4 August, 2020

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An October Event 

By Sarath de Alwis –

Sarath de Alwis

“The Comrade Wolf knows whom to eat, as the saying goes. It knows whom to eat and is not about to listen to anyone, it seems.” ~ Vladimir Putin 

On 26th October 2018, a great bolt hits us from an unexpected void. Things changed in giddying succession in a humbling reminder that saints can turn villain in lightning speed. This essay is about remembering not to forget what Maithripala Sirisena did in October 2018 and what Ranil Wickremesinghe has forgotten in October 2019.   

It is one year since our civic nation came alive to defend the basic law of the land. The insane platitude, speaking truth to power suddenly acquired a surprisingly swift sanity.  

A unanimous, likeminded, cross party civic alliance held candlelight vigils, public protests to reverse a brazen interference with the proper administration of the basic law of the land. 

The apex court resolved a conundrum that was contrived by politicians keen to drive home the truth about politics. Stripped of the blurbs and verbiage, politics is essentially about power and interests of its practitioners. 

We commemorate pivotal passages in time and acknowledge events as certain thresholds that we survived. We do so to remember and demonstrate that despite passage of time we recall the lessons learnt. We remember to preserve the past to prod the present and chart the future. We don’t dismiss the past even when we are old to do so. We refuse to forget the past even when ordered to. 

The idea of liberal constitutionalism based on the rule of law rests on a single foundational premise. Everyone including the highest in the land is equally constrained by the constitution not just on paper but in practice. We upheld this foundational premise of constitutionalism. That requires consistent and constant celebration. 

Strangely enough, we remember the constitutional gerrymandering that occurred on 26th October 2018 yet again at another threshold point. That of a presidential election. 

First things first. Why did it happen. While we dislodged Mahinda Rajapaksa from his power pedestal, we forgot his authoritative charisma. 

The pioneering German sociologist and formulator of Bureaucratic TheoryMax Weber introduced the term in his essay on types of leadership in modern politics. 

In the current context, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s grip on a substantial swathe of the public psyche is highly relevant. Authoritative charismatic leaders do not t necessarily have to be the best leader. Very often they are not. 

Just as this essay is written, the remains of Gen. Francisco Franco another great hero of a war he himself waged has been exhumed, nearly four and a half decades after he was laid to rest in a  purpose built colossal mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen — the Valle de los Caídos and reinterned in his family graveyard. 

The great grand mausoleum he built for himself. 

No matter the passage of time, the past wakes up. The past then leaps to grab the present and will demand redress from the future. If it does not happen now, it will happen tomorrow or the day after. 

We must return to the subject of authoritative charisma. People tend to follow leaders they admire. 

An authoritative charismatic leader will summon, mobilize followers through his personality. Even when stripped of effective power and authority. It comes across naturally and without force. Such leaders are invariably authoritarian by nature and claims a special kind of interpersonal behavior; always communicating with others, empathetic and emotionally focused. 

The political resilience of Mahinda Rajapaksa is due to a simple phenomenon – he has convinced his vast retinue that he won the war. General Franco did the same in Spain. Franco occupied the mausoleum he built for nearly a half century.

A president pissed off with the Prime minister had to find a person who could hold public imagination in support of the usurpation. 

Mahinda Rajapaksa had that authoritative charisma. He was fabulously successful in selling the flawed ideology that his personal interests were the interest of the larger society. 

Why do people whose interests are not furthered by an elite leadership, nevertheless agree to be guided by such leaders? 

Max Weber provides the answer. “Every highly privileged group develops the myth of its natural, especially its blood superiority.” 

Weber explains that under conditions of stable distribution of power in a society that retains vestiges of feudal allegiance, that myth is accepted by the negatively privileged group. 

If not for the groundswell of unequivocal universal protest and the intervention of the judiciary a constitutional depredation would have acquired the respect and recognition of consensual coitus. 

A constitution or an election cannot manufacture a free people. Revolutions do that. A socio-cultural revolution can attempt it by reducing social tensions. The cultural order of a self-governing people is more important than ideology driven politics.  

At this critical time, we must ask ourselves if we possess the national character necessary for that cultural revolution. 

An inclusive, accommodative cultural order is more important than politics. But it should be the product of organic growth not a political program adopted by majority vote. Any other kind of intervention will again produce tyranny.

Current debate on ‘strong man’ politics and constitutional restraints on arbitrary power often refers to the famous ‘power corrupts’ adage. 

The quotation is used out of context. It would be useful to revisit the context in which Lord Acton made the remark and reproduce his exact words. 

Medieval popes just as some of our executive presidents claimed not unbridled power but total infallibility. The exalted office tended to drive them ‘nuts.’ 

Lord Acton was a well-known campaigner against papal infallibility. As a staunch Catholic he was convinced that moral laws of the church were perfect but popes who were human were imperfect. 

So, he wrote “I cannot accept your cannon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” 

Then he continued “Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence not authority; still more when you add the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There’s no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” 

In recalling the events of October 2018, we are reminded of some tangible truths. Our freedoms are fragile. So are autocrats. No power can command implicit obedience for long. Power must continually justify itself. Our accumulated experience of October 2018 forms a rampart of conviction that equips us to deter future tyrants. 

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    [Edited out]

    He alsow writes “A constitution or an election cannot manufacture a free people. Revolutions do that.”.
    Really?
    Every revolution was followed by a reign of terror. Some fizzled attempts at revolutions (like those of the JVP) began with terror and butchery of the innocents.

    A constitution or an election cannot manufacture a free people. Revolutions do that.

  • 7
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    Inspite of publicising and broadcasting the wrong doings, malpractices and criminal activities of MR & Co, ad nauseum, one wonders why there is so much groundswell support for him and his Group.

    Please consider watching the video clip of the following link, if you wish to listen to another view point as to what may be causing this phenomenon. The speaker is an academic and appears to be a person who is genuinely interested in the welfare of the Country.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPIcEX8Kqgw

    One needs to look beyond what a person says to determine his/her true motives. Most are corrupt and hypocritical having ulterior motives which are not readily evident in their speech unless one analyses the individual.

    NGR is a monster, maniac, alleged criminal and a psychopath totally unsuitable to lead the Nation. A Leader necessarily needs to be honest and forthright. If NGR is honest to himself, he will know in his heart, he is contravening, violating and breaching the Constitution of SL by contesting this election. What more can one expect from a person who illegally exercised his franchise in 2005, without being a citizen of SL at the time? Such is his credibility!! Does he care about laws, regulations, rules and charters? He is a dangerous veritable narcissist who is a law unto himself. His actions of the past speak louder than his words.

    Voters, pleas be warned and use your franchise wisely.

  • 0
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    The majority is wrong according to we the minority. Free and fair elections will allow the majority to prevail. Our consummate, non stop propaganda campaign for over four and a half years seems to have no effect. Therefore the only way for us minority to have our way over the majority is to eleminate their candidate from the contest by hook or by crook. To this end we the ‘Civil society’ devoted all our energies to bring up all kinds law suits against the opponent which is now confirmed to have failed.
    .
    Let’s not despair though. In parallel we have been working on a ‘democratic’ alternative too. That is poisoning the minds of ‘minorities’ that this opponent is your death knell. That was tested in 2015 and seems to have been successful this time around too. THAT MIGHT TIP THE BALANCE. Let us hope and pray.
    .
    In the meantime our candidate is going full steam ahead. He says he is so humble, not worth even a speck of dust under the great voters feet. He is prepared to sacrifice his life for Ranaviruvos and will appoint a war hero for security of all. He is a new engine to the Yahapalana body. He is available 24 X 7 and will be literally at your feet at beck and call. He has a digital dashboard. He will build 1,100 Dagebos. Etc.etc. Go and hear for yourself – great entertainment.

    Soma

    • 3
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      soman

      Are you really sexually attracted to Gota?

      • 0
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        I am going with the majority.

        Soma

      • 0
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        Dear Native-

        I know Zaharan was promoting Wahabism . What are you trying to promote?…

  • 2
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    Mathri digged his own grave what happened is when you think of revenge or dig a grave for your enemy-dig two.The plotter usually fell into his own pit.

  • 1
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    Sarath, my fear is, what if those moments turns out to be just “Lucid periods/intervals , (where sensorium / thinking is preserved transient )which is commonly seen in medical world among demented, delerious, head trauma/ bleeding cases and severely declined psychiatric patients.

  • 1
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    Sarath, my fear is, what if those moments turns out to be just “Lucid periods/intervals , (where sensorium / thinking is preserved transient )which is commonly seen in medical world among demented, delerious, head trauma/ bleeding cases and severely declined psychiatric patients. Usually lucid periods are warnings of “masked impending doom”.

  • 2
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    Gotha says during his rule justice will be served equally to all, but decided to invite only the yellow tabloids to his manifesto inauguration circus and kept quite a few press from entering. What Gotha meant was “his justice” not common justice. .

  • 1
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    Weber… Weber, my dearest cobber,
    De Alwas sings again!

  • 1
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    What is this article about? Really.
    /
    Could writers lease address a relevant subject at this important time, rather than quoting irrelevant western pundits ‘ad nauseam’!

  • 1
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    Who was the “Mastermind” behind the “26th October Coup”? He was none other than the “Dr. & Pc” Wijedasa Rajapakse, and who was immediately appointed the Minister of Justice, while being in the UNP Government? This was the talk, and so far he has not denied it and it remains a “Truth”. Properly speaking there should have been an “Impeachment” motion against the President when the SC delivered a unanimous decision OR the most civilized action should have been to tender resignation. Next “MR & Co.” even as at date has no “Morel ” right to contest any election in a “Democratic” set up, having participated in a “Coup” to “Unconstitutionally” set up an “Illegal” Government. But this country and its “Political Vagabonds” are a unique lot, in that, there is nothing called “Morel Standards” when it comes to grab power. We need not turn to statements of “Statesmen” to see through all these mockery and crimes that are taking place in this country.

  • 2
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    Sarath:

    It is one year since our civic nation came alive to defend the basic law of the land. The insane platitude, speaking truth to power suddenly acquired a surprisingly swift sanity.
    A unanimous, likeminded, cross party civic alliance held candlelight vigils, public protests to reverse a brazen interference with the proper administration of the basic law of the land.

    *** I am not sure if I agree with the above. If what you say above is true then you have answered the question as to why the COA decided in favour of Gotha against the weight of evidence. I do not believe that Judges can be swayed by a groundswell of support for or aginst MSs decison to dismiss RW and appoint MR.
    I like to think the Judges decision was based on Rule of Law and that adds strength to Seperation of Powers. Because if as you seem to suggest that the Candle Lit Vigils and protests influenced the Judges decision then the inference will be there was no Error of Law and Gotha can in the future expect the masses to force the Judges to make decisions to suit him even if he breaks the Law and no doubt COA decided in his favour anticipating him to be victorious.

  • 0
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    I am going with the majority.

    Soma

  • 1
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    We all know that the 19th amendment to the constitution reduced the power of President and it is the parliament which has the power. Why SLPP put Gotabaya instead of any other candidate from rest of the SLPP members for this powerless post. Who won the war with LTTE? Is it Gotabaya or Is it Kauna? or Is it KP? or is it Mahinda or is it Sarath Fonseka? or Is it India? or Is it China or Is it USA?
    The answer is simple. There is no single factor or single Individual can claim I won the war. But Mahinda and Gotabaya claimed that it is their own victory. Did they sacrificed themselves on any one from their family sacrificed their lives or their wealth? No. They gained more powers, gained more money and became richest in Srilanka. People became poor, people became divided. Problems remain unresolved and now we say we have got now international terrorism which is much different and worse than LTTE. Who says it? Those who claimed they are the only individuals and only a family who won the war.
    In 2015, they lost the power. Gota went back to USA. Basil went back to USA. they didn’t give up their citizenship until 2019 August. They wanted the power again. They planned a political coup in 2018 after a secret meeting between Sirisena and Mahinda with some agreements. Sirisena used his power to initiate the coup and make Mahinda to PM unlawfully. Mahinda paid bribe to a Tamil MP. No one else prepared to buy bribe from Mahinda. The courts clearly said it is a violation of constitution. The political coup failed.
    Now Mahinda cannot contest presidential election. Namal is not eligible. So brought Gota from US. Gota is the greater of BBS and promoted as a winner of the war. (continued)

  • 1
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    After the failure of the political coup, the Easter Bomb blast came in and 250 people lost their lives and over 500 injured. It was a carefully planned operation. Target was Christian Sinhalese and Tamils and western Hotels in Capital. The bombers are Muslims of Kattankudy. After that Muslims were attacked by BBS sponsored Sinhalese. BBS was the Bombers were created by Gota during the period of war with LTTE. Now they need to win the election with the Sinhala only votes and Gota is the one who is talented to get the hardcore Sinhala and Buddhist priests.

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