Kleptocrats Strike Again

Let there be no doubt – the Rajapaksas will not shy away from even the most extreme measure, to appease their land-hunger. After all, who would have thought that the Siblings are planning to grab the land on which the Hulftsdorf courts complex is located (and has been located for over a century)? According to a government decision, “the entire court complex…will be…relocated to another area” (Ceylon Today – 2.2.2012). The land can then be ‘developed’ and sold/leased, probably to a Chinese company. Once the land-grabbing Bill is through, even private lands will become vulnerable to such arbitrary treatment.

l by Tisaranee Gunasekara

“A season of brutal hypocrisy…” Anatole France (Monsieur Bergeret in Paris)

The draconian land-grabbing Bill is back.
(February 05, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The resurrected Bill empowers the regime to acquire any piece of land, anywhere, by the simple expedient of declaring it of economic, social, historical or environmental import or as a sacred area. The first attempt at enacting the Bill failed because the Supreme Court refused to rule on it. Land is a devolved subject constitutionally, and the Rajapaksas, in their hurry (and arrogance), had not bothered to refer the Bill to the provincial councils.
That failure is being righted: “Provincial Councils are expected to give their consent to the proposed Town and Country Planning Ordinance Amendment before February 8 … The Bill would be presented to Parliament next Wednesday (Daily Mirror – 1.2.2012).
Those Provincial Councils controlled by Rajapaksa acolytes will assent to this Bill – or any other Rajapaksa order – with slavish alacrity. Since the Northern Provincial Council is in abeyance, if the Eastern Provincial Council does not put up a fight, this ultra draconian Bill will become law, ere long.
Once the Bill is through, the Rajapaksas will be able to expropriate any land, from North to South, from East to West. No Lankan, Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, will be safe from their rapacious tentacles. The poor man’s few perches and the rich man’s many acres will be endangered alike.
Let there be no doubt – the Rajapaksas will not shy away from even the most extreme measure, to appease their land-hunger. After all, who would have thought that the Siblings are planning to grab the land on which the Hulftsdorf courts complex is located (and has been located for over a century)? According to a government decision, “the entire court complex…will be…relocated to another area” (Ceylon Today – 2.2.2012). The land can then be ‘developed’ and sold/leased, probably to a Chinese company. Once the land-grabbing Bill is through, even private lands will become vulnerable to such arbitrary treatment.
Already the Rajapaksas are grabbing lands belonging to the poor and the powerless – from Kalpitiya fishermen to Anuradhapura farmers, from the Northern displaced to the peasants of Hambantota and Moneragala – with no compensation. These lands are being used to build military camps, expressways, car parks and tourist hotels. The Bill is needed to subject the middle classes and the rich, to the same unjust and arbitrary treatment, legally.
The Bill will also provide the Rajapaksas with a deadly weapon against political enemies and ordinary voters. During the recent CMC elections, parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa issued a thinly veiled threat to Colombo’s poor – they will be evicted from their homes if they do not vote for the UPFA. Once the land-grabbing Bill is through, that threat can become a reality, in Colombo, and everywhere else.
Since the Bill presents a common danger, it can be used to unite people of all communities and political-hues. The regime will present the Bill as a pro-development and anti-devolution measure, to render impossible this possible North-South unity.
Will the JVP fall for this ruse? Will the UNP overcome its debilitating divisions to oppose this tyrannical measure? After all, the Bill will be used to punish UNP and JVP activists and voters as well. Will the TNA be able to convince Delhi to put a spoke in this deadly Rajapaksa-wheel, because the land-grabbing Bill, if enacted, will make a mockery of the 13th Amendment, just as it will make a mockery of democracy?
13th Amendment Minus, Minus, Minus…
According to Minister Basil Rajapaksa, the regime has “no plans to allocate land and police powers to the provinces” (Sri Lanka Mirror – 26.1.2012). Naturally; how can the Rajapaksas sustain their financially-encumbered administration and continue with their showy projects, if they do not have monarchical power over all Lankan lands, public and private?
Perhaps the Rajapaksas delayed resurrecting the land-grabbing bill because they needed to enact their customary pro-devolution drama for the benefit of the visiting Indian Foreign Minister.
Did the Rajapaksas don their Bonapartist-mask and pretend that they are committed to 13th Amendment plus, but need time to pacify Sinhala hardliners baying at their heels? Did Mr. Krishna really believe the Rajapaksas or was he too playacting, for the benefit of the Tamil Nadu voters?
According to the ‘Official Government News Portal of Sri Lanka’, Minister Krishna said, “it was heartening to hear from the Sri Lankan President that he was committed to solving Sri Lanka’s national problem based on the 13th Amendment plus approach” (News.lk – 17.1.2012). This statement was made in the presence of Minister G. L. Peiris; if Mr. Krishna misquoted the President, Minister Peiris could have corrected him. There was no such correction, then or later.
Now the President says he never promised 13+ to Minister Krishna: “Oh, No! How can I make promises like that? I have referred the issue to Parliament” (The Island – 30.1.2012). The Rajapaksa plan seems to be to stage another Parliamentary Select Committee charade, even as the land-grabbing Bill is enacted. Eventually a powerless senate will be offered to the minorities, the real purpose of which will be to provide an expensive political-retirement home for those Rajapaksa acolytes past their use-by date.
The land-grabbing Bill is important because it is proof-positive that Rajapaksa actions are motivated solely by Rajapaksa needs. The Rajapaksas are not centrists doing a difficult balancing-act to stay on the middle-ground. They are the real extremists, because their project of Familial Rule cum Dynastic Succession is inimically antithetical to both democracy and devolution.
The Ruling Family’s political project requires individuals and institutions willing to obey unquestioningly every Rajapaksa dictat, including anti-democratic and unlawful ones. This in turn necessitates a police and a judiciary ready to protect those law-breakers who are members/acolytes of the Ruling Family. The other basic Rajapaksa political requirements include an elections commissioner who will ignore blatant violations of elections laws, a bribery commissioner and a human rights commissioner who will turn a blind eye to the criminal deeds of power-wielders, a central bank governor who will manufacture statistics to prove every Rajapaksa claim and a military which will protect Rajapaksa Rule, even against the constitution.
None of this is compatible with democracy or devolution. But all are necessary for Familial Rule and Dynastic Succession.
Therefore the Rajapaksas replaced the 17th Amendment with the 18th Amendment, turning independent commissions into presidential appendages. Therefore the President took over the AG’s Department. Therefore Ajith Nivad Cabral rules the Central Bank. Therefore the Freedom of Information Act was killed. Therefore a variety of means are used to silence the media which tells the country what the Siblings do not want the country to hear.
Those officials who do not want to play along will be compelled to resign honourably, as the Human Rights Commissioner did. The Rajapaksas want absolute power and absolute control. They will lie and deceive, cheat and cajole, buy and bribe, kill and imprison to achieve these interrelated goals. Their first victims may be those who oppose and expose their dynastic project. But no citizen, however apolitical, will be safe from their kleptocratic-tentacles, as the land-grabbing Bill demonstrates. Vellupillai Pirapaharan was the objective-enemy of Tamil people; the Rajapaksas are the objective-enemy of Lankan people.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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