Viyath Maga: A morbid symptom
Yes. Disraeli said that it is easier to be critical than to be correct. He also said that ignorance never settles a question.
We live in politically perplexing times. On 8 January 2015 we ousted a regime that was corpulently corrupt, rapaciously racist and intuitively intolerant of dissent.
In its place, we elected a new President who promised reforms. He in turn found a new Prime Minister whose party apparatus formed the nucleus of the movement which at the time was the only viable political mechanism that could counter the entrenched power of the ruling family. It was touch and go. Make no mistake. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a terrible but a credible alternative to a disenchanted electorate.
Viyath Maga was a tribal war dance. In primitive tribes the war dance was about appropriation of power. The Viyath Maga event was also about appropriating power. The old chief was present. The new chief was in charge. The old tribe in the years 2010-2015 transformed the tribe and embraced modernity in the form of co-opted corporations and academics
That ruling family – the Rajapaksas in the Majority Sinhala Buddhist psyche, fortuitously for them, calamitously to us citizens – is associated with the defeat and destruction of the LTTE. Today, the Rajapaksas are on a comeback mode.
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Our reform movement is showing signs of collapse. In a recent missive, Professor Kumar David has summed up the confounding complexities of the present impasse in governance and the senseless sangfroid of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duumvirate. He says that ‘ordinary people describe the present state of indecision and indifference in rich colloquial terms’ by resorting to anatomy of the physiology of the ruling pair. The public seems to assume that the President is missing a part above the neck and the Prime Minister is missing a part below the waist.
Viyath Maga also known as Project Gota has to be studied in this context of cerebral and reproductive deficiencies of the ‘Yahapalanaya’ we installed in place of the Rajapaksa Regime. I have no regrets in voting for President Sirisena. I now regret voting for the JVP in the parliamentary elections. The JVP runs the risk of rendering themselves irrelevant. It is time some of them started reading a few books written in English. They should turn their curious minds to the exponential changes that occur with an unbelievable speed in this age. Tilvin Silva is light-years away from modernity. He is the General Secretary.
‘Bashing Viyath Maga’
The immediate purpose of this essay is to respond to the article that appeared in the Daily FT under the caption ‘Bashing Viyath Maga’
He describes me as a senior journalist. Thank you. If there is an afterlife, I wouldn’t mind reliving those exciting days. My meandering journey in life did begin at Lake House. In fact I was a reporter on the staff of the Ceylon Daily News when my eldest son was born in a place called Cinnamon Gardens Nursing Home down Gregory’s Road and opposite D.S. Senanayake College.
The total charges amounted to Rs. 560 – a princely sum, I did not have. I applied for a distress loan. The Chairman Ranjith ALWijewardene gently, with a twinkle in his eye, reminded me that it was a distress that I could have taken steps to alleviate over the preceding nine months! Somehow, the bill was settled. He was mindful of the definition of a distress and equally appreciative of my present and immediate distress. A solution was worked out. It was Budget debate time. Overtime earnings came in handy. I celebrated the birth of my first born with Tikiri Herath and Sarath Muththeuwegama after Parliament.
That was in November 1970. I remember making a few generous comments on the maiden speech of the young Parliamentarian Mahinda Rajapaksa. His speech was drafted by my friend and neighbour Professor Mendis Rohanadheera. My active journalism ended in 1974 although I continued to write whenever possible including a regular column as ‘Narada’ when Mervyn de Silva edited the Sunday Times.
I do not have a ‘never-ending quarrel’ with Dr. Dayan Jayatilake. I have known him as precocious child of mercurial father, a brilliant student and arguably the brightest student of Political Science of Peradeniya since Bishop Lakshman. He could have got the same academic distinction that Bishop Laksman Wickremesinghe achieved in the same discipline, if not for his father Mervyn’s ebb-and-flow relations with the then academic elite of Peradeniya. Sins of the father visiting on sons.
That said, I have a quarrel with anyone who champions the political agenda of the Rajapaksa family. Dayan was a good envoy abroad. It is my personal and continuing regret that Dr. Dayan J did not get summarily slapped by Sajin Vass, Mahinda’s enforcer, when preaching politics of the realist school seated on a barstool in a Geneva Brasserie or a Paris bistro. I have not seen Sajin Vaass Gunawardene since 1994 and I count his father too as a dear friend.
Prabhakaran’s indiscriminate terror and Gota’s selective terror
I have an ongoing quarrel with the Rajapaksa clan who consider this land as their fiefdom on the dubious claim that Gota won the war that defeated Prabhakaran.
I see no difference between Prabhakaran’s indiscriminate terror and Gota’s selective terror. I see no difference between Pottu Amman’s shenanigans and those by intelligence operatives of the National Security Deep State which exercised a vice like grip of our land after the military victory in 2009. The appalling decision taken by the UNP and the JVP in 2009 to field General Fonseka as their common presidential candidate changed the politics of this country.
Stupidity is an elemental force that no earthquake could match. By fielding the former Army Commander, the opposition opened a Pandora’s Box. Everyone involved was a war hero and the defence establishment became an autonomous power base of a man who spent the better part of the war in California.
True. Today Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a dual citizen. He may renounce his US citizenship if and when the Viyath Maga takes off. Can some public-spirited organisation file an application under RTI to ascertain when he applied to retain his Sri Lankan citizenship under Sri Lanka law? Was it before 2005 or after?
Our present political turmoil can be explained. We can also explain the phenomenon of Viyath Maga. The present crisis of indecision and vacillation is the result of a historical phase that we are presently passing through.
Viyath Maga complies with textbook fascism
We are trapped between a world that is dying but not yet dead and a new world that cannot yet be born. In this interregnum, a variety of morbid symptoms can appear. Viyath Maga is one such morbid symptom of an infantile disease that Dr. D.J. describes variously as Smart Patriotism, Gota as President, Gota Project and whatever his rhetorical genius may produce in coming days.
Viyath Maga complies with textbook fascism. It exemplifies militarised institutional order. The praise heaped on Gota’s urban cosmetics by deploying troops to care for manicured lawns and Navy frogmen to clean the surface glass on the subterranean fish tank at the Independence Arcade are examples.
Viyath Maga opposes constitutional reform to accommodate minority demands. Harsh rhetoric against minorities is an essential ingredient of fascist thinking. Viyath Maga participants emphasised a sense of duty towards the State – a clear gambit of the Rajapaksa-led patrimonial State that aims to create a new breed of Olcott Buddhists ready and willing to justify atrocities committed against minorities.
Smart patriotism of the Viyath Maga ideologue Dr. D.J., is banal nationalism. It is a clever political project. This idea of smart patriotism fosters a duty towards the State in contrast to the civic nation which is a post-independence imperative of a plural multicultural democracy. Smart patriotism is a very learned and profoundly academic subterfuge to restrict civil liberties and to overcome opposition.
A Smart Patriotic polity will be opposed to pluralism and divergence. Viyath Maga is a calculated project of the former Defence Secretary who hopes to regain power and concentrate it in the hands of a small elite group portrayed as educated professionals and entrepreneurs. The inevitable result if they succeed would be moral corruption, end of democratic participation and darkness at noon and no public debate as it was before 8 January 2015.
Dr. D. J says that he criticised Gota then while others were silent. I do not know what he wrote about Gota. As for me I was scared when I wrote about the regime. I am told prison has only squatting pans. I was not only shit scared but was scared to be in prison because passing shit is a part of the business of living. I did criticise the Defence Sectary a few times in a circumspect manner. To my utter horror my dear friend D.C. Karunaratne who is still practicing the craft of journalism told me that he gathered that I was praising this politico military aberration. I stopped writing about Gota!
Yes. I did call Viyath Maga a tribal war dance. Indeed it was a tribal war dance. In primitive tribes the war dance was about appropriation of power. The Viyath Maga event was also about appropriating power. The old chief was present. The new chief was in charge. The old tribe in the years 2010-2015 transformed the tribe and embraced modernity in the form of co-opted corporations and academics.
This stupid Yahapalanaya is yet to probe the dump and pump stock trading that produced billionaires waiting in the wings to restore the ancien régime. If that happens, which is today a reasonable possibility, it is because of the failure of the Maithri-Ranil duumvirate not to enact reforms and its demonstrated inability to dismantle the oligarchy that Rajapaksa family left behind.
The author of ‘Bashing Viyath Maga’ refers to a crime against humanity as happened in Batalanda in the late ’80s. I am in his debt for making that reference.
He asks what happened in Batalanda. Frankly I do not know. It is possible that some atrocious things happened in the ’80s. As I have said before, this country will regain its soul, only when it makes an honest appraisal of all butchery from the eighties to the present day.
Gota was also in the army in the ’80s. He should know what happened in Batalanda. He must certainly know what happened in my hometown Matale. That said I am grateful for the reference. It gives me an opening to deal with the living breathing atrocity in the persona of Major General Kamal Gunaratne, the author of ‘Ranamaga Ossey Nandikadal’. He celebrates his wife’s bodhi pooja that earned him the privilege of having his soldiers dropping the body of Prabhakaran at his feet.
Prabhakaran’s 12-year-old son Balachandran was also found by the troops under the command of the same Viyath Maga participant. What happened to that child who was shown in Channel IV pictures nibbling something in a bunker? Should we not ask what happened to little Balachandran?
This war hero physically assaulted a student of D.S. Senanayake College during the last O/Level examinations. He denied the charge claiming that he was not even in the country when it happened. The traumatised student complained only after the full exam was completed. It was later reported that the two parties reached an amicable settlement after the war hero tendered an apology. If he can slap an innocent student in 2016 peace time Colombo in the presence of many parents who had taken their offspring to the examination hall, should we bother to ask him how he treated the young son of Prabhakaran?
As he himself describes it was dizzy time. His soldiers were telling him ‘Meka thamai rata kapu Prabhakaran,’ ‘Api mekawa maruwa Sir’. Amidst the clash of arms, laws can be silent. If the law is silenced by a general in broad daylight down Gregory’s Road in peace time Colombo in 2016, he earns his place in the Viyath Maga pantheon.