Photo courtesy of Thinuka Sathnindu
No, they have not been eradicated as yet. But they will; if not this month or even this year then, sadly, in time.
- Mahinda will stop his pathetic posturing and accept that his sell by date is long past as the majority of Sri Lankans are no longer are susceptible to his false charm, or die in disgrace.
- Gotabaya grasps that it’s personally more dangerous for him to stay rather than go.
- The revolving cabinet and other Rajapaksa hangers-on will try to escape down every alleyway after Mahinda and Gotabaya are gone.
It is only after the death of this heinous reign that Sri Lankans will gain a fresh lease on life. But it won’t be an easy passage. When this time comes and the violent end games of the Rajapaksas have played out, what will instantly be evident will be the vacuum of leadership. With the common enemy gone, disorder and distrust will grip a befuddled people. But this is exactly what the Rajapaksa conglomerate has designed for us – in their absence a nation that will be tortured by turmoil; this we must not forget when we go forward. Just as valiantly as our struggle to evict them, we will have to be unflagging in our efforts to steady Sri Lanka’s course. We will have to remember how we got in to this mess and be determined to upend the design plan of the Rajapaksas, then soldier on towards the Sri Lanka we want.
The fallout of a dictatorial rule, intent on appropriating state resources, is instability at the core.
Today, even as we scream “Caretaker Government!”, we have only a vague grasp of how ineffective that administration will be. Particularly in the aftermath of an anarchic overthrow of a dictatorship, it will be an overthrowing because the Rajapaksas will never leave through a democratic process.
Governing a people made boisterous through desperation will not be an easy task. The minute the euphoria of the Rajapaksas’ exit wanes, the caretaker government will be unpopular.
Unavoidably, composed of many of the infamous 225 members of parliament, this interim government will be charged with the daunting tasks of repealing the 20th Amendment to the Constitution and holding a democratic election. Passing vital legislature through a parliament membership, which is mostly merchandise, will be the biggest challenge. Then, preparing for a momentous election while placating a people now accustomed to achieving their ends through anarchy will be an arduous task for even the most stable regime. A caretaker government will hang by a thread for the entirety of its existence and it will be up to us, the people, to constantly remind ourselves of their exact role, aid them and hold them to their task of serving us, the public.
This time of great enlightenment
Unfettered by the Rajapaksa family recipe of coups, bombs and liberal stirrings of racial hatred, Sri Lanka will have an opportunity to honestly revaluate where she stands. For the first time since 2005, with Rajapaksa stooges in government service cleansed, cowering, tamed or born again, the internal workings of the management of this nation will be revealed. At least for a brief period following the Rajapaksas’ demise, it won’t be cool for government servants (let’s revert to calling them government servants because state officials somehow tend to forget their place) to falsify reports and certifications for handsome bribes. As many a study has assessed, the state services are ridiculously overstaffed; the reality will be the recommended, mass shedding of the excess. Hopefully, this essential wash out will clean these politicised stables from the police down to the extra tea boy who nicked documents for his patron MP. But these pampered, mostly incompetent, government servants will need sustained praise and commendations if we want to raise the bar for state services.
Then, the years of irregular government tenders and appointments, which were shuttered and veiled in lies to appease a gullible public will keep coming to light. This will also curb future attempts by corporates and “tenderpreneurs” to return to their business as usual of bribery and corruption. More deals and criminal machinations to rape our country for the benefit of the Rajapaksa Conglomerate will continue to surface. With every revelation, I hope the resultant shock and horror will be loud and intolerant, urging us to stay the course that the GotaGoHome campaign has defined.
Research and analysis
We need to get smart about who does what and why. We, as a society, need to calibrate and instantly recognise any future Rajapaksa-like disruptions. When the 2019 Easter Sunday murders happened if we only asked ourselves, “Why? Who could benefit from murdering hundreds of innocents with an Easter bombing?” then I’m sure most A’level students would have figured out who benefitted most. Instead we happily bought the cheap marketing, the racist story that was peddled best but eventually, even the Cardinal figured it out.
The simplest methodology to facilitate robbery and the free rein of the robber barons is to untie the knots of administration. The Rajapaksas have done exactly this without any pretenses from release of Protected Areas of land to mining permits, destruction of archaeological sites, irregular tender procedures and on up to presidential pardons of convicted murderers and the 20th Amendment that, shockingly, would allow brother Basil, a dual citizen, to be prime minister and gave a president the power over appointments to independent committees.
All this happened while most Sri Lankans stood by stupidly or silent and afraid. The first task of an interim government would be to re-tie as many knots of administration as possible, cautiously tightening the framework that regulates governance. It won’t be popular governance when laws are imposed again. Shameless corporates will resist being taxed and lobby the opposition on the sly, the recently impoverished masses will openly oppose the loss of subsidies on essential items and perhaps only the environmentalists who truly love this land (not those who thought it prudent to remain quiet when Other State Forests were degazetted) will lobby for the reclamation of Protected Areas to the state. In short, most people who naively expect an instant reversal of these dark days will be unhappy.
Many governments will struggle to meet people’s expectations for quite a while. Sadly, thanks to the dogged dismantling by the Rajapaksas, I think there will be many interim governments. In fact, I believe the Yahapalanaya regime was the first of these interim governments. It was Sri Lanka’s first step in purging herself of the Rajapaksa tumour. Confounded by the depth and breadth of the corruption and faced with a mulish bureaucracy that was intent on retrieving the Rajapaksas who had thrown them tidbits, Yahapalanaya only managed to mildly stabilise the economy. Fed and watered, people were free to grapple with the definition of good governance.
When a coup, aided by President Maithripala Sirisena, failed to install a Rajapaksa, many now believe it was their deadly Plan B that was effected on Easter Sunday 2019. The incumbent government was instantly blamed for its failure to protect us. While people fumbled for answers in their grief, the great hero quickly stuck his head through the blasted door and announced his plans for presidency. Desperate for a hero (or a quick profit), 6.9 million pairs of eyes were shut to all the glaring evidence of a fraud. In marched the incumbent president – the thick-skinned pretender who ignores the nations screams of Gota Go Home because he has a few more illicit commissions to collect and has not finished digging the hole deeper for us Sri Lankans who will stay behind in the country we love. Then he will hop on a jet to some obscure resort town to count his money leaving his dull-witted nephews the scraps of Sri Lanka.
We will be left to pick up the pieces of this once resplendent land. Let us accept that it will be a long road to our destination of prosperity, peace and harmony. To begin our journey, we will first need to successfully elect a government. But be warned, the newest and most hopeful regime will stumble; they will trip on the loosened laces of administration, untied for the convenience of the Rajapaksas. Then a frustrated and intolerant population will howl that new regime out of office too.
Policy over personality
I’m not convinced that Sri Lankans have learnt the value of voting for policy rather than personality. Although today we are victims of this immature choice and are being suffocated by the people’s choice of a con artiste, I think we will once again embrace another bombastic incompetent. Or we will mulishly look to the untried; the strands of the JVP, with their revolutionary rhetoric, will be most attractive to many. That they still have no evident governance strategy, international credibility nor reach, which is so essential now, most likely will not be computed in. A coalition, kept in check with a JVP opposition as they excel as a watchdog, may be the next best thing after the fall. With this fatal combination of our voters’ immaturity, gullibility and lack of analytical skills, the next few leaders we choose may not be Rajapaksas but once in office they are unlikely to deliver to our expectations.
I doubt there will be an instant Diyasena Kumara or any other messiah or maverick who will fortuitously emerge from the shadows. However, hopefully, we have learnt a few lessons and the community-led, astute and superior management skills at Gotagogama will remain forceful.
Overseeing our bumbling journey will be the apparent benevolence of India and China – China, who will just tuck us in like chewing gum and India, who will rattle us if we get unnecessarily stable. If we choose our leaders wisely and rise as a united people one day, China will watch us quietly from afar as China always does because we are adequately insignificant and distant. However, our giant neighbour would find excessive economic stability on her border irksome, again. India, the unified nation that Britain created, watches us inexplicably closely in stark contrast to her people who have always loved us well. Her hawkish interest in her little neighbour’s lack of progress far exceeds the interest that her wealthy and contented pre-colonial principalities ever displayed. Unfortunately, it’s likely that India’s focus on our economic growth would falter only if the sub-continent returns to her less self-conscious, pre-colonial state. But now when she offers us a hand we will be compelled to take it, even as we see the delicately patterned, knuckle-duster she wears. Japan is likely to lend cautiously, still grateful for compassion extended so many decades ago. Europe and the distant Americas would perhaps lend to us in kind. Simply said, since the Rajapaksas have beggared us, we can no longer choose who’s offerings we accept.
In the grand scale of human existence, 12 years of misrule is less than a blink of an eye. Can one, previously nondescript clan disrupt the machinery of a nation, which has sputtered along, since independence from British colonisation for more than seven decades? One would think, what damage can be done in such a short tenancy? But as many a landlord will confirm, a tenant focused on stealing your fittings with little mind to the damage they cause to the structure they occupy, in fact, could cause terrible damage. The Rajapaksas’ tenancy contract with Sri Lanka is now over but we still need to finish the paperwork. Sadly, if that fails then an eviction seems inevitable.