Photo from Ceylon Today
If there is a man in this country, apart from Mahinda Rajapaksa, with a conscience more impervious to ethical and moral considerations, a conscience so thickly armour plated that it can blithely adopt the most unprincipled position, then that must be Sarath Nanda Silva, former Chief Justice. This is the man who apologized to the public, just a few months ago, for having delivered an erroneous verdict in exonerating Rajapaksa in the “Helping Hambantota “ fraud. Had the decision been otherwise, all other factors being equal, Rajapaksa would have been placed behind bars for the misuse of public funds. Given Silva’s known expertise in judicial matters, it is also difficult to believe that the erroneous verdict had been delivered in ignorance of its infirmity.
But , not many weeks after the public acknowledgement of his culpability in a wrongful decision of such magnitude, we see Silva at Rajapaksa’s shoulder, on various comeback platforms, singing hosannas in praise of Rajapaksa. Silva has displayed once again, his unparalleled capacity for public nudity. This is the man who occupied the same chair, previously graced by men of unimpeachable integrity, such as Sir Alan Rose, Hema Basnayake and Neville Samarakoon. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum there is also Mohan Peiris, another Rajapaksa foundling , who has much in common with Sarath Silva.
His inclusion of Sarath Silva in his entourage once again underlines Rajapaksa’s amorality and total contempt for public opinion. Along with Silva, consider the chief protagonists in the Rajapaksa revival project; political destitutes such as Prof Tissa Vitharane, Vasudeva Nanayakkara , Dinesh Gunawardane, Udaya Gammanpila and Wimal Weerawansa, the latter moving from pulpit to pulpit, from platform to platform, heaping gratuitous praise on his icon and cleansing the Rajapaksa cesspit with his tongue.
Weerawansa’s role is understandable as he is doing what he is best at ; the consumption and regurgi tation of ordure. But less comprehensible is the position of Vasudeva and Vitharane, men who were considered principled, if only within the narrow meaning of principle in the political context. Even more difficult to comprehend is the recent stance of Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka. Notwithstanding a clearly visceral aversion to the CBK-RW alliance, is it possible for an intelligent man to ignore the pervasive stench of the Rajapakse regime ?
The impermeability of the Rajapksa conscience is demonstrated every time he addresses the public. He speaks of the new government’s acts of political vengeance but conveniently forgets the incarceration of General Sarath Fonseka and the eviction of former Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayake. He speaks of intimidation of political opponents and dissidents but ignores the number of journalists assassinated during his regime and those who were intimidated in to even leaving the country, in order to preserve their lives. He speaks of fiscal improprieties of the Wickremasinghe regime, blandly ignoring the allegations of massive frauds that took place during his tenure, many of which his family members are supposed to be complicit in, including his spouse. He speaks of anti-minority sentiments within the new regime , but forgets the innumerable acts of public savagery unleashed against minorities during his watch- with impunity guaranteed for the aggressors- including the Aluthgama massacre and destruction.
What is Rajapaksa’s objective ? He can certainly win a seat and be returned to Parliament as an MP. But President Sirisena has publicly placed an impediment to Rajapakse being appointed Prime Minister, even if the Rajapaksa faction wins a majority in the House; a contentious issue already, with Sarath Silva staunchly in Rajapaksa’s corner. The 19th Amendment places a constitutional barrier against Rajapaksa becoming President again but, legal and constitutional barriers are irrelevant to Rajapaksa, when he is in pursuit of power. With personal objectives in sight, Rajapaksa has time and again demonstrated that all moral and ethical considerations and public opinion are of no consequence.
What has Rajapaksa now got to offer the country, which he has not offered before ? He has publicly acknowledged that he , deliberately, knowingly, ignored malpractices during his regime and that he shielded the wrongdoers. Having said that, in his comeback bid, he has the same phalanx of fraudsters behind him. Can he provide better governance with the same set of carpetbaggers? What can he now do for the country, that he failed to accomplish when he had absolute power ?
So far, from public platforms, Rajapaksa has repeatedly spoken of the security threat facing the country. He speaks of the number of Army camps in the North which have been dismantled. He repeatedly touts the victory over the LTTE, the credit for which he has appropriated for himself , personally. He implies a resurgence of militant , Tamil nationalism, if he is not re-elected. The only new ideas are the recent offer of an increase of salaries to all state employees and , heaven forbid, the development of the Kurunegala district which will rival that of Hambantota. Does this country need any addition to the burden of already unbearable repayment, which has just commenced, for the loans obtained for the construction of an airport and a harbour, both equally sterile ?
On the 8th of January, a majority voted for the ouster of Rajapaksa , the President. Whilst conceding that it is any citizen’s right to seek re-election, or new election, what is the moral implication in the concept of a man, rejected in a third term presidential bid, the latter made possible by manipulation of the Constitution, seeking re-entry as an ordinary member of parliament, with perhaps the possibility of becoming Prime Minister ? He is a man who stands accused of permitting massive frauds and other wrongdoings in his period in office. Using the same words that Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka employed in a different context, to me there is a “moral disequilibrium” in this concept. In the above circumstances, it requires a man with a totally bankrupt conscience, to be able to articulate before the public, his suitability for further public office. It requires people equally bankrupt morally, to publicly support such a revival.
This country needs a genuinely democratic and ethical governance, which the Maithripala/Wickramasinghe alliance sought to establish. Unquestionably, there have been glaring fault lines in that combination, the Central Bank bond issue being one such. The one sliver of light in an otherwise sordid affair is that it was immediately investigated, not once but twice. It would never have happened in a Rajapaksa regime, which contemptuously swept aside dissenting public opinion in all cases of alleged misconduct, either of the state or of favoured sons and acolytes of the ruling family.
Rajapaksa, by nature, by inclination, and on account of personal considerations , is incapable of providing ethical governance. Having been conferred royal status by compliant acolytes, he acted as if he was above public accountability. He ruled the country through a coterie of family members and a few willing and equally conscienceless political lackeys placed in strategic positions, specially selected for their subservience to his will. This man is genetically incapable of change for the better. This country, struggling to recover from the economic and other depredations of a decade, cannot afford to have Rajapaksa back in any position of political power and influence.
The January 08 verdict was the articulation of a silent revolution, the popular expression of a point of view , actively promoted by citizen’s groups and individuals, in protest against the un-ethicality , the lack of law and order, the moral bankruptcy , of his governance. There may have been other considerations, such as cost of living, but such issues were not as much in the forefront of citizens’ movements against Rajapaksa, as was the issue of misrule.
Rajapaksa, still driven by a delusional mindset, demonstrates the same obtuseness in his dismissal of minority aspirations and grievances though, in a belated acknowledgement of a miscalculation which cost him the Presidency, he has offered, in his recent Anuradhapura speech, platitudes approximating to the need for ethnic reconciliation. Coming from a man whose platform has always been Sinhala / Buddhist hegemony , such rhetoric will be recognized for its insincerity and be dismissed with deserved contempt.
The Rajapaksa comeback initiative has one objective; a return to the status quo which existed and the seizure of total power- Constitutional Amendments be damned- which will most likely result , for President Sirisena, first in loss of position and then in loss of freedom ( remember General Fonseka ) Thereafter, there will be the certain return to the submission of the Judiciary, Armed Forces, Police and the Administration, to the Family yoke. Ongoing investigations in to malpractices involving his cronies and family will be suppressed. Justice will both be delayed and denied. This time around, having learnt a lesson from the unexpected loss of power from a seemingly impregnable position, Rajapaksa will contrive to shut all doors on a possible, future reversal. The country will once again become the playground of the First Family Mafia, well in to the foreseeable future.
In Rajapaksa’s warped mentality, you are either an acolyte, supplicant or an accomplice , in which case you will be supported , rewarded and your crimes tolerated or ignored . If you hold a dissenting point of view, you are an enemy to be destroyed. The publicly known examples of both are too numerous to be recounted , here. There is no space for democratic opposition to his position. He has demonstrated, beyond dispute, that whilst such a personal ethos is useful during conflict, it is totally inimical for a nation trying to build a viable peace , after a prolonged , internecine conflict. The return of Rajapaksa will result in renewed aggression, political fragmentation and intensified racial division within the country. Those are circumstance which Rajapaksa revels in. If they do not exist, he will create the chaos, in which he most effectively operates.
In ancient times, when an alleged “vampire “ was killed and buried, a wooden stake was driven in to the heart of the corpse, in the belief that that would prevent a resurrection of the vampire. These are more enlightened times and we no longer publicly subscribe actively to such theories. In the coming election , the ballot in the hands of the discerning voter , is equivalent to that wooden stake, to ensure the permanent silencing of a different , but a far more dangerous and a far more real evil, than the mythical vampire.