Obliteration of the Rajapaksa decade is ominous
The often cited quote of a former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: ‘ Lies, damn lies and statistics’ kept coming to our minds during the past two weeks when ‘truth’ became a casualty in this pious isle, where a great many take vows to abide by the Fourth Precept of the Panchaseela -- morning and night.
“We’ve got more than 113” was the claim of the new political combine of the president of the country, Pohottuwa and Yasapalanaya dropouts while irate UNPers claimed more than 120 or more (with support of allied parties). These statistics simply did not tally with the 225- member parliament. It reminded us also of a saying of the journalist of yore Mark Twain: Statistics are pliable.
This great mathematical and constitutional law conundrum could have been resolved simply by summoning parliament and taking a vote -- but that has yet to happen.
The country is agog with those, ranging from three wheel drivers to university dons, splitting legal hairs and juggling with arithmetical calculations for a parliamentary majority. Some of those keeping aloof of this crisis ask: Is there no morality in this whole business? A curt reply we heard was: Morality is best left to morons.
That takes us to an issue greater than that: Which political party will come on top? Has Sri Lankan society lost its basic moral values such as respect for the truth, abhorring bribes in the form of political office and filthy lucre? Even political babes know very well that this delay in summoning parliament to take a vote is to give time and space for the wheels of the process of bribery -- in the form of office and cash -- to turn. It is not only pathetic but also alarming that voters have come to accept, as a fact of Sri Lankan life, that the Big Brothers in politics are corrupt. The greater their power, the greater is the extent of corruption.
We may get hot under the collar and hitch up our sarongs when the sovereignty of the people -- their right to choose their representative -- is interfered with such as by foreign powers as alleged last week, but we do not give a damn when a representative elected by the people at great risk and with much sacrifice joins hands with his political opponent for political office, betraying his mandate, for political office, for bribes or even to save his skin. When that happens democracy is devastated and a sovereign nation becomes a pariah in the eyes of the world.
Maithripala Sirisena did just that. Almost three years ago as Secretary of the SLFP he dined on hoppers and lunumiris with his party boss and went away without giving his Big Boss Mahinda Rajapaksa any clue that he would become the Common Candidate to oppose him at the presidential election. Even though his political propriety is much in question, it could be said that he was entitled to act according to his political conscience. He collected 6.2 million votes and was elected the president of Sri Lanka against his opponent Mahinda Rajapaksa. Family bandyism, nepotism, corruption and abuse of presidential power were among the many accusations he hurled at Rajapaksa promising to right the wrongs and do justice to the people. He had feared for his life and said if he had he lost the election, he would have been ’six feet underground’. But on October 26, he s a cked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whom he had acknowledged as the person without whose support he would not have been elected the president. He replaced Wickremesinghe with his alleged grave digger!
This is a unique instance not only of a breakdown of democratic principles -- of a 70- year- old democracy – but also a betrayal of the adherents of the three main world religions committed to such values. Do these adherents throw their principles out of the window when it comes to deeply polarised politics? What will happen if bribery and corruption change the usual way of counting in arithmetic, say from 2+2= 4 into 2+2 = a much greater number?
This time it will not be Sirisena sitting with a Big Wolf to eat hoppers but a lamb sitting for dinner with a Big Wolf who may prefer lamb to hoppers.
Sirisena may have his own reasons to forget the past and make up with Rajapaksa. But by attempting to bring him back to power and developing amnesia about Rajapaksa’s past, he is obliterating a decade of crimes of the Rajapaksa regime -- erasing history. Charges about white vans, abductions, disappearances and killing of journalists, shady armament deals and many other accusations were made, most of which are now before courts, awaiting trial or in the process of being tried. What will happen to all these cases if the Sirisena move works out?
George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty- Four has a significant warning about controlling or erasing the past: ‘who controls the past, controls the future: Who controls the present controls the past. Sirisena is unlikely to be at the controls for long and some Big Brother may take over.
Sirisena by trying to erase the sordid past is attempting to legitimise the present and make a Big Brother control the future.
George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four has a significant warning about controlling or erasing the past: ‘who controls the past, controls the future: Who controls the present controls the past. Sirisena is unlikely to be at the controls for long and some Big Brother may take over.