by Sunanda Deshapriya,
Dear Mr. President,
This is the final letter I will be writing to you as President Rajapakse. This is because, if, on the 8th of January, the people of this country are given the opportunity to vote in freedom and without fear, then the days of your presidency are, indeed, numbered.
It will not be easy to turn this approaching presidential election into a plunder of votes. This is because, like we have not had the privilege of seeing in recent times, this election has exploded into a people’s election. There has not been an election that has awakened the people of this country, in this manner, in the recent past. It has taken us all by surprise.
You must be aware by now, that the Joint Opposition has been able to harness an unanticipated reach and depth of popularity. That such a surge of inspiration would carry them forward is something that probably even the opposition leadership didn’t anticipate. The verdict of this presidential election has already been declared by the people of this country. What remains to be done is just to mark the box.
Do you, by any chance, not have even a moment to reflect on why your people; once mesmerised by your image, your actions, your words, your smile; are now abandoning you? Or is it possible that you are victim of a truly dense level of self-delusion?
Whether or not dictators are in possession of a conscience is a question for sociologists. It has been proven that individuals who serve in institutions of State repression like the Police and the Prisons, are capable of torturing juveniles during their work hours, and of petting and cuddling children of the same age in their own homes. Hitler, who ordered the deaths of six million Jews, was capable of tenderness towards his lover. Soldiers, who can kill innocent civilians in the rawness of war, also relax at home with parents, wives and children.
Thus even the most brutal of men have a place of softness within their hearts. I am not equalling you to the likes of Hitler. But even you know that your rule is arbitrary. If nothing else, you are a Constitutional Dictator, someone who has closed off the last remaining paths to Democracy, set up a rule which is run by your family and aides, and who has changed the laws of the land to best secure this situation.
But now the time has come for you to give way to that soft place in your heart. Reflect upon your own past and future.
Mr. President, at least now, listen to your conscience. The first thing that anyone, called upon to face such a historical juncture, needs to do, is listen to their conscience. Here is one simple fact that might help you find your way to the quiet whisperings of your innermost truth…
You know that the people who gather at your meetings are transported there, in their thousands, in bus-loads. In 2005, there was no need to drag people to your meetings in this manner. However, from the stage that you stand on, you thunder on about how large a crowd has gathered. When you raise your voice in this manner, is it to drown out what you hear close to your own soul? Do you not see that the thousands of people clapping and cheering you on would not be there if you did not pamper them with transport and treats of food and drink? And doesn’t knowing this bring you any sadness, any sense of loss? Do you not even, in the very least, question of yourself about why this has happened?
When, in order to now entice their vote, you have to distribute cheap watches signed by you, calendars with your picture on it, to the very people who once raved on about the freedom you brought them; do you not feel any sadness? At the very least, some anger?
When you have to walk the streets of Borella with Salman Khan and the young actress Jaqueline, in order to bring in a few more votes, does your face not turn into the face of a desperate beggar of a politician?
How phenomenal is the change and the tragedy that has occurred between now and the 1990s when we stood shoulder to shoulder and battled for human rights on the very streets of this country… History will judge you, not for that time of goodness and decency in our life; but for the time when, under your presidency, the democratic political culture of Sri Lanka was ravaged. Today, what is being recorded in the political triumphs of the Joint Opposition, is this judgement of you.
Think on this… has there been any president or prime minister before you, who brought their children into politics through creating Forces and troops around them and training them in violence? Has there ever been an offspring of a ruler of this country, for whom politics has been reduced to the abuse of State property and widespread violence against opposition groups, in the manner of the Nil Balakaya under the leadership of Namal Rajapakse?
Anura Bandaranaike, Sajith Premadasa, Ravi Jayawardena…none of these men turned politics into the suppression of opposition or dissent.
If Namal Rajapakse is the political legacy you leave Sri Lanka with, then alas! What a disastrous future. His wasteful and shameless behaviour, such as him disregarding the pleas of the Malwathu Asgiri Prelates and conducting races in the town of Kandy in order to satiate some new hot craving, points to a destiny similar to the kind that the young autocrat, Baby Doc, acquired for Haiti. Baby Doc too had an army of thugs, a terror group, ‘Tonton Macoute’ named after a ghost who devours disobedient children.
After a 17-year UNP rule, when the 1994 Presidential Elections were upon us, we travelled this country with the concert ‘Biyen ath Midemu’ (Free yourselves from Fear). However not even one stone was aimed our way. We were never once hooted. When Lakshman Wijesekara sang on that stage, he returned home unharmed. Jayathilaka Bandara sang as well. No troops belonging to the president’s children turned up to attack him.
Today Mr. President, how much has changed…
You have thrown away the appeals that were made to you, at the end of the war, to turn and reflect, to take us forward in truth of Dharmashoka. Unfortunately, now, this opportunity returns your way with the heralding of your departure from power.
It is, indeed the time for you to listen to the innermost whisperings of your own soul.
Political power is not something that lasts forever. When the time comes to let it go, getting ready to leave in peace is a vital component of a democratic society. Now the only thing left for you to do is listen to the free vote of the people of this country and on the 9th of January, leave peacefully. At least, in this very last opportunity that is afforded to you, bow your head to the values of democracy. Do not try to stay on in power by force or through scheming. History has already judged you. It is better that you prepare to accept this.