By Sarath de Alwis –
The regular exegeses of Dr Dayan Jayatilleka on post war reconciliation, have acquired a paroxysmal character. His remonstrations of Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera call for an unambiguous refutation. This writer is an unabashed admirer of Mr. Samarawera.
He earns my unequivocal admiration and esteem for being the one and only Sinhala Buddhist Politician in the present firmament who refuses to pander to the ‘Apey Hsamuduruwane’ cult. He reached a chord in the deepest recesses of my heart when as Minister in charge of Urban Development he put a ‘Podi Hamuduruwo’ in place by demolishing unauthorized structures erected on state land around the Beira Lake. The saffron clad collector of vintage cars and tame elephants was told off politely and firmly. Mr. Samaraweera is much more than a designer of fashions. He is immersed in fashioning a modern civilized national ethos that local and universal.
In the 21st century our world is different. There are fundamental rights that are ‘innately endowed upon people because they happen to be humans. Human rights in the global age cannot be discussed or debated by retreating behind Westphalian jargon. In the global age, the crises of ‘state rule and dynamics of war do not constitute a context that justifies setting human rights aside.’ Minister Mangala Samaraweera has an unenviable task.
The censorious remarks are preceded by Dr. Dayan J’s credentials – ‘A Student of Comparative International Politics.’ Indeed it is a realm where he is undoubtedly well informed. That allows him to use good logic and wrong premises to advance his point of view. Since this counterview is on the same subject, this writer would describe himself as a student of comparative presidencies of R Premadasa and Mahinda Rajapaksa- two regimes he served well.
The first did not know how or why Richard de Soysa went missing. The latter still does not know how or why Lasantha Wickrematunge went missing. Both Presidents willy-nilly operated a deep state apparatus, relied on populist slogans, cultivated a servile saffron constituency and spawned oligarchies in the hope of deploying them as their second line of defense.
Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka was’ consiglier’ to both ‘god fathers’- Premadasa and Rajapaksa. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was an implacable adversary of both. The dissonances have their integral logic.
The untimely demise of the first made his second line of defense an abstract of no consequence. The Dutugamunu Avatar of MR is a different ball game. The consummate brilliance of logistics of the recent ‘Pada Yatra‘ give us an insight to the second line of defense of the God Father and his Militant Mafia. The oligarchic machine is well oiled. Some among those who replaced the ‘ancien régime’ seduced by their imagined Machiavellian machismo have adopted the MR oligarchs as their own. The two hundred percent proof demanded to bring them to justice has bestowed virtual immunity upon them and their patrons.
The regional and sectoral heads of the Mahinda maze were in competition. Each provided signature body armour in the form of cap, tea shirt and trouser to their hired ‘faithful’. A ready supply of spirits ensured the nonstop tango on asphalt. Dr.Jayatilake called the Nugegoda meet ‘The Rising.’ Leon Uris move over. Make way for Dayan J‘s ‘Exodus.’
The operative paragraph of Dr. Jayatilleka’s submissions encapsulates his abstruse reasoning. “Minister Samaraweera’s model of the OMP derives from contexts that are very different to that of Sri Lanka and thus has little relevance to us. The OMP derives from mechanisms for investigation into persons missing under military juntas in Latin America or mechanisms set up, also mainly in Latin America, in consequence of negotiated settlements arrived at, usually with external mediation/facilitation, between guerrilla movements and incumbent regimes. Sri Lanka’s context is drastically different, i.e. that of a democratic state, with democratically elected governments, and whose legitimate armed forces fought a war strictly within its borders, against a terrorist enemy and won an outright victory. In no such context has there been a mechanism structured as the OMP is.”
The polemically punctilious, abjectly asinine argument leads to two conclusions.
A. Post war Sri Lanka was a text book democracy light years removed from Latin American juntas.
B. Since we won the war we can do what we damn well please.
Pinochet may have had a better trimmed moustache than our Augusto who got title to the war at a book launch. Apart from that insignificant detail, Sri Lanka after 2009 was no different from any Latin American Banana republic. Not unless we qualify it further by asserting that ours was a Republic run by a set of Brothers gone Bananas.
Post war Sri Lanka was no democracy. It was undoubtedly a stratocracy. The stratocracy under the Rajapaksa clan was far more entrenched than its earlier version where the living were roasted in the Kanatte incinerator.
The latter version was more refined. The 18th Amendment made Sri Lanka a full blown banana republic, a land of unchecked corruption and an ever expanding police state.
The three principal elements of a stratocracy and a garrison state were in place. We had a. centralization of power, b. contrived manipulation of an international crisis and c. restriction of civil liberties under the guise of national security. Ironically, it was after the war ended, that the gradual militarization of society began in earnest with political power in the hands of a new managerial class that was less political and more entrepreneurial and economic clout in the hands of a select financial oligarchy. The agenda was implemented by exceptionally talented media moguls whose accesses to wealth was strategized by the Czar of national security. Fear and manipulation of public emotions was so effective in the post war five years that the marketing of war was as routine on electronic media as early morning chanting of ‘Pirith.’
The regime was good at paradigm creation. The Diaspora presented a real and present danger. The mind manipulators were ardent admirers of George Orwell. ‘The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous.” Persistent ethno religious conflict by other means was made the new normal in our benighted land. So, the student of Comparative International Politics persists.
Restrictions on civil liberties were routinely imposed on grounds of national security. The Military was presumed as an institution parallel to the executive under the command of a super patriot. It had its funny and wicked facets. A new oligarch whose access to the mighty was through his brand ‘Access’ declared at a parley at Waters Edge that the country was at the edge of a great renewal. It was crying out for the steady hand of the mustachioed redeemer. Today he has enlisted another Dinesh to tide over the reforms if and when they happen.
The memorial of the massacred of Suriyakanda made way for ‘Diyatha Uyana ‘with an aquarium, a market for foliage and fast foods and a ‘board walk’ whatever that means.
The indolent rich, the percentage artists and hostages of consumerism under neo liberal economics were appeased. It was a replica of the Argentine model. The Retired Lieutenant Colonel was the last word on what was virtue. He was meticulous in organization. He insisted on obedience, discipline and efficiency. Manufactured consent replaced persuasion and consensus building. Competitive politics was eased out. An obliging opposition helped sustain an illusion of electoral democracy. We should be grateful to Dr.Jayatilake for reminding us of those tranquil days of the Rajapakse deep state. It explains today’s cacophony in our liberated Babylon.
Dr. Jayatilleka is right. General Franco who won the civil war did not set up an OMP or ‘anything remotely like the OMP to investigate disappearances during the Spanish civil war.’ That was another time and another world. Generalissimo Franco died in bed.
Dr. Jayatillaka complains that he fails to grasp the logic of the OMP. It baffles this writer because Dr. Jayatilleka himself has been endearingly eloquent on why we need to think on new innovative approaches for national reconciliation.
In 2013, soon after he emerged from the belly of the beast, in a different incarnation Dr. Jayatilleka reminded us of an anecdote about Richard Nixon. Nixon he said agreed that power corrupts. Nixon was equally convinced that absolute power was even better!
He then proceeded to elaborate on what was in store for us. And wasn’t he right? ‘A quasi-oligarchic power Centre was seeking to enhance its own power base quite apart from the Executive presidency that was already wielding considerable power. The thirty year war had unleashed authoritarian impulses. He compared the Rajapaksa regime to a runaway train. Before his affliction of the Weerawansa syndrome his positions on reconciliation were diametrically different.
“Whether Sri Lanka can win the peace and ensure the long-term durability of that peace depends on the nature of the peace. If it is a victor’s peace, and if victory is defined or felt to be one of the Sinhalese over the Tamils, it will not be a durable peace. On the other hand, we can only win an inclusive and fair peace if there is a redrawing of the social contract that addresses the root causes of the conflict—the mutual alienation of the island’s majority and minority communities—and if there is an equitable integration or a reasonable, centripetal measure of devolution.”
The OPM may or may not reduce the pain or heal the wounds and scars of war. We derailed the runaway Rajapaksa train. Today, Mahinda walks. Whither? Ask Ranil.