Machiavellian ‘Prince’ of Sri Lanka?

The Prince, a short treatise written by Niccolo Machiavelli in about 1527 as an advice to the Governor of Florence, to win his favour presents doctrines which have a striking similarity to those adopted by Rajapaksa, with unapologetic obeisance from Colombo elites. While historians and political scientists argue on the true objectives of the book, the term "Machiavellian" is near universally used to refer to amoral, unscrupulous, and devious power games in the conduct of States. Rajapaksa’s calculated acts to destroy the Tamil nationalist struggle by first killing thousands of Tamil civilians in the "crime of the century," and then continuing the structural genocide in the NorthEast, with the complicit West unable to arrest the Sinhala state machinery, appear to be policy actions directly pulled out from The Prince.

Rajapaksa’s actions, when assessed in the light of Machiavelli’s doctrine, can be seen to have worked extra-ordinarily well.

In The Prince, Machiavelli says, "[h]e who acquires such [new] states, and wishes to retain them has to make sure of two things: the bloodline of the former princes is extinguished, and that their laws and taxes remain the same. In this way, the prince’s new state merges with the old, quickly becoming a single body."

The attempts of the genocidal state to erase the “bloodline” of the LTTE, both physically and ideologically, can be seen through various tactical level counterinsurgency operations in the occupied homeland.

The Rajapaksas, however, cannot follow the second part of the advice as try as hard as they might, the Sinhala state will always be an occupying state in the Tamil homeland which can sustain itself only through the genocide of the Eezham Tamil nation.

On such difficulties, The Prince cautions, "difficulties arise when you acquire states in a land with differing languages, customs and laws," and suggests that the new Prince should go and live in the "new state." This makes the possession more durable and secure, and the new state will not be looted by his officials.

In the occupied Tamil homeland, the ‘Sinhala Prince’ will unlikely would move to reside, and the "new state" continues to be looted by the occupying Sri Lankan military and its newly discovered entrepreneurial talents owing to the genocidal process being of a structural nature in the Sinhala state.

The Prince suggests an alternate remedy if the new prince is unwilling to move. "Another remedy is to set up colonies in one or two places that will act as the shackles of your new state…The only subjects who will be affronted are those whose fields and houses will be confiscated to be given to the new colonists.

The Prince continues, "But these dispossessed subjects make up only a small part of the state and will end up poor and dispersed, and can do no harm. The rest of the subjects will not be affronted (and hence will be acquiescent), but will also frightened of transgressing, worried that they too might be dispossessed.

"In short, men must either be flattered or eliminated, because a man will readily avenge a slight grievance, but not one that is truly severe," advises The Prince, an advice which Rajapaksa appears to have taken as the core of his policy to his crimes on Tamils.

The Prince again warns, "[i]f you choose armed forces instead of colonies, you will spend more and will have to squander all the income from the new state in order to pay the army. This will turn the acquisition into a loss, and all your new subjects will end up offended, since the army, constantly on the move and constantly re-quartered, hurts the whole state. Every one feels the pain and everyone becomes your enemy. And these are enemies who can harm you, because though they have been defeated, they remain on their own ground. So in every sense, using armed forces is as useless as setting up colonies is useful."

Whether this is an apt advice to Rajapaksa who is trying a colony-plus-army hybrid approach, with the intention of the gradual dismantling of the Eezham Tamil identity, only time will tell. Increasing tide in international circles in holding Colombo to account for war-crimes and crimes against humanity will also be an added factor that will determine if the cultural decimation of Tamils will be arrested or not.

It is also necessary to understand that the Sinhala propensity to genocide cannot just be explained in the terms of Machiavellian doctrines, which have diverse interpretations, as the desire to execute brutalities on the Eezham Tamil nation is a structural component of the Sinhala national psyche.

However, while Sinhala diplomacy has several such Machiavellian characters to assist it in its brutal statecraft, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s coarse and unrefined nature is the butt of jokes even in Colombo circles.

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