The “Good News,” “Bad News” Message In The 2012 Victory Parade
Let me give you the ‘good news’ first. The Presidential message, sans the usual bombast but replete with similar half-truths, was very mild in comparison with what one has come to expect from previous teleprompter-aided orations from Our Beloved Leader (OBL).
Some unkind souls have suggested that this is thanks to the US (and perhaps India) telling the Rajapaksa government to turn down the volume.
But the piece de resistance of the good news scenario was a really well-managed segment: presentations of honours to the families of those who had paid the supreme sacrifice on the battlefield.
Dignified and sans the usual touches of the nouveau-riche-wedding-of-poor-taste one has come to expect from anything that this regime puts together; their own celebrations included.
Now let me lead you into the ‘bad news’ part of the day.
There can’t be too many people around in the Miracle of Asia who can remember the huge displays of military might in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics after World War II.
The few who are old enough to recall what were then and, probably, still are mind-boggling displays of every kind of armament would certainly have experienced a sense of déjà vu as they watched the May 19th parade on Galle Face Green.
Armoured personnel carriers, jet fighters and, in the adjacent waters of the Indian Ocean, naval craft with state-of-the-art weaponry were all on display, not to mention, literally, thousands of uniformed members of the various armed forces.
All of this to what purpose, one might well ask?
Unlike the USSR in the late ‘Forties’ and after, we are not in the midst of a Cold War where we have to shore up the self-confidence of our own people and display our military might to an identified enemy, present or potential. Was such a demonstration required to serve warning on any reborn Tiger entity that may be foolhardy enough to launch an armed struggle for Eelam or any similar chimeric dream any time soon? I think not, that is not within the realm of credibility.
Could this be construed as a warning to our rather large neighbor, India, that displayed its lack of gratitude for our friendship by supporting the U.S-sponsored resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva that asked us to do exactly what our Rajapaksa-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee recommended? I rather doubt that even the Wimal Weerawansas of this intellectually-challenged lot would subscribe to such an idiotic (and dangerous) gesture.
Could this be, by an outside chance, an attempt to show North Korea that not only are we in the process of borrowing much of the terminology with which it describes its leaders but that we are well on the way to replicating what has progressed beyond an experiment in social engineering in that country? As tempting as such a theory might be, given its basis in demonstrated examples, I think not.
I think a more likely reason for the monumental waste of scarce public resources in this kind of a military extravaganza lies significantly closer to home.
In this case, it doesn’t require a crystal ball, the ingestion of hallucinogenic substances, the services of a Temple Trees-based soothsayer or the input of a truly genius-level reader of public events. What it needs is an examination of events, current and forthcoming, in the Miracle of Asia.
Let me suggest a scenario that is, as that old Harry Belafonte calypso had it, “as clear as mud as it covered the ground.”
The simplest way to intimidate a civilian population, whether Tamil, Sinhala, Muslim or ‘other’ is to place before it in very obviously symbolic terms weapons and those wielding them with which it has been familiar, not merely in the abstract but in the most horribly practical.
After thirty years of brutal, gruesome violence EVERY man, woman and child in this country is familiar not only with weapons of every description but with what they mean in the most practical of terms.
We are not people in a western democracy whose knowledge of armed conflict is restricted to some Sylvestor Stallone Rambo or Muscles from Brussels in action.
This is a population that has experienced war and terrorism at its most horrific in its villages, in its temples and mosques and on its most humble streets.
It knows that “power comes out of a barrel of a gun,” not just metaphorically but literally!
The imminent release of Sarath Fonseka, irrespective of the terms on which such an event may occur, could well have given a population that has given up any belief in the potential for regime change by democratic means, a glimmer of hope for some form of salvation by other means.
After all, he did speak loudly and clearly to a readiness to take on our Royal Family and destroy them during his initial foray into Presidential politics.
Let me digress at this point to draw attention to some very simple realities of recent times.
1) The first election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as President was only made possible by a ‘deal’ between his campaign team and the late unlamented Velupillai Prabhakaran who, for payment of a very substantial sum of money, ensured that no Tamils in the territory controlled by him would vote (for Ranil Wickremesinghe), thus ensuring Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election. Not to put a fine point on it that election was bought.
2) Every single election since has been riddled with corruption, the application of national resources simply to ensure the election of members of the Rajapakse coalition and every form of violence and undemocratic behaviour that has made any description of those events as ‘free and fair’ nothing but a blatant lie.
3) As additional insurance, the results of the last Presidential election were ‘channeled’ in a very unorthodox manner so that they would pass through other hands before reaching the elections commissioner.
4) If the message of all of that institutionalized anti-democratic behaviour wasn’t accurately read by the voting public, every outrage of the Mervin Silvas, the Muttuhettigamas, the Duminda Silvas, the Aluthgamages and their ilk had the seal of approval of those that mattered. The message that ‘might was right’ and that the ‘might,’ wielded by the current junta, was only disregarded at peril to life and limb.
In the circumstances, it would only be logical that those elements of the public that held the belief that a democratic system of government was best for all of us, would be tempted to seek a change in rulers by non-electoral means.
The release of Sarath Fonseka as a result of offshore pressure could well have provided a springboard for such an attempt.
The display of military might on the 19th of May must surely have put paid to any such pipe dream! If it didn’t, the government can rest assured that any such attempt will be led by an element of the population that has taken leave of its senses and can well be left to simply twist in the wind.
In the circumstances, what might one expect as relief from the horrendous plunder that promises to proceed apace? I would suggest a disintegration of this nation as it buckles under a level of corruption truly without precedent.
That corruption is already resulting in monumental inefficiency in every developmental activity and the provision of every conceivable public service.
Everything will grind to a halt. It is not likely to happen overnight but it surely will.
We will all be victims, the anointed later in the day. But it will happen and even the Robbing Hoods will pay the price, though later.
Citizen Silva (and I don’t mean Mervin) will suffer first but the affluent plunderers will also do so ultimately. The display of military might can do nothing to change that reality. It will only postpone a logical denouement to a sequence of inevitable events, events that OBL and his minions have to take sole and complete responsibility for.