21 May, 2024


2018 – The Year Of Opposite Truths

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, 
your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, 
your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”  ~ Mahathma Gandhi 

The opposite of a truthful statement is a false statement. In exceptional instances, the opposite of a profoundly truthful statement is another profoundly truthful statement.

President Sirisena’s recent statement that politics of this country is corrupt is a truthful statement. The opposite of that statement which is equally profound and truthful is that he is either incapable of doing anything about it or he will do nothing about it.

Minister S.B. Dissanayake was the pick of the President to address the candidates of the SLFP and the UPFA on contemporary political climate  at the Sugathadasa Stadium. His homily on corruption was a masterpiece of distilled gimmickry and mediocre inanities. The other clean leader picked to administer the oath of ethical politics to candidates contesting local government elections was Minister Susil Premjayanth.

Indeed, they are master manifestations of our mechanics of governance. They epitomize the rewards of our political discourse. Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. 

The President has the report of the Bond Commission. We are yet to be told what he proposes to do with it. If President Sirisena takes good governance, accountability and transparency beyond their slogan value in his now routine sermonizing, he should release it to the press and the public.    

In Athenian democracy all citizens were participants in the democratic process. Slaves and serfs were spectators. In modern democracy, universal citizenship has made us slaves to the process. Now we are anxious spectators awaiting to know about Sovereign Bonds and Ranil’s sovereign right to pick the governor of the central bank.

We will learn of the contents of the Bond Commission when our Good Governance President decides to share its findings with ‘we the people’. Till then we must wait.

Just now, President Sirisena has more important matters in his mind. To remain credible in 2018, he must make a decent performance in the local government elections in February.

He must beat the ‘Pohottu Platoon’ to become the undisputed leader of the SLFP. Till he does that convincingly, his flock will remain fickle pilgrims at his shrine and pragmatic pagans performing their totemic dance round Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ancestral mausoleum that Gota built in a civil transaction with a statutory body. Nudging them on are the senior SLFPers – Susil Premjayanth and John Seneviratne.

He must also lead the SLFP to some substantial gains at the local government elections at the expense of the UNP. The appointment of the Bond Commission was a pivotal event.

It transformed the relationship between the common candidate and the UNP the principal party that backed the common candidate. The accessory to the victory of 8th January 2015 has become the UNP’s distinct adversary by 1st January 2018.   

In the last week of December President Sirisena made two significant statements. Both were historically defining and politically pivotal in the year 2018.         

He rebranded the SLFP. He replaced Mahinda ‘Chinthnaya’ with his ‘Nidhase Sammuthiya’ – ‘Freedom Compact’. A clever stratagem in political communication.

At the launch, President Maithripala Sirisena drew a parallel between himself and Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. He stressed on the righteous neutrality of the sword of Krishna. The choice of the Gita allegory was ironic. In the Gita Krishna asserts that, when dharma declines and the purpose of life is forgotten he manifest himself on earth. In every age his task is to protect the good, to destroy evil, and to reestablish dharma. The President warned “Mage Kaduwata Kawuru Kapeida Mama Danne Nehe.”

In the original Gita the line is followed by another ironic parallel. “All paths, Arjuna, lead to me.”

In the latter event, Presidential pronouncements were more biting. Essential rules of shadowboxing were observed, but the phantom enemy was less disguised.

“Politics of this country is corrupt. The SLFP led UPFA under my leadership would usher in an era of clean politics. The leadership of the SLFP would not be bequeathed to a member of my family. The mantle of SLFP leadership awaits to be earned by a bright, knowledgeable, enterprising young person who is amongst those present at this gathering today.’

This writer does not expect President Sirisena to eradicate corruption. It cannot be done. No country in the world has succeeded in eliminating corruption. What we can endeavor to achieve is to minimize institutional corruption.

By handpicking his brother to head the Telecommunication Authority, no sooner he assumed office he redefined nepotism and reframed the moral borders of discretionary powers of the Presidency.

He amplified on his commitment to meritocracy by appointing A.S.P Liyanage as our Ambassador to Qatar- rich in natural gas. Rather a symbolic act of indicating that he doesn’t give a fart for our opinion on the matter.   

The purpose of the present essay is to disentangle the doublespeak in the two most recent Presidential sermons on good governance and corruption. 

The opposite of a truthful statement is a false statement. However, as pioneering quantum physicist Niels Bohr has said, the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.

The profound truth we must reconcile with is that President Sirisena is another politician. Just as bad or good as Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe. Politicians are not interested in truth. What interests them is power. Gaining and retaining power is what concerns them.

British playwright, poet and author Harold Pinter titled his 2005 Nobel Prize lecture as Art, Truth & Politics.

Pinter said that Politicians, to stay in power, rely on their ability to keep the people trapped in ignorance. People were kept in ignorance of the truth, even the truths about their own lives. What surrounds us, therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed. It was such a tapestry woven with lies that was unfolded under the grand title ‘Nidahase Sammuthiya –  Freedom Compact. 

What President Sirisena as Chairman of the SLFP did at the Sugathadasa Stadium was a display of contrived indignation. In the opinion of this writer it was not genuinely felt but was certainly genuine in purpose.   

He had three years to demonstrate his sincerity of commitment. Politics has nothing to do with truth. Politics is about expediency.

In our dysfunctional democracy politicians know that citizens are not ready to be persuaded of their positions. Our politics is not about policy. It is about patronage. When the president rewards a cross over with a state ministry, what signal does he give to the polity in general and specifically to those on the fence in the internal squabbles of his party? This essay is about the President and his party – the SLFP. This is not to be construed as absolving the Prime Minister. On the contrary this is a plea to restore the true democratic debate on truth and not about the opinions of either the President we elected and the Prime Minister we inherited in the bargain. Today the President and the Prime Minister represent two opposite truths.

Max Webber the great Sociologist Philosopher arrives at a telling conclusion in his celebrated lecture on Politics as a vocation. “Only he has a calling for politics who is sure that he shall not crumble when the world from his point of view is too stupid or too base for what he has to offer. Only he who in the face of all this can say ‘In spite of all!’ has the calling for politics.”

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Latest comments

  • 4

    Instead of becoming the leader of SLFP, President Sirisena as a common candidate, stayed neutral, embraced all, and done clean rule, he would have got the Noble Prize, would have been another Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King. Now it all became big shit and farts, so embracing rogues in his party for his benefits and survival, and fighting the rogues in the opposite party to avoid his down fall.

  • 3

    Sarath de Alwis
    Please consider changing the title to “The Era of Truths, Counter-Truths and Goebbelsian-Truths”

  • 0

    Quoting Mahathma in Srilanka is like casting pearls before swine. Similarly Lord Buddha’s quotes too.

  • 3

    Sri Lanka is a very good example for appointing commissions, creating all party conferences, making agreements and finally ignoring all of them and scrap them and burn them without any ashes.

  • 1

    Thanks for the writing.Happy New year to you.
    One thing is certain.That is, Srilankan polititions for the last 70 years have “mastered” how to manupulate and how to lie without any shame over and over again.mr.Sirisena suddenly Takes the sword after 3 long years.

    • 1

      MS takes the sword after 3 long years – only to be relevant in the upcoming election. Then, it will be business as usual.

  • 0

    MS takes the sword after 3 long years – only to be relevant in the upcoming election. Then, it will be business as usual.

  • 2

    Predictions for 2018:

    1 Sirisena will suffer electoral losses at the incoming elections.
    2 Sirisena will do nothing about the bond scam report
    3 Appoint another 1-2 Presidential Commissions to look into MARA activities in in order to please Ranil
    4 RAVI K will try to come back through the back door.
    5 None of the MARA family members will be locked up for alleged crimes
    6 No improvement in law and order or legal system
    7 Unity govt will continue and will consolidate their position.
    8 A few more MPs crossing over will be made ministers with no subject matters or accountability
    9 A few more cronies and friends would be appointed to key positions
    10 Economy will not recover with lower remittances pressure on currency

  • 1

    Jagath Fernando, the pessimist: What nonsense!

    We are well educated people. We will not let any of those things happen. Just you wait to see what my vote achieves!!

    Post Script: Jagath’s pessimism is probably justified. The problem is not with him, or me, or the readers here. My optimism will be justified if we can reach out to others. The majority just don’t think. I’m sure that Jagath will be very happy if proved wrong.

  • 0

    Sunil, The very first commenter,
    “Instead of becoming the leader of SLFP, President Sirisena as a common candidate, stayed neutral, embraced all, and done clean rule, he would have got the Nobel Prize, would have been another Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King.”

    I too have thought about it. A clean start would have been to form a new party and select candidates from a clean pool.

    It is an opportunity lost. There was chance to dam the flood and channel to field and grow the miracles. Though many (roughly 5.5 million) voted for Old King, the entire Lankawe was tired of the past. They all were for change. Not a distant hope, but an immediate miracle within 100 days was the expectation of the people. “CC” makers, importantly Sobitha Thero looked forward a miracle to happen. And the keys for that were in the hand of the New King. He missed it. It is not simple missing. It is beyond even spoiling. It was like a family of child labor children worked hard and bought a pot with food and let in the hands of their mother to share it. She simple dropped it and destroyed the whole thing.

    One reason to explain why he could not he become Nelson Mandela or somebody else but ascended to the throne of Old King an New King is the bag and baggage he collected with him and carrying with him from the last tenure. The clue for the explanation is below.

  • 0

    It is an absolute misuse of original phrase when one says “I Will Use the Sword as and When Necessary”. He was awarded with the sword and sent to the war. Now he is in the field with the enemy. He is not using the sword against the enemy. He is conditioning to use it. He is, practically, colluding with the enemy. “Using the sword” is forward action phrase. One doesn’t use it in a court of law, where even the judge would not know who was guilty and what proportion of it shared by the two opponents in the court, until he fines with the case. The phrase is normally used only for administrational cleaning. It is only a one side action of cleaning; it not something about evaluating two sides and passing judgement. The verdict had come from the people asking him to “hang them high”. Hi is only a hangman of the people. He has to act on the people order. But now he conditioning the people verdict with he will use the sword “as and when needed”. The hangman is overruling the judge here. This is clearly telling that his intention is only to cheat or time-serve with enemy for their escape. He is waiting for the people’s enemy escaped only to substantiate his escape of his past deeds. That is why he is not ready to swing his sword now, but will but conditioning to use it.

  • 0

    Mr. Alwis: what have you written at the beginning is what Mahathma Gandhi had quoted, probably as he said but actually what Buddha said. that is “mind is the karma (action).
    It is not poonnt of of talking . Maithripala Sirisena, Ranil Wcirakmsinghe, and even Mahinda Rajapakse is fooling voters. Mahinda Rajapakse has a gang of thieves, criminals, incompetents, and inmbeciles who can not come forward with their names. So, whether pohottuwa comes or SLFP comes it will be the same fate. Voters are stuck. what did you journalists do nothing. LET it happened.
    I heard there are eight ministers, none of them want to work in other ministries except the ministry that they are used to. You know at least one minister who could not pass O/L in Sri lanka. but, he is supposed to be qualified in London. Some say, no it is USA. His miniatry needs Rs 100 million to maintain the ministry alone. Yet that ministries only job is reminding about his farther, building single brick width (some times) houses on non-landscaped lands which washes away when there is heavy rain. He also wants to be a the president and there are people who support it.
    I think with straight talk che guvera was better than JVP, even though they were violent and stupid, as they were honest and wanted to change the country. As we can not being back cheguwera, At least the Army can take over the govt just for two years and change the system and chase away these thieves. That is very straight. We need to change the system. We need need national list which reemployed those rejected people and rejected by courts, WE do not need some educated people at least self educated, want to develop their area minimum and not 94 O/L failed visionaries.

  • 0

    If you Study Mahinda Rajapakse and Ranil wickramsinghe, they are typical MAFIA bosses. Read biographies of MAfia Bosses. MAithripala Sirisena is a SEETHALA Ganankaraya. He thinks everybody is dumb and he is outsmarting everybody. All the ministers abuse their ministry portfolios. so, the LAw enforcement can not prosecute them. but, there are stupid like former che guvera man Wimal Weerawansha and the family. they spread it every where and eat and get caught. CAFFE, may be, handed over a list of criminals contesting. I heard police saying, we do not need to arrest them because, it si you people who vote them. Maithripala also says do not vote Druggies. but, he doe snot say it is his party who gave them nomination papers without investigating them.
    Just some one tell us why we need this many politicians. what is the use of national list MPs when they are there only to make the president or the PM happy. What is the contribution of So many MPs out of which 94 could not complete O/L.
    Even in the new election some people could not complete the application properly and they were rejected. Then they ask the help of the courts to come back,. So, why there is misuse of the system that is wastage. Why the parties can not introduce some system there.

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