16 June, 2024


An Acid Test For Democracy In Sri Lanka

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

Being confined to the “boondocks” of Sri Lanka gives one a particular advantage in having access to the rural pulse of this country.

The unbelievable turmoil in matters political in the Miracle/Debacle of Asia is probably without precedent in the post-independence history of this country. There is no longer “left” and “right” in Sri Lankan politics or the three choices that S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike claimed we had when his Sri Lanka Freedom Party introduced his briefly-touted “middle way.”

We have before us and one needs add the proviso, “at time of writing” given the constantly changing allegiances, a real political “mallung.”
That said, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the current situation.

In less than two months we will be faced with an opportunity to decide whether we want a democratic dispensation of a traditional (western?) kind, with all of its myriad shortcomings, or an autocratic government operating on a bed of corruption and violence. We have in our history after 1948 experienced both of these in a variety of manifestations.

My reading of January 8th 2015 is of a nation’s decision – even if one accepts the argument that the margin of victory might well have been constituted by the so-called minority communities – to reject the wholesale plunder of the national treasury by making “commissions” the cornerstone of the alleged economic development in Sri Lanka which, in its corrupt and violent entirety, had reached depths not achieved previously except, perhaps, in the first burst of the J. R. Jayewardene “liberalization” of the later 1970s. In President Jayewardene’s case his invitation was to the offshore “robber barons” who gladly accepted. In the case of the Rajapaksa dispensation, it has been far more local with the siphoning off of huge sums of money that should have gone into real economic activity into the pockets of a pyramid of corruption.

MaithripalaHowever, the immediate result of a seeming freeze on the most outrageous of these such as the port- and land-expansion monstrosity in Colombo, has been a concomitant freeze of economic activity downstream from the primary projects.

While there is no gainsaying the environmental degradation resulting from the massive harvesting of granite and sand from various parts of the country, with no prior evaluation whatsoever, it did provide employment to those blasting the rock, (illegally) ‘mining’ sand, transporting both commodities and those engaged in applying that raw material at the sites where the construction and land reclamation was happening, in Colombo.

The sight of 57 tipper trucks apprehended at one completely illegal sand-mining site a few days ago certainly gladdened the hearts of those who have been appalled by the seemingly endless environmental degradation – truly the rape of a nation – that has been going on for several years. But, and this is a “but” that only the myopic will disregard, the apprehension of those trucks and their operators has closed out the employment of dozens of workers “downstream” from that event.

Make no mistake, I don’t think there is any moral or economic justification for activity that enriches a miniscule minority of this country’s population while the other side of that ledger means permanent damage to this country’s environment and to the vast majority of its people.

But remember that old chestnut, “In the long run, we’ll all be dead?” That is the moral dilemma that the coming election presents to many: do you bite the bullet, no matter what the pangs of hunger (literally) might be, in the interests of real economic development and recovery or do you go along with what was, blatantly, the status quo up to the 8th of January 2015?

In some cases, the response is going to be a “no brainer” in that workers who have to find the means of feeding their dependents will have little choice but to respond to the “here and now” and simply go with what keeps them and their children from a premature grave.

What complicates the equation further is the fact that a significant number, if not the majority, of voters see many of the so-called “leaders” of the current dispensation as not only reaping the benefits of President Sirisena’s victory but acting in such a manner that, should there be a return of the Rajapaksa Regime, they will in no way suffer.

The government is seen as going after the sprats of corruption while the sharks swim free! Will this perception lead to a significant enough number of voters either sitting on their hands at voting time or (God forbid!) voting for those they only succeeded in dislodging a few months ago, using that old excuse of “better a thief you know than one you don’t?”

There is also the matter of the huge profits that big business and the banks have made under the Rajapaksa dispensation. Make no mistake they know how to read a bottom line and how and when to defend it and they have an excellent stalking horse with which to do it in the person of Mahinda Rajapaksa who has never failed to tout himself as a socialist and a “man of the people.”

There has also been the bubble of accelerated business activity generated by the flood of “black” money. Since Sirisena’s victory, the price of land in our part of the world has dropped significantly and the current wisdom is that it is directly attributable to the springs of “black” money not flowing as freely as they did in the recent past.

The stock exchange, sans the “pump and dump” manipulations with “black” money and with state funds from such as the National Savings Bank and the Employees’ Provident Fund and the proceeds of “commissions,” has similarly slowed to a crawl according to observers.

An economic bubble created by letting loose a flood of “dirty” money appears to have burst and its impact is being felt in both the formal and informal sectors of Sri Lanka’s economy.

Another factor of major consequence is the army of the corrupt that has built up over the years and which is not going to stand by and lose control of their streams of income. Make no mistake, there is “critical mass” here in terms of the politicians from the lowly Pradeshiya Sabha member to those who held positions of power and importance in the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. Their futures are now indissolubly linked with that of our recently deposed monarch and they are not “going to go gentle into the night.” Everything from their Gucci footwear to their luxury limos will be at stake on the 17th of August 2015 and they will unleash whatever it takes to survive (and thrive). This, in fact, could be the single most important factor in what lies ahead for this country and what I have to say in the paragraphs that follow this statement is going to be vital in that context.

In a very real sense, corruption and illegality has ruled this country and the affairs of Sri Lanka have been conducted accordingly. We are now going to have to endure an economic and political revolution before some sense of sanity is restored.

Not easy, by a long shot!

There is a great deal to do and very little time in which to do it in the matter of building on the foundation of principle that was laid on January 8th 2015 and I would make the (obvious) observation that desperate situations call for radical responses.

The governing group, the United National Party in particular, needs to divest itself of those with so much as a taint of corruption about them. The whole “Affaire Arjuna Mahendran” left a bad taste not only in the mouths of the so-called sophisticated middle-class of this country but appears to have percolated down to the allegedly less-sophisticated in our society who, like anyone with a nose, can smell a rat! This is perceived, in some quarters at least, as a classic case of a reversal of the need for justice not only being done but being seen to be done. The public perception is that the government and its leadership has not come clean about this whole sorry episode and that there is, at best, sleight of hand and, at worst, a cover-up. I have been told by several who claim to know Mr. Mahendran very well and have nothing to gain from defending him that he is totally incapable of what he is being accused of. It might still not be too late for Ranil Wickremesinghe and Co. to clear the air on this matter or have they caught the contagion of monumental arrogance that ultimately did Mahinda Rajapaksa in?

Far more serious and more difficult of solution is the matter of ridding the leadership of any government that emerges victorious after the next election of every single one of those with even a vestige of corruption about them. I am not about to repeat a list of those that both I and the general public are already well acquainted with. Mr. Wickremesinghe has to choose the national good over considerations of “political loyalty” and rid himself of the asps that he has, perhaps for reasons of loyalty, chosen to clasp to his bosom. In the general population, even his worst critics, acknowledge Ranil Wickremesinghe as an honest and capable man in financial and political matters but they do not view many of those he has surrounded himself with in a similar light. And with good reason. In affairs political, it is obviously not easy to do what I am suggesting must be done but given the situation in Sri Lanka, nothing less will suffice, particularly since several of them have, pretty openly, bought “insurance” in the event of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s return. Many of them have enough intelligence and political knowledge to be consigned to some diplomatic Coventry. They might serve us acceptably in such locations as Washington or the Court of Saint James, for instance.

While the postings suggested could well be an option, the bottom line is that they must be got rid of because the last thing that this country needs and can tolerate is a bunch of wolves in sheep’s clothing!

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Latest comments

  • 2

    You have sighted one of the major pull factors that starts the rot.

    The sand tippers had for so long done the wrong thing. So had the pavement hawkers of Petta. The illegal construction on the side of the road is another.

    In all these instances a license need to be obtained. Things of this nature needs to be regulated.

    What typically happens is that the local public official capitulates to pressure. Most often for votes. The normal excuse is employment of those who are engaged in these activities.

    The systems are in place for a reason. Whether one is rich or poor one should not be allowed to circumvent the system.

  • 4

    Emil van der Poorten,

    “An Acid Test For Democracy In Sri Lanka”

    I would rather call it the acid test for Sinhala Buddhist majoritarianism/racism.

    It boils down to that with Mahinda entering the ring.

    It is interesting to watch how the West and India will react to Mahinda regaining power, which I believe is the most probable outcome of the present election.

    Sri Lankan politics is not about democracy at all, it is barber saloon rubbish: If you dig it you will only get rubbish again and again.

    It only shows the lack of intellectual stature or political maturity of the Sinhala society and its emotionalism

    • 1

      I fully agree with Thiru that it is an acide test for Sinhalese and Buddhists. It is always the case that Democracy in Srilanka have been dragged away by rascism and Buddhist fundamentalism. Mahinda’s reentry into the poiltics is purely to give security to keep the momentum of Buddhist Fundamentalism and Racism. He is now entering the politics completely depending 100% on the votes of Sinhala Buddhist Fundamentalism. It is very clear. His campaigin is that Tamils and Muslims should not have a right to determine the leadership of this island. Tamils and Muslims have only one choice, that is no to Mahinda. The test is now for Sinhalese to decide between a government of Buddhist Fundamentalism and a government of liberalism. A simple mathematics will explain it. Out of 15 million votes, Sinhalese account for 11 million, Tamils and Muslims account for 4 million. For a win to Mahinda (Buddhist Fundamentalism), they need 7.5 million. This has to come from Sinhalese votes only. This is approximately 68% of Sinhalese votes. If 68% of the Sinhalese votes go for Buddhist Fundamentalism only, that is not a democracy.
      The Future Path of Tamils and Muslims depends on the choice of Sinhalese. If Sinhalese make a choice for Buddhist Fundamentalism, then Tamils and Muslims have no other choice than to find a way to secure their security with the assistance of international community. Of course, Tamils and Muslims will face difficult times for short time but it will bring a permanant relief from Buddhist Fundamentalism.

  • 6

    Pooten says, “a democratic dispensation of a traditional (western?) kind”!

    Since when do you think grub?

    Democracy was practiced In the 16 Janapadas of India 4000 years prior to its “claimed” origin in Athens in the 6th century B.C.E.

    Like all philosophy, religion and ideology that is falsely claimed as “Western” were stolen from India over the millenia by the Greeks.

    Grubs like Pooten are perpetuating such myths to justify their colonial claims to “civilise” the world.

    Civilise, my foot!

    • 0


      So democracy like yoga and advaitya was stolen from US right!!!!

      In fact everything was stolen from us

      So how come mister wonderfool, we do not have anything like the wonderful democracy that was stolen from us here now, and where is our own dear wonderful civilization?

      All we seem to have is corruption, white vans, torture, rape and murder..

  • 2

    Mr Mahendran has nothing to do with the Heist in our Reserve Bank, according Mr Poorten.

    Because Mahendran’s mates told Poorten that Mahandran is incapable..

    Then “who dun it”?

    Is it Galleon Ravi or Ethanol Alousious, or both?.

    Poorten says big boys are involved and that is the reason for Yahapalana Ranil to keep mum, despite the obvious damage to the UNP brand..

    Could it be Ranil..or Could it be My3?.

    I mean besides Ravi, those are two next big and the biggest among the local crew…Right..

    Another important point in Mr Poorten’s PH test is how to exterminate the vermin from the Candidates list.

    According to the papers Today, Kudu Duminda is out . So is Kudu Mervyn, and Helicopter Vass,,

    But Poorten’s mate Kirra has already asked Whisky Madam to come to him and go on the same ticket to contest.

    But it won’t be for the PM post, as the good Lady bragged about before Mahinda got the tick.

    Now the juicy bit is CBK’s latest public outing to conduct the Bodhi Pooja in Kelaniya.

    And guess who organized and accompanied the Madam .

    It was none other than Dr Mervyn.

    Besides, Ranil’s F……CID ‘s Hard Drive is full of the Files which Dr Mervyn handed over with all the media scrum and the paparazzi surrounding him.

    So Kirra can’t avoid returning the favour to Dr Mervyn . if Kirra takes the Madam on board..

    One Navinna has already paid the Membership to Karim,

    Hiirunika Nangi will be the next with Arjuna Aiya, who both promised to leave if Mahinda comes back to the SLFP.

    Last but not least, wonder whether Kirra will give Rajitha’s Mongrel Pup the ticket to Beliatta.

    I mean, can the Elite who attended that gathering at the Premadasa stadium forget the Pup.s Stirring Speech.

    Specially the battle cry where the pup called the ex President to be a Man and face the Pup in ex President’s own turf in Beliatta.

    And the equally stirring ovation he received from the Elite whose faces were lit up like Vesak Lanters, including Yapapalan Ranil’s happy face.

    BTW, If Dr Mervyn also pay the membership for Beliatta, will Kirra draw the winner out of a hat?…

    • 1

      Never fails, all I have to do is touch my keyboard and out comes the epitome of stupidity!
      One of these days, someone will be able to understand what the hell you are trying to say though, when that happens, you might even end up with a (brain) concussion when someone places a boot to your behind.
      Can’t say there’ll be too many tears shed then!

      • 1

        Mr Poorten,

        Do you still insist on more Yahaplanaya from Kiriella…..

        Obviously you didn’t get an invite to listen to the other Yahapalana Heavy, Rajitha’s Mongrel Pup’s speech to the Elite at the Premadasa Stadium.

        Don’t worry mate, it is not finished yet..

        Now you can even have the Monk and the Abiththaya with CBK, Ranatunga , Dr Mervyn, and Assath Sally to give you more…

  • 0

    A right proper airing; nice one Mr van der Poorten.

    When you wrote ‘tipper lorries’ I had a panic attack. It was not longer ago that I lost half a dozen lives as my motored up through Horana towards that city of gems,and had to swerve several times to avoid an early reading of my will.

    The UNP like all our political parties have their fair share of thugs and crooks, and the UNP, and all our other political parties must rid themselves of these invidious elements. Otherwise the man on the Horana bus will just say “it doesn’t matter who we vote for, they are all bloody crooks etc. etc. etc..”

    Apropos the Mahendran ‘affaire’, those who know him, would not credit him with anything underhand. Those who understand the ‘facts’ need no explanation, alas, not many are blessed with a ready appreciation of the technicalities and so take the view that ‘there must be a fiddle’. What to do?

    Keep raking sir!

  • 0

    poortys democrazy = burgers and their colonial friends appoint Ponil by hook or by crook while sinhala Buddhists eat his doorian .

    • 2

      bla bla blAbhaya

      “poortys democrazy = burgers and their colonial friends appoint Ponil by hook or by crook while sinhala Buddhists eat his doorian .”

      I am dumbfounded to learn from you that Sirisena, Champika, Chandrika and 224 MP’s are Burghers too.

      Since you are proud of being a Pera graduate, you should have known the difference between a burger and Burgher. I don’t blame you for your ignorance, when you feed yourself about 9 patty all American burger three times a day.

      Are you still waiting for your sarong to rise while watching durian fall. I don’t think you got it in you, Ask your doctors to prescribe you some strong artificial aphrodisiac.

      • 2

        NV nitwit

        [Edited out]

        • 2

          bla bla blAbhaya

          “[Edited out]”

          This is what Pera taught you? However its brilliant. Thanks.

    • 0

      Same double-bullock cart with the same oxen: you and Sumaney.
      If my parents didn’t tell me it was rude to laugh at the mentally-deficient, I’d be in paroxysms of mirth at your “Peradeniya English!”

      • 1

        ah yes, you is englis man no?

        englisman good man, no?

        No engliss man bad man yes?

        periya dora englis dora no?

        pera uni singlish not good no?

        we must go where the bulls cross the water no…the oxford.

      • 0

        pooty boy

        [Edited out]

  • 0

    “In less than two months we will be faced with an opportunity to decide whether we want a democratic dispensation of a traditional (western?) kind, with all of its myriad shortcomings, or an autocratic government operating on a bed of corruption and violence”

    A typically shallow and dumb understanding of the issue at hand. The bunch of hominids who inhabit the island have no clue as to what “democracy” is and moreover they do not care what it is either. What they want is to get their hands on the kitty.

    They want “freedom” which is what made them flock to the “Sri Lanka Freedom Party” – the SLFP – freedom from the “white mans rule”. In practice this turned out to be “Freedom from the Law” and “freedom from ethics” and “freedom from morality” and “freedom from civilization”. The “Sri Lanka Freedom from Law and Order Party” – SLFLOP – is the real nature of the SLFP. The freedom from law and order now extends throughout the institutional framework that the British Colonial Regime left behind right from the state to the Family and individual and the structure of the state has been twisted so as to enable this process of liberation from law and order.

    Less than 48 hours ago I was able to observe an examination being conducted in the islands premier state run university. Only about 15% of the candidates refrained from cheating. On making inquiries I learned that this was routine and that the university had in place a process that is applied to cheaters and which permits them to “explain” their actions in several ways that allows them to be absolved of the charge of cheating. Of course by the time of graduation these students have perfected the art of cheating and the go on to cheat on their spouses, on their employers, on the law and on themselves.

    So dear dumbo the choice is not between democracy and autocracy. The choice is between we cheat or they cheat and whatever Ranil may say to the ordinary woman in the street Arjuna Mahendra has shown the way: you need to cheat but you need to do it smartly in a way that can be blamed on something else – like process failure for instance.

    The hominids on the island have like their close cousins the bonobos did many years ago, decided to abandon the dominant civilization of their species and become a different kind of monkey. While the sullen and authoritarian Troglodytes clung to their autocratic hierarchies the Bonobos broke free and went their merry way. As a result we have two types of chimpanzees in the world today: the Troglodytes with their autocratic, authoritarian, patriarchical, officially monogamous civilization and the screeching, cheating, lawless, Bonobos with their unstructured networked bands that try to pass as civilization.

    The hominids on the island have to decide whether they are going to go with the dominant “western” civilization with its rule of law, doctrine of human rights and democratic process or go with freedom from the rule of law, freedom from the doctrine of human rights and freedom from democracy. So it has been a question of we cheat or they cheat and hide the cheating behind the story of colonial exploitation and the need to get back to Feudal autocracy and then reinvent the wheel over the next 1000 or so years.

    This is of course monkey talk and the “west” is not going to listen to monkeys when they want something for their own plans. In this case they want the island as a platform for capital and to house the strategic function of their developmental plans for the region. Since shooting monkeys is strongly opposed by those who accuse Homo sapiens of species-ism the only thing to do is to get the monkeys to kill each other. All one has to do is to get them all riled up with each other and supply them with guns and they do an admirably good job as we saw for instance in 1987 when heads were used as ornaments for fence posts and when a then chootie batta ran batalanda with not a squeak about human rights and war crimes emanating from the UNO.

    The rainbow revolution is yet to begin and when it does the white van service run by the goat will look like a children’s party game.
    So with about a month to go to decide whether we cheat or they cheat what do you recommend be done by those who wish to remain within the global civilization of the human species?

    • 0

      “The rainbow revolution is yet to begin and when it does the white van service run by the goat will look like a children’s party game. So with about a month to go to decide whether we cheat or they cheat what do you recommend be done by those who wish to remain within the global civilization of the human species?”

      If guys like you will refrain from your lunatic ramblings, we might be able to assess what on earth is going on!

      • 0

        At least you know that you do not know. Thats a good start. Let me know how your assessment proceeds.

        • 0

          It has “proceeded” to the point that your mental imbalance has been is absolutely and completely established, not to mention a sense of humour which is conspicuous by its absence.

    • 0

      You superior [Edited Out]

      You are nothing more than a gibbon though you think you come from some superior civilization . dont let your imagination run wild , it is the inbreeding that made you this stupid . It is unfortunate that your parents fancied their kids like pootys did . all is not lost . jump in front of the kandy colombo train to ensure your type does not breed any further



      • 0

        After that comment, even Sumaney would be justified in rejecting you as the other half in the double-bullock cart shafts!

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