| by Tisaranee Gunasekara
“Nemesis, the goddess of measure and not of revenge, keeps watch. All those who overstep the limits are pitilessly punished by her”. - Albert Camus (Helen’s Exile)
( March 3, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A former journalist paying a call on President Rajapaksa in the dawn hours reportedly found him standing on his head. Upon inquiry, the President replied, “We have done so many good things. The opposition cannot see any of them. So I stand on my head to see how I could see the country in that position” (The Sunday Times – 10.2.2013).
The mystery of why the Rajapaksas are doing what they are doing is now resolved: they see the world upside down. From their particular vantage-point inflation is deflation, corruption honesty, despotism democracy, injustice justice, lawlessness lawfulness; their permissible would be our forbidden, their morality our outrage.
Standing on his head, Mahinda Rajapaksa probably sees nothing wrong/dangerous in the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) antics. The BBS’ lay and ordained musclemen are motoring around invading, intervening and arresting at will. The police have been reduced to acting as escorts to these ‘shock troops’, as they move about dispensing ‘vigilante-justice’.
Only those favoured by the Rajapaksas can act with such total impunity.
The BBS’s Maharagama Declaration reads like a recipe for politico-economic-social disaster. For instance, it wants Lankan workers in the Middle East brought back. Is the BBS capable of finding the returned workers jobs with liveable-wages? Or are they to swell the rank of ill-paid domestics and uniformed cannon-fodder? Will the BBS fill the mammoth foreign exchange gap caused by the loss of these middle-eastern earnings?
Fortunately the demented ignoramuses who run the BBS do not have to worry about such life-and-death issues. Plus in the Temple Trees they have an extremely receptive ear. A key BBS demand is an end to birth control among Sinhalese. (Opposing birth-control is a stance common to fanatics of all religions, especially those with secular ambitions and need the numbers voters or foot-soldiers.) After his February powwow with the BBS, the President ordered an immediate stop to birth-control operations in government hospitals. Budget Proposals for 2011 included the payment of Rs.100,000/- to military families on the birth of a third child. In the 2012 budget, this allowance was extended to the police. Since the military, and to a slightly lesser extent the police, is predominantly Sinhala-Buddhist, this policy measure is obviously aimed at increasing Sinhala/Buddhist birth rate, a common desideratum of the Rajapaksas and the BBS. The time when the government euthanizes Sri Lanka’s extremely commendable birth-control programme may not be far away.
The thorny issues of how these extra Sinhala-Buddhists mouths can be fed, bodies clothed/sheltered and brains educated does not seem to matter in the topsy-turvy universe inhabited by the Rajapaksas and the BBS.
There is intelligent governance and there is unintelligent governance. Believing that the subjective can override the objective, ad infinitum, is unintelligent governance. Believing in one’s own hyperbolic propaganda and acting according to that belief is unintelligent governance.
But unintelligent would be intelligent in the upside-down world of the Rajapaksas.
From his upended position, the President must be seeing a crisis-free economy. This vantage point probably explains the Rajapaksa incapacity to grasp even the basics of the dismal science. A sensible government would have pumped money into building an oil refinery thereby reducing the outlay on oil imports and reducing the need for price increases. But for the upended Rajapaksas, airports which can be named after them matter more.
Standing on his head, the President probably sees as perfectly kosher the horrendously callous manner in which Tamils were treated during and after the Fourth Eelam War. In his topsy-turvy world, all Tamils have a Tiger-stripe or two, devolution is separation by another name and human rights is a Western-conspiracy.
In the upside-down world of the Rajapaksas, the impeachment would seem an exercise in justice and fair-play. Shirani Bandaranaike is not a Tiger, or even a Tamil. She is a Sinhalese and a Buddhist, and Sri Lanka’s first female chief justice whose husband was a favoured Rajapaksa-acolyte. Yet, when she refused to violate the constitution to promote Rajapaksa interests, the Siblings treated her as if she was a terrorist in judicial regalia, a threat to the nation and the people.
Standing on his head, the President must be regarding the impeachment as a necessary deed, well done. Already the advantages of imposing an acolyte of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa atop the judiciary are becoming apparent. A bench headed by Mohan Peiris had given the green light to the Defence Secretary’s Slave Island Development Project “and vacated the earlier order stating that the status quo pertaining to the matter to be maintained subject to variation in respect of valuation of property. The Chief Justice emphasizing the urgency of developing the city and upgrading the living standards of the under-served warned all parties concerned with the issue to ‘refrain from violence whatsoever or else perpetrators of such acts will be visited by very severe action’” (Ministry of Defence - 28.2.2013). The order not only enables mass evictions; it will also turn into a criminal any citizen who tries to resist this colossal injustice (Incidentally the ‘development project’ will be implemented by the Indian conglomerate TATA; it is with such economic bribes the Rajapaksas hope to neutralise Delhi).
The world’s understandable horror at the way Sri Lanka’s fourth citizen was treated cannot but seem a conspiracy in the President’s topsy-turvy eyes.
For decades, Vellupillai Pirapaharan got away with every outrage he committed, from the murder of opponents/dissidents to child conscription. With each outrage he got away with, he grew bolder and his sense of his own impunity became stronger. What he did not realise was that someday the cumulative effect of the horrors he committed in the name of Tamil liberation will tip the international scales against him. In the end the world not only turned its collective back on the Tiger leader; it also ignored the plight of the Tamil people.
The Rajapaksas seem to be cursed with the same blind-spot. They too will get away with much, for many more years, before the world does anything more than pass resolutions – and perhaps prick the Rajapaksas’ Hambantota Commonwealth bubble. Clearly the Siblings’ upended brains cannot realise how embarrassing it would be for some Commonwealth leaders to be seen endorsing a regime which hounded its chief justice out of office. During the Cold War, Western leaders coddled, wined and dined a long line of third world despots in the name of democracy. Such hypocrisies still happen, but only if you have a lot of oil, like Saudi Arabia or is a frontier state in the struggle against ‘Islamic terrorism’, like Afghanistan.
This, perhaps, is the perverted logic behind the BBS’ Rajapaksa-enabled campaign to incite a ‘Muslim conflict’.
The Rajapaksas, with their unintelligent governance is creating a gargantuan sink-hole which can submerge Sri Lanka. In the Siblings’ upended vision, a sink-hole would look like a summit. And they will plumb the depths, exultingly, believing that they are scaling the heights.
That day-of-reckoning may not be close-at-hand. But when it comes, do we want to go down with the Rajapaksas?