The Long Coup

Smart facism vs. dumb democracy

Sri Lanka has an election in less than three weeks, but it’s unclear who’s in opposition. After a coup attempt last October, Humpty Dumpty was never put back together. The government remains divided and both sides are essentially running against it.

This is a classic playbook really. Hitler first tried a coup and then took power legitimately, through elections. It’s a particular sort of cancer that democracies are vulnerable to and you can see facism vs. doe-eyed democracy all over the world.

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s happening here.

A Quick Recap

In October, the President switched sides. He appointed an opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, and publicly spoke about how MPs were hard to bribe these days. When they couldn’t buy a majority, they physically attacked MPs and Police in Parliament and tried to prevent it from functioning.

After street protests and a court ruling this was finally rolled back, but not completely. The President, who was a criminal at this point, was not impeached, and he and the Rajapaksas went on to sabotage the country over the next year.

The Terrorist Attack

Despite having to give Parliament back, the President retained military control and took over the police. Which still sounds like a coup…

With that he proceeded to shut down an investigation into extreme Islamic terrorism, jailing the lead investigator. He then centralized and buried all the incoming intelligence and, somewhat predictably, a terrible attack happened in April. If this sounds like a conspiracy, please read the Parliament committee investigation, which is actually worse.

In response, the Rajapaksas and his own party unleashed a set of anti-Muslim mob attacks — where perpetrators were bailed out by Dayasiri, the President’s party secretary. The President also pardoned the main instigator of racist riots, who went on to more incitement and contempt of court.

At the same time, rumors of attacks on schools circulated — backed by no intelligence in particular. However, troops were deployed at schools across the country, with the tragic result of one parent actually being killed. This was in effect part of a campaign to aggravate rather than settle fears.

The Results

The coup itself caused the rupee to tumble and resulted in a wave of tourist cancellations. This was a hit to our democracy, but also the economy. The criminal neglect leading to the Easter Attacks then delivered a knockout punch, reducing tourism to almost zero and cutting economic activity nearly in half.

Leading up to elections, the SLPP also organized protests by doctors, railways workers and retired soldiers — crippling hospitals, transportation and blocking the streets.

The Election

This is all leading up to the November election. The SLPP has successfully attacked national security and the economy and is now campaigning on a promise to fix both. Perhaps by attacking them less when they’re in power. It is a bit like someone breaking your window and showing up with a pane of glass, and a bill.

This ongoing sabotage of a nation for political power is wrong, but somewhat predictable when there were zero consequences for the illegal acts of the coup. The President wasn’t impeached and the politicians who assaulted police in Parliament were never punished. So in effect they tried again. They are running a candidate for President and assaulting the country.

Not punished for the coup, they are instead looking for a reward.

The Opposition?

In the face of this, the fellowship of the thing is broken. The UNP is running a rebel candidate from within its ranks and the conscience of the nation, the JVP, is running independently. Civil society / good governance types are running a former general and dozens of other candidates have emerged — almost all on the democratic side (as opposed to Rajapaksatarian).

Sajith Premadasa is the most viable candidate and also somehow opposition because the Prime Minister hates him, but he is still tied to a party that is tied to the ongoing wreckage of the coup. And yet it is hard to give another mandate for ‘good governance’ when the last attempt went to so badly.

And yet you have to ask why that was. The fact is that the government was going mediocrely, until the SLPP staged the coup. Then it was going badly, until they made it tragic with ongoing sabotage of national security and the economy.

I don’t know who’s in government, but I do know that I oppose the attacks on our democracy, security and economy by the SLPP. I’ll never vote for the SLPP, because they are a fundamentally anti-democratic party trying to break a democracy.

So that leaves the JVP and the UNP. Honestly, I wish it was just those two running. Then it would be a choice between two very different ideas of governance, rather than just between people. So of those two, I dunno, choose whatever you want. You have three preference votes (vote as 1,2 or 1,2,3 — but not Xs) so you can actually vote for both.

But please don’t vote to legitimize the coup. These criminals who should be in jail are now visiting jails saying that even more criminals will be released. The people that crippled are national security are running on national security, those who attacked the economy are running on reviving it. It’s hard to see when the sabotage has been so thorough, but it shouldn’t be rewarded.

It’s been a long coup. Please help end it in November.

Indi Samarajiva is a writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sign up for my newsletter at www.indi.ca, and you can reach me at indi@indi.ca.

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