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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Leaving Rajapaksas Uncurbed Will be a Colossal Blunder – Vishwamithra

‘Rajapaksaism’ is yet hissing and spitting; and the  volatility of the ground situation might offer the ‘Family’ and its cohorts to stage a comeback.

“It is not once nor twice but times without number that the same ideas make their appearance in the world.”
– Aristotle

Those who lose at elections don’t seem to realise that they, elections, have consequences. Dulles Alahapperuma, Dinesh Gunawardene, Rohitha Abeygunawardene, Kumara Welgama. Bandula Gunawardene and Mahinda Rajapaksa and some like minded parliamentarians and elected members to other provincial bodies are still trying come to terms with the humiliating beating that they received on January 8, 2015. It is quite tough for those who had wielded almost unlimited power for a decade or so to first accept the loss and then reconcile themselves to the grueling reality of leading an ordinary man’s life. The so-called struggle that these losers have launched in Parliament to be recognised as a separate entity with a distinct identity as against the regular Opposition in Parliament, suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Speaker of the House the other day.

The latest cry from their half-baked ideologue, Dulles Alahapperuma that they would carry on their struggle to be heard in Parliament is a gross insult to that eminent assembly.  Once crowded by national leaders of the calibre of D S Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake, J R Jayewardene, S W R D Bandaranaike, N M Perera, Colvin R de Silva, Peter Kenuemman, Bernard Sousa and the Ponnambalam brothers, (Ramanathan and Arunachalam) G G Ponnambalam, Sir D B Jayatilleke and Arunachalam Mahadeva during the Legislative and State Council days, became something akin to an asylum run by its inmates during the Rajapaksa regime. It was during this blasphemous period of the Rajapaksa regime that Parliament came to be dominated by these losers who are now clamouring for their place in the sun, so to speak. It is beyond the pale.

The Legislature is a place to which the peoples’ representatives are elected and are charged with the onerous task of generating the very process of law-making. As per the provisions in our 1978 Constitution: ‘4 (a). The legislative power of the People shall be exercised by Parliament, consisting of elected representatives of the People and by the People at a Referendum. 75. Parliament shall have power to make laws, including laws having retrospective effect and repealing or amending the Constitution. 76. Parliament shall not abdicate or in any manner alienate its legislative power, and shall not set up any authority with any legislative power subject to the provisions of Article 76(2)(3.)

To what extent these provisions are observed and adhered to is a subject of much debate as it has been recorded in the Hansard and other archival papers. In his farewell address to Parliament, the Legislature was called the ‘Temple of Democracy’ by J R Jayewardene, one of  its devoted students. When the custodians adopt to willfully desecrate the temple, when the caretakers of the people’s vision and aspirations embrace primordial fears and base instincts and project an image of protectors of the majority’s values and traditions, then we are naturally drawn into a suggestion that something is certainly rotten in Sri Lanka. These political hoodlums who choose to hide behind lofty slogans and ear-shattering shouting- one of whom is supposed to be a descendant of Boralugoda- it is incumbent upon every decent-minded citizen, leave alone journalists, of this great country of ours to name and shame them.

Those who lost their power and glorious seats in the state machinery are making a intrepid effort to redeem their powers; their exasperated hurry to get back what they justifiably lost at the last Presidential Elections and their haughty approach to poor man’s problems are all but a part and parcel of a macabre mosaic of the current Sri Lankan electorate.

The Government and its constituent parties, the United National Party (UNP) and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), have no alternative but come to terms with this tangled assortment of political circumstances. This is where the current leaders of the Government, Prime Minister as well as the President, have failed most miserably. Conveying a tangible message, spelling out the broad vision and programme of action, specific policy positions must all be intimated to the public in a very understandable and timely fashion. This aspect of governance- lending wide publicity to its principles and policies- and whether Yahapalanaya or not, cannot be overstated. It is valid, legitimate and totally within reason and reasonability to tell the people the benefits of those principles and policies that the Government is undertaking for and on behalf of the people.

However, the superficial propaganda yet commanding campaigns unleashed by the Rajapaksas and their cohorts during their regime made it a total ridicule of judicious spending of state resources. Not only did they dip into the national coffers to finance their self-aggrandising projects- as is evident in the face of numerous investigations being carried out now- they have apparently inflated many a government venture as part of cost-overruns and pocketed such overruns to finance their orgies of primeval desires and crude ambitions.

Almost all governments since independence are guilty of wasteful spending of state resources and abuse of political power. But the period between 2005 and 2015 stands out as a period in which state resources were vandalized and political power was used and abused to buttress the ego of one single family and its perpetuation in power.

And it is to perpetuate this same comic family drama, to continue with the same tragic theatrics on the political stage that the so-called ‘alternative Opposition’ members have launched a programme of action in Parliament. Given the country’s current liberal media and the freedom-friendly environment, it won’t be before long that this group of loser-MPs would take their fight to the street. They simply cannot wait in the shadows. They are not used to be outside the limelight of political discourse. So it is in their selfish and parochial interest to gain some foothold in the nation’s trek towards more meaningful freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of worship etc.

I remember writing in one of my recent columns that beating a dead horse might be an overkill of a yesterday-issue. Yet reminding the readers of what looms in the shadows and the substantive debate it creates among political junkies such as myself, would lead me to cast the dye where it belongs.

The messaging of the ‘alternative Opposition’ is not only dangerous in the context of their past campaigns of character assassination and political innuendos, it could be extremely unwise to disregard their real power which is principally drawn from the hearts and minds of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority in the country.

In an excerpt from the book, “Odyssey of a Heart, Home of a Soul”, Angelica Hopes defines financial parasites as follows: ‘greedy people who live luxurious life at the expense and hard work of others’. It suits every ounce and layer of these socio-financial parasites garbed in expensive silk national dresses and gold chains who roamed the corridors of the House of Parliament during the last regime. The Cabinet positions they held gave them weight to their validity and false veneer of ‘purity’ of purpose to their dastardly motives. But inside these fragrant exterior, the stench that erupts from within makes one close one’s nostrils. These rotten swindlers must be stopped, period.

Reminding the reader of the existence of such parasites and their probable re-emergence in the future is no great crime, I suppose. Against such a foreboding backdrop, beating a dead horse is not redundant. Riots in prisons, terrifying white vans, disappearance of journalists, both Sinhalese and non-Sinhalese, joy helicopter rides for the first family’s friends and paramours, midnight-car-races in the vicinity of the Temple of the Tooth and all other extravagant and obscene display of arrogance should remain buried in the past. They should not be given the slightest chance of comeback. The volatility of the ground situation in far out hamlets, their ever-ready propensity for religion-laden hearts and minds might still offer ample desire for the ‘Family’ and its cohorts to stage a very real comeback.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, a political scientist, professor at New York University, and senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution has written about political leaders in the following fashion: “Dictators, unlike Democrats, depend on a small coterie to sustain their power. These backers, generally drawn from the military, the senior civil service, and family or clan members, have a synergistic relationship with their dictator. The dictator delivers opportunities for them to become rich, and they protect him from being overthrown”. What Sri Lanka experienced in the 2005-2015 period was not a textbook version of a dictatorship. But the hallmarks of an emerging kind were very much present and we must be glad that the signs were deciphered early and timely remedy applied. But we will be making a colossal blunder if the current clan of Rajapaksa sympathisers is not contained within the accepted boundaries of decency and law.

The writer can be contacted at [email protected]


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