SRI LANKA: More answers than questions 

Let him, though suffering in consequence of his righteousness, never turn his heart to unrighteousness; for he will see the speedy overthrow of unrighteous, wicked men. — The Laws of Manu

I recall my experience some time ago at the University of Peradeniya, where I had an interview for the newspaper I was working with at that time. The interview, with a Professor on the political situation in the country and his newly released book on the JVP, was conducted in his vehicle. The Professor had been an active political figure since the 60s, and he genuinely participated in the first JVP insurrection in 1971.  I recall us debating for hours about the political culture and social crisis in the country and the Professor concluded the discussion with core norm of our socio-political evolution. ” You have brain when you don’t have power, but you don’t have brain when you are in power, ” was how he phrased his conclusion.

I recalled this phrase which literally explained the distance between politics and poli- tricks’ in Sri Lanka, when I observed  Former President Chandrika Banadaranaike Kumaranatunga’s (CBK) fresh political ideology with old experiences, expressed during her visit to India, recently.  “…. I did enough for my country! Now, if anybody is interested, I will be happy to tell them how to provide good governance without corruption.” A commonsense translation of that is – she is saying, she did enough, but she was unable to do what the people really wanted. When CBK was in power, she had tremendous opportunities to address the problem at its root, and all communities would have blessed her. She not only lost her power in the party but she lost also political identity in Sri Lanka, due to her unsuccessful guidelines to the party.  The latter part of the CBK leadership in the SLFP was full of ridiculous internal conflicts where Mr. Rajapaksa appeared to be the leader. Mr. Rajapaksa dragged the SLPF leadership away from democracy and the party was driven in a different direction towards the destination of absolute power. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution was a child conceived in the SLFP’s womb of corrupted power under Mr. Rajapaksa. Today, CBK is trying to explain how to provide good governance without corruption whilst the mulish son is grabbing everything indiscriminately and justifying it by the victory of the war which ended three years ago.

This is not a first time CBK has talked like this. Even when she was in office she used to regurgitate the same tune.  “My Government is committed to providing full opportunities in Sri Lanka for the development of the total human person. While promoting rapid economic growth, we seek to distribute its benefits equitably. This involves the maintenance of democratic institutions, and the preservation of human rights. It makes of politics the discharge of a public trust, where decision making is transparent and free of corruption, and everyone in public life is accountable for their actions, ” CBK told at the United Nations 50th anniversary in New York in 1995. That CBK 10 years later in 2005 went and signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) with the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), which was one of the major issues which setback her power, while some of her own cabinet ministers were engaged in highly corrupted post-Tsunami development projects in area like Hambanthota. Is this what she claimed when she said that she did enough for this country?  We would have seen entirely different political culture which is beyond the reach of the White Van syndrome, if she had had the capacity to implement genuine mechanism to prevent corruption in the Country. Not only did she fail but left the party leadership so weak as to be kidnapped by those seeking absolute power.

It is obvious that the push towards absolute power has made people crazy. Once you, in the name of electoral process, go down to and stay at the level of the people who have voted you to the higher level, you have a voters’ cover to play your own games of unaccountability. It is foolish to claim that this is freedom, when in fact this electoral process has become a cynical manipulation of power of the people to absolute power of one. It has however generated a small space for dissent where might is right. The Secretary of Defense recently talked about “discipline” of people but he neither is nor would dare to accept that he has been gone mad and out of control in generating social disorder in the Country.  Like in other issues we have more answers than questions in adopting the UN resolution on Sri Lanka.

The government of Sri Lanka has crossed the Lakshmana ‘Rekha’ in defense of their position against the UN resolution, using the International Monetary Fund ( IMF)’s $427 million loan to Sri Lanka, hoping to shore up government coffers that have been ravaged by a massive trade deficit. After long discussion with the government, the Washington based lender the IMF had agreed to an amount while the Government continued with their horizon anger & political campaign against the West. The President, in his traditional New Year’s eve speech, says that Sri Lanka needs its own economy without begging from other nations.

Meanwhile, in a recent press conference held by Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic developments, the Minister was calling for a ‘complete prohibition’ of imported goods by creating awareness among the public. “Not only American products, but all foreign goods should be prohibited. This should not be done through a legal framework, but by creating awareness among the people, ” he said. Is this is sign of instability, in other words, as Sophocles explained, when divine power plans evil for a man, it first injures his mind. The Government allied friends like China or Russia would never do such things even at the risk of being labeled that they were practicing double standards.

Politics in Cuba, the Island nation which categorically opposed the UN resolution on Sri Lanka, is also completely different to the current political identity in Sri Lanka. No one can even imagine the level of madness in present political trends in Sri Lanka. In other words, politics in Sri Lanka has reached its peak of usage of mendacity or solecism where political wisdom has been vanquished. What we have to learn from Cuba is that, killing dissent is easy but it will never guide you to change the existing system. Since the revolutionary period in 50s, the political ideology in Cuba was based on how to change the system rather than killing enemies.  A retired CIA analyst Brian Latell quoted former President of Cuba in his latest book entitled, “Castro’s Secrets: The CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine”, which is going be released this week, “Castro said assassination didn’t change policies. “It would have been easier to kill Batista than wage two years of guerrilla war, but it would not have changed the system. ” (CBS Reports June 10, 1977) But what the Government of Sri Lanka is sincerely ignoring is — how to implement a genuine mechanism to change the system. This ignorance has created a history of not only giving excuses or palaver views to the adopted UN resolution which urged the Government to implement recommendations of the LLRC report, but has made history of the Island Nation.

Minister Basil Rajapaksa has commented on the LLRC at the same press briefing in Colombo, “to my knowledge this commission reports were not accepted or rejected by the Head of the State.”  However, he said that most of the recommendations were either completed or already in progress. Some of the recommendations were above the required standards,” said the smiling Minister. As Plato says, wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something, is common sense in daily politics in Sri Lanka. Despite all this concern about all essential services in society all politicians are foul playing the same hide and seek game which doesn’t seem to have an end.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-032-2012
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Administration of justice, Corruption, Rule of law,