Daily News Editorial (Images from internet)
The main story of an English language weekly yesterday speculated that the Asgiriya Chapter Anunayake’s call to former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to follow Hitler when he takes over the country may have damaged Gota’s presidential prospects. The Ven.Vendaruwe Upali Thera created a huge political uproar when, delivering an anusasana on the occasion of Gotabhaya Rajapakas’s 69th birthday, at the latter’s residence, he alluded to the general perception among some that the former Defence Secretary was a Hitler and if that was the case so be it. In his anusasana the prelate said; “Some people have described you as a Hitler. Be a Hitler. Go with the military and take the leadership of the country”.
The remark drew scathing attacks from President Maithripala Sirisena and Minister Mangala Samaraweera, with social media having a field day coming out with some amusing, nay, imaginative sketches. President Sirisena, speaking at a function in Nikaweratiya vowed he will never allow for a return of the dictatorship which the people voted against on January 8. “In January 2015, the people did not vote for food or jobs. They voted for freedom and democracy. I have restored both and will not allow the country to slip back to a dictatorship”, he said.
The monk’s remark, it is reported, had drawn negative responses even among those close to the Rajapaksas, and, as speculated by the media report, may have cooked the goose for Gota. However, the Presidential Election is still a long way away, and, given the short memories of Sri Lankans, the issue may well have blown over by the time the poll draws near. But, one can safely bet that government politicians will keep the issue on the boil and the pro-government websites will go over the top with the topic.
Even without the media blitzkrieg the public mind is still fresh on how the former Defence Secretary bulldozed his way towards achieving his ends and the autocratic manner in which he ran roughshod over established practices and even the rulings of the court. The Meethotamulla catastrophe, for which the present government was blamed, would not have occurred had Gotabhaya not used the Army to breakup demonstrations by the people protesting against the indiscriminate dumping of garbage in their neighbourhood which eventually created the mountain that spelled death to dozens. Nor can one forget the manner in which the residents of Glennie Street in Slave Island were evicted from their homes using the military, nor, the fate of the Pettah pavement hawkers.
Some may agree with the methods used in the quest for beautifying the city and ridding the city landscape of slums. However, one also cannot lose sight of the fact that they were contrary to democratic norms and a complete infringement on the rights of the people, which is the hallmark of a dictatorship in the manner of a Hitler which the anunayake wants the former Defence Secretary to be.
In any democracy, the judiciary takes a preeminent place. It could be said that democracy rests on the free functioning of the courts of law and thus a great deal of regard is attached to the judiciary. However, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had no time for such niceties. The contempt in which he held the judiciary is well documented in the dialogue he had with Poddala Jayantha and Sanath Balasuriya whom he summoned to the Presidential Secretariat following a demonstration led by the duo against the abduction of journalists, opposite the Fort Railway station. The two media activists suggested that if the Defence Secretary had any grouse he was free to go to courts only for Gota to famously retort that mata oya bambu usaviwalata yanda wela ne – a clear insight to the dictatorial tendencies latent in the former Defence Secretary.
Perhaps, it was this tendency that was alluded to by JO firebrand Vasudeva Nanayakkara when he totally rejected Gota as a presidential prospect due, chiefly to the latter’s militarist way of doing things. And the MP’s fears are not unfounded, given that all the movements created to promote Gota’s candidature such as Eliya and Viy(p)ath Maga are virtually saturated with ex-military top brass one of whom, in a book written by him, graphically detailed the massacres carried out by the unit headed by him of Tamil civilians in the North while another wants all those who helped set up the Missing Persons Commission executed.
Without doubt, these will be the next Eichmanns, Himlers and Heydriches who led the bloody pogroms of the Fuhrer, under a Gota Presidency. Is it into such a scenario that the likes of the Ven. Vendaruwe Upali Thera want the country taken to?
Of course we too are speculating. All this is contingent on the former Defence Secretary qualifying to contest for President. At the outset he has to renounce his American citizenship for eligibility. The outgoing US Ambassador Atul Keshap gave more than a hint with regard to the exact position. Besides, there is no way that the world’s number one superpower would be humbled by an inhabitant of a poor third world country cheapening its citizenship by wanting to withdraw it.