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Investigators may soon ‘discover’ ‘links’ between the JVP and/or FTZ trade unions and the LTTE

 Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne read his script with dutiful assiduity, requesting the parliament to support the Emergency, because ‘the security authorities are continuing to hunt for LTTE remnants in the South’.

By Tisaranee Gunasekara
“Any excuse will serve a tyrant” Aesop (Fables)

It was the time of the month to conjure the Tiger from the dead, retell terrifying stories about its evil deeds and issue dark warnings about its ominous intents.

The internal report of the one-man committee appointed to look into the incidents that unfolded at the Free Trade Zone in Katunayaka was handed over to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday, June 8. The retired Supreme Court judge Mahanama Thilakarathna handed over the report to the President at Temple Trees – news.lk

Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne read his script with dutiful assiduity, requesting the parliament to support the Emergency, because ‘the security authorities are continuing to hunt for LTTE remnants in the South’.

It is against logic and commonsense to believe that defence authorities would demolish protective walls around police stations (and plan to turn Colombo into a wall-less garden-city) if Tiger remnants are actually lurking in the South. But in a society blindsided by patriotic hysteria, logic and commonsense would be in short supply.

Indeed, the very purpose of the Rajapaksa-brand of patriotism is to befuddle intellect and deaden critical faculties, so that crimes can be passed off as patriotic necessities. This is epitomised by the regime’s refusal to table the Report of the Thilakawardane Commission, appointed by President Rajapaksa in 2007 to investigate corrupt defence deals.

When the UNP asked whether the Report “had identified irregularities committed in the procurement of arms purchase and revealed those involved in the fraudulent activities”, Minister Dinesh Gunawardane refused to answer, because, tabling the Report would be ‘harmful to national security’! (This shameless refusal indicates that there had been irregularities in arms procurements, committed by VVIPs. It also debunks the assertion by Rajapaksa-apologists that an international inquiry into ‘war crime’ allegations is unnecessary because Sri Lanka can investigate herself. Incidentally, it is to be hoped that the opposition will seek judicial intervention to make the Report public).

During the recent FTZ protests, the regime got a foretaste of what post-war politics (i.e. politics sans the Tiger) would be like. While the war was on, unpopular measures could be placed beyond public scrutiny/criticism by depicting them as patriotic necessities. Not any more; as the Tiger threat recedes from public memory, battle lines will become redrawn as clear-cut contestations take place between the Ruling Family/regime and various segments of the populace (workers/farmers/students etc.).

This can impede the project of long-term Rajapaksa Rule, by impairing the Ruling Family’s capacity to hegemonise the South, and compelling it to resort to naked repression (in ‘self-defence’).

When the war came to the South, the Sinhala South caught a glimpse of the ‘Mr. Hyde’ side of the Rajapaksas. Even pregnant workers were not spared in this new ‘humanitarian operation’: “The situation was provoked by two local politicians…who had entered the Zone with goons and together with the police had led the violent charge… Female employees who had locked themselves inside toilets were dragged out by women police constables, forced to kneel on the floor and brutally assaulted, cheered on by their male counterparts… Most of the injured were denied medical treatment” (The Sunday Times – 5.6.2011).

The attempt to depict this horrific assault as an act of (accidental) excess by a few rouge-policemen failed when the magisterial inquiry revealed that gun-toting policemen had shot at the protesting workers from three sides.

It was the ‘reflex of despair’ (Hobsbwam), generated by the violence and injustice of the Lankan state/Sinhala society, which made Tamils back the LTTE. It was the ‘reflex of despair’, caused by the pro-Tiger appeasement process, which propelled the Sinhala South into giving the Rajapaksas a carte blanche to win the war. In order to regain a free-hand, post-war, the Rajapaksas need to rekindle a ‘reflex of despair’ in the South by renewing the old fear-psychosis. Bringing back ethnic-overdetermination (repackaging every issue as a desperate battle between nationalist and anti-nationalist forces) is the only way to prevent Southern backlashes against their Rajapaksa excesses.

Thus in the coming weeks, investigators may ‘discover’ ‘links’ between the JVP and/or FTZ trade unions and the LTTE. The Emergency and the PTA can then be ‘legitimately’ used to hunt down trade union leaders, oppositional activists and media personnel, under the guise of catching ‘Tiger remnants’ in the South. Once the worker movement is decapitated and society is cowed, the pension scheme (and other anti-popular measures) can be brought back in safety.

In ‘The Sirens of the Titans’, Kurt Vonnegut’s surreal tale about a ‘Martian invasion’, the Martian Army consists of ‘memory-washed’ humans; they are compelled into total obedience with ‘radio antennae’ installed in their skulls which caused unbearable pain whenever anyone ‘did something a good soldier wouldn’t ever do’. In the real world, it is ideology and training which does the job of Vonnegut’s imaginary antenna.

Conditioning our minds into accepting long term Rajapaksa rule as both necessary and desirable is a sine-qua-non for the success of the Rajapaksa project. This requires permanent enemies and never-ending threats, a culture of suspicion and thus of fear, people who feel besieged mentally, and need ‘heroic leaders’ at the head of a huge military, armed with all powers, in order to feel safe.

For instance, the ‘Leadership training’ programme aims to train new university-entrants to accept, uncritically, the Rajapaksa narrative of the war (i.e. the Rajapaksas as the sole saviour-defenders of the nation and their opponents as national enemies), as Minister of Higher Education, S. B. Dissanayake, inadvertently admitted: “It is important that the students are briefed and taught as to how the soldiers managed to win the war. It is vital they follow such a philosophy. Some students even do not know what happened in the war” (Lakbima News – 5.6.2011).

So the ‘Tiger in the South’ battle-cry will be used to reactivate the ‘friend-foe’ paradigm. Normalcy (i.e. a time when the Emergency or the PTA is unnecessary) has no place in this worldview since it depicts politics as an unending war (the pro-Nazi philosopher Carl Schmitt believed that without this friend-foe divide, ‘political life will vanish altogether’ – The Concept of the Political).

When politics is seen as theology, opponents become heretics with whom no dialogue or accommodation is possible (unless they come over to your side completely; in which case they cease being heretical – like KP; or vice versa, like Gen. Fonseka). Thus Vellupillai Pirapaharan regarded the elimination of opponents as not just a necessity but also a national duty. The Rajapaksas too will use patriotism to wage a no-holds-barred (political) war on their (Southern) opponents, recast as national enemies.

The changing political landscape in India poses a threat to and provides an opportunity for the Rajapaksas. Under the guidance of Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jeyaram, the Tamil Nadu assembly passed a unanimous resolution asking Delhi to impose economic sanctions on Colombo. A number of factors (from China and Pakistan to Kashmir) will prevent Delhi from implementing this or similar measures. But the fear of losing the Tamil Nadu vote would compel the Congress Party into taking a tough ‘verbal stand’ vis-à-vis the Rajapaksas.

A top Indian team is to arrive in Colombo shortly, to discuss accountability and devolution. The Rajapaksas are likely to use this visit as a starting point to reignite patriotic hysteria.

Initially the Sinhala supremacist allies of the Rajapaksas will agitate asking the President to resist ‘external pressures’. Once the Indian team is back in Delhi, the President will vow to do so. Then all ‘patriots’ can unite to wage unrelenting war on anti-patriots, from Tigers/devolution-supporters to Rajapaksa-critics and development-impeders


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