24 September, 2018

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Beyond No-Confidence Motion, Is Sanity Possible?

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Through conviction one crosses the flood Through heedfulness the sea.” ~Siddhartha Gautama, The Buddha (Alawaka Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya, Sutta Pitakaya)

Wickremesinghe

Raised from the Ground restarted the writing-life of Nobel laureate Jose Saramago. The semi-autobiographical novel uses the trials and travails of a single family of landless peasants through three generations to shed light on the desperate plight of Portugal’s rural poor. The book ends on a hopeful note. The Carnation Revolution has begun and the peasants are invading the ‘inland sea of latifundio,’ the massive agricultural estates owned by a handful of rich. The living are joined by the spirits of the dead, including that of a dog depicted as the model of steadfastness. “Here they all are, the living and the dead,” writes Mr. Saramago in his hauntingly beautiful prose. “And ahead of them, bounding along as a hunting dog should, goes Constante, how could he not be here, on this unique and new-risen day.”

The Carnation Revolution was a success and a failure. It installed democracy in Portugal, but fared less well in other areas. So work revolutions. Even when they survive, they do so as distortions or pale reflections of their original selves. ‘The unique new-risen day,’ tends to look anything but with hindsight.

The 2015 Presidential election of Sri Lanka was not a revolution. But it was more than a standard change of government. Under Rajapaksa rule, Sri Lanka had become an emerging autocracy, the fief of a single megalomanic family. The January 8thelection ended that dystopian journey and returned Sri Lanka to the democratic path.

If January 2015 was about the possibility of the impossible, the subsequent trajectory of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration constitutes a morality tale on the impossibility of the possible. After a promising start, the government fell into the trap of recurrence and busied itself with repeating Rajapaksa mistakes in every sphere. Its conduct has alienated the uncommitted voters, disheartened the committed supporters and opened the door for a Rajapaksa return.

A stable and safe democracy requires a democratic government and a democratic opposition. Sanseither, a democracy is never stable, never safe. Before the Presidential election of 2015, Sri Lanka had a strong anti-democratic government and a weak democratic opposition. After the electoral upheaval of January 2015, Sri Lanka got a weak democratic government but its oppositional space fell under the thrall of anti-democratic forces, unrelenting and virulent in their pursuit of power.

The Rajapaksas were not defanged and the guilt belongs to both Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe. Mr. Wickremesinghe, instead of working to fulfil the promises of 2015, placed all his eggs in the divide-the-SLFP basket, believing that alone would enable the UNP to romp to victory. After some initial resistance, Mr. Sirisena followed suit, trying to use the SLPP to expand his influence within the government.

The defeat at the February local government election and the NCM crisis resulted from those opportunistic political calculations.

Myopic Governance

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration’s inability to comprehend the economics of democracy is imperilling Lankan democracy. Its inability to comprehend the politics of racism is imperilling civil peace and societal stability.

Sri Lanka still has a two-party system, but the two parties are the SLPP and the UNP. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s SLPP did what the SLMP of Vijaya Kumaratunga and Chandrika Bandaranaike and the DUNF of Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake tried to do and failed – overtake and replace the parent party. The SLPP did not divide the SLFP; it decimated the SLFP and reduced it to the status of a politico-electoral featherweight.

Mr. Sirisena can never form an unadulterated SLFP government. The SLPP will not ally with him. The best the SLFP can hope for, if it contests alone, is to gain the third place, ahead of the TNA and the JVP. If Mr. Sirisena hopes to create dissension in the Rajapaksa family by protecting Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, any such effort will be an exercise in futility. Eventually, he will find himself derided in the anti-Rajapaksa camp and friendless in the Rajapaksa camp, facing the wrath of the Rajapaksas alone.

The UNP’s position is only marginally better. It cannot hope to defeat the SLPP on its own, be it at a provincial, presidential or a parliamentary election. It can defeat the SLPP only in alliance with the SLFP. Mr. Wickremesinghe can form an unadulterated UNP government but it will be neither stable nor enduring. It will last for a short while, make too many mistakes by succumbing to partisan short-sightedness and be pummelled by the electorate at provincial and national level elections.

As a result of his recent political choices, President Sirisena has gained for himself a reputation of total untrustworthiness. He is not trusted by the UNP, the SLFP, the SLPP or the JVP. Sinhala-Buddhist extremists don’t trust him despite his attempts to win them over while the minorities are beginning to suspect his bona-fides.

Mr. Wickremesinghe has fared only a little better. His habit of placing unquestionable trust in a handful of friends and elevating them to great heights has cost him dear. The depredations of Arjuna Mahendran have deprived Mr. Wickremesinghe of his ‘Mr. Clean’ image; the disastrous performance of Sri Lankan under the stewardship of Suren Ratwatte has lost Mr. Wickremesinghe his reputation for efficiency.

Public memory is an ephemeral thing. If Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Wickremesinghe can patch up their relationship and return to the agenda of 2015, by 2020, the wasted years will be largely forgotten. The victories of 2015 turned Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena into conjoined twins. Neither can survive alone, let alone in opposition to each other. If one fell, the other would fall too. The only government that can survive until 2020 is a Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration.

The SLPP won the local government election not because the Rajapaksa vote base increased between 2015 and 2018. There was no growth in the support for the Rajapaksas either in absolute or in relative terms. The SLPP victory was due in the main to the Rajapaksa ability to maintain its vote base and the acrimonious disunity in the anti-Rajapaksa camp.

So death by suicide is not the fate of the government. Regeneration is possible. But regeneration presupposes a willingness by the president and the prime minister to realise the commonality of their interests, recreate a working-relationship and move fast to fulfil their joint-mandate. If they fail to do so, if they embrace vituperation and inimical competition, they will drown themselves and Lankan democracy in the swelling Rajapaksa seas.

Perilous Deficiencies

The outcome of the No Confidence Motion is a defeat for the SLPP and for the Rajapaksa project; a tactical defeat, one that is easily overcome, but a defeat nevertheless. The SLPP was confident of winning the vote. It was confident of pushing the government and the country into an existential crisis. It expected the UNP to fracture and the SLFP legislators to vote for the motion en bloc(barring a couple of recalcitrants).

But those plans backfired. The UNP didn’t split. The SLFP did, with a majority of legislators opting to abstain (which, given the nature of the number’s game, was a way of helping not the SLPP but the UNP). The SLPP’s plan of wreaking havoc on the government and the country failed. Instead it imposed an unnecessary defeat on itself, thereby dimming the glory of its recent electoral victory.

In the aftermath of that unexpected and humiliating defeat, the Rajapaksas have returned to what they do in the aftermath of any defeat – depict the outcome as the result of a Tamil-Muslim-Western conspiracy. This was how they interpreted their defeat at the 2015 Presidential election. Having conceded the presidency, Mr. Rajapaksa flew to Hambantota and informed an adoring crowd that Mr. Sirisena’s victory was not a legitimate one as it was achieved with the help of Tamils and Muslims.

Similar efforts to incite anti-minority hysteria are being made now. An excellent case in point is a statement by a monk (Hegoda Vipassi Thero) comparing the UNP winning the No Confidence Motion with the TNA’s help to the Sinhala-Buddhist version of the Alavaka story. According to this version, King Alav, in order to save his life, promised to give the demon Alavaka a human prey a day[i]; the king and his hapless subjects were eventually saved by the Buddha.

The Buddhist version – the one in the Tripitaka – is different. The Alavaka Suttasays nothing about a King Alav or a deal between him and Alavaka. It says nothing about Alavaka’s eating habits. It begins so: “Thus have I heard: On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the abode of Alavaka, the Yakkha (demon), at Alavi. Then Alavaka approached the Blessed One and said: “Get out, recluse (samana).” — “Very well, friend,” so saying the Blessed One went out.”[ii]The questions Alavaka subsequently puts to the Buddha reveal him to be an intelligent and perceptive creature (far more than most Sinhala-Buddhist monks.)[iii]

The TNA is a democratic Lankan party. Comparing it to a man-eating demon illustrates how a warped version of Buddhism is being used to portray the minorities as the inimical and devilish ‘Other’ intent on destroying Sinhala-Buddhists. This deadly practice began with the Bhikku Mahanama, the author of Mahawamsa. Mahanama enshrined the three myths which have become the bane of pluralist and democratic Sri Lanka – sacred land, chosen people and holy war.

It is to these ancient myths that the likes of the Rajapaksas and the BBS hark back to, in order to get enough Sinhala-Buddhists to suspect their critical faculties and their humanity, Unlike with Tamils, the Sinhalese had neither a history of contestation nor a linguistic problem with Muslims. Nor did/do the Muslims demand a separate state – except in the fervid imaginings of the likes of Champika Ranawaka, Udaya Gammanpila and Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara. The rapid spread of Wahabism has created a trend towards cultural ghettoisation on the part of conservative Muslims. But black robes and face veils alone couldn’t have resulted in Kandy. Kandy happened because of the successful marrying of ancient myths to new cultural differences by vested political interests.It cannot be accidental that those arrested for the conflagration include several SLPP area politicians.

Debunking myths which breed conflict was one of the tasks the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration was supposed to undertake as a key pillar of its reconciliation effort. Unfortunately the government has failed to fulfil this promise. That failure, together with its dismal performance on the economic front, has recreated an environment conducive to extremism and intolerance. It has also enabled the Rajapaksas to define Lanka’s political centre in Sinhala-Buddhist supremacist terms and render ethno-religious racism respectable, again.

A country is as democratic and as tolerant as the majority of its people. Democracy and tolerance can survive only on the bedrock of economic justice. The three are interrelated. Ancient myths and unalleviated/worsening economic pain working together can lure a nation into the quick-sands racial and religious extremism. Becoming the willing dupes of a perceived strongman-saviour is the next inevitable step in this trajectory.

Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe won when they were jointly heading an alliance of moderates. They can survive only by reaffirming their political unity and their moderate values. If they fail, the failure will not be theirs alone. If they fail, democracy and tolerance too will die. The Rajapaksas will return, with Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the head. Like in Egypt, we would have delivered ourselves from a bad autocrat only to fall into the clutches of an infinitely worse one.


[i]https://www.srilankamirror.com/news/8015-pm-is-caught-by-alawaka-the-demon

[ii]http://buddhasutra.com/files/alavaka_sutta.htm

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn10/sn10.012.piya.html

[iii]What wealth here is best for man? What well practiced will happiness bring? What taste excels all other tastes? How lived is the life they say is best? 3. How does one the currents[1]cross? How is ocean’s[2]existence crossed? How is one’s suffering quelled? How is one purified? 5. How does one wisdom win? How does one wealth obtain? How does one come to fame? How does one friendship win? How does one without sorrow fare when from this world to another he’s gone?

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Latest comments

  • 7
    13

    The writer is delusional and so consumed by her hatred towards the Sinhalese Buddhists that she tries to belittle and demean the tectonic forces of the Sinhalese Buddhist power that is engulfing Lanka. That she feels the eunuch Wickremasingh has “won” an important referendum with the recent defeat of the no-confidence motion shows lack of a grounding in reality. If anything, the whole farce further exacerbated the political situation by revealing without a shadow of doubt that the TNA and all minorities are morbid enemies of the Sinhalese who will not hesitate to tear apart their heritage. It further adds power to the Sinhalese nationalists’ cause and whoever is ready to follow the path of the nationalists will be further emboldened.

    If by some trickery a government is formed be an amalgamation of a small group of naïve Sinhalese with the burgeoning Jihadi Moslems and a Sinhala hating TNA vote base and if indeed such a government is headed by a treacherous rascal such as Wickremasingh, then the Sinhalese will find it a lot easier to come together and face with courage the reality of losing their country to these usurpers and fight unto death to prevent it. As it has repeatedly happened in their history a true patriotic leader of the Sinhalese will then emerge who can lead his people to victory. Then the Jihadis and their supports will be annihilated and pathological haters of the Sinhalese and their heritage such as the writer of the above article will be finally put in their place.

    • 5
      3

      I agree. many find this author excellent and comment accordingly. Cheered on by this crowd, she goes a notch up in the next article and releases more venom on the Sinhala Buddhists. it is a vicious circle feeding on itself and we can all see the final effect of all that. A monster of hatred.

    • 5
      0

      The writer has rational in her analysis and her focus is on the interest of the people and Sri Lanka. The nation lost its credibility as a democratic nation during the period of previous regime. During that period, peoples freedom was taken away and the country was almost came under dictatorship. Every citizen felt they are under threat and every politician were become just “yes” word members, otherwise faced white van treatment. Justice system lost its judicial power and it became Mahinda system. Under such situation the people woke up when opportunity came and bravely get rid of them. Sinhalese , Tamils and Muslims united and they wanted to live in peace. If the country wanted to remain on that peace, there is a necessity bring those who still wants to break the unity by their racist propaganda as they are doing since 2009. There is a difference between true patriotism and fake patriotism. True patriotism is about kindness, tolerance, peace and sacrifice. The fake patriotism is about violence, hatred, power and selfishness. Mahinda became the richest person after the war and how? Every Sinhalese should use their brain rationally.

    • 4
      0

      JC

      It’s sad to read your interpretation of TG’s comments. Slandering and stereotyping with innuendo isn’t cricket.

      For me, TG’s most valid critical perception was : “The Rajapaksas were not defanged and the guilt belongs to both Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe.”

      The reasoning is that the fangs would ultimately turn and bite those who failed to neutralise the threat, which in turn could affect directly and indirectly the citizens of our blessed nation.

      It would be unfair to rush and classify you as an apologist for the ruthless Rajapaksas, but all we need is peace and harmony for ALL communities in this country.

      Perhaps you have some useful suggestions in this regard. If so, we would like to hear from you.

      Regards

    • 0
      0

      Dear Jay Chambers,
      .
      It is a whole week since I read this, but I just didn’t know what to say. The author’s analysis is indeed clever, but she’s come to the an invalid conclusion.
      .
      I’m sorry that you, on the other hand have decided that the Tamils and the Muslims are our enemies. Your prescription seems to be temporary chaos for us, hoping that SOME solution will emerge.
      .
      To me it seems so obvious that Ranil has reached the age when he MUST retire gracefully. He seems preoccupied with his survival as a leader of some sort. If he can’t lead the country, he seems to think that he must lead the Party. If he couldn’t lead us anywhere all these years, given all the advantages that he started off with, then he won’t succeed now. PLUS the entire country is convinced that Arjuna Mahendran and he got together to rob us all.
      .
      As for My3, he’s overstayed already. He was a good man who did a great job in ushering in Democracy. He should have been content with those first hundred days! He’s intelligent, quite well-read, but quite out of his depth. He should, perhaps have called parliamentary elections and let the people decide at a time when most persons had their noblest qualities influencing their actions.
      .
      Those who are to blame now are those who are trying to convince these two and the Rajapaksas that they still have a role to play.
      .
      If none of them tries to play a role, it may be that we may have some reasonable leaders merging from among the Sinhalese. It is we who have messed up this country, and we should stop expecting the minorities to be anything other than concerned about their survival in this land.

  • 5
    2

    as always an excellent analysisit is time the country took this matter seriously
    as a reminder
    let me quote from macauleys horatious at the bridge
    then no one was for party
    then all were for the state
    then the great man helped the poor
    and the poor man loved the great
    then lands were fairly portioned
    then spoils were fairly sold
    the romans were like brothers
    in the great days of old

  • 5
    1

    Tisaranee – Thank you. Always very meaningful analysis.

  • 9
    1

    Tissaranee, The problem though is Gamarala Sillysena does not read English Write ups. Could you make one available in Sinhala for Gamarala.

    Don’t worry about MARA reading it, Dayan the D….y will do the honours.

    Thanks for educating the Top Notches of our thrice blessed Nation, which is required for them, to come to their senses. Please continue your yeomen services to our Nation.

  • 6
    1

    Tisaranee, you are like a silver lining amidst the chaos, only if we had more people like you, this country would have become like Singapore in all aspects.

    Its so strange how such a literate society like ours become so gullible and stupid.if only they can realize what their stupidity is doing to the country and to the future generations, one thing that will happen for sure is that all the good Sinhalese will migrate to Australia and other countries for a better future. and the rest will suffer in ignominy for several more decades to come.

    They say, The leaders will be only as good as the people, if the people are bad, so will be the leaders.

  • 0
    8

    Here we go, TG the pseudo intellectual dumps the monthly load of cr@p again!
    A revolution is only successful when it is born from the grassroots on genuine pains of the masses. If an apparent ‘revolution” is brought forth on foreign aid from the Imperial USA and India and the Bankrupt Britain, and Singaporean dollars, on manufactured realities, synthesized by local and imported Goebbels, it is just a mirage, just like its nickname the Rainbow. And TG, you know all about Rainbows, they are beautiful and colorful but they nothing but reflections, and they disappear as fast as they appear, because they are based on nothing. If anything the, 2015 Mistake will bring forth a more nationalistic, more inward looking (well except for looking at Russia and China), more conservative alternative in 2020. Happy now?

  • 9
    0

    “Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe won when they were jointly heading an alliance of moderates. They can survive only by reaffirming their political unity and their moderate values.”

    – You are wrong in this assessment, Both Maithri and Ranil DID NOT lead any alliance of moderates. The followers were the worst kind of VULTURES revolving around a CARCASS known as Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a dead nation for nearly 60 years. Maithri and Ranil came to power due to the valiant efforts of Ven. Sobitha thero and his followers. Maithri and Ranil presided over his death, knowing that Ven. Sobitha thero was the only obstacle to achieve their final objectives.

    -If they fail, the failure will not be theirs alone. If they fail, democracy and tolerance too will die. The Rajapaksas will return, with Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the head. Like in Egypt, we would have delivered ourselves from a bad autocrat only to fall into the clutches of an infinitely worse one.”

    – You are absolutely correct in this assessment. Rajapaksas are the biggest vultures, still revolving around the carcass; Sri Lanka. Waiting for another opportunity to sweep down and take anther big bite.

    Group of vultures known as Joint Opposition hatched-up a scheme through the No confidence Motion” to create that opportunity sooner than expected to devour the carcass; Sri Lanka again.

  • 1
    7

    TG: Everybody knows who are you are and what you were writing about Mahinda Rajapakse even during the days of the LTTE war. It looks You are worried about losing the 2015 Common Candidate project. YOu 2015 JAnuary Project is a revolution. BS. IT iwas a protest vote because Mahinda Rajapakse was only greedy, was stealing because he was top family and besides, he was dumb. He used LTTE tactics against his voter base. What you have written about Alawaka sutta is also lies. You say myth. Well, when you are anglican you do not know. YOu do not know about Sri lanka. One IRISH JOURNALSt living in PARISH in a FRENCH JOURNAL has written what is going in Sri lanka. YOu know the web page. RPEMADASA whom you know used to bring containers from his world trips. CBK was known as CHORA RUJINA. Mahinda Rajapske everybody knows, Maithripala Sirisena intially was a good president with respect to corruption. Ranil came into the govt salivating. There is a rumour Ranil was probably plANNIN THE bOND tHEFT WHILE DINING IN A GALKISSA RESTAURENT. His better half and other theives were there. There discussion was how much interest has to be paid in order to survive five years. anywa, anyway, then the Economic 2025 is MCC/IMF program for Seri lanka. MCC gave a Grant of $ 750,000 (million ?) for politics.What politics. Send an american RESIDENT lawyer to Sri lanka during the CIABOC times. that PArisian journalsit says, It is CIA Text book strategy to send minorities against the Majority. I think, they had a R2P program too for Sri lanka. Many thing things that was the truth. IT should be true, that Maithripala Sirisena came with good intentions, but he has to protect it from AMhinda Rajapakse asw eel as from Ramil. Now, Kiriella, Rajitha Senarathne, John amaratunga, Rosie all are doing it. IT is day light robbery.

  • 0
    6

    You are whining here asking MY3 and Ranil to get togeht and complete the 2015 Common Candidate project. Why not. Ranil has a govt with 122 votes. He doe snot need MY3 or SLFP. Why he doe snot start. Even in the Orumiththa govt and in Yahapalana govt he changed lot of financial regulations to help the politicians as well as to foreign take overs. YOu say, when chora Rujina was NOT PROSECUTED, wHEN RANIL DI DNOT PROSECUTE, RAVI the LIar, Ranil and MY3 shouuld prosecute Rajapakses. YOu are for your financier. Sri lankan voters are unfortunate to have Palhoru chaing chairs every five years. Mahinda Rajapakse’s project is dynasty building Basil rajapakse and Ranil are friends. So, he is safe. What you say is universal franchise is not the democracy. 31% of minortiy – all the tamils, aLL THE MUSLIMS, pROTESTANTA, particularly Evangelists are above THE 69% SINHALA BUDDHISTS. IT is the same thing that LTTE said. that journalsit say West wanted Sri lanka devided among among Tamiols and others. Now muslims are still building your NAsirishthan. so, MY3 is helpless because he got money from them. Politicians are inhuamen, so 500 women are getting killed every year. Women relocating to middle east asked to take WANDA PETHI ion advance. their famileis are ruined. Dumb Politicians wives are making fashin statements and how to live a POSH life. YOUR WANT THE MINORITY RIGHTS. Because it provides you bread and margarine on your table.

  • 4
    0

    “Is sanity possible?” The answer is “No”.
    The ‘absence of sanity’ started as an emotional outburst some seventy years ago, signs of hysteria were visible in the initial decade and has now taken madness proportions”.
    Three players (leaders of SLPP, SLFP and UNP) are exploiting the ‘illness’. SLPP is trying a hostile takeover of SLFP using crypto-currency language/religion-divide.
    We, the silent majority, are getting poorer and poorer and we have to come up with a remedy.

  • 0
    1

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    4

    What is happening in Sri lanja, thailand, Myanmar is all part of the PIVOT TO ASIA Program. Evangelists have destroyed Mongolia, south Korea, and vietnam. Sri lankan anti-musims violence was by ISlamic Evangelists and Evangelists who should be Sinhala.

  • 0
    3

    If you know, Lord Buddha visited ALavka Kingdom twice. So, if you read only one you would not get all the information.

  • 0
    3

    Many accetps you as a first class journalsits. but, for some time you have written just garbae. YOu are trying to brain wash people. 2015 common candidate project was not a colour revolution. Itiwas just a reject or protest vote who were unpopular mahinda Rajapakse was get rid of Muslims, Tamil and urban Sinhala who are mostly colombo living protestants. The sinhala vote was divided.Mahinda Rajapakse got 84% of the votes for the war. HE di dnot know that since 2013, economic upsurge because of the peace divident was ovr and he needed to have an economikc program. He neglected Oruwala, Sapugaskanda, Paranthan, Kankesan, thulhiriya, Hingurana, Valachchena onstead he began big progects of new construction where the commis is. He screwed up andnow crying out loud. Ranil doe snot have money.what ever left over, he got as bribes to varous banks chairmen, PTL, RAVI THE LAIR and to SIRIKOTHA and a few more ministers. Just count, Central bank says they with drew RS 18 billion from the market in order to control the inflation. Yesterday another article says they are prinint another Rs 100 billion. They will bankrupt Sri lanka which is bankrupt now to the very bottom. Because Sri lanka can not handle that much imports. We are not producing. My2 also did stupid things. He di dnot check we have rice and he imported more. Now, those rice goes to chicken feed.

  • 0
    0

    Tamils are the (Sinhala) King makers.
    Neither the UNP or SLFP or the SLPP can survive without the Tamils.
    Unfortunately the Tamil politician failed to exploit their King Making power over the last 70 years.
    Both UNP and SLFP offer Ministerial post with perks and the Tamil politicians are happy :)
    They are cheap to be bought over

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