By Vishwamithra1984 (Colombo Telegraph/ Daily Mirror)
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” ~John F. Kennedy
The fabric of each civilized society is being woven with one common thread. That common thread is the rule of law. Any society that does not adhere to the fundamental principles of rule of law begins its decay from the first day of that departure from this noble human creation that has bound various human families together as nations, communities or tribes. In advanced human societies, as they exist today, the rule of law is not worshipped like thousands of deities, statues of religious leaders or any ancient artifacts and relics discovered thanks to archeological explorations. But the rule of law continues to safeguard the common man, woman and child against any invasive action by transgressors of the law; it also acts with ruthless efficiency and merciless prowess. Blinded by a mask that covers her eyes, the Lady of Justice looks over her children without emotion but with utter equanimity.
However, if the very mechanism which holds that law and its enforcers together is interfered with, if the cogs and wheels that make the whole machine possible are messed with, the entire process would, at the beginning come to a standstill. Then the decaying process starts with no noticeable symptoms; the stench of outside influence is not strong enough for any insider to smell and the cracks are too miniscule for any outsider to notice. Yet a discriminating traveller would undoubtedly decipher these microscopic cracks and faint smells and reach the inevitable conclusion that the country’s judiciary is at stake; its independent stature is being challenged; its operators, judges, attorneys and officials in the Ministry of Justice are being unfavorably advantaged as in the case of Rajapaksa cohorts and disadvantaged if they are anti-Rajapaksa. Whichever way it is spinning, what are really spinning are our justice system and the sacred notion of rule of law, and they are spinning the wrong way.
That was the secret of the Rajapaksa-myth. A myth that was interlaced over ten years from the Helping Hambantota days to the award of Colombo Port City to the Chinese contractors. When they had control over the judiciary system, they literally controlled the ultimate outcome of any legal, parliamentary or bureaucratic probe. The sudden disappearance from the country of Frederica Janz, former editor of Sunday Leader, after a stormy telephone conversation with a sibling who held a super high post under Mahinda Rajapaksa when an ostensibly independent judiciary is live and functional is evidence of that so-called ‘live, functional and independent’ judiciary. It was also among the whispering shadows that Frederica was absconding in a close-by Asian country on the of the verdict deliverance of the infamous White Flag case in which General Sarath Fonseka was found guilty of. The Sunday Leader was the leading critic of the Rajapaksa clan’s conduct of public affairs. Then editor of the Sunday Leader simply did not trust the judiciary under the Rajapaksas. That indeed was a great tragedy.
The two most prominent abuses of power under the Rajapaksas were aimed at the two of the leading figures of the official machinery at the time. General Sarath Fonseka was taken into custody in the most gruesome manner, soon after the Presidential Elections in 2010 and. thereafter the alleged one-sided trial and incarceration in a most cold-blooded fashion, he being exposed to the public in his prison jumpsuit, are etched in the memories of patriotic Sri Lankans and the circus of abuse of the judiciary and the deafening silence of the part of some who occupied the benches of the highest courts were all part of this spectacle played out in the open.
Then came the most shamefully conducted impeachment process against the then Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayke. Within a matter of days she was accused, trialed and found guilty and impeached by a parliamentary select committee. Shaming of General Fonseka and Shirani Bandaranayake was two of the blackest deeds carried out by any government in Sri Lanka’s storied history, beginning from the Devanampiyatissa days to the present. The Rajapaksas understood the fine art of manipulating the machinery of political power within the constitutional framework. Appointing a now-defamed Attorney General and then promoting him to be the Chief Justice of the country sealed the deal, both for Sarath Fonseka and Shirani Bandaranayke.
This cruel manipulation of the system by the Rajapaksas paved the way for them to create an illusion of ‘permanent residency’ in the benches of power. What gave them this unkind license to think that theirs was power forever? What deluded them to be so complacent and contented? What drove them to this abyss that they created not only for themselves, but in the process the country too? They did not create this illusion in a vacuum. They did not depend solely on the judiciary manipulation. They possessed some unmatched talents that the present set of government-leaders do not enjoy at all.
The Rajapaksas had a well-oiled propaganda machine that worked overtime. They either crated their own ear-catching slogans or their advertising experts created for them. Terms like ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ (Spring in the North), ‘Negenahira Navodaya’ (Rejuvenation of the East), ‘Maanushika Meheyuma’ (Human Operation), Mahinda’s recurrent reference to the notion that he was ready to go to the ‘electric chair’ on behalf of the patriotic sons and daughters of the country were all creations of this talented propaganda Goebelleses.
They not only managed to create an illusory set of goals and purposes, they gave it a local, vernacular tinge. In addition, they portrayed themselves as ‘strong’ men. Strength is a great characteristic in a leader. Ordinary people get easily attracted to raw power. In political propaganda, what matters is not the truth. Our American ‘hero’ Donald Trump is proving it time and time again. If a lie is repeated often enough, following the dark theory of Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Chief, the lie becomes the truth. That is precisely what the Rajapaksas shamelessly indulged in.
The war-victory gave them a badge of patriotism; they wore that badge while engaging in some of the most unpatriotic deeds; ransacking the country’s coffers, allowing some third-rate hooligans to control power at Pradesheeya Sabha level and looking the other way when these political ruffians openly challenged the rule of law were within the wherewithal of the Rajapaksa cabal. That brute strength which was ascribed to the Rajapaksa clan outlived the regime’s tenure. Today it’s continuing in the opposition as Joint Opposition. Both President and Prime Minister seem not to care but if they do so they would be doing that at their own peril. The Rajapaksas did not possess any strength outside their power cocoon. Their political infertility and avaricious character are being displayed in the open today. Yet the people seem to rally around them.
Cartoon googled and added by TW
The United National Party and the Maithripala faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party must realize one cardinal truth. That is Maithripala Sirisena did not obtain a majority of the Sinhalese Buddhist votes. In a close analysis, this writer forecasted well before the Presidential Elections of 2015 that Sirisena would win but by a whisker. I also predicted that he would not get more than 51% of the total vote. He got 51.28%. Had Mahinda Rajapaksa managed to obtain more than 63% of the Singhalese Buddhist vote, Mahinda Would have won a third term. I have repeatedly stated that Sirisena owes his victory to the Tamils, Muslims and the UNPers. When an overwhelming majority of the minorities- in this case close to 80% of the voting Tamils and Muslims vote for one candidate- one needs only 37% of the Sinhalese Buddhist vote to win. Maithripala Sirisena managed to get that. Whether it could be repeated is entirely in the hands of the current coalition partners.
War drums have fallen silent; electric chairs and rejuvenation of a region have evaporated into dusty, smoggy air; slogans have lost their electricity; heroes have fallen from their horses and the caravan still seems to continue in a dumb and unpatriotic way. The onlookers have turned the other way for their daily chores are more important than the caravan; henchmen and cohorts are behind bars and some are shuttling between home and courts of law. The wheel of law is turning but excruciatingly slow and sometimes seem unwilling. Apathy, the omnipresent danger, is slowly setting in. Ordinary men, women and children get busy with earning their pay; an ominous air of gloom and despair are gradually replacing hope and enthusiasm. This is the ever-present danger to the very survival of democracy, a system of government, however much inadequate it may look, it’s the best among bad choices humankind faces today. Sri Lanka is no exception.
Rajapaksa’s strong point must be blunted; political carnivores should not be allowed to raise their greedy heads again; apathy on the part of political leaders and ordinary men and women cannot be forgiven under any circumstances.
*The writer can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org