By Lankamithra –
“Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash: your picture in the paper nor money in the back either. Just refuse to bear them.” ~William Faulkner
The official website of the President of Sri Lanka, reporting on a statement recently made by Maithripala Sirisena says thus: ‘even though some sections of the society entertain the thought that the present government would collapse today or tomorrow, he would not allow any room for it and he further stated that the Government will fulfill its duties and responsibilities within the appropriate time frame in accordance with the mandate of the people’. For a fantasy promoted by the defeated set of political vagabonds of the last regime, the collapse of the present administration remains just that, a fantasy, a pipe dream of huge magnitude- sometimes too sweet from which the dreamers refuse to wake up.
Power is a great aphrodisiac. Its lure is irresistible and amateurs blunder in its presence and blunder again and again, for without it, those who had it, once lost, look undressed and helpless. That is exactly how Basil Rajapaksa, who was once reckoned as the savior of Sri Lanka’s economy, behaved when he was the de facto second-in-command in the last regime. His fantasy collapsed overnight and when power departed from him, within forty eight hours of that monumental downfall of his pipe dream, he departed from the country and the people who gave him that power. The man was primarily responsible for the infamous impeachment of the then Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayke. When the Supreme Court led by the Chief Justice ruled that Basil’s pet project Divineguma could not be implemented as he wished, the corrective measure was not aimed at the project. Instead they pursued the Supreme Court and its Head who ruled that the contents of the Bill could not be put into effect as per the draft presented to the Court. Vengeance born out of indignity imposed by the Supreme Court’s decision was too strong for Basil to ignore. Hence, he managed to persuade his brother-President and his cohorts in Parliament to impeach the highest judicial officer in the country at the time.
Basil had too much at stake in the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, both personally and officially. He was dubbed the architect of the election victories in 2005 and 2010. He operated from the Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister. During the 2005 Presidential election Campaign, he actively worked for his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory and became an advisor to the President. In 2007 he was appointed as a National List MP for the Sri Lankan parliament. When the 2010 parliamentary election was announced, Basil contested the Gampaha district at which he secured a resounding victory.
Prior to his entry into Parliament, Basil claims to have worked for the late Gamini Dissanayake when Dissanayake was the Minister of Mahaweli Development and Lands and Lands Development. However, according to a very trustworthy source close both to Gamini Dissanayake and the Ministry of Mahaweli Development, this claim is grossly exaggerated. According that source, the story is thus: in the early nineteen eighties, when the Ministry of Mahaweli Development was in full swing, Mahinda Rajapaksa had approached Gamini Dissanayake and solicited assistance for Basil to be gainfully employed someplace. Gamini had placed him under a major sub-contractor in Mahiyangana as a coordinating officer. He did not have any office in the Ministry nor did he have any official channel to Minister Gamini Dissanayake.
Contemporary history being distorted by those in power is one of the commonest practices in any society. That distorted history about Basil Rajapaksa apart, it is unmistakably palpable that his elongated ego has played a crucial role in the way he conducted himself whilst in power. He was operating between more than two offices. In the Presidential Secretariat itself, he had an office immediately next to that of President, large enough to entertain even a party of visiting diplomats. What follows such egoistic longings is personal avarice and greed for more and more comforts. Resorting to whatever means, both. legal and illegal, legitimate and illegitimate, right and wrong, ethical and unethical, moral and immoral, as was exhibited by the President’s brother who was responsible for a sizeable chunk of the country’s annual budgetary allocations, would ultimately entail unsavory results. A manifestation of such unsavory results was Basil’s departure from the country within 48 hours of the elections- according to reports of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s own account Basil had not kept him informed of this sudden departure to the sunny Los Angeles, USA.
Basil’s arrogance of power was further strengthened by his idiotic decision to return to the Island. No sooner than he landed on Sri Lankan soil in Katunayake, was he taken into custody by those who were seeking to find the truth about various allegations and accusations that were floating in the country about his disreputable business and official activities. Basil never doubted about his invincibility. A man who lived a life of a prince during his elder brother’s reign, a man who provided his henchmen, both domicile and overseas, with a free leash to earn and earn more at the expense of the meager resources of the government coffers, is today trekking to the hills of Hultsdorf every other month. The sad and melancholy image of Jaliya Wickramasuriya, a nephew of Basil, being escorted out of courts recently was an unwilling victim of that wicked enterprise dominated by Basil, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother.
These are the people who constitute the core of the Joint Opposition (JO) that is dreaming about a collapse of the current government. They are the ones who pump unlimited amount of cash and other resources to the JO to organize spectacular events such as rallies and protest marches. In effect, they are fighting to protect their investment. Apart from the former First Family, all other members of the JO have a deeply entrenched vested interest in distracting the masses from this central character of the former regime, corruption and nepotism. Not only do they realize that their investments are threatened, they also understand the mortal threat to their political future, if the present government continues to be in power. Collapse of the current administration is not only a sine qua non for these swindlers of political power, it is their forlorn hope.
‘Collapse of the current government’ mantra is a refrain that these charlatans recite every day. Without having any notion of how a democratically elected government could collapse, even though the government is made up of two most dominant and seemingly mutually exclusive political entities in the country, they are engaging in a fantasy-ride. No SLFP Cabinet Minister member in the current government is likely to quit from government unless and until such quitting could result in the fall of the government. In 1964, when C P de Silva and thirteen MPs crossed over to topple the then government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, at the negotiation sessions with J R Jayewardene and Dudley Senanayake, the only demand that C P de Silva put forward to J R and Dudley was the assurance of the collapse of the government. J R at the time, the supreme architect of politics, and Dudley gave that assurance. C P knew that he could trust both those gentlemen. Then only did he make that historic crossover. There is no such circumstance present today. Lure and magic of power is too seductive to deny for the mundane Ministers of today. Collapse of the government, as discussed within the Colombo corridors, within seminar halls and in PowerPoint presentations of the so-called intelligentsia and social clubs of the Pukka-sahibs of the twenty first century would remain a pipedream and a fantasy dwelling in a group of lotus eaters.
The past regime was an existential threat to the very survival of our free and democratic way of governance and life. The Rajapaksas being out of power is no excuse to celebrate, nor should it be regarded as another defeated set of political crooks. The threat remains as long as every man, woman and child gets attracted towards the cheap propaganda emanating from the megaphones of the Joint Opposition. On the other hand, neither should we take our attention away from the current administration and allow its political mechanics to run amok, nor let them stagnate in a bureaucratic swamp. As I wrote in the early part of this column, power is a very powerful aphrodisiac. Its corrupting scents, its seducing touches, its alluring signals and its all-encompassing passion do not take a long time to corrupt a few who might have let their armor down. That is the time these powerful agents of corruption and dishonor attack you. All humans are susceptible to the vagaries of power. Those who plan for decades ahead only would survive to tell a pleasant tale.
*The writer is available on firstname.lastname@example.org