16 August 2019

Questionnaire for Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Dear Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, what do you have to say about the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunga (never mind that Ranil Wickremesinghe said Sarath Fonseka was involved)? What do you have to say about white vans? Ekneligoda? Thajudeen? And how about the mausoleum built for your late parents?

If these are the questions you were waiting for me to ask, sorry.  These are legit questions, I’ve asked them, noted contexts and the not-so squeaky clean histories of the interrogators and so on. This is not about regurgitating the questions that Colombots, Kolombians, Rented Voices, Born Again Democrats, Candle Light Ladies put to the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate. 

Simply, I have little patience for those who refuse to see that for every Lasantha they weep copious tears over there were ten thousand Lasanthas shot dead in cold blood or burnt alive during the time the United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) were quarreling over the size of their respective ‘manhoods’. For every Thajudeen, ten thousand Thajudeens killed during that time. For every Ekneligoda, ten thousand Ekneligodas disappeared. For every white van, hundreds of vehicles of all kinds carrying vigilante groups striking fear into every household. 

Those gentlemen are still around and are now calling the shots in their respective parties. When justice is called for selectively, it’s politics. UNP politics in this instance. 

But why put questions to ‘Gota’ only? Is it only he that is answerable? Well, as of today he’s the only candidate to be nominated by one of the main parties. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) looks to be ducking this one. The JVP is to announce a candidate in a few day. 

There are of course groups that are talking of putting forward someone not tainted by party politics, a professional, someone with integrity and standing. There’s Nagananda Kodituwakku and Rohan Pallewatte. The National People’s Movement claims their announcement is imminent. As opposed to the UNP and the SLFP, these groups have plans, policies and vision. The UNP and SLFP, for all the rhetoric, manifestos and grand plans, have not just floundered but have lost all credibility over the past five years. 

Then there’s the issue of ‘the likely winner’. If we consider voting patters, the worth of recent history (as opposed to what happened earlier), key issues including the scandalous incompetence and criminal negligence that paved the way for the Easter Sunday attacks, fears and insecurities, what was said and not said, done and left undone or ignored altogether, the configuration of coalitions in 2015 and their current realities etc., Gota is way ahead, for now, we have to acknowledge.  

If the history of personalities and parties matter, then it would be silly to talk about anyone from any of the main political parties. If such things mattered, then Maithripala Sirisena would not be president today. We don’t live in an ideal world. There are evils and lesser evils, there is the reality of a tendency to vote governments out rather than vote governments in. We don’t have pure politicians, parties and certainly not voters. So if anyone wants to be different and protect sense of integrity, then the logical choice would be to strengthen one way or another candidates or groups outside the political mainstream.  

That’s long term. Arduous. Important and even imperative.  In the immediate, which also counts, there’s Gota and we have to put to him the questions which anyone who has presidential ambitions could and should answer. 

Here goes.

What does Gota have to say about UNHRC Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by a spineless, confused government utterly at sea when it comes to the national interest and implications for national security? What’s his take on the dominant model of development which brought prosperity to the prosperous largely through plunder and installing a system whose sustainability necessitates wars, mass killings and destruction of the natural world to the point where the future of the planet itself is under threat? Is he aware that those countries which advocate and impose systems that are supposed to bring about the good life but in reality sustains inequities and impoverishes are now abandoning all of it in favor of ‘happiness’ where measurements are not heavy on materialistic considerations?  Does Gota know that after a few centuries of pursuing profit, they’re now, essentially, echoing the observation of the Buddha, santhutti paramang dhanang (there is no greater wealth than contentment)? 

What does he have to say about toxin-free agriculture? Does he have a plan, a time table? How about renewable energy? Does he have a plan, a timetable? Will he protect Wilpattu or in the name of ‘communal harmony’ look away? Does he have a policy about illicit felling in other protected areas?

Does Gota believe that national security is only about protecting borders and eliminating the threat of terrorism? Is that the limit of his vision on national sovereignty? Will he, like the Yahapalanists and the regime his brother Mahinda led, sacrifice such things for short-term economic benefits? What of SOFA, ACSA and the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact? Does he understand that the identity of oppressor is less relevant than the condition of oppression?  

Law and order. Nepotism. Corruption. Politics of patronage. What’s his take on the alcohol and tobacco mafia (as or more pernicious than the drug mafia)?

Rhetoric is easy. Cost-free. Manifestos are cheap. Politicians are made of promises (if you doubt this, check out Sajith Premadasa’s recent speeches!). Gota is not exactly an ‘outsider’ although he’s never contested an election or held office in a political party. He can be, but that’s left to be seen. 

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is yet to be elected. It is quite possible that he will be the next president, the way things stand. This is why he can ignore all these questions. He would do well, however, to respond and make his responses the basis of thrust of his campaign speeches.  

Better still, his political opponents can do the same. Steal a bit of thunder. Steal a march. Make the voter think twice. Make Gota and the SLPP wary. As opposed to regurgitating invective that’s selective and therefore, frankly, boring.   


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