Mahinthas the THUG. The only Country who has engaged with the CRIMINAL is India with 400 minnion . Gotha is stuck. Who is going to give him money for Development. Not even China. Wake up Gotha and his lovers. You asked fot it and you got it.

  • 3
    1

    Kumar

    If you have a hot line to Gotha can you ask him if Rajitha was taken to ICU in a white Van or Ambulance. Gotha has lot of contacts in Singapore Hospitals cand he not take him there. UN
    make a note the 1st casualty. .Gotha was outragedso hr put him in a Cell for talking about White
    Van.

  • 0
    2

    “Lee was incorruptible, ruthless in hostility to communalism and firm in commitment to the primacy of civilian power…”

    It was communalism that created Singapore in the first place, following race riots. The Malays had a choice of whether to join Singapore, but chose to be the dominant group in Malaysia instead. Similarly in India, the Muslims chose to be part of Pakistan rather than India. If we give Muslims a choice in Sri Lanka, what side will they pick? There is some apathy towards being a minority which drives nationalism. Or could we say, not everyone wants a secular, Western-type democracy. Some prefer the theocracy with a strong autocrat, as we see in the Middle East.

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