By Sarath De Alwis –
This is a response to Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka’s critique of Mangala’s Budget. He describes it as a “social war”.
Globalization is not global hegemony. It can be so construed by Wimal Weerawansa who has not read a book written in any language other than Sinhala. That is understandable. Some regard globalism with suspicion or absolute aversion due to a perceived threat of cultural oppression. A fear proven wrong by history.
When Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka adopts that position it is pure political hypocrisy. Globalization is global connectivity. Resisting global connectivity is isolation in the 21st Century.
If some Mahanayake thero claims that the moon has a rabbit painted on it, we can let it be. When a political scientist claims to have seen the rabbit painted on the lunar surface, through a planetary telescope in Cuba he has lost his marbles or is playing games.
What the Budget does is to open avenues for universal interconnectedness. Globalism is not a doctrine. It is an ancient process that is now driven by technology. Its politics is determined and dependent on the eye of the beholder. Globalism, is nothing more and nothing less than a world that is today covered with multiple networks of connections that allow us to reach multicontinental distances in seconds. The Spaniards started the business with Sails. The Chinese and Arabs did it on camels and caravans.
Novelist and Philosopher C.S Lewis in his ‘The Great Divorce” creates a fictional allegory of a man’s experience traveling to another-world place which he takes to be heaven. The man then discovers that it is not at all consistent with his opinion of heaven. That in a nutshell is the predicament of Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka.
As C.S. Lewis observes our opinions are not honestly arrived at. We simply find ourselves saddled with a certain current of ideas. Then we plunge in to them, because it seems modern and successful.
Mangala is talking about linking with global progress. Dr. Jayatlilleka is propounding a tribalism. He describes his tribalism as Sri Lankan exceptionalism. He is right. It is exceptionalism that keeps a tribe together. He talks of property rights. He is guided by Basil Rajapaksa who owns property and disowns property in Malwana and Browns Hill, Matara. We don’t have to buy it.
Touchscreens, today are integrated into our lives at a speed and pace that is light years away from the speed and pace that integrated the steam driven train in to our lives, when the British introduced it in the 19th century and globalized Ceylon now Sri Lanka.
Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka is not an economist. He is a political scientist but a biased one. He is not an independent commentator. He is a backer of Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the 2020 Presidential stakes.
Now, we cannot underrate Gotabaya’s determination to modernize Sri Lanka. The man has class. See what he has done to the lunatic asylum that the British built down Buller’s road now Baudhdhaloka Mawatha. It is today the Arcade and home to’ Kaema Sutra’ owned by Global Star Jacqueline Fernandez and Global Chef Dharshana Munidasa. It is a globally competitive restaurant where you can eat Hoppers and wash it down with chilled Thambili water with lime and pay by credit card.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the first to introduce ‘robotics’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ in to law enforcement. That is why Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and Ranil Wickremesignhe did not act on the Nambuwasam report on the Welikada prison massacre.
Surely, we should understand that ‘Artificial Intelligence’ is not defined in the penal code. ‘Robots’ cannot be prosecuted even if they have exotic names as ‘Betel Leaf Estate’. Keith Noyahr now in Australia will vouch for that.
Don’t be surprised if Satya Nadella of Microsoft comes here looking for the father of ‘artificial intelligence ‘in Sri Lanka. Perhaps, it is this possibility that deters the candidate from turning in his passport with the Great seal of the Eagle on its cover.
Now let us return to Mangala’s ‘Social War Budget’ and how it has laid ‘Siege on our Social Contract’.
The claim that R. Premadasa moved an amendment to the Land Reform Act to bring the ceiling down to five acres and that it was not a theatrical gesture is absolute hogwash. Premadasa owned some forty acres in some remote corner in Mahawa which he tended with meticulous care.
In Steinbeck’s Mice and Men, George and Lennie dream of a self-sufficient homestead where they can plant vegetables and raise animals. Born in to a lower middleclass family, city councilor Premadasa shared their dream and obtained an allotment of land from the government in the Mahawa dryzone. If in fact, as President, he claimed that ‘Land is the patrimony of the whole people’, this writer will dare not dispute it. He would have meant it.
When this writer knew Premadasa he was driving an Austin Cambridge and most times relied on Sirisena Cooray’s Morris Minor to get about. Much water has flowed down the Mahaweli river and in to reservoirs created by its diversion telescoped in to six years. Under JRJ’s executive presidency politics became a business that made millionaires.
President Premadasa also minded the treasury as a patrimony. Paskeralingam was his trusted and absolute caretaker. That is the problem that haunts us today. Paskeralingam is Ranil’s Rasputin today.
Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka has discovered a developmental paradigm that Sri Lanka has adhered to since independence and a Sri Lankan exceptionalism’.
His problem is that he has served two Presidents – R. Premadasa and Mahinda Rajapakae who more or less shared mental paradigms and perhaps even developmental.
Premadasa left us clock towers that don’t tell you the time, and model villages which are model aberrations of imposed pseudo urban facades that created a dependency syndrome undermining the innovative genius of our rural folk. He disoriented our rural landscape and distorted our urban environment.
Mahinda has left us an airport that is not functional, a sea port that is idle and a stadium that now keeps cattle. Indeed Dr. Jayatilleka is somewhat correct when he talks of a Sri Lankan exceptionalism.
It is an exceptionalism of two Presidents R. Premadasa and Mahinda Rajapaksa. An exceptionalism promoted by sycophants bent on crediting Mahinda and Premadasa with achievements beyond the real.
Dr.Jayatilake’s expressed anguish is either imagined or fictitious. He cries “What will befall local industry when foreign industries enter the local market unimpeded?”
He should instead ask ‘what has befallen our local industry?’ In any event what local industries is he talking about? Is he talking about the steel fabricating outfit that the Rajapaksa brothers set up with a Sri Lanka expatriate who owns a Marriott Hotel in Dubai? Do we have a manufacturing sector that we can talk about?
He demands to know “what happens when having decimated our local manufacturing base, they- the foreign industries move away as they have done in many countries.” That is putting a whole train of carts before a single solitary horse.
Should we not bring in the foreign industries before we speculate on the likelihood of their leaving. Trumping up Trumpian logic trumps no body.
Dr. Jayatilleka extols the virtues of the Premadasa doctrine of creating a pastoral paradise with the Little Bo Peep slogan of ‘Five acres and a cow.’
Continuing this patently misleading theme, he complains that Mangala Samaraweera has not explained what’s ‘improper’ about the ownership of land and property in the
Country. He then links the statement in the budget speech “we will remove restrictions that limit the land ownership rights of listed companies with foreign ownership” with a plan to disembowel the Paddy Lands Act (1958) and the two Land Reform Acts of 1972 and 1975.
We have traversed considerable terrain since the paddy lands act which we greeted as the great deed of the father of Marxism Philip Gunawardena. The Marxist messiah who turned counterrevolutionary Judas is remembered for his stupidity in setting up a plywood’s factory in the back garden of his Boralugoda Walawwe at Kosgama. It initiated the rape of the Sinharaja Rain forest with Rumanian aid and opened the processes of denuding our pristine forest cover.
This writer confesses to some preferences not fastidious but sensible. CIC Gourmet Rice is a little expensive but offers a tasty meal with one vegetable curry and ‘Parippu.
The company has titled its annual report as Progress with Purpose. Progress with purpose is not what Premadasa tried. Go to Maradana Junction.
It is not progresses with purpose that Mahinda pursued with greater determination. Go to Hambanthota. It is such purpose less progress that Mangala attempts to arrest.
Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka possess an intellect that is undoubtedly exceptional. As Tolstoy observes in Anna Karenina, in addition to pride in intellect, there is also an aspect of stupidity in intellect. “And, above all, the dishonesty, yes, the dishonesty of intellect. Yes, indeed, the dishonesty and trickery”. Oh! the priceless wisdom in the Russian novel!