14 August, 2020

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After Darkness At Noon, Deception In Daylight

By Sarath De Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

The best and the brightest of the academic and activists who supported the common candidacy of President Sirisena have decided to refresh Presidential remembrance of his covenant on good governance announced prior to the Presdential election.

The three page letter in elegant, eloquent Sinhala seems to suggest that promises not kept are deemed as ‘broken’. Their sense of disillusionment is expressed with extreme economy, an indication that they still cling to their pre-election aspirations for good governance and transparency.

This missive to the President exposes the dichotomy between the comprador and hierarchical economics of the administration and the indigenous, alliance economics of the reform centric civil society who claim a stake in the Maithrpala Sirisena Presidency.

What they advocate is to be secure in the enjoyment of our own means of subsistence and development first. External borrowing is not dictated by dogma but resorted to under unavoidable compulsions. The tone is aggrieved. The emphasis is on the sense of dejection and despair.SA

‘There is not the slightest apprehension in our minds that you have unremembered the solemn pledge you made before the Presidential Election on 8th January 2015 with regard to the corruption and wrongdoings in financing infrastructure development.

‘A scrutiny of various measure taken by the state in this regard drives us and many others in to a state of utter bewilderment.

The purpose of this communication is three fold – to express our sense of bewilderment, to explain why we are bewildered and to offer our counsel.

The Academic and civil society coalition that now finds itself orphaned makes a compelling case for “ observing the cardinal principles of good governance to ensure optimal returns on investments in infrastructure development by harnessing indigenous expertise, dexterity and craftsmanship.

What they suggest may not be to what was prescribed by George Soros and Ricardo Hausmann. Yet, what they suggest makes eminent common sense. Structural transformation, Competitiveness and Social Inclusion call for indigenous enterprise.

They insist that a country with depleted resources and a heavy debt servicing burden cannot and should not be cavalier in its disregard for due diligence in public investment.

“Extreme care should be taken to ensure maximum capital efficiency in terms of returns and productivity when investing in major infrastructure projects.”

Our national economic strategy should offer the space and the incentives to local enterprises to contribute towards the country’s development needs.

It would then enable local institutions to constructively participate in infrastructure development projects. The demand for services will accrue to the domestic economy with its attendant multiplier effects.

If and when local construction and expertise is found inadequate for the task or procurement from abroad is unavoidable, the most advantageous terms must be negotiated.

Competitive procurement procedures should be strictly followed. The procedure adopted should be transparent. That alone will reduce room for corruption, waste and mismanagement.

These parameters were discussed and deliberated ad nauseam prior to the Presidential election. What we now hear, learn and discover is altogether different. Projects appear to be offered on negotiated terms with no tenders being called. These are being funded through bi-lateral credit. These credit lines negotiated previously were expensive and most unfavorable to our country.

Projects in several sectors are now offered as evidence of this assertion according to news reports. The matter of Railways is of particular interest. We have a proven track record of having efficiently and economically constructed railway tracks in the post-Tsunami recovery projects. That was also a time of war. Today in the post-war development initiatives we continue to resort to bilateral credit from India and China. Thereby we are consciously depriving the national economy of all advantages of local construction and competitive procurement.

If these news reports are correct, it only demonstrates that this government is guilty of reneging that came to power on a platform of reforms is now reneging on its own grand promises of good governance.’

The principal signatories to the document are Professor Sarath Wijesuriya the new convener of the National Movement for a just society, Dr.Lalitha Siri Gunaruwan of the Department Economics Colombo University and a former Secretary Ministry of Transport and a former General Manager of Railways, Professor Amal Kumarage of the University of Moratuwa and a former head of the National Transport Commission and Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri of the University of Colombo. Among the other 22 signatories are Chandra Jayaratne a former head of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Priyal De Silva a former General Manager of Railways and a former President of the Charted Institute of Engineers?

The composition of the learned Citizens who have addressed this letter to the President has another message for us. They are academics and professionals who were conspicuously absent from the Sri Lanka Economic Forum 2016 at the Cinnamon grand. They are a different breed from those who constitute the policy making councils of the ‘Yahapalana’ government.

Their disenchantment with the Sirisena Wickremesinghe combine is natural. They are the indigenous intelligentsia whose mobilization and protest provided the marginal plurality that made the difference on 8th January 2015.

We live in strange times. Democratic Socialism is discovered in America. Senator Bernie’ Sanders has a message for Malik Samarawikrama, Charitha Ratwatte and R. Paskeralingam. Democratic socialism is a system where the economy works for all, not just the very wealthy.

The consensus coalition relies on the devils dictates for its survival- Greed and Selfishness. The mandate of 8th January 2015 was not about reclaiming the SLFP from the Rajapaksa grip. If President Sirisena is genuinely concerned about reclaiming the legacy of Bandaranaike, he should pay heed to the much misunderstood S.W.R.D Banadranaike.

“I feel that I am in my own small way both a nurse and a mid-wife. I am a nurse at a death bed. I realize at least that the thing is dying. I would like to see, as should be the case at every death bed, that the death is reasonably peaceful and dignified. It shocks me equally that anyone should try artificially to galvanize the dying thing in to life and that anyone should place his hand at the throat of the dying thing and squeeze out the life that is already ebbing.

I am also, I feel, a midwife at birth. I would like that birth to be auspicious and painless as far as possible. I am not impatient to drag the living thing before it’s time out of the womb with instruments and bring forth to the world something grotesque and distorted. I am also not prepared to strangle that life in its womb.”

What is significant is that SWRD expressed these views while in the ranks of the UNP and from its front benches. Bandaranaike is a prophet misunderstood by his disciples past and present and maligned in history.

The Consensus Coalition government we have is grotesque in its composition and distorts the political reality on ground. The President can forge a coalition to bring about political reforms if he abandons his present project to reclaim the SLFP – a political machine that is corrupt to the core and from the core.

The dichotomy between the altruistic peasant who agreed to be the common candidate and the worldly pragmatism of the elected president needs early resolution.

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Latest comments

  • 15
    4

    “Bandaranaike is a prophet misunderstood by his disciples past and present and maligned in history.”

    Oh yeah?

    He is also the one who started the downward spiral beginning with the ‘Sinhala Only’ crap that metamorphosed into the current ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ chauvinist mindset.

    What a waste of a gene pool and a destruction of our rich diversity with the exodus of the Burghers and the rest of the ‘brain-drain’, leaving us with the mostly the dregs.

    Sevala Banda was another power-hungry hypocrite trying to bury his past for purely selfish reasons – nothing to do with benefits to the country.

    • 3
      3

      What they sowed is what you reap!

      Curse them for all the Sinhala Buddhist racism generation after generation they sowed:

      What we have today is several mutations of those seeds of destruction sprung up like mushroom.

    • 0
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      Sarath De Alwis

      RE:After Darkness At Noon, Deception In Daylight

      “The best and the brightest of the academic and activists who supported the common candidacy of President Sirisena have decided to refresh Presidential remembrance of his covenant on good governance announced prior to the Presdential election”

      Very good. Expose, Expose and Expose.

      Are any of the Sri Lankan Academics up to par to write a Simple Common Sense Phamplet, like what Thomas Paine did for the Americans in 1776?

      A Yahapalana “Yugaya”, Era, Common Sense (pamphlet)?

      Common Sense is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–76 that inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776. The pamphlet explained the advantages of and the need for immediate independence in clear, simple language. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolution, and became an immediate sensation. It was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places.

      Washington had it read to all his troops, which at the time were surrounding the British army in Boston. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history. As of 2006, it remains the all-time best selling American title.

      Common Sense presented the American colonists with an argument for freedom from British rule at a time when the question of whether or not to seek independence was the central issue of the day. Paine wrote and reasoned in an easily understood style. Forgoing the philosophical and Latin references used by Enlightenment era writers, he structured Common Sense as if it were a sermon, relying on biblical references to make his case. He connected independence with common dissenting Protestant beliefs as a means to present a distinctly American political identity. Historian Gordon S. Wood described Common Sense as “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era”.

  • 7
    0

    That letter indicates the urgent NEED of the time. I suppose those people and organizations who took a big risk of making this change possible on January 8th 2015,would have realized the dangers lying ahead in the way the day to day administration of Governmental affairs are carried on. Also, I feel they too would have felt the NEED to “Protect” and “Standby” the President, Mr. Sirisena at this critical time. No doubt he gets “pushed” and “squeezed” by a team of “Rouges” in his own camp and some, playing the “hide and seek” game with whom he has camped.In this background, it is indeed very creditable for these organizations who brought Mr. Sirisena to have come forward at a very critical time to protect him and move forward with the agenda to put this country on the right track. Let those “Rouges” and “Hide and Seek” game setters know what is in stock for them. This is very encouraging and now the PEOPLE must unite to revitalize that movement.

  • 8
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    Non-Disciple:-

    “What a waste of a gene pool and a destruction of our rich diversity with the exodus of the Burghers and the rest of the ‘brain-drain’, leaving us with the mostly the dregs.”

    Isn’t this our own fault?

    We have placed Uneducated Politicians at the top of our List, who believe that they are the experts in Medicine, Engineering, and Law Enforcement!

    Resulting in the Experts in these Fields, leaving the Country for Greener Pastures Where the Expertise in their chosen Fields is Valued and Appreciated.

    • 4
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      Hamlet:

      Yes (it is our fault), but my point is that Banda is the one who created the scenario with his ‘Sinhala Only’ BS that left us with more stupid voters than we would have had without that mass exodus he was directly responsible for.

      Besides that, we would have a much greater choice of more suitable candidates for voters to select.

  • 1
    1

    These are the very same people who asked if these roads are paved in Gold or Platinum to cost so much.
    But, they are speachless when the new costs revealed for Outer Colombo Hwy IIIrd phase and Col-kandy highway are even costlier.

    They lied to us the public knowingly. They can not now plead ignorence or escape by putting some scapegoates in jail.These cosmatcs will not suffice.
    You will have to face the wrath of the people in time to come.

  • 1
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    Sigh! ” These are being funded through bi-lateral credit. These credit lines negotiated previously were expensive and most unfavorable to our country “.

    We couldn’t go to the IMF/WB due to our non-existent checks and balances in accountability.

    So, what do we do now, can we walk away ? Then, go to the open market for lending, borrow and let the indigenous industries carry out the projects. This is expensive.

    The in-between is the bi-lateral trade finance agreements, where the lending Nation takes the money back by ensuring projects will be carried out by setups of the lending country. Local setup will get the crumbs off the big plate.

    So, how do we get around this.

  • 3
    0

    Aren’t we repeating the same chorus? Politicians of Sri Lanka should not be vested with unnecessary power. They are mere Bassunay’s when it comes to building a nation. It is strange why the outcome is always as the Gypsies song goes on ‘Senyore’…

  • 0
    0

    Please give the translation of he whole letter.

    • 0
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      CT
      Please post the translation of the letter here.
      Who are the authors of the letter please?

  • 0
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    The writer says SWRD is a prophet. Is the writer serious? SWRD got into the national dress to fool the public. In power he played into populism and brought in two disasters for Sri Lanka; One was socialism and the other nationalism. He was rarely consistent. Dasanayake poetised him in Parliament:
    “I do not like thee Banda dear
    Because you change from year to year.”

  • 0
    0

    I was not born when SWRD was alive. Still, I remember my grandmother referred to him as Banda in the vernacular but Dudley and JR were referred to with much respect as leaders who meant what they said. This is not about my grandmother’s opinion but how her generation related to the leadership of the time.

    Today, I do not trust any of our leaders. Not even Mr. Honesty, Ranil Wickremesinghe. Why? Because Ranil feels he is cleverer than the rest of us and the only crowd who can understand him are fellow Royalists. His appointment of the SL High Commissioner to Britain is a case in point. He could not find a career diplomat to post to the capital of what used to be our mother-country other than his cousin? Being his cousin is not a crime but him choosing his cousin after all the speeches about nepotism is rather rich in irony. No wonder Arjuna Ranatunge finds his loving brother the most trustworthy individual to appoint to the Port.

    What’s next? A Maithripala sibling to Washington? Los Angeles is being blessed with Hirunika’s Aunty. Very soon Mangala should be revealing his list of family indispensables to the rest of our embassies.

  • 0
    0

    Like some of the previous commentators on this piece, I disagree with Mr. de Alwis in the matter of his opinion of SWRDB. However, the rest of the piece is yet another example of his excellence in analysis of the status quo.

    I particularly appreciated his reference to the unholy Troika of Samarawickreme, Ratwatte and Paskaralingam. Appropriate, to say the least, in the context of the body of his submission! Where the hell were these three when many of us were standing up to be counted in opposition to the MR1 dispensation?!

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