The Democratic Socialist Republic of Absurdistan

| by Tisaranee Gunasekara
“….Cicero’s tongue will have to be torn out, Copernicus’s eyes gouged out, and Shakespeare stoned. That is my system.”
Dostoyevsky (The Possessed)
( December 6, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) With the speed of lightening and without as much as a nano-ripple, the Rajapaksa regime removed Neville Gunawardana, the ‘crime-busting’ Director General of the Customs. 
Mr. Gunawardana had commenced an investigation into the alleged illegal doings of nine dummy-companies; a warehouse in Gampaha was raided and sealed. The suspect-companies obviously enjoy Rajapaksa patronage, because the Treasury ordered the Customs to halt the investigation, immediately. The story leaked to the media. The regime ordered the CID to probe the leak and transferred the Customs boss to the Treasury. 

Under despotic rule, the absurd and the impossible become ‘the new normal’ while the pre-despotic normal becomes both absurd and impossible.

In removing the Customs boss, the Rajapaksas displayed the same degree of abusive-impunity they did in removing the five-decade old newspaper stands in the Fort. The Customs boss inconvenienced Rajapaksa-governance while the newspaper stands cramped Rajapaksa-style; so both were ousted arbitrarily, in total violation of natural justice.
That is how the Rajapaksas like to rule – with absolute opacity, unaccountability and arbitrariness. That is why they replaced the 17thAmendment with the 18th Amendment. 
The Rajapaksas never hesitate to bite hands that help them. Today the Siblings are using the powers they gained from the 18th Amendment against the very judiciary which gave that anti-democratic law a free-passage. Tomorrow they will use the subjugated courts against those very parliamentarians who are helping them to asphyxiate judicial independence via the impeachment.
A politically successful impeachment will open the portal to other measures which are unjust to the point of absurdity. For instance, a constitutional amendment empowering the president to deal with an inconvenient chief justice in the same arbitrary way the Treasury dealt with an inconvenient Customs boss and the UDA dealt with inconvenient newspaper vendors. Once such an amendment is in place, money and time need not be wasted on impeachment travesties, nor effort expended on transporting bought-and-paid-for demonstrators to Colombo. 
In that perfect (and not-too-distant) future, an inconvenient chief justice can be removed by the simple expedient of a Presidential decree, signed in between lecturing to students about ethics at the Mahinda Rajapaksa Conventional Centre and ordering the police to free a ministerial offspring arrested for ducking the AG in the ornamental pond outside the Mahinda Rajapaksa Superior Courts Complex. A tiny news item will inform about the change to a public which by that time would have become inured to every idiocy and lunacy of Rajapaksa Rule. 
Once Namal Rajapaksa PC is appointed chief justice, eternal harmony will dawn between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, all headed by Rajapaksas (except for an occasional family-spat).
Absurd? Yes. Impossible? Not really, not more impossible than the contrasting fates of the war-winning army commander, the current chief justice and the one-time Tiger financial-czar; or the Rajapaksa-occupation of the state; or Mihin Air….. 
Under despotic rule, the absurd and the impossible become ‘the new normal’ while the pre-despotic normal becomes both absurd and impossible.
The Despotic Normal
            The Onion’ describes itself as ‘America’s finest news source’. Its latest news items include such gems as ‘Romney locks self in Oval Office during White House Visit’ and ‘Congress Arrested on Manslaughter Charges’.
            Satirical publications such as ‘The Onion’ belong in a world which accepts humour, a world in which the absurd is just that – the absurd. But in places where political humour is a crime and absurd is the ‘new normal’, news, a laThe Onion’ can seem the real thing. So when ‘The Onion’ named North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un ‘The Sexiest Man alive for 2012”, the story was reproduced by China’s People’s Daily as a serious news item. Clearly the deciders at the People’s Daily did not see anything funny in ‘The Onion’s’ following description of North Korea’s baby-despot: “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, boyish charm and his strong sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion-sense, chic short hairstyle and, of course, that famous smile….” 
            The People’s Daily didn’t get the joke because in Beijing one does not joke about politics or politicians. In any case, ‘news’ disseminated by Pyongyang’s official news agency, KCNA, are far more fantastic than anything ‘The Onion’ can conjure. For instance, Grandson Kim, known as the ‘Great Successor’ and a ‘great person born of heaven’ has taught flying to pilots and music to the military band, according to the KCNA. Recently North Korea, which depends on international handouts to feed its people, carved the slogan ‘Long Live Gen. Kim Jong-un, the Shinning Sun’ on a hillside in Ryanggang province in letters huge enough to be visible from space. According to KCNA, archaeologists of the History Institute of the Academy of Social Sciences have discovered the lair of a unicorn believed to have been ridden by an ancient Korean king, proving that Pyongyang and not Seoul was the capital of that long-ago and glorious empire. This momentous discovery was made thanks to “a rectangular rock carved with words ‘Unicorn Lair’” (KCNA – 29.11.2012). Doubtless carved by the unicorn, as a sign to the dragon next door and the occasional visiting phoenix. 
            Rajapaksa Sri Lanka is not there, yet. These are still early days (the Kims have been around for decades). But if ‘The Onion’ names any Rajapaksa, ‘The Sexiest Man alive for 2013’, one can imagine with what glee the Daily News and the SLBC will reproduce the story! And a local artist-turned-amateur-historian has already traced the Rajapaksa lineage all the way to Prince Siddhartha through King Dutugemunu! 
            In the meantime, the impeachment, which did seem absurdly impossible just two months ago, is moving ahead like a bullet-train flattering everything in its path, starting with the judiciary. After Monday’s black comedy, whatever illusions there existed about the justice of the impeachment has vanished. The penultimate veil was torn asunder by the anti-judiciary protestors who played their shameful role, shamelessly, with the full backing of the police and UPFA ministers; the final veil was ripped apart by the UPFA members of the Parliamentary Select Committee, who, with a shamelessness which rivalled that of the bought-demonstrators, used their enormous majority to turn down the CJ’s fair request for an open or an observed trial.
The unseemly haste with which the impeachment is being conducted is probably dictated by astrological needs. Perhaps there is an auspicious time for the new CJ to be sworn in, a favourable arrangement of stars which gives the new CJ a life-time immunity from germs of honour or self-respect.
The Rajapaksas do not care that with their frenzied attacks on the judiciary, they are destroying public faith in the rule of law. They do not care that such loss of faith will cause more and more people to act outside the law. They do not care that they are encouraging not just crime but also acts of vigilante justice and that this path will end in power-abuse at the top and mob-rule at the bottom.
            They will call that anarchic Sri Lanka a hub of law and a haven of justice.

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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