By Lucien Rajakarunanayake
From history, literature, nursery rhymes, and religious tales we are used to various trios who have brought good memories.
The Three Musketeers is an unforgettable cinematic tale. We also know of the Three Stooges, the Three Amigos and the Three Blind Mice. When Christmas draws near we are reminded of the ‘Raja Thun Kattiya’ the three kings who came to worship the Child Jesus in Bethlehem.
There is a new trio in Sri Lanka that has all the promise of standing out in the political saga that will be written once this epidemic crisis is over. This is the ‘Corona Bala Kattiya’ that is born amidst the fight against the coronavirus.
It is the Mahinda – Gotabaya – Basil Trio, fast making progress in the political task force applications of the Corona curfew and quarantine phase of People’s Power. This trio is one of family and political comrades, who definitely stand by the motto of the Three Musketeers, which was “Always support and protect one another.” Alexander Dumas could never have imagined that his Three Musketeers would have an impact on Sri Lankan – Sinhala Bala Politics in this manner.
It is a trio that does not give a clear image of who is the leader. Of course there is Mahinda, who revived his paternal uncle’s ‘Sataka’ of the 1930, in the politics of today, and holds all the glory of defeating the Tamil Tigers. This gives him a quality of leadership that must rise above the caliber of the other two, and gives him Prime Ministerial and popular status.
Then there is the presidential brother – Gotabaya. His record is not like that of Mahinda’s politics. It has many years in the Sri Lanka Army, rising to respectable officer ranking, a move away from the motherland to no other place but the United States, and citizenship there too. Next came his position as the Secretary/Defence – under brother Mahinda the Minister of Defence, a return to the US after his brother’s defeat in political leadership, and a return to the country, to achieve a massive electoral victory amidst the rise of Sinhala-Buddhist Politics, after the Easter Tragedy last year, which we will remember under curfew this year.
He stands out as the first national leader with no political party membership or leadership. He gives a loud message of the learned and science – with ViyathMaga. But, is certainly tied down by the restrictions of the Presidency, brought about by that thing called the 19th Amendment. His slogan today is that 19 has no place in the 21st Century where we are. It is a message of a two thirds necessity, but elections have been postponed … possibly for many more months.
The trio is complete with brother Basil – today’s image of Task Force politics. He has a long record in politics, where party changing was a catchy trend, and some years away from electoral politics, for future necessities. He was a Minister in brother Mahinda’s Cabinet, and had a powerful role in what emerged as the Rajapaksa Power Play or Bala Keliya after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers. The Power Play was such that a Chief Justice who wanted an an electoral mandate by referendum to give him increased power, had to be moved out of the Hulftsdorp Chambers. That was not a Basil only move, but the demonstration of Rajapaksa Power which is at the core of this Trio of Political Power today.
He did not hang around and play twisted politics after the electoral defeat. He was quick to get back to his other homeland where he still has citizen status – in the United States. He returned when the Yahapalana or Good Governance players, who defeated brother Mahinda and posed a threat to family politics, were twisted in their own corruption and failures; and used his political experience to form a new political force – the Pohottuva Power. It became a flower bud of politics that saw the masses that defeated the Rajapaksas, embraced them even harder, and saw the revival of Rajapaksa Balaya in the country.
He is not an immediate ex-member of parliament, in the parliament now dissolved, by his brother Gotabhaya. He is not in the Cabinet presided by the brother president, where brother Mahinda is the Prime Minister. He is now the man or Brother of the Moment. TV channels of state control show him as much as they do the President Brother, and he makes important statements as much as the Prime Minister brother.
The policies of the government today are the stuff of the Corona Bala Kattiya. As the curfew continues, we worry more about those in quarantine, shortages keep mounting, the people remain silenced, and as elections are postponed, we would like to dream of better times in the future; but are confronted with nightmares of power politics and family dominance that lies ahead.
The coronavirus – COVID-19 – has brought major worries to many countries, especially to the democracies of the world. But it has not brought such a viral threat to democracy, the rights of the people, the future search for employment and income, imported food and calls for better education and society as it has done to us in Sri Lanka.
This small Paradise of the East, as once described, is now caught in the grip of the ‘Corona Bala Kattiya’ – the Trio of Corona Political Power, that is deeply bound by the motto of the Three Musketeers – All for One and One for All.