29 May, 2022


A Mistake Is A Portal Of Discovery

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

That famous presidential pronouncement two months ago, at the Sri Lanka Foundation institute qualified the applicability of the principle – no one is above the law. It redefined ‘independence’ of independent commissions. On that day, this writer decided to refrain from writing and commenting on the performance of the current government. It was just as well. The rarely good, often bad and frequently ugly governance of the UNP – SLFP coalition led by the Maithri- Ranil duumvirate is beyond retrieval, recovery and redemption.

Having voted for the common candidate Sirisena on 8th January 2014, and blatantly betrayed on 13th October 2016, it was wiser to take note of the advice of James Joyce in Ulysses. ‘A mistake is a portal of discovery.’

On Saturday 10th December 2016, I listened to the former Director General of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption Mrs. Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe delivering the key note address at an event organized by an activist group that call themselves ‘Intellectuals for Human rights’ to mark the Human Rights Day. This bunch of learned, pragmatic minds had invited her to speak on the theme “Bribery & Corruption Deprives People of Their Human Rights.’ In a display of sagacious preference they had also invited Parliamentarians Vijitha Herath and Eran Wickemeratne as guest speakers.

The two parliamentarians spoke first and made two interesting statements. The public denouncement of the actions of the former Director General of CIABOC left her with no alternative but to resign. MP Vijitha Herath insisted that it was a grave violation of her Human Rights. Parliamentarian Eran Wickremeratne came out with a priceless gem. As Chief Executive of the National Development Bank he had occupied a ring side seat watching the dealer room where treasury bonds were bought and sold. In disarming innocence he told the gathering that, understanding how bonds were traded was not rocket science!

The former Director General of CIABOC took her task seriously. With a power point presentation she amplified on corruption and defined bribery. As no notes were taken, I will not attempt a detailed account. She quoted Kautilya the oriental Machiavelli. “It is impossible to know when and how much water a fish drank, similar is the act of stealing government money by officials.” The main thrust of her thesis was that the existing laws were more than adequate to fight corruption, reduce bribery and punish offenders. What it required was the political will.

In four weeks, we will arrive at the second anniversary of the ouster of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his coterie of power peddlers. Conversely we complete two years of delusional fantasy under the Sirisena-Wickermesinghe duumvirate and their power brokers. Nuancing matters. Mahinda had peddlers of power. This lot has brokers. To simplify further the crudity of hawkers have been replaced with sophistry of salesmen. The earlier lot did not care to explain looting. The new breed write copious foot notes.

Mahinda was a despot who unhesitatingly repressed determined dissent. Yet he adroitly allowed differential dissent. Unlike his successors, he never claimed even a desultory familiarity with the discipline of economics. He is not a humbug. Therein lies the contrast between what we had before 8th January 2015 and what we are saddled with thereafter.

Mahinda is accused of imprudent borrowing. A charge from which he will soon be absolved. There cannot be an imprudent borrower without an imprudent lender. To prove that charge, his accusers must show the nation who his imprudent lenders were. The bond scam that took place under the minority UNP government within the first few weeks of the Sirisena presidency points to where Mahinda found his imprudent lenders. Nivard Cabraal was an endogenous solution. Arjuna Mahendran was an exogenous solution provider.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was blamed for financial profligacy and procurement through unsolicited proposals. We now have the solicited wisdom and expertise of Charitha Ratwatte, R. Paskeralingam and Arjuna Mahendran who constitute an all-powerful team dispensing Kautilyan wisdom on economic policy.

The purpose of independent commissions was to ensure neutral arbitration among groups and interests involved in the process of governance. The rule of law, transparency, and accountability are mere platitudes in the absence of institutions that can restrain the excesses of competitive politics. Presidential moralizing is not good governance. Trivializing public concerns by flippant Prime Ministerial witticisms is not good governance.

This government is a far removed from ethical governance. A prerequisite of ethical governance is that official business is transacted in a manner that the public has access to both substantive and procedural information on matters of public importance.

According to a recent news report, three bidders have been short listed to explain their strategies to turn around SriLankan airlines to a cabinet subcommittee. The three parties include Peace Air owned by a local businessman Mr. Gamini Wettasinghe. This gentleman may indeed turn out to be our local equivalent of Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic or Tony Fernandes of Air Asia. No doubt the Cabinet subcommittee will give him a hearing.

That said, this writer would urge the Cabinet Sub Committee to delve a wee bit further and examine the related documents pertaining to the lease of a Boeing 737 air craft in 1990 where Guinness Peat aviation provided the finance and the middlemen were an aircraft broker from New York of Greek dissent and a Sri Lankan gentleman named Wettasinghe. At the time of the execution of that lease agreement, this writer was serving as Manager United Kingdom of then Air Lanka. This writer went to Shannon Ireland along with the Chief Financial officer and the Head of Engineering. Mr.K.C Kamalasabeyson who represented the AGs department is no more. Mr. R Passkeralingam current advisor to the Prime Minister was then secretary Treasury and the most influential member of the Board of Directors of Air Lanka. That was twenty five years ago.

On reading the news of the short listed contenders, the name Wettasinghe rang a bell as loud as the Big Ben on the banks of the Thames. The Greek Air Craft broker involved in the deal, had a jaw breaking Greek Name. I recall how he helped me to pronounce his name. Just say ‘Catch your knees’ he told me. Fancying myself as a wit, I told him to catch something else. May be Mr. Wettasinghe will remember the exact name of the Greek Air Craft broker. Speaking of Greeks, Homer in Iliad says “Even a fool learns something once it hits him.”

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Latest comments

  • 12

    Mr Sarath De Alwis you are quite right!
    The circus is worse than ever before.. the SPIN is greater too!

    Neros are fiddling while Rome burns, people are starving, rupee crashing, decent public transport unavailable and rage stalks the streets and the corrupt politicians are dancing in duty free SUVs…

    Miracle of Modayas and Diyawenna Parliament of Morons is stinking and sinking in Bribery and Corruption as the Hot Air Hub of conferences to advance new Constitutions to distract the moda masses!

    In Miracle of Modayas the corrupt Minister of justice organizes a festival to celebrate mega political corruption with the ruling corrupt politicians – Sira, Bond Ranil, Pathala Champika of Mega city Sinhala Buddhist Racism aka.

    Pathala is the Chinese Emperor of Sri Lanka in waiting wanna be successor to MR! Very dangerous and will step out onto the Stage once Sira and Ranil fall!

    Sirisena the consummate Modaya, has the audacity to say that there is no need to hold the corrupt politician Accountable! The failure to hold the corrupt SLFP-UNP politicians accountable is the reason for the EPIDEMIC OF CORRUPTION that trickles down to all corners of the country. The Sira-Ranil jarapalanaya POLITICAL CULTURE OF IMPUNITY and IMMUNITY for Corrupt politicians in SLFP and UNP is the primary factor that enables the environment for corruption to flourish! Long live Miracle of Modayas.

  • 6

    The writer says: “He is not a humbug”. That was referring to ex President and present day MP, Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse. It is nothing but TRUTH. Today, both the Prime Minister and President led Government is a “CONGLOMERATE” of HUMBUGS. A “Humbug” is described as a “Hypocritical Imposter or Sham”. From what has come about in Governance from August 18th of 2015 to date and every day continuance, are we wrong in terming this Government as a “Hypocritical Imposter”?

  • 7

    Democracy has Failed In Sri Lanka!
    It has become a Government by Politicians for the benefit of Politicians!

  • 5

    “Having voted for the common candidate Sirisena on 8th January 2014, and (being) blatantly betrayed on 13th October 2016, it was wiser to take note of the advice of James Joyce in Ulysses. ‘A mistake is a portal of discovery.’”

    How true! However, at the time we had hardly any option and, as we all experienced, there was an euphoric sensation of relief and hope blowing in the wind when the present bunch of (what we now realize are) “humbugs” were voted in. And that “mistake” certainly led us to that “portal of discovery” wherein the President, PM and their coterie of “brokers” have been revealed as the humbugs they are.

    So ‘what to do'(?), as we Sri Lankans are often heard to repeat when a solution to a problem is invisible.

  • 3

    Mr Sarath de Alwis,

    As always a pleasure to read.

    You have well articulate the disappointment most of us feel.

    One thing I have grappled with after starting to read this forum is, “why are we still looking?”

    From the 4th of Feb 1948, we have waited for exemplary leaders; none have appeared. Isn’t it about time we realised it’s a lost cause? Why are we still waiting for? Shouldn’t we be doing something else?

    In Science, rational minds – well, hope – if something doesn’t occur, will make a safe assumption that the chance of that happening is very remote and will look for other alternatives.

    Why are we still waiting for something that – as rational people – we know is never going to happen?

    In spite of the immense scholarship and erudition of the Lankan writers/analysts, plebeians out here feel that the only person – no clue to his scholarship or erudition – that came even remotely close to providing a valid answer is Mr Udurawana.

    When asked “Are you mad or am I mad?”

    He is supposed to have said “both respectively.”

    In two simple words, he surpassed all the scholarship, erudition, voluminous -writings, theses …….. of all the Lankan writes/analysts/pundits ……

    Dunno, all the complex intricacies of the Bond shindig. But the plebeians out here feel, in simple terms, that someone was paid Rs.5 billion to facilitate a Bond-transaction. If not mistaken, the money went from the EPF to “government borrowings” facilitated by the “sale” of Bonds. Rs.5 billion to transfer funds from one section of the Central Bank to another section is just brilliant. Cabral/Mahendran you beauties; that’s what’s called talent!

    Even if it is not a crime, it should be a crime.

    Like good old Benito, Ranil should be hung by his feet in the Galle Face Green, next to Sirisena, Mahinda, Gotabaya, Basil, CBK, Premadasa, JR, Sirima, N M, Colvin, SWRD, …………..

    After reading Shyamon’s piece about Dukkha, the only way to pacify one’s mind and overcome Duka is to think of unspeakable violence.

    • 1

      Nimal F,
      “From the 4th of Feb 1948, we have waited for exemplary leaders; none have appeared. Isn’t it about time we realised it’s a lost cause? Why are we still waiting for? Shouldn’t we be doing something else?”

      Do you think there is a chance the Brits would be interested if we call them back and tell them all is forgiven?

      • 0

        “Do you think there is a chance the Brits would be interested if we call them back and tell them all is forgiven?”

        This is already happening, but the boats are heading the other way.

        All boats are heading to the mother-country or it’s colonies.

        Even the great patriots Rajapakses, Fonseka, Allahperuma …….. know which side their bread is buttered ………. mouths say one, the feet say another.

        Unlike most “Sinhalese,” I don’t feel any particular joy/pleasure/happiness, if I’m abused/misgoverned by my own kind the “Sinhalese,” and not the pale-face. If I am abused; I am abused. It doesn’t matter who is abusing me.

        For the simple plebs out here, third-world “independence” is nothing but taking away the right to abuse your people from outsiders and handing it to your own kind. And your own kind do a better job of it than any outsiders.

        Unbeknownst to them, most Lankans are closet masochists. They need their daily dose of pain; year after year.

        And we live till we die.

  • 3

    Corruption in the widest sense of the word encompasses all acts resulting from the abuse of power. Politicians are driven by an intense greed for power, which will enable them to achieve all their personal, materialistic goals in life. They perceive ‘doing politics’ merely as a job. They fool the voting public into believing that their goal is to serve the country and the people.

    Since Independence, every Government that we have elected has had it’s share of allegations of corruption – the differences being in the types and intensities of such acts. After nearly 7 decades of this state of affairs, the politicians must be having a field day laughing at the gullible voters who actually hope to usher in a utopian Government free of bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, influence peddling, drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking and the abuse of government power for other purposes such as the repression of political opponents and general police brutality.

    As a country, we will never be free of politicians who perpetuate this corrupt system. We must as a people (at least after 70 years) become politically and socially mature to understand and acknowledge the fact that corruption is the price that we must pay for electing a specific set of individuals to govern our nation for a specified time. We should not waste time whingeing about it. We should ensure that all legal measures are in place to restrict corruption and that the country continues to develop economically, socially and technologically.

    Did any one who voted for the Yahapalanaya Government actually believe that there
    would be zero corruption under the new dispensation ?

  • 2

    Yes corruption is aform of terrorism.
    Yes Religious and Racial supremacy are forms of terrorism
    Yes religious clergies high jacking or making use of political parties from behind the scene or from frontline are terrorism
    Yes rich & powerful media who are biased and take sides is a form of terrorism

    Yes rich and powerful bussinesmen supporting political parties & party leaders through donatiotion or paying a percentage is a chronic form of terrorism.

    Yes government forces not implementing or maintaining law & order is a serious form of terrorism.

    Yes, political leaders and their team wearing the mask of patriotism and using language supremacy and relgious supremacy to come to power is the worse form of terrorism.

    Terrorism breeds terrorism.

  • 2

    Sarath De Alwis.

    You say that MaRa is not a Humbug! How will James Joyce describe him? or for that matter how could you reconcile the fact that Sarath Amunagama is part of this Government?
    Sarath Amunagama has mastered the art of having the best of both worlds!
    Perhaps,that is Sociology?

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