Chavez, the Cynics and the “Big Lie” of the Presidential Campaign

[Editors note: The author and the commentator Doomed to Repeat had a length exchange of ideas on the author’s previous post Sarath Fonseka – A potential De Gaulle or Chavez? This article refers to the specific comment by Doomed to repeat published here.]

Dear “Doomed to Repeat”,

Despite my disagreement with your ‘anti-dialectical’ approach to a world in transition, I must say, I enjoyed reading your comments for their rather simplistic clarity. I’ve heard exactly the same kind of sentiments from my beer-loving middle-class friends who love discussing politics (or any other subject under the sun) as a pastime. After all, the world is full of petite bourgeois cynics who’re quite satisfied with their own comfortable lifestyles and least bothered about intervening in changing the world. When asked, for instance, “Whom do you recommend us to vote in this election?” they often try their best to dodge the question. For cynics, the outcome isn’t that important.

Those who want to make a positive contribution to the changing world will want to penetrate beneath the surface appearances. As Hegel correctly pointed out, the surface phenomena at a give time in history are always contradictory; because, the present is invariably a mixture of a ‘dying reality’ and an ‘emerging reality’. Thus, understanding what is “NEW” in ongoing changes needs serious analysis.

For Hegel, history is not “doomed to repeat”. True, history does repeat, but on a higher plane. Thus, the dialectical principle of “negation of the negation” doesn’t mean a return to the original status like a circle. One cannot explain development or progress through that model. Dialecticians’ model (as Lenin pointed out) is spiral, not circular. Therefore, the apparent backward movement in fact takes place on a higher level. In other words, the seeming return to the starting point is in fact a delusion. To identify the growth and progress in history one has to look deeper beneath the superficial appearances.

For cynics the human society will always be the same whatever we do to change it. It is this approach that has led you to paint a whole lot of statesmen – from Hitler to the leaders of Burmese Military Junta, and to Hugo Chavez – with the same brush and brand them all as “power-hungry dictators”. But serious thinkers want to go beyond the confusing phenomena and find out the fundamental forces at work.

Let me invite the serious reader to have a look at the Wikipedia’s account on Chavez rather than listening to what I say. But, always remember, I do not mean here that he is a perfect politician at all. How can anybody be perfect in a world that is still in the midst of evolution? Those who are interested in knowing more about the ‘Chavez phenomenon”, the following quotations will be of some guide for further reading. So, let the encyclopedia speak:

“As the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Chavez promotes a political doctrine of participatory democracy, socialism and Latin American and Caribbean cooperation.[1] He is also a critic of neoliberalism, globalization, and United States foreign policy.[2]Domestically, Chavez has maintained nationwide Bolivarian Missions, whose goals are to combat disease, illiteracy, malnutrition, poverty, and other social ills. Abroad, Chavez has acted against the Washington Consensus by supporting alternative models of economic development, and has advocated cooperation among the world’s poor nations, especially those in Latin America….Chavez’s policies have evoked controversy in Venezuela and abroad, receiving everything from vehement criticism to enthusiastic support. During the presidency of George W. Bush the government of the United States stated at various points that Chavez was a threat to democracy in Latin America.[3] Many other governments sympathize with his ideology[4] or welcome his bilateral trade and reciprocal aid agreements.[5] In 2005 and 2006 he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.[6][7]

Since 2005, Chavez is an outspoken proponent of what he calls a socialism of the 21st century as a means to help the poor. Since 2003, the Venezuelan government has set price controls on around 400 basic foods to counter inflation, which has led to “sporadic food shortages”.[53] Food processing companies said that regulated prices had not kept pace with inflation, so that they were producing regulated food at a loss. Chavez has also nationalized a number of major companies, including in the telephone, electric, steel, and cement industries, and encouraged cooperatives…..Chavez would acknowledge the role that democratic socialism (a form of socialism that emphasizes grassroots democratic participation) plays in Bolivarianism.[40] Because his Bolivarianism relies on popular support, Chavez has organized the “Bolivarian Circles“, which he cites as examples of grassroots and participatory democracy. The circles are forums for a few hundred local residents who decide how to spend the government allowance for social development. They usually decide for neighborhood beautification, mass mobilization, lending support to small businesses, and providing basic social services….

From 2003 onwards the Chavez government has pursued a series of Bolivarian Missions aimed at providing public services to the previously underserved poor by bypassing existing public institutions.

Chavez again won the OAS and Carter Center certification of the national election of December 2006 with 63% of the vote,[42] beating his closest challenger Manuel Rosales who conceded his loss on 4 December 2006.[43] After his victory, Chávez promised a more radical turn towards socialism.”[44] [See: Wikipedia: Hugo Chavez]

The Wikipedia’s portrayal of Chavez doesn’t come anywhere near the image of a “power-hungry dictator” at all, does it? Clearly, Hugo Chavez seems to occupy a leading position in the fast evolving socialist consciousness in the midst of the disintegrating global profit-system that dragged the humanity through two world wars, and more regional wars. Chavez’s recent call for an International Socialist Movement [Fifth International] addressing a highly successful conference of leftist political parties and mass movements, I think, is more significant than any of you’ve cited as dictatorial.

Let’s come to the trillion-dollar question now: How realistic is it to expect General Fonseka to emerge as Asia’s future Chavez if he became Sri Lanka’s president? I think there’s a potential for this. Unlike the Rajapkasa-regime, he’s not controlled by a readymade bunch of sycophants, murderers, thugs and fascists. He doesn’t have established political parties to control him. If/when he becomes the executive president, it would, mainly, be the poor masses he’ll have to derive his strength from, not the establishment. The state institutions will remain divided for some time to come.

Also remember, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s campaign-theme is almost entirely devoid of answers to living costs, jobs, the Tamil issue, corruption, thuggery and so on. Any prudent observer will see the sudden price-cuts in the midst of an election as a third-grade trick. Mahinda-campaign’s real theme depends heavily on a Big Lie – that Sarath Fonseka is financed and supported by the LTTE. His think-tank, as well as his close supporters, knows very well that this is a lie. Naturally, the ‘intellectuals’ occupying Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election platforms look like ‘cats that crapped on rocks’, while the politicians shamelessly keep insinuating lies on lies about a possible ‘SF-LTTE link’.

The Mahinda-campaigners are making a big mistake here. While Sarath Fonseka brings out substantial issues of poverty, peace and corruption with short-term answers to them, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s campaign is increasingly getting entangled in a transparently hollow slogan, which is a Big Lie.

True, this tactic will work well in attracting the most gullible, extremist layers of the Sinhala community. But the somewhat enlightened Sinhala Buddhists – who are disgusted with the corrupt administration – will soon begin to see Mahinda-campaign’s mischievous tactic. Above all, it’s that section of the Sinhala Buddhists I’m addressing. All progressives must help them to bring down the government. Their candidate – Sarath Fonseka – is the only one who can do it. Does SF have the capacity to become a Chavez? If Chandasoka could transform into a Dharmasoka after killing hundreds of thousands, and if Angulimala could change into an enlightened Arhat then SF also has the potential to rise above all partisan interests. The global and local conditions, along with his personal circumstances, are ripe for such metamorphosis. [My usage of the Chavez-image, you must realize, is merely a journalistic short-cut to point at the correct direction without words; nothing more.]

Dear “Doomed to Repeat”, I know you’re not a fully-fledged cynic though you yourself have called you that. The way you end your letter is testimony to our similarities. You wrote:

“I would never say that we should just give up and go home. Despite the odds against achieving anything close to a socialist paradise (assuming we could all even agree on what that would look like), we ought to work towards it, each in our own way, because it’s the right thing to do. We must have compassion for all mankind, and must act accordingly.”

I fully agree with those sentiments. And to achieve what we both aspire we must test Sarath Fonseka’s potential at this juncture. Please remember, I’m not after money or jobs. That’s not my nature. I’m merely expressing my sincere thoughts, because I love my country where I was born and bred. If SF fails in his duty I shall continue to challenge him in the same spirit, I assure you.

I firmly believe the progressive candidates who are already in the fray for their own propaganda purposes should pull out towards the end and recommend their following to back Sarath Fonseka; for, bringing down the existing regime is the primary task here.

  • Observer

    At least there are 2 things common with Chavez & SF. They both speak before thinking? Rata pera Kata I say. Just the way he betrayed (betray is the wrong word really because it’s a lie) his former comrade (Shavendra Silva) put me off him for good. His honor is in tatters (not that in SL politic honor counts)! Implicating Gothabya is one thing, but you brother in arms? Most of all when he was the top commander. What a way for a socialist comrade to start his glittering revolution.

    Do you honestly think SF can be an independent president IF elected? Who’s votes are going to bring him into power? Mainly UNP & JVP. He’ll be a sitting duck if he doesn’t tow UNP & JVP lines. Boy that is gonna be something to watch! All of his presidency will be a parent mediating 2 polar opposite kids. That unity face they put on now (boy you gota listen to Mano Ganesan these days) won’t be there after the elections. Mark my words, soon as he’s had enough with this, guess who he’s gonna call on? Yep, his old army buddies. Then you will really get what was in store all along.

    This campaign so far has been a huge mud contest (nothing new). As usual, they’re both avoiding the real issues. You’d think the wiser would ignore the mud and and go about addressing the real issues.

    MR maybe lowering living costs, but SF is promising unrealistic pay hikes (because he can’t do the former). Isn’t it the same “3rd-grade” trick they’re both playing? I have to agree with “doomed to repeat”, neither of them are really what they’re portraying to be. It’s power first, country second! We just have to be wise enough to chose the lesser evil of the 2. From what I have seen so far, MR is edging the contest.

    What’s really disturbing is the fact that SF’s entry into politics was a bruised ego as “doomed to repeat” said. From what I understand, Ranil used SF for his advantage after he got burned. He’s really the girl that hooked up with you on the rebound.. haha. SF didn’t go to Ranil to save the country. So indeed SF is a pawn in my eyes, struggling to portray him self as the commander of the people now. So if you want that commander, please make sure you’re ready to follow his orders as well!

    Personally this is all a huge comedy and I’m not all that fussed who ever that would come into power. My life won’t change all that much and the poor, oh well, they suffer no matter who’s in power. Most to lose from SF presidency will be his voter base, the liberal middle class, born UNPers. It’d be actually much better sight when reality bites their own ass. Bring on SF I say!!

  • james

    This forthcoming election will decide whether Sri Lankans want to make the same mistake they made in the seventies when we voted in a family dynasty that practically ruined this country.

    At present we see all the signs that if MR is voted in yet another dynasty will be hoisted upon this country. Just a peek at the current GOSL will reveal the numbers of MR’s relatives in significant posts.

    Let’s ensure we don’t make the same mistake twice, because I don’t think Sri Lanka can survive a second dynasty without becoming the Zimbabwe of Asia.

  • http://www.lankaeye.com Vasantha Raja

    Raising the salaries of ordinary people across the board to meet the rising living costs is a necessary short-term step any good government should do. Thus SF’s election promise is not a trick. We’ve seen how SL governments have been spending billions of dollars for the war during the past thirty years – remember, wars only destroy property, while money in the hands of masses will trigger demand for meaningful production. (China took a similar step to face the credit-crunch.)

    Inflationary pressures can be removed by other accompanying measures as I explain in “Sarath Fonseka – De Gaulle or Chavez?” A future government, for instance, can have bilateral trade-pacts with neighboring countries to bring in essential items of mass consumption. At the same time it can unleash long-term (say, 20 years or more) credit-lines for scientifically-planned infrastructure projects all over the island, primarily designed to promote tourism. This will create jobs all over the country on an unprecedented scale. Also, the newly expanding infrastructure will increase the country’s productivity as never before. Therefore, SF’s promises can be achieved without causing inflation.

    The trouble with the MR-regime is this: its economic planners are obsessed with the capitalist “trickle-down” economics. They’re only facilitating the profiteers to exploit the masses, as the best way to increase the growth rate. But, remember, increasing the growth rate doesn’t necessarily mean eradicating poverty. On the contrary, it often widens the rich-poor gap.

  • Doomed to Repeat It

    Hello Vansantha. I’m glad that my comments have provoked this conversation. After all, that is what sites like GV are for, yes?

    I will admit that I live a comfortable lifestyle, but I’m not sure that I self-identify as petite bourgeois from a political perspective; I’m just not as left-wing as yourself. Actually, at heart I probably am; it’s just that I see that perfect socialism is an impossible-to-achieve goal, given the all too human proclivities towards greed and the desire for power and control. And yes, I do tend to see these sorts of things in a rather simplistic way – because these things really are rather simple. Strip off the academic and political gobbley-gook lingo and I think it’s easy to see patterns being repeated over and over, whatever the political system under discussion. I also do like beer; we ought to be proud of Lion Lager as it’s extremely high quality. I don’t know why we don’t export it. ;) Why does any of this mean I want to do nothing to change the world? How do you know I’m not trying?

    That said, I still don’t think of Chavez as a good role-model for our own politicos. If freedom and rights are a petite bourgeois concept, then on that level I’d have to plead guilty, although I don’t see it that way. Rather the opposite; it seems to me that a safe, comfortable bourgeois lifestyle encourages people to not guard their freedoms or push for more.

    You are right that Chavez’ enemies paint him with a broad brush, and that many people automatically believe this description. But there are also many people for whom the opposite is true; they unquestioningly believe, and defend, him based his own propaganda and their own beliefs and hopes. Automatic belief in one story is no better than automatic belief in the other. Like in most situations, the real story is a mixture of the positive and negative. A Middle Path, as it were.

    (BTW, we all know that Wikipedia can be written and edited by just about anyone. On relatively non-controversial subjects like, say, Hanta Virus, the info is probably reasonably correct. But on controversial subjects and people like Obama, climate change, religion, Mugabe, etc, you have to take everything written with a big grain of salt. The same facts can be interpreted different ways, depending on your individual perspective. For example, one mans’ press freedom is another mans’ treasonable writing. It’s also easy to go in and delete everything that disagrees with your viewpoint.)

    As far as rule by a strongman goes, and this is what Chavez is – a strongman, just because a dictator does a country some good doesn’t make everything about him good; the cliche about Mussolini making the trains run on time is a famous example. The trick, I think, is to do more good than bad, and I’m not sure that Chavez has done that.

    I think that when you get down to it, we agree on a lot, just not on Chavez specifically. I’m OK with that.

    Whether he turns into a Chavez or not, assuming he’s elected, I do hope that SF turns out different than what we currently have in power. The economic policies that you describe would do a lot to help the average man in Sri Lanka, if this can be done in such a way as not to harm the already precarious state of rights we have. Or better yet, improve them. I wonder if he, or any of our current crop of politicians, has the political will and backing to institute such long-range planning. Given that SF seems to be running for President solely for revenge, I’m not sure that he does.

    But who knows? Once he’s elected, he could move away from his own personal injuries and address those of the nation. It would be nice; I’m just not counting on it.

  • London Dole

    Dear Vasantha Raja:

    Back then, beer guzzling middle class yokels (men and women) like us was not looked down upon when our help was sought after by people who claimed to have been persecuted by the Lankan government. Having never belonged to the academic circles, and knowing next to nothing about Hegel – and his fancy Philosophy of Right – we simply see ourselves as hardworking taxpayers. We simpletons don’t try to popularize ourselves by hobnobbing with politicians and the movers and shakers of the day.

    For generations, our families, back in the old country, have traditionally voted UNP. But, this “petite bourgeois” will tell you straight up that, this time around, they will be casting their vote for none other than Mahinda Rajapakse. Now you have an answer from a hardworking, beer guzzling, taxpaying Londoner. Happy?

  • Archie B.

    I’m also another one of those beer swilling working class simpletons that Vasantha Raja dismisses so easily. Strange, coming from someone who talks like a socialist! When my son went to University here in Toronto, I met several of his friends who were just like this; academics who claimed to be for the people but when it came to actually dealing with real “the people” there acted very “elitist,” as my son would put it. Lots of words and theories, but little experience with the realities of being lower class.

    Sorry London Dole, but I’m going with The General. My wife is voting Rajapakse. That’s OK; I still love her! :)

  • http://www.lankaeye.com Vasantha Raja

    I never mentioned anything about the working class. I merely referred to “some middle-class friends of mine” – not a lot – whom I see as cynics. That’s all. So, please don’t add to the confusion generated by a self-confessed cynic. Just try and handle the main arguments involved – for the readers’ benefit. Slandering & mudslinging is a sign of desperation.

  • http://www.lankaeye.com Vasantha Raja

    Hi “Doomed to Repeat It”… [Gosh, this name of yours is irritatingly silly and long – even though it does reflect cynics’ mindset that is doomed to repeat. Why don’t you change it to Mr. Cynic or “Doubting Thomas” or something similar? That’s only if you still feel shy to come out into the open. I generally don’t like people hiding behind pseudonyms, in a dialogue like this.]

    Sorry to say, I perceive your comments as hot air to dodge the issues. For instance, you mentioned a half truth about the Wikipedia (a kind of peoples’ encyclopedia) in order to insinuate that what is said there could be factually one-sided. But you know well, if that is the case then anyone can freely challenge it and if proven the editors immediately would have corrected the entry; particularly, in Chavez’s case when the entire imperialist camp keeps trying to demonize him it wouldn’t have taken this long to do just that.

    Read this passage, for instance: “Chávez again won the OAS and Carter Center certification of the national election of December 2006 with 63% of the vote,[42] beating his closest challenger Manuel Rosales who conceded his loss on 4 December 2006.[43] After his victory, Chávez promised a more radical turn towards socialism.”

    But, you’ve again casually tried to slip-in the term ‘dictator’, probably to mislead the reader.

    You repeatedly use the term ‘role model’ to smuggle in the idea that I’m asking SF to imitate Chavez as a role model. On the contrary, I’ve clearly said that I’ve used Chavez’s image in my short essays as an effective “journalistic short-cut” to point at the direction in which the progressive socialist forces are globally evolving at present, and make SF to conscious of. (I think, this is my main contribution to the presently developing mass consciousness in Sri Lanka) There’s no suggestion SF should imitate Chavez, Lenin or anybody else.

    Also, for the readers’ benefit, I raised methodological arguments to point out the damage done to clear thinking by your aimless skepticism. You were probably unable to digest them. Thus, you simply slipped-in the phrase “gobbley-gook lingo” to brush off the logical issues I pointed at. But fortunately, the intended audience of this discussion is not you, but other serious readers who need clarification for action.

    You say that you too are a man of action interested in changing the world. But you’re a self-confessed cynic who thinks that the world never changes; that history is doomed to repeat itself. So why bother…just keep enjoying your comforts until you die.

    For the readers’ benefit, let me finally bring the focus back on to the main points my arguments are all about:

    1. The present government must be brought down. Its victory would only push its entrenched fascistic trends to new heights.
    2. The way to do that is to vote for Sarath Fonseka. Sarath-Mahinda battle cannot be reduced to a mere conflict of personalities. Wittingly or unwittingly he’s become part of a progressive social force.
    3. If/when SF wins, he has the potential to lead the poor majority in the country towards major democratic and economic transformation in line with the fast emerging global socialist forces. If he fails – then social revolution could be on the cards. Global & local circumstances point at this possibility.

  • http://www.lankaeye.com Vasantha Raja

    Hey London Dole…You’re on the wrong track. I never look down on the middle-class. How can I do that when I myself belong to the middle-class; and I drink beer! In my article, I was merely talking about a few friends of mine who are typical cynics. So please read the articles carefully before commenting on them

  • Doomed to Repeat It

    Vasanthan.

    First, if I misinterpreted your take on Chavez, I apologize. I thought you were saying that SF should be like Chavez. My mistake.

    Second, perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word “cynical.” Maybe I should have said I approach these things using Occam’s razor and a strong doses of common sense and moderation.

    Please don’t put dismiss what I think out of hand. I arrived at my perspective after a lot of thought. Just because I don’t drop a bunch of names doesn’t mean I’m not thoughtful about these things. You will note that I frequently use such terms as “I think” and “it seems to me.” I haven’t seen that from you; just a lot of lecturing and name dropping of political/social scientists and philosophers and such. You and I have very different approaches. That doesn’t make my approach wrong.

    Nor is there any need to take such a condescending tone which, until now, I’ve tried to ignore in order to keep things civil. You and I may not agree with each other on some things, but I have refrained from insulting you, either as a thinker or as a person. Too bad you could not afford me the same courtesy.

    Look, if you want to convince people to agree with you, acting with that particular combination of condescension and intellectual elitism is one of the worst ways to do it. You will alienate most of your readers. The two comments above seem to show this.

    I noticed that all of your submissions are about SF and why we should vote for him. This, combined with the leftist lingo, lead me to think you’re some sort of JVP-type plant trying to use GV as one more platform for the common candidate. Fair enough, but I think you ought to just come out and say it. And since this seems to be your real agenda (as opposed to having a discussion), I don’t see the point in continuing this conversation.

    Look, as I said before I actually agree with you on most of what you said. Apparently that’s not enough.

  • Dhiraj

    Fonseka is going to lose by a large margin. It’s pretty amusing to see people believe this is a “close contest.” Each day it is getting more and more obvious that Fonseka is merely a pawn of the UNP. Even what he speaks now has been vetted by UNP and even then the general is tripping over his words. Mahinda’s campaign is more established, slicker and present at the grassroots. Once again, Ranil is going to lead the UNP to defeat.

  • http://www.lankaeye.com Vasantha Raja

    Dear Mr. “Cynic”… Sorry if I offended you with my writing style. I didn’t mean to do so. But, I spontaneously adapt different approaches to this kind of essays/comments on the one hand and academic articles on the other. I try my best to avoid phrases like “I think”, “seems to be” etc. vis-à-vis the former. Also, I often come very hard – perhaps too hard – on wishy-washy comments particularly by those wearing masks.

    I just couldn’t let you get away with the logical inconsistency in your approach: On the one hand you seem to maintain that “history is doomed to repeat itself however much we try to change it”; on the other hand, when under pressure, you want to pay some kind of lip service to the “change-the-world” approach. I, on the contrary, wanted to show that history doesn’t go in circles. The apparent return to the starting-point is a delusion. The real history is rather like a spiral. Thus, the truth is: history keeps repeating itself, but often on a “higher level”, not on the same level. It is this changing aspect that brings forth the “potential” for us to intervene and change things in the direction we want, particularly by adding to the developing human knowledge. In Sri Lanka’s case this takes the form of contributing to the Big Change in mass consciousness that is already in progress.

    You’re right to say I have an agenda. Otherwise one can’t contribute to the changing world. I don’t write or discuss matters for personal satisfaction. I see an immense ‘potential for change’ in the ongoing ‘Mahinda-Sarath conflict’. That’s why I see this split in the Sinhala establishment as a blessing in disguise.

    The Sinhala-dominated state at present is infested with fascists. It must be brought down to start with. SF’s victory would create a new potential for change. Whether SF will have the courage to carry the change forward, or not, is another matter. But I want to bring out “the correct path for SL’s future” as sharply as possible. That would be my contribution to the change, and that is my real agenda in this debate.

    For, I’m convinced there’re no separate solutions for the Tamil-speaking people and the Sinhala-speaking people in Sri Lanka. For better or for worse we’re in the same boat. So let’s try and find the common solution we all need.

    [I’m grateful to you for initiating the opportunity for me to elaborate on important methodological and political issues. Good bye, my friend – whoever you are.]

  • http://www.lankaeye.com Vasantha Raja

    Dear Dhiraj,

    I’m not into predicting the outcome of the election. I’ve taken my stance irrespective of the possible election results. But let me tell you something significant. There’s a good chance of a military takeover to remove SF if Mahinda Rajapaksa lost this election. Clearly the entire Sinhala-extremist establishment, including the army’s present leadership, is lined-up against Sarath Fonseka. The Tamil nationalists – who preach sectarian politics – haven’t quite understood this political reality.

  • Doomed to Repeat It

    Intellectual masturbation.

  • Heshan

    Well-said Dhiraj. Even if he contested as an independent, SF has no chance. MR helped engineer the end of a 30 yr war, and an election coming close on the heels of that – the timing is perfect. Despite the gloomy economic picture, it is nowhere near desperate. No one is going to vote for SF because they want more to eat. Corruption – fortunately or unfortunately, Sri Lankans are quite used to it. I fail to see what SF’s platform is. Certainly, reform is needed – however, whether the average rural farmer from Dambulla can understand the implications of such reform is hardly worth asking. Now is not the time to educate them either. It is to MR’s advantage to push on them his military victories and that is exactly what he will do. This election is by and large predictable. The Tamils will simply not vote. The Kandy/Colombo crowd will vote UNP. The rest of the country will vote for MR. On a different note, this election should give us some time to pause. It is worth asking why a qualified intellectual cannot aspire to the highest position, on the basis of merit alone. It is a damning indictment of the failure of Sri Lanka to evolve as a democracy, and an indication that it is at a perilous crossroads, come what may.

  • wijayapala

    There’s a good chance of a military takeover to remove SF if Mahinda Rajapaksa lost this election.

    Wow! Since you put it that way Vasantha, I hope MR wins!

  • http://www.lankaeye.com Vasantha Raja

    Both Heshan & Wijayapala have raised serious questions and they deserve serious answers. [Mr. Cynic, being true to his philosophy, has just announced what he usually does as one who believes that “history is doomed to repeat”; According to him, it’s not worth trying to change it; so, let’s just use our ‘intellectual discourse’ as a form of masturbation or self-satisfaction. Carry on Mr. Cynic!]

    I think the best way to clarify my position vis-à-vis Heshan & Wijayapala is to put in a nutshell how exactly I perceive the fast moving situation in Sri Lanka:

    Mahinda-Regime is determined to hang on to power by hook or by crook. Ominous signs of thuggery against all opposition are widespread, and the sinister forces of the entire state, including the military leadership, have lined-up to defend the regime. There won’t be ‘free & fare’ elections for sure. MR’s victory, in this sense, may be a foregone conclusion. If Sarath Fonseka miraculously defeats MR despite massive electoral frauds, then the chances of the military leaders coming forward to defend the regime is very real indeed. I’ll not be surprised if the post-election Lanka ends up as a virtual ‘military-junta’.

    The above picture has clear implications: The existing regime will retain state-power under any circumstances. Gangsters’ & corrupt politicians’ dominance in SL politics will get worse. And, escalating anti-democratic methods to crush all opposition to MR’s rule may reach unprecedented heights after the election.

    [Also, remember, this’ll be a capitalist regime to the core, guided by its ‘trickle-down’ economics that cannot defend the poor masses against rising living costs. All cosmetic remedies are bound to fail.]

    SF, JVP, the Tamil nationalists, Wickramabahu, Wije Dias, Mangala or Ranil will be helpless in such a situation. There’s only one force which can effectively challenge a ruthless state-machine of this kind: the labour movement, the trade unions, or more generally: the working class. A General Strike backed by the student movement will have to come forward in defense of Sri Lanka’s democracy and peoples’ living standards.

    A relentless campaign within the unions and the student movement to prepare for this eventuality should be the main focus of all progressive political parties. They should not remain blinkered by electoral activities. Tamil nationalists’ sectarian politics and Left parties’ factionalism and propagandist politics should end. A United-Front to defend democracy and living standards should become the central need of the hour.

  • wijayapala

    Ominous signs of thuggery against all opposition are widespread, and the sinister forces of the entire state, including the military leadership, have lined-up to defend the regime.
    If Sarath Fonseka miraculously defeats MR despite massive electoral frauds, then the chances of the military leaders coming forward to defend the regime is very real indeed.

    The above begs the following question: why is the current military leadership more inclined to support civilian MR over former fellow military leader SF?? Weren’t a lot of pundit-types far more worried about SF attempting a coup?

  • Heshan

    I agree that the election is unlikely to be free and fair to begin with, which is probably why MR went ahead with it, at this particular time. He has the means of intimidation at his disposal, on an unprecedented scale. Just as he successfully prosecuted a war by proxy, he can use similar mechanisms for an election by proxy. The time scale may be slightly smaller, but that is of no consequence. A man whose family controls 67% of the country’s natural resources, whose siblings are holding various powerful ministerial portfolios, and who induces unbridled loyalty from the military, police, and media, should not be underestimated. Even the Supreme Court is under his influence with the recent appointment of Sarath Silva’s replacement. If SF posed an actual threat, I believe he would be quietly disposed of, and the blame quietly assigned to rogue LTTE elements. Let us remember, MR is a man who made a deal with the LTTE (probably the deal of his lifetime)… disposing of SF would be nothing, in comparison.

    The UNP is clearly aware of MR’s stature, whether SF is aware, however, is an open question. In other words, one must question SF’s motives for running in the first place. As someone else pointed out, MR has the grassroots support at village level… he had this before the war ever started, it grew exponentially, and it is unlikely to recede, short of MR making some monumental blunder. SF is counting on the role he played during the war. On the other hand, even during the war, the state-controlled media did not portray SF as they did MR… whether by way of frequency or exaggeration. SF is still just a name – I don’t think SF is quite aware of this. Furthermore, the military is a secretive organization. Whether capabilities SF may have had within such a structure cannot be adequately gauged by the common voter, other than his ability to induce a favorable outcome. In the final analysis, the media favorite is the one whom the people will be most familiar with, and also the one most likely to win the election, and in that regard MR easily takes the cake.

    There is yet another possibility – that in fact, SF is aware he will lose, yet he wishes to vindicate himself over some unfinished business with the Rajapakse’s. If this is the case, expect more revealing outbursts from SF in the days and weeks to come.

  • Heshan

    *Whatever capabilities SF may have had

  • SomeOne

    Dear Heshan,

    SF would have used his military power and easily overthrown MR. Instead, he has thrown his uniform and challenged MR in this election. We all must respect him in this regard.

    “..MR is a man who made a deal with the LTTE (probably the deal of his lifetime)… disposing of SF would be nothing, in comparison….”

    Heshan, this is where you got it wrong.

  • Heshan

    @SomeOne:

    In hindsight, it would be better for SF to have waited a few yrs. That way, he would have more definitive proof of MR’s track record of failure. MR is calling the election after 3 yrs; 3 yrs is not a long time in politics. He can still pin his failures on pre-occupation with the war. Also, his election promise was to win the war – and he has done this. Essentially, SF is trying to bring down someone who has climbed the summit of the highest peak.

    Why doesn’t MR get rid of SF, as was the case with Lasantha W, Tissa, etc? That is a good question. My opinion is that MR, despite his disregard for democratic norms, is obsessed with elections. It was one of his prime objectives after the “liberation” of the East; municipal council elections were held in Jaffna/Vavuniya, and more elections are likely to be held in those areas if MR goes through with the 13th Amendment or his “home-grown” solution. On the other hand, if your opponent doesn’t stand a chance, an election is not very good for public relations. So its better for MR that he run against SF as opposed to Ranil. More PR value to sell to the West, if you will. By the way, the West is also quite naive when it comes to elections. In simple terms, sham elections are an essential part of the Chinthanaya. :)

  • http://www.lankaeye.com Vasantha Raja

    Both Wijayapala & Heshan have raised some pertinent issues. In fact, I agree with many of your observations. I shall write a short article covering them. Hopefully, the GroundViews editor will publish it soon.