29 March, 2023


Ballad Of A Sad Trumpet

By Sarath de Alwis –

Sarath de Alwis

There is a “crisis of authority.” The ruling class has forfeited its consensus. They don’t lead but are dominant because it exercises the coercive power of the state. 

Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci in his prison cell wrote that when it happens the great masses become “detached from their traditional ideologies, and no longer believe what they used to believe previously.” The old way is dying and the new cannot be born. “In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” 

Louis XIV the Bourbon King, deposed in the revolution at the height of his power said, “Laws are the sovereigns of sovereigns”. 

General Francisco Franco who dismantled the Spanish republic to rule Spain for four decades said “…the defense of internal peace and order constitutes the sacred mission of a nation’s armed forces and that is what we have carried out.“ 

In the evening of Friday 3rd February, a peaceful ‘satyagraha’ was disrupted by Police using water cannon. 

Next day February 4th at Galle Face , Sri Lanka’s ‘Maidan’ I watched a  morbid memorializing of our spurious independence –  when ‘power’ changed hands – from  foreigners’ who gave us ‘Habeas corpus’ to natives who dodged Habeas corpus with the Prevention of Terrorism Act.  

A nation in tears marked the 75th Anniversary in sullen reconciliation with spiraling prices of essentials, exorbitant taxes and the brutality of a coercive state machine.  

In dark painful times, two types of people emerge. There is the 90 % of us who hate clowns. Then there are the clowns. 

I disapprove and detest the current ruling order. I was determined not to watch this spectacle. But then a longtime friend called advised me to switch on my TV because in his opinion it was a rare spectacle. 

So, I did. There were people on the elevated stage who had to be there. Theirs were cheerless faces. Then there were the political types ancient and current. Their miserable countenances would have gladdened the heart of any inept mortician. Hardly any work to improve upon them. 

The Military parade was a choregraphed farce. It was really a stupid idea to hold a parade in these times of deprivation and uncertainty. When processions are banned, holding a parade was the ultimate expression of cynical power.   

A procession has participants. A parade is a performance that needs an audience. This parade had an audience made up of invitees. 

Only a mind meandering in cloud cuckoo land, would claim that it would send out a positive image of a land which according to the Central Bank’s latest ‘Public Debt Bulletin‘ is ‘experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis.    

It certainly sent out a message. It’s that message that reminded me of Louis XIV and Generalissimo Francisco Franco. 

The performance of the paratroopers was instructive. The wishy-washy commentator told us the number of jumps each paratrooper had on record. On the TV screen I saw Vajira Abeywardena, John Amaratunga and Range Bandara watching Para jumping with the attention of the connoisseur .   

When you are angry, metaphors and similes just rush in.

The Spanish filmmaker Alex de la Iglesias made a movie about how ordinary people are intimidated by the system. The story is about two characters in Franco’s fascist Spain. It was called the ‘Last Circus’. A decidedly macabre commentary of the dark side of power. 

When the story was germinating in the brilliant mind of the filmmaker, he called it the ‘Ballad of a Sad Trumpet’. 

The Galle Face farce was indeed a ballad of a sad trumpet. So, I borrowed the title from Iglesias. I don’t think February 4th, 2023, was the last circus. There’s one more on the cards.   

With Franco regime as its backdrop, the story unfolds how good, and evil must accommodate tyranny. This strange and bewildering story occurred to me when watching how an exasperated lawyer tried to reason with a khakied dimwit on the finer points of a magistrate’s order. 

That is our present lot. The independence commemoration was an invite only affair. 

Nothing exasperate me more than the stupid question ‘If he can’t who else can?’ 

I am not an economist. But I try to understand what this crisis is all about. It seems our dysfunctional democracy is now sliding in to ‘Econocracy’ where ordinary people are told that this is very complex issue and solutions are extremely technical. 

I happen to have on my bookshelf a slim Penguin Publication – ‘The Econocracy – On the perils of leaving economics to the experts. It defines this new ‘Econocracy‘.   

“Econocracy is a society in which political goals are defined in terms of their effect on the economy, which is believed to be a distinct system with its own logic but that requires experts to manage it.“

It is a serious critique of the contemporary approach to the dismal science of economics by professionals and academics with a forward by Andrew Haldane –  chief economist of the Bank of England in 2008.   

I pull out this little book when I have to shut up idiots who ask “If not this man who else?“

The Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilisation  and National Policies has released it’s ‘Quarterly Debt Bulletin’ as of end September 2022. 

It explains: “Commercial debt represented a significant portion of Central Government external debt which amounted to 42 percent followed by the bilateral debt (31 percent) and multilateral debt (27 percent). About 85 percent of the Commercial category debt consisted of International Bond Issuances (ISBs) and the rest from Term Financing Facilities (Syndicated Loans). The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank were the major multilateral creditors representing over 95 percent of the total multilateral debt. Under Bilateral debt, more than 60 percent of its debt represented by non-Paris Club countries while about 12 percent from Paris Club countries.”  

Table 6 in the Bulletin has a bar chart that offers a clear picture of our ISB borrowings. During the period 2015 2019 under the ‘Yahapalnaya‘ regime where Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was the virtual Czar on matters economic we have  borrowed more on ISBs compared to MR-Cabraal period.

Table 6: Maturity Structure of International Sovereign Bonds – As of 30.09.2022Now as I stated in a previous essay on “On Odious Debt”.

When MR-Cabraal combine sought ISB funds, Ranil Wickremesinghe warned international banks that a UNP administration would not honor repayment of such debt. 

The chart above tells exactly what his administration did about ISB loans. While MR settled for an interest of 5.88% the successor Maestro raised the last loan at 7.55.


As I said, I don’t intend to venture in to unfamiliar territory. But the Central Bank’s Debt Bulletin makes exciting reading. 

I wish some expert from the SJB would deal with this subject and tell us what the “Yahapaanaya “regime did with these enormous amounts. 

Yes. They may have raised ISB loans to settle previous ISB debts. Exactly how much was raised to meet profligacy of the Mahinda Chinthanaya.  

The way I see it, the self-proclaimed Economic mechanic decided to kick the can down the road. As the Chart shows the can was kicked down ten times. 

The danger of kicking the can down the road is that at some point you run out of road. Real shit hits at the cul-de sac. That was Gota’s misfortune.

The people are entitled to know who did what and when with Commercial debt.  

As Architect and sage Buckminster Fuller said, 

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, we must build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

To put it simply, we cannot restructure a rotten structure. That’s the lesson of the farce enacted at the Galle Face Maidan.  

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Latest comments

  • 1

    Galle Face farce is called sad trumpet. Both had nothing for the masses. But please be patient as the mystery is that the promised trumpet will sound as in 1 Cor.15,52 and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall all be changed, but corruption will not inherit incorruption, even if they are governing leaders. Better believe this.

    • 1

      Agree even more as the Amelekites and Magog show signs of the times.Yet this crucible has a history that sees this truth within the prism of Colonialism thus rejecting nearly 6000 years of creation.
      Damascus is happening or is it not revealing ?
      Let us stay with revelling at our own galle face

  • 3

    It appears 42 % ISB loans / external debt was used mainly in servicing 31 % bilateral debt and to a smaller extent, multi lateral creditors ( usually terms of WB, ADB are simple and less complicated ) . As long I remember there was not much development , took place between 2015 and 2019, other than RW government trying hard to put out, old fires started by Mara and team. Obviously Mara got most loans from China, at a much higher interest. So, as Sarath mentioned, it’s worth tracing the money trail for more answers. Question is, knowing Rajapaksas, how much of money was looted by them ????? The recent WB , ADB reports say, in many cases, only 40 to 50 % of intended project specific funds were accounted.

  • 0

    …………..To put it simply,we cannot restructure a rotten structure………….
    says good old Sarath de Alwis [ Am I taking liberties? ].

    Sir John would have put it bluntly…..
    I say Nehru you cannot unscramble scrambled eggs…….

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