Gota: Bureaucrat, Soldier Or Politician?

By Gaminin Weerakoon (Sunday Leader)

‘One of the reasons Donald Trump won was because people are sick of career politicians delivering rhetoric instead of results. His is a lesson for Sri Lanka to consider’ – Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in a tweet as reported in The Daily Mirror on 14/11.

Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan’, is a truism we are reminded of when we read and hear the many accolades now swamping Donald Trump, like the one we quoted above.

To those who played with gusto ‘nationalist’ beats and have been confined to in Sri Lanka’s political wilderness for 22 months thereafter, Donald Trump’s astounding victory has been a shot of adrenalin in the arm or a strong one off the bottle to revive their sagging spirits.

Trump drummed white racist supremacist tunes in his presidential campaign and was backed by even the (KKK) Klu Klux Klan who have been hounding American Blacks since 1860 and are still engaged in that endeavour against all minorities.

And he won the American Presidential election. The American billionaire has kindled hopes of widely disparate forces to anything in American politics let alone Trump’s heretical utterances.

Will history repeat itself?

Now it appears to be the hope of the Rajapaksa faithful that American history will repeat itself in Lanka when the next election comes along.

The Sinhala Jatiya Party – or whatever name it will finally take – comprising leading intellectuals like Wimal Weerawansa and Gotabhaya and Basil Rajapaksa with Prof. G. L. Peiris for academic adornment and the defeated but evergreen Mahinda Rajapaksa as its leader, it is hoped, will do a Donald Trump and sweep elections. Trump qualifies for support of the deep Sinhala South. Didn’t some federalist types smash coconuts at a pooja for Hilary Clinton to win and Trump to lose at some sacred kovil in the North a few days before the American election? Perhaps e-mails were whizzing from Colombo to the Trump HQ in New York of the upsurge of support from the unrecognised Opposition in Colombo!


What intrigued us most was Gota’s revulsion of ‘Career Politicians’ who are ‘capable of delivering rhetoric but not results’. Who in his opinion are these ‘career politicians’? How would he describe his boss, mentor, philosopher and guide brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has done nothing but politics since he entered parliament in 1970, as a career politician?

When he says ‘people are sick of career politicians delivering rhetoric instead of results’, is he referring to Hilary Clinton or his ‘Mahinda Aiya’?

All this raises the question: Who is Gotabhaya Rajapaksa? Ex-military man, ex- bureaucrat, ex-information specialist of sorts, and American cum Sri Lankan citizen or up and coming politician? Didn’t he play hard politics serving as a secretary to two ministries?

Probably he had Donald Trump, the billionaire President-Elect in mind when he tweeted about his revulsion of career politicians. Does Gota have a business of that kind? Not to our knowledge.

Definition of a Lanka politico

A Sri Lankan politician can be defined as: A servant of the people, who had betrayed the people by breaking all pledges given to them before being elected, betraying even the party under whose colours he was elected; acquiring privileges of an abnormal servant such as a bungalow in Colombo 7, free bullet proof luxury vehicle, a platoon of well trained armed bodyguards with vehicles attached, free fuel allowances, subsidized meals in parliament for self and guests, free foreign junkets and other unmentionable favours.

Should a ‘career politician’ reject all that just as much Donald Trump has rejected his presidential salary and said he would accept only one dollar a year. But our politicians, ‘career’ or not, do pocket their pay with allowances – perhaps with only one exception. They regularly vote salary hikes for themselves sinking all political differences for this noble cause.

Getting back to the issue whether Gota is fish or fowl, it should be noted that he came into the public eye only after he returned from America when his brother was elected the President for him to become the Secretary, Minister of Defence. His controversial role as Secretary Defence and being named as ‘war heroes’ with his brother is too well known to be discussed in this essay. He later was the Ministry Secretary for the Environment where he gained the reputation of being a ‘doer’.

That is perhaps why he tweeted his disdain for career politicians who ‘deliver rhetoric and not results’.

Winning the Battle of the Bulge

Gota made Colombo or at least Colombo 7 beautiful. A Colombo 7 descendant of generations of UNPers, fighting the Battle of the Bulge on Gota’s paved ‘walkabouts’ on the race course told us one day at sundown: ‘Anney whatever said about Gota, he is ‘a doer’ no? Look at what he has done to Colombo. But this is an island of cynics.

Colombo 7 was always beautiful till those defence cum security types built up high walls, hideous structures and put up barricades, etc. Pulling them down and getting war heroes to lay paving stones was no great shakes, a Colombo UNP dude opined.  So, when Gota tweeted his disdain for professional politicians what did it indicate?

Military politicians

Does he want to be a non-professional politician, whatever it means?  Being a former military man he should look at military men who had taken to politics and exercised political power in contemporary times.

There is General Park Chung Hee, the absolute dictator of South Korea (until he was shot by his own Intelligence Chief) and the father of the present president Park Geun Hye; One time ‘Red General’ Chang Kai Shek; Notorious Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines; General Suharto known for his ruthlessness and more for corruption; Pakistani Generals – Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia- ul- Haq. They were known for many things good and bad but were not good for democracy at all.

Gotabhaya in his tweet also reveals a typical political trait: Obfuscation of the real meaning in words used such as: ‘professional politician’ which we have tried to analyse in this essay.

To those desirous of taking to politics the words of the English writer and journalist George Orwell may be of help: Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.