By Emil van der Poorten –
Given Sri Lankans’ penchant for crystal-ball gazing and analysis of everything from the future of the world, through the alleged conduct of Sri Lanka’s version of Murder Incorporated by a Deputy Inspector of Police to the newest forced genuflection of a teacher or rape of a minor by a prominent politician, or reign of terror conducted by our Rana Viruwo, I have, for a time at least, felt sort of left out of the national penchant for endless prediction.
Let me try to make amends this week!
I have been provoked by the most recent defection from the ranks of the United National Party (UNP), the “Grand Old Party,” as some laying claim to political erudition have dubbed it without any respect for the fact that it is the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln in the US that owns that term, one which hardly fits our more appropriately nicknamed the “Uncle Nephew Party.”
When Dayasiri Jayasekera left the UNP under a cloud of suspicion about being, literally, bought over by a regime that wouldn’t know Judas Iscariot from Mary Magdalene, the tongues began wagging again. Even if, in the last analysis, applying all that time and trouble to the behaviour of one to whom the term “political lightweight” would be an over-statement, it cannot be sufficiently emphasized that this is not a piece of aberrant behavior but just another link in the chain of endless corruption that seems the obsession of a government that epitomizes viciousness and totally unprincipled conduct.
Given that lengthy preamble, whoever has reached this point of my narrative is certainly entitled to a return to the pith of the argument!
I would suggest that a detailed recounting of the recruitments of the good, the bad and the ugly that now fill the ranks of the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) would make the gang that they started out with look like the “good guys” in some penny dreadful of the last century. After all, those who’ve extracted substantial bribes from the medical system, monopolized paddy purchasing in the North Central Province, or done the same to sand-mining from the Mahaveli would look like paragons of virtue beside those who’ve sexually harassed track athletes of international fame, shot to death several of their supposed political allies, and been accused of raping children.
A little example of the hypocrisy of this bunch is the fact that when one particular UNPer was recruited on to the benches of the government, one of the senior UPFA members of the time made a great to-do about having to occupy an adjacent seat. Do I have to remind anyone of where these two “gentlemen” continue to park their behinds?
This, though is the strength of Mahinda Rajapaksa: his ability to inveigle members of the opposition into joining him and crossing that last political Rubicon in Sri Lanka , one that cannot be re-crossed except in very rare and aberrant instances such as that of Karu Jayasuriya who, in the larger scheme of things, doesn’t amount to the proverbial “hill of beans.”
That Rubicon is certainly a River of No Return, if I might mix my metaphors (and continue to do so!), despite Ranil Wickremesinghe’s alleged strategy of leaving the possibility of a mass exodus from Mahinda’s ranks into his, duplicating what his mentor, J. R. Jayewardene and his father Esmond did to Mrs. Bandaranaike in 1964 when they enticed C. P. de Silva and company across what had been, up to that time, the Great Parliamentary Divide.
However, I believe that times have changed and the character of those likely to defect one way or another is totally different. C. P de Silva and Mahanama Samaraweera did not have a Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads in the form of charges of murder, rape and, perhaps worse. If the President lowers the Sword that only he has control over in an ultra-Gaullist constitution it will be, literally, “match over” for those he chooses to remove from his Circle of the Saved and the “executions” that follows could well be literal ones!
It is simply a matter of “hanging together or hanging separately.”
That is the uber-strength of the Rajapaksa Regime.
However, by the very nature of those with which this government has filled its ranks, it has created some problems that those imbued with cunning and craftiness but devoid of principle and intelligence invariably fall prey to. This is the central reality that alliances among the unprincipled are, by their very nature, fragile. How could comings-together held together by the glue of criminality provide anything resembling permanence? That would be a simple contradiction in terms.
The Rajapaksa Grand Alliance is constituted of those who simply are on the same side of the fences of criminality of one description or another and owe their survival to that fact. They cannot, therefore, provide anything resembling real continuing loyalty to the Rajapaksa Project. After all, the importation of camels for milk and ostriches for eggs hardly provides a link in a chain that includes rape and murder, crooked hedging deals, the defenestration of a estate manager trying to stop the illegal removal of timber resources from the estate for which he held responsibility, the importation of milk contaminated with poison or massive stock market manipulations. And please heed the fact that the foregoing is a seriously deficient list of the criminalities practiced in the name of governance in the Debacle of Asia!
The fissiparous tendencies can only multiply and the last straw that this Coalition of the Corrupt is clutching at is the fact that, even though dwindling, there is still loot available for plunder by this Kleptocracy. However, there is serious diminution there and, literally, only so many highway constructions and coal-fired power plants that can be milked for commissions and so many boutique hotels that can be constructed with laundered money.
The sixty four thousand or is it the sixty-four million dollar question in the era of Mr. 10% is when is this unholy coalition going to come apart? More important, is it going to result in a peaceful transition from one crooked lot to another or one that makes places such as Haiti look like epitomes of democracy and good order where the transfer of authority is a model of all that’s best in democratic practice? The facts, unfortunately, point to the negative extreme in a country already run by militias, armed to the teeth, looking after politicians operating at various levels of criminality on funds paid out of the public coffers.
One more time: “Welcome to the Debacle of Asia!”