Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best



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By Dr Kamal Wickremasinghe


The incumbent regime’s claims to righteousness over the former Rajapaksa government are falling by the way side each passing day. Cases of nepotism and family rule of the Sirisena variety are bad enough to put the Rajapakse regime to shame. In essence, there is no discernible difference between the two governments in terms of their propensity to commit political and national ‘sins’.


The only visible differences between the two dispensations are in the areas of managing the national economy and in the sphere of foreign policy: with many major projects of the Rajapakse era halted on dubious accusations of corruption, the economy seems to be on mogodon (the tranquillizer used in sleeping tablets) at present. The foreign policy is displaying an unimaginable level of irrationality in cosying up to the international forces that are being rejected by most of the developing world. This last evil is even more dangerous for the long-term health of the nation than the episodes of nepotism, corruption and economic decline which could all be temporary in nature whereas escaping the clutch of the neo-colonialists on the country is going to be extremely hard.


Alarm bells first began to ring with the invitation to, and warm reception of, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who stands accused of war crimes in Iraq. It is inconceivable how a government that talks incessantly about the need for "accountability" for actions of its own armed forces during the last stages of the war can cosy up to someone like Blair, who is on record to have ‘wilfully’ caused the deaths of at least half a million Iraqi civilians. It could simply be the inability of the president and the foreign minister to think or they could be motivated by a ‘debt of gratitude’ owed to the British establishment for enabling their political ‘success’. Either way, they shamed the nation by welcoming Blair.


Then came the remark by the neocon agent and US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power last week at a jamboree - the so-called Global Summit of the INGO Open Government Partnership (OGP) held in Monterrey, Mexico, that the Rajapaksa government administration had governed largely through divisiveness and fear and it had persecuted critics. Worse than her remark was the fact that Sri Lanka’s Minister for Justice, Wijayadasa Rajapkse and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Harsha de Silva were there to pay homage to Power (see photo).


Samantha Power complimented the new government, for moving swiftly to stop harassment of "human rights defenders". With her remark, "an access to information law is currently being considered in Parliament", Power showed that she is closely monitoring Sri Lankan politics, at least until next November, the end of the Obama administration. With the shadow of Libyan war crimes hanging over head, her interest on any country can only be described as "unhealthy".


As it always does, minds seeking redress from an unfolding national calamity of this magnitude may benefit from Zen-like dropping of illusions first before attempting to see things without distortion. There is no better way than by visiting history.


A remark by John Adams - America's second president (1797-1801), a man who took as much interest in scholarly meditation on politics as much as its practice, appears highly relevant for those seeking equanimity in the face of such disturbing events. (It is also worth mentioning in passing that Adams was a great improvement from the first US President George Washington, who had no formal education and had only the equivalent of an elementary school education from tutors.) The remark comes from some of Adams’ best writings contained in his exchanges with a Virginia state politician and Senator known as John Taylor of Caroline, debating many subjects ranging from Federalism vs. states’ rights, extending over toweighty introspections such as the nature of men.


In a letter to Taylor, in1814,Adams wrote: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy…. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty." If what Sri Lanka is currently experiencing is a ‘clean’ form of democracy as promised by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe gang it is living proof of Adams’ reflection.


Moving on to the substantive issue of the totally incomprehensible foreign policy of the current government, Sri Lanka’s invitation to and warm reception of Tony Blair was only matched by one other travesty in the history of politics of the developing world; the ridiculous invitation of the late, blind and grossly incompetent Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dor), in 1999, to Henry Kissinger to become political advisor to his government. Interestingly, Gus Dor came to power under not dissimilar circumstances to President Sirisena following the collapse of the Suharto government.


A brief look at Tony Blair’s life and the role he played in British politics from 1994-2007 shows that he was a neocon agent of the kind that epitomises the regressive neo-colonialist that has earned the abhorrence of the developing world. Blair was hand-picked by the international neocon forces to ‘permeate’ the British Labour Party in preparation for the New American Century Project that aimed at ousting all strong leaders in the Middle East. Blair came from nowhere to succeed to the leadership of the Labour Party in July 1994 and set about "modernising" it. The project really meant overhauling the Labour ideology to embrace capitalism and uproot it from its working class and trade unions base. Blair's formula proved outstandingly successful at the 1997 elections, riding a ‘time for change’ factor following four successive Tory governments. He won again with a landslide in 2001 and in 2005 with a smaller majority and remained prime minister until Gordon Brown ousted him in 2007.


Since quitting Downing Street, Blair has devoted his life to money-spinning; his business operation Tony Blair Associates reported revenues of £13m in 2013, collected through "advising" governments and companies. His financial success however, is stained by the unprecedented levels of revulsion of the British people against any previous prime minister: according to a You Gov poll in 2013, half of Britons thought he was a war criminal. Five people have tried to carry out citizen’s arrests on him, including a restaurant waiter, on the grounds that he launched "an unprovoked war against Iraq". A ruffled Blair complained to police: "You order a mixed salad and the waiter tries to arrest you. What can I say?" The satirical magazine Private Eye joked that he is in negotiations with the devil over the sale of his soul, "which he has not needed for some time".


Blair attracts public hostility in Britain due to the dishonest role he played in supporting the US President George W Bush in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the unravelling of Iraq and the chaos that has spread through the Middle East that caused. Much of the distrust springs from the bogus evidence presented to the British public to support the assertion that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction, posing an imminent danger to Britain’s national security.


To be concluded tomorrow


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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