Sarath De Alwis
“The time is out of joint; O cursed spite That ever I was born to set it right!”
[Hamlet, William Shakespeare]
The war was unendurable. It was mind-blowingly vicious. Suicide bombers made a fine art of painting the earth with blood-soaked human innocence. Babies refused to be lulled to sleep. Grandmas stopped praying. Mothers dared not hope. Fathers were marooned in fear and despair.
Mahinda Rajapaksa ended the war. It was under his presidency that the wild screams stopped and the clash of arms ceased. But then, discord took refuge in the deep crevices of human breasts that learnt to breathe silently but surely. The purpose of this essay is to comprehend the silence of that discord that has gained a voice of its own.
Last week, a Sinhala Buddhist Patriot- an Academic and a Professor of the Rajarata University addressed the world in Geneva and focused on that post war discord.
He is described as a Professor of Pharmacology. It explains much about the state of medical education in our seats of higher learning. His attempt before the United Nation’s Human Rights Council to make demonstrated documented history into a Faustian Pharmacology was a shame and much more. It dramatized the lack of respect for human dignity among the so-called professional elite who wants Gotabaya Rajapaksa to be our next President.
When oxygenation of our land ceased to be blemished with the smell of burning human flesh, when we stopped getting shell-shocked by explosions, Gotabaya Rajapaksa presided over the war effort, Chamal Rajapaksa presided in Parliament and Basil Rajapaksa was minding economic affairs.
Therefore, as it was in the case of the mad prince Hamlet, the Rajapaksa family of Medamulana Giruwapattuwa brought sanity to our land. Mahinda and his brothers, his three sons and his entourage found that the time was out of joint and they and they alone readjusted the time, and time was put right.
During his visit to India, in an interview with the Defence analyst and commentator Nitin Gokhale the former President was asked how he managed to do what was considered impossible – vanquishing the ruthless monster Prabhakaran. The interviewer and flatterer extraordinaire Gokhale amplified, “How did you do something that all previous presidents failed to do? I remember you told Prabhakaran that just as he was from the jungles of the North, you were from a similar geography in the deep South”.
A beaming Mahinda responded: “Ah yes! I remember.You see, I had studied Prabhakaran from the ‘70s”.
Here the writer must add a personal note. As a lobby correspondent of the then Evening Observer I had the privilege of reporting the maiden speech of young parliamentarian Mahinda Rajapaksa who seconded the Motion of Thanks on the first policy statement of the 1970 Sirimavo Bandaranaike government. I was privy to the contents of the speech as it was drafted by friend and neighbour the late Prof Mendis Rohandheera, also an eminent son of the soil from Pallaththara in Giruwapattuwa.
Supremely at peace with himself in formulating his alternative truth of how he won the war, he assured the interviewer that he was always convinced that Prabhakaran could be militarily defeated. “I had studied him from the seventies and I knew it could be done.”
The interviewer interposed slickly, “But then, did you not try to negotiate with him?”
“Oh yes. There was the ceasefire agreement. I offered to personally go to the North to negotiate. We sent our team to negotiate in Geneva. The Norwegians were involved. Prabhakaran recalled his representatives.”
The end of the war catapulted President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the peak of political power. His hold over the nation was such that it could be equated with any other post-independence leader. No one held or even dared to aspire to hold such immense authority.
He was absolute master of all that he surveyed. He was much more than President of the Republic. He was the liberator of a vast swathe of occupied territory. He had accomplished what was thought to be impossible. He had no rivals to match his grip over an adulatory nation. His hold on the public psyche of the majority Sinhala people was absolute.
He did what any sensible politician would have done. He decided to consolidate his position of unassailable power. He sought a fresh mandate prior to the expiration of his term in 2011 instead of holding parliamentary elections which were due in 2010.
The opposition – UNP, JVP and the TNA then committed a strategically myopic, politically infantile blunder by fielding the then Army Commander as their common presidential candidate.
A civil war against a separatist terrorist movement to liberate part of its territory became a war of national liberation and a sacrificial struggle to secure the sovereignty of the State.
The opposition decision to co-opt an ambitious General to thwart the politics of a popular President was a disastrous distortion of parliamentary democracy. It had severe repercussions. It bestowed an undeserved political prestige on a soldier whose ambitions far surpassed the worth of his accomplishments and the arrogance of his limited achievement – that of commanding the army – a principal part – but only a part of the tri-forces. It opened the flood gates for military involvement in civilian politics.
The consecrated myth that has mesmerized the Sinhala Buddhist tribe – the ‘Ranaviru’ legend took form. Khaki gained parity with Saffron.
“Our troops went to the battlefront carrying a gun in one hand, the Human Rights Charter in the other, food for the innocent displaced on their shoulders, and love of their children in their hearts. They did not target any communities or religions and did not march ahead with hatred towards anyone.”
Mahinda Rajapaksa created his authoritative truth. Authoritative truth is not the plain truth. It is not the common-sense truth. All the same it is a form of truth that can develop a life and an existence of its own and even acquire strengths and attributes its creator could not foresee!
Authoritative truths are spiritual truths. They cannot be trifled with. It comes with a kind of expertise that brooks no opposition. It subverts obvious truths to make way for more convenient constructed and made to order versions of truth.
Take the case of the man who appeared before the UNHRC in Geneva, described as an academic and a professor of the Rajarata University. He is a live wire in the Viyath Maga and Eliya that champions Gotabaya Rajapaksa for Presidency. He is a happy musketeer in league with the more prominent two, Dr.Nalaka Godahewa and Admiral Sarath Weerasekera. This academic Professor Channa Jayasumana told the world in Geneva:
“When the Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka the Sinhalese people were the majority in the Jaffna Peninsula as well as in the rest of Sri Lanka. The Dutch who occupied the coastal areas of the country around 1650 brought the Vellalar Tamils from the present Tamil Nadu for their tobacco plantation in Jaffna”.
The Pharmacologist Academic has not heard or read Philip Baldeus the Dutch Missionary and Ethologist. His narrow exposure to knowledge has exempted him from reading the commentaries of Fernao De Queyroz. Perhaps, his other colleagues – the marketeer and the admiral would have dismissed such literature as an ancient western conspiracy hatched in the 15th and 17th centuries.
Then he offered the final solution. The Gotabaya Rajapaksa solution that waits us. “In 2009 the entire Tamil racist movement was defeated and there is nothing to talk further as the military solution given in Nandikadal is nothing but a political solution. Studying genuine history shows there is no ethnic problem in Sri Lanka”.
Sinhala epistle poetry of Sri Rahula thero in the Kotte period makes no reference to the Mahawamsa. That Alagiyawanne Mukaveti wrote Subhashithaya in order to inculcate ethical niceties among the Sinhalese not conversant with civilizational purities known only to those who spoke Sanskrit or Tamil, has escaped the simpleton who a few days ago told the UNHRC in Geneva that Mulaivaikkal was the final solution for the grievances of minorities. But then, he represents the Eliya and the Viyathmaga that wants another Rajapaksa at the helm.
A British Civil Servant discovered the Mahwamsa chronicle in the 19th century. Translated to English and later into Sinhala, it is today, the standard text for power brokers of the post-colonial nation state. It overrides the civic values of our modern Republic.
In that tradition upheld by a self-perpetuating Sinhala first and Buddhist second clerical order Mahinda Rajapaksa became Mahinda the Magnificent- Prince of the Republic.
As the post-war redeemer and liberator, he was our version of a Satya Sai Baba. He produced the ‘Ranaviru vibhuti’ a powerful potion of magic that has managed to intimidate even the successor regime.
Satya Sai Baba predicted that he would enjoy good health and die at the age of 96. He died when he turned 84. His disciples are not deterred. They hold their Bhajans.
Now, S.B. Dissanayake who was a Minister in the Cabinet of President Rajapaksa has remembered that some ‘Ranaviuwos’ may have dispatched some to the great beyond following their capture. In war that kind of thing happens, declared the eminent alumni of Sri Jayewardenepura University. Inadvertently, but no less significantly, the bumbling Dissanayake admitted that he had knowledge that the security forces had committed a war crime, when they killed LTTE Col. Ramesh after he had been taken alive into custody. The admission came despite the best efforts of his erstwhile colleague Dilan Perera who desperately tried to interject to prevent Dissanayake’s major faux pas.
The ‘Ranaviru’ truth has turned into a terrible menace. That has distorted our sense of civic propriety and the universal concept of the ‘rule of law’. “Our version of the Rule of Law seems to have an exception that allows ‘Ranaviru’ heroes accused of subverting the law to taste ‘tacos ‘in their original home! Viva Alamo! Viva Santa Ana!
The authoritative Ranaviru truth has now turned in to an esoteric truth of the great redeemer who is using his ‘Eliya’ to illuminate the ‘Viyathmaga’ into a new brave world where unmitigated ignorance is unbelievably rewarding to the Sinhala Buddhist Patriot.