WHY GOTA MUST GO – The Island
By Anura Gunasekera
We are so much more powerful when we look to each other, not against each other, when we celebrate our diversity…and tear down the mighty walls of injustice together (Cynthia Mckinney – American politician and activist)
Perhaps by the time this is published, Sri Lanka will have a functioning government. At the time of writing, Sri Lanka has a dysfunctional administration that has let the country down. Unless lawmakers bury both individual and party differences, elect a parliamentary task force and quickly put in place a viable recovery strategy, very soon Sri Lanka will be classed as a state. bankrupt, because successive regimes have failed the people. As rulers, the Rajapaksa family regimes contributed heavily, with recent help from the Sirisena-Wickramsinghe duo, through indecision, personal conflict and glorification of colossal fraud during the period of “Yahapalanaya” delirium. , to which this writer also subscribed, briefly, for a few euphoric months.
As the fabric of the nation disintegrates on real-time television, the lawmakers responsible for this tragic situation have, over the past three days, traded insults and accusations across the floor of this talk shop, once the the nation’s legislature, but now a refuge for the villain and the thief; Apart from pious and sickening statements about the imperative to comfort a desperate nation, only one constructive proposal has yet to emerge.
The proceedings are a mirror image of the President’s address to the nation a few weeks ago when, though he waded helplessly through a quagmire largely of his own making, he blandly declared that he had nothing to do with it. Whoever wrote this juvenile and simplistic speech with its wish list of unattainable financial goals also needs a serious reality check; included were two ridiculously contradictory statements, hilarious if not for the desperation of the state of the nation- “I accept responsibility for the decisions I make……. This crisis was not created by me”. This typically robotic, emotionless delivery had as much credibility as a tortured confession.
Coming back to the events of the day, what is the solution available to the people? While grappling with immediate issues, GR must also figure out why. 26 months after he was elected president by an overwhelming majority, a popular approval reflected in the legislative elections that followed, the same millions are now calling for his immediate ouster or resignation. Although the regime as a whole figures in the animosity of citizens, it is still largely personal against GR and the Rajapaksa family. It has always been crystal clear that all crucial decisions are made by GR, his brothers and sisters, a handful of trusted courtiers and handed over to a legislature of minions for blind approval.
Take for example the disastrous edict on organic farming; GR chose to follow a personal belief, said to have been encouraged by Dr. A. Padeniya – a pediatrician – and Ven Athuraliya Ratana, a Buddhist priest, while ignoring the advice and pleas of a large number of experts and agricultural scientists. Perhaps Gnana Akka, the palace witch, also approved of it. It will also be remembered that the same Ratana was the architect of the ruinous glyphosate ban, imposed with such catastrophic consequences during Sirisena’s tenure. These two examples alone reinforce the need to remove from governance both religion and servile amateurs, a poisonous mixture constantly bubbling in the cauldron of Rajapaksa, with ethno-nationalism, the bogeyman of ancestry. minority and other related specters, paraded successfully before the fragile Sinhalese-Buddhist state of mind.
GR seems to have convinced itself that the problem is simply a shortage of essentials and the daily power cuts, and that restoring the supply chain will appease a beleaguered nation. There was the immediate cosmetic exercise of reallocating the portfolios while dropping the brothers Basil, Chamal and nephew Namal from the cabinet, evidently in the belief that a revamped dispensation might continue, with himself and his brother Mahinda at bar.
The reality that Gotabaya is refuting is that what the nation is looking for is not just cooking gas, fuel for vehicles and electricity delivery insurance, but also a change in the administration of which he, with the power that conferred upon it by the 20th Amendment, is the pivot. The expulsion of the Rajapaksa oligarchy from the governance of the country is a unanimous wish, transcending racial, religious and social and economic divides. The once deified family is demonized across the country. Gotabaya, who rose to power through a brutal divisive policy, dismissing minorities as unimportant as he had the full support of Sinhalese-Buddhist politics, through the national chaos created by his incompetent government, eventually succeeded to unite those who were divided. segments in a common cause; his immediate dismissal.
Johnston Fernando, Chief Government Whip, hilariously stated that there is no question of the president stepping down as he carries the mandate of 6.9 million people. As millions across the country have been calling for the man’s resignation for weeks, braving extreme weather, severe personal discomfort and the realistic expectation of bodily harm from police and armed forces, in what context can we cite a citizen declaration mandate? Even to Johnston’s limited intellect, it should be clear that GR’s voting base has become a mirage.
Despite this reality, Gotabaya seems determined to stay and obviously needs to be put to work politically. The protests are now in the nature of a magnificently impassioned civic movement and the nation’s determination and momentum are such that failure to achieve the primary objective may convert it into civic unrest or active civil disobedience; a situation that could be catalysed by violence with the covert help of regime-allied mercenaries. The Vanguard hand, wielded by close GR ally NIssanka Senadhipathi, was linked to the Mirihana violence by Anura Kumara Dissanayake in his April 7 speech to parliament. Given GR’s known appetite for dissent suppression, this would be exactly what he expects; the opportunity for a counter-attack by deploying the armed forces. The second stage would be governance in which the military machine prevails over civil authority. The cogs are already in place, in the form of former army cronies in key administration posts.
Any crackdown that results in bloodshed can drive the movement underground and the emergence of an insurgency that, unlike previous JVP uprisings, would receive popular support across the country. John F Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable”.
But no army will be able to stifle the anger of a united nation, the power of a citizens’ movement, which has no political, ethnic or religious borders, nor any other island landmark. The result of an armed repression of the movement will be an ungovernable nation, the total disintegration of the economy and the consequent withdrawal of international financial aid, combined with sanctions. In a previous article I talked about Lebanon and this doomsday scenario is not too far from Sri Lanka unless in the first instance the leader who has lost the legitimacy, the moral right to rule, resigns instead to cling to power by invoking a constitutional law on the right. But the leader who has no moral sense and is therefore unable to understand this reality must be expelled.
Despite the lack of unity in the opposition, there is meaning in its reluctance to participate in any new form of government with Gotabaya still at its helm. But it must also be clear to them that anarchy is a likely scenario unless, in the coming days, it clears up differences and initiates a viable strategy for the elimination of GR. Introducing motions without obtaining a majority in the House will only reinforce GR’s decision to cling to power. He is the malignity in the national body and his excision must take place in parliament, before Gotabaya offers his usual brutal solution to dissent.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa addressed the nation on Monday; a self-righteous, deceitful delivery with its tired, old-fashioned rhetoric given a different twist, blaming all the blame on the previous regime and the Corona pandemic while equating a democratic citizen protest with an attack on democracy itself; there was also a request not to humiliate the “Ranaviru”, of which there was no evidence in any of the demonstrations. Absent was an acknowledgment of the regime’s responsibility for the ongoing collapse or an assurance to a desperate nation. Instead, there was a veiled warning to protesters, with a reference to the JVP insurgencies and the then-state response; the ethos of the younger brother expressed by the elder. It was a threatening Don Vito Corleone, addressing the summons of the Five Families, implying violent repression if his family position was threatened. MR threw down the gauntlet and made the family’s intentions clear to the nation.
What is happening is an apolitical citizen movement. It is the restless heartbeat of a nation in turmoil, Sri Lanka’s Bastille moment. But the incredible energy generated by the people must be captured, before it loses its integrity by being harnessed to an engine with a precise political agenda. In the desperation of a people, there is also an opportunity for a new beginning for the country, to usher in a different governance in which the systems work for the people; in which the regime is accountable to the nation for its conduct, with an effective mechanism to punish the dishonesty of elected officials, and for the excision of systemic corruption and impunity of the powerful, pervasive across successive regimes. It is a turning point and it is also perhaps our finest hour since independence. Future generations should be able to reflect on the events of today and be grateful to their ancestors for making Sri Lanka a better country to live in.
There is hope for a new dawn for this country, but that light will only emerge if the star Rajapaksa goes out on the horizon first. This is an imperative and the main task before the legislature and the nation.