Yesterday, today and tomorrow: Whence, where and whither
By Sarath de Alwis (Daily FT)
“Gotabaya can build a new urbanised technocratic civilisation which is the 21st century equivalent of the magnificent civilisations that this island once built; civilisations that put us ahead of the rest of South Asia, until the Tamil invaders drove us downward and the Western invaders finished what they started,” says Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka.
I will leave the brazenly chauvinist, historically erroneous part about Tamil invaders and Western conquistadors completing what they started for another day. Let me deal with Gota’s ability, capacity and propensity to build a 21st century technocratic state. Before we entrust the task of building the 21st century technocratic state, Gota should tell us who owns the house in Malwana, valued at Rs. 208 million, the source of which seems hidden in a hocus pocus riddle wrapped in a mumbo jumbo enigma.
The chosen prophet
Dayan is not the first to discover the miraculously magnificent leadership qualities of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The Business Today Magazine – the voice of our business community – said it on 20 November 2014. It was barely 24 hours before Maithripala Sirisena in the company of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge announced his presidential wager at the New Town Hall. Readers have to forgive me, linking the former President Chandrika with the event and subsequent change that held promise now turned chimera. I confess my unabashed admiration for her political spunk. Political spunk is something Ranil thinks he has but doesn’t, Sirisena briefly borrowed from Chandrika but failed to retain.
When the presidential election was called, the affluent and the amoral classes riding in fast lane in Miracle country were in a deep stupor celebrating Gota’s urban renaissance.
“The city is clean and green, pedestrians have been given priority there is a lot of activity happening and this transformation is not only in Colombo, but also in other parts of the country.”
The adulation was brazen. The Rajapaksa rule was beyond challenge. Business Today mirrored the aspirations of the parasitic entrepreneurial class that supported the super structure of the patrimonial state of the Rajapaksa family. It rivalled only Suharto’s Indonesia. More than the tyrant the business class was desperate for stability and continuity. Gota was their chosen prophet.
“Continuity is vital for Sri Lanka. We are a stable country with peace, freedom and security, our economy is vibrant and is driving forward with energy. There is greater activity and movement in the Sri Lankan economy. A change at this point of time will hamper the continued progress of this country. Can anyone deny that they are not living a better life and are able to freely move about in this country? We have emerged from a 30 year-long conflict, stronger as a nation. What we were in 2005 is not who we are today. We are proud to be Sri Lankan… Business Today takes this moment to recognise His Excellency’s great contribution to this nation by eliminating terrorism, bringing stability and peace, economic development and instilling in all Sri Lankans that we are on par with the rest of the world and have the ability to compete globally.”
Under the benign rule of Mahinda and hawkeyed surveillance of Gota there was no shortage of flagrant, subservient, self-serving crap. The Defence Secretary’s “forte in ensuring the security of this country” was highly admired.
“Only a few years ago that we were introduced to his knowledge and expertise in urban planning and development. The transformation in Colombo alone is amazing. This has been well supported by the Mayor of Colombo, A.J.M. Muzzamil.” Hurrah!
This message conveyed to the business community gathered at the Hilton on 20 November 2014 sums up the enduring resilience of the Rajapaksa juggernaut.
The Viyath Maga gathering at the Golden Rose in Boralesgamuwa has its genesis in a more prestigious location near the Dutch Hospital, a relic left by the Western intruders who came according to Dr. Dayan J to complete the job begun by Tamil invaders.
The audience held the crème de la crème of the island’s commerce, the best of the best in finance and the pick of the crop in politics and mark you, the choicest choice of the Buddhist clergy of urban Colombo.
The chief guest was not the President, the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance. The Chief Guest was Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary of Defence. The Guest of Honour was Mohan Peiris, the Chief Justice who never was.
In addition to other Toms and Dicks of big business, the audience included Harry the tycoon, Sumal – the Gota prodigy, and Prime Ministerial Advisor and thought leader Dinesh Weerakkody. They were told:
“Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, is a man of his word. During the height of the conflict we worked very closely with him and saw first-hand his straightforward approach, attention to detail, his thinking and his love for the country. He was responsible for bringing all sections of the security community together so that we all worked as one. He is meticulous and always in touch with the happenings of the country. He has ensured that we remain free, and safe. Mr. Rajapaksa will never allow the country to fall prey to disharmony and terrorism again. That is why we need continuity in this country.”
I have too many friends whose sons have turned out to be trapeze artists in political theory and social commentary. This is what Malinda Seneviratne wrote for Business Today, on the occasion.
“A few years ago, he was just another retired Army officer, a little-known brother of a politician with a promising future, and a name referenced infrequently, if at all. Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, today, is not just the President’s brother, but the man who carries on his shoulders the aspirations of a nation yearning to be rid of a terrorist menace; a man who is on the verge of accomplishing what was thought to be impossible by many; a leader, a strategist, defender of the nation, a man who has done time in the trenches and who spends sleepless nights, so citizens can slumber in the comfort that someone is watching over them.”
Therein lies the rub. Who needs someone to watch over while slumbering in comfort? We need someone to watch over us slumbering, when we stop reasoning. In his essay ‘Intellectual rubbish’, Bertrand Russel famously said “As soon as we abandon our reason and are content to rely on authority, there is no end to our troubles.”
Gota has more support than we think and from most unlikely sources. The greatest peril to our democracy comes from our fractious, fretful population, in search of easy answers and quick fixes. Nobody knows it better than Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Let us not forget. This project is about Gota regaining power. He was already de-facto president. He has the majority of the Buddhist clergy supporting his return to power. He has a plutocracy that he nurtured assiduously, when in power. They are desperate to see him back in the saddle.
His demagoguery is backed by an unemotional intellectual elite. They are adapt at usurping democracy by manipulative scapegoating – an art presently perfected by the Joint Opposition.
I offer my unreserved apologies to all members of the Viyath Maga movement. I mistakenly assumed that it was a new phenomenon, championing the Gota candidacy.
Now I know better. The Viyath Maga professionals are not the originators of the project. They are only followers manipulated by a cunning and ruthless plutocracy that is unhappy with these chaotic times.
We remember 21 November 2014 at the New Town Hall, because the gamble worked. Only a few of us believed it was possible. It was more hope than expectation of success. That is why we have forgotten what happened a day earlier in Colombo. It has been my unpleasant but necessary task to remind the reader of the glorifications and laudations the Rajapaksa family earned with unbelievable ease.
On an earlier occasion I said that the Rajapaksa family is etched in the Sinhala Buddhist psyche as being responsible for the defeat of the LTTE and restoring normalcy. That is only a part of the story. There are the presently dissatisfied oligarchic interests installed and entrenched by the Rajapaksa monolith. They constitute a solid, fortified base.
While most of us ordinary citizens desperately wanted a change, the business elite was pleading for continuity. Why? In addition to providing them with brick-paved walk ways for them to lose their excess fat and take care of their fatty livers, Gota, promised authoritarian stability.
History tells us that periods of crisis are inevitable. That, perhaps is what prompted Hannah Ardent, the political philosopher who experienced fascism first hand, to remark that ‘even in the darkest times we have the right to expect some illumination.’
It is time we come to terms with the ground realities. Instead of dismantling the national security deep state, the new President has reneged on his promises. He has caved in to demands of the deep state players. The national security state emerged from imperatives of war. In subsequent peace time, it took shape of an actualising mechanism of the ruling elite to amass wealth and indulge in unbelievable economic profligacy.
So, as the business show of the year 2014 demonstrated, Gota was the de-facto ruler of Sri Lanka. The business community mouthpiece wanted continuity.
It explains Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka’s belief, that Gotabaya can build a new urbanised technocratic civilisation in Sri Lanka. At some stage of his protean political ideology Dayan was a Stalinist. Stalin was a practical tyrant. Stalin knew his democracy. “It is not the people who vote that count. It is the people who count the votes that count!” –