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Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
29 November 2006
the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa has passed its one year mark, its time to do
a reality check. For this purpose, I did read his Presidential Election
Manifesto entitled, ‘Victory for Sri Lanka: Mahinda Chintana – Presidential
Election 2005’. My apt conclusion of his one year track record is presented
in the above two word title: ‘Triumvir Rajas’. Sure, these two keywords do not
appear in President Rajapaksa’s 2005 election manifesto.
Triumvirate in History
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word ‘triumvir’ has the following two connotations:
Now, let me transfer the scene to Colombo. What has not been stated in the Mahinda Chintana manifesto, has been put into practice by the current President of Sri Lanka. If one has to correctly record the past one year of political leadership, the most apt phrase is ‘triumvir Rajas’ – the Rajapaksa siblings. In principle, Mahinda Rajapaksa is the nominal elected President. But in practice, he shares his power with his two siblings, Basil Rajapaksa (in charge of political affairs) and Gothabaya Rajapaksa (in charge of military affairs). This was neither divulged in President Mahinda’s election manifesto nor overtly expected by the Sinhalese voters. To borrow Thomas Carlyle’s eloquent sentence to the Colombo scene, in November 2006, “Basil is standing motionless, Gothabaya ejaculating, Mahinda is struggling to speak”.
Gothabaya sibling’s Ascendancy
The perfect evidence for Gothabaya sibling’s ascendancy in the articulation of power is vividly noticeable in the following two news reports.
Sunil Jayasiri, in his regular opinion column, entitled “What will Prabhakaran say this time?”, to the Colombo Daily Mirror, stated the following, under the subheading, ‘President’s dilemma on Army Chief’s extension’:
What a dilemma for a President, who serves as the divided island’s C-in-C, but is dependent on his sibling Gothabaya with a past military background, to decide on the unpopular Army Chief of Sri Lanka! O Lord Buddha! What can one think about the Sri Lankan army morale? Is it your design that you had made the current Army Chief as so unpopular among his ranks, that the President of the island has been served with a sort of mutiny letter by the “majority of senior Army officers – Majors General and Brigadiers – urging him not to grant extension to the incumbent army chief.”
The following day, an unsigned short newsreport had appeared in the same Colombo Daily Mirror under the caption with a question mark, “Army Chief’s service extended?”. To quote,
While President Mahinda dances to the tune set by his sibling Gothabaya in military affairs of the rump Sri Lanka, according to Colombo’s news analysts presenting their unsigned opinions in the Colombo Daily Mirror and Sunday Leader, the other Presidential sibling Basil Rajapaksa works on the political affairs agenda. Basil Rajapaksa’s primary agenda has been nothing profound. He has been vigorously involved in political ‘dog catching’ job - inducing political preys from opponent’s camp (mainly UNP), with saliva-stimulating Cabinet minister positions.
Some Loafing in Job Time
It is my view, based on ground level input from a contact living in Colombo, that President Mahinda is just loafing in his job time. And he (like his predecessor, Chandrika Kumaratunga) was accustomed to this loafing mode, immediately after his teenage schooling phase. When I perused his bio-data, I noticed his loafing phase for nearly 6 years (which coincidentally is the presidential term of office in Sri Lanka). This has been somewhat pushed under the rug by his loyal bag carriers. Here is President Rajapaksa’s “education/early life”, as culled from his official website [ www.presidentsl.org ]
Let me calculate. Born in 1945, Mahinda would have completed his schooling at the age of 18 years at Thurston College. That would have been in 1963. Mahinda became the youngest elected MP in the 1970 general election, winning the Beliatta constituency for SLFP, which was represented by his father in the Ceylonese parliament from 1947 to 1965. What did Mahinda Rajapaksa do between 1963 and 1970? This gap has been left unmentioned.
Political triumvirates are doomed in history
The past history of political triumvirates in world history do not provide confidence for the success of current Triumvir Rajas of Sri Lanka. If Mahinda Rajapaksa, his cronies and advisors are interested in knowing, here follows a synopsis.
The First Triumvirate (60 - 53 B.C): established by Julius Caesar (100-44 BC), Pompey (106-48 BC) and Crassus (115-53 BC). Crassus was decapitated following a defeat in the Battle of Carrhae. Then, Casesar defeated Pompey in 48 BC, when the latter was assassinated. Caesar, while establishing himself as a dictator, fell for an assassination plot masterminded by Cassius and Brutus in 44 BC.
The Second Triumvirate (43 – 36 BC): established by Mark Antony (82-30 BC), Octavius (later Augustus) Caesar (63 BC – AD 14), and Emilius Lepidus (? – 13 BC). Lepidus was deposed in 36 BC, by Octavius Caesar stripped Lepidus all offices. Mark Antony committed suicide in 30 BC. Then, Octavius Caesar reigned as the first Roman emperor as Augustus Caesar until AD 14.
Triumvirate of the French Revolution: Maximilian Robespierre (1758-1794), Georges Auguste Couthon (1755-1794) and Louis de Saint-Just (1767-1794). Robespierre, Couthon and Saint Just held power during the ‘Reign of Terror’, which spanned from Sept.5, 1793 and July 28, 1794, during which 18,500-40,000 people lost their lives. All three were guillotined.
Triumvirate in Soviet Union: This triumvirate leadership of Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971), Lavrenti Beria (1899-1953) and Georgy Malenkov (1902-1988) succeeded Stalin’s death in March 1953. The first to fall was Beria, who was secretly executed for treason in Dec.23, 1953. Then, Malenkov (who was holding the titular position of Soviet prime minister) was replaced in 1955, followed by expulsion from the Presidium in 1957, accused of forming an ‘antiparty’ group. Khrushchev assumed sole power in 1958, but he in turn was pushed out in 1964 by a coterie led by Leonid Brezhnev (1907-1982).
Bonapartism and not Democracy
‘Bonapartism’ is the political term coined to identify the support of the claim of some member of the family to rule. This is derived from the 19th century French history, in reference to the government established by Louis Bonaparte aka Napoleon III (1808-1873). Despite the text book cliché of prevailing democracy in Sri Lanka, the history of SLFP (or for that matter, the UNP) has been nothing but, tracing and retracing of the Bonapartism dogma. Why? This fits well with the island’s monarchic traditions, which predated the five centuries of colonial rule.
Bonapartism in SLFP emerged in 1960 to promote the sobbing widow of the assassinated prime minister Solomon Dias Bandaranaike to the throne. In 1994, Chandrika Kumaratunga again climbed to success on the pillars of Bonapartism, as the daughter of two prime ministers. The claim of Mahinda Rajapaksa to the political throne was also based on Bonapartism from his loyal father, D.A.Rajapaksa, who himself crossed over with Solomon Dias Bandaranaike in 1951 from the UNP to form the SLFP.
In this context, the thoughts of a correspondent named Oscar E.V.Fernando, published few months ago, are somewhat revealing on the bankruptcy of the policies of Bonapartist Triumvir Rajas. To quote,
Well said, Mr.Oscar Fernando. Lets wait and see, what is going to happen to the Triumvir Rajas.