By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana
Scapegoat, according to the third book of the Torah and of the Old Testament – Leviticus, is the goat that was sent to the wilderness after the Jewish priest had symbolically laid all the sins of the people on it. It looks as if we had done the same to Gota, heaping the sins of his predecessors too on his back, but has it reversed our fortunes? Have we seen the green shoots of recovery of our economy with his exile? Aragalaya, which started as a peaceful protest movement by the masses suffering from severe economic hardships was soon hijacked by cunning politicians of varying shades and there have been acts of violence as well as dramatic political changes. So drastic are the changes, it is hardly imaginable they could occur in any place other than in the ’Land like no other’! Can you imagine a party leader who was not able to return to parliament on the popular vote being elected president by the same parliament!!
Politicians seem to be addressing the wrong issue. Whilst the masses continue to suffer severe economic hardships, no concerted efforts seem to be directed towards the burning issue; solving the economic crisis. Instead, politicians are fighting with each other to capitalize on their misery to gain pollical advantage. Instead of working together, under the present system, to find solutions to the economic problems, they are finding flimsy excuses not to do so. Politicians of all shades seem keen on constitutional changes whilst some go to the extent of demanding an immediate election in the belief that this is their only chance to grab power. It should not be forgotten that some attempted to grab power by force, which failed on 31st July! High time a new Aragalaya is launched to enlighten our dim-witted politicians that neither constitutional changes nor elections relieve hunger pangs!
Coming back to the Bible story, there were two goats, not one. There was another goat who had less luck than the scapegoat; it was sacrificed! Considering the violence and hatred demonstrated by the invading mobs, though political commentators audaciously continue to describe them as peaceful protestors, surely that would have been Gota’s fate had he not made a quick escape. In spite of Gota insisting that no brute force be used to supress the protestors, even when his own life was in danger, many writers continuing to call him a dictator is a gross distortion of the truth. In fact, had he demonstrated any dictatorial tendencies, which many thought he had, he may still be president. At least, we should be grateful for having avoided a blood-bath by his actions.
Though many commentators try to portray that the political class was corrupt since independence, it certainly was not so. When Dudley died, after being PM three times, he had only a few hundred rupees in his bank account and the millions who flocked to Colombo for his funeral in April 1973, even though he did not hold any high office at the time, showed the affection of the nation. Perhaps, systematic corruption started from the time of JRJ and since then every government has distinguished itself by being more corrupt than the previous. Voters have acted as executioners getting rid of failed governments mercilessly and have always lived in hope but politicians have let them down repeatedly. What a dismal failure Yahapalanaya was and there was optimism with Pohottuwa but it withered without blooming!
When Mahinda resigned, a sombre moment in our political history turned to a farce by the actions of some close to him, Gota offered the position of PM to the leader of the opposition but Sajith Premadasa found an excuse to refuse which made Gota turn to Ranil. Though he could have offered to Dulles or another MP of Pohottuwa, he probably did not do so as it would not have pleased the Aragalists.
Ranil started well and there was optimism that he would address the economic issues urgently but, again, in no time started being his normal self! His cronies are coming out of the woodwork and he is doing his utmost to ensure that he remains in power. Yet another constitutional amendment is in the offing and it is rumoured he is exploiting it to preside over a jumbo cabinet. What we need is an all-party interim administration to solve the economic crisis but he has other ideas. Negative attitudes of Sajith and AKD indirectly allow Ranil to further his interests.
Ranil should be held responsible for the bond scams as he imported the Singaporean who did the damage. By the way, Arjuna Mahendran had the audacity to discuss with CNN the economic problems of Sri Lanka whilst hiding away from Sri Lankan justice! Sirisena, who was found responsible for the lapses that resulted in the ‘Easter Sunday Massacre’ by the Presidential commission he himself appointed, continues to thrive on lies. Fonseka, who let down the army to curry favour with the West for his presidential ambitions, is now attempting to be the leader of the Aragalaya. Meanwhile, Gota is country hopping. Is this fair?
Even at this low point in the history of Sri Lanka, we should behave as a civilised nation. The government should facilitate the return of Gota and provide him security. If he had committed any crimes, he should be brought to justice. We cannot have kangaroo courts in operation. The same laws should apply to Sirisena and Ranil as well, when he comes out of presidential immunity.
More one explores, more a pattern of a well-planned action becomes apparent. The grand plan against Gota started immediately after his election with the Swiss Embassy in Colombo complaining that one of its Sri Lankan employees had been abducted. Immediately after Gotabay’s exit, funds for Aragalaya dried up. It goes without saying that Gota’s own actions contributed his downfall but it would be ungrateful if we do not give credit for the whatever good he has done.
It is still not too late for all politicians to get together and save the nation from this economic disaster. At the same time let us stop this farce of our ex-president hopping from country to country. Gota, come home!
Disclaimer: Gota made scapegoat? - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view