Changes that have taken place in the country during the past three weeks are simply unbelievable.
What Rajapaksa thinks about current democratic reforms?
Many democratic reforms currently underway were not possible even in the wildest dreams, two months ago.
Justice Sripavan, the senior most Supreme Court Judge would not have ever expected to be appointed the Chief Justice purely based on his seniority.
Shirani Bandaranayake, former Chief Justice would not have thought she could get her name cleared without entering into some behind –the- curtain deal with the political overlords.
"My guess however, is that Rajapaksa strongly believes that 47.5 per cent of the Sri Lankans, and over 50 per cent Sinhalese, who voted for him did not give two hoots about those allegations, no matter how substantiated they are"
On the other hand, Duminda Silva, MP may not have believed that he would be investigated for his alleged links with drug kingpins. Messrs Dammika Perera and Ravi Wijeratne, the two casino moguls in the country and the leading financiers of the previous regime may not have expected Rs. one billion tax on casinos.
But, I am rather wondering what former president Mahinda Rajapaksa is thinking about the reformist agenda of his successor.
We know for sure that Mr. Rajapaksa believed that none of those measures would be possible in his lifetime- because, he was the one who stood in the way of those measures. In many other issues, his thinking is not clear.
"The challenge is to evolve a consent that truly reflects the liberal democratic values through democratic elections. Where to draw the line between the populist impulses of a regressive majority and the democratic ideals and values generally advocated by a minority of elite is the question."
Does he believe his Chief Justice, Mohan Peiris has been politically victimized? His sympathy for Mohan Peiris may now have been tainted by the reports that the latter promised to jail the entire Rajapaksa family in return for letting him continue in the post of Chief Justice.
Rajapaksa may not have been surprised at that perfidy of Peries; for in the first place, he did not care much about professional integrity.
My hunch, however, is that he may have expected a little more loyalty from a Chief Justice who was seen beaming to television cameras and eating kiribath at the Carlton Residence of the then president on the Avurudu Day.
What does Mr. Rajapaksa think about the hoards of political appointees in the Sri Lankan missions abroad, who are now being recalled?
Where does he think all those missing vehicles of the Presidential Secretariat will end up?
Would he ever reveal as to how over 100 billion rupees of public funds allocated to the Presidential Secretariat every year was spent.
How much of that money was squandered on his trademark ‘dansals’ held at the Temple Trees at the expense of tax payers’ money.
We would never know what he thinks, unless of course, he replied to those questions.
Perhaps, Sumanadasa Abeygunawardene, his astrologer can help bring clarity, using his super natural powers.
My guess however, is that Rajapaksa strongly believes that 47.5 per cent of the Sri Lankans, and over 50 per cent Sinhalese, who voted for him did not give two hoots about those allegations, no matter how substantiated they are.
They would hardly have been bothered even if the former President appointed his hairdresser as the Chief Justice. Rajapaksa considered that complacency as an endorsement.
The former President could well believe that democratic reforms currently being implemented were an elitist enterprise hatched by the BASL, OPA, FUTA, liberal minded business leaders, pesky journalists and so forth and undertaken by the liberal minded UNP leader, who despite his principled position on many matters can hardly match the populist appeal of Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa is not entirely wrong.
A sizeable segment of the public did not care about the former President’s excesses, abuses and dismantling of the country’s democratic institutions.
Also, to them, it did not matter whether the new government would restore the Independent Commissions and abolish the Executive Presidency.
They live their own nasty, brutish, slavish lives. But, those reforms would offer a much dignified existence for their children and the future generation of Sri Lankans.
In theory, democracy is about the will of the people; in an electoral democracy, it is the will of the majority.
However, in practice, the outcome of democratic experience may not always be a reflection of democratic values and ideals, it meant to champion.
The new government won the majority, because ethnic minorities, who suffered the most due to the democratic deficit, voted overwhelmingly for President Sirisena.
Without their contribution, the outcome of the election would not have been that enlightening.
That is the perennial problem of democracy in this part of the world, from India to Thailand. The challenge is to evolve a consent that truly reflects the liberal democratic values through democratic elections. Where to draw the line between the populist impulses of a regressive majority and the democratic ideals and values generally advocated by a minority of elite is the question.
The will of the majority is, after all, sine qua non for democracy, however when the majority will disregards other basic tenets of a functional democracy, it creates imperfect societies which are vulnerable to manipulation.
Reconciling among those different interests is harder than holding multi-party elections.
Turkey, the only functional democracy in the Middle East (other than Israel) until recently was a liberal autocracy, where a Deep State comprising of the judiciary, military, bureaucracy and liberal media functioned as a buffer against regressive populist impulses.
When those institutions let their guard down, a populist Islamist rode to power on a wave of public support and brought down Turkey’s secular State and its independent institutions.
The social, cultural conditioning of our societies is such that average folks would be more likely to be moved by religious, ethno nationalistic rhetoric than the sermons on good governance and accountability.
In recent times, an increasing number of wine stores owners, timber racketeers, wheeler-dealers won their mandate to political office by throwing bread crumbs of their ill gotten wealth to the public and arousing primordial instincts of a regressive voter base.
Once they entered Parliament, provincial councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas, they tended to reinforce the servility of their electorates. Principled politics lost relevance in this country a long time ago.
People like Mahinda Rajapaksa have capitalised on that. And those he promoted during his regime, from the mob orator Wimal Weerawansa to Mervyn Silva have also exploited on that particular weakness in our society.
First, they robbed the dignity of the people. Then they began stealing public money. They got rid of the people of integrity in the judiciary, universities and foreign missions and replaced them with their sycophants, lapdogs and cronies.
They turned the country into their fiefdom, then pushed it further towards a Mafiosi.
All that happened right before our eyes. And a majority of the public was complacent and 47.5 per cent of the Sri Lankans voted for Rajapaksa’s bid for a third term.
Those who are excited over the current democratic experiment, should not forget that this moment we savour was a narrow shave.
It could have gone the other way and if that happened it was still the will of the public.
Now, the new government has a responsibility, not only to implement the democratic reforms it promised, but also to make sure that those reforms would not be reversed by another demigod who could get elected someday.
Those independent institutions and commissions headed by the right people would serve as a bulwark against the absolutist impulses of a future autocrat.
But, as international experiences show, even the strongest institutions can crumble under pressure.
The best way to defend those institutions is to make sure that another Rajapaksa, (Or Rajapaksa himself for another term through Parliament) does not get elected to political office.
The government should make sure that the excesses in the past would not go unpunished, no matter who the perpetrator was. The simple message should be that every action has its consequences.
That way, the next despot in line to the throne would have second thoughts before he or she abused the trust of the people.