Gota – the Necessary Evil
Nanda Wanninayaka firstname.lastname@example.org
The controversial former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, considered a moron by the West and the rest of the sensible world died a few weeks ago. Had Mugabe stepped down after two or three maximum presidential terms gracefully, he would have gone down in the history as a legendary leader who saved Zimbabwe from the imperialists. But it was not to be due to his extreme greed for power. He opted not to leave the office till his death, but, as in the cases of most of the similar despots at the end, he was dispatched home by the protesting citizens and the army. Till that, there was no sign of Mugabe relinquishing power even after ruling the country for 37 long years with manipulated and rigged elections.
The same fate could have befallen on our own former president Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR,) had he won the 2015 election and went on being the undisputed leader of the country till his death or till his three sons became old enough to contest the presidential elections. So, he should thank the voters and Maithripala Sirisena (MS) for opening an early (and quite a decent one for that matter,) exit from the Temple Trees which the former never expected.
This does not mean MR’s own younger brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR) will not be suitable for the job as the next president. He was ruthless in crushing the Tamil Tiger terrorists and winning the Civil War. It took him only three years to finish the war which could not be won for nearly three decades by different governments since 1983. Instead, many people say, the leaders of Sri Lanka were neither bold enough to take the bull by horns nor had the strength to ignore the growing pressure by India and some countries in the West. Besides, there were rumors that the army big guns and politicians heavily profited from the war. Some former leaders were even accused of providing funds and weapons to the terrorists. Gota managed to fight against all odds and win the war which was unimaginable before 2009.
The near success of brutal crushing of the underworld too is attributed to Gota. One might not be happy with extra judiciary killings of the underworld dark lords but it was the need of the hour as everyone knows that a long extended legal process to bring the criminals of the underworld to the book has not helped reducing thuggery and extorting money from the businessmen who are a needed class in developing the country.
Gota’s involvement of war against drug kingpins is disputed. Some say that he reduced it and some accuse him of associating the big drug kingpins. Gota posing for photographs with some of those alleged drug dealers are also freely available.
They say Gota was even more ruthless in making the country beautiful through the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development in which he was the all-powerful secretary. Making the country clean was something none of the previous governments could even dreamt of doing as it becomes opening a can of worms because any government would face rigid resistance from the illegal dwellers of the cities, especially in Colombo.
If it was the right way Gota controlled free media, especially even after the war was over, is highly questionable. But for some reason, it was part and parcel of the game that Gota was playing and he never took any chances in terms of a possible revival of the Tamil Tigers and those who sympathized with them. I am sure a lot of atrocities might have happened against the journos even if none of the cases was proved in a court of law which is too big an ask under the conditions prevailed.
This country needs a benevolent dictator and Gota would be the ideal (and the best available) choice if he survives all the investigations going against him on the charges of corruption, human rights violations and war crimes. I know I am making myself unpopular here but this is the way I see it. We need a strong charismatic leader who can take bold decisions to develop Sri Lanka. (I do not have to waste my time and that of yours who have already read how Europe got rid of its feudal kings and got the benevolent dictators to rule the countries and then finally got the elected democratic leaders to rule.)
As the legendary cricketer, Muttiah Muraltharan once said, Sri Lanka had other priorities after the war than good governance and democracy. I too subscribe to the same sentiment as this country had to be made suitable for those two elements and it would have been easier for a next leader to prioritize good governance if and when the country was ready for it. By 2015, the country was still not ready to recognize good governance as its first priority. There were other burning issues such as poverty, ignorance, cost of living, infrastructure development, etc. that the citizens looked up to the government to engage in.
While the country needs to ensure a long term and a permanent peace for the businesses to thrive, freedom to invest, pleasant environment to attract foreign tourists, etc. the present government was embarked on good governance which was too big an ask with the UNP’s history of corruption from the top to bottom. The huge scandal of the daylight robbery of the Central Bank by manipulating the treasury bonds even before the new government’s 100-day-development-plan completed its term tells the story better. There were some court proceedings and the culprits were in remand prisons for some time but nobody expects that the looted money would be returned to the treasury nor the offenders would be punished.
When it comes to beautifying the country, the present government has failed big time as they failed even to continue what Gota had initiated. Within a few weeks of coming to the power, hawkers reclaimed their illegal spots in Pettah and other parts of the city and it ended up with whole Colombo started stinking without a proper garbage disposal plan.
As per the Under World, the drug kingpins, extortionists and bounty hunters returned to the island who left the country during Gota’s time and started their activities with almost no resistance from the present government. Every now and then a businessman is killed due to extortion or gang rivalry. We do not know how high the extortion figures are, as it is only when a businessman is killed that such activities are exposed. Most businessmen might be paying ransoms without informing the police. Country is never safe and businessmen do not want to take risks in investing which apparently reflect on share market too. The GDP growth which was around 7% died down to mere 1.6% and Sri Lanka is ranked only above Afghanistan in the South Asian region in terms of GDP growth which is a shame as all good work of the former regime were undone by the present government that promised “good governance.” People genuinely felt that former regime’s “bad governance” was better than the newly introduced fake good governance.
Easter Sunday Attacks well-exposed how weak our intelligence units, police and three-forces had been. Once formidable forces were on their knees when those heinous terrorist attacks rocked the country as the police, military and intelligence units had been made paralyzed by the tomfoolery of the present government that promoted good governance and reconciliation and totally neglected the national security.
We all know that there can be many a skeleton in Gota’s closet. Who hasn’t, in the political sphere? This is something common to the whole of South Asia, Africa and South America. Leaders are either corrupt, human rights violators or in short, despots. We have the agony of choice when different political parties field their candidates for elections. But what can we do under the circumstances? Importing a democratic leader from North Europe? No, you will have to select the best out of the worst. Under these conditions, I would say, Gota is the necessary evil to run the country with all the odds against him and at any cost to the people.