By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
Constitutions cannot resist tyranny. People do; or don’t.
Preventing the formation of a critical-mass capable of resisting the Rajapaksa- Behemoth would be of paramount importance for the Ruling Siblings.
An opposition which unites Lankans across ethno-religious/class-caste divides would be the ultimate Rajapaksa nightmare. The Siblings would be able to deal with a Sinhala opposition or a Tamil/Muslim opposition. But a Lankan opposition can mount an insurmountable challenge to Rajapaksa power. Consequently the Siblings would want to prevent any collusion between the Sinhala poor/middle-classes (impoverished by Rajapaksa-economics) and the minorities (disempowered by Rajapaksa-politics), against the one common enemy.
A wilfully blind, ignorant and phobic Sinhala nation is a sine-qua-non for an opposition fragmented along ethno-religious lines.
The Sinhalese must not understand that the aim of Rajapaksa politics is the creation of a Rajapaksa dynasty. The Sinhalese must not realise that the Rajapaksas’ counter-Robin Hood economic strategy seeks to extract every last rupee from the poor and the middle-classes to pay for the exhibitionist projects and orgiastic lifestyles of the Ruling clan.
Most Sinhala people still have faith in the myth of the Rajapaksa development miracle. They believe that the hardships they are experiencing are ephemeral, that an economic Shangri la of Rajapaksa making is just round the next bend. When an iniquitous price hike cuts them to the bone, they tell themselves that the Rajapaksas, as vanquishers of the LTTE, are worthy of blind-trust.
The LTTE was a serious impediment to the Rajapaksa goal of absolute and permanent power; thus winning the war was vital to Rajapaksa interests. There is no such axiomatic nexus between people-friendly development and Rajapaksa rule. On the contrary; the Rajapaksas are averse to sharing economic benefits (as they are loath to sharing political power) even with fellow Sinhalese. Their proclivity for centralisation extends to the economy as well. They regard national assets (including the exchequer) as their private property, to be used as they wish. Using financial-stalking horses and dummy-organisations, the Siblings are acquiring ever larger chunks of the economy. Rajapaksaising the economy is a necessary and inevitable component of the process of fusing the Lankan state with the Ruling Family.
The aim of Rajapaksa politics is Rajapaksa power; the aim of Rajapaksa economics is Rajapaksa profit.
Take, for instance, the defence sector which consumes the biggest slice of national income. According to a recent study on global defence corruption by the Transparency International, in Sri Lanka, “executive power almost exclusively controlled the defence sector, including authorising payments that are not vetted by Parliament or other departments” (Financial Times – 30.1.2013). The report mentions opaque purchases, ‘secret payments’ and military’s un-scrutinised encroachment of commercial spaces. National defence, like everything else, has become a Rajapaksa-business, for Rajapaksa-profit.
The Siblings are begging the IMF for another loan of $1 billion (even as they plan to spend Rs.15 billion to build a mega sports project in Hambantota for 2017 Asian Youth Games). In order to qualify for the IMF loan, the Rajapaksas will have to impose more indirect taxes and devalue the rupee further (causing price hikes) while slashing social spending (quantitatively and qualitatively eroding services indispensable to the poor and the middle classes).
The withdrawal of the GSP+ is beginning to affect the garment sector, causing factory closures and job losses. As the Rajapaksas continue to flout democratic norms and national and international laws in their pursuit of absolute and permanent power, more economic sanctions will be visited onSri Lanka. (Incidentally, the cost of these punitive measures will be borne by ordinary Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims and not the Rajapaksas. The Rajapaksas will not be daunted by any sanction which does not target them directly, such as a travel ban on the Ruling clan. Imagine the horror of not being able to go sightseeing/study/shop in the Imperialist West!)
European aristocrats sold their own land to maintain their extravagant lifestyles, and thus dispossessed themselves. The Rajapaksas, in order to maintain their rule, are selling land belonging to Sri Lankaand thus dispossessing Lankans. Currently the 13th Amendment is the only law preventing the Siblings from grabbing any land they please whenever they please. Ere long, the 13th Amendment will be replaced with the 19th Amendment and land turned into a centralised subject, amidst the collective ‘patriotic cheers’ of the Sinhala hardliners. After that, the Rajapaksas will be able to grab-and-sell land to any well-heeled foreigner at will, dispossessing Lankans (including many Sinhalese) of their homes and livelihoods.
The Sinhalese must be prevented from seeing this dystopian reality.
As the Sri Lanka Human Development Report 2012 warned, “Unless more and better jobs are created, unless the fruits of growth are more evenly distributed…..it might be difficult to contain social discontent”.
That discontent must be channelled away from the regime.
Thus the search for a suitable enemy….
Sowing National-disunity to Save Rajapaksa Power
A gaudily opulent public recreational area called the ‘WetlandsPark’ was built in a public land in Nawala, at the cost of Rs.81 million of public funds. After a few days of egalitarianism, a ban was imposed on three wheelers and motorcycles using the car park. By this means, access to the new park was restricted to the poor/middle classes. The new ‘affluent’ face of the park is visible in the parked vehicles and the promenading owners.
Religious/racial populism is needed to hide this anti-popular nature of Rajapaksa rule.
President of Ecuador Jose Pepe Mujica, addressing the UN, asked, “Is it possible to talk of solidarity and of ‘being all together’ in an economy based on ruthless competition?”
In a county characterised by gross power and wealth imbalances, unity is possible only in the face of an overarching threat and against an omnipresent enemy.
For any despot threats and enemies are indispensable. They enable the normalisation of the abnormal and the justification of the unjustifiable; they create a siege mentality, which makes people act in ways which are in total variance with their humane instincts and enlightened self-interests. Threats and enemies are invaluable in persuading a populace to acquiesce in their own subjugation; when people feel threatened, they tend to implement/tolerate deeds they would not countenance in psychologically less exerted times.
When fate is not considerate enough to provide a despot with a suitable enemy, he conjures one.
Take Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s self-declared modern day Pharaoh. In 2010, the Mubarak regime accused a fundamentalist Islamic group (linked to Al-Qaeda) for a drive-by shooting in Nag Hammadi and the bombing of the Al-Qiddisine church in Alexandria. Subsequent information indicates that these attacks were orchestrated by the Mubarak regime. “The diplomatic papers, first cited by Al-Arabiya Arabic news channel, allege that former interior minister Habib El-Adly established a black ops unit in 2004, supervised by 22 security officers, with drug dealers, Islamic militants and security personnel on its payroll. The unit’s role: carry out false flag acts of provocation and sabotage around the country aimed at diverting people’s attention away from the regime’s corruption and unpopular political manoeuvres” (IPS/ICH – 13.3.2011).
As economic conditions worsen, the Rajapaksa-need for a suitable enemy will intensify. Who better than a racial/religious other?