By Emil van der Poorten –
How long the people of this country are going to keep “tightening their belts,” “grinning and bearing” etc. Etc. before there is another explosion like the first Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) uprising of 1971 is anyone’s guess. The fact that such as Rohana Wijeweera’s Che Guevarists could emerge from the ranks of the Rajapaksa Horde shouldn’t be cause for surprise if one were to examine the history of Sri Lanka in the latter part of the 20th century. Any student of that time or even those who were simple onlookers will recall that those who took up arms against the Sirimavo Bandaranaike regime were those, in fact, she had readied to rise against Dudley Senanayake if he had won the 1970 election or had chosen not to hand over power in the event of his defeat. These were to be her storm-troopers in the event of either of those eventualities and I distinctly remember the events after the I970 election, particularly since it was my first experience of being politically “targeted.” Given that history, there is every likelihood of the young and disenchanted of this country turning against a United National Party (UNP)-led government that is very obviously playing “footsie” with the Rajapaksa Remnants and from which it is getting more and more difficult to differentiate it. The not-insignificant minority that is still clinging to the MARA satakaya, is, with relatively few exceptions, doing so in the sincere belief that MR is representative of some form of social justice. Every person at the well-attended rallies for MR wasn’t paid for with a “bath packet” and an “arakku bagey.” When that element of the current Rajapaksa supporters realise that MR is part of the problem and certainly not part of the solution, the fun is going to begin! Once the government of the day – United Front for Good Governance – or whatever other multi-initialled conglomeration claims to be in “opposition” to it – is exposed for what it is, they will try to “do something about it!” In fact, the chances are that history will force them into some form of rebellion. The fact that uprisings of that kind were met with ruthless cruelty in the past is not going to be any real deterrent. If one compares the two JVP-led rebellions – that of 1971 and the subsequent one in the mid- to late-eighties – it will be patently obvious that the cruelty, inclusive of the bodies of youth being incinerated on tyre pyres in 1971 did not deter those who took up arms in the subsequent rebellion. In fact, the second time around the JVP gave better than it got in 1971 in the matter of torture and wanton killing of the cruellest kind, by all accounts.
How the armed forces of this country, from “dog soldiers” to senior officers, numerically equivalent to the Russian army, is going to react to a major social upheaval is going to be the very big question. Will the largely-peasant youth, trained in the use of state-of-the-art weaponry “follow orders” and shoot down those who might, literally, be their brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers as they did at Rathupaswela or will they do what the sailors did at another place in another time and create a Sri Lankan Battleship Potemkin, a centre of revolt against the government, with even the officer class joining the peasant private? There is a historical precedent to such an alliance: Mikhail Tukhachevsky, a cadet in the Czarist officer school, became the first field commander of Leon Trotsky’s Red Army, and at the age of 21 at that!
All of the preceding is perhaps the most circuitous route I’ve ever used to get to the pith of a piece of this kind! For that I make no apology because I do believe that context or surrounding fact is essential in any discussion of matters of this import.
Even if the current government – “coalition,” “national” or “bound –by-simple-self-interest” – take your pick of qualifier, is, by its very philosophy, destined to end up in conflict with the broad mass of the people, it can, if it begins to show signs of a return to at least the superficial manifestations of democratic practice, diffuse disenchantment or delay outright rebellion. The people of this country have to be truly weary of confrontation, particularly of the violent and armed kind, and are still likely to grasp at any straw of negotiated resolution in their war-weariness.
One option to avoid or at least delay the kind of confrontation that I describe has been frittered away by the Wickremesinge/Sirisena bunch. That is the active and effective pursuit of those who have raped and pillaged this country in the Rajapaksa years.
The Sirisena/Wickremesinghe agglomeration has done little but huff and puff about massive theft by members of the previous regime. It has done little but pursue the likes of Wimal Weerawansa’s wife for an offence, criminal if proved, but which pales into insignificance when compared to the establishment of a private army using the resources of the state! Where are your priorities Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister or are you, as those “Jungle Newspapers” keep suggesting, complicit in the problem and therefore, incapable of contributing to the solution?
I have, more times than I care to remember, referred to the “insurance buyers,” in the UNP’s hierarchy and there is no indication whatsoever of their activities being curbed leave alone them being prevented from taking a government loudly proclaiming its virtue farther down the path that will ultimately destroy the rest of us while they enjoy their retirement in some tax-free haven!
Soon we will be celebrating the first anniversary of the defeat of the most violent, corrupt and dictatorial of government in all of Sri Lanka’s history. Come the 8th of January 2016, what will we have to celebrate apart from empty slogans?
Which of the bandits who robbed the public coffers will be behind bars or even being tried in court?
Which of the murderers, torturers and “disappearers” of our fellow citizens will so much as have their passports impounded?
How is it that our current government has chosen not to bring Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan aka “Karuna Amman” to justice or at least proceed to investigate the fact that he is accused of presiding over the execution of 600 unarmed policemen in the Eastern Province after they had surrendered, at the direction of President Premadasa, to the forces he commanded?
How is it that K.P. Pathmanathan (one of his better known aliases) is running free in this country doing “business as usual,” when he is on the Red List of Interpol for being the conduit for arms to the Liberal Tigers of Tamil Eelam when they were an internationally-declared terrorist organisation murdering and dismembering Sri Lankan civilians left, right and centre and even assassinating a leader of our giant next door neighbour? I suppose it would be considered inappropriate to mention the two “Masters” who served as Prabhakaran’s lieutenants and were given “get out of jail free” cards by the previous regime!
What has become of the oft-repeated promise that Tiran Alles would be taken into custody and charged for the disappearance of hundreds of millions of dollars meant for building houses destroyed by the tsunami and where not one house was built!
These are but a few of the plethora of organisations and individuals, internationally recognized as terrorists or accused of monumental thievery that the Sirisena/Wickremesinghe government has chosen to ignore and not even make a nominal effort to bring to justice.
The scene before us is not only beyond reality it is simply obscene!
Both the current President and the current Government were clearly elected to clean out the Augean Stables that passes for “governance” in Sri Lanka. Neither of them appear to have the will to do so and we are entitled to ask, “WHY have you chosen this path?
Even if it is by default, the JVP is beginning to look like the only light at the end of the Ranil Wickremesinghe/Maithripala Sirisena-created tunnel. One can but hope that Anura Kumara Dissanayake will continue to tread the road to probity and measured sanity on which he appears to have set his sights and that his existing cadre will support him in that endeavour and that honest people of ability will swell the JVP’s ranks, both numerically and qualitatively.
It’s sad when thousands of years of civilization has to look to the successors of a poseur playing at Ernesto Guevara, complete with jauntily-set beret, for redemption, but, as they used to say in another place and in another time, “You dance with the one who brung ya!”