Stuffed on a few thousand kilos of kiributh and good wishes the President and his acolytes are indeed a well contended lot. Mahinda Rajapaksa is more than well assured of his longevity in Sri Lankan politics.
Certainly it has been no easy ride for the President who in 2005 was confused if indeed a presidential election should be called or not. Thankfully, for him, a smart newspaper editor briefed him of the “scheme” by Chandrika Kumaratunga to extend her term in office by a further one year after having taking oath in secret before the then Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva.
Unfortunately for Kumaratunga though she did not expect the man she had placed implicit trust in to literally pull the rug out from beneath her feet, Silva did just that when the Supreme Court ruled that a presidential election must be called in 2005 which held that only the public oath taking ceremony of a president could be authentic. That Sarath N. Silva misled Kumaratunga into thinking a secret oath taking ceremony would hold water for an additional year in office is now by the way. The fact is, the Supreme Court ruling effectively paved the way for Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest and narrowly win the 2005 presidential election.
His narrow win was due to Ranil Wickremesinghe losing the northern Tamil vote because Velupillai Prabhakaran convinced the Tamil voters to refrain from casting their vote. A historical twist in a presidential poll that not only effectively ensured the death knell for Velupillai Prabhakaran and Ranil Wickremesinghe’s political career but also paved the way to presidency and glory for Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Our reminiscing on this score is to draw attention to dramatic events that have never ceased to turn the tide of Sri Lanka’s political landscape. In the backdrop of Mahinda Rajapaksa having now taken oaths for a second term in office, literally unshakable with an envious majority, he sits majestic having ascended the throne of unsurpassed power.
We can only hope, nay, pray, that while Sri Lanka battered and wounded after a debilitating, devastating two decade long war trembles on a tremulous threshold Rajapaksa will not move from reality nor abandon his vision for a fantasy world of fiction filled with imagination.
As I watch Mahinda Rajapaksa’s epic ascendancy I am reminded of a book I once read by George R. R. Martin called A Game Of Thrones which tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards who come together in a time of grim omens. Here, an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal, a tribe of fierce wildings carry men off into madness, a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne, a child is lost in the twilight between life and death, and a determined woman undertakes a treacherous journey to protect all she holds dear. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, allies and enemies, the fate of the people hangs perilously in the balance, as each side endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
It is in this context that I recall an article written by Prof. Rohan Samarajiva to Montage magazine where he said, quote, “What is surprising is not that the President violates the law and disregards explicit directions from lawful authority, but that the citizenry seem to accept it. Not that the President tries to impress university teachers by inviting them to dinner at Temple Trees, but that most of them go, and some even kiss the hands of their host. After much reflection, I have had to conclude that we are witnessing a head-on collision between Constitutionalism and Feudalism. Constitutionalism is respect for words on paper that say what power holders can and cannot do; it is basically about the widespread respect for law: Constitutionalism as a theory and in practice stands for the principle that there are — in a properly governed state — limitations upon those who exercise the powers of government, and that these limitations are spelled out in a body of higher law which is enforceable in a variety of ways, political and judicial.” Unquote.
A society embracing feudalism in whatever guise can no longer expect, at the same time, certain other cherished ideals including, but not limited to:
meritocracy: the best performing persons assured to get best public/academic appointments
fairness: everyone treated as equals, irrespective of wealth or family connections
due process: transparent, consultative policy making and policy implementation in the public interest
equality before the law: affording protection to everyone irrespective of social status or political affiliation.
Feudalism, on the other hand, is inherently and fundamentally incompatible with all the above and other values. In fact, there can be no public interest whatsoever in a feudal society; only vested interests. Mervyn Silvas, Sakvithis, Potta Naufers and their ilk will be the norm, not the exception.
There won’t be a chance in hell for any bright, hard working, honest young man or woman with no family or political connections to rise in society professionally, intellectually, artistically or entrepreneurially — unless they sell their souls to the ruling oligarchy/family.
Mahinda Rajapaksa would do well to keep in mind that Sri Lanka is the 97th most corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International.
The various types of corruption from murder to theft to abuse of government property and nepotism is rife within the government and its departments.
We once more have a shockingly large cabinet which clearly illustrates Rajapaksa’s scant regard for those who voted him into power for the very reason of reducing tax payer’s monies to fatten the girth of his ministers and their entourages. These 61 ministers and their 34 deputies will feed off the spoils of this land – unabashedly and wanton – while their subjects remain just that. Servants — serving a King and his personal fiefdom.
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