by Tisaranee Gunasekara
“Hitler seemed intent, in fact, on delivering these blows completely in the open so as to leave a deep and abiding impression, as if proclaiming from the rooftops his immutable will….”
Joachim Fest (Plotting Hitler’s Death)
The end was preordained. The quintessentially Rajapaksa-impeachment produced a quintessentially Rajapaksa Chief In-justice. Mohan Peiris, the trusted acolyte of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the man who lied to the world on behalf of his political masters, is the ideal choice to head the Rajapaksa judiciary, given the critical absence of a Rajapaksa Sibling, Son or Nephew capable of holding that fort.
The elevation of Mr. Peiris reveals the naked truth about the impeachment and about the force propelling it forward – the Rajapaksas. The Rajapaksas want to concentrate all power in their hands and they want to stay in power ‘forever’. The impeachment was aimed at removing constitutional and legal barriers on the path to absolute and eternal power. In order to bolster familial rule and ensure dynastic succession, the Rajapaksas need a judiciary which is abjectly servile, which has no will of its own, which would not hesitate to lie, cheat, violate the constitution or break the law, on demand.
The purpose of the impeachment was to create that mindless, shameless judiciary from top down.
Had the Rajapaksas so wanted, the impeachment could have been conducted less crudely, with at least an appearance of fair-play. The Rajapaksas chose to turn the impeachment into a witch-trial for several reasons. They hoped a brutish impeachment would force the CJ to resign. They desired to revenge on a woman who had the temerity to go against their royal wishes. Most of all they wanted to send a clear, unequivocal message to the judiciary, the legal fraternity and the larger society about the prohibitive costs of dissent. They wanted to maul Shirani Bandaranayake, publicly, in order to snuff-out the flame of resistance by encouraging some of the worst qualities in society – cowardice, opportunism, greed, duplicity, self-interest, apathy…
Had the Rajapaksas wanted to maintain appearances they could have appointed a more amenable Supreme Court judge to head their judiciary. They chose not to take that marginally moderate path because moderation, even in miniscule quantities, is alien to their extremist mindset. They care as little about legitimacy as they do about legality. Power is their God. Their willingness to tolerate dissent decreases as their hold on power increases. The more powerful they are, the less tolerant they become, less willing to accede to compromises, more determined to inflict a scorched-earth policy on any individual or entity who dares to disobey them.
Our Sun God and his Brothers
On Tuesday, the apex courts-complex resembled the occupied North. In another Sri Lankan first, police and military men surrounded the courts-complex and turned it into an open prison camp for a few hours. Sloganeering musclemen were at the ready in case lawyers, in their hundreds, came out in protest against the illegal occupation of the bastion of justice. That extra-precaution was needless; given the Bar Association’s all too explicable volte face, most lawyers seemed to have decided to watch from the sidelines. Only a handful, following the courageous example set by Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, came forward to defend the honour of their profession.
As the army and the police occupied the apex court premises, the President – and his handpicked Chief In-justice – vowed to safeguard judicial independence. The Rajapaksas, like all tyrants, have an instinctive understanding of ‘Newspeak’ without every having read Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the Rajapaksa-speak, servility is independence, just as a brutal war was a ‘humanitarian offensive’ and open prison camps were ‘welfare villages’.
Assisted by the Rajapaksa Judiciary, (and its incomparable Injustice-in-Chief), the Rajapaksa Legislature can now go all out to strengthen Rajapaksa Democracy. The law enabling the detaining of suspects for 48 hours will be debated and approved next week. Other laws will come, to make it even easier for the Rajapaksas to destroy every vestige of dissent, under cover of fighting crime/terrorism.
Impunity will become as ubiquitous in the South as it is in the North, the testing ground for Rajapaksa governance. An incident which took place in the Jaffna Magistrate Court on 20th September 2011 may be an omen of things to come. Antony Nithyaraja, a man wanted by the police, went to the court and appeared before the magistrate voluntarily through his lawyer. “The Magistrate after considering the police submissions and court documents released him. However, seven police officers in civilian clothes arrested him and started beating Antony in the presence of the Magistrate, lawyers, court staff and a large number of people. He was dragged to the Jaffna Headquarters Police Station for detention” (Asian Human Rights Commission – 23.9.2011). That act of injustice, committed within the halls of justice, may foretell future events in the South.
Remember Vellupillai Pirapaharan and understand Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Remember Baby Subramaniam and understand Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Look at KP and understand Basil Rajapaksa. Like the Sun God and his Tigers, the Siblings too cannot afford to give up power. And the longer they stay in power, the more they will undermine Sri Lanka by destroying everything that is good about this land and its people.
As Steve Biko warned, “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed” (I write What I Like). The Rajapaksas want us to succumb to them psychologically by accepting their new commonsense which worships power (and the powerful), celebrates cowardice and opportunism and enthrones mindless obedience as the highest virtue. They want us to believe that cowardice is intelligence, apathy is foresight and self-interest is wisdom. They want us to see nothing wrong in a country where the chief justice is hounded-out for abiding by the constitution. They want us to regard CJ Bandaranayake’s courageous resistance to the impeachment as an act of unparalleled foolhardiness.
They want us to feel weak and helpless.
They want us to accept a Sri Lanka in which courage is the ultimate stupidity, compassion is a sin, solidarity is dead and decency is unheard of. It is only in such a land the Rajapaksa Dynastic Project can take root and flourish.
That is why resistance, in any democratic and peaceful way possible, is not a choice but a necessity for those who do not want Sri Lanka to become a country of and for the Rajapaksas.
And resistance begins by refusing to allow the Rajapaksas to occupy our minds. Do not embrace the Rajapaksa-worldview. Do not accept the Rajapaksa-commonsense that resistance is futile and wrong and silly.
Do not allow the Rajapaksa-lies to affect our judgement and the Rajapaksa-deceptions to cloud our perception. Do not forget that the impeachment was unjust and illegal. Do not allow the Rajapaksas to convince us that this is democracy. Do not swallow Rajapaksa concoctions about national and international conspiracies and undead Tigers; they want to addle our minds with fear so that we will infantalise ourselves and cling to them for protection.
See the Rajapaksas as they are.
Remember where Adolf Hitler took the Germans and Vellupillai Pirapaharan took the Tamils; ask, ‘Is this the future we want for ourselves’?