06 August 2018

Gota, Caligula and Hitler: a Yahapalanist’s phantasmagoria

When a high-ranking Bikkhu of the Asgiriya Chapter made a reference to Hitler, many recoiled in horror. There was much spit thereafter, mainly from but not limited to the yahapalana tribe.  It’s a fair guess that the moralizing was due to the reference being made at an event where Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was present. Indeed the name was linked to Gotabhaya. The ‘high-rank’ was also a factor, obviously. 

Two facts was overlooked in the rush to attack Gotabhaya (more than attacking the bikkhu). The bikkhu, observing that Gotabhaya was being compared to Hitler, said that ‘if that’s the case then be a Hitler and salvage this country (probably) from the rut it has got stuck in.’ Secondly, the bikkhu said that Sri Lanka needs a dharmika leader. That’s ‘righteous’ and not ‘theocratic’ or a ‘religious fundamentalist’ as was erroneously (deliberately?) translated.

Around the same time Gotabhaya was compared to Caligula in one of the English newspapers. Clearly that author doesn’t know much history; not about Caligula, the Rome of his time nor the concerted vilification of the man. When one picks a pip here and point similarity to a pip there, one can say ‘voilà! It’s one and the same!’ but that’s a fruit that is common in a season of silliness, nothing more. 

Let’s get back to Hitler and Gotabhaya.

Now ‘Hitler’ does not sit well with ‘righteous’. That, to me, is the principal issue with the bikkhu’s take on the political present and recommendation. There were many aspects to Hitler’s character and very few are laudable traits. Among them is the notion of ‘a strong individual’ which of course is not necessarily at odds with ‘righteous’ because it is about being straight, firm, disciplined and having a no-nonsense attitude. Whether or not Gotabhaya is or will be any of that can of course be debated. What’s difficult to dismiss, however, is the need constantly argued and from many quarters for a strong, firm personality. 

About two years ago a senior member of the Yahapalana Cabinet made an interesting observation.  I didn’t agree with his preferred characterization because it was too much of a caricature, but the point was intriguing. 

‘When a tyrannical ruler is ousted and a democratic leader put in place, that democratic leader has to deliver. If that doesn’t happen then there arises a demand for a tyrannical ruler.’

The word used was මැරයා (meraya), which could mean strong person, a thug or a dictator. I asked him if he was referring to any particular person or persons, tossing out a couple of names including that of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. We are friends. He laughed. I left it at that.

That was two years ago. We need not take his prediction as the last word on how the political equation is to be resolved of course, but one thing we can say with certainty is that the democratic leadership (so-called) has failed. It is not righteous. It is not democratic. It is confused. It is corrupt and incompetent. It is weak. Not only has it not delivered, it is patently clear that it cannot deliver. 

It’s all this that is creating a demand for a decision-maker, someone who is seen as a doer rather than a talker.  Throw in the inability to combat crime and absolute silence on the brinkmanship demonstrated by racists such as C.V. Wigneswaran and tendentious posturing by the likes of M.A. Sumanthiran, the need is upped to ‘a doer who is unwavering’. The downside of this is of course the possibility of getting a pied-piper; will do the one thing and use the same method to do what’s not wanted. That’s a different story of course. If we are talking about political fortunes, such things don’t really count.

What seems clear is that the Yahapalanists, just cannot get enough of Gotabhaya ‘the Caligula Avatar,’ ‘Gotabhaya the Sri Lankan Hitler’ and ‘Gotabhaya What Have You?’ Scratch their political correctness (which is a thin layer, by the way) and you get fear about the real possibility of either losing power or their favorites doing so. That’s a different matter. What’s pertinent is that they don’t seem to be aware of the growing perception that the country needs a firm hand. If you want to call ‘firm hand’ by other names, such as Hitler or Caligula, that only adds to this need transforming into support for a Gotabhaya presidency.  They’ve already put up Gota-posters; hate-Gota posters if you will (never mind the nonsense they spout about hate speech legislation). They seem to working tirelessly to give the Gota brand visibility. 

In short, where there is a call for strength and where the yahapalanists are as weak as they come, vilification of strength and putting a name to it to boot is silly. Then again, when one is emotional, reason suffers; and when one is short of reason in the first place, you are asking for trouble. Politically, speaking.

The most serious outcome of all this is makes it that much harder for an alternative, regardless of the camp it rises from or decides to take residence in or is adopted for purposes of political expedience. 

Perhaps the yahapalanists should do a survey and test the impact of vilifying Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. I am willing to wager that they will be surprised and disappointed.