4 December, 2020

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The Deflation Of Mahinda Rajapaksa

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s (MR) political clout and much acclaimed image have been dented in the last six weeks. The erosion started with the defeat of the party that he (not Sirisena) led in the August 2015 elections but accelerated in 2016. We need to explore this from many angles as the implications are far reaching. MR’s image did not suffer irreparably when he lost in January 2015 as witnessed by the faithful who trekked in their thousands to Carlton Lodge to venerate and commiserate with an inexplicably exiled king of kings; devotees kept the faith alive.

The second defeat took its toll and sullied the image; but from August to December the hubris of the Rajapaksa family and the arrogance of old regime cronies remained intact. President and Prime Minister did not confront the criminals; the government stayed irresolute. Why we can only speculate; perhaps it feared the residual power of the old regime could provoke instability; perhaps Sirisena was alarmed that if the scum was prosecuted the fracas within the SLFP would dent his hold; perhaps both President and PM (like SWRD and Dudley) had loose bowels thinking about a Sinhala-Buddhist backlash. ‘Bring back Mahinda’ rallies arranged by a ructious quartet of blind mice (quintet if you count Dayan) drew crowds. The August election was hard to predict and keenly contested.

Mahinda Anuradhapura 17 July 15In hindsight the capacity of chauvinists to whip up mobs was overestimated and the residual influence of the Rajapaksa rump-mafia exaggerated. The first hint was when PM and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera stuck out their necks and negotiated a compromise at the UNHRC in Geneva. If MR with chauvinists at full blast and yellow robbed masquerades in tow had the ability, this was the opportunity to light the fires. Not a pipsqueak! While they ranted on stage no one dared confrontation on the streets. If one can mobilise fifty thousand there is no need to fear a belt or a baton across the rump. Mobilisations that big can’t be dispersed; the authorities have to compromise. The bigots could incite no more than a few hundred unruly elements; humiliated they stayed at home.

Somewhere along the way it dawned on the PM, Mangala and CBK that MR’s chauvinist rabble was not as strong as feared. The realisation dawned, I think empirically over time. It seems that the PM, and in his trail the President, came to realise that you can say boo to this chauvinist goose. Two steps followed; the national anthem in Tamil on Independence Day and Mangals’s bold assertion that a just solution to the Tamil question should be incorporated in the constitution. Still Mahinda, Gota and BBS, though they cannot burn shops, will try to deny the draft constitution a two-thirds majority in parliament. What to do then is a matter I will not give my mind to now; let us cross that bridge when we reach it.

The point I am urging is that it is time to confront racism and that the balance of forces is favourable. Social, class and demographic determinants at the grassroots of Sinhala society have evolved favourably. The national anthem in Tamil on Independence evoked emotional catharsis from Tamils but it was an event more important for Sinhala society to which a signal was sent that it is no longer business as usual. Prof. Carlo expressed exhilaration in a newspaper column; Vasu declared to his comrades “I proposed this first in Cabinet!” Public comment in all three languages in print and electronic media condemned the rowdiness of BBS, Ravana Balaya and Sinhala Ravaya. Surely all this cannot be piss and wind without substance; surely times have changed.

If the Sinhala-Buddhist majority distances itself from chauvinism and anti Muslim, anti Tamil bigotry, it will be a political revolution ending three generations of blood soaked history. Democracy will forever remain stunted unless and until racism is erased as a force. That change of psyche will be a political revolution. Not in the old way meaning an overthrow of the state and of property relations at the same time, but a different but still meaningful use of the term. A crotchety old American has brought the term ‘political revolution’ into vogue again. The phenomenon is worth exploring.

Political revolution

Revolution is a dirty word in the US except for the War of Independence (1775-83). That is what commies, enemies of liberty and terrorists do. Bernard Saunders swept the New Hampshire primary and tied with Mrs Clinton in Iowa vowing ‘political revolution’ if elected president. There is no chance he can secure Democratic nomination let alone the White House, but the exhilaration greeting this curmudgeon’s radicalism has me rubbing my eyes in disbelief. Is this really America; does its youth cheer wildly for this, by its customs, unheard of programme! This is what Saunders proposes: End a pattern of privileged accumulation at one pole and mass dispossession and alienation at the other; universal health care, which means castration of the rip off insurance and healthcare industries and taming the rent-seeking medical profession; tuition free tertiary education; curbs on campaign financing which makes Congressmen, Senators and Presidents yes-men of big money; and tighter controls on Wall Street. Can he do all this? I go along with Mrs Clinton: “Excellent but we don’t have resources to do all this?” But that’s not the point; if millions are cheering this with enthusiasm we are already in the midst a political revolution of sorts in America.

Revolution takes the French version of 1789 as its benchmark; the state, the Ancien Régime, was removed and seeds of a new political order, bourgeois democracy, planted. At the same time economic and class structures were overturned – estates confiscated, land to peasants, capitalism consolidated, French and European markets opened. As integration of political and socio-economic revolutions it is the supreme example of revolution (chicken and egg simultaneously). October 1917 in Russia also combined the political and socio-economic, but for reasons too far reaching to discuss here it was premature and eventually perished.

In England economic transformation and national unification were complete before Cromwell relieved Charles I of his pate in 1648. After some seesawing, the Bill of Rights and Constitutional Monarchy were finalised in the Glorious (or Bloodless) Revolution of 1688. [Of thousands of books; my favourite is Christopher Hill’s Reformation to Industrial Revolution]. Economic alteration and English independence originated in the reign (1509-1547) of Henry VIII. The Act of Supremacy (1534) was followed by confiscation of monastic lands (Dissolution of the Monasteries 1536-1541) which threw a fifth of England’s lands into the lap of merchant and nascent industrial classes. It is not flagrant concupiscence but English independence that underwrote Henry’s conflict with the Holy See. Consolidation of a new order was carried forward in the reign (1558-1603) of his daughter Elizabeth I who understandably has gone down in history as Gloriana – England has done best in the reign of its queens. Hence the political revolution (1648-1688) was a postscript to an already far advanced socio-economic transformation – the chicken had hatched long before the egg was laid.

Sometimes an egg was laid before the chicken hatched; or sometimes mislaid, only egg no chicken. Ever so often political revolution as transformation of the state happened, but concomitant overhaul of the economic order was absent or long delayed. From time to time over five millennia rebellions overthrew dynasties and upstart peasant leaders rose to sit on the throne but the social and economic order remained unchanged till China’s 20-th Century revolutions in 1911 and 1948.

Two Nineteenth Century examples are the industrial and cultural makeover of Japan (the Meiji Restoration starting 1868) and Bismarck’s unification, industrialisation and modernisation of Germany starting 1871. Mandela cut a similar deal. Whether spoken or tacit, he acquiesced to the survival of property relations in exchange for the abolition of apartheid.

There are other justified usages of the term revolution that preserve its substance. One speaks of the technological revolution of the last generation. The fall of European communism in the 1990s is referred to as a revolution or counter-revolution. Ten million Muslim refugees are pushing the doors and taping the windows of Europe. When all is done resettlement in European will be even larger. We are witnessing the unfolding of a demographic revolution.

Lanka cannot fulfil its democratic potential till racism is purged

The dialogue on revolution was brought to Lanka by brilliant young Marxists returning home from Europe and America in the 1930s. The narrative they carried was the classical version steeped in the French and Russian upheavals; transformation of the state intertwined with abolition of property relations and the concomitant system of law. They were replaced by an alternative social and economic order. For decades ‘revolution’ meant this unity bequeathed by the classical examples, the conversation was further defined by Trotsky’s theory of an uninterrupted revolution and Lenin’s critique of the state. This paradigm was ingrained not only in those of us who grew up in the innards of the left movement, but also in Lankan intellectual dialogue at large.

But the world was faithful to this pattern only exceptionally; China, Cuba and Vietnam. The rest was carried on the bayonets of the Red Army (Eastern Europe) or was an overflow of Chinese and Vietnamese communism into the Korea and Indo China. But revolutionary overthrow of the state without economic and class metamorphosis, or mutation of property systems without liberation in the domain of state power, both occurred aplenty! The Burmese junta, and Mozambique and Angola after colonialism, are three exemplars of the latter.

The world has seen complex changes but the theory of revolution has moved much less. The conversation now unfolding is pushing interpretations of Marx towards new frontiers. If chauvinism is purged in Lanka, and I have argued that it can be done, it will be a political revolution of significance and that is what motivated this essay all along.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    1

    Prof. Kumar David

    RE: The Deflation Of Mahinda Rajapaksa

    Thank you for a good write-up.

    1. “The second defeat took its toll and sullied the image; but from August to December the hubris of the Rajapaksa family and the arrogance of old regime cronies remained intact. President and Prime Minister did not confront the criminals”

    Most of the criminals are still at large!

    2. “In hindsight the capacity of chauvinists to whip up mobs was overestimated and the residual influence of the Rajapaksa rump-mafia exaggerated. The first hint was when PM and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera stuck out their necks and negotiated a compromise at the UNHRC in Geneva. If MR with chauvinists at full blast and yellow robbed masquerades in tow had the ability, this was the opportunity to light the fires. Not a pipsqueak!”

    They are becoming a spent force. Sinhala Buddhists are not buying into theit stupidity any more.

    3.”Somewhere along the way it dawned on the PM, Mangala and CBK that MR’s chauvinist rabble was not as strong as feared. The realisation dawned, I think empirically over time. It seems that the PM, and in his trail the President, came to realise that you can say boo to this chauvinist goose. Two steps followed; the national anthem in Tamil on Independence Day and Mangals’s bold assertion that a just solution to the Tamil question should be incorporated in the constitution. Still Mahinda, Gota and BBS, though they cannot burn shops, will try to deny the draft constitution a two-thirds majority in parliament. What to do then is a matter I will not give my mind to now; let us cross that bridge when we reach it.”

    Yes. Very good developments towards progress and nation building.

  • 6
    10

    “The point I am urging is that it is time to confront racism and that the balance of forces is favourable.” – Prof. David
    It is not racism but SB fundamentalist fascism that is on the march, despite a temporary slow down. The JHU is the Sri Lankan equivalent of the BJP and is part of government. So the route that fascism will take in ts bid to capture power is not certain.

    As for MR’s return, he need not do anything.
    If the MS-RW regime goes on at its present rate of suppressing democratic opposition, holding back on minority rights, making the country the economic playing field of imperialism and its regional ally, the people will bring MR back — unless fascism acts fast and takes over on behalf of the MS-RW regime.

  • 2
    0

    Racism cannot be purged by changing the head of state. Ideas, beliefs, feelings set deeply within the hearts and minds over decades, perhaps cenuries cannot be changed overnight by gerting MR. MR didnt creat racism, if anything, he is a product and victim of it. Education is the only way to fight ignorance.

  • 3
    14

    My Dear Professor,

    Your opinion is your personal opinion and you seem to be a current government “Pandama”

    If want to evaluate real image of Mahinda Rajapakse and his impact on political environment in Sri Lanka, you may ask the current government to hold local government elections with out delay. Then we can really measure the popularity of government and Mahinda Rajapakse and his backers.

  • 14
    7

    The decisive moment in what you call the ‘Deflation’ of Mahinda Rajapakse came with the remanding of Roshita and Gnanasara, and the singing of the national anthem in Tamil on Independence Day. Momentous events that were the dream of the silent many became a reality. What was thought unthinkable had happened! The bubble burst! The public at large saw law, order and justice enthroned. The people saw what was right being done. The people heard the thunder and realized lightening will follow. The message was clear to every one. MR saw light through tear filled eyes!

    We have turned the corner! Hurrah!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 12
    0

    “The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom.”

    Like many countries/”peoples” – too numerous to name – will always seek freedom and shed totalitarian systems. Well, until the next “totalitarian” comes along.

    A tin-pot version was gotten rid of in SL in Jan/2015.

    In recent times two gigantic monsters that held/hold people in bondage did emerge; the Soviet “communist” system and the American “corporate” system.

    Most citizens are small cogs in the well-oiled monsters. Their wellbeing/survival depends on how well they perform their task in propelling the monsters. No individual can challenge the monster; Nikita Khrushchev ended up switching off lights in a factory after the workers have finished. Leonid Brezhnev was no such fool, a cunning fox, who knew exactly what the monster wanted of him. No individual cog can challenge, until a cataclysmic event takes place and many of the cogs can “come out” and slay the monster.

    If you travel through small-town USA by road, you will encounter modern-day slavery irrespective of the hue; black, white, brown or striped. How “corporate” America has reduced workers to battery-hens; systematically stripped of everything and given just enough sustenance to come back to work the next day. In the “Land of the Free” where people whose souls have been sucked out, struggling without proper remunerations/benefits for their labour striving to first find economic-freedom to enjoy the distant mirage of other “freedoms.”

  • 5
    19

    Old Anglicised farts like you sitting in the comforts of the contanese concubines in Hong Kong and worrying about racism in Sri Lanka is a joke. I believe since you have ahmm soiled your self it is time to call your care giver to change your diaper.

  • 2
    0

    There must be political revolutions if sorts. Hopefully we are going to ride one of them before long.
    Sengodan. M

  • 5
    0

    MR lost a golden opportunity of securing the confidence of the people by reuniting the country (rata eksesath kireema) after the end of the war of attrition. Instead he got bitten by the Gadhafi syndrome, and wanted worldwide recognition as the only Commander-in-Chief to crush a terrorist outfit, which everyone thought could never be defeated. He was going for the big occasions like hosting Commonwealth games, Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, building Harbours, International Airports and cricket stadiums under his own name. In short, he was on Cloud 9 as they say. Something told him that he was so powerful he could do anything he wanted except change a man into a woman and vice-versa. The going was so good, he was enjoying all the attention and pampering that he became greedy. His greed knew no bounds as he wanted everything for himself and his family for the rest of his life, which then started his downfall. He bought out opposition party members by bribing them with money, position and Minister posts, changed the Constitution with a Parliament which had 5/6th majority voting strength to enable him to come forward again for a third term. Formed a new brigade consisting of hallowed monks turned hooligans, and set these mad dogs to attack minorities with ulterior motive of harnessing the majority votes to win elections. But it was he who dug his own grave and was finally laid to rest in it after losing elections. But addicted to politics, his ghost cannot rest in peace and keeps rising to threaten a takeover, but is in a no-win situation, as most of those he trusted to be loyalists have now deserted him and are on the other side. The government of RW-MS are not buying it and keep showing him the middle finger. Instead they tightened the screws on him with the setting up of the 5 commissions to act independently and an FCID to investigate embezzlement of country’s resources. MR only lived to serve his family’s interests and their well being was all he cared for, whilst the rest can go to hell. They are the least of his concerns.

  • 4
    1

    Dr. Kumar David has presented his keen assessment of the current political scene in diligent detail. The survey from January 2015 through August to 2016 is most accurate.

    The swift change in the balance of support to MR and his minions is captured with sharp discernment. Conversely, MS, RW, CBK are unstoppably on the ascendant. The chasm will be seen most ingloriously when the ‘SPOTLESS FAMILY’ is shown to have more spots than white.

  • 2
    0

    A typically intelligent and literate contribution from Kumar.

    A caveat, though: we need to keep this government under constant scrutiny to prevent it from letting off the hook those who raped and pillaged Sri Lanka for far too long. There are those in the current coalition who were PART of that process and those who I’ve identified as “buying insurance” by letting the thieves and murderers off the hook in case those thieves and murderers return to power. THEY need to be kicked out of the government first before we enter into “free trade” pacts which have, historically, seriously disadvantaged the weaker and poorer partners.

    • 0
      0

      Emil,

      I am beginning to think that it will happen. We need patience and confidence in Ranil.

      Remember how I said have patience when Rajapaksa was going berserk ? How I quoted “oh what a circus oh what a show” and to remember what happened to Peron ? Well it has come about.

      What this Government has to work on very hard is to teach the people to “think” and to respect the “new” standards of behavior and conduct that are being advocated.

      They can’t make a big difference in one term, it will take 3 terms ( 15 years) before the change will be lasting. It is the only hope for our Country.

      BTW all those who heap personal abuse on writers should be banned from this web site.

  • 1
    5

    The crux of matter is not that political Chauvinism play by Tamil separatism has undermined democracy of secularism that only why being agent of Western rough state for Tamil Eealm; that politics of TNA and other Tamil outfits are to be determined national politics of democracy!

    Kumar David is for Tamil Eealm of Tamil chauvinism. That has nothing to do with ‘Socialism’ what Trotskyism of David been advocated since last 45 years.

    All in all changes are complex mean, that class struggles, society and world politics being changes are govern by nature of dialectical laws.

    David has to learn lessons of Highest stage of Imperialism, US and their gang still play vital role in Global politics, Economy and social factors. That apply to Sri lanaka too.

    Kumar David read metaphysis politics of bourgeois criteria not that has no connection with socialist politics of what Marx has been preach since 1848.

    Read Lenin first, forget Trotskyist for ever.

  • 0
    0

    Oh My Guru! What is wrong? Only 13 after this long?

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