By Kumar David –
Who is really gunning for Dimu Jayaratne? It gets curiouser and curiouser!
The JHU, its leader Omalpe Sobitha, the monks of Sinhala Ravana (SR) and many other odd-bods known to be bigots and chauvinists, are out for the blood of Minister of Buddha Sasana and Prime Minister, DM Jayaratne. Conversely, UNP stalwart Mangala Samaraweera speaks in stout defence of the beleaguered PM and the party’s high command keeps a studied semi-silence on the matter. The JVP takes a principled stand, demanding that the PM step-down as a precondition for an impartial investigation. The unruly demonstration on January 8 led by SR monks could not have arrived at the gates of the PM’s office on Flower Road without someone at the level of President, Defence Secretary or thereabouts, winking at the cops and clearing the way. The area is under vigilance as the Leader of the Opposition’s residence is half a km to one side and Temple Trees the President’s residence is a mere one km as the crow flies on the other. A demonstration outside the US Embassy the next day must also have had regime acquiescence. There is something strange going on; as Alice said “It gets curiouser and curioser”.
I am prepared to concede that the PM may not be directly implicated in or in the know of the heroin smuggling racket. It is possible that it was just lousy judgement in the choice of staff and lack of discrimination in the people he entertains that led to the position where a ministry official issued a letter to the customs department seeking the release of a container which turned out to be stuffed with the largest shipment of smuggled heroin ever detected in this country. This must be investigated by the enforcement authorities (if this is possible with this interfering government) and if need be DMJ should be prosecuted before an impartial court (if such still exists under the aegis of this regime). Despite justified reservations about impartiality in the country, this is the correct stand that we the public must take – investigate and if a prima face case emerges, prosecute.
If this were a normal country the Prime Minister should resign and it is a shame he has not done so already. Parliamentary propriety and common decency demand he quit and let the investigators get on with the job. True, neither propriety nor decency are high on the agenda of this regime and UPFA, so don’t expect miracles, but that is not the point of this article. What I find curious is that if the PM is being protected by the Rajapakse power-centre, then it contradicts my first paragraph which says that there is no explanation for mobs running amok unless higher powers are encouraging it. In passing, it is humorous that both “Prime Ministers” DMJ and Visvanathan Rudrakumaran of the self-styled TGTE are in hot water with the law; decency demands that both resign!
The confusion and desperation thesis
There is an alternative explanation for this mad-hatters circus. Dead-Left-leader Cabinet Ministers have told senior cadres that the government is riddled with rifts and contradictions, that the Rajapakses cannot get a handle on it, or pacify the actors. Well, we don’t need to revive the Dead to know that; the rebellion in the UPFA at the regional level is manifest in the mood of local government bodies where SLFP regional leaders in some 16 bodies have defeated the budgets proposed by their Chairmen and are primed to throw the Chairmen out. The motivation may differ case by case but the leadership at the centre has lost control of the second rank in the regions.
The turn out of senior cabinet ministers at the Bandaranaike 115 birthday commemoration event and the way these worthies were fawning and falling over Chandrika will keep the current resident of Temple Trees awake at night. Surely, does not this ill-concealed courting of Chandrika send a message; the message that loyalties are divided? The thesis then is that on the one hand the Rajapakses may not be encouraging monks and chauvinists to storm the barricades, but because of internal weaknesses neither do they have the clout to call them to order. The regime is afraid that one serious incident in which a monk is a casualty at the hands of the police will be curtains and open the door to a flood tide of challenges.
An extended reading is that the underlying explanation for the commotion is the Chandrika factor. PM Jayaratne, Ratnasiri and SLFP ministers like Nimal Siripala and Maithripala are old SLFP stalwarts, loyal to its original traditions. The Rajapakses, parentage notwithstanding, are uncomfortable with old loyalists and would like to restock the establishment with recently acquired sycophants and young blood the likes of Namal can attract. The old boys know that if the revamp goes ahead their days are numbered, so “Bring back a Bandaranaike” is an aspiration that may give them hope. The argument is that the Jayaratne fracas is a manifestation of a Rajapakse need to restructure the SLFP into a new style entity, endangering the privileges and position of pre-2005 custodians. The ambition for local or national level electoral nomination of even younger traditional-style SLFPers is also under threat. That is, even un-Namalised young SLFPers may have to kiss their ambitions goodbye. This is the substance of a ‘many-sided confusion and desperation’ thesis; if DMJ is thrown out the thesis would stand vindicated.
The revolt of the monks and the chauvinists may have been genuine initially, meaning they were outraged by the PM’s involvement and folly. But soon what may have been a standoff with a spontaneous origin became a factor in a greater game as outlined in the previous paragraphs.
The international dimension
I have been discussing these concerns with a person who follows the international dimensions of the local political scene and reproduce below what he/she says verbatim and in the first person.
“I agree that this is ‘internal’ in the sense that no such protest/demonstration/agitation can occur without some degree of regime acquiescence. The obvious explanation would be that the Rajapaksas are laying the ground for the removal of DMJ and his replacement by a Rajapaksa, say Chamal, as PM. While this may be a factor something more complex is unfolding.
“The MR Regime is scared that it is cornered on the HR issue and that Geneva is going to be a massive showdown and a mammoth defeat (This is a stronger statement than I would make). This festering wound within the Regime and its sympathizers could be a source of disquiet, infighting and scape-goating. The clerical right within the Regime and its fringes must be blaming those at the helm for failing to protect the Regime and the military. While most of this anger will be against the administration (G.L.Peiris would be the obvious target) their anger must also extend to the Rajapaksas themselves.
“The clerical right must be furious with MR for allowing Rapp to tour the North (and Cameron, Pillai before him). MR’s policy of trying to appease the Regime’s critics in Delhi, Washington and London by allowing elections in the north, appearing to make concessions to Wigneswaran etc, has ended in multiple disasters (Manmohan’s boycott, Cameron’s CHOGM press conference and the forthcoming US resolution in Geneva). So MR’s ability to cope with the international threat is in question.
“If I am right, then these fissures will escalate in the run up to Geneva and thereafter. Internationally the Regime is at its lowest ebb. I cannot see a way forward; it is madness for Colombo to think (as the chandiyas among its supporters do) that it can take on Delhi and Washington at the same time. The futility of the situation is displayed by Colombo’s belief that MR winning presidential or parliamentary elections at this point in time, one at which the Tamil north will totally reject the Regime, will bring its international critics to a dead stop. To sum up: Diplomatically the Regime faces its worst crisis. And it is impossible to insulate domestic politics from the international”.
Let us see if my friend’s premonitions are reliable and whether the fissures within the government escalate in the next two or three months.