Gota – The Necessary Evil

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Nanda Wanninayaka

The controversial former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, considered a moron by the West and the rest of the sensible world died a few weeks ago. Had Mugabe stepped down after two or three maximum presidential terms gracefully, he would have gone down in the history as a legendary leader who saved Zimbabwe from the imperialists. But it was not to be due to his extreme greed for power. He opted not to leave the office till his death, but, as in the cases of most of the similar despots at the end, he was dispatched home by the protesting citizens and the army. Till that, there was no sign of Mugabe relinquishing power even after ruling the country for 37 long years with manipulated and rigged elections.

The same fate could have befallen on our own former president Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR,) had he won the 2015 election and went on being the undisputed leader of the country till his death or till his three sons became old enough to contest the presidential elections. So, he should thank the voters and Maithripala Sirisena (MS) for opening an early (and quite decent one for that matter,) exit from the Temple Trees which the former never expected.

This doesn’t mean MR’s own younger brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) won’t be suitable for the job as the next president. He was ruthless in crushing the Tamil Tiger terrorists and winning the Civil War. It took him only 3 years to finish the war which couldn’t be won for nearly 3 decades by different governments since 1983. Instead, many say, the leaders of Sri Lanka were neither bold enough to take the bull by horns nor had the strength to ignore the growing pressure by India and some countries in the West. Besides, there were rumors that the army big guns and politicians heavily profited from the war. Some former leaders were even accused of providing funds and weapons to the terrorists. Gota managed to fight against all odds and win the war which was unimaginable before 2009.

The near success of brutal crushing of the underworld too is attributed to Gota. One might not be happy with extra judiciary killings of the underworld dark lords but it was the need of the hour as everyone knows that a long extended legal process to bring the criminals of the underworld to the book hasn’t helped reducing thuggery and extorting money from the businessmen who are a needed class in developing the country.

Gota’s involvement of war against drug kingpins is disputed. Some say that he reduced it and some accuse him of associating the big drug kingpins. Gota posing for photographs with some of those alleged drug dealers are also freely available.

They say Gota was even more ruthless in making the country beautiful through the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development in which he was the all-powerful secretary. Making the country clean was something none of the previous governments could even dreamt of doing as it becomes opening a can of worms because any government would face rigid resistance from the illegal dwellers of the cities, especially in Colombo.

If it was the right way Gota controlled free media, specially even after the war was over, is highly questionable. But for some reason, it was part and parcel of the game that Gota was playing and he never took any chances in help reviving the Tamil Tigers and those who sympathize with them. I am sure a lot of atrocities might have happened against the journos even if none of them was proved in a court of law which is too big an ask under the conditions prevailed.

This country needs a benevolent dictator and Gota would be the ideal (and the best available) choice if he survives all the investigations going against him on the charges of corruption, human rights violations and war crimes. I know I am making myself unpopular here but this is the way I see it. We need a strong charismatic leader who can take bold decisions to develop Sri Lanka. (I don’t have to waste my time and that of yours who have already read how the Europe got rid of its feudal kings and got the benevolent dictators to rule the countries and then finally got the elected democratic leaders to rule.)

As the legendary cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan once said, Sri Lanka had other priorities after the war than good governance and democracy. I too subscribe to the same sentiment as this country had to be made suitable for those two elements and it would have been easier for a next leader to prioritize good governance if and when the country was ready for it. By 2015, the country was still not ready to recognize good governance as its first priority. There were other burning issues such as poverty, ignorance, cost of living, infrastructure development, etc. that the citizens looked up to the government to engage in.

While the country needs to ensure a long term and a permanent peace for the businesses to thrive, freedom to invest, pleasant environment to attract foreign tourists, etc. the present government was embarked on good governance which was too big an ask with the UNP’s history of corruption from the top to bottom. The huge scandal of the daylight robbery of the Central Bank by manipulating the treasury bonds even before the new government’s 100-day-development-plan completed its term tells the story better. There were some court proceedings and the culprits were in remand prisons for some time but nobody expects that the looted money would be returned to the treasury nor the offenders would be punished.

When it comes to beautifying the country, the present government has failed big time as they failed even to continue what Gota had initiated. Within a few weeks of coming to the power, hawkers reclaimed their illegal spots in Pettah and other parts of the city and it ended up with whole Colombo started stinking without a proper garbage disposal plan.

As per the Under World, the drug kingpins, extortionists and bounty hunters returned to the island who left the country during Gota’s time and started their activities with almost no resistance from the present government. Every now and then a businessman is killed due to extortion or gang rivalry. We don’t know how high the extortion figures are as it is only when a businessman is killed that such activities are exposed. Most businessmen might be paying ransoms without informing the police. Country is never safe and businessmen don’t want to take risks in investing which apparently reflect on share market too. The GDP growth which was around 7% died down to mere 1.6% and Sri Lanka is ranked only above Afghanistan in the South Asian region in terms of GDP growth which is a shame as all good work of the former regime were undone by the present government that promised “good governance.” People genuinely felt that former regime’s “bad governance” was better than the newly introduced fake good governance.

Easter Sunday Attacks well exposed how weak our intelligence units, police and three-forces had been. Once formidable forces were on their knees when those heinous terrorist attacks rocked the country as the police, military and intelligence units had been made paralyzed by the tomfoolery of the present government that promoted good governance and reconciliation and totally neglected the national security.

We all know that there can be many a skeleton in Gota’s closet. Who hasn’t in the political sphere? This is something common to the whole of South Asia, Africa and South America. Leaders are either corrupt, human rights violators or in short, despots. We have the agony of choice when different political parties field their candidates for elections. But what can we do under the circumstances? Importing a democratic leader from the North Europe? No, you will have to select the best out of the worst.  Under these conditions, I would say, Gota is the necessary evil to run the country with all the odds against him and at any cost to the people.

Mandelization of Ranil Wickremesinghe

Ranil Wickremesinghe

Ranil Wickremesinghe Photo Credits

Nanda Wanninayaka

Ranil Wickremesinghe was never my hero. He wasn’t anybody’s hero for that matter I guess, especially those of his own party, the United National Party (UNP.) Politics was never his field of expertise or his field of interest. I have read somewhere when his uncle, the late president Mr. J. R. Jayewardene (JRJ) asked him to join politics, the former had flatly refused and said, “Please, please uncle. Politics is not my field of interest. Just let me be like this.” or something to that effect.

Well, Mr. JRJ has done several mistakes in his political life.

  1. JRJ politicized the then well-established civil service by giving the powers of the civil servants, especially the District Secretaries – who were then called “Government Agents” – and the Divisional Secretaries – who were then called “Assistant Government Agents” – to the conceited and corrupt bunch of politicians from the ruling UNP who were then called “දිසා ඇමති” (District Ministers.) The whole governing system was turned upside down as a result and the repercussions are seen and felt today than ever.

  1. Introducing the Open Economic Reforms in an unprecedented and hasty manner creating lot of chaos in the country which totally disturbed the lifestyles of the people. Local industries collapsed like a card of dominoes and the hitherto surplus of the balance of payment became a huge deficit and the whole country was submerged in a quagmire that never was able to get out of to date

  1. One of the gravest mistakes of JRJ was masterminding the notorious “Black July” in 1983 and letting his own UNP goons to kill, wound and loot the Tamils living in the South of the island. JRJ’s thugs did not stop at that but were given an “unofficial license” to rape Tamil girls and women. These heinous acts were understandably reciprocated by the Tamils who were the dominating ethnic group in the North and East of the Island. Being the all-powerful executive president of the country, JRJ never took the correct path of quelling this unwanted riots and what happened in the aftermath of this is the history.

  1. I think the worst mistake JRJ did for the country was getting this very lethargic and non-practical young man, Mr. Wickremasighe to the political arena. You don’t need any example as to show how disastrous JRJ’s decision was as you can see Mr. Wickremasinghe as the living example himself. He was never a decent public speaker. His body language while he does public speaking especially in the local language, Sinhala is so terrible and he becomes a bigger comedian than Mr. Bean the world famous comedy character performed by the British actor Rowan Atkinson. Moreover, Mr. Wickremasinghe never understood the heart or the pulse of the people in the country. Maybe at least some of his moves were meant to be productive to the country but the way he communicated those to the masses wasn’t convincing at all. It was easy for the opposition to make mincemeat of him of anything he put forward for the country due to this weakness of him. He was easily made the traitor of the country even when he tried his best to be the patriot. I don’t want to go any further describing this poor man, the biggest failure in Sri Lankan politics anymore.

Ranil Wickremesinghe

Ranil Wickremesinghe From

Instead, I will come to the root cause of the current issue of the sudden political destabilization. Let’s recap how the incumbent president, Mr. Maithripala Sirisena was brought to the wrong side of the presidential elections in 2015 as the common presidential candidate by the UNP-led coalition. They say politics make strange bedfellows but this queer union of Mr. Sirisena and the UNP-led coalition made the former in totally uncharted waters. It was apparent that the money, energy and the huge election campaign masterminded, funded and carried out by proxy actors locally was actually was done with the generous help of India, USA and some of the powerful countries in the unholy NATO camp that made the former Gramasewaka (village headman,) the president of Sri Lanka, something nobody expected to happen even in wildest dream before January, 2015. As expected, once elected, the president became a big joke, maybe a little less jocular than Mr. Wickremasinghe, his Prime Minister. Okay, let’s leave it at that.

The ex-president, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Machiavellian politician he was cracked up to be, cracked himself a few weeks ago by idiotically masterminding a constitutional coup that made himself the Prime Minister with the support of a minority group of unreliable MPs in the parliament by putting the country in the doldrums. He should have waited till the current parliament completed its mandate given by the voters. If it continued its full run, in one and half years’ time that was left to it, it would have crumbled from its inside. But Mr. Rajapaksa was so power-hungry that he joined Mr. Sirisena, the former’s arch enemy who betrayed Rajapaksa big time and robbed his apparently inevitable chance of being elected as the President of Sri Lanka for a record and a historical third time. The two unlikely pair joined hands after what looked like a constitutional gimmick that paved way for the President to appoint Mr. Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister of the nation while there was an incumbent PM who was already in office. This shouldn’t have happened under ANY circumstance. Mr. Rajapaksa should have weighed the pros and cons of the situation. But you cannot expect that type of logical reasoning from an experienced politician who trusted his “official soothsayer” than an opinion poll or two to test the waters and called a presidential election two years before the stipulated time and ended up losing his presidency two years shy of the allocated period.

By then, the incumbent Prime Minister Mr. Wickremasinghe was already immensely unpopular and the best thing to do should have been letting him stay in power for the rest of his office and wait till he faces the General Election which was already swaying to the Rajapaska’s newly created party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), which was already the main contender and the fresh thing in the menu. But what megalomaniac Rajapaska did was something totally unacceptable ethically, politically and strategically. Mr. Wickremasinghe was at the receiving end as he messed up big time right from the beginning of his office and the UNP would have faced a humiliating defeat at the general election with dodgy Treasury Bond scam, corruption, inefficiency, ever-increasing inflation, monthly increase of price of fuel and the heavy tax burden on the public to sway even his traditional vote base to Rajapaksa’s camp, even though it would have been only an agony of choice for the voters to elect someone from both the mainstream parties. But Rajapaksa would have had an upper hand in defeating UNP-led collation even without the support of the president Sirisena and his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP.)

But everybody knows how power-hungry the Rajapaksa clan is. They are not the only megalomaniac clan in Sri Lankan politics.  Think of Senanayake, Bandaranaike, Premadasa clans too. This is part and parcel of the politics in the subcontinent and you can’t help it. But this time Rajapaksa did the worst gamble in his entire political life and he got the already unpopular PM out of his office and made himself the Prime Minister. The process was seen as something done by the president but we know what happens behind the curtains in the corridors of power in Sri Lanka.

So what has Rajapaksa got at the end? The good-for-nothing Wickremasinghe has become the “Mandela of Sri Lanka” now. Mr. Wickamesinghe didn’t have to waste 27 years in a prison to become Mandela. Only thing he had to do was continuing his idiotic governing style but both Sirisena and Rajapaksa “Mandelaized” the born-loser Wickremasinghe. Now he has got the sympathy of his traditional vote base which was drifting towards the Rajapaskas. Furthermore, Wickeremasinghe has become the doll of the Western powers and the Western media now and is the zero-turned-hero without much ado.

So, what have Sirisena and Rajapaska got on their plates? Going down the drain to the political dungeons of Sri Lanka? The chances are that even if you win this political standoff and survive the constitutional crisis, you will still be the at the receiving end of the public at large. Local and international media and the rest of the world will ensure you have a hard time and you will have to fight a Do-or-Die battle to cling on to power.

One might justify the former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) taking some of the Ministries from the then Prime Minister Wickramasinghe’s government in 2004 that ultimately led to an early dissolution of the parliament which brought CBK’s United People’s Freedom Alliance coalition get back the power in the House. At that time, the country was at a crucial crossroad with the unpopular peace deal brokered by the Norwegians and signed between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which was condemned by the majority of the country. Everybody thought that the country would be split into two which would create an inevitable border war.  There was no sympathy towards the then Wickremasinghe government as the sympathy of the public was with the CBK government. But at this time, there was no such immediate threats to the National Security of the nation. Even the so-called federal solution which was being demanded by the mainstream Tamil party, the Tamil national Alliance (TNA) was not to become a reality. The two main reasons the Wickremasinghe government had not to provide a federal solution was that it did not have enough time left to go for that even if they wanted and the second reason was that the country was not ready for it. Mr. Wickremasinghe being in power for 3 years of wasn’t able to convince the people, especially the majority Sinhalese, that federal solution was a viable solution to the long standing standoff between the majority and minority ethnic groups of the country. But as a result of this unethical and undemocratic overthrow of the Wickremasinghe government helped getting it the sympathy of the TNA and the rest of the minority parties as well making Mr. Wickremasinghe a lot more powerful than the Prime Ministerial powers he enjoyed and continue to enjoy to date being the de facto Prime Minister despite Rajapaksa is the official, yet, they say, the unconstitutional Prime Minister.

I am not a political analyst but I have lived 46 years in this Island and this is what I feel about this unnecessary quagmire the country is plunged into with this power struggle. Even if the Sirisena-Rajapaksa camp is to successfully survive the constitutional crisis, all what we can expect is the country would be thrown into a quicksand from the present quagmire and the public would be the ones who suffer. Everybody knows Lord Acton’s famous statement, Power corrupts and extreme power corrupts extremely. So, my compatriots, live with it.