by Tisaranee Gunasekara
“The dismal silence of places without
intelligence” – Camus (Lyrical and Critical Essays)
World War I began with fanfare. Leaders of all combatant nations predicted that their victorious troops will be home for Christmas. People believed and cheered. Only a few understood that the war would ruin losers and winners. “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime,” British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey lamented.
In Sri Lanka, most of the lamps are already cold, snuffed out by the economic idiocy of the Rajapaksas. Only a few cling to a flickering life. They too might go out soon, as the remaining air is sucked in by a president determined to cling to power at whatever cost and a suffering people bereft of rational leaders or sane choices.
There was always more than an echo of Narcissus in Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a man enamoured of his own performance. As Sri Lanka unravels strand by strand and Lankans swing from fury to despair and back, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s conviction of his own infallibility remains rock-solid. He is the unmoving mover of his own story. Sanguine in his cluelessness he issues gazettes, writes letters to world leaders, instructs officials, and scatters promises. His robe of leader-extraordinaire is in tatters. Every citizen might yell about the emperor’s unclothed state, but the emperor doesn’t hear, can never hear.
The revitalised Aragalaya has given the president time till 9 July to go home. He won’t. Had Sri Lanka remained a parliamentary democracy, a no-confidence motion would have sufficed. Thanks to the presidential system, J.R. Jayewardene’s deadliest legacy, there’s no constitutional lever to quickly dislodge even the most unsound president.
A comprehensive 21st Amendment could have defanged the presidency rendering Gotabaya Rajapaksa relatively harmless. That opportunity was lost because neither PM Wickremesinghe nor the Opposition could transcend the rut of narrow self-interest. The SJB and the JVP seem incapable of agreeing on anything beyond sending Gota and Ranil home. Whatever happens, or doesn’t happen on 9 July, the political gridlock will continue.
Continue reading ‘Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his brothers, nephews, and cousins are the main authors of the Lankan tragedy. But even if a kind wind blows the entire Rajapaksa clan to another plain of existence, the economic crisis will remain as intractable as ever, until the bitter pills of cost-cutting and revenue-raising are swallowed.’ »