By Vishwamithra –
“Anarchy does not mean out of control; it means out of their control.” ~ Jim Dodge
Chamal, Mahinda, Gotabaya, Basil, Namal and Shashendra, these men are all of the Rajapaksa clan. Chamal, Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil are sons of D A Rajapaksa; Namal is Mahinda’s son while Shashendra is Chamal’s son. Brothers, uncles, sons and nephews, a genesis sourced to D M and D A Rajapaksa, two brothers in the Ceylon State council era, have come to rule Ceylon and are alleged to have made millions and billions of dollars and rupees, not by legal and other legitimate means but by plundering the national coffers of the country they happen to govern. In the sphere of nepotism they have driven the Bandaranaikes to marginal values while in corruption they are way ahead of all known and unknown crooks.
These political mobsters have come to power by accident of birth (by virtue of parental or sibling’s involvement in politics) and in their unrelenting effort to own the country’s coffers and divert whatever cascaded from those coffers to their own pockets is no fresh enlightenment either.
Their plunder has caused the country dearly. Their launch into plundering was very much tied up with the Tsunami Funds. From then on, commissions ill-earned from excessive borrowings from China for construction and improvement of infrastructure facilities in the country are not merely a catchword coined by the Opposition; it’s an authentic expression of a defined set of expenditures undertaken for and on behalf of the land they preside over. Ever since Mahinda came to power in 2005, the unrestrained spending they committed to has now come to eat them alive. The fundamentals of balancing a budget have evaded them and instead of those who committed that mortal sin, it’s the country and its inhabitants who have to suffer scarcities and brutal living conditions.
Buttressed by the bond of blood these fathers and sons and uncles and nephews ventured into a gruesome spending spree, the direction and the pace of the drift became way out of control long before the roof started coming down on the country over the last couple of weeks. When the country ran short of its dollars, it ran out of cooking gas, petrol and diesel became scarce, medicine became a luxury and agricultural output reached dismal levels.
In their mad rush to enrich themselves beyond any tolerable levels, they completely forgot about the masses; their indulgences became more focused on making more to such a hilarious extent, even the Covid pandemic was used as a financial platform from which they could launch their greedy and avaricious ambitions.
But the economy of the country did not behave the way these swindlers wanted it to behave. Economy has its own inherent character; although it is part and parcel of society, it could be independent in its interactive patterns given a specific context; its performance, more often than not, could be ascertained and fairly accurate forecasts can me calculated regarding its immediate, medium and long-term behavior. It did not matter to these uneducated brothers, uncles and nephews. They were so engrossed in the aforementioned greedy lifestyles and decadent social practices, they were either totally indifferent to or willfully disregarded the drastic effects of their political and social conduct on the mass of the population. When the point of no return was reached, the economy turned its deriding disguise more towards the people; they indeed hit them so hard and with enormous consequences to their monthly expenses; but it took a little time to dawn on the brothers and nephews and hence their belated response or lack thereof as seen during the last two weeks.
After the protesters surrounded Gotabhaya’s residence, the Rajapaksas were dumbfounded and staggered. Both Mahinda and Namal paid a visit to the besieged Gota the day after and the optics of that picture must have been very negative in that the country’s President being besieged by a mere one thousand protesters is absolutely dismal to the eye. Whoever advised the senior Rajapaksa to visit his President who happens to be his own brother had given very damaging word of advice.
Now the situation is way beyond control. Resignation of the Cabinet, declaration of curfew followed by invocation of Emergency Regulations all had their respective negative optics as was seen later. The protesters do not simply seem to retreat. The Galleface Green, usually a picturesque landscape on which many a man and woman came to work out and stretch their limbs, has been turned into a fertile ground for political protest. Its close proximity to the President’s Office has doubled its value and the measures the protesters have taken to amalgamate their protest with such a vast real estate of greenery in Colombo city is telling a most ironic story of a nation gripped by hopelessness and despair.
Yet, as one social scientist uttered on one of those television programs, the sight of the country’s youth on parade for a national cause, in another manner, is a benevolent harbinger of things yet to dawn on our horizon. Absence of ethno-religious rhetoric, interaction among the diverse denominations of the country’s citizenry and clergy and above all nearly total void of violence are all gestures of a mature mindset of a young generation.
The brothers and nephews would not let go of their power-switches either. For them, leaving office in disgrace is something like a dishonorable discharge for a crooked soldier. Being ousted from power via any means other than an election bears multiple aspects with which the Rajapaksas are not equipped to deal. The youth of the country are not asking for their mere resignation; they are asking them to hand over not only power, they asking them to show where their ill-gotten wealth is and they are in fact asking the Rajapaksas to abdicate, lock stock and barrel.
If and when the cry of our youth reaches its crescendo, if and when the streets become impassable for want of space due to protesters’ marches, if and when the Sinhala New year celebrations become lackluster and thoroughly depressing, all parliamentarians who still identify themselves with the Rajapaksas- such as Johnston Fernando, Dinesh Gunawardana and the rest, would not have any space or room to run to. Their limbs fattened by the ignominiously collected wealth will give way and shades of violent revolution will color the pavements of our roads and paths. Let’s hope that the color is not red.
Two weeks have gone by and there is no end in sight for the protests. Nor are there any signs of the government making any meaningful effort to appease an angry people. The rage that is mounting with each passing day is engulfing the nation’s soul and it indeed is shining each day with brighter shades for the discipline and self-restraint on the part of the protesters is nothing but remarkable and praiseworthy.
It was March 31, when it all began opposite Gotabaya’s residence. At the time of writing this column it’s April 12, almost two weeks have passed by. On April 3rd the entire Cabinet of Ministers resigned. The country is being run by One President and four Ministers. It is fast approaching an anarchical state. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is yet to appear on public stage; he has not spoken to the people, his electors. Prime Minister Mahinda delivered an apology of an address. His reference to the way they won the war, the way the ’87-’89 revolution was scrubbed and the 6.9 million voter base was not only irrelevant, it was cruel, as one journalist penned it, sinister.
Parliament met for four consecutive days and once again proved that it is more a talk-shop rather than an assembly of people’s representatives. The youth of the country demands a complete transformation; a new change totally outside the box. In order to find any solution, the youth of the country say that the Rajapaksas have to bid adieu to politics. But the Rajapaksas cannot go, why? That is because they have no existence without power. It is not a rhetorical statement; it’s the hard truth.
What is left for the people? They are no more lured by crumbs; they are no more vulnerable to empty promises; they are certainly not impressed by yesteryear’s performances. They want results not now, not tomorrow, they want them yesterday! Driven to the extreme limits of patience, hard hit by scarcities of household essentials, crippled by lack of public transport for want of fuel, they are becoming increasingly frustrated and desperate. Their faith in the status quo is a vanishing element of life. And they are asking for anyone but the Rajapaksas.
In such a cruel context, the Rajapaksas know that they cannot accept a dishonorable discharge by the very people who elected them to power. The Head of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjit has been on war path for quite some time. Buddhist clergy and the Maha Nayake Theros are joining the spectacle, one by one. Maybe in one more week, all eminent members of all religious denominations might well get on the streets, asking the brothers and nephews to go home, renounce all their belongings.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never in the annals of Ceylon’s history, has so much been (un)done by so many in so few days. That is why the Rajapaksas are losing their grip on power. What can they do? Where else can they go? Plundering has to stop; deceit must be exposed and the perpetrators must be dishonorably discharged.
*The writer can be contacted at email@example.com