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Friday, July 12, 2024

Sri Lanka: This is a sloppy but de facto dictatorship

The proto-fascist rouge-regime is floundering trying to consolidate itself.

Kumar David.

Much ink has flowed discussing recent events and much moral judgement offered; another such piece is redundant. My focus today is on the next stage. By way of preface I first put down a few facts on paper. Love him or hate him, Ranil was removed from office unconstitutionally; Mahinda’s appointment is illegal; parliament was prorogued in bad faith and dissolved unconstitutionally; twice it was disrupted aggressively; pro-Rajapaksa MPs walk out as they cannot secure a majority; Sirisena declares he will not reinstate Ranil or appoint SF as PM, whatever parliament determines thus trashing the constitution and implicitly admitting that Mahinda lacks a majority. Manifestly Sri Lanka needs a new constitution drafted to be idiot-proof and with the executive presidency abolished.

Sirisena and Rajapaksa are manipulating state and government illegally, unconstitutionally, unethically and immorally. In private their MPs don’t deny it, saying: “We don’t care, we want power; we won’t give up power”. Isn’t this what dictatorship means? True they haven’t consolidated power yet, they have more bridges to cross, and it is still possible to stop the proto-fascists and defeat the rogue-state. I use the prefix ‘proto’ to mean emergent or early-stage, and rogue in rogue-regime well let the facts speak for themselves. The proto-fascists are a mob of MPs and inner circle storm troopers. The rogue-state is an alliance of a desperate President with a self-styled Prime Minister and a mock Cabinet. Together they have grabbed control of state and government
My focus in on four concerns: Reaction to the Courts’ impending rulings, election prospects, impeachment and finally what may happen if the threat of evicting Rajapaksa and his rogue-Cabinet becomes imminent. I hold different views and have a different assessment of prospects from my liberal friends. Yes sure, we are on the same side of the political divide, sure we abhor scoundrels, but we assess trends differently. We both opposed Pinochet, Trump’s despoliation, the alt-right in Europe and so on, but they, the liberals, were hopeless at foreseeing what was coming and woke up after the flood. Marxists think they are endowed with better foresight (sic!) and draw strength from Trotsky’s warnings on inter-war European fascism. Disaster would strike, he warned, unless Stalinists, socialists and moderates changed course; which of course they did not, except for an unwashed cigar chomping whisky guzzling bowler hatted old fogey in London.

Let’s go step by step. It is likely there will be parliamentary elections within months; both Ranil and Mahinda know that. The tussle now is who will head the caretaker government in the election period. Sirisena will remain head of state and abuse every privilege of office, but if the rogue-regime retains control of both government and state, the proto-fascists will enter the electoral arena at considerable advantage. This is pivotal as this promises to be the most corrupt, rigged and vicious election in Lanka’s history. The Prime Minister’s Office has already been turned into a SLPP election agency by Namal. The fracas now is about whether Ranil or Mahinda will head the interim caretaker government; it’s only about that, it’s not about governing.

If the rogue-regime remains in office during the elections, I will not retain faith in the impartiality of the Elections Commission two of whose members (not Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole) have been shown-up as men of straw. I think the police force and senior officers wish to remain impartial, but if showered with improper orders from higher up, what to do? I do not want to be IGP now for a million dollars. If I defy illegal orders I’ll be fired – will Ranil feed my wife and children? Execute monstrous instructions and you will spit on me! The point is that the elections will be skewed in favour of the proto-fascists if the rogue-regime retains control of both caretaker government and executive presidency.

And what about the Courts? They were despoiled at the time of Sarath Silva; I don’t know if they have recovered. Despite the sterling qualities of Sripavan and Dep, and the so-far-so-good current CJ, a threat comes from a different direction. Let us assume that the judgements are flawless but what is there to stop the proto-fascists from flouting them? We have seen how they treated Parliament and Speaker; who can expect such people to treat the Supreme and Appeal Courts with respect? My liberal friends place great store by the impending judgements and the next election where they expect a fed-up population to vote out the scoundrels. Sorry buddy, it’s not so simple; even if the Courts rule in your favour and even if you poll more votes, it’s not so easy. Most in Lanka know more about Micky Mouse than the methods used by Mussolini and his Black-Shirts to grab power. Those ignorant of history are fated to repeat its mistakes.

The conflict is complex and deep; ladies crafting lofty petitions and gentlemen at learned seminars are important, but impotent unless they take their campaign to the people; towns and villages, grassroots and trade unions. Now that’s another problem. Go out against Mahinda into the trade unions and you could get beaten up; a majority of the working class is with the racists. Sad but true. These are not the days of NM, Colvin, Pieter and Dr Wicks; this is the day of the jackal. Mahinda, like Trump, has rallied a mass base; lower lifeforms in SLPP, SLFP and Dead-Left defecate in public.

Lanka is saturated with racism. The civil-war aggravated it but the roots of identity politics go deeper – I have to devote a column to this sometime. The point is, though recent events have exposed the proto-fascists as a monstrous antithesis of democracy will the Sinhalese masses turn away from the pent-up emotions of race politics? To put it simply, who will win the elections; victorious-in-war-against-Tamils racists howling “The country is being sold to the Tamils again”, or effete liberals peddling a manifestly failed economic programme? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind.

Parliament, Speaker and Court-verdicts will be manipulated. Proto-fascism will not and cannot retreat; a Rubicon has been crossed, there is no going back. Is the penalty for treason in Sri Lanka death? Wilful and repeated violation of the constitution surely is treason. One must not evoke alarm but this has gone beyond all limits. Such things have never happened before.

In parliament, JVP leader Anura Dissanayake threatened Sirisena with impeachment on two counts: “Deliberate violation of the constitution, or mental infirmity”. Note that it can’t be both; if you are insane you cannot knowingly violate the constitution. He also took aim at the UNP for failure in governance, failure to bring perpetrators of gross corruption to book and lack of transparency about “deals”. Impeachment is very unlikely; Mahinda was stabbed in the back and Ranil knifed in the front. But one needs to be ambidextrous to stab both at the same time and persuade the UNP and SLPP to join hands and secure the needed 2/3rds. This is unlikely, but you can’t put ambidexterity beyond the capabilities a “mentally infirm” person.

My final bit of crystal-ball gazing pertains to “What if the proto-fascists cum rogue-state are cornered into imminent defeat?” If the Courts hold that dissolution is ok and that the no-confidence motions can be ignored, that’s another story; I will have to write more columns. What is important is to explore the opposite: What if the Courts rule that it was wrong to dissolve parliament, and that the kick in the butt (two kicks) meted out to Mahinda are binding? My liberal buddies expect Mahinda to bow out, the proto-fascists to withdraw and lick their wounds and Sirisena to weep in solitude over the shambolic of his ill-fated adventure. I am not so sure.

My Cassandra tormentor says the same. “They will find a way to subvert the Courts and fight tooth and nail to retain a grip on power”. If the rogue-state goes that far it will be a full-fledged naked dictatorship, and to contain public outrage it will need to use force. Poor sods, soldiers and brass! What will they do? Cringe before criminal orders and subdue the people, or say NO to the “mentally infirm”? The latter course, the rogue-state will call mutiny. I have my prophecy where this will all end; but let’s leave it at that for now.

-The Island


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