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Wijeyakala cover for ‘Corrupt and Miserable’ politicos and racist Urbanites
Published Date: 09/07/2018 (Monday)

 

During the past week, much has been written and spoken about the statement on “the need of a LTTE rule again” made by Wijeyakala Maheswaran, the State Minister for Child and Women’s Affairs. For racist politicos and the urban middle class it was God sent to shelve the “sermon proposing a Hitlerite rule” by Ven. Wendaruwe Upali thero, the ‘Anu-nayake’ (second in authority) of Asgiriya. While some in the Sinhala South sympathise with the “sermon proposing a Hitlerite rule”, some do disagree. But all  have nevertheless condemned the call for a “LTTE rule again” as divisive, arrogant and disrespectful of democratic governance. Some stand the ground that it is a call for a “separate State” and should be legally punished. There are a few who try to understand the “call for LTTE rule again” as anger and vengeance against the “yahapalana” government and also against the military with the Tamil Diaspora still nurturing the “separatist” LTTE ideology. The “Hitler story” shelved conveniently, the call for a “LTTE rule again” remains the only statement that could be dealt with as harshly as possible.


 

Leaving a reasonable margin of error and built-in nuances on the LTTE factor in translating her Tamil speech into Sinhala by the Colombo media, there is no mention of a “separate State” or an “Eelam” anywhere in her speech made in front of President Sirisena and senior cabinet ministers of her own government. Though some see her as one who makes brash and irresponsible statements, this statement by Wijeyakala had been more emotionally charged and consciously focused on issues the Tamil people are very much burdened with, in post war North.

The broader political context of her speech is therefore extremely important before one jumps on her assumption with preferred and selective interpretations. In the Sinhala version of her total speech in “BBC Sandeshaya”, she says, “Actually it is only a woman who can understand the difficulties of another woman. Men cannot understand. A six year old girl child had been raped and killed. Our women have become helpless and are pushed to the point of committing suicide. What should we do for that? Is it for this we elected and brought a President? It is us who laboured to elect our President. What is the President doing now? He is developing his party. Our people have not been looked after.   

Her frustration in the face of growing impatience in North and Vanni is thus very open. “You all know how our people lived before 18 May, 2009. When we look at the situation now, it is a situation to bring back the LTTE again. If we want to have a situation for our children, our women to go to school and come back safe, there has to be LTTE rule again……The government says it has brought development. That is a lie. I am also working as a minister in the government.…… Our youth have been made to loiter on the streets without jobs. As they don’t have jobs they have become addicted to drugs. After 18 May 2009, politicians have sent drugs to Jaffna in their vehicles. Because of that, drug use has increased in Jaffna.

Here’s more of the plight in the North and Vanni in Wijeyakala’s words. “Nothing has been done for the youth who have completed degrees. According to statistics in the Home Ministry there are 30,000 widowed families in the Northern Province. What have they been given? What is their income? Our people have been brought to a situation of begging. There are now 12,000 rehabilitated LTTE cadres after the war. What have the President and the government done to them? Today, helping them have been shelved. The cabinet paper presented to help them has been laid aside. Aren’t they humans too? Do you say they are not humans because they took arms and fought for their rights?

That is the socio political context in which she sees “a return to LTTE rule” is far better than what it is now. That is also because the democratic option the Tamil people chose at 02 elections, 2015 January Presidential election and at the 2015 August parliamentary elections have not provided any answers for their most pressing problems and needs. Their democratic option the TNA in parliament has also failed them. The TNA leadership is not seen taking up issues of the agitating Tamil people that Wijeykala raised with emotion. The TNA leadership is seen bogged down in Colombo playing hide and seek with a government, people have completely lost faith in.

Thus her whole speech is about finding answers to a situation where there is no rule of law. Where children and women are not safe. Where the drug menace is growing with political patronage apart from youth unemployment, neglected war widows and rehabilitated ex-LTTE cadres without life support.  

This frustration and diminishing hope within democratic politics is no different to that sermon by Ven. Wendaruwe Upali thero, the ‘Anu-nayake’ (second in authority) of Asgiriya, who in the video clip say, “As the Maha Sangha we feel the need to have a virtuous leader in this country….You (referring to Gotabhaya) have been referred to at times as ‘Hitler’. So, we wish to remind.…. even becoming a Hitler, save this country from breaking up. Finally, what we have to tell you is, even with a military rule, remake this country.” After a noisy outburst against this seemingly politico religious advice, Ven. Upali thero issued a written clarification titled “Unite and don’t Argue” that said. “Regret the statements made by political leaders who have picked the two words ‘Hitler’ and ‘military’ from a long sermon to say a Buddhist monk had said things not akin to a monk…..The essence of my message was that ‘while you are referred to at times as Hitler, what we remind you is that, even in that way to develop the country. What I said was to rule the country with clear and strong policy and I did not mean a rule like a Hitler, brutally killing people.

Neither the first clip nor the second clarification denies the fact that Ven. Upali thero representing the ‘Maha Sangha’ wants a “Dictator” benevolent to the country. Such claims have their own political justifications. There’s much doubt and no more faith in “remaking this country” on these ‘hyped programmes’ with promises for democracy and good governance that had never been delivered. Democracy has been eaten into with politicisation and rampant corruption, leaving mere procedural democratic interventions with no value for people. Political parties are heavily corrupt too and have turned into governing tools of the “Filthy rich”. All that leaves ample reason to jettison democracy in every form for “disciplined development” whatever the form of governance. When the mood is such, there is no denying the fact that both Ven. Upali thero and Wijeyakala Maheswaran are on the same page reading out the need to have a “benevolent” dictatorial rule, one in Sinhala and the other in Tamil.

Reaching out to a “benevolent dictator” is no new proposition. These calls for a “benevolent dictator” often emerged in poor and conflict ridden societies, where with peaceful change of governments, people have had no positive changes to their lives. Where people experience a growing chaos with no answers offered within “democracies” of the rich and powerful.

 

It was so in Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew lived to be honoured as their “benevolent dictator” for having created a strong Singaporean economy as promised. Hitler failed to deliver on his promise of a pure Aryan German State and is left to be remembered as a savage and a brutal leader. Stalin survived that label as he had the Soviet State to be projected as a formidable anti imperialist power. Pol Pot was denounced as a brutal leader as he too failed to deliver on a “Socialist” Kampuchea. Park Chung-hee who came to power through a military coup in 1961 and installed himself as President in 1963, is no crude dictator, for he turned around a pauperised South Korea into a strong and viable economy in Asia.

Thus the call for “benevolent dictators” have its own historical reasons and both Ven. Upali and Wijeyakala comes within such global mindset. They cannot thus be shouted down, condemned and punished for proposing “dictatorial rule” by those who have failed miserably to deliver on promises made for a decent, comfortable and a secure life. By those who have also violated democratic and human rights of the people, of workers and of Tamils and Muslims. What right have those who were party to the utterly racist and woefully corrupt Rajapaksa regime and those in this extremely corrupt “yahapalanaya” who have muddled up everything right royally to condemn a call for change, simply because it is Sinhala or Tamil “dictatorial” rule?

Let’s not forget that Ven. Upali in the Sinhala South and Wijeyakala in Tamil North are no frustrated loners. What is supremely important to remember is that condemning and punishing those who believe such “dictatorial rule” as the only answer left to the present crisis and chaos, will not deter others who are in the same mind. That thinking of the frustrated cannot be answered by those who have failed all along and have no decent and positive answers to offer to all the chaos the people are fast slipping into.

That can only be answered positively by proposing a decent alternate “development” programme to this free market economy run by different groups of the ‘Filthy Rich’. By proposing a new development approach that can focus on all the major issues; education, health, public transport, rural economy and rule of law without bias. A new development model that should carry with it “participatory democratic” structures empowering people to be effective stakeholders in planning and execution. This no doubt demands a serious discourse in society and it has to be promoted in answer to Ven. Upali and Wijeyakala. For there is no other “democratic” option that can counter the proposal for a “benevolent dictator”, the result of a sordid economy that breeds racism and is corrupt to the core.   

Kusal Perera

2018 July 13              

Colombo

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