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.
Safa / November 24, 2012
In Sri Lanka, it seems that our females are more forthright and courageous than our males. We see the spineless nature of our representatives in parliment entrapped by the wiles and guiles of the Rajapakse Quartet, Mahinda, Chamal, Gotabaya and Basil. Mahinda on lead, Chamal vocals, Basil on rythm and Gota on drums. The UPFA worthies dance to the tune of the Medamulane Quartet, any tune any dance.
Wuliangguobinjiu / November 24, 2012
Because the female is deadlier than the male. eg. kali for takadiyas O)
Selwyn / November 24, 2012
So SLFP heavyweights (PM hopefuls) MS and NSdeS will be spectators in this Quartet’s show. What a come down’.
Simhi / November 24, 2012
Why was Morvin hovering about near the committee room where PSC was holding the sitting? To intimidate lawyers? or what?
Wuliangguobinjiu / November 24, 2012
Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people. Charlie Chaplin
Rajaporkistan rides to and fro upon Tigers which he dare not dismount. And the Tigers are getting hungry by the hour.
The MR familial must have enemies. The MR familial must have internal enemies to justify their secret police and external enemies to justify their military forces.
Democracy consists of choosing your Dictators after
“they’ve told you what you think it is you want to hear”.
When Dictatorship is a fact, Revolution becomes a Right.
srilal / November 24, 2012
Dear Tisaranee ,
can you please explain why do you always use following words to describe the out come of the 2005 & 2010 election.
“Just days after WINNING THE ELECTION ” this is a real insult for the law abiding citizens of SL .Did MR win any of elections ??
JULAAMPITYE AMARAYA / November 24, 2012
She uses those wards, because not insulting to the law abiding, understandable, some sort of education had citizens of wonderland.
because those citizens not voted for MR those RIGGED elections.
Wuliangguobinjiu / November 24, 2012
Suppose she is mentioning “Practical world of Reality not Idealism.”
mike / November 24, 2012
I agree. Tisaranee, please correct this statement in your future articles. This bugger, aided and abetted by his goons, has specialized in rigging votes! He is currently sitting on General Sarath Fonseka’s chair instead of sitting on a electric chair??
Lasantha Pethiyagoda / November 24, 2012
Tisaranee, I’d love to hear what future you portend for our salubrious island in the sun. Do you feel that matters might go back to the good old times of the kings, where royal benevolence was every subject’s aspiration?
Wuliangguobinjiu / November 24, 2012
Royal Seepage! Coming sweet! Like kolamba sanniya
Senguttuvan / November 24, 2012
Who bears the very high cost of the hospitalisation of PM Jayaratne
both in Singapore and the USA/Johns Hopkins? Could not the treatnment
be handled by our own doctors at SJH – a well equipped modern hospital
gifted by the Japanese?
gamini / November 24, 2012
Is it that PM Jayaratne has got a stroke? These buggers should not just die, but suffer and die.
AYMAN / December 2, 2012
THESE BUGGERS SHOULD ROT AND DIE.
WE TAXPAYERS HAVE TO PAY THEM, FEED THEM,HOUSE THEM, GIVE THEM
A PENSION JUST AFTER 5 YEARS AND PAY FOR THEIR FOREIGN MEDICAL BILLS.
WHEN THE BUGGER DIES HE GETS A STATE FUNERAL.
AGAIN WE IDIOTS FOOT THE BILL.
Avi / November 24, 2012
Tisaranee is quite right. It is a foregone conclusion that CJ will
be found guilty and be removed by the majority of the parliamentarians.
It would be interesting to see who would abstain from the vote in the parliament.
Nevertheless , would this unfair and unjust removal of CJ, unite the opposition
or divide them further apart?
Kapila / November 24, 2012
Tisaranee its great to see a woman writing without any fear of the junta.In 2005 it was patently clear to many of us that the ending will be frightful for democracy.It was well known that entertainment was not allowed during the campaign.MR had an open dansela and some shameless invitees who attended were judges lead by that disgraceful Kalu Coat ASOKA DE SILVA CHIEF JUSTICE.Here was a man who had to hear election cases also going for a buth curry.He was rewarded in style son in the Netherlands embassy and a job weeks after retirement in the Presidents Office.He is the man who gave a judgement that an army court martial decision and a decsion of the courts system was the same which fixed Fonseka the worlds best Commander.This is the worst fellow who occupied that chair.The present CJ before elevation had to be won over and the husband was given a job and the story is that she did not want to rock the boat as she had to move up and allowed him to accept the job that was her undoing.Its great that she stood for what was right and now as Tisaranee says the country must stand by her and see that the judiciary will not be made subservient to the politicians,
Another reader has queried about DIMU getting treated in Singapore and USA.Its the tax payer who has no basic facilities who pays the bill.It is the same for anyone in politics the local Doctors and even Private Hospitals are not good for them this is a part of the disease when in office.Jayawewa
Jayantha / November 24, 2012
USA is the most expensive country when it comes to health care. Even the health care insurance policy holders, find difficulty to stay in hospitals without paying high co-pay. That’s why when it comes to even child birth most of the mothers leave next day after delivery. I have a sympathy for D Mu, but selecting USA for long stay hospital in USA is unthinkable.One of my frind’s father who came on vacation got sick (flu) ended up paying US 73,000 for week’s stay. Why not India, Singapore, Malaysia….where even American’s go there for low cost but good and affordable treatment. The famous “I can’t remember”….more than a year in Singapore hospital….what’s the bill, who pay… Is this the new VIP fashion in Sri Lanka…. Am I dreaming where am I.
Mahela / November 24, 2012
Quite an interesting article Tisaranee.
The bottom line is MR brothers have to select between good governance or going down the history as the most Pariah family ever governed in Sri Lanka’s history. They are already notorious for selecting a dictatorial path among local and international community. As a result the family cannot travel without a minimum security escort of 50 in Sri Lanka and around 20 when they travel abroad. Even with that they are still vulnerable to face rotten eggs and tomato attacks and as a result now avoiding going to UK, Europe, Australia and this will further increase according to their future behaviour. I don’t doubt if this could spread to MR’s close confidante ministers also. This may be the reason that MR is looking for other pastures in Africa and Latin America. But cannot shift mooving the goal posts for ever as when the 2013 CHOGAM to be held in Sri Lanka MR has to decide if to face the next batch of rotten eggs right here in his own country.
Lester / November 25, 2012
Excellent article, by Tisaranee Gunasekara. The point is that the Executive President is above the law. This has a plethora of implications, one of which (in the Sri Lankan context) is that the Defense Ministry is more powerful than the Supreme Court. As I wrote in 2010, in lieu of Tamils seeking justice for war crimes:
In SL, the Courts are not independent… in fact, the Defense Ministry is more powerful than the Supreme Court, and so anyone expecting justice from a lower court can expect the verdict to be influenced by the Defense Ministry. Since the Sri Lankan Military is closely associated with the Defense Ministry, victims of SLA crimes cannot logically expect an unbiased judiciary to remedy their grievances. I hope you see what I am saying: the separation of powers is so vaguely defined in the SL context, that the whole judicial process is really a farce, since it can be easily influenced by those occupying high seats of power.
There is no rule of law in SL; the law does not exist in SL. That is because, a law is not a law if it is arbitrary and applies to only a select few. Instead, what we have in SL are decrees , subject to “personal interpretation” by a select few. As TG points out, the fate of these decrees is to wind up in a “‘people’s court’ to suit the special needs of the ‘people’s dynasty’.” Indeed, as TG notes, the net effect is that SL moves toward a dynasty. In that regard, I will make another prediction: MR will be President for another 15-20 years, and after that Namal will come to power. I did not use the word “elections” because with term limits gone, eleTctions no longer matter. Without term limits, the incentive for rigged elections is much higher. There will not be a “people’s revolution” of the sort in Egypt/Libya, because unlike in those places, SL just came out of a 30 year war. Nationalism and nationalist sentiment are sill high in the Sinhala-Buddhist South, which is why if, today, you had an election between Ranil and MR, MR would still win.