By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“Hiding base sin in pleats of majesty…” – Shakespeare (The Rape of Lucrece)
Maithri Bhavana, the cultivation of benevolence towards all living beings, is an extremely popular form of meditation in Buddhism. The state-owned SLBC has a regular programme on how to practice Maithri Bhavana. That programme, until very recently, was called, Maithri Bhavana.
Suddenly the SLBC changed the name of the meditation programme, from Maithri Bhavana to Meth Vadamu.[i]
Obviously this ludicrous decision had the approval of the Rajapaksas, because Minister Keheliya Rambukwella defended it at a recent media conference. He said the change was made probably because meth vadamu has a nicer ring to it!
The Rajapaksas have a thing about names; thus Mihin Air, Mihindu Sevana, and Mahindodaya – all various versions of Mahinda, the President’s second name. Given this obsession, the Siblings are going to have a major problem with Mr. Sirisena’s name, this election season. Not only is ‘maithri’ a key concept in Buddhism; according to Buddhist beliefs, the next Buddha will also be called Maithri. So the Rajapaksas face a steep task, banishing that unacceptable name from the public domain and replacing it with a suitable alternative.
(Perhaps any Buddhist, layperson or monk, who refuses to abide by the new term, can be condemned as a traitor, in the pay of the conspiratorial West and the evil Diaspora?)
The name-changing incident, ludicrous in the extreme, demonstrates the lengths to which the Rajapaksas will go, to win this election.
Last week, a householder in Divulapitiya who objected to a Presidential cut-out being erected in his own land was beaten up by a bunch of thugs, led by the chairman of the Divulapitiya Pradesheeya Sabha.[ii]
The Rajapaksas are to have their inaugural presidential election rally at the Anuradhapura public playground. So the public playground is being covered with concrete, at public expense, to banish mud and beautify the venue. This concretisation is said to cost Rs.10 million. Sports unions and people of the area are reportedly appalled by this act of vandalism but their voices are being ignored.
(Ten million rupees of public money wasted on a meeting which will last three hours. This, incidentally, is the same government which is refusing to pay disabled soldiers the back-pay they are legally entitled to. On Saturday, about 300 disabled soldiers protested outside the Temple Trees requesting that they be given a chance to inform the President about this injustice.[iii])
Politicians in Sri Lanka regularly use public playgrounds for political meetings. But when Rajapaksas have their meetings, the playgrounds have to be beautified with concrete, so that no besmirching mud is extant. According to media reports, this same vandalism was committed on the playground of the Rajarata University for the President’s recent Mihintale meeting. A playground near the Matale Junction in Anuradhapura met with the same wasteful fate[iv].
Ludicrous, wasteful and violent – it’s an election campaign which foretells the fate awaiting Sri Lanka, if the Rajapaksas win a third term.
Election as War
The Rajapaksas were totally wrong-footed by the Maithripala-candidacy.
The Siblings clearly had it all planned. They got their green-pawns to push for Ranil Wickremesinghe to contest the election from the UNP, even as they readied everything for a blitzkrieg-type campaign against a Ranil-candidacy. As The Sunday Times reported, “Archival material in television stations were scoured to pick on material for humorous skits on Wickremesinghe. Formats for posters depicting the UNP leader in bad light were on the drawing boards. So much so, UPFA General Secretary and Minister Susil Premjayantha declared publicly that fifty percent of their campaign now was over….”[v]
Now the UPFA has to start literally from the scratch.
The point needs to be belaboured – the Rajapaksas cannot afford to lose power. Therefore they will do anything, absolutely anything including murder, to win this election.
Can Gotabaya Rajapaksa afford to lose power to a coalition which includes his arch-enemy Sarath Fonseka? Mr Rajapaksa humiliated Gen. Fonseka and even threatened to hang him publicly for being a traitor. Maithripala Sirisena has promised to restore to Gen. Fonseka the titles, medals and the pension the Rajapaksas, in their limitless vengeance, took away from him. What will Gotabaya Rajapaksa not do, to prevent that restoration?
Quite apart from seeing one’s hated enemy triumphant, can Gotabaya Rajapaksa go back to ordinary life? Mr. Rajapaksa was a middle-ranking military officer who became an ordinary hardworking émigré. When he was working as a UNIX administrator at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, his colleagues called him “George or Georgie…. He was a well-organized and careful administrator who rode the bus 30 miles to and from work every day….”[vi] Today the roads are closed whenever he sets forth with his massive security convoy. He’s the second most powerful man in Sri Lanka; he commands unlimited power and resources; he is above the law and norms. Can such a man even contemplate returning to ordinary life? Can even unlimited wealth compensate for the loss of such arbitrary and absolute power?
This is true for most Rajapaksa kith and kin, to varying degrees.
The Rajapaksas cannot afford to have a free and fair election and they will not. The sudden price decreases; the postponing of the sittings of the Uva Provincial Council on the grounds of ‘extreme cold’; the presidential cut-outs which litter the land; the entertaining of public officials at public expense for personal-political gain; the summoning of politically-appointed diplomats to campaign for their master; the ‘Gold Dansela’ – these are early indications of an election campaign which will be characterised by illegality and abuse. But appalling as these violations may be, they do not represent the real danger. The real danger will be violence, both targeted and indiscriminate; and massive rigging. Already concern has been expressed about a spate of sudden transfers at the Government Printers, where ballot papers are traditionally printed[vii].
The Rajapaksas cannot afford to lose power anymore than Vellupillai Pirapaharan could afford peace. Mr. Pirapaharan imposed an election boycott on the Tamil people in 2005 because he wanted war – and he knew it would be easier to push Mahinda Rajapaksa into a confrontation. He was right. That decision led to Mr. Pirapaharan’s own unheroic death and the death of his family (including the murder of his wife and young son, neither of whom were LTTE members). It also imposed an incalculable cost on the Tamil people and the Tamil cause.
Like Mr. Pirapaharan, the Rajapaksas will risk anything and sacrifice anyone to gain their own ends.
The Maithripala-saga would have exacerbated the Siblings’ family-centrism exponentially. If they win, by whatever means, they will make sure there are no more Maithripalas by further tightening their control over the SLFP. There will be a PM Rajapaksa and a Gen. Secretary Rajapaksa, apart from President Rajapaksa and Speaker Rajapaksa.
The Rajapaksas are fighting for their world. For them this election will be noting less than a do-or-die war. If the opposition, buoyed by its initial success, loses sight of this truth, it will play right into the waiting Rajapaksa-hands.
Lankadeepa – 5.12.2014
[vi] Far Eastern Economic Review – 6.3.2009