Voodoo governance: Who will save Asia’s oldest democracy?

Thursday, 10 December 2020 00:20 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

It’s voodoo all the way down. Starting with voodoo anti-COVID medication

“We are not living an era of change, but a change of era” – Pope Francis

The Gotabaya regime’s voodoo paradigm of converting or razing and redeveloping Asia’s oldest democracy bases itself on the belief in China’s irresistible rise and America’s inexorable decline. That’s unwise

There is a contradiction between the needs of recovery and progress on all fronts, and the regime’s restrictive framework and retrogressive ideas.

The COVID-19 proliferation and the Mahara massacre are but manifestations of the ideology of denial and the failure of the organisational doctrine-cum-model introduced by the GR regime.

There is a contradiction between the propaganda of the regime and the basic requirements of public credibility. The rebuttal by the College of Psychiatrists of the story of riot-inducing drugs, mysteriously stocked in the dispensary of Mahara hospital and supposedly ingested en masse by the prisoners, is an example. (The Sunday Times –http://www.sundaytimes.lk/201206/news/college-of-psychiatrists-disputes-claims-connecting-pills-with-violent-behaviour-424708.html)

There is a contradiction between the ideology of the regime and the requirements of resuscitating the macroeconomy as distinct from corporate profits.

There is a contradiction between the regime’s self-image (another Israel) and its reality.

There is a contradiction between the openness, kaleidoscopic patterning, and democratic DNA of Sri Lankan social consciousness and behaviour, and the harsh, rigid, brittle, stubborn, insensitive, monarcho-militarist mode of the regime.

Voodoo Maga, voodoo Chinthanaya

Making an acknowledged borrowing from President George H.W. Bush, Sajith Premadasa, the Leader of the Opposition, described the incumbent regime’s economic policy as “voodoo economics”.  

That’s just the half of it. It’s voodoo all the way down. Starting with voodoo anti-COVID medication. 

LankaCNews, a pro-regime website close to Minister Weerawansa broke the story of a wonder cure for COVID-19. The medication has been invented by a gentleman who claims to be an Ayurvedic physician, but the Ayurvedic Association has issued a disclaimer which ran on the same website. This expert’s institutional base and rather ramified title is doctor of dharma (doctrine, theology) and traditional Ayurvedic physician of a ‘devale’, a Hindu temple or shrine, devoted to a female Hindu deity whose name is most commonly associated with the practice of black magic. She is the more powerful and deadlier, deified equivalent of Louisiana’s Marie Laveau.  

“…The concoction is promoted by Shaman and ‘Hela’ Medicine Man Dhammika Bandara and has received wide media coverage. Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Minister of State for Vocational Affairs Dr. Seetha Arambepola, the Minister in charge of the COVID-19 pandemic Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle all have been photographed trying out the ‘medicine’ before the media. His cause has been publicised in Parliament and on the widely-watched ‘Big Focus’ interview program on Ada Derana TV. His main backer seems to be Sisira Jayakody, the State Minister for Indigenous Medicine.” (Arjuna Ranawana, EconomyNext)

Jayakody claims the decoction has been successfully tested on patients. With whose permission and under which controls was this administered? Have this concoction’s results been tested in laboratories run by someone with the international credentials of Prof. Neelika Malavige? Who will be legally accountable for the results, immediate or delayed, of the ingestion by hapless patients of this liquid?

Mahinda Pathirana, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Press Council and a prominent SLPP ideologue close to the supposedly moderate, enlightened (or moderately enlightened) Basil Rajapaksa tendency, defends the concoction’s brewer and his brew from criticism on Facebook. Pathirana proclaims that “Even medical professionals arise after persons engaged in other professions have found medicines for some diseases. Subsequently we gave them the name ‘doctor’. Even though Dhammika Bandara maybe a ‘mason baas’ as some people say, if this medicine of his works, he becomes a doctor.”

Prof. Nalin de Silva, Co-Founder of Jathika Chinthanaya (‘National Thinking’), guru of the Derana proprietor and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Myanmar, has posted on his weblog ‘Kalaya’ a lengthy defence of the shaman-medicine man and excoriated ‘Western’ medical science. Minister Wimal Weerawansa too defended the exercise.   

What brings the grotesque character of the whole affair into the starkest relief, is the fact that one of the outstanding medical scientists at the forefront of the global anti-corona campaign is of Sri Lankan origin and very much in touch with Sri Lanka and its medical profession: Dr. Maheshi Ramasamy, a Principal Investigator of the Oxford University’s program with Astra-Zeneca which produced a not-for-profit vaccine especially suitable for the developing world. (The Sunday Times – http://www.sundaytimes.lk/201129/plus/science-and-medicine-were-part-of-my-life-423957.html)

Another top expert is Prof. Kamalini Lokuge, awarded the Medal of Australia in 2020 for her contribution as an epidemiologist in the field of public health responses in humanitarian crises.

Then there’s Prof. Tissa Vitharana, the island’s most senior virologist, who has held top posts in Edinburgh and Melbourne in Virology and Infectious Diseases research. As he discloses: “…this is a virus, but as far as I know, there were no virologists in the committees that were set up…We should have made use of the trained personnel we have, but the idea that it should be done by people with connections is the kind of thinking we have.” 

“It started as a military exercise…But now it is entirely a matter for the health personnel to handle which should be supported by the Army and the Police.” (Daily Mirror)

There in a nutshell is the inherent asymmetry between the irrational model of decision-making of the Gotabaya regime and the rational, scientific imperative regarding the wellbeing of the country. 

Easter carnage, voodoo fogging

There is a voodoo-like effect of fogging of the discussion about the Easter massacre. Several top security and intelligence officials and officers admit that they received the Indian intelligence tip-off but did not raise the alarm nor really did anything much about it, and they seem to get away with that answer. Did they think that the prospect of a terrorist attack was not the sort of thing they were supposed to be dedicated to, and paid a salary for, preventing? 

More dramatically, a news story broke in Beirut and Colombo that the Saudi Embassy had by some intriguing coincidence, strictly cautioned its employees five days before the Easter massacre not to move around during the Easter season. Has that story been fully investigated? Why doesn’t anyone talk about it?

That story, with an embedded video, was as follows: 

Special instructions from Saudi Arabia to Embassy on Easter Attack

Written by Staff Writer 04 May, 2019 | 7:49 PM

COLOMBO (News 1st): Lebanese news outlet Alahed News reports that they have obtained a top-secret document sent by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Saudi Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Abdul Nasser al-Harethi.

The letter which was sent 5 days prior to the attack seems to indicate that the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was aware of the attack that took place on Easter Sunday.

The letter signed by Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim bin Abdul Aziz al-Assaf instructs the Ambassador to carry out the following steps.

“First: You should delete all documents, computer data and latest correspondence with domestic and foreign members and groups, in addition to imposing a curfew for the embassy personnel unless it is necessary.

Second: You should inform all those related to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia including counsellors, security forces and intelligence during the three coming days, especially on the Christian Easter Day, to avoid presence in public and crowded places namely churches.

Third: You should send written news about the Sri Lankan authorities and their viewpoints regularly to this ministry …”

However, 2 days ago the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Sri Lanka advised its nationals to leave Sri Lanka, due to the prevailing situation in the country.

The embassy, in a tweet, said;

“Due to the current security situation in the Republic of Sri Lanka, the embassy advises citizens in Sri Lanka to leave.”

Special instructions from Saudi Arabia to Embassy on Easter Attack (newsfirst.lk) – https://www.newsfirst.lk/2019/05/04/special-instructions-from-saudi-arabia-on-easter-attack/.

Voodoo politics

There’s voodoo ethnopolitics. Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara declared in Parliament that it was President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s mistake not to have banned the TNA after the war ended, and that the TNA’s Sumanithiran should be banned from Parliament. He amplifies it in the State-owned Sunday Observer:

“…They have taken the oath for the territorial integrity of the country. If they discuss with other countries to introduce federalism in our country, it is totally against the oath they have taken. I think former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made a ‘mistake’. He was very sympathetic towards these Tamil politicians. When Hitler was defeated his Nazi political party was destroyed…However, when we defeated the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world, the LTTE’s proxy and political arm, the TNA was not banned. That could have been a ‘mistake’ by the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa because he was sympathetic towards the Tamil politicians. He forgave the Tamil politicians…The TNA is an LTTE proxy…Sumanthiran and other Tamil politicians who are always making hate speeches against the Sinhalese should be banned from coming to Parliament.” (Sunday Observer – http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2020/12/06/opinion/govt-right-track-deal-any-extremism-rear-admiral-retd-sarath-weerasekera)

In a televised statement, Army Commander Shavendra Silva briefed us about a woman who boarded a bus while carrying a claymore mine. He preceded and followed that useful information by stressing that there were efforts to revive the LTTE ideology overseas and “even locally…as we can see from certain things said in certain places”. 

Speaking on 7 December, war-winning Army Commander and SJB parliamentarian Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka deployed factual argumentation as heavy artillery to flatten into rubble Rear-Admiral Sarath Weerasekara’s self-commissioned personality cult, his call for the proscription of the TNA, and his labelling of TNA leaders Sampanthan and Sumanthiran as racists. 

The TNA’s eviction from Parliament could be activated after some peaceful protest against land grabs or an especially powerful speech by Sumanthiran, Ponnambalam, Wigneswaran or Shanakiyan Rasamanikkam (prominent Federal parliamentarian Rasamanikkam’s grandson), a freshman MP who made a searing moral indictment in his debut Budget debate. Ponnambalam and Wigneswaran aren’t TNA, but to Sinhala supremacist ears they all sound alike, and equally uppity. 

The Tamil parties are trapped between the Government’s unilateralism and Delhi’s apparent shift of focus, or priority, from the north-east Tamils to the Eastern Terminal.

A multi-track countervailing response seems strategically logical and likely: 

i) A Tamil United Front, bringing together the able Tamil oppositional parliamentary front-liners, which would facilitate interface with the world community at political, diplomatic and legislative levels. 

ii) A Tamil-speaking United Front incorporating the Muslim parties. 

iii) A self-reliant, self-propelled outreach and worldwide mobilisation – including of Indian political society—through reasonable argumentation and leveraging of emergent new global Tamil influence. 

Only the full weight and reach of the global Tamil community and its new political and social influence at the higher end, rather than the Tiger-cult devotee enclave, can move the needle of decision-making in capitals including Delhi. Blocking the way is The Prabhakaran Trap. No global soft-power battle of narratives for justice, rights, non-discrimination and autonomy, can be credibly fought with the archetypally villainous Velupillai cast as the unconvincing hero of an epic tragedy. 

Voodoo doll democracy

The report of the consultations of the 11th round of diplomatic consultations between China and Sri Lanka confirmed the new dimensional thrust not only in Sino-Lankan relations but also in China’s foreign relations in general:

“…Vice Foreign Minister of China Ambassador Luo Zhaohui said…China stands ready to …continue to implement the consensus reached between the leaders of the two countries, constantly enhance mutual political trust, and strengthen the exchanges of experience in governance and administration of state affairs.” (Daily FT – http://www.ft.lk/news/China-and-Sri-Lanka-hold-new-round-of-diplomatic-consultations/56-709783)

During the great friendship of China’s Premier (and Foreign Minister) Zhou Enlai and Prime Ministers S.W.R.D. and Sirimavo Bandaranaike successively, there was no effort to “strengthen the exchanges of experience in governance and administration of state affairs”. As good friends, Premier Zhou and the Bandaranaikes knew that between the different political systems of the PRC and Ceylon/Sri Lanka—one-party and Asia’s oldest democracy respectively—there could and should be exchanges of experiences in many areas but never in the domain of “governance and administration of state affairs”.

As Asia’s oldest democracy, our political system is and should remain qualitatively different and firewalled from that of China’s one-party, ‘party-state’ system which has served China well. However, does President GR think the two are compatible and convergent to the point of “strengthen[ing] experience of governance and administration of state affairs” (presumably including Hong Kong)? 

The new Chinese doctrine of “Military-Civil Fusion” (MCF), by placing ‘Military’ before ‘Civil’, appears a deviation from Mao’s “mass line” and firm doctrinal insistence that “the Party commands the gun; not the gun, the Party”. MCF appeared just before the Gotabaya Presidency and is curiously similar to the regime-model that President Gotabaya has tried to put in place, with negative social results in our contrasting local context.

The Port City and its Chinese investment are decided pluses under any normal, democratic, non-aligned administration (Mahinda/SLPP or Premadasa/SJB), but when the Gotabaya ‘MCF’ regime model is keyed-in, the three components could morph into a qualitatively different offshore strategic platform with high-tech capability jutting into the Indian Ocean, while of course also acting as financial feeder-funnel and anchor for the power-elite. The regime would provide the garrison for the enclave; the enclave would be backup power-source for the regime.  

The Gotabaya regime’s voodoo paradigm of converting or razing and redeveloping Asia’s oldest democracy bases itself on the belief in China’s irresistible rise and America’s inexorable decline. That’s unwise. 

Firstly, as the Chinese Communist Party enunciated in its Theory of the Three Worlds, when it was at pains to persuade the planet that Moscow was more dangerous than Washington (and succeeded in contributing to the USSR’s demise, helping usher in US unipolarity), it is the rising world power rather than the declining one that tends to be more aggressive and dangerous by virtue of the fact that it is striving to redivide an already divided world. By that logic, if the theory of China’s inexorable rise and America’s inexorable decline is true, it is China rather than the USA that would constitute the greater source of conflict.  

Secondly, the present conjuncture in world affairs is a moment of transition from a waning stage defined by the rise of China and the relative decline of the USA, to a waxing stage defined by the contradiction between China’s assertion and America’s global renewal (aimed at re-ascendancy)–and the working out of that dialectic. 

Will a grand coalition of democracy, envisaged by President-elect Biden as the cutting edge (or strategic ‘Second Front’?) of the planetary contestation of systems and their governing ideas, sit on the sidelines while the flipping of Asia’s oldest democracy into a target-hardened Trumpism or systemic China-clone continues? Or will that democratic coalition rescue Asia’s oldest democracy? 

The answer could demonstrate to the Global South and especially to Asia, who might prevail in a clash of wills. One camp believes a despotic system headed by an Emperor-figure or martial monarch can prevail because it enables the greatest mobilisation and concentration of the greatest willpower. Can democracy prove it wrong? Which system, which political order and idea, has the greater (Nietzschean) “will to power”?  

Sri Lanka is to 21st century Asia what Spain was to pre-WW II 20th century Europe: a point of definition. Colombo is Madrid.

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