“Sentence first, verdict afterwards…”
Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
With a single pronouncement, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has cleared the air of all false hopes, unreasonable expectations and rational imaginings. In his reply to the begging-letter by Ministers Tissa Witarana, DEW Gunasekera and Vasudeva Nanayakkara, the President has stated that the impeachment will go ahead, the Daily News reported on Christmas day.
There will be no compromise or détente; not one step back or even aside. The impeachment will move forward inexorably, profaning everything in its path, spewing venom in its wake.
The state media and the Rajapaksa shock-troops (notably Ministers Wimal Weerawansa, Rajitha Senaratne and Mervyn Silva) are spending the holiday season in full combat-mode. Insults are being hurled not only at the Chief Justice but also at the judiciary and the Bar Association, plus anyone or anything seen as an impediment to the impeachment.
Let’s assume for a moment that the state’s derogatory cacophony is factual and that Shirani Bandaranayake, the chief justice handpicked by President Rajapaksa, is a seasoned criminal seeped in depravity. If so, it is not only Shirani Bandaranayake who should be impeached; Mahinda Rajapaksa, the man who elevated her to the august position of chief justice and the Fourth Citizen of the land, too must be impeached, for criminal insanity.
Only a man of unsound mind would have picked a woman of criminal persuasions to be the country’s chief justice.
If the President’s handpicked chief justice is a hardened criminal that is proof enough of the President’s unsoundness of mind and thus unfitness to govern. If the CJ’s rightful place is Welikada, the President who appointed her belongs in Angoda.
So, if the wild accusations of the state media and the UPFA ministers are accurate, only one conclusion is logically possible: not only the ‘criminal chief justice’ but also the ‘insane president’ must be impeached.
If Shirani Bandaranayake is removed but the president who appointed her remains, and appoints another chief justice, what guarantee do we have that the whole unseemly spectacle will not be repeated a few months from now? Unless the new chief justice is a Rajapaksa serf, not conjuncturally but structurally, a tool willing to do Rajapaksa bidding unreservedly, all the time (like the former AG Mohan Peiris who lied to the whole world, in Geneva, to save his masters) the regime will develop issues with him/her sooner rather than later. And another impeachment travesty will commence.
According to media reports, the President has asked all parties to come up with proposals for constitutional reforms. The rest of the script is easy to imagine. The Rajapaksas will pick those suggestions which will enhance their powers (while debasing the judiciary and the legislature still further) and ram the resultant constitutional changes through a compliant judiciary and a servile parliament. But before that Shirani Bandaranayake, that handpicked tool who developed a conscience and a backbone unexpectedly, must be got rid of and a new chief justice, who will give all the despotic constitutional changes the freest passage, put in her place.
The impeachment is the second ‘humanitarian operation’, for the advancement of the Rajapaksa-agenda. It too will be fought no-holds-barred, sans restraint. And if the President did not listen to the four Mahanayakes, he is unlikely to listen to the whining of ministers who owe their political existence to his charity. If anything can make the Rajapaksas rethink, it will be a boycott-threat of their Hambantota Commonwealth.
The President’s inflexible stance reveals why the regime is acting like a maddened rhino in a bone-china shop, from North to South. The real reason is not unmannerly ministers or bad advisers (though both types are ubiquitous); the real reason is the President and his Siblings. Mervyn Silva, Wimal Weerawansa and Rajitha Senarathne are not the disease but its symptoms. The real disease is the Rajapaksas, and their fanatical pursuit of total power.
Vellupillai Pirapaharan’s pathological maximalism rendered a political solution to the ethnic problem or a negotiated end to the war impossible. Not only did he want a Tiger Eelam under his sole suzerainty; he also wanted to win it on the battlefield, so that he could become the modern day equivalent of the great Tamil empire-builders of yore. The Rajapaksas have a hunger for power and a greed for glory equal to their vanquished opponent. They too are becoming increasingly hostile to reason, inimical to good sense and blind to enlightened self-interest. They too are becoming merchants of chaos, pushing the country from crisis to crisis to promote their political project and wreak vengeance on their opponents.
The Patriotic Lie and the Racist Slip
Since the Rajapaksas equate themselves with the nation/state, they regard all those who oppose them, however democratically and peacefully, as traitors. Thus the regime’s repeated references to a ‘Hulftsdorf coup’; according to Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, “Local and foreign conspiratory forces are attempting to use the Supreme Court Complex in Hulftsdorf to achieve the objectives which the LTTE failed to achieve through military means… the anti-national forces once used the former Army Commander as a tool to gain their objectives and currently they are using the CJ’s Impeachment issue to attain their ulterior motives” (Daily News – 18.12.2012).
If the judges and lawyers protecting judicial independence are traitors, then any attack on them is ‘patriotic’. As ‘patriotic’ as attacking and arresting Jaffna university students and forcing some of them into ‘rehabilitation’, while mollycoddling Tiger finance-cum-procurement chief KP; as ‘patriotic’ as planning to do to the 13th Amendment what was done to the 17th Amendment. Because under Rajapaksa rule, only a Rajapaksa serf can be a true patriot, while any Rajapaksa opponent is a traitor, ipso facto.
Deplorable as this fallacious equation is, something even uglier, more toxic and more deadly is emerging from under the Rajapaksa mantle, as the impeachment heats up. UPFA ministers and state media have begun to use racism in their attack on the CJ and the judiciary. For instance, some of the state media outlets castigated the CJ for picking a ‘Tamil law firm’ to defend her. They argued that the CJ’s failure to pick a ‘Sinhala law firm’ exposes her as a Tiger stooge.
In an article to the Sri Lanka Guardian, academic Thrishantha Nanayakkara pointed out that Minister Wimal Weerawansa “mentioned the ethnic background of the three judges in the Appeals Court that examined the defence of the Chief Justice…. Two of the judges being Tamil and the other being a Muslim (the ITN interviewer assisted here) was used as part of his argument that the defence action on the part of the Chief Justice was a coup with possible international links” (quoted in Ceylon Today). These abhorrent attacks are not anomalies; they are an inevitable function of the Sinhala-racism which lurks just beneath the surface in Mahinda Chinthanaya.
The Rajapaksas are proving to the North and the South that democracy is a sham, and that any protest however peaceful, any dissent however legal will be regarded as a crime. That is not the way to peace or stability in a land which had suffered through one long war and two short albeit brutal insurgencies.