13 December, 2017

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What’s This Sudden Fuss & Buzz About Gota?

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Way back in the year 1988 an island-wide poster stamped in the public conscious the notion of political teaser advertisements. It was a simple question: මේ කව්ද? මොනවාද කරන්නේ (Who is this [and] what is he doing? It did not come in colors associated with any of the major parties. It was in orange. It was duly followed by a ‘response’ that began with ‘මෙයා තමයි…([he] is the one [who]…) and went on to detail achievements and pledges.

That was effectively the launch of Ranasinghe Premadasa’s presidential campaign. And the color made sense, because orange was the signature that marked his doings, especially the overhead walkways all over Colombo. It was an idea that is attributed to G.W. Surendra and Victor Hettigoda. It was executed by Arambawelage Don Upali Ranjith alias Soththi Upali, according to some the only person who could put up posters all over the country at the time. This was late 1988 and the punchi aanduwa (small government) of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) could prevail over the government in the game of hit and run.

That was a time when politicians and political campaigns used posters to almost the exclusion of other propaganda devices. We live in a different age and yet a poster can still create a buzz.

Here’s a poster that gave credence to the speculation that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa would contest the 2020 presidential election: ගෝඨා අපේ (Gota is ours). It was signed, ‘අපි වෙනුවෙන් අපි (us for ourselves),’ the tagline of the campaign to support the security forces during the last years of the war on terrorism, executed when Gotabhaya was the Secretary, Ministry of Defence. An exercise in branding, obviously.

A few days later, there’s a response. A single line against a white background with blood spots at the bottom: ගෝතා බය අමතකද (‘Gothaa Baya Amathakada’ or ‘Have you forgotten the “Gota Terror”? It’s a play on Gotabaya’s name. Gota has been corrupted to ‘Gothaa’ which draws from ‘Gothaya.’ ‘Gotha’ in colloquial Sinhala would mean ‘good for nothing’. Obviously someone clever with words would have come up with the corruption, but it reminds me of certain people in Colombo’s high society absolutely unfamiliar with the name (and its history) innocently mispronounced and even now mispronounces his name. For them it is ගෝතබයා (Gothabayaa).

Anyway, if you want to keep playing with names, then here are two that are pretty significant: a) Biyagama (Village of Fear, or Fearful Village) and Gam Udawa (Village Reawakening) which my father used to call ‘Gun Udawa’ or ‘The Reawakening of Guns’.

What is politically significant is the purpose of this poster war. The name-play poster was followed by one which directly referred to the pro-Gota poster. The line was ‘Api venuven mineemaruwek’ or ‘A murderer for us’. Goes with the blood-stains. Clever, some may think.

However, we need to ask some questions. If someone fears a good-for-nothing then doesn’t it say more about the fearful than the feared, especially since there was a poster just over a week ago claiming that the Prime Minister was ‘fearless’? And if the past is relevant, then we could go back as far as we want. If the supporters of this government did just that then this government would not be in power simply because the track records of the key figures including candidates, party leaders and an ex-president are not exactly untainted.

But what is this ‘baya’ or ‘fear’? I believe that the fear is legitimate on two counts. First we have the absolute power that Gotabaya arrogated upon himself. Nepotism might have resulted in the victory over terrorism, one might argue, and may have given Colombo the facelift and more that it sorely needed, but it also produced arrogance and abuse of authority, not to mention corruption if charges on such grounds are proven correct.

We can do without such fear. In fact this government was brought to power because a significant number of key players wanted to be relieved of such fears. The fact that this government retired the man feared but did not retire fear, so to speak, is of course something to think about.

However, if an identity-change is what we got then a switch-back won’t make things better, at best. No reason to support the present set of thugs of course, but the poster makes sense. The bloody part of it notwithstanding. ‘Not withstanding,’ one should add, because there’s exaggeration if not a lie right there if one subscribes to the dictum ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and because the finger-pointers have been part of bloody-regimes, the President and Prime Minister included.

There’s another ‘fear-element’ here. Fear of the man, not for the kind of thuggery he may unleash on the country, but the existentialist threat to those currently in power. In attacking Gota, the attackers (obviously those currently in power) betray a strong sense of unease. If Gota was not a threat, then why bother?

One remembers how J.R. Jayewardene in the first time candidates were given official airtime on TV, in 1982 dismissed the JVP candidate. He said (in Sinhala): Other candidates include Hector Kobbekaduwa (he dragged the ‘be’ to make it sound like the bleating of a goat) and Rohan (not Rohana)….(paused as though trying to recollect the name) Wijeweera of the Janatha Vimukthi Pakshaya (not Peramuna).’ Dismissive. Dismissed. Smart.In this instance, Gota’s detractors are raising his profile, elevating him to the candidate that he is not.

In other words, what all this indicates is that the government does not feel confident to face the people on its track record alone. It has to conjure ghosts of the past (selectively of course) and indulge in fear-mongering. No wonder that the entire pantomime was captured thus (in Sinhala) in social media:

ලසන්ත වික්‍ර​මතුංග වරෝ
එක්නැලිගොඩ වරෝ
තාජුඩ්න් වරෝ
කීත් නොයර් වරෝ
මැතිවරණ පැමිණ ඇතෝ

[Come, Lasantha Wickrematunge; come Ekneligoda, come Thajudeen, come Keith Noyhr….come, for elections have come]

The larger lesson is also about fear. The options expressed or implied by these various posters indicate that there’s someone we should fear and there’s someone who is fearful, both qualities that we should worry about. The truth is that any candidate who cannot or will not effectively represent is not a candidate worthy of a vote.

We do not need someone whose effectiveness is wrought (even in part) from the fact that his brother is the President. We do not need someone who is so insecure that he has to say ‘I am fearless’ and who (going by recent comments about the media) considers any criticism as ‘sinister designs to bring him down and bring back the previous regime’. What we should fear is the lack of a credible candidate or set of candidates or any kind of leadership among the major political configurations. That’s something to worry about because it sets the stage for the default option. We saw and we are seeing what that did after January 2015.

The politically intelligent thing to do, then, is to enjoy this poster-bickering, laugh out loud, and look elsewhere for political leadership.

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. malindasenevi@gmail.com. www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 9
    14

    Local and international Pro-LTTErs, separatists, anti- SL elements, whisky zipping political commentators, political hypocrisies, the underworld and the yahapa cronies etc., etc., are hell bent against Gota. Others feel relieve, not fear if he comes to active politics with the hope of leading the country from the year 2020!

    • 12
      7

      max

      If I ever possess state powers first I will deport you for carrying Dr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (DSc) back to your ancestors homeland (North or South India, you can chose your destination), Dr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (DSc) to States, …..definitely Dayan the public racist to North Korea (can be negotiated Kim Jong-un,) the grant dukes of Malawattu and Assgiria to Lumbini, Nepal or Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh to learn Buddhism from Dalai Lama.

      If you want we can arrange you to carry their b***s.

      • 5
        6

        NV,

        I have a better plan for Max Moron, and Jim shitty final destination thummulla handiya, as for K A sumane hes already resting in peace at medamulana waluwwa.

      • 4
        8

        And.. you NV can then be happyly comforting in side the amudes of Tamil chuvanist separatists like Viggz, Sivajilinkam, Sridharan etc., etc.

        Nice!

    • 6
      5

      Maximoron, you have not the least feelings about the nation.

      No matter anyone would hav ebeen murdered down, you would lick the balls of Rajapakshe for your own selfish agendas.

      Rajapakshes are murdereers. not once several dozens of times, they hav eproved it,
      But punnakku eating majority folks have been made blind by MEDIA prostitutes being bribed by them.
      PM has articulated it not once several times publicly, but MEDIA men would not seem to take the side of people.
      Lanka s problem is media nothing else.
      So long they keep the gulliable uneducated masses blind, nothing will work in the awarness program of them.
      Meaning, they will repeatedly vote for MURDERERS. Besides , uneducated men hidden behind Safron robes for their own sakes, may be being lazy to live by their own, but to abuse Sanga hood/monk hood behave like real pinguththarayas supporting Extremists forces rising up by Rajapakshes.
      For me, this country and nation can be blessed with good leaders, when Rajapakshes are prisoned, basta, the fact. … entire world will support it too.
      We just need, Murderers or high criminals to be prisoned and pave the way goodies to lead this nation. Be him RW or any others is not th eproblems.
      Rajapakshes and NFF men should be jailed for their rest of life.

      • 1
        2

        Buramphiisincho!

        How stupid would you be if you knew the English language a little bit better?

    • 7
      5

      Malinda, you are an educated idiot.
      You belong to the same bunch of Dayan who would do anything and everything protecting vicious bunch or work getting the back.

      I thought you are good guy, but I never thought you would do the same as being done by the other idiots. Education and background usually give a certificate about someone, but yours has been manipulated as is the case with rural masses in this country.

      This is so pathetic… NATION deserves a world free of Rajapakshe rascals. Basta.

    • 7
      3

      Mllinda Seneviratna,

      Did Gota increase your stipend and give you a bonus.

      Nobody wants Gota other than the cronies and shill and killers.

      People are reminded of the blood of Lasantha and others? Just a reminder for the low mean IQ 79 Paras.

  • 4
    4

    Native vedda
    When you munch on your idilly or vaddai have a thought about your great heroes like Sampanthan and Viggy who are waiting to be vapouurised like the 40000 other thosai munchers who vanished into thin air. Where are they? And where will you be? So hewers of wood and worshippers of stones and elephants and of lingams think of the superior people of Southern S L. When you next pour milk on those lingams. Prick worshippers of the world unite you have nothing to lose but your balls!

    • 0
      1

      Percy the pathetic

      What is your point if there is one?
      Do you type here only for the purpose of impressing your wife if you have one?

  • 6
    1

    We are not afraid to Gotabaya. Because We are not Mudukku Kudda, We are not NGO kakkas, We are not underworld, We are not kallathoni, We are not ISIS loyalist. We are only patriotic Sri Lankan.

  • 3
    1

    Widespread panic at his continuing popularity with Sinhala masses.
    Yeah Yeah, now the Tamil Tiger lovers will call him a “Racist” while ignoring their racist communal Tribal leaders.
    Fonseka will accuse the man who he went after to get is extensions and promotions from Maj-Gen to General.
    RW will threaten the media.
    It is widespread Panic in the not James but BOND gang of thieves about a “can do” “will do” “got it done” man

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 4
    9

    Nice piece. I was struck by the spelling (and by extension, pronunciation) of ‘Gotha-bhaya’ , rather than ‘Gotaabaya’.

    Its not just Colombo high society that sounds that way—it is a particular High Commission :))

    • 2
      2

      Dayan
      How does Lord Naseby pronounce it?

  • 4
    3

    A balanced well written piece.

  • 1
    0

    Whose shivers here ???????????? Those with hidden agendas??????

  • 0
    1

    The brand shows sign of fermenting.
    Listen carefully Malinda. Apart from the buzz and fuzz there is this hiss and fart.

  • 0
    1

    Dear Malinda Seneviratna and all participants,
    In early 2015 Sri Lanka was portrayed as a Nation ready to bring the culprits to books and salvage the Country from the precipice it is in. But you all are still hoping for the best for the Country and some of you feel hopeless as you see the Country continuing to indulge in more crime and more fraud. The hope for you is not given by anyone other than the same politicians who were in power and who were also responsible for rolling down the Country together with the previous regime! The two major political parties came to power alternatively on who oppress the minorities the most and instigated the voters against minorities. This pattern of taking power eventually made Sri Lanka lose its dignity and made to face war crimes and genocide. The voters encouraged by the successive powers to oppress by looting and occupying properties belonging to minorities are not satisfied if justice is given to victims. All responsible top executives, Police, and the tri-forces got recruited from the majority motivated against the minority. It is also sad the Journalists and public media or whoever voice support to victims are taken to task. The cream of the Academia, Finance, Public servants, Justice, and of course the Police and the Defense are all appointed with political motivation for a long time from 1950. After 2015 some of you may be expecting a change as promised to voters, but you all have seen the reality of how the top politicians repeat the same old oppression and dwindling the Country further.

  • 0
    1

    Bloody hypocrite, Migs that was rejected by Chandrika’ regime since it was more than 25 Years old got a new birth certificate during MR’; and finally the price was adjusted to double the price and finally Lasantha had to pay dearly for it. During the 88 insurgencies ran away from the country citing medical reasons and worked as a data entry operator in LA.Only he knows how many he killed.This is a blessed country. There’s a thing call RETRIBUTION. he may be having sleepless nights. His days are numbered. Ranil is blessed if he becomes his opponent.

  • 0
    1

    Lack of options should not lead the people to look at leaders with questionable integrity. Need of the hour is for a national leader and not a Political leader. People should realize that no Rajapaksha will be in power as a single person. It will always be as a clan. So do we need that again? By 2020 this country will have a completely a different leader .commeth the hour commeth the man .

  • 0
    0

    Malinda only a storyteller never has been an effective political writer. Still, the important part of posters, as he pointed out, not the “Appe Brother Prince”, rather remembering his Yakaka blood spilling part, though not in the reason the way Malinda points out. The biggest opponent of “Appe Brother Prince” is the Old King. In his vocabulary, there are only two, are “Appe King and Appe Son Prince”. It was never “Appe Brother Prince.” One day Tamil may get devolution, but no ways it can become “Appe Brother Prince”. That is where, in writings, Malinda is careless Sinhala Buddhist Extremist but Thero effective and careful smart Patriot. Though Malinda avoided mentioning the King’s opinion on this was Mangala deed, he did not retract on the truth, the pan is warming for to get ready for the Local Government election – everything circle around the election campaign – only Local government. There are many names are appearing, hire fire breathing on the media as highly active gambling figures for this “Only Local – not General”. So far Mangala has not been one in them.
    Malinda started with Richard P’s posters, where accusing and the reply were prepared by the same hand. The King had accused that Mangala for the countering posters and that is why he said Pasting of original posters were a wrong action. He said Brother Prince is a Modaya, doesn’t know politics. We don’t know what definition of politics in that sentence is. Posters did not imply Brother Prince Name for any elected position either. Still King felt exposing Brother Prince to public with benevolent messages is damaging for him. I don’t know, if there was any opinion expressed whether it was a positive comment of negative comment about the poster of “Appe Brother Prince” by the brother Prince himself.

  • 0
    0

    I do not know if he had expressed any opinion about a person’s freedom of exposing him to public, or he has not commented if his consent was sought and obtained either. We do not know if the said “Trader” would face any consequences for posting those from King or the Prince.
    Mangala is known for dangerous level of verbal lying at international level. But it is open always to media and no further known negative practical activities from him. If there was anything hidden of Mangala, it would not have missed, but would have surfaced when his Laptop Computer was stolen from his house. There were strong indications that who had stolen his computer. They were disappointed by the emptiness of it. No hold on Mangala was gained or files opened up against him. Now the accusation is point blankly that it was Mangala did the second set of posters. If the second set was by Mangala and first set was by a Joint Comedy Club’s “Trader”, then Malinda’s flamboyant start of Richard. P’s accusation and answer posters are only an excessive dramatization story telling. It may not be in the interest of a political point.
    Whether Malinda is success in dramatizing the posters or not, but what he said about 1988 posters was true, for everybody’s knowledge. Suppose one doesn’t know the truth of that; then let me ask question that one. It is a no brainer one! Election was in December 1988. If a question is about the government and one person from the ruling party lead in the election and the answer turning out to be positive on the image of the person, and the question dies without further hisses, then it is too hard to believe that the question and the answer were political campaign for the person who was active in the issue?

  • 0
    0

    Here the situation is different. The first set was not accusing the government of what the heck is it doing. The Answer is not to boost the image of the person, but it is severely damaging to the person mentioned in the first set, though it was not new information or unknown secret. Two things: 1).The person who released the Posters is a customary master on these games -defaming or Mudslinging. 2) The person was in a handicap situation, so not being able to come out to the light and campaign against the Old Brother Prince. So the poster game is an easy game to do in the black of the dark nights.

    Old King is against the first message because he says 2nd is damaging the Brother Prince Image. But Brother Prince Name was not suggested for political position. Further, his damaging comment was Old Brother Prince e doesn’t know politics. The word “Politics” taking a meaning of the Lankawe unscrupulous politicians’ game playing, but not the Text Books’ professional “Politics”
    Once again let’s walk together on that: Malinda saying it was the Richard P. created the 1988 question and answer to boost his personal. Old King, out of contest, blaming the “trader”, who sheepishly created an opportunity to Mangala, defames Brother Prince. Is there some kind of clue emerging of who is behind all these? Is that the child is crying “My dad is not under Hays Stack” or the Daddy Himself crying that “I’m not under the Haystack”?
    We may, eventually, come to know the truth or not, but Malinda is not really expressing him through his political essays.

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