A Government driven by Fear rationalizes the Philosophy of Defeat.

R. Chandrasoma

It is a readily understandable feature of good governnace that those in authority be wary of individuals and groups that have the potential to derail the programmes of good work contemplated by the government. On the other hand, it is a lamentable faliure of rulership if the strategic thrust of those ensconced in power has more to do with appeasing institutions and sections of the population that are perceived to be power-bases in their own right than in the equable exercise of authority. A ludicrous caricature of this weakness in state policy is seen right here in Sri Lanka where the construction of a Power Station - serving the needs of a nation in dire straits due to the cumulative folly of previous weak-kneed regimes - is put indefinitely on hold because the religious godfather of the area fears smoke-pollution of a holy place hard by. The godfather is appeased while the entire nation groans in darkness.

With this wonderful example of sectarian 'warlordism' as a role-model, it comes as no great surprise to learn that a Hill-Tamil of Indian descent - who claims to be a Chieftain of the Mountains where, in an earlier age, the Sinhalayas roamed - has defied a cabinet decision and cried halt to the construction of a crtically needed Hydro-power Station in what he regards as his new-won fiefdom. He looks to his laurels while the country suffers.

These two instances - outrageous as they are - constitute only the thin edge of a great wedge of pusillanimity that characterizes the doings of the RaWick regime. That the latter is a government driven largely by fear is an assessment that is difficult to dismiss if one gives more than a passing thought to the nuances and shifts in its policy that a bamboozled public watches with helpless apathy. The fear of the Monster of the North overwhelms everything else and, like grim death stalking the victim of a terminal illness, propitiatory offerings rather than rational action is the preferred way of doing things. As a revealing index of fear and irrationality, let us remind readers that the President of this country had (until recently) 50 bullet-proof cars and a three-thousand strong 'SWAP' team to protect her from assasination by Pirapaharan. The Air Force Helicopter Fleet was transformed into a part-time taxi-service for the protection of the movers and shakers in politics. As compassionate individuals, it may appear unseemly to begrudge the vast resources frittered away on the personal protection of badly-frightened people who entered the political arena with no thought of the physical danger of anahilation by an explosive-vested female warrior from the North. However, we must condemn an unfortunate turn of events wherein the fears and phobias of the people at the top and an incapacity to think rationally (brought on by this fear) has twisted priorities in matters of defence expenditure and, in consequence, put our entire nation in peril..

On the issue of personal cowardice, let it be stated brutally that the political leader(s) of this country at a dangerous moment in our history must accept sudden death as an 'occupational hazard' that can be mitigated but not altogether escaped. They must not foolishly confuse their personal safety with the strategic concerns about the safety of the nation. While practical steps can (and, indeed, must) be taken to thwart the deadly designs of the enemy, there is a limit to the cost-effectiveness of countermeasures using state revenues at a time when those manning the battle-lines have to make-do with little more than bare necessities. Given this unavoidable trade off in the allocation of resources, death must be accepted by our leaders with Buddhist fortitude as a karmic denouement for the greater good of the nation.

There is more to this issue of personal courage. If our leaders were imbued with the valour and fighting spirit of the great Sinhalayas of the past, we would not have had the misery of seeing our leaders cowering in fear in the inner recesses of sand-bagged fortifications. They would have been at the front line exhorting our troops fighting the Northern Monster and it is the latter that would be quaking in fear at the sudden reprisals of our fighting men. Need we add that no President or Prime Minister with the qualities of valour and fearlessness that are so vital in dealing with an enemy of the calibre of Pirapaharan has made common cause with our fighting men to beat the daylights out of the enemy. Instead, they have shied away from the arena of real combat, had nightmares of sudden (and explosive) removal and have sought disingenuously to camouflage this weakness by endless moralizing about the futility of war.

Let us get to our main point. Fear generates irrational behaviour and the danger is greatest when this elemental passion demeans the actions of those elected by the people as their leaders. Friends, here is a proposition that may sound implausible (and hugely controversial) when first stated. It is fear that drives the UNF to seek a humble accommodation with the Northern Terrorists. Is it fear that out forces will be routed by the enemy and the land devastated byond any possibility of redemption? Certainly not - because the veriest tyro will inform the leaders that this is beyond the capacity of Pirapaharan's forces. However, he can deal crippling blows in the city that will make it impossible for the government of the day to maintain a semblance of authority. Above all, he can - with his living bombs - make the life of the leadership a form of Russian Roulette with the constant agony of not knowing when the end will come. It is this fearful consciousness of the precariousness of the lives of politicians rather than concern for the overall stability of the nation that makes both the PA and the UNF more than willing to cut a deal with Pirapaharan.

The fact that the lives of so many top leaders of the UNP have been suddenly snuffed out has been seared into the psyche of the UNP and it is a fear that this killing may decimate an already enfeebled leadership that made RaWick and his advisors seek an historic agreement with Pirapaharan before the last parliamentary elections. One can be sure - even if there is no chance of having the draft before us - that the first clause would incorporate a firm promise not to kill, or attempt to kill RaWick and his fellow politicians. This was the pivotal concession made and as a 'quid pro quo' there followed a whole raft of shameful withdrawals from the concept of the unitary state - including the disaster of handing over the North and East to an armed tyrant who has made no secret of the fact that his irrevocable goal is the establishment of the state of Eelam.

Is it not the psychology of fear that makes the Sinhala leadership masters of myth-making about the strength of Pirapaharan? The 'war' is 'unwinnwble', ruinously expensive and tenuously maintained only because of the availability of poverty-striken rustics to serve as cannon-fodder. Who makes these disgustingly craven statements? It is natural to expect the Western-Christian-Marxist NGO brigade to make statements that bring shame to our nation and mock the dedication and heroism of our fighting men. On the other hand it is most unnatural to find the leaders of a country at war engaged in public breast-beating on the futility of war and the invincibility of the enemy. Those who are half-heartedly patriotic are treated as war mongers and urged to move North to join the forces. The real patriots in the forces are a bigger danger to the political leadership than Pirapaharan himself and over the years, a very effective mechanism has been developed to see that such men 'rusticate' in positions that neutralize their capacity for service to the nation. By a process of 'negative selection' ineffective (and politically pliant) men are moved rapidly to the top while men with spunk are sidelined or condemned to early retirement.

What is the key lesson to be learnt from this sad tale? It is that a war cannot be won if that vital ingredient called 'courage' is lacking. In defending battle-lines when the enemy seems indomitable, the value of this precious quality is obvious to even the plainest fool. Not so obvious is the truth that a courageous leadership is equally vital in doing battle with the enemy. A leadership that has secret fears of death at the hands of the enemy will always find means of appeasing the aggressor. A philosophy of defeat will emerge as a skillfull rationaliztion of the basic fears of men (and women) who are unprepared to sacrifice their lives for the good of the nation. This, alas, is what is happening in Sri Lanka today.


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