When you repeat a mistake, it is not a mistake anymore: it is a decision
When Mahinda Rajapaksa held out the hand of his brother and former Secretary of Defence GotabhayaRajapaksa and proclaimed ‘I am handing over my brother to you’, at the inaugural national convention of the SLPP in August, I was reminded of a very poignant scene from the Holy Bible where after his crucifixion, hanging from the cross, Lord Jesus Christ handed over his mother Mary to his disciple and friend John saying ‘John! this is your mother!’. It is seen as a spectacle of supreme-self renunciation, where you let go of perhaps the strongest of human bonds for the purpose of fulfilling the plan of salvation. Of course the resemblance was superficial, not to say anachronistic. MR was giving his sibling to make him President, to perpetuate his family reign, to avoid punishment for great crimes and to have a re-tasting of power which he was so used to and had been deprived of for some time now.
MR is propping up his sibling for the still powerful seat of the Executive Presidency which he himself occupied without any challenge, attempted to hold on to through the 18th Amendment and which , yet he had to give up unwillingly. No, there is no renunciation in that dramatic and of course rehearsed phrase he uttered at the SLPP convention where Gotabhaya’s candidacy was officially announced.
Then take the other main contender, who with a lot of hype, controversy and conspiracy has now been officially pronounced as the candidate from the Green Alliance. He openly proclaims that he is willing to die for the people, obviously hinting at the manner in which his father, the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa was killed. He seems to presume that the death of his late father was for the people of this country and the people are uniformly in acceptance of that sacrificial death. Yet with all due respect to a former state leader and frankly a principled politician, if my memory serves me right, didn’t firecrackers go off in many parts of the Sinhala land, specially the South, when his death was announced on May Day in 1993? Opinion is not unqualified and not certainly uniform on this fact, though Sajith wants it to be.
But the point is that Premadasa Junior is ready to die for the people, only if he is elected President; only if he is made a candidate in the Presidential race. Not so selfless, after all. He too, like the Rajapaksa siblings is not there for the sake of the people, is he? If he was he too could have laid down his life at Mother Lanka’s most needed hour, like Gamini Thilakaratne, the Hasalaka hero did, could not he? Well, he was in UK, so how could he? ‘Die time’ is now long gone and any reference, is a brag!
They all are not acting out a so called ‘supreme act of sacrifice’ for the people. In 70 years of ‘independent’ politics all our ‘leaders’ have had their individual and selfish interests at the forefront of their politics, policies and practices. Be it DS, Dudley, SWRD, Sirimavo, JR, Premadasa, CBK, MR, Ranil or any other front line leaders... it has always been their unquenched greed for power, more or less. I say , more or less, as some such as Dudley have been relatively less greedy as history shows, in being ready to step down rather than having blood on his hands. With others such as SWRD, JR, Premadasa and MR they have had no qualms whatsoever, doing whatever was needed to come to and stay in power, inevitably as always, to the detriment of the country and it’s people, whom they loftily proclaim to protect and uphold. We all have reaped ‘dividends’ of their deeds haven’t we?
Every time an election, especially a Presidential one is declared, the false prophets who promise us sun and the moon, start their theatrics. There is nothing to be surprised about that. Yet the surprising thing would be that one election after the other, being duped repeatedly, the voter of this country still believes in one individual or the other to deliver them from the right royal mess they find themselves in. They eagerly await some kind of a saviour, or a Diyasena Kumaru to appear and in a click of the fingers to create heaven on this, now God forsaken land.
It is amusing to see how a populace, if the social media is an indicator of it’s opinion, has been lobbying for an apolitical, non-partisan and a new comer to take the reins of this country, now falling over each other to support or decry one or the other of the two leading candidates. Even when they do not directly support one, yet attacking the other, their inclinations are revealed. Even for the politically matured voter, there seems, on the surface a choice between a statist-nationalist individual and a populist pluralist one; yet to brand the two main candidates as such, is too generalizing and simplistic.
In no way are they representative of the political streams that are hoisting them for candidacy. It would be outrageous to assume that Gota represents anything at least akin to what MR or figures such as Dinesh or Vasu has represented over the decades. On the other hand although Sajith follows the popular welfare mentality of his father and many UNPers of that ilk, his real stance on issues such as the ethnic question, liberal market reforms, Constitutional issues are unknown and seemingly cannot be taken to be entirely representative of that of the UNP. To their credit, even those who support them do not acknowledge the two streams; i.e. UNP-led and SLFP/SLPP-led governments, had done enough to address the real issues that afflict this country.
Their hope is in the individual! They think the individual can do what the parties could not. Those who support Gotabhaya believe that his rule would not be like the decade of Rajapaksa rule, although he was a key figure in their ruling during that period. Those who line up to worship Sajith, who until he was declared candidate, were ready to even split the UNP into two, seems to believe all the ailments this country is afflicted with and for which the UNP is responsible as one of the parties that ruled this country after independence, can be cured by Sajith. All of a sudden Premadasa Snr. Has become noble and his policies exemplary.
It is not only the common or the hoi polloi who are hooked to this individual worship or personality cult; arrangements such as viyathmaga show that such thinking goes even among the educated and the intelligentsia. It spreads like a contagious fever, getting worse as the election day draws near. Representative Democracy is practised in this land only superficially; it did not and will not take deep roots to make the use of the ballot paper meaningful.
It will be always the feudalistic, strongman-oriented and vertical power wielding that we have been used to in our society. It is not something confined to the political. It is how we live, how we have lived and will live in the future.
Presidential election 2019 is a symbol of all our society represents.