“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.” – Brutus, in Julius Caesar, Act 4
Winning on falser patriotism
Cindy Lee Miller Sheehan is an American-born anti-war activist whose son, U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan was killed by enemy action during
the Iraqi War. She attracted national and international media attention in August 2005 for her extended anti-war protest at a makeshift camp outside President George W Bush’s Texas ranch—a stand that drew both passionate support and angry criticism. At the time President Bush, after winning a second term, beating John Kerry-a Vietnam Veteran and a war hero himself-was running high on a platform of false patriotism.
In the case of Bush-Kerry Presidential race of 2004 that Bush managed to win, well-oiled campaign machinery steered by Carl Rove and the right-wing Republicans ran advertisement after advertisement denigrating the Vietnam Vet into a “traitor” because he openly criticized the Vietnam policy of the Nixon administration. John Kerry told the truth as he saw it, whilst George Bush who was awol (absent without leave) during the Vietnam War was portrayed as a savior of the American people. On what did they build that image? George Bush was the President when the World Trade Center was attacked by the Al Qaida terrorists on 9/11. Bush addressing the first responders through a loud hailer orchestrated so beautifully and the lingo used by him was so suggestive with the “cowboy hero” vernacular that this particular video clip was played over and over again for the very gullible electorate in the 2004 Presidential Elections.
Sarath risked his life for the country
Now just juxtapose these very characters with Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka and behold, what do you get? It is Bush strategy all over
again. But Mahinda went not one but many steps further: He took his rival into custody, filed many plaints against him; instituted court marshal proceedings and found him guilty and incarcerated the General who risked his life many times for the sake of winning the war against the LTTE. Many more court actions are yet pending. In fairness to Bush, he did not do any of those things, for USA is not Sri Lanka, where accountability and transparency are not mere words but solid principles enshrined and entrenched in the system and the constituency more educated and alert.
Wave of liberalism
Coming back to Cindy Sheehan, she did not cause the Republican loss in 2008 by herself, alone. But she certainly added impetus to a movement that contributed towards the enhancement of public awareness of a bad policy of the government. She was one catalyst that generated a wave of liberalism throughout America, giving birth to Air America radio stations that made some very liberal-minded radio broadcasts and allowed a group of TV journalists to blossom as leading voices of the ordinary people. They became immensely sought after not only by the liberal politicians but by some very liberal-minded public. The result was the crushing defeat of the Republicans in the US Congress in 2006 and a resounding victory for Barak Obama in 2008, the first black President of the United States of America. The American voter showed that one can be patriotic whilst being very critical of the government in power.
If one followed Hirunika Premachandra’s TV interview that was aired on Sirasa TV in the second week of November, 2011, one cannot but admire her posture, her candidness, her sense of politics and her courage. In an interview which lasted nearly nineteen minutes, she identified the main ingredients that are essential for election to parliament and any other elective local body in the present context. According to her, they are: 1. Money, 2. Thug-power and 3. Television exposure. Hirunika could not have been more accurate in her assessment. She also said that the modern-day Parliament is packed with articulate jokers! With the likes of Mervyn Silva and Rohitha Abeygoonawardena (Rattaran), Wimal Weerawansa and Mahindananda Aluthgamage crowding the isles on the government side, Hirunika is right again. She further added that no politics in Sri Lanka is possible without thuggery.
However, she reposed confidence in the CID and the Police. When asked if she had a Plan B, she stated that if she sees no light at the end of the tunnel with regard to her father’s killing, she would seek International assistance in the investigations, thereby making the murder of her father a matter for the International community. She said that when that happens, she would be branded as traitor, but for the sake of her father she would wear that badge. She maintains that apart from the Opposition, out of all government politicos only Vasudeva Nanayakkara is making a case for her.
But the real tragedy is the most lackadaisical approach that the United National Party is taking towards this tragedy. True, it should not leave any room for its opposing parties to paint a picture of an exploiter of tragic episodes in politics, yet to waste this opportunity as a potential time-bomb to
create disunity among the government coalition partners is a dismal failure in identifying explosive issues, especially issues that appeal to the broad masses. The craftiness and guile of J R Jayewardene was abundantly evident in the seventies when he handled the superficial ruptures in the then Coalition Government, playing both sides against the middle specially in the tussle between Anura Bandaranaike and N M Perera led-left-wing parties. J R’s political astuteness ultimately paved the way for superficial differences leading to a full-blown rupture of the 1970 coalition government of the Sirimavo clan.
Ranil Wickramasinghe should be, at least on paper, capable of such political cunning and tact but somehow he seems to have focused all his energies on how to retain his mantle of the Party that he leads and that of the Opposition. The country’s woes are further worsened by the in-fighting in the JVP too. This works beautifully to buttress Mahinda Rajapaksa’s position and dull the thinking of the masses to sheer apathy. The potential of Hirunika is immense, not only in terms of how she could be projected as an independently-thinking budding politician, but also in terms of the advantage that she could impart to the anti-regime endeavors. She is not our Aung San Suu Kyi or Corazon Aquino, but certainly she could be our Cindy Sheehan, if only the Opposition handles the aftermath of the assassination of Bharatha Lakshman Premachnadra with intelligence and tact.
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