Credulity is belief in slight evidence, with no evidence or against”-Tryon Edwards
For a person who was grandiosely parachuted on to the national political scene, hailed as a master accomplisher of stupendous feats, many perceive President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s hitherto performance as the Executive President, not just a failure, but abysmal.
Political leaders have failed, disappointed, and shamed the very voters who have elected them, ultimately, failing the entire nation. It is nothing new and has been the rule rather than the exception for seven decades now. Names like Maithripala Sirisena, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Chandirka Bandaranaike and even Mahinda Rajapaksa make this list. While some were utterly incompetent, others like Ranil and Mahinda, who in their own ways had the potential to do something for the country. For example, after the war victory, Mahinda Rajapaksa had all dices at his feet and had he the interests of the country as his motivating factor for further rule, the best opportunity to make this country great. Yet, personal greed, nepotism, plunder and pillage of national wealth as well as utter disregard to the rule of law culminated in his ignominious removal from Presidency by the electorate. Then take the case of Ranil Wickremesinghe, whom the voters of this country have appointed several times as the Prime Minister, where on two occasions, although he was under the Executive President, the political momentum in effect ensured that he ruled the roost calling the shots. Both times he failed and with him failed the hopes of modernizing Sri Lanka and making it a vibrant republic.
But when Gotabaya Rajapaksa was announced as the Presidential Candidate from the family-owned Podujana Peramuna in 2019, there was belief that he would be the ideal person to take the country out of the doldrums that it was in. Although many were wary of the nepotism rooted and crooked rule of the Rajapaksa cabal from 2005 to 2015, they still believed that once relieved from the influence of his elder brother and former President Mahinda, Gotabaya would be a modernist and a meritocratic ruler, the Lee Kuan Yew or Mahathir Mohammed type. To that extent, they were willing to disregard all the accusations of corruption, of grave and bloody abuses of power and utter disregard for the rule of law, which was a family trait. It was against such a backdrop that almost seven million voters elected him President of this country. The inspiration that he created upon election saw an unprecedented eagerness among the populace, especially the young who got on the streets with their paint and brushes to decorate road side walls and public places with eye pleasing paintings. Something was in the air; there was aspiration, expectation and eagerness for change. A ‘system change’, they said.
Hardly the paint had dried up when the first wave of COVID-19 struck this coastal island. Gotabaya made his first major mistake; appointing Army and ex-Army officers to lead the struggle against a raging pandemic that was making light work of powerful countries like USA, Italy and Britain. His naiveté made him confident of handling it the way he did the LTTE war as Defence Secretary. He bragged on national TV refusing to lock down the country on which he had to do a U-turn later. His Ministers scorned those who wanted masks and vaccines brought immediately. Gotabaya thought that immunity given to the military, as during the civil war times, was the magic mantra, even if it meant impunity. ‘’End justifies the means’’, seemed to be his motto. From the outset, the ‘means’ seemed questionable……may be the lack of political acumen and maturity’, many thought and were ready to
Both the end and the means
More than One and a half years later, it is not the means that is being questioned but the End itself the President has in mind. Is it an end that has the interests of the country at its helm or something else? It appears more and more now, that it is something else. It seems it is the perpetuation of the Rajapaksa rule that is at the forefront of his decision making. What we all feared in wildest of nightmares is crystalized in broad day light.
Rajapaksa supporters insist that less than two years of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s presidency has passed and there is over three years for him to ‘deliver the goods’ promised in his candidacy and would want us to be patient, as in their view, the President asked for five years to show his performance. They want us not to come to pre-conclusions as yet to declare whether the ‘Sir has passed or failed’. Despite a gut feeling that tells us that things are very unlikely to improve, and if at all, would come to catastrophic proportions with the looming economic collapse the Sri Lankan economy is about to confront, coupled with a hostile international reception engendered by a poor human rights record, which in the immediate future might result in us losing the all-important GSP plus allowance, we are asked to believe. The only apparent lifeline coming from China, which already has us neck deep in the proverbial Chinese debt trap is no lifeline at all.
Duminda’s pardon was the clincher
Unlike his elder brother, the President does not want to break away from the US and the West either. But was the pardon of Duminda Silva, a very close friend of the President a result of the government’s attempts to appease the US and the West…hardly so. The US Ambassador Teplitz questions the pardon of Duminda Silva while applauding the 17 LTTE suspects who were freed on the Poson Poya day. Even his supporters do not believe so. It is something that the President had to do for a close friend. That is why the others, the body guards who were sentenced for the murder of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, are not pardoned. If it is a case of the judgment being compromised, why not free all who then are victims of that ‘biased’ judgment? The President might not consider it necessary to answer any of those questions. Answering or explaining is not his forte, we all know. He hardly seems to be someone driven by consent. Rather he considers dissent as enmity and shows little respect towards criticism – constructive or otherwise. He is not a politician, and from what we have seen as of now, nor is he a leader.
Yet he is the elected President of the country. He became so, by an overwhelming, monolithic Sinhala Buddhist vote. We never expected him to satisfy that segment of the voter base. They were always cannon fodder, used to be duped. Yet we thought he would opt for a secular meritocracy. To that extent and that extent alone, we had a slim hope that he might do something.
The Duminda Silva pardon demonstrated that the President intends not to run a second time and has little qualms about disappointing his voter base that had high hopes of him. But above all, it reaffirmed that he is no different from all the other fruits of the family Tree. But he is a fruit that became so sour in such a short time on the public palate. That much, is unprecedented.
Public credulity is mind boggling!
Disclaimer: WHEN THE END BEGINS TO LOOK AS DUBIOUS AS THE MEANS - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view