16 May, 2022

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A Banquet Of Consequences

By Ravi Perera

Ravi Perera

“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

It seems, what is true of an individual, is true of the collective. All the dishes were long in preparation for the nightmare banquet; a nation living beyond their means; greed, corruption, waste, low productivity; a political culture encouraging consumption even before the crop is sown, huge prestige projects with low returns, and defence becoming the largest budget expenditure. The inedible menu is explained away with asinine platitudes, nonchalantly adopted as self-evident truths by an open-mouthed public; the table was laden with the bitter fare, only waiting for the dinner gong.

When the Covid-19 pandemic broke upon the world in early 2020, the gong finally rang. The effect was global, nearly all countries in the world, unprepared for a pandemic of this magnitude, went into crisis mode. Like in everything else, when facing a large challenge, rationality and resources are paramount. Some countries, better endowed, coped better than the others. For countries skating on thin ice, those partying with borrowed money and the lotus eaters; the ice cracked sooner than expected.

At first, the government was facetious, unable to comprehend the menace, dismissed the danger the pandemic carried. Eventually, when the truth became evident, they panicked, now reacting precipitously, closing down the entire country for weeks on end. Needless to say, every country is different, face different realities, possess different strengths and are burdened with different weaknesses. A method that works for one country, may ruin the other. The accepted vaccination protocol called for a booster, typically, somebody forgot to obtain the follow-up shot in time. For those at the top of the pyramid however, there was no anxious waiting for the booster, he who holds the spoon will eat first! At the end of the day, Sri Lanka did no better or worse than most countries. The sticker of mediocrity, seems permanently fixed to its flagpole.

The gong only announced the banquet, the table was long laid.

Since 1948, a loud, garish drama had been enacted under our burning tropical sun, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Several neighbouring countries, gaining independence much later, starting with much less, dealing with much more complex problems, have marched on, progressing steadily, now knocking on the door of Developed Country status. Our drama on the other hand, has no discernible theme, sometimes it is a comedy, then a tragedy, often both. If a theme must be found; ‘being cheap is good’, ‘having no principles is empowering’, ‘making money is everything’, ‘inefficiency is so bonding’ or ‘foolishness is freedom’, suggest themselves.

Although, per square mile the country population is relatively large, the number of actors on our public stage is remarkably small, perhaps two dozen families, with a few thousand supporting cast. Either the nation is extremely poor in leadership skills, or, culturally so damaged that they can only perceive of political leadership through a bloodline. In our philosophy, a doctor’s son is a natural doctor (a common occurrence in native medicine), a journalist’s son is born to write – ink flows in his veins! Never mind that in every performance index we rank poorly, every country overtakes us, everyone beats us, but, we insist that leadership is a matter of blood!

When the British left our shores in 1948, they left behind many institutions of governance which we continue to enjoy. Having no claim to any of the ideas that underpin these institutions, and, having played no role whatever in the evolution of vital institutions like the parliament, legal system, an  independent administrative structure and political parties, our leaders viewed these new institutions through unfamiliar eyes. Historically, our experiences in the exercise of power have been vastly different. The feudal elite, while extracting the little surplus that the primitive economy produced, crushed both the mind and soul of the people. It was an endless cycle, more crushed and more hopeless, more fatalistic they became! Our post-independence leaders may have read something of the parliamentary concepts, but seem to have interpreted them differently, unable to relate to the spirit and substance of these institutions, or understanding them only imperfectly. Had they understood the concepts correctly, they would have realized that in a democracy, there are many things you would not do, even if you could!

Politics as a caste function or a family business was more readily appreciated, an occupation that can easily be passed onto your kith and kin, legitimised by the fact of their blood. Our very first Prime Minister DS Senanayake was succeeded by his son Dudley Senanayake. The old man had manoeuvred the move, the culture blessed the family succession. His political party, the UNP, was so shot through with family connections that it came to be referred to as the ‘uncle, nephew’ party.

In that era, the main opposition to the UNP came from Bandaranaike’s SLFP, which made family leadership a motif, his wife for more than three decades (Prime Minister several times, on the last occasions a barely coherent invalid) and then his daughter, through two presidential terms, leading the party in succession. While at it, they did not deny their children any privilege, including a foreign education, eventually their progeny jettisoning Sri Lanka for foreign residence. They also had the temerity to name large public projects in each other’s names, including our main international airport, without any relevance! The Bandaranaike chain was broken only because of the abysmal performance of the daughter (Chandrika’s presidential years have been called the lost years) and that there were no other credible family members to take over the mantle.

To a person enjoying the caste status of political leadership, life is most agreeable. The political authority decides his own emoluments, he is most generous here; cars, bungalows, telephones and servants. His ‘duties’ are pleasant, ego soothing; decision maker (where shall we place this airport, should this road go north or south, more importantly, who wins the tender for the work, Should I attend this conference in Bangkok or read a speech in Brussels?) chief guest at various events, VIP lounges, business class travel, plush hotels, a huge security retinue and such like.

Unable to deliver, the man becomes increasingly abstract, a chimera like persona is invented; how often we hear of a leader’s golden tongue, golden brain, seven brains, an encyclopaedic mind, ‘ability’ to speak on any subject, passionate patriotism, respect he commands in foreign lands!

He keeps failing, as he must. The scope of the problem is far beyond his small philosophy. There is talk of corruption, jobs for the boys, even of money hidden in foreign bank accounts, generally in the names of other people.

His incompetence or failures brings no personal loss. The disappointed voter may reject him. However, if he controls the political party machinery, after five short years, there is a good chance of coming back, perhaps with a new set of slogans and a revamped image. Our politicians have extremely long careers. This is what we call democracy in Sri Lanka!

It will be idle to speculate our fate had all leaders since 1948 been different. Left alone, or given different leadership, the country may well have progressed better. Whether there is this particular leader or not, with the progression of time there is natural development. To list every misstep, blunder, inaction, over -reaction and the corruption that ran through all these seven decades is a matter for future scholars and historians.

Objectively, every government since 1948 has failed this country, our economy left permanently poor, in endless crisis. Realizing that there is very little hope, anybody who wishes for a better life, will leave, migrating to a Western country. Many of the political caste also have sought greener pastures, a fact humiliatingly acknowledged by  the craven accommodation of dual citizens in the highest positions of the land today.

Now the Rajapaksas, the most zestful practitioners of family politics, have come to dominate the governing caste. More than the Senanayakes, more than the Bandaranaikes, the Rajapaksas epitomize the outrage of family politics. There is no other country in this world where three brothers occupy the positions of President, Prime Minister and Finance Minister. In addition, there is another brother Chamal, and Namal Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son, holding cabinet posts; the government is barely distinguishable from the Rajapaksa family. Adding to this concentration of family within the cabinet of ministers, there are numerous other family members holding various positions of power, some even as ambassadors representing this country in the most powerful Capitals of the world. From what we read in the news, one of these family ambassadors has made his country a hilarity in America.

Leonard Woolf’s classic “Village in the Jungle”, explores the minds of men placed hopelessly in unrelentingly harsh and dangerous circumstances. They lived in the shadow of the threatening jungle; primeval, pathetically poor, only through primitive cunning did they sustain their short and brutish lives. But, we progress. Today, you don’t have to go hunting to eat. There is the open economy. The parliamentary system opens new avenues for progress, to even become elite. Leonard Woolf’s village does not exist any longer, we cannot say about the dark and narrow minds that such places engendered.

The architect of the Rajapaksa juggernaut is Mahinda Rajapaksa, a man of ordinary stature in every aspect but seeped in rural craftiness. He knows what makes his fellow countrymen tick, and that knowledge is not complimentary, men who could be easily flattered and bought. Not only was Mahinda Rajapaksa able to be President (two terms), he most astutely converted his family into heir-apparent status, all planning to ascend the presidency on a future day. Every politician succeeds relative to his opposite number. In this aspect, Mahinda Rajapaksa was extremely fortunate.

Democracy is meaningless without a democratic spirit. There are many written and easily understood rules of democracy. There are still more rules which are unwritten, but essential to give meaning to the concept of democracy.

A better appreciation of the spirit of democracy would have made it clear that the system is based on numerous checks and balances, mostly unwritten. When the same family controls both the executive and the legislature, the scheme is sullied. It is knavish to argue that the people have voted for it. The two main political parties are controlled by one person or family. When the ruling party becomes unpopular the people have no choice but vote for the alternative. To use that vote of frustration as an endorsement of a family rule is a mockery of democratic principles.

For too long we have ignored transgressions and even indecencies.

Now this unfortunate nation has to sit down to a banquet of consequences.

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Latest comments

  • 17
    1

    Ravi Perera, thanks for exposing yet again the TRAGICOMEDY took place for almost 75 years. But the public has to take responsibility for somewhere not to recognize and come up with an alternate party or set of people. In my opinion racial hatred was successfully rejigged into politics and that kept the parties going for this many years. If not, it’s impossible to come up with any plausible cause that could hold such pervasive system together.

    • 6
      0

      For almost 75 years, successive SB lead governments denied the rights of Tamils to live as equal citizens. They were discriminated.Their lands confiscated, denied rights for free speech, right to practice religion/ culture, denied education and employment opportunities. To those mothers who wanted answers for death and disappeared dear ones, were told to reconcile and not to pursue or even grieve. But People now are not willing anything less than Rajapaksas leaving, returning stolen money and being accountable. How did they not see it for 75 years when it happened to their fellow citizens. How did they not see all the wrongs Rajapaksas committed on their fellow citizens.?? The same lies , deception, cruelty, killings for more than a decade.

      • 5
        0

        How did the whole country not see Rajapaksas srarving those Tamils, denying medicine and health care , blockade of food and fuel, denying electricity and water, displacing from place to place, killing many innocent people and later calling them extremist, not allowing to farm of fish, using PTA and imprisoning those who questioned as extremist for years —– and now the whole country including North and East up in arms against the same Mafia family calling them murders, thieves, corrupt and what not.

        • 6
          0

          Ravi .P yes Rajapaksas are maggots in a putrid foul smelling pus filled ulceraive abscess, which was chronic , hurting , extremely painful and throbbing, for years and now exploded due to pressure.A clean up is must but the wound is deep to heal. Hope the people will recognize so that wound may heal leaving a life long scar but no more pain.

          • 6
            0

            I see a sign of hope. Somewhere in south I see someone protesting holding a placard “try Rajapaksa family in international criminal court”, another says ” war criminals, tyrants, liars, thieves should not govern countries”. Trust me those military war criminals who are called heroes will not hesitate to turn their guns on their own starving people. With current events, Geneva would have understood who Rajapaksas are and what they are capable of. The same emergency used against Tamils to suppress the community for years, did not even last a week outside of North and East. I find RP’s article subject is the right place to address these issues. Unless and until, a true reconciliation takes place between communities, there is no hope for healing.

    • 4
      7

      Chiv,
      “In my opinion racial hatred was successfully rejigged into politics and that kept the parties going for this many years.”

      After Sinhale/Ceylon gained independence Sinhala leaders wanted to unite all communities and develop the country and formed ‘Eksath Jathika Pakshaya’ (United National Party). Even Bandaranayake formed ‘Sri Lanka Nidahas Pakshaya’ (Sri Lanka Freedom Party). Sinhalayo did not form a party with the label ‘Sinhala’ but unfortunately separatist Tamil politicians in Yapanaya formed a political party called ‘Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi’ in 1949 (toned down as Federal Party in English but the real meaning was Tamil State Party) which had as its hidden agenda the establishment of a separate state within Sinhale and promoted racism to divide the country on ethnic lines. In order to achieve their objective they resorted to terrorism and ruined Sinhale/Ceylon.

      • 5
        2

        Evil, what is there in the name ??? Lanka too was called democratic socialist republic , but now dysfunctional failed bankrupt Sorry Lanka..why go that far you call your self Eagle eye but dumb and blind as a bat.

  • 1
    0

    The author may find the 7-part essay Anatomy of the State by Murray Rothbard right up his alley.

    It is freely available to read on the Mises dot org website. Just Google the title.

    • 3
      1

      As usual, a great write-up by Ravi.
      It is true that our voters have no idea what democracy is. This is exploited by successive rulers, the latest being the Rajapaksas, who have mutated into a de facto Royal Family.
      From infancy, our people are dumbed down by a culture of unquestioning obedience to authority. Nobody questions a person in yellow who advocates ridiculous agricultural policies. Even now, the said person is free of consequences, while Gota, who carried out the advice, is in for the high jump.
      For countries such as ours, a sort of guided democracy would work better. But there must be a way to keep undesirables from aspiring to power. To start with, I would suggest an IQ test for voters. The highest scorers should get 3 votes each, down to 1 vote for the dimwits.

  • 17
    2

    All these corruptions committed by all the Srilankan presidents took place in plain sight of the majority Srilankans.
    They looked away because all these leaders were doing their dirty job of subduing the minorities.
    And now the banquet has started.
    Hopefully this bitter banquet becomes a catalyst for the profound and fundamental overhaul, politically and culturally, Srilanka has always needed.

  • 1
    3

    When the Covid-19 pandemic broke upon the world in early 2020, the gong finally rang.
    ———–
    When the fake pandemic was unleashed to accelerate the destruction of non-freemasons and create the NWO dictatorship….

    Thankfully it failed as the most high sabotaged it.

  • 3
    5

    There is no other country in this world where three brothers occupy the positions of President
    ——
    This is not entirely true.
    The ruling classes all across the world are tares (serpent seeds of cain). They are all related and they make sure only their bloodlines get into the top positions in all fields.
    It is a kind of nepotism.

  • 9
    1

    This story of a single family forming/appointing/inhering political titles/power is unique in these modern times.
    It is all due to citizens’ reluctance to get involved in disputes in obvious incorrect appointments/promotions. One needs a ++

    • 3
      0

      It is also poor judgement and low standards by the voters. They KNEW who these criminals were, as they had an ugly record from their previous reign, and still they decided to get them back, not knowing that they had knowledge, and maybe involved in the Easter bombings.

      A man who kept the streets clean does not make a wonderful clean government.

  • 3
    0

    Oh, so wonderful to read – dissection of our Lankan psychosis with profound analogy!

    Trouble is, our country is held hostage by these political families, in spite of the masses of educated Lankans that can take the country to good heights within the democratic framework left to us by the British. Time and time again they have been crushed mercilessly. Only one party stands out as differing from this ghastly Lankan banquet: The JVP-NPP (with some Sajith for the open economy).

  • 3
    5

    “A Banquet Of Consequences”

    The banquet was started by JRJ who opened the economy like flood gates on the instructions from IMF and flooded the market with foreign goods. When there was not enough foreign currency to import, he started borrowing and increased indebtedness. Those who came to power after him also followed the same policy. ‘Yahapalana’ Government increased indebtedness to an unprecedented level and put the country to a debt trap. This Government made a blunder by not banning import of non-essential items when the pandemic dried out two main sources that brought foreign currency; remittances from people working in foreign countries and tourism. Now, people in the country are paying the price for those blunders.

  • 5
    0

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJvmlIxpf4s

    People should have known. Always the population suffers when politicians have too much power. They become unaccountable.

  • 5
    0

    Ravi Perera write..
    “Since 1948, a loud, garish drama had been enacted under our burning tropical sun, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Several neighbouring countries, gaining independence much later, starting with much less, dealing with much more complex problems, have marched on, progressing steadily, now knocking on the door of Developed Country status. Our drama on the other hand, has no discernible theme, sometimes it is a comedy, then a tragedy, often both. If a theme must be found; ‘being cheap is good’, ‘having no principles is empowering’, ‘making money is everything’, ‘inefficiency is so bonding’ or ‘foolishness is freedom’, suggest themselves.”

    “Sri Lanka’s past 74 years of political history since independence in 1948 is marked with rules by eighteen Prime Ministers and by seven Presidents from 1978 after the late J.R. Jayawardene introduced the powerful executive system of government which has now grown like a banyan tree with roots and branches encompassing the Rajapakshes’ family and pedigrees. The Presidential powers have been growing unchecked and unhindered, assuming dictatorial tendencies spreading its tentacles over the judicial functions while controlling the legislature and executive.

    It is an undeniable fact that the political victories and fortunes of south political leaders have been founded and built at the expense of minorities particularly the Tamils with an agenda of marginalization of Tamils which was later expanded to Buddhisization, Sinhalization and militarization.” https://countercurrents.org/2022/04/rulers-for-national-interests-or-parochial-interests-in-sri-lanka/

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