Oblit­er­a­tion of the Ra­japaksa decade is omi­nous

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - COMMENT - By Gamini Weer­akoon

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.

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