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The BHL factor of South Asia by Dhanuka Dickwella

In the grand theater of the world, various actors would be playing various roles every so often. Some would be heroic personas , some would be destined traitors, some are unsung heroes & of course you would find some who would punch way about their weight class. Among those various human actors , I find the social influencers as the most disruptive ones. Now they are nor magicians yet the  influence they carry is  so huge that a country’s regime could crumble down or a whole region would be set on fire. Are they a  necessary evil or ordinary humans with extraordinary abilities or are they the malign agents of death ? Let’s review this with two such social influencers. 

Bernard-Henri Lévy, the controversial French philosopher is more commonly known in the world as BHL. His name has appeared in some of the most troublesome, turbulent regions throughout the world.  The common belief is where he appears – troubles will follow. From the Bangladesh war of  independence to the Balkan wars to the Libyan civil war to the Euromaidan events of Ukraine – BHL has been a contributing factor. He has allegedly orchestrated regime changes , color revolutions & was given the total credit for toppling Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. The long time strongman who successfully  resisted the Americans, jealous neighbors & various death squads just fell with his powerful Libyan state in the face of BHL . The sad truth however is that the very role played by BHL has brought violence, death , destruction & bloodshed. This could be true to Libya , true to Ukraine & true to the former Yugoslavia. In essence he is an architect of political change that is to be paid by blood.

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga also known as CBK is a home brand of Sri Lankan politics. She was the first female president of the country as well as the only female president  who held office so far. Coming from a political dynasty , she had both her parents governing the country as prime ministers . Now that is not something you would hear everyday. Even after her retirement CBK has been an influential political figure in the Sri Lankan political scenario as well as the South Asian region.  What is the parallel between the discredited, devil-like BHL & CBK ? To be clear CBK has not caused destruction of nations or orchestrated bloodied coups. She has not used violence to impose her likes & wills. But she has been an iconic symbol of change in Political landscape of the region. Whenever she appears a change will follow.

Politics is not new for CBK since of her unique family background. But how she managed to democratically topple the UNP led 17 years of rule is remarkable. The United National Party was in power for almost two decades & their governing methods were largely undemocratic. The brutality of quelling political uprising by the Marxists JVP, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances of opposition members, rigged elections were some of the means that they used as methods to govern. Their rule was uncontested . Challenging such a powerful political establishment let alone winning an election against them was considered as signing your own death warrant. But CBK managed to  not only democratically defeat the said government & but also establish to a new political era. Her rule brought more of a civilized political culture to Sri Lanka. It wouldn’t be too much to give her the credit as the initiator of the current fair & just election system in existence.

Her departure from Politics brought the Rajapaksa family to power. They were so powerful that bringing them down was not even a mere dream. One thing I would not understand is why did Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR ) make it a point to go after CBK attacking her & hrasing her even after she was long gone. MR  went to the extent of cleansing any sign of CBK from the Sri Lanka Freedom party which was created , funded, nurtured by her own family. Just as they say fate has its own destiny, the effort to marginalize CBK made the very downfall of MR . She made a political comeback not as a politician but as a mediator between many opposition fractions bringing the MR regime to an end. I believe people largely underestimated her abilities when she returned. But once the presidential elections brought CBK endorsed  Maithreepala Sirisena  who was the underdog of the race  to power , everybody started to recognize CBK as an astounding political influencer.  

In 2018 there was an important Presidential election in the republic of Maldives. The stakes were high since the Island nation was a battle sphere for both China & India. Incumbent president Abdulla Yameen was allegedly pro Chinese & his challenger Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party was more of a pro Indian. It is widely believed that CBK was one of the biggest reasons for the victory of Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.  Her appearance would have made a plethora of International players fund the opposition &  provide the much needed life line for an election win. There she did it yet again.

Once the 2019 elections brought the ever strong Rajapaksa family back to power politics , things took a dramatic change. CBK was once again out of the picture for a couple of years. Deteriorating economic woes of Sri Lanka made the general public angry & frustrated. There were silent protest movements across the county that were largely ignored by the government. The protest movement looked as if it was a total spontaneous action by angry citizens. Yet the undertone of a very well organized , structural , objective campaign was visible. The popular anti Rajapaksa hashtags that emerged in the social media domain started to unite people from all walks of life. The youth took the leadership & things started to heat up. Today we are in a state of chaos , panic & delusion thanks to the hubris political approaches of our political elites. People are on the street demanding justice. There was no clear architect of the youth movement. Since it appears to be one of the most successful, genuine , energetic youth-led social revolutions  many traditional political parties tried to hijack the ownership. Then we see the resurgence of CBK. She claims to have been the shadowy figure who orchestrated what is going on. Looking at the social media groups, their young leaders, one thing is clear. The initiative was taken by the youth who were affiliated with late Mangala Samaraweera who was the closest ally of CBK. After the demise of Mangala , CBK kept the youth leadership training floating. There is a popular belief that these youth will form a new political party & field professional young leaders in the upcoming elections. It would certainly be great news for the great majority of people who are tired of the traditional nonsense of Sri Lankan political parties. 

In an interview with a popular media channel , CBK repeatedly mentioned that she has no intention of returning to active politics or bringing her son Vimkthi Kumaratunga to active politics. Having a set of youth, hopefully elected to the parliament with her backing  in the upcoming elections , CBK would certainly hold a commanding political influence in Sri Lankan politics. The rumor has it that Vimukthi will enter politics in 2030 as a national leader. CBK has laid her ground work , youth have taken leadership , and the country is demanding a new generation of leaders. Despite her strong refusal , I have a feeling that Vimkuthi Kumaratunga will become a political brand name within this decade or at the dawn of the next one. Whether or not the Sri Lankans would want to embrace yet another political family instead of the one they are opposing is yet to be seen. After all, nepotism is what people are vehemently opposing. Yet the fond memories of Vijaya Kumaratunga who was loved by everyone across the aisle & who was considered the greatest humanist Sri Lanka could ever recall,  might decide the fate of Vimkthi if he ever appears. On a  final note , CBK has done it again .

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