A failed Fanta Morgana

Wednesday, 31 October 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Fanta Morgana is the highbrow term for a rainbow. After the failed rainbow it sounds exquisitely exotic.

We must not allow politics to provoke our moral outrage. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a magnificent political conjuror. After his re-election he jailed his failed opponent. The one who beat him on his third bid delivers the boodle to his doorstep.

I undertake this essay to enlist your support to ensure that the Government that was led by Ranil Wickremesinghe survives this challenge. This is not about keeping him in office. This is about using the opportunity of the 360-degree somersault of Sirisena our President to infuse a modicum of decency in to our democratic discourse. We must rejoice that it happened and use it for course correction. 

The outrage expressed by the President over Ranil Wickremesinghe’s role in the Central Bank bond issue is feloniously farcical theatre. He dissolved Parliament before the D.E.W. Gunasekera findings could be published. 

A day before Parliamentary elections in August 2015 he moved the finishing tape closer to the UNP by going on air that the former President MR would not be invited to form a government no matter what. When he did all that, he knew that there had occurred a funny fracas in the vaults of the Central Bank. Now he has decided to waltz out as the only virgin left in the ‘Yahapalanaya’ bordello. 

I hold no lantern, torch or candle for Ranil Wickremesinghe. In an article captioned ‘Promises, perceptions and performance’ published in Daily FT on 26 January 2015 I wrote: “It is difficult to comprehend the urgency in appointing a Governor of the Central Bank for a term that extends beyond 100 days when the more transparent option would have been to appoint the most senior Deputy Governor for a short-term pending the implementation of good governance parameters which would include the selection of the Governor of the Central Bank.”

In a subsequent article published in Daily FT of 20 March 2016 which I sardonically captioned ‘In more submissions in defence of Arjun Mahendran,’ I likened the appointment of three UNP lawyers to investigate the bond deal to the search of a black cat in a dark room. 

I said: “The current situation is exceptional. It calls for civic mobilisation around the values of a people’s democracy. The nation is not privy to the whole truth about who made what decisions. Daya Pelpola and Ronald Perera are not the best qualified to tell the nation the details. We can observe the writing on the wall. As we get closer we should be able to decipher the scrawling. The grafting of the oligarchy to political power over the last decade has fundamentally altered the values in public life.” 

My credentials as a sceptic of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s politics are impeccable. 

Although I find the politics of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa disastrous and offensive, I appreciate the logic of his design to access power at the earliest possible hour.

He is the President who won the war. The imperialist West and dollar-greedy human rights NGOs denigrate his patriotic achievements by claiming that it was a war without witnesses. That cannot be true. 

That said, now he wants to cobble up a coalition or a caretaker government without witnesses while Parliament is prorogued. 

On Monday we saw why it is necessary for the Parliament to be prorogued. The grandson of D.S. Senanayake appeared at Temple Trees from whence his illustrious ancestor rode out on horseback to die of a stroke at Galle Face Green. He was there to assure his colleagues and leader that his loyalties were with the party and under no circumstances will he desert the party. 

Later in the evening he was sworn in as a Minister of the Cabinet in which Mahinda Rajapaksa is the Prime Minster. The President who was the common candidate backed by the UNP is the Head of the Cabinet. 

Now you must remember that legal interpretations are done by a great legal mind, a jurisprudential scoundrel if ever there was one. The grandson is not in breach of his solemn promise made in the corridors once graced by his grandmother Molly! 

Obviously, the great grandson is deeply attached to the imagined legacy of a noble ancestry – a clear pointer to a medieval mind. He seems seduced by the praise heaped on his honorable ancestors by the president, who himself has adopted a style of hugger mugger clandestine political maneuvering more suited to a Moghul or Ottoman court.

Let us cut to the chase. Why is Parliament prorogued? Because the road to fascism runs through the forum of the people. Silencing Parliament is the first requisite of a fascist experiment. You must ignore Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

Leon Trotsky identified the Vasudeva types in his tract ‘Their morals and ours’. “To appeal to abstract norms is not a disinterested philosophic mistake but a necessary element in the mechanics of class deception.’ He wants Parliament prorogued to reassign seats in the House. Mastery of Marxist morality needs more grit than a daintily coiffured silvery beard.  

We must return to the theme of this essay. Constructing a coalition with lights switched off with fat wallets discharging a blinding light. 

You must remember that Mahinda Rajapaksa was not a despot. History may or may not repeat. But it sure instructs. Powers of the earlier MR presidency were freely given by the people. That is the way it works. Timothy Snyder, a Harvard scholar has traced the road to populist serfdoms which are a sign of our time. 

Anticipatory obedience is political suicide. Yet that is what we do. We think ahead of what a repressive rule could do. Then, we offer without being asked. We saw the hill country Parliamentarian who put a shawl round MR earlier in the day going back to Temple Trees and assuring his party colleagues that he would never abandon the tribe. Then he shuttles back and is sworn in as a minster. The earlier shawl draping was an expression of anticipatory obedience.

When we abandon facts, we abandon our freedom. As Timothy Snyder points out, when nothing is true, no one can criticise power because there is no basis for us to arrive at the truth. When nothing is true we have to be satisfied with the spectacle.

Is it not what we are doing, immersed in a spectacle since last Friday when a nationalist progressive Cardinal received a godsend in the form of a Sinhala synonym for Judas Iscariot?

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