19 September, 2020

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Can Sri Lanka Survive A Wickremesinghe Government After A Mahinda Chinthanaya?

By Emil van der Poorten –

Emil van der Poorten

Particularly since the Weliveriya atrocity, there has been a surge of “Ranil Wickremesinghe is the only hope” thinking!  Many moons ago, in an article in the now-defunct Montage magazine I explored the same theme – of Ranil being “Hobson’s Choice” insofar as the Sri Lankan electorate was concerned – and, despite the total ineffectuality of the Wickremesinghe-led official opposition United National Party, that thought (concern?) has not deserted me as my friends who had given up on RW a long time ago will vouch for!

As that fabled voice of wisdom in American baseball had it, “It’s déjà vu all over again!”

I do not apologise for returning to this theme one more time because what is left of the “dissident media” is becoming more insistent about this possibility; not so much writers of bits and pieces of journalism, but, perhaps more significantly, commentators on those pieces.

How can or does one read those particular tea leaves with regard to what could succeed the current brutal and corrupt regime under whose whip (and I use that term advisedly) this country exists and which regime is showing decidedly suicidal tendencies insofar as its future is concerned?

To me the rotten root of the current regime is the combination of monumental corruption and violence, one consistently complementing the other.  The window-dressing that the indescribable Dayan Jayatillekas, Rajiva Wijesinhas and, now, Tamara Kunanayakams provide is just that, window dressing meant to dilute a brutality that is approaching, if it has not already surpassed, that of the unlamented Bokassas, Saddam Husseins and Idi Amins  of this world.  This poison has infected every element of life in this country and I do not exaggerate in that regard and invite any reader to look closely and objectively at every “issue” that effects his or her daily life for confirmation of the fact that the greed of a coterie of individuals in this country is affecting the most basic levels of life in Sri Lanka.   I am constantly being told by apologists – there is no other word to describe them – for the current Monarchy – that all sins cannot be laid at the feet of the Rajapaksa family and their hangers-on.  I beg to differ, they can and they must because simple examination will reveal that every one of the major maladies affecting our lives today issue from the corruption that “our” government assiduously promotes in its own personal, financial interest.

A Senior member of this country’s current Rajapaksa-acolyte cabinet once accused me of being an “angry man.”  Suffice it to say to him, as I did then and I will repeat now, I have no apologies to make for being angry at the robbery of a country’s wealth and the brutality that has been visited upon its people by those whose total focus is on doing whatever is in their interests in the matter of self-aggrandisement, absolute and total.

While there seems no suspicion with regard to Ranil Wickremesinghe’s personal honesty insofar as matters financial are concerned, I do continue to have very serious misgivings with regard to those around him, many of whom will play a disproportionately important part in where the country will be taken under a Ranil Regime.  It might be old but it’s still valid: “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”

When members of the UNP’s inner circle are personally beholden to Mahinda Rajapaksa in the matter of favours involving everything from overseas travel through suspension of suspended passports to favoured business deals, I would suggest that it is unrealistic to believe that they will ever so much as countenance the “house-cleaning” essential in the matter of identifying, prosecuting and punishing those who have been and continue to rob the National Treasury and commit violent crimes upto and including the capital one.  What these perpetual peregrinators between the United Peoples Freedom Alliance and the United National Party have done might not be equivalent to the greatest excesses of some members of the ruling political alliance, but they have been active participants in what amount to economic criminality against the nation or, at very minimum, contributed actively to that criminality by their sycophancy.  Their crimes might not be as dramatic as those committed by the protagonists at Nanthikadal but they are of a magnitude economically equivalent as far as this country is concerned.  Is Ranil going to be capable, at the very least, of sidelining these people?  Experience here and elsewhere in the world would suggest not.

These people have survived by stooging to whoever is in power and to expect them to change their habits would be equivalent to expecting a cat to raise its hind leg every time it passes a hydrant or a dog to dig a hole for its excreta and I would suggest that not Ranil Wickremesinghe or God almighty is capable of affecting that kind of behavior modification!

What then lies in store for those of us anticipating a “lesser of two evils” Ranil Wickremesinghe regime?

Not a hell of a lot, I’m afraid.  If that 21st Century miracle does occur in a country where viciousness, deceit, dishonesty and death have become the rule rather than the exception, we are going to be looking forward to another slow grind to bring about even a sliver of civilization and remember that, in the event of a change from a Mahinda Regime to a Wickremesinghe one, even the glimmer of hope that the present situation provides will be absent!

Prophet of doom and gloom I might be but isn’t one constrained to tell it like it is in the interests of basic honesty?

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Latest comments

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    this is one of the great statement to read. Yes this is the fact but can RW’s party comes into the piwer in 2014 or MR will allow him to come over? The answer will remain only on fate as we dont trust any of elevtion result in past few elections where we had in. Hope for the bedt

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      If you say that RW cannot come to power or MR will not allow RW to come into power, means that RW is a weak character who cannot beat MR by any mean. A strong leader has to be on par with his opponent if he hopes to lead a country.

      So this proves that RW is no match for MR and MR will rule the country until a stronger person emerge as a new leader, who could challenge MR.

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    The answer is no.

    MR has messed up things too much that no one but his people can rule SL.

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    Emil, you don’t need to be apologetic; we only ever expect you to tell it as you see it, with candour. Alas, from where I am perched, I see, inspite of all the recent rains, a parched, barren landscape of political options for our bemused voters. After the euphoria of May 2009, every relieved Sri Lankan confidently expected a rich dividend and a future built on reconcilition, peace and harmony. Our hearts leapt when our great hero adjusted his satakaya and declared that we are now a nation with no minorities. We believed him; hope springs eternal after all. Now it has all gone pear shaped and honestly there is no one to turn to. The Permanent Leader of the UNP is also the Permanent Leader of the Opposition. Both the UNP and the opposition are in disarray. The UNP is a party slowly atrophying; who will buy an used car from any of them leave aside electing them to power? The sinhala-buddhist voter with their fatalistic outlook will wring their pirith-nooled wrists and cross MR in. After all, he is the only one in sight who delivered on an election promise – he delivered peace to the people – lest we forget. Our only salvation is if RW does the right thing. RW you have nothing to lose but your perks. Come on Ranil, just this once. For the country! Set the young turks free and let us breathe the fresh air of change.
    Emil: wrap up well, the night air can be bracing at that altitude.

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    Emil with due respect to you, I feel Ranil is the only person who is capable of DE-politicizing the system. As everyone knows he never obliges any with favours for friends or the unknown. He certainly will not try to shield anyone for violation of the Laws fo the land. This is one reason why he lacks PR, which most complain. A good case in point is how Ranil turned down Maharajas, Kili Mahendran’s request for two Ministries and ensued their wrath.

    Certain heads of Institutions as the Forces and the Police will be changed if found incompetent. The same will apply to the Public service and the Judiciary and responsibility will be thrust on everyone to do their job properly from top to bottom. There will be Commissions of Inquiry for all wrong doings and those responsible will be punished. Ranil will not focus himself on a witch hunt, but will leave it to the relevant authorities to handle with a degree of transparency. He will focus himself mainly to develop the country where all will benefit and you can be certain that he will maintain Law and Order without bias. Is this not what the majority wants??

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    This guy obviously wasn’t around when Sri Lanka racked up the highest number of disappearances recorded until that time (end 1980s) by the UN HRC.

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      DJ,

      Ha..haa..haaa… Quack doctor! What about your justifying and defending 100000 Tamil population massacre and ethnic cleansing in North? What do you say about the 10000 odd white vannings in the Sinhala South? What about Welikada Prison massacre from Kuttimani to present day? What do you say about Matale mass grave which was produced by Gota and directed by Mara at Geneva? Don’t sing byla man! We know what a crook you are!

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      Dayan, Very true under Premadasa rule where you were an important link to his Foreign Policy. However Premadasa’s record of disappearances has been surpassed by MR now and you again were an important link in the Mahinda Chinthanaya until you have been sidelined at the moment, to be kicked out very soon once the 13t is dropped. Reality will dawn on you soon when you are discarded.

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    Emil van der Poorten,

    Your kind of thinking leads us from frying pan to the hearth and not recommended by any right thinking and progressive man. In fact you are totally wrong in deciphering Ranil package. Ranil as a single person may not be able to recover this country. But he shall definitely play the pivotal role in rescuing this country from the ashes Rajapakshas have reduced it to. There will be restoration of constitution, constitutional checks and balances, law and order, judiciary and the law enforcement authorities, various commissions empowered to carryout out the constitutional provisions and commands and requirements of law, complete restoration of public and civil administration, complete law and order, efficiency in every aspect of the country locally and internationally. In short people of this country, the qualified and capable people in the country would be empowered and given the opportunity to participate in the governance of their own country, their own affairs of public interest. There will be investment, prospective opportunities for all. There will be no familial, corny, favoritism projects under Ranil. Wrong doers would not be protected nor law abiding measures discouraged but rather promoted. So, it is not Ranil ultimately but the whole citizenry as a whole that will bring about their own good, progress and destiny. But without Ranil no one will be able to do it because this country is entering an evolutionary era of political-wise, wisdom-wise, integrity-wise, principle-wise and morality-wise disintegration and descend.

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      Silva:
      I hope you are right about Ranil or any other person of decency who might end up following the present regime!
      Dayan:
      I believe there are enough responses to your comment to make any response from me redundant. That is, beside your post-Premadasa affiliation and conduct.

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    Dear Gamini;

    ” I feel Ranil is the only person who is capable of DE-politicizing the system.”

    Do you fell he, the Chairman Of the OPPOSSITION CO LTD, got a back bone to stand Strait.

    And Everybody knows ,that the Life of behind the curtain.

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    One large difference with RW may be his engaging honourable people in the public service like Charitha Ratwatte, Bradman Weerakoon, Austin Fernando, Bernard Gunathilaka etc to carry out his policies. This vastly differs from MR’s approaches where all senior public officials around him are crooks. The unfortunate situation is these ‘honourables’ are not in the UNP political scene now. Either they have deserted the UNP management team or the UNP has deserted them in wilderness. In a way how can they be with the UNP when people like Mangala Samaraweera are at the helm and when internal squabbles reign over the party? Emil, do not you think that the UNP should look inward for such ‘infrastructure changes’ if it wishes to come in to power again?

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      Integrity Watcher:
      In the matter of public servants/bureaucrats who have worked with Ranil, I have to agree with you. Of those in the UNP upper echelons currently, NOT ONE of those of whom I have personal knowledge can hold a candle to such as Brad Weerakoon. Let’s just say I am “not impressed” with what I have seen in terms of capacity to adhere to principles of any kind and that is understating the case!
      I will repeat what I have said in this column: A Ranil regime has to do some house-cleaning and rid itself of those who have run with the hare and hunted with the hounds during the Rajapaksa regime’s dominance. The UNP’s history of defections clearly indicates the culture that has prevailed in the party for quite a while. Dayasiri’s defection is only the most recent of the turncoats following the scent to better feeding!
      I can only wish RW luck if he gets his hands on the levers of power and is confronted with the challenge of turning a whole host of sows ears into silk purses!

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        So, RW really need is Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears to intercept and sow the seeds of s’il vous plaît.

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    One of the most ridiculous aspects of the anti- rajapakse phenomenon is the manner in which Ranil has become a saviour in waiting for the “old boys” of colombo schools.Have you seen such a thing happen any where else in the world ?Who are the so called saviours ? Dont be so unrealistic old boy.All along ranils career the one word that captures it is selfish medocrity. As education minister, youth affairs, Industries and Prime Minister and UNP boss what has he done ?The UNP cannot even pay their bills. Rotten businessmen like Gallage, Gunawardena and Samarawickrama have become politicians because ranil can use them without fearing a challenge. Pothe Guras like Harsha silva and evangelist like wickramaratne are likewise brought to the stage without realizing that they are no politicians.Is Ranil the type who can make a revolutionary change ?He hasnt done anything that tells us he is made of such greatness.Some people marry just to show that they have a wife. Some people write books on buddhism when they are so full of ego and selfishness.Can you writ about christianity and be a cannibal ? Can you write about buddhim and be so selfish ? Such people are not Lennins, gandhis or even Nelson Mandelas. Ranil is just small character playing to the sickening silliness of the colombo elite. I can say one thing clearly . Ranil is not even a distant threat to rajapakse . Even next presidential elections he will have to find a proxy to contest. The question is who will oblige ?

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    The Mimister is right.

    Mr Poorten’s anger must be clouding his vision too.

    Now the Dutch have joined the que to extend the Habor City to Mt Lavinia,the groovy Joint.

    They want to extend it by reclaiming a few acres from the Sea to house the rich and trendy and cater to their needs.

    With the Marine Dr going from Kolpetty all the way to Moratuwa, Harbor city to new Dutch Mt will be one heck of a tourist Mecca for sure.

    Just imagine what this will do to the Apartments and Land values along this stretch, especially the TNA stronghold Wellwatta.

    Diasporians who have investments there must be laughing with glee while the rest must be hoping that their duals come sooner than later.

    No wonder the UNP Colombo faction under Ranil was fighting tooth and nail to save the shanty dwellers next to the raiway track.

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    Integrity watcher, you have a lot to learn.
    There is none so blind as those who refuse
    to seek or know what has been going on.

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    Cleaning up house after what has been done to the country is monumental. It will take a decade if not more to get accomplished. As has been pointed out one of the immediate benefits of a RW administration would be a caliber of public servant he appoints to key institutions. Of course he cannot perform miracles. Of course there will be many crooks in the UNP. One can see that many of them have already crossed over but there are others, as has been pointed out, who are happy to sit in the UNP while enjoying benefits from the thug master. Cleaning up the judiciary alone will be a daunting task since judges have lifetime appointments. But the first thing that will happen is civility. No public servant will be abused in raw filthy language and asked to do what the thug master wishes. No public official needs to be afraid of what can happen to him if summoned to Temple trees.

    The basic premise of this article is dead wrong. There can be no comparison to what is happening now to what can be done under RW. No comparison what so ever. It is sour grapes at best to suggest as this writer has done that RW will not bring about some improvement. Rome was not built in a day.

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      Haramanis:
      Thank you for that (civil!) response.
      Where we, obviously, disagree is about the matter of incremental improvement. It might be the best and most realistic possible in the circumstances, but I cannot realistically see it as “a,” leave alone “the” solution when we have reached the abominable depths to which we’ve sunk in this country.
      Can you climb out of this morass an inch at a time while the pit continues to fill?

      Finally, I don’t know about “sour grapes” in the content of my piece. I’ll admit to it perhaps being a bit “jaundiced” in outlook but not quite “sour grapes!”

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    All this speculation assuming we will have general and presidential elections again?

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    Mr.Poorten,

    Reading your account I felt it amounted to a nice bed time story. You pose a question which one of them is a lesser evil and I think you are being a bit unkind to Ranil. I don’t think he fits or deserves to be called an evil where as MR is definitely without a doubt is evil and a monster.

    Whether the Weliveriya atrocity would have made any difference to the fortunes of Ranil is debatable and in my view it dint make much difference.
    The problem for Ranil is that he is saddled with his offer to Prabakaran to cede Eelam for 10 years and the vast majority of the Sinhalese (99.9 %) consider him as a Traitor.
    So I am afraid he is not going to lead Sri Lanka and the only force that can dislodge MR is either an alliance of Parties headed by Dr.Shirani ( my favourite) or Premadasa Junior.

    What then lies in store for those of us anticipating a “lesser of two evils” Ranil Wickremesinghe regime.

    I would reword the above as follows:

    What then lies in store for those of us staying with the Devil( MR) or making a clean break with the past and crowning Dr.Shirani and propel Sri Lanka back into a League of Civilised Nations.

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      Kali:
      Suffice it to say that i disagree with you completely. My problem with a potential Ranil Wickremesinghe regime is the close connection of several of his surviving supporters with the Rajapaksa regime. To suggest that Shirani Bandaranayake would be an alternative in that context is hardly logical!

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        Mr.Poorten,

        I understand your concerns about the surving supporters of a potential Ranil Wickremasinghe regime who are closely associated with Rajapakse regime. But in my view there is not going to be a Wickremasinghe regime and none of the supporters you are referring to are Leadership material.
        The only two who have the right credentials are the Ex Learder of the BAR Rajapksa ( both Intelect and Charisma ) and Premadasa junior may be popular appeal (but I might be wrong about this ). But I am not sure if the first named has any such ambitions and if not it is a pitty as it will be wasted talent. But we can agree to disagree as I hope we are both civilised.

        As regards my other suggestion for Dr.Shirani to either head an alliance or lead on her own I am convinced she is not only a logical choice but also plausible choice as she has principles and guts in a mans world. But I may be biased as we hold her very dear to our heart not only because she is married to a Tamil but also I hope she has popular appeal. But I am a realist and the fact that her other half is Tamil may be her undoing in an inherently racist Country. It is not my intention to suggest that you fall into that category as you are probably half dutch and half Sri Lankan.

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          Kali:
          You provide some interesting personal information, particularly the fact that the 43rd CJ’s husband is Tamil. Are you certain of that? In any event, given the racist tendencies in this country that fact might well be another disqualification.
          And since we are on the subject of appropriate successors to the present regime, I would appreciate your comments on the fact that the Rajapaksa who was head of the BASL decided to step down prematurely and whether the fact that his house was raked with machine-gun fire followed by a visit from the President had anything to do with it. That sequence, unfortunately, had a familiar ring to it: stick and carrot in this case!
          While we may disagree, it appears that we are both on the same page in the matter of the need to at least a START being made on the journey to take this country out of the morass into which it is sinking deeper and deeper.
          P.S.
          My last name happens to be Flemish, not Dutch, and I am neither ashamed or proud of the fact that I am a citizen of Sri Lanka as were my parents and grand-parents before me!

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    Dear Emil,

    I read your articles with much interest. I knew an Emil Van Der Poorten when I was a student at St.Anne’s College, Kurunegala, in the 1950’s. Are you that Emil? The Emil I knew had two brothers studiyng at the same College.

    Kind regards
    Mario Perera

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      Mario:
      The van der Poortens you were educated with in Kurunegala were probably cousins of mine. My siblings and I had our entire secondary education in Kandy. I suspect you are confusing me with cousin Camille who was, I believe,educated, partially at least, at St. Anne’s in Kurunegala and who now lives in Colombo or its environs.

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    Emil,
    Spot on.The worst ever image that anyone tries to attribute
    to Ranil,would be “Mr.Clean.”Remember where Mr Handsome of
    the US ended up!Already I personally have the knowledge of
    circumstance where one corrupt individual was given UNP
    ticket to stand for last provincial council election in the
    southern province.The man lost,lucky escape for the public.
    Another instance “Mr.Clean”lovers will have to recall would
    be,Douglas Peiris of Peliyagoda Police when our Mr.Clean was
    the minister and MP for Biyagama.I have also some very serious
    concerns about Ranil’s attitudes towards other cultures.
    Who says we don’t want a clean leader and a clean democracy?
    But which part of a third world country has got one?

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    As long as the dog is willing to learn new tricks, everything is possible. The intellectuals can guide the UNP as long as the UNP understands that the old tricks would not work, they must listen to the smart Lankans to learn new tricks.

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    Emil,

    You are right. It was Camille I was thinking of. His two brothers who were my classmates are Adolph and Etienne. I would love to relink up with them.

    Thank you
    Mario

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