Photo of Salley in more connected days via BT Options
The chutzpah of this government knows no bounds. Every government since Independence has had to balance placating Sinhala nationalists (AKA racists) while at the same time actually running a sensible, inclusive nation that doesn’t send minority citizens, capital and foreign investment fleeing. Basically, they’ve had to pay lip service to nationalists while at the same time trying to run an actual nation. Every government has also generally failed, SWRD being killed by a nationalist monk and everyone after almost losing the country to various rebellions. In that context Mahinda is actually doing a better job by virtue of not being dead and not losing control of the country. But he’s still not doing a good job.
The difference is that Mahinda is operating from a position of relative security and he won’t use it to actually shore up the long term strength of the nation. Mahinda doesn’t have to depend on Sinhala nationalists for a tenuous, explosive and corrosive sort of power. But he coddles them nonetheless. For every other leader it’s been a sort of Faustian bargain which killed or maimed them in the end. Mahinda seems to be doing it cause he actually agrees with the devil a bit.
Take his government’s response to recent anti-Muslim sentiment. Under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act and various wartime laws, incitement of hate along ethnic lines is a crime. However, in practice, this rarely applies to attacks on minorities, it’s actually used against minorities more than anything. Hence you get the BBS group actually practicing hate speech against Muslims and they get tacit government and police support. Meanwhile a Muslim population who has spoken out is arrested under the same laws, ostensibly for saying something ‘inciteful’ in an Indian mag, but – according to DBS Jeyaraj – also for calling Mahinda’s wife a beauty queen. Which she was, but I think he said it disparagingly.
Whatever the soap opera politics behind it, the result is a very clear message. Racists are protected, those who speak out against them are not. And I haven’t even started on Duminda Silva. This kingdom grows more and more unjust and brazen by the day.