By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“…people’s stupidity and people’s good intentions influence events no less than do the necessities of the economic struggle.” – Czeslaw Miloz (The Captive Mind)
Defence authorities have suspended paying disabled soldiers their salaries[i].
These soldiers became disabled – and therefore unemployable – because they fought in the Eelam Wars. According to Rajapaksa logic, these are ‘War Heroes” and ‘Patriots’. And they have been deprived of their monthly salaries, on which many of them – and their families – would have been dependent.
It is hard to believe that any army official would have taken such a potentially controversial decision without the knowledge/approval of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Minister of Defence and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence.
In a free country this would have been headline news and a main subject of commentary. In a country which takes the rhetoric about war heroes and patriotism seriously, it should have caused an outpouring of outrage.
In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka neither happened. This was not news; and there was no outrage.
Eventually 292 disabled soldiers, representing the interests of around 6000 disabled colleagues, had to seek judicial intervention. They have filed a case in the Appeal Court against the government’s decision to suspend their salary payments. They argue that according to military regulations, their salaries must be paid until they reach the retirement age.
The lawyer representing the army commander has asked for time. Now that the news is out, perhaps the President will ‘intervene’. He might do his ‘Knight Errant’ act, and ride to the rescue of the ‘soldiers-in-distress’. Then the soldiers can withdraw the law-suit and write a letter thanking the President. The letter will be given the widest possible publicity. Once the crisis is defused, the order may vanish into that state of limbo where most Commission reports and presidential promises repose.
Last week, the authorities confirmed that Brigadier Deshapriya Gunawardane, of Weliweriya and White Flag ignominy has indeed been presented with a diplomatic appointment. The military spokesman tried to excuse this inexcusable measure by arguing that the posting was not a promotion for the Brigadier’s conduct in Weliweriya; but a reward for his war-time services[ii].
Ordinary disabled soldiers are deprived of their salaries, for their wartime services; Brigadier Gunawardane is given a diplomatic promotion, for his wartime services.
According to The Sunday Times, a bipartisan resolution has been presented to the US Congress asking the Obama Administration to “place restrictions on the entry to the United States for anyone it identified as responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity”[iii] in Sri Lanka. The White Flag incident, if true, would definitely fall into the category of war crimes. And if the account in The Colombo Telegraph is accurate, the fingerprints of all three Rajapaksa brothers are prominent on the crime scene.
Basil and Gotabaya Rajapaksa are US-Lanka dual citizens, who travel to their homeland-of-choice quite regularly. If the resolution is carried and implemented, it will have a very direct impact on both of them. Keeping Brigadier Gunawardane happy would thus be an important consideration for the Ruling Siblings.
The war-winning army commander, General Sarath Fonseka, is also seeking judicial intervention. He has filed a case in the Appeal Court, against the UDA for illegally taking-over his land. The plot was given to him in 2009, as per a government decision to award land to the three war-winning service commanders. When Gen. Fonseka fell from grace, the UDA seized his land. “It is an illegal takeover. When a land is taken-over the owner must be informed and compensated. None of that was done. The Defence Secretary took over this land using his limitless powers,” the former army commander said[iv].
If these three incidents do not make Sinhalese and especially Sinhala-Buddhists understand the real nature and purpose of Rajapaksa patriotism, nothing will.
Aristotle cautioned, “A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler who they consider to be god-fearing and pious”[v]. This is true of patriotism as well, where it is accorded a religious veneer.
‘Blood-and-faith’ patriotism is the political religion in Rajapaksa Sri Lanka. The President often exhorts young people to be faithful to the motherland, once, twice and thrice. And in this political religion, the Rajapaksa brothers are the prophets and the popes.
According to media reports, a presidential election might be held in late 2014 or early 2015. The ‘blood-and-faith’ patriotism will be a key component of the Rajapaksa electoral platform. That electoral platform cannot be dismantled without exposing and debunking the patriotic lie which is at its very core.
Boru Bala Sena
If the BBS/JHU/BNP stalwarts are serious about their patriotism, they should have organised demonstrations in support of the disabled soldiers who have been deprived of their livelihood by the defence authorities. But their allotted tasks are otherwise. The BBS is trying to incite anti-Muslim hysteria; perhaps the Rajapaksas think that anti-Muslim politics is the way to Narendra Modi’s heart. The JHU and the BNP have started screaming against the 13th Amendment, predictably[vi]. Expect them to wallow in ‘13th Amendment is separation’ madness, so that Mahinda Rajapaksa can lay claim to ‘I am the Moderate, keeping the fanatics at bay’ title, again.
In Europe, humanist thinking paved the way for democratic politics. The freeing of man from the divine paved the way for his political liberation. Democracy would have been impossible without the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka we are witnessing an antithetical process. The ‘blood-and-faith’, ‘Motherland first, second and third’ political religion is becoming as compulsory as Islam is in Saudi Arabia. Those who refuse to accept its monstrous tenets or question its hypocritical workings risk being condemned as heretical traitors.
And its primary tenet is loyalty to the Rajapaksas.
Depriving disabled soldiers of their salaries is no bar to this religious patriotism; condemning the President and his brother for this rank injustice will be.
Umberto Eco pointed out, “For Ur fascism….individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People”[vii].
In the Tiger’s shadow, ‘Tamil people’ were everything, while flesh-and-blood Tamils, men, women and children, were nothing. Perhaps nothing symbolised this condition than that civilizational horror which the Tigers reserved for their own people – forcible child conscription.
Similarly, in the Rajapaksa-country, ‘War-Heroes’ are everything, while individual ‘war heroes’, soldiers who actually waged the war, are nothing. The ‘Patriotic People’ are everything while individual Lankans (including Sinhala-Buddhists) are nothing.
Little wonder that a Tiger leader like KP can transform his allegiance to the Rajapaksas.
Making ordinary Sinhala-Buddhists see through this giant Rajapaksa hoax is a sine-qua-non for defeating the Rajapaksas at any imminent national election.
[vii] Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Black Shirt