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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 921

The Naked Emperor and His Endangered Realm

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

Post-impeachment, the Rajapaksas have entered a new phase in their fanatically single-minded pursuit of absolute and permanent power. They are abandoning all pretensions and acting with total disregard for appearances; not even a fig-leaf is being retained. With the judiciary conquered, the Siblings obviously see no cause for pretences of justice, no reason for charades of fair-play.

Of that many-hued cloak which was used to cover the dystopian reality of Rajapaksa rule, only a few threadbare lies remain.

At last, the Emperor is naked. The Emperor will remain naked not because he is unaware of his nudity. The Emperor will remain naked because that is the way he wants to be; feeling omnipotent and unchallenged, he no longer sees any purpose in the costly and time-consuming business of garbing himself.

“Hitler is not Germany,
He’s Germany’s destroyer….”
Rolf Hochhuth (The Deputy)

Any child who dares to proclaim the Emperor’s nudity to the world will be treated as a traitor/criminal, with the aid of a supine police and a cowed judiciary.

The Nazis, borrowing from the filed of electricity, used a term called ‘co-ordination’ (Gleichschaltung) to denote the transformation of Germany to fit the Nazi agenda. Violence was used when necessary, but other methods were more effective. People succumbed or pretended to succumb due to a variety of reasons and motivations: greed and fear, trust, hope and indifference, anti-Antisemitism and anti-Communism, patriotism and ingrained habits of obedience to authority. Many went along because others were doing the same, or due to the very human desire to be left alone to live their own lives, in relative peace.

Post-impeachment, the Rajapaksas have no serious opponents. The three pillars of state are in Rajapaksa hands, as are the military and the bureaucracy. The business community is becoming as impotent as farmers, fishermen and urban poor in defending its interests. The Tamils are being repressed with a heavy hand and the Muslims are being threatened. Temples and the churches are either co-opted or ignored. The ploy of ‘Media ethics’ will be used to totally silence media organisations and to crack down on critical websites.

The Family is the state.

The Rajapaksas, free at last, to be themselves

Free at last to be themselves, the Rajapaksas are beginning to make the most nightmarish predictions of their most abiding critics come true.

Less than a month after the impeachment travesty came to its premeditated end, the transformation of Lankan judiciary into Rajapaksa judiciary is almost complete. Headed by a manifestly servile, totally discredited and palpably dishonourable ‘chief justice’, the judiciary is plummeting that degrading-depth already occupied by the legislature, the military and the bureaucracy. The judiciary’s capitulation to Rajapaksa power was demonstrated by the manner in which the fundamental rights petition by a customs official against former AG Mohan Peiris and Treasury Secretary PB Jayasundara ended. Of the three judge bench, one opted out, for personal reasons. The other two judges accepted the argument made by the AG’s Department (also under Presidential-fist) and decided to go ahead with the case. One of the two judges cavalierly dismissed the petitioner’s objections to his presence on the bench, deeming himself unbiased. The petition was heard and dismissed, pronto, with costs.

A judiciary interested in maintaining appearances would have handled the petition with a touch of finesse; a government interested in maintaining appearances would have permitted the judiciary the space for some face-saving dissimulation. But in the post-impeachment phase of Rajapaksa rule, even pretenses at justice are forbidden luxuries. The Siblings want everything done their way, immediately; clearly no judge wants to be witch-hunted out of office, as Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was.

The ham-fistedly unjust and repentantly indecent manner, in which the impeachment was conducted, was no accident. It was done deliberately and consciously, in order to send a message to other (actual/potential) dissenters about the unbearable costs of non-compliance.

Very few people will want to get into an argument about ethics or justice with a deranged fanatic armed with a deadly weapon, sans any safety devises. Horrified by the fate of the Fourth Citizen of the country, most judges and lawyers would follow in the footsteps of UPFA leaders and parliamentarians, military personnel, bureaucrats and innumerable others. They will pretend to obey the rulers in public, criticise them in private and hope (and pray) for deliverance some day.

The comedic conduct of another key public official, the Elections Commissioner, is symbolic of the Rajapaksa notion of a ‘Good/Patriotic bureaucrat’; more disturbingly, it is indicative of how future elections will be stage-managed. Confronted with the discovery of a sheaf ballot papers marked for Candidate Sarath Fonseka, the Elections Commissioner bleated a resonant mea culpa; he took all blame upon himself, conjured a hypothesis and promised an investigation. During future elections, the regime will break all rules and regulations, and act with manifest injustice and unfairness (using violence whenever necessary). The Elections Commissioner will resolutely deny the existence of any untoward deed; if the deed is undeniably blatant, he will claim that sans the 17th Amendment he has no powers to intervene (that would be true; the 18th Amendment did to the post of elections commissioner what the impeachment did to the post of chief justice).

The Elections Commissioner will always declare every election free and fair. The judiciary will always echo the Elections Commissioner’s judgement, in suitable legalese. And the Rajapaksas will always be Sri Lanka’s popularly elected democratic rulers!

Once the Auditor General’s Department is ‘co-ordinated’, the last holdout against the Rajapaksaisation of the Lankan state will vanish. The AG will then join the Governor of the Central Bank in singing hosannas to the Rajapaksa-genius. According to the Rajapaksa Central Bank, the economy is always growing, unemployment is always falling and inflation remains petrified at single-digits (even when prices in the market are soaring). Similarly, once the Auditor General’s department is co-ordinated, all financial mismanagement will cease, corruption will be a thing of the past and good governance will rule the land.

Arbitrariness and impunity are the staples of Rajapaksa rule, in every sphere.

The regime’s decision to impose a Ports and Airports Development Levy of 5% could have a devastating effect on a major foreign exchange earner - fuel supplies to ships. If the new tax is implemented, “Sri Lankan suppliers of fuel to ships could be pushed out of business…shipping officials and tax experts have warned” (LBO – 30.1.2013). Slaughtering the goose that lays the golden egg is Rajapaksa economics; to fund economically unsound ports/airports, the Siblings are driving Sri Lanka’s only functioning-port out of business!

In a similar vein, a crippling tax increase was imposed on bulk tea exports, by a gazette notification on January 23rd. According to the Tea Exporters Association, the Ministry of Plantation Industries and the Sri Lanka Tea Board knew nothing of the tax-hike until informed by horrified tea-exporters.

Accountability and transparency are as dead as human rights. Lankan democracy is not the only casualty of Rajapaksa rule.

The Siblings will purse their absolutist agenda with a sledgehammer and a chainsaw, depending on the judiciary, the military and Beijing to save them from the repercussions of their insanely-abhorrent deeds.

- Asian Tribune -

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