Home / Columnists/ Hype and haunt hovering over Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Hype and haunt hovering over Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Thursday, 24 May 2018 00:00

Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa



There is a connection between the hype that is being built these days around Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Defence Secretary and once-powerful brother of the once-powerful President, and the haunt that shadows him wherever he goes. 

The hype is loud and we can see and hear. The haunt, less visible to naked observation, is that of the ghost of Lasantha Wickrematunge, former Editor of The Sunday Leader, who was butchered and murdered in broad daylight. Keith Noyahr, former Deputy Editor of The Nation, is also haunting Gota; yet Lasantha’s macabre and creeping shadow overwhelms that of Keith.

The stanza in the Dhammapada seems to be crying out when Court proceedings are being heard about these sordid cases that happened under the watch of the former Defence Secretary under whom the Army, Navy and Police came. Says the Dhammapada: “Neither in the sky nor in the midst of the seanor by entering into the clefts of mountains is there a known place on earth where stationing himself, a man can escape from his evil deeds.”



Of course, nobody can at this stage judge Gota as guilty. We have to wait for the Court to make that judgment. Until that judgment, Gota is innocent. On the other hand, much of the prima facie evidence that has so far been recorded does not do Gota well at all. 

His interview with the BBC on this issue is damning. There, Gota threatens: “I will hang him!” referring to former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka. This evinces an arrogance; a dis-concern about the right to life and liberty of men and women; and a proclivity to abuse power at will. 

All the economics and “vision” that Gotabaya Rajapaksa came out with at Shangri-La Hotel cannot outdo such outrageous conduct.

Sarath Fonseka (SF), even in a recent interview for the ‘Satana’ TV program kept repeating what he had been all along saying of Gota. SF openly claimed that Gota and his President brother were behind the assassination. SF even stated he would never address either of these two persons as “Mahatha,” but just by name as he holds no respect for them. He gave a detailed account of the harassment he had received at the hands of these two. Sarath Fonseka’s cool at the interview and his dispassionateness impresses. The former Commander is improving in stature by the day and the fact that he is now in Cabinet rank will help his further political growth. 

Gota’s plunge

Gota is, to say the minimum, under a serious cloud. Disregarding possible future action against him, Gota has taken a gambling plunge into the President’s race due in year 2020. With such a sword of Damocles over him, he must be fighting a formidable battle inward in his mind. Had he taken the bold step of cooperating with the law and permitting a full investigation and then clearing his name, we could never fault Gota. On the other hand, he has decided to try and distract popular opinion and focus the latter on his self-claimed ability to be an effective president.

His Viyath Maga campaign is both a preparation for the presidential race and an attempt to build up a wave of public support for him which, if that backing swells, he can utilise it to block his arrest. This essentially is the linkage between the hype and the haunt. His brother Mahinda did something like that with his ‘Mahinda Sulanga’ meetings soon after his defeat. Mahinda created a public sympathy and communicated a fear to all officials of his possible return. Gota is hoping he can repeat a ‘Sulanga’ or even a ‘Kunatuwa’ (storm).

I am already receiving emails from Sinhala diaspora with threats to the country’s security if Gota is arrested and found guilty. A gentleman from California (I will call him PF, without revealing his name as a courtesy) sends me a copy of his latest email which reads thus:

“An incarcerated Gotabaya would generate an apocalyptic electoral outburst, the likes of which we had never seen before – the coup de grace that would wipe out Yahapalanaya – Gotabaya’s popularity is at its peak – an irrefutable fact. PC elections would swing against the Government!”

Now, PF is a former Lake House journalist.

The economics pundit

An amusing side of Gota’s revamping and redefining himself is his cognitive claims to a punditry in economics. At Viyath Maga, Gota is the economics messiah who appears to deliver the land to a state of First World prosperity. Gota’s intellectual credentials do not point to such knowledge. He had barely passed the O/Levels and has hardly shown any reading interests thus far. 

Somebody like Dr. Nalaka Godahewa would have given him the script. If the notes were suddenly to fly away from Gota’s hold while at the lectern, he would probably mix up GDP with GST and equity with debt. It is no harm for a leader to read from a script, but it is necessary that he understands what he reads and I am not sure Gota understands economic policy. This is the very first time Gota has made a claim to that understanding.

The aforementioned Sinhala diaspora have cried out in emails and FB about the “great economic vision of Gotabaya Rajapaksa”. Gota maybe himself embarrassed. Look at the vision and you will find that they contain very commonly bandied about economic slogans that are clichés or platitudes today. I will mention a few:

1.That the global economic centre will shift to China, India and the South East. Our Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been saying that for many years. One reason the Government is having Free Trade Agreements with countries in the region is part of this vision. Our GMOA had a one-day strike that deprived sick patients of urgent attention, due to the Singapore Agreement. They earlier struck work because of the proposed agreement with India. The GMOA understands no economics.

2.That economic development is the answer to all ills of the island.

3.The urgent need to restructure our economy. This has been stated over and over again by reputed economists and the World Bank. It is also a task that the Government has undertaken to do.

4.The need to build a knowledge economy in view of the digital revolution.

5.The need to encourage Foreign Direct Investment.

6.That economic zones must be set up around ports. This is already been done and the recent Hambantota Project is also that.

7.The need for ensuring that we get loans only if they are repayable by the project itself.

The above are pretty simple and oft-stated proposals. In fact Minister for Development Strategy Malik Samarawickrama has written to a Sinhala language newspaper pointing out how Gota’s “vision” is a total copy of the Government’s vision plan for year 2025.

This shows what a big and empty hocus pocus Gota’s Viyath Maga is. He announces this with impressive fanfare before an audience of businessmen invited to the Shangri-La Hotel. We are being told that Gota had sold the land where Shangri-La stands to China and that it is the same block where the Defence Ministry stood. The country’s Defence Ministry is now homeless. In this context, it interesting to investigate whether Gota was given the hotel for this event as a consideration by the Chinese owners. If it were so, then Gota is guilty of bribery.

(The writer can be reached via sjturaus@optusnet.com.au.)

Share This Article


1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.