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Maithripala’s inauguration. Jan 9, 2015.

I Can’t Believe I Voted For This Fuckwit

The first time I really heard about Maithripala Sirisena was when his son got arrested for assault. Here’s an infographic:

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  1. Daham Sirisena takes a photo of a naked friend on the beach.
  2. Asela complains that his wife is in the shot.
  3. Daham’s crew of 13 beats the shit out of Asela. And also assaults two policemen that try to intervene.

At the time, “Sirisena promised that the Police would be free to take any action they wished to against his son and his friends.” Which I thought was refreshing from a politician. You could call it an example of good governance.

But it was a lie. He immediately interfered, got his son bailed out quickly, messed with some evidence and got the whole thing hushed up. He made all the right noises and acted selfishly in the end. I disregarded this as out of character when I voted for him, but in hindsight that was his character.

I didn’t hear about him again until he popped out of a car and said that he was running for President.

I next saw him at a campaign forum for business people in Colombo. He gave a short, unremarkable speech and then Ranil Wickremesinghe took over, playing to the Colombo crowd, joking about how he would handle the economy and get us back into international good graces. Maithripala was just sitting there. It seemed a bit embarassing that everybody knew where the real power was. Maithripala didn’t seem to care.

Maithripala was a blank slate. We could project what we wanted onto him. In that campaign, it was three things really — the slogan ‘good governance’, the fact that he wasn’t Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the promise that he would protect minorities. That was essentially his vote base — people who were sick of corruption, people who were scared of Mahinda’s growing power, and minorities.

He was our golem.

A golem is a mythical Jewish creature, a man made of clay. You could animate this creature by putting one of the names of God in its mouth, written on a piece of paper. At first this golem defended the Jews against pogroms, but in most stories it eventually gets out of control.

Ranil essentially made Maithripala out of some innocuous Sinhala clay. He had been around for a while, he didn’t say much, and he seemed like one of the people. Ranil put the words ‘good governance’ into his mouth and Maithripala came to life. But now, as in all the stories, the golem has gone on a rampage.

The first thing Maithripala shredded was good governance, and not being Mahinda. His abortive October coup broke the Constitution in multiple ways, climaxing in a literal physical assault on democracy inside of Parliament, ending with a court ruling his acts illegal. The chief act there was appointing Mahinda Rajapaksa Prime Minister without a majority. Basically the one thing he was elected not to do. So he did that.

The next step was to betray the minorities that voted for him, by throwing the entire Muslim community under the bus after the Easter Attacks. In the face of rising evidence that he had neglected intelligence that could have prevented the attacks, he began encouraging race riots and collective blame of the Muslim community, with the help of his shadow PM Mahinda, hosting riots and fake news in his electorate of Kurunegala.

It was as if the Jewish golem had gone haywire and joined the Nazis. He was doing everything we elected him not to do. And made his voters look like fools. Indeed, the whole liberal democratic idea now looks stupid and naive, because what did it produce? An idiotic, destructive golem, worse even than a competent dictator.

Would I go back and do it again? I don’t know. I really don’t know. Knowing what I know now, it feels like obviously not, fuck him, but Mahinda was still pretty bad. It’s like choosing whether you want to get shot or stabbed. Stabbed I guess?

I don’t know. I was wrong, but nothing was right. And nothing is right. I wish we could just vote NO next time and get rid of the Executive Presidency entirely.

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He/him. Videos: and podcast:

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