By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“Dictatorships breed oppression, dictatorships breed servility, dictatorships breed cruelty; more loathsome still is the fact that they breed idiocy…” Jose Luis Borges (Speech at the Argentine Society of Writers)
Here is it finally, the ‘D’ word. Uttered by Minister Basil Rajapaksa, no less: “It is a dynasty, but by people’s choice, a people’s dynasty” (Sydney Morning Herald – 19.11.2012).
North Koreais the ultimate anti-democratic dystopia, a nominal republic in which the people are the chattels of a dynasty which embodies absurdist-horror. But in official parlance, this vassal state of the Family Kim is a Democratic People’s Republic.
If Vellupillai Pirapaharan won his Eelam, he would have appended an equally fancy name to his state, in which Tamils would have had the choice of being either voiceless victims or silenced spectators.
So Basil Rajapaksa is quite right; Rajapaksa Rule is a ‘people’s dynasty’, in the same way Rajapaksa Impeachment is just and fair.
The Rajapaksas want more power. Again, according to Basil Rajapaksa, “In other countries who are successful, they were successful because immediately one person he takes the decisions. In Sri Lanka, the main problem is that that is not there, more decisions have to be centralized” (ibid). Wade through the grammatical-mire and the meaning is as clear as the intent is ominous: in the name of development, the Rajapaksas will create a state in which ‘one person, he takes the decisions’.
That is what is generally known as a dictatorship.
Ever since they won the presidency, thanks to Vellupillai Pirapaharan’s election-boycott, the Rajapaksas have been constructing a politico-psychological expressway to their ideal-state. In their eyes, human rights, democratic freedoms, the rule of law, judicial independence, power-separation and power-devolution are nothing but debris cluttering the path to this familial state. During the last 12 years, the Siblings laboured with ruthless thoroughness to destroy these obtruding and dangerous refuse, the politico-psychological residue of a pre-RajapaksaSri Lanka.
The transformation of the Lankan military into a Rajapaksa military is an excellent case in point. During the 2010 Presidential Election, Mahinda Rajapaksa used his position as Minister of Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to compel top military officials to appear on state-television, in full uniform, and endorse his candidacy. Just days after winning the election, he and his brother, the Defence Secretary, began a top-to-bottom purging of the army, starting with the sacking of 12 senior army officers, including three major generals and two brigadiers. “Sources said President Mahinda Rajapaksa sent the officers on ‘compulsory retirement’ for hatching a ‘political conspiracy’ during the (Presidential) polls” (PTI – 1.2.2010). The Defense Ministry accused the discarded officials of being a ‘threat to national security’.
Next seminal step towards the ‘people’s dynasty’ was the 18th Amendment. The removal of the term-limit provision enabled the founder of the ‘people’s dynasty’ to contest the presidency ad infinitum. The establishment of presidential control over the Elections Commissioner and the IGP enabled the ‘people’s dynasty’ to hold stage-managed elections with predestined-outcomes. Thanks to the 18th Amendment, the Rajapaksas can abuse state power and resources limitlessly, to ensure the eternal victory of the ‘people’s dynasty’; the Elections Commissioner has no right to protest, let alone intervene.
A ‘people’s court’ is the obvious next aim of the ‘people’s dynasty’.
CJ vs. People’s Dynasty
Earl Warren, one of the greatest chief justices in the US history, the man who enabled the de-segregation of schools, is believed to have said, ‘Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile, I caught hell for’. Shirani Bandaranayake is catching hell from the Rajapaksas because she took the immensely worthwhile step of standing in the way of the ‘people’s dynasty.’
Under its legal-constitutional veneer, the impeachment is nothing but a political offensive against the CJ and the judiciary, the critical first step in the creation of a ‘people’s court’ to suit the special needs of the ‘people’s dynasty’. The CJ’s response to the impeachment offensive, so far, indicates that she understands this reality. The Parliamentary Select Committee will find her guilty; that decision was made the day the Rajapaksas revolved to be rid of her. The real battle is in the public domain. The CJ cannot convince the PSC of her innocence because the PSC is a mindless tool of Rajapaksa power and vengeance. But she can and must prove her innocence to the general public. The Rajapaksas fear the CJ’s capacity to appeal to the tribunal of public opinion. That is why they are trying to hide the PSC proceedings from the public eye, even as they continue with their vicious public campaign to vilify the CJ.
If the CJ acts with the same firm grace during the rest of the impeachment-travesty, as she did on its first day, she will win the ‘hearts and minds’ battle handily.
In the power-obsessed eyes of the Rajapaksas, any defense of democracy, however peaceful or legal, is a conspiracy: “There is a ‘legal coup’ or constitutional coup attempt brewing in Hulftsdorp among certain sections of the legal fraternity backed by powerful vested interests….” (Daily News – 22.11.2012). When dealing with their opponents, the Rajapaksas do not believe in half-measures. Will Dr. Bandaranaike be accused of conspiring to overthrow the ‘people’s dynasty’? Will the ‘people’s dynasty’ do to the judiciary in 2013 what it did to the military in 2010, removing judges and arresting lawyers, accused of being part of the ‘legal coup’? Will the AG’s Department (placed under presidential-control in 2010) do to Dr. Bandaranaike and her family what it did to Gen. Fonseka and his family?
Winning the battle for national and international public opinion might be the only way to impede some of these Rajapaksa excesses. And in that politico-propaganda endeavour, the CJ will need every ounce of assistance possible.
DM’s Health and The PM Issue
The impeachment is not only aimed at cutting the judiciary down to Lilliputian-size; its other purposes include sending a message to the SLFP about the dangers of opposing ‘people’s dynasty’.
After spending quality-time with President Nursultan Nazarbayev ofKazakhstan(who won his last presidential election with 95.54% of the vote!), President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Prime Minister DM Jayaratne in anAmericanHospital. The picture of that visit indicates thatSri Lankamay have to have a new PM before long. The interests of the ‘people’s dynasty’ would demand that the next PM is a Rajapaksa Sibling. Previously there had been substantial opposition from the SLFP to such elevation of some Johnny-come-lately, simply because he happened to be a Presidential Sibling. This time around, the Rajapaksas would want to ensure that the old SLFP is cowed into silence and the new SLFP makes the appropriate noises, clamouring for the appointment of a Rajapaksa Sibling as PM, ‘to strengthen the President’s hands’ in his ‘glorious battle against coups and coup-makers.
Once the SLFP heavyweights see the ruthlessness with which the Rajapaksas deal with the chief justice, they are unlikely to mumble a word against a PM Chamal/Basil/Gotabhaya. These invertebrates will prefer to remain impotent ministers than be jailed on some other real or concocted charge.
That is the real conspiracy: a Medamulana-Coup to ensure the final triumph of the ‘people’s dynasty’ aka Rajapaksa Rule.