FALSE CONTRASTS AND FRIVOLOUS COMPARISONS
Posted on August 9th, 2018

By Rohana R. Wasala

Apropos Ranga Jayasuriya’s write-up under the evocative title THE DEADLY CONTRAST: MAHINDA Vs GOTA/Lankaweb/August 7, 2018). The five year presidential term ends in January 2020; not in January 2019 as the writer says . This inaccuracy may be overlooked  as an accidental error. RJ’s conclusion that the poor performance of both the UNP and the SLFP at the February 10 local government election indicated that had they contested as allies (rather than as rivals as they did) they could have won more seats is nonsensical; actually they would have polled even fewer seats had they fought the election as partners because more supporters (except the diehards) of each party would have either refused to cast their vote at all or chosen to vote in favour of the Pohottuwa supported by the JO, out of sheer disillusionment with the mutually incompatible UNP-SLFP alliance politics, which has completely overturned the gains of the great 2009 victory over terrorism.

Be that as it may. A really serious charge he implicitly raises against Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is that he is a willful murderer. RJ should have furnished some evidence if any to substantiate that assumption. He hasn’t because there isn’t any such evidence to incriminate Gota. Anyone can raise allegations and even concoct evidence. Please don’t rely on the malicious things said about him in the media, particularly in the social media. Try to find factual information from more reliable sources, and then come to your own conclusions. But, of course, judging by your attitude as reflected in this piece of writing, you have made up your mind about that, based on false information, never to make yourself amenable to a more positive view of this rare personality, who is flashing a ray of new hope for a country that is passing through a winter of despair.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa said, as you claim, ‘don’t criticize Gota, criticize me’, what he meant was this: ‘don’t find fault with Gota; he is doing my bidding; if you must, do criticize me’. This should be obvious  to any person who has some idea of Mahinda’s sense of personal responsibility for his actions. But Ranga Jayasuriya implies something like the following, as I understand him here, something entirely different from the above: RJ says something to the effect that when MR advised people not to criticize Gota, he meant  ‘Gota is a dangerous man. You criticize me instead, for I am not like Gota, you know?’ That interpretation of MR’s words is utterly wrong. A few years ago, a budding intellectual had difficulty in understanding what Mahinda meant when he said after the 2010 presidential election victory: ‘There are no minorities or majorities hereafter. There are only those Sri Lankans who love their motherland, and those who don’t.’ That particular intellectual criticized Mahinda for saying those words, arguing that he wanted to deny the existential reality of there being minorities in Sri Lanka! (What Mahinda really meant was that all Sri Lankans, of whatever race, religion, language, culture or ideology, were a single people, or nation, with equal status, rights and responsibilities, reiterating the same ideal of Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) nationalism that D.S. Senanayake, the founder of the UNP and the first prime minister of independent Sri Lanka, expressed when he said: ‘I don’t mind if all my cabinet members are Tamil provided they work as Ceylonese’!).

My take on Gota, based on concrete evidence (which should be as obvious to RJ as it is to me, if he is an adult Sri Lankan with some education,) is different from RJ’s. RJ asserts that Gota is an autocrat. This false assertion may be due to his credulous acceptance of a popular misconception among some people  of his role in the few management positions that he occupied as a government functionary during the Rajapaksa administration. An autocrat is a person who holds and exercises absolute power over others like a heartless tyrant. But Gota never acted like that. When a government  executive officer, carrying out the orders of a superior, successfully gets his or her subordinates to do what they are required to do and nothing else but that, can such a person be called an autocrat? A responsible official can rarely adopt a laissez-faire attitude in handling even a team of highly motivated workers. The performance related firmness of an administrator should not be interpreted as authoritarianism.

Gota once said that he is ready to work under a good leader to serve the national interest; he implied that that leader didn’t have to be his brother Mahinda; he or she could be some other person. The fact that he is now exhibiting a willingness to contest for the presidency if asked to do so by his brother Mahinda, in view of the rising public demand for his leadership at this critical juncture need not be read as an indication of an uncontrollable personal craving for power. He had a distinguished military career. When he retired from the army in 1991, qualified in computer science with an MSc from the University of Colombo, and migrated to America, he most probably had no desire to return to Sri Lanka to engage in politics. He is a highly disciplined person  of the intellectual type. If he is taking part in a political movement aimed at national recovery now, it is because he is only meeting a familial obligation: as a scion of a distinguished political family, he cannot look the other way, when there is a rising crescendo of enthusiastic cries of Come, Gota! Save the country” from a frustrated populace.

They seem to be fixed on Gota though their wish is for a return of Mahinda. This is because the Yahapalana regime, through the 19th Amendment has managed to thwart the people’s democratic right to elect Mahinda for a third term. By means of such personalized legislations discriminatory towards selected individuals , they are aiming to prevent Gota from contesting the next presidential election as well as to stop Namal Rajapaksa entering the presidential fray by some chance. The main target of all such legislation is Mahinda Rajapaksa. RJ is intentionally or unintentionally contributing to what the undemocratic, ill governing Yahapalanaya is trying to secure through the manipulation of the constitution.

It is gratuitous to compare Gota to Idi Amin of Uganda (d. 2003) and to Abdel Fatah, the current president of Egypt. The portrayal of Idi Amin by the Western media (the only way we came to know about him) was not very flattering. He was represented as a blood thirsty, narcissistic eccentric. Military man Abdel Fatah of Egypt who came to power after a military coup (2013), and later got elected as president, has been criticized for excesses in controlling Islamist rebel groups.  There is a world of difference between Gota and these two, both in terms of their individual personalities and in terms of their private and public circumstances.

Only people like RJ who hold a jaundiced view of Mahinda as a politician think that the many good things he did as president were always motivated by populism. The term ‘populism’ is generally used in a negative sense: showing too much concern with, or trying to appeal to, the interests of ordinary people with a view to winning their support at elections. But Mahinda didn’t have to resort to that strategy to win votes. He did focus on the welfare of the ordinary people. The vast majority of Sri Lankans are country dwellers; more than 75% of all Sri Lankans are engaged in agriculture. It is the bounden duty of any elected government  to look after the interests of all citizens without discrimination. Though the economic strategy of the previous government had a rural bias, it did not neglect the urban sector either.

Arbitrarily predicting possible weak prospects for economic recovery under a Gotabhaya Rajapaksa presidency, and casually scoffing at his Viyath Maga movement ,RJ hints at yet another frivolous comparison between Gota and a foreign dictator:

‘Pinochet had ‘Chicago boys’, young economists trained in the University of Chicago; pro-American autocrats in East Asia had their American advisors. Who has Gota got? Majority of the so- called intelligentsia in  ‘Viyath Maga’ are no name nobodies, who are more at ease in parroting long lost economic theories of a middle path, which has proved to be a road to nowhere’.

Far more deplorable than that inapt comparison is RJ’s slavish pro-Americanism and his utter contempt for the local intelligentsia engaged in the economic field who are voluntarily taking part in the Viyath Maga project. Americans, be they advisors, politicians, diplomats or ordinary citizens, wherever they go, look after the American interest. That is not wrong. That is their nationalism, their love of their own people. But when what is good for us, that is, our nationalism, is not compatible with their nationalism, we are condemned for alleged racism, fanaticism, chauvinism, extremism and for our nationalism itself. That bis the American way. It was ‘no name nobodies’ like Nalaka Godahewa, Priyath Bandu, Ajith Nivard Cabral , and Gotabhaya himself and many others who were behind the successful development work that the previous government performed. They were our technocrats. These local intellectuals have a feeling for their motherland. Americans and their slaves here don’t have that sense of patriotism and  any sense of national dignity.

RJ reveals his personally pathetic, but socially harmful, ignorance about what happened in 1956 and what preceded and what followed it. Talking about those he calls ‘no name nobodies’ he writes:

‘They imbibe a nostalgia for the 1956, a populist misadventure that deprived the country of its hitherto held competitive advantage, leading us to the depravity of sending our women to toil in the Middle East’.

The 1956 change was the beginning of a real democratic transition that should be understood in its historical context and that equally benefited the downtrodden of all communities. It was not a mere ‘populist misadventure’. It was turned into a misadventure by the same forces that are today pushing the country to the very brink of disintegration on communal lines (UNP-led, hybrid neo-con neo-liberal ideology that espouses free-market capitalism while voluntarily accepting foreign intervention in terms of foreign policy; communalist minority separatism; and obsolete Marxism). The pioneers of 1956 envisioned a country where all the communities live in harmony, equality, as one nation (an organic development of the D.S. Senanayake type of ‘rightist’ nationalism that turned ‘leftist’ and got relatively free of the  throttling influence of British imperialism). The Sinhala Only was corrected in time through parliamentary processes, and today Tamil is an official language along with Sinhala. In retrospect, it was an accepted truth that the majority community were the worst persecuted under European colonialism of 450 years because they always fought for the country (territory) on behalf of all the inhabitants therein, irrespective of ethnicity; all the rebellions that the Sinhalese organized including the JVP revolt of 1971, unlike the Tamil separatist terror campaign of nearly 30 years that was defeated in 2009, were in the name of all Sri Lankans, in the name of the country, not in the name of the Sinhalese Buddhists alone.  Anti-national propaganda of the sort that RJ typifies has turned nationalists into racists, and racists into nationalists.

RJ’s conclusion takes the cake for deliberate misrepresentation and obfuscation of the factual situation:

‘ At the end, running a country is far more complicated than evicting squatters in Kompannavediya. If the panacea for the efficient governance is enlarging the role of military in public life, Pakistan could now have been an economic miracle. Gota’s hype does not provide solutions to complex problems that Sri Lanka is currently faced with. Still, more than anything else, the current government’s failure to provide a strong leadership continues to provide currency to that farce.’

Under the previous administration, there was government in the country, not anarchy. Squatters were not evicted. They were resettled in livable new housing complexes. In Colombo, the largest number of squatters who benefited from this resettlement scheme were Muslims and Tamils. Even the UNP government of president Premadasa, a leader who had risen to power from an impoverished slum background, did much to solve the housing problem, covering the whole country. There is universal agreement about the ‘current government’s failure to provide a strong leadership’, but only a few idiots will call Gota’s  Viyath Maga  a ‘farce’.  Viyath Maga is just one of the three organs that Mahinda Chintana manifesto that informed the overall vision of the well performing Rajapaksa government has now branched into, contingent upon the emerging new realities, both domestic and foreign. The Viyath Maga movement whose motto is ‘Professionals for a Better Future’ aims at creating an intellectually empowered Sri Lanka (where every citizen has an equal stake) pools locally available intellectual and professional resources and entrepreneurial skills; the Eliya project is meant to raise awareness among the citizenry; the Pohotttuwa (Lotus Bud), the third organ, is the all important political wing of a massive movement that that is focusing on the next presidential and parliamentary elections.  The Viyath Maga is not a farce. RJ, look elsewhere for a real farce! You can’t miss it! It isn’t exactly funny, though.

5 Responses to “FALSE CONTRASTS AND FRIVOLOUS COMPARISONS”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Comparing Gotabaya to Idi Amin, Hitler, etc. is utterly foolish and pathetically desperate. Strange some fail to see the Batalanda Mass Murderer who maintained torture houses to kill unarmed civilians which is a Crime Against Humanity. Gotabaya was never associated with any of these.

    Does RJ think that any alternative to Gotabaya can solve Lanka’s problems? Who is that alternative? Ranil, Sajith, Ravi? Hilarious to say the very least.

    Voters don’t take instructions from anyone how to vote. They are far more informed. They always (emphasis) made the right choice. Pro-Rajapaksa crowd thinks voters got it wrong in 2015 and pro-Ranil crowd thinks voters will get it wrong in 2019. Both are wrong. Voters are always right.

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dilrook,

    No, I disagree. Sometimes VOTERS can be misled by MASSIVE PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGNS as they were on Jan 08, 2015.

    However, the MAJORITY of voters CANNOT BE FOOLED ALL THE TIME.

    Once they REALIZE they have been taken to the cleaners, they will SET MATTERS RIGHTS as soon as possible, as we will see in the NEXT ELECTION.

    The SAME THING happened in the Mid-East during the Arab Spring! Those INTERNET DEMOCRATS manipulated by the Master Puppeteers of the WEST have NOW VANISHED without TRACE not daring to RAISE THEIR HEADS in their own countries!

    For SRi Lanka, there is a MASSIVE PRICE TO PAY for being FOOLISHLY MISLED: the Nation and the People as a whole pay that price, as we have done in the last 3 years: politically, economically and socially. It will take a DECADE to UNDO the DAMAGE in ECONOMIC, POLITICAL, SOCIAL and in INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS!

    We ALWAYS seem to take ONE STEP FORWARD and TWO STEPS BACK! It is AGONIZING to watch!

    We need AN EFFECTIVE, HIGHLY MOTIVATED, PATRIOTIC, and yes, a LESS DEMOCRATIC Govt for a DECADE or MORE to set us BACK on the PATH OF RAPID National Progress & National Security that we were traveling on in Jan 08, 2015!

  3. nilwala Says:

    While voters can sometimes get things wrong when lies and diversions like massive propaganda and “voter buying tactics”, or false promises like ‘rice from the moon’ drive them collectively to lose their COMMON SENSE that is the greatest blessing and possession of the common folk, the results of the 2015 election will go down in history as that which has revealed the shameless exploitation of Democracy, wherein the FRANCHISE of THE PEOPLE as the foundation of parliamentary governance when converted into “Representative Democracy” within which Machiavellian leaders have found and resorted to a myriad ways and means to cheat the people with fraud and corruption of a level unknown before.
    Hopefully, the lessons learnt throughout this period will teach the people of this nation to cherish and protect their precious vote, and to use it with the utmost care and diligence. And to PROTECT THEIR VOTE FROM FRAUD, USING PAPER TRAILS.
    The current lot have many techniques at hand wherein they can still cheat the voter, especially if biding the time TO 2020 is necessary to install an “electronic voting system” that can introduce algorithms (computer-calculated manipulations of the statistical processes) that can twist the numbers to generate the desired results. Voters MUST INSIST on a paper trail that can be checked and re-checked, and available for the latter processes by experts.
    This nation which is fast achieving world renown for Fraud and Cheating, would have reached the ultimate goal of becoming #1 in the world in that field. Cheating the nation is fast becoming established as the “Parliament’s Way of Governance”.
    The Speaker’s statement today regarding the TNA being LEGITIMATE as the Opposition Leader, is a TRAVESTY of Democracy and the LAST STRAW!

    As Ananda, USA says: “We need AN EFFECTIVE, HIGHLY MOTIVATED, PATRIOTIC, and yes, a LESS DEMOCRATIC Govt for a DECADE or MORE to set us BACK on the PATH OF RAPID National Progress & National Security that we were traveling on in Jan 08, 2015!”

  4. Dilrook Says:

    @Ananda

    Both sides spread falsehoods, not just one side. And people know it very well. For instance, it was not just the Sirisena camp that spread falsehoods, Mahinda camp did the same. People get bombarded with lies and deception from both sides.

    Over 85% of Sinhala voters are fixed voters. They either vote for the favourite party or they abstain from voting. Only 15% are floating voters. They cannot be easily fooled by lies of one side (emphasised). Voters didn’t believe in luxury cars, helicopters, horses, etc. but they did believe that corruption of politicians was real and they wanted to punish them for it. Of course the other camp is also corrupt. The point is, in the corruption battle, there are no winners.

    At times voters cannot pinpoint what exactly is the issue but they do realise they have been taken for a ride. For instance, wasting 85% of borrowed funds in the north is not exactly corruption (it is waste). But people losely interpret is as corruption. It does not matter because at the end of the day Sinhala people were deprived.

    I don’t waste time reading the minds of fixed voters. They have no brain cells.

    Obviously floating voters are far clever than politicians and fixed voters, yet they are not Einsteins. Overall, voters are always right. I disagree with them at times but that is my opinion. Voters remain right and I was wrong on those instances (1965, 2001).

    2019 presidential election will be very interesting. I expect a hung presidential election with no one able to win 50%. Smaller parties will become kingmakers and put forward their demands. The candidate who agrees wins. I welcome Nagananda and others entering into the fray and hope JVP will contest alone. Another hardcore patriotic candidate with the promise of abrogating 13A, ETCA, FTA with India and take back of Hambantota and Mattala should contest. I hope the era of taking Sinhala voters for granted will be over in 2019.

  5. Randeniyage Says:

    Kamma should catch up with thieves and liars. My hope is “all unscrupulous criminals”n are defeated one day and law catch them.

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