By Sarath de Alwis –
‘Viyath Maga’- Professionals for a better future is the latest spectacle or circus in town. The Rajapakse brothers Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil occupying the front row at the ‘Viyath Maga’ event explains the purpose of the well-choreographed spectacle. Also seen in the front row in rapt attention were, former CJ Sarath N Silva, former Central Bank boss Niward Cabraal and Professor G.L Peris, proven trapeze artists in disciplines of Law and Finance. That makes it a circus.
The former defense czar Gotabya Rajapaksa told the estimated two thousand plus purported ‘professionals’ that the country can be redeemed only by daringly decisive action. He described how land across the Galle face promenade was released for a massive hotel project. The move to transform a war weary ‘Serendib’ in to an overnight ‘Shangri-La’ was made with lightning speed said the macho mustachioed soldier son of D.A Rajapaksa who according to legend, followed the leader whose Russian made bronze statue now appears in sprint, hurrying away from the Rajapaksa Shangri-La.
Politics is a competitive game. In this game, immoral people who have no regard for truth command a decisive advantage over those who play by the rules. The professionals of the Viyathmaga are good at making their own rules. It has assembled a group of people with varied talents, proficiencies and interests. Its composition is a commentary on the exceptional abilities of Gotabaya Rajapaksa who is undoubtedly a man of decisive action. They are professionals and academics. They are also the left over remnants of the oligarchy that thrived under the previous regime. The bulk of that oligarchy has successfully ensconced themselves under the benign sanctuary of the more pragmatic business as usual faction of the UNP.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa has a critical approach to power dynamics of the land. He is a maestro in orchestrating interactions among influential stakeholders. They include businessmen, political elite, the military and the media. He also has the uncanny gift of locating and mobilizing potential talent who can serve the family project. He commands the abiding loyalty of a privileged few in the military who enjoyed his largesse when in office.
They are positioning themselves to reverse the gains of 8th January 2015. We ignore these signs at our own peril.
We live in dangerously tumultuous times. A vast segment of our populace do not know what democracy means. A small but a significant segment of the urban middleclass decided enough was enough under the Rajapakse monolith and opted for the common candidate. It was this segment of the middleclass that made the transition from an autocracy to a democracy. They were willing to risk short term democratic chaos instead of stability under coercive autocracy.
Today, these positive middleclass attitudes towards democratic institutions are beginning to falter. The goons of the GMOA were docile disciplined doctors under the Rajapakse regime. Some even doctored postmortem reports for the convenience of the regime. The Sinhala middleclass mostly monolingual is not convinced of the virtues of democracy as is the case in India where independence from the Raj did not undermine the achievements of Thomas Babington Macaulay. The mostly monolingual Sinhala middleclass is middleclass only in terms of affluence. Its ethical priorities are shaped by Buddhist priests such as Elle Gunawansa and Bengamuwe Nalaka seen at the Viyathmaga conclave carrying the authority of saffron robe and Talipot palm leaf fan.
We are yet to understand the meaning and vitality of life in a democracy. Democracy has to be lived and experienced. The millennial generation knows of only a shadowy democracy with periodic manipulated elections held under the pressures of a civil war. Our youth are largely monolingual and insular. While they are comfortable with the IPhone, they are absolutely uninformed of the trajectory of progress that moved humans from the dialing up telephone to broadband access. Our adolescents including my own grandchildren cocooned in limitless connectivity equate progress, development and democracy with shopping malls and access to global brand names.
This is fertile ground for matchless profundities. The Political Scientist, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka tells the professionals gathered at the Viyathmaga, that we should appoint middle class educated professionals to cabinet office as in Ruwanda, Cuba, Singapore and Iran.
So, after two years of incompetent but largely non coercive democratic governance we are advised that we should bring back the revolutionary guards out as in Iran, install as in Cuba, our own Raul [sic] Gota as President, impose our own Hutsie Tutsie reconciliation as in Rwanda. Facilitating a branch of Mount Elisabeth hospital as in Singapore would be the concession from the Island state of Singapore that is familiar to the Rajapaksa clan.
The author of ‘Ranamaga Ossey Nandikadal’ who attributes his good fortune of witnessing his troops dropping Pirpaharans body at his feet to the constant Bodhipooja and prayers of his wife at the Bellanwila temple told the professionals that he notes the disturbing new developments with grave concern. He was ready to come forward to thwart any attempts to divide the country.
Former SEC boss Nalaka Godahewa warned that the professionals were ready to contribute their expertise to the next government. In a retrospective assessment of the shape of the economy in the last one and half years, he waded in to grounds that angels usually fear to tread. He cited the national debt as a percentage of GDP then and now.
This on a personal note. I have few friends. I look back on more years and look forward to less years. I do not wish to hurt my friends. The father in law of Nalaka Godahewa is a dear friend. It compels me to be gentle.
To most people, economics is a dismal science. But as the Economist and political theorist Murray Rothbard advised us “it is totally irresponsible to have loud and vociferous opinions on economic subjects while remaining in a state of ignorance.”
I presume Mr. Godahewa is unaware of the foreign borrowings by government owned undertakings under the previous regime. What the professionals, pretentious or genuine should know is that the Rajapaksas hocked this land to the hilt.
True. The two man show of Maithri and Ranil is a tragicomedy. As with all tragicomedies, the seriousness of the Prime Minister and the President causes laughter. Their pain very often give us pleasure as in the matter of Bonds.
We must remind the President that his election was possible only with the near total vote of the Tamils in the North. As President in his second year in office, he decides on the venue of a military camp in the North, to declare his determination to protect ‘Ranaviruwas’ of Military Intelligence from possible prosecution for alleged wrongdoings. Who can beat the dark and bitter truth and tone of this tragicomedy?
We owe this irrational moral conundrum of the President to the genius of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. As de- facto head of the Military, Gotabaya manipulated the Military and muted the media. He jailed the General who commanded the troops and sang the praise of the soldier ‘Apen Ekeki Me Minisa’.
The latest pronouncement of Athuraliye Rathna thero is nauseating humour or more simply a sick joke. Some of the Journalists who vanished or assaulted were traitors and spies he said accusing some unknown officials of harassing the valiant war heroes.
Lest we forget, the passage of the 18th Amendment and installation of Mohan Pieris as the highest arbiter of the law of the land removed all vestiges of democracy under the rule of the Rajapaksa regime.
The proceedings of the ‘Viyathmaga’ confab calls for a concerted response from all who cherish the democratic freedoms we have regained at the last Presidential election. We must again commit ourselves to fight as passionately as democracy’s enemies pursue their goal of subverting democracy under the guise of professionals indignant with present governance.
It is well established that the previous regime, exploited the secrecy provisions of the security and intelligence apparatus to conduct illegal and ethically wrong practices and deeds. The former defense secretary was a feared source of immense power. He subverted political parties, trade unions and civil society groups. What will happen if Gotabaya Rajapaksa becomes our next president or prime minister?
A farsighted political scientist is on record with an apocalyptic reading. The following passage given in parenthesis describes what we should expect in that unlikely event.
‘Given his well-known views on security, human rights and allied issues, he will adopt hawkish positions on the north and east and on dissent in the south. The North will get the Gaza treatment. In the South, the Weliweriya doctrine will be more in evidence than not. There will be two, three many Rathupaswelas. The hardline will include neo isolationism in foreign relations, a firmer positioning an Islamabad Beijing axis and greater reliance on Israel. The deep state will rise. Post war Sri Lanka will be transformed in to a garrison state. The role of the security establishment in society, economy and the state as well as its weight in the policy process will take a quantum leap on the model of the national security state in pre democratic Latin America , Turkey and South East Asia.’
This smart reading of possibilities under Gotabaya appeared in the Colombo Telegraph of 4th June 2014.
The ‘Viyathmaga’ was no conclave of professionals. It was an impressive tribal war dance. The famed Swiss psychologist Carl Jung has interviewed the two arch villains of the twentieth century Hitler and Musolini and written about the dictator state.
Dictators are tribal leaders. The tribe has its personal ruler. He surrounds himself with his own particular followers, who become an oligarchy. Then the ‘State’ takes his place. The State is a ghost, a mirror-reflex of the personal ruler. The Ghost state creates its own oligarchy. The state, like the church, demands enthusiasm, self-sacrifice and love, and if religion requires or presupposes the “fear of God,” then the dictator state takes good care to provide the necessary terror.’
Dr. Seetha Arambepola consultant ENT surgeon and professional who addressed the Viyathmaga summed up the exercise poignantly baring her tortured and wounded soul.
She quoted Kunkunawe Hamuduruwo who lamented that the Sinhala tribe had lost its king. Rajek Labunothin Perehera Karangnam Kavum Kiribath Uyannam. When we get a king we shall conduct pageants and make ‘Kawun’.
That is folklore of the Kandyan kingdom. I do not know who coined the other saying or when. Probably a learned Sinhala Professional of the caliber of G L Peiris or Sarath Silva would have coined the phrase Sinhalaya Modaya Kawun Kanta Yodaya. Imagine, an ENT surgeon stone deaf to demands of Democracy, crying out for the restoration of the dethroned tyrant King!
Even the current dispensation has its choir of Professionals dispensing wisdom on agenda driven TV channels hosted by anchors in love with their own affected Sauerkraut diction. But that is for another day.