By Karikalan S. Navaratnam –
Karikalan S. Navaratnam
“There is little choice in a barrel of rotten apples.” ~ Shakespeare (‘Taming of the Shrew’)
Massive media blitz has begun in earnest with reports on the impending Presidential Election. Rajapaksas camp (SLPP) has announced Gotabaya candidacy with much fuss and flourish. JVP-led Alliance (NPP) has, at an impressive rally, named Anura Kumara Dissanayake as their candidate. Even as the UNP leadership continues dilly-dallying, a self-proclaimed Sajith Premadasa has already hit the campaign trail. Media reports reveal there are few other aspirants of sorts.
Not even Hobson’s choice
Demonstrably, the marginalized Tamil citizenry have no one to choose from among the different candidates/parties. They have no choice; not even a Hobson’s choice. In fact, Tamil people are in a quandary. Whether they participate in or boycott the Presidential Election, ex facie they do not stand to gain or lose anything politically. Should they remain silent accomplices and facilitate the return of Rajapaksas’ ancien regime? A critical question, indeed!
Mahinda squandered opportunity
Post-war Presidential Election, Jan. 2010 propelled Mahinda Rajapaks to the zenith of power. He could have decisively resolved the ethnic issue and stood out as an exemplary statesman at a global level. Instead, with his Mahavamsa mindset, Mahinda fancied and indulged in triumphalism and tribalism; and thus, after the 2015 Election defeat, he stuck out like a sore thumb. ‘The Hindu” Editor N.Ram has been a bosom buddy of Rajapakes and had endorsed the military campaign against LTTE . Rajapaksas’ antics had exasperated even their buddy:
“The military victory over the LTTE, and President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s strength in parliament, gave the government an unprecedented opportunity to put in place a progressive political framework to heal the wounds of a 30-year war, and address Tamil grievances that predate the war. That it has taken only nominal steps in this direction is a matter of concern even to friends of Sri Lanka, such as India, which stood by its military efforts against the LTTE.” (The Hindu, Editorial- 16 Aug. 2011 –“A brother out of control”)
As a matter of fact, Mahinda had not taken even nominal steps!.
Few weeks before the Presidential Election, Jan. 2015, the International Crisis Group (Brussels) said in its briefing, inter alia, that: “Whoever wins in January, core questions around national identity – issues of devolution of power, of accountability and reconciliation, and of the equal status of Tamils and Muslims in a Sinhala majority state – will remain contentious. The will require deft handling if greater instability is not to result.” ( ICJ Briefing 145 / Asia 9 Dec. 2014 ) Ethnic Q., a non-issue in Election, 2019 ?:
Five years have elapsed since, the contending parties have neither the conviction nor the commitment to address “the core questions around national identity.” The issues facing Tamils may play only a negligible – if not a zero – role in this election. There was some perceptible level of public discourse around Tamil issues in the 2015 Presidential election and it did play a major role in securing the Tamil votes, en bloc, in favour of Maithiripala Sirisena. Relying on the ‘word of honour’ given by Chandrika-Ranil- Sirisena trio promising to address the Tamil Issues, TNA chief Mr. Sampanthan did not even opt to sign a MoU with Sirisena before pledging TNA support to him.
Sucker punch by Maithri:
Probably Sampanthan was conscious of our bygone leaders’ nasty experiences vis-à-vis successive Sinhala leaders – coping with broken promises, breach of trust, betrayals and treachery. True to tradition, His Excellency the President has even excelled his predecessors in exhibiting these traits. He has been dragging his feet over outstanding issues for almost five years, while deliberately ignoring existential threats posed afresh to Tamils in North-East by Sinhala-Buddhist zealots, military and the monks. In the twilight of his tenure in office, perhaps, remembering the solid Tamil support which enabled his ascendency in 2015, His Excellency has ex gratia, delivered a sucker punch to our people- Yes, he has appointed as Army Chief Shavendra Silva, who is accused of war crimes – the 58 Division which he commanded was, putatively, responsible for the slaughter of tens of thousands of Tamils in the final blitzkrieg at Wanni – on the orders of the wannabe President !
Has Gotabaya mended his ways?
In a recent story, a noted BBC journalist recalls his meetings with Gotabaya on two different occasions- few days before he was named as a candidate and, previously, 10 years ago.
“I first met Mr Rajapaksa 10 years ago in Colombo during the final stages of the civil war. He was known for his volatile temper, and many journalists were too scared to ask him tough questions, especially questions about alleged rights abuses committed by Sri Lankan security forces.”
“But during our most recent meeting, even before he was officially nominated as a candidate, Mr Rajapaksa sounded like a different man. Sitting in his study, surrounded by books, he answered difficult questions calmly.” (BBC News, 12 Aug. 2019 – “Gothabhaya Rajapaksa: Sri Lanka’s controversial ex-defence chief eyes power” By Anbarasan Ethirajan ).
Leopard does not change its spots
Either Gotabaya represents a double-faced/split personality or he has mended his manners and abandoned his bloodlust and aggression. Can the honcho and his henchmen in uniform be ever wholly humanized ? Lest we may forget the truism:
”A leopard doesn’t change his spots just because you bring him in from the jungle and try to housebreak him and turn him into a pet. He may learn to sheathe his claws in order to beg a few scraps off the dinner table, and you may teach him to be a beast of burden, but it doesn’t pay to forget that he’ll always be what he was born: a wild animal.” (George Lincoln Rockwell, (1918-1967), An American politician ; Founder of the American Nazi Party – 1959).
“Patriotic” media pining for Gota
Most of the media moghuls, commentators and columnists are fiercely ‘patriotic’- Rajapaksa/Weerawansa brand . They fall head over heels for Gotabaya and feel gung-ho about his candidacy and campaign. Why? Rajapaksas are the neo-avatarsof Dutugemunu. They defeated the Tamils, saved the nation and religion, restored Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony and refused to address or even acknowledge Tamil grievances. For a moment, forget about the scores of Tamil journalists who were abducted and killed during Rajapaksas’ raj ; even their names have faded into oblivion, “unwept, unhonored, and unsung . After all they were “expendables” by Rajapaksas reckoning ! But, didn’t “pure Sinhala-Buddhist” media persons, except for few mercenaries, live in a climate of fear and terror under Rajapaksas reign? Many of them were abducted and murdered or maimed. Fearing for their lives, a horde of journalists, “SBs”, fled the country and obtained sanctuary in Western countries. I have personally represented some of them before Immigration Tribunals and the Federal Court.
‘White vans’ syndrome
The denizens of this country have known the fate of Lasantha, Ekneligoda, Keith Noyahr, Poddala Jayantha et al and about Gotabaya’s alleged complicity. The pain and anguish of living with the loss of their loved ones and grief have emotionally traumatized and devastated the families and friends of the victims. Believe me or not ; to the Rajapakse acolytes from the media the pathetic pleas of families tenaciously seeking justice for the victims sound quite boring !
Columnist Malinda Seneviratne has been the beneficiary of a donatio inter vivos – a laptop gifted by Mahinda Rajapakse, paid for by taxpayers.( Colombo Telegraph, 21 Dec. 2013: “Expose: Full List Of The Free Laptop Journos; Media Minister Lied To Parliament”) Malinda’s musings, probably churned out from the same ‘loyal’ laptop, reflect “Mahinda Chinthana”. (EXCERPTS)
“Dear Gotabaya Rajapaksa, what do you have to say about the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge …….? ……..about white vans? Ekneligoda? Thajudeen? And how about the mausoleum built for your late parents? If these are the questions you were waiting for me to ask, sorry ……….”
“This is not about regurgitating the questions that Colombots, Kolombians, Rented Voices, Born Again Democrats, Candle Light Ladies put to the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate.”
“Gotabaya Rajapaksa is yet to be elected. It is quite possible that he will be the next President, the way things stand. This is why he can ignore all these questions. He would do well, however, to respond (to other facilitative leading Qs Malinda has framed, on Geneva Resolution etc.) and make his responses the basis of the thrust of his campaign speeches. Better still, his political opponents can do the same…… As opposed to regurgitating invective that’s selective and therefore, frankly, boring.” (Daily Mirror, 15 Aug.2019 – “A questionnaire for Gotabaya Rajapaksa ”)
I believe, Ms. Frederica Jansz, Editor of Sunday Leader, has been the last fugitive to flee from Gotabaya’s wrath. She has since sought refuge in USA. The consummate telephone conversation between Frederica and Gotabaya on 5th and 6th of July 2012 would bear testimony to the sense of civility, sobriety and equanimity of the Presidential hopeful. Details of the exchange given in CT(Colombo Telegraph, 7 July 2012 – Vide: Link below ) would eminently capture the spirit and soul of the conversation. Apparently, Gotabaya has gained a mastery of the mafia lingo !. CT Headlines may give a foretaste and Illustrate the point:- “They Will Kill You – You Dirty Fucking Shit Journalist” “ You Are Pigs Who Eat Shit ”– Gota Threatened Again.”
Indeed, they strike terror!
Sadomasochism is an interaction, especially sexual activity, in which one person enjoys inflicting physical or mental suffering on another person, who derives pleasure from experiencing pain. In other words, it is gratification gained through inflicting or receiving pain. Maybe, media persons – print media, electronic and visual – who crave the return of the ancien regime of Rajapakses suffer from a pathological condition – pining for pain and persecution – having nostalgia for the dark days of white terror !
Prof. Kumar David has, in his CT presentation, plainly stated the obvious: “ Tamils and Muslims will avoid Gota like the plague and on the other side of the same coin hardcore racists and monks are pledged to back him to the hilt.” (Colombo Telegraph, 14 Aug.2019) He has also mused: “ the post presidential election period could be dangerous for democracy. I mean the possible election of Gota as president, but I do not consider a Sajith presidency as free of apprehension. The difference is that Sajith does not have marauding racists, extremist monks and military brass, all hounds of hell baying to be unleashed, waiting in the wings.” (CT, 25 Aug. 2019 ).‘Democracy’, to the extent it connotes a SB majoritarian number game, it has been our nemesis – the fountainhead of all fatal attacks on Tamils’ rights in Sri Lanka. Again, Sajith’s credentials are not squeaky clean either, though not as wretched or wicked as those of an evil incarnate.
Gotabaya’s offer to North-East
During his speech at SLPP National Convention Gotabaya was quite sparing andavoided specifics in his offer to address Tamil/Muslim grievances: “Vowing that he wouldn’t allow extremism to take root, Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that swift action would be taken to address the grievances of those living in the Northern and Eastern regions.” (The Island, 11 Aug.2019-“National security top priority”)
It is amusing to hear Gotabaya now talking about the “grievances” of the North-East people. Because he had always baulked at “the political solution talk” and harped on the theme that it was irrelevant after the decimation of the LTTE. Editorially criticizing Gotabaya’s remarks, made in the course of an Indian TV interview, the Hindu (Indian daily) said:
“Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s comments ………. reveal a troubling contempt for the Tamil minority. He has trashed “the political solution talk,” asserting, among other things, that it was “simply irrelevant” because “we have ended this terrorism in Sri Lanka,” making the egregious assertion that when the 13th Amendment was being drafted, “the government of Sri Lanka was not involved,” and proposing that with the LTTE “gone,” there was no further need to amend the Constitution. President Rajapaksa would be well advised to distance himself swiftly from his brother’s stream-of-consciousness on sensitive issues that are not his business.” ( The Hindu, Editorial-16 Aug.2011 –“A brother out of control”)
Let alone addressing our grievances ; does Gotabaya understand the gravamen of our grievances? What are the track records of Sajith / Ranil ? And, what has Anura Kumara got to offer the Tamil people ?
To be continued..