By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
My attention is drawn to Dr Kumar David’s piece in Colombo Telegraph under the caption, “Champika Ranawaka’s Double-edged Book Launch,” for the simple reason that this Minister intrigues me with his doings and his public speeches. He has often been contradictory and that adds to the mystery of the man. We keep wondering.
As Kumar David says, here is a young political leader and a significant Minister at that. He is blessed with higher education and is therefore exposed to the universals of life. Not trying to diminish engineers I like to qualify here that had Champika Ranawaka (CR) been also attuned to social and humanity study it would have changed his world view more drastically and for the betterment of himself and the humanity he seems to be aspiring to lead. For persons like this-intelligent, resolute and with a strong political will to power a quick course in Harvard or a British University would do great good. If he isn’t predisposed to be averse to Americans, as most patriots in Lanka are, the US government would fill up this gap for CR and Sri Lankans will be the luckier. A leader’s behavior, ruling aspirations and objectives will depend largely on his/her world view or personal reality.
The sounder the set of perceptions that constitute the world view are, the sounder the outcomes of the leader would be. Sri Lanka has had and has Prime Ministers and Presidents (present one included) who have had narrow world views, deeply set in superstition. I remember one day on my way to the Presidential Secretariat for a meeting set by former President Ranasinghe Premadasa (RP) I found the President staying in his car downstairs with door open but not alighting. On enquiries made I was told that RP was waiting for the astrological moment to get down from the car! I also remember well that dramatic day in the frightful days of the threatened impeachment when RP got some Malaysian chanters and sorcerers to pour chanted oil on the seats of MPs! Mahinda Rajapaksa is no better from what I gather in this regard. He has a charmed talisman worn on his palm which is said to have the sacred power of seducing opponents. Many decisions taken by leaders of this ilk are bound to be wonky, askew and capricious. Except for those like me who derive free entertainment by watching such antics and gyrations, for the island nation as a whole it spells tragedy. To the leader, too, in the end it becomes a personal catastrophe. Despite his carefully drawn astrological calculations RP was blasted by a bomb and died as dogs often die-on the road.
This diversion is not without lesson as it suggests to Champika that there is a dire need for him to broaden his education in order to construct a healthy world view. I do not know if CR also believes in the superstition of astrology but he does seem to have a strong proclivity for a misguided sense of narrow nationalism and racism. I am only hoping this is not a put-on in the power game. Given it is a masked behavior; it is no good as he would be in the position of Lankan leaders who fish in troubled waters. To play the Sinhala Buddhist game is just such an attempt. Sri Lanka has had enough of this narrow and pathetic chauvinists beginning from the time of SWRD Bandaranaike. The latter was never a leader who rose to be a statesman that can steer our nation. And all this, in spite of his Oxford education! What a naked opportunist SWRD was. Sri Lanka is still paying for his sins of commission and omission. Mahinda Rajapaksa has a mind set in a cosmopolitan framework as SWRD was but he is also a downright opportunist; only the motivation to stay in power drives him.
Kumar David’s shrewd eye witness account of the book launch of CR on the 6th August at the Sri Lankan Foundation Hall catches my mind’s eye, too, as a launch for political leadership. That explains the fan fair and the tinsel. As a young educated leader among leaders who have hardly an education to boast of I personally like to wish CR well; but only with the qualifying provisos stated above. Champika must give up fishing in troubled waters. Sri Lankan waters are too muddied and infected for another plastic leader to come and take the country and its poor people captive.
Above all, CR must be honest. I have pointed out in a piece published in Colombo Telegraph how CR showed himself before a Paris JHU audience to be mendacious and mischievous. At that meeting CR uttered a litany of deliberate lies and twists about Lankan history. He also convoluted statistics in order to strike fear among the audience about the presence of Muslims in Lanka’s body politic. For his fortune, CR had a stupid audience in Paris who were evidently impressed by the falsehoods.
Of course CR is young and he has time to learn and mature. The problem, however, is that if he loses credibility at the beginning he is likely to be a non-starter in his chosen race.
Kumar David’s account of the behavior of Professor Gunapala Nanayakkara (GN) is amusing if not tragically laden. GN is merely emblematic of the moral collapse of academics in Sri Lanka’s seats of higher learning under the leadership of Hon SB Dissanayake to whom University students are “cows” and “bulls.”
*The writer is a former senior of the Public Service in Sri Lanka. A well-known Sarachchandra player, he is also a published author. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org