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Thursday, April 18, 2024

The unabating problems of the Rajapakshes

The cowardice of the honest people ensures the success of the scoundrels – Voltaire
These words of the great French philosopher just about captures the feelings of the combined miserable plight of Lankan in the four corners of the bleeding country – ever since the self-centred Rajapakses took over what passes as governance. It is not that most of the people are not aware of the problem the country has been brought to.
That includes large numbers of people from even the deep South who voted firmly for him recently. That is leaving aside how the people of Colombo answered the Rajapakses against extremely heavy odds of the State juggernaut to win the CMC. It is just that he has managed to render defunct by careful cunning and treachery most limbs of a robust democracy – a vocal and effective Parliament, a robust free media, genuine Trade Unions, a reliable law and order process, an independent judiciary and the like.

President Rajapakse might learn of what Churchill had to say of the Americans in situations not far different from ours “You can trust the Americans to do the right thing finally – after they have exhausted all other possibilities” If Rajapakse plays his cards right he will see the Indians, Americans and the EU warming up to him again. 

The situation in the country is so pathetic even a confirmed Marxist like Victor Ivan speaks of the need for a more spiritual society at a time when even influential sections of the much respected Catholic Church now strangely identify themselves with the defaulting regime.

As I feared in a recent article, Mahinda Rajapakse’s recent rhetoric makes it clear he has no intention of going by even some of the recommendations of his own self-inspired LLRC. He seems to think this is way of taking vengeance both on India and the international community for the Geneva slight. The blame gamers are now on a witch hunt for scape-goats. All signs are the first neck to go will be that of the overzealous and super confident Castroist-Pedagogue-nor-career Diplomat – now accused of a myriad of misdeeds in Gay Paree.

Meanwhile faithful sycophants are dutifully carrying out the task otherwise assigned to them – crudely marking for attack in the pages of the media the Indian PM, Tamilnadu and just about everybody else across the Straits who had even a remote connection with Geneva. The chances of an embarrassing incident if and when BJP’s popular Sushma Swaraj comes with her delegation, now due in April, is quite frighteningly, likely at the hands of a mislead zealot like the Naval rating that took a swipe at Rajiv Gandhi’s head.

President Rajapakse does himself a disfavour if he thinks he can fool the world by insisting his own LLRC Report (“some” sections of the recommendations, that is) has to be approved by Parliament. Duping the impotent and toothless parliament and local simpletons is one thing and patting oneself on the back for having taken the world for a ride can well be a different cup of tea – a costly one at that. Despite his myriad of self-inflicted troubles Mr Rajapakse still has a chance to overcome many of his setbacks by restoring long-denied justice to his own Tamil population. That is what he told the Sinhala electorate – in other words – and on which he won many important elections. The integrity of the questionable victories being quite another matter. That is exactly what India, the USA, Britain and the EU ask for.

By far his greatest challenge will be how he handles Delhi and Tamilnadu from now on. Mahinda Rajapakse should know his action vis-à-vis both have lost much credibility for him within India. Drumming up anti-Indianism and endangering the security of India by unduly cosying up to China is waking up many a dormant section in North India who generally showed little interest in the Lankan quagmire. The proposed visit of Ms Sushma Swaraj may well be to gauge the waters before the extreme national BJP takes a strong stand on the Lankan issue. Whatever gentle language is used to describe relations between the two countries India and Indians know there is virtual congenital hatred of India among most Sinhalese. In a recent write up on D.S. Senanayake and the politics of the late 1940s , the following is attributed to him :-

“We consider India to be one of the greatest nations in the world, but we do not expect India to play the role of trying to establish rights where they have no rights, or privileges where they have no privileges, or of trying to deprive other countries of their rights.”

DSS was talking of a weak India of his time that was even unable to feed its many millions. Since then she has transmogrified into an agricultural, industrial and economic power feeding many countries in the world. By far her greatest asset today is that section of her highly educated population making its mark in the USA, the UK, Canada and elsewhere in the industrialized world. The Bombay Stock Exchange is one of the most robust in the world. Besides, whether the accommodation that DSS found in 1948 for his belligerency may stand the test of today’s India is yet another matter that is best not put to the test. Further alienating India, signs of which are all too obvious, will be at our peril. The lessons of Kosovo and South Sudan in our recent history should teach us the sooner the North-East Tamil issue is settled the better for all of us. The world is not oblivious to the fact State-aided colonization in the East – and now in much of the North – is calculated to change the demographic reality against the Tamils who were the predominant majority in the North-East for many centuries. Unless the State plays fair the international community may veer towards a Referendum in the NEP.

Tamilnadu is on the boil and those who favour a total separation and a Tamil Eelam there are getting stronger. Therefore, the visceral approach of the Rajapakses must give way to capable and professional hands in the matter of repairing our delicate relations with India. Delhi can no longer be considered a certain bet against a separatist call in view of what is described as India’s disappointment in the commitment of Lankan leaders in recent years. If we do not handle our affairs intelligently India can well wash their hands off the issue maintaining she gave us enough time to put our house in order. This will increase the chances of the NEP going its own way.

Those capable of thinking in the government side should learn how Finland handled their own delicate balance with the adjoining Soviet land mass – notably in the post-WW2 years when Russia was lead invariably by mercurial Iron Man Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev (with the secretive Beria in the fore) Finland never gave cause to the larger USSR for concern in any way even during those dangerous days of the Cold War– a classic example of sound diplomacy.

Relying on China and Pakistan as Insurance may also not be in our wider interest. China can always be counted to chose a path of harmony and friendship at all levels with the fastly growing giant of the Sub-Continent. This will be in China’s own interest for the necessary recognition as a responsible World Power. Pakistan, on the other hand, is sliding into chaos and disorder bordering on disintegration. Compounding Pakistan’s own list of serious troubles she is now caught well and truly of surreptitiously hiding Osama Bin Laden in their soil for a long time. Why leading politicians there took such a calculated gamble in hiding OBL while misleading the USA and the world can eventually prove interesting reading in a country where money can buy many things. Men running the ubiquitous army are even accused of supporting rogue states engaged in the making of nuclear weapons. Pakistani scientist N.Q. Khan – the Father of the Islamic Bomb – remains in disgrace shunted by the world scientific community.

He has openly threatened to destroy India with bombs manufactured under his watch. At this writing, reports say Bin Laden’s wife had lived in Pakistan for nearly five years and even gave birth to several children in Pakistani Government hospitals. It will be difficult for Pakistan to maintain how the many government agencies did not know of the arrival and residence of Bin Laden and his family for such a long time. In a weak and untenable move a few days ago the Pakistani government quickly set-up some form of a tribunal – outside the regular Courts – finding Bin Laden’s wife guilty. She was given a mere 45 day sentence for entering the country illegally. She will, in point of fact, serve only about 15 days behind bars taking the days in which she was in remand. It will not be long before it may be proved others charged with the same crime attract sentences from 2 to 5 years. For issues such as this Pakistan will take a long time to regain her credibility in the eyes of the world as a result of these shadowy deals. Imran Khan, former Cricketer, a popular political leader says Pakistan remains disgraced in the eyes of the world and needs to be thoroughly re-organised.

Another serious problem of the Rajapakses do their best to hide is an economy spiralling downwards for the past 3 years. So far the two high priests of the economy have largely dabbled in changing the pillows while sweet-talking the country that everything is ticketyboo. It will be recalled the Central Bank yielded to a float of the Rupee sometime ago. When it hit Rs.120 for the US$ CBSL intervened and brought it below Rs.110. Nivaard Cabral assured a highly worried business community then he would bring the Rupee to Rs.100 to the US$. That pledge was never kept. The “normal level” spoken of now is Rs.125. Today’s trading was done over Rs.130. Several retired senior economists, who do not wish to be named, are convinced by June/July the Rupee will slide down to Rs.150. This will amount to a 50% devolution.

The bulk of the damage is caused by haemorrhaging in the massive unyielding Projects centred in the delusionary grandeur of Hambantota – not to mention Mihin Air and other misadventures of the regime. We must remember, Greece – with an economy as weak as she is, indulged in untrammeled borrowing (as we do) She chose to host the 2004 Summer Olympics against better advise from within – that was clearly outside her economic reach. Today, Greece is virtually bankrupt with half the urban population in the streets battling massive inflation, near 50% salary cuts and so on. One shudders to think what would have happened if we were fated to host the Commonwealth Games. The irony is the men running our economy – who should have summoned sufficient courage to advise our leaders, sans sufficient savvy in matters economic, that such adventures should not be undertaken with weak economies such as ours. Sadly it was the very ones leading our abortive attempt in the West Indies.

President Rajapakse might learn of what Churchill had to say of the Americans in situations not far different from ours “You can trust the Americans to do the right thing finally – after they have exhausted all other possibilities” If Rajapakse plays his cards right he will see the Indians, Americans and the EU warming up to him again. He needs that very badly at this juncture. Besides, such a course of action will only ensure him continuing his innings – undoubtedly a fond wish of the brothers, their many relatives and army of sycophants.



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