“Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
No politician in the world would ever relinquish power on his or her own volition, unless there is something drastically imposed upon him or her by an outside force or an irreversible debilitating condition has set in health-wise.
Such is the addictive quality of power. Political power is the most potent ‘aphrodisiac’ in the world, Henry Kissinger once said. It could lure a most unsuspecting damsel into lust; it could sway the strongest of men into submission and it could also turn a most vociferous opponent into the charmer’s vision.
When one gets accustomed to this sensuous workout of political power, life outside it looks uninteresting and dull. The usual Blue Label whiskey, evening cocktail parties, scrumptious banquets at Embassy-get-togethers ending up with an occasional visit to the exclusive rooms and tables at the nearest casinos are a bit too much to say adieu to. Caught up in the vicious cycle of power and glamour, politicians build an illusionary universe; a universe whose realities are as impermanent as morning dew and as fleeting as the wanton gusty winds across a barren desert.They mistake those who crave friendships and acquaintances for life-long friends; they abandon those whose financial and social standing couldn’t keep up with the progressive rise which they themselves had accomplished.
Entwined in a web of mythical superiority of power and enrapturing sense of comfort and luxury, ruling classes, wherever they are, desperately cling on to power because that very power is infusing oxygen into their daily existence. When one describes this phenomenon of power’s lustful dynamics, another may be driven to think that those who are caught up in the web are acutely aware of this process. On the contrary, they are hardly conscious of this intrinsic nature of the animalistic and sadistic shades of power. It’s not that they are refusing to see it as they are incapacitated and blinded by the very luring nature of power; they simply don’t see it.
Mahinda Rajapaksa is no exception to this rule. Enmeshed in corruption, nepotism, phony patriotism and incompetence, the current regime, although it ran almost unchallenged for nearly two decades, is finding it rather difficult to persuade the moderates to come over to it while retaining the diehards in their ranks. Forget about Mahinda Rajapaksa but any politician for that matter, does not deserve more than a second chance. But when pitched against a cavalcade of idiotic policies, bellicose misuse of political power and outright abuse of people’s trust, the present regime is the last that could be trusted and faith reposed in. Many argue that the ruling clan would not have life outside power. Well, that is not the problem for the people to worry about. People, at large, cannot be held hostage to the idiosyncrasies of their leaders. What happens to political leaders once they are out of it has been chronicled in our recent history in various biographies and commentaries. For instance, political giants like I M R A Iriyagolla, Phillip Gunawardene and Felix Dias Bandaranaike passed away after they lost political power although they did not show any physical debilitation while in power.
Apparently they missed that element which had become part and parcel of their daily life, yet such personalities like Dudley Senanayake, J R Jayewardene, N M Perera, Colvin R de Silva and even Sirimavo Bandaranaike did last a long time while out of power. Chandrika Bandaranaike is very much alive and kicking even now. They may have been made of different stuff to do so. They apparently knew what to occupy themselves with when they were no longer in control of events, political or otherwise.
Those who suffer a fall in their personal lives -- if the fall is not due to some unforeseen event such as a medical or accident-related tragedy -- after being ousted from the exalted positions they once held, may be of a different mental makeup, for they are not equipped to wade through the peaks and valleys of life; they may be possessors of a different DNA. Let’s leave that to scientists and researchers. However, one remarkable person, a political leader of global significance is Fidel Castro of Cuba who handed over powers of running Cuba to his younger brother and is seeming to be enjoying a well-earned rest and recreation. Nevertheless, it must not be forgotten that Castro can relax like that because he is comfortable in the thought that power now resides with his own sibling!
The Rajapaksas can relate to that kind of political dynamic quite easily. But at the same time they have to deal with an increasingly enlightened electorate that is obviously looking for an alternative to family rule. Just because they are being elected by people is no excuse for stabilizing a family rule on an exclusive basis. It is also true that as time passes, this stabilisation becomes increasingly significant as the grip that such a ‘family rule’ holds on the subject people needs to get harder and more strangulating for the rulers to keep that stability going.
The legal argument that Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot contest the third time is indeed gaining new friends and supporters. Yet again, such an argument is really not valid for the 80% of our voters. Constitutional nuances and legal justifications are the last thing a voter who lives in a remote village would balance his options on. His immediate concerns very much weigh on the day-to-day needs of his family, his children’s schooling, his wife’s pregnancy, his own measly income, the dilapidated road leading to his shack of a home and all these foreboding surroundings envelop his rustic life. In plain and simple words, the country’s economy and its effects or ill-effects matter much more than nuances that occupy the minds and heads of Colombo’s educated scholars and pundits.
While the attendant issues like corruption, nepotism, State-wastage, MPs’ thuggish conduct in and outside the House of Parliament and family bandyism would all help build a formidable opposition to the Rajapaksas, yet it’s economy and economy alone that would ultimately make the voter switch his vote.
A story that could be told with caricatures and cartoons has not been told, to date. A story of gruesome realities that reflect the megalomania of the power-holders and lying about the economy and other socio-economic statistics has not been exposed, barring Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP); a story whose chapters and paragraphs could have enlightened and enlivened the dull and inactive minds of millions of voters is left untold and that in itself is a mortal sin. A sustained campaign against the sitting powers has been abandoned at the altar of day-dreaming. But what has happened has happened and cannot be undone. It is up to the emerging forces within the current Opposition in general and the United National Party (UNP) in particular that this story be told in no uncertain manner. The monolith that was the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), according to many political scholars and writers, was founded on brittle grounds; its pillars are shaking, the roof leaking and the outer paint is peeling off, layer by layer. Legal arguments aside, whether Mahinda Rajapaksa is qualified to run a third time or not, somebody needs to tell this story in the most vivid and dramatic fashion.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org