By Vishwamithra –
“Consciousness is only possible through change; change is only possible through movement.” ~ Aldous Huxley
No Sri Lankan political leader has done what Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the leader of the National People’s Power (NPP), has accomplished in the past few months. Having undertaken an international tour of speechmaking, he entered an enclave in which only the daring and creative dwell. There’s no doubt that in Sri Lanka today AKD is considered the best Sinhala speaker. Within or outside the walls of the Parliamentary Chambers, he has no match. When he takes the floor in Parliament, other than an insipid few who resort to usual heckling and catcalling, those who matter and are serious in politics and governance pay attention. For apart from AKD’s proficiency in the vernacular, contextualizing and relating the core of a somber issue and or argument, remains his forte. A very few have had that rare quality of an able and excellent orator.
AKD built his reputation as a remarkable orator over the last two decades with his own inherent ability to be always empathetic and lucid at the same time. Now he has chosen to use (or abuse) that capability and skill in the international arena amongst the Diaspora. A crusade, he has undertaken and with what objectives in mind, one does not know. Yet one could assume that it is to raise funds for the cause of the National People’s Power, the political Party AKD leads. But lucrative fundraising would not result from a ‘worldwind’ tour with such as one undertaken by AKD. It’s not going to happen.
To fight an election campaign, especially in the corrupting circumstances prevailing in Sri Lanka, one needs money, a lot of it. Petrol and diesel requirements for transport coupled with advertising, specifically on television and printing alone would consume more than eighty percent (80%) of an election budget. A campaign strapped by dearth of hard cash resulting in measly spending would not succeed and if it does, would be a miracle. AKD is not yet in that sublime category of ‘miracle-maker’.
If the NPP and its leader set out to raise money on this tour with that as a sole or one of the main objectives and are not successful in securing a substantial amounts of funds needed for their future campaigns, can we still call this venture a failure? The answer is Yes and NO. It would be a failure if they did not raise money at least to finance the tour expenses, including airline tickets, hotel expenses etc. If on the other hand, despite failure to raise substantial funds, should AKD manage to inspire the Diaspora and galvanize a movement back in Sri Lanka aided and abetted by a motivated segment of the Diaspora, then it would definitely be at least a partial success.
The feedback from Los Angeles, the first stop of AKD’s tour is hugely positive. There may not have been the so-called elite class of the Sri Lankan diaspora in attendance, yet the organization and management of the event, barring a very few shortcomings, according to reports reaching Sri Lanka, exposed the class difference between this so-called elite and the commoners in Southern California. It had been a microcosm of the despicable local lifecycle that is being played out over and over. Whether AKD was advised accordingly and if he was, whether he attuned himself accordingly, one does not know. But the presentation he had made and the response from the audience and the ripples it created in Sri Lanka, especially amongst AKD’s political peers, cannot be ignored. Arguments about AKD deliberately flirting with the Mecca of Capitalism while pontificating socialistic economic policies is an anachronistic argument which would not have any life on its own. NPP and its leadership have come a long way from Rohana Wijeweera’s parochial philosophy and his JVP. In fact AKD being able to accommodate some aspects of American system’s policies and principles does, in fact, speaks volumes for their development as a political entity with an open mindset to coexist with the rest of the world. Those who find fault with such an approach are indeed lacking sociopolitical insight and fundamental human empathy.
Aside from the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, USA and Canada are the countries that have a sizeable number of Sri Lankan migrants. Some of those members of this collective diaspora may have voting power in Sri Lanka. AKD and NPP are not canvassing their votes. It would be absurd to incur such large sums of money just to canvas a few thousand votes. However, the very optics of such a tour does matter. AKD’s impact on the current political situation and his attempts to shape and define the core of the political discourse in Sri Lanka will be felt and those who get buried by that impact are the ones who should be worried. If any other political leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sajith Premadasa or any member of the Rajapaksa family engaged in a similar tour, they would have been the recipients of jeers and catcalls. The pressures applied by the strategic actions and equally tactical rhetoric by AKD and the NPP may be too heavy a weight for them to carry.
The cumulative effect of seventy five years of wastage, inefficiencies, incompetence and blatant corruption amongst our past and present politicians is being exposed; Aragalaya-22 saw to it that a complete change from that rotten status quo is an absolute must. A new political system and a governance method need to be crafted and put into an actionable philosophy. A system that produced, one election cycle after another, men and women of corrupt minds and corrupting modus operandi cannot be trusted any longer; weight of sustenance and perpetuation of such a nauseatingly stinking methodology of a political operation may be borne by our people but lifespan of that weight-carrying will end with the next election, be it Presidential or Parliamentary. A system that has to grow from bottom up instead of top downwards needs to be introduced albeit its delay in coming to fruition.
Whether Anura Kumara Dissanayake and his comrades-in-arms succeed in the next election is a totally different proposition. A serious yet non-violent attempt at the change may be overdue. Farmers in the dry zone, boutique owners at every culvert junction in the rural hinterland and laborer in the big cities or middleclass junior executive in the private sector or every school teacher and hospital nurse, men and women who undergo most severe hardships in the Middle-East to send whatever they earn to feed a family back home in all parts of the country may have been dreaming of that day to dawn. Not because they are angry or feeling vengeful about the politicians who have successively deceived them over the last seven to eight decades, but solely because they are motivated to bring forth a meaningful better tomorrow for their children and grandchildren.
AKD and his cohorts may not have been tested and tried early; they may have evaded that unholy landmark that too is due to lack of votes they had received in the past elections. But declaration of bankruptcy and openly practiced corrupt deals led the country to fall from international grace; it opened many a blind eye; not only the current and immediate-past leaders, the whole set of leaders since Independence came into question. Their plusses and minuses were dissected and analyzed and what emerged was not agreeable to the present generation.
The gulf between the haves and have-nots, between the privileged and underprivileged and between the elites and the commoners kept growing. Social media exposed the lifestyle differences; it uncovered the social demeanors of the so-called top-notch socialites in compromising postures. Social media today has become a thorn for those who have more to hide than be authentic and open. As much as the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and Rohana Wijeweera are outdated, the hurling of stones of envy-ridden slanders at the NPP too has become things more related to the past than the present and time yet to come. The progression of a people’s movement can be halted for a while but it cannot be permanently stopped; its relentless movement towards its chosen goals may be slowed down, its eventual climax cannot be shunned.
Realization on the part of the greater majority of the people for whose cause a movement has been born is fast becoming a reality. That reality must be pursued at all costs. The responsibility and the burden placed on a political group such as National People’s Power could be unbearably heavy; the very weight of such a burden could breakdown an ordinary man or woman. But leaders of people’s movements are no ordinary men and women. When the landscape becomes curvy and dangerous even to behold, when the cries and tears have run their terminal course, when lips are parched and cheeks are wrinkled, real leaders choose to tread along irrespective of what awaits them at the next bend or next climb. The journey becomes more significant and more defining, not only of the movement but also of the journeymen.
AKD and his determined bedfellows deserve every ounce of support we can offer them. For they are the only ones who have not been tarred by the same brush.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org