19 July, 2024

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Change!

By Vishwamithra

“Always do what you are afraid to do.”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The people don’t want a change of personalities without a change of culture; they don’t want a change of culture without a change of government; they don’t want a change of government without a change of total regime. They want a change; a total and unadulterated change; an absolute change. In a universe where everything is relative, where only change is absolute, they want an absolute change. That change might not be able to be defined in mundane terms; it might not be appealing to the mundane, yet when it comes, those who receive it shall see it in ultimate clarity and in ultimate surety.

Some like it; some others fear it. Those who like it, more often than not, are usually fed up with what is at present. Those who fear it do so because they don’t like what it entails that change. From whichever way one looks at it, with whatever prejudices one estimates it, change is what all life goes through from birth to death. One simply cannot change that fundamental universal quality. While everything is relative, change is absolute.

Political change is far more complicated than just simple change of circumstances; it might or might not change the fundamental makeup of the whole, but may change the context; it may change in the attitude to the new; it would certainly change the original stigma that was attached to the very concept of change. Nevertheless, change as a basic concept of life and living, is constant but not necessarily consistent. Those who cannot change with change will be sad victims of that change which they in the beginning attempted to resist.

Political change might come in the garb of a regime change; it may appear in a superficial change in the composition of the Cabinet of portfolios. A change in the Prime Minister or President. Such changes do not spell as fundamental. History has shown us that changes that have occurred, changes that have resulted in a flow of other changes with which all the debris and residue of a forgettable past are far and few in between.

1956 – Bandaranaike Change

Post-independence Sri Lanka has seen some quasi-fundamental changes. For instance the 1956 General Elections and the emergence of SWRD Bandaranaike as Prime Minister, replacing Sir John Kotelawala is being treated by social scientists as a groundbreaking change. Bandaranaike promised a more fundamental change in the constitution of the political sequence of events; he promised an era for the ‘common man’. Based primarily on the ‘pancha maha balavegaya’ (five-fold force) consisting of Sanga (Buddhist clergy), Veda (indigenous doctor), Guru (teacher), Govi (farmer) and Kamkaru (worker), SWRD launched a winning campaign but considering the man and Party he opposed, Sir John Kotelawala and so-called ‘reactionary’ United National Party (UNP), Bandaranaike’s victory was massive but not all that unpredictable.

What really transpired in 1956 was not a mere government change; as historian KM de Silva articulated, it was indeed a regime change. However, what lay beneath that transformation was not the same change that did occurred at the top of the sociopolitical ladder. The governing men and women did not change in its elementary sense. A different elite which was an offspring of the same capitalist, petty bourgeois class assumed power. It was essentially a change of the horse but spearheading the same carriage.

All the way up to 2019, the same cycle did its tricky and deceptively changing turns. The masses were hoodwinked while the rulers continued operating in their cushy comfort zones. When the economic collapse occurred, the rulers had run out of ways and means to offer their mean transactions to a somewhat enlightened people. That enlightenment occurred with Aragalaya-22. The phrase, ‘seventy five years’ became a household identification for all those held and are still roaming the corridors of power and prestige even now.

Time that was wasted in identifying micro issues at the expense of the broad macro problems is seemingly coming to an end. Instead of superficial change, a total system and systemic change has come to dominate the consciousness of the masses. And it is being used heavily in the mass media and in the social media more so.

Changes that happened from 1956 onward all the way up to yesterday could be analyzed and dissected deeply until the proverbial cows come home. In ’56 the macro issue was ‘Sinhala Only‘. However, the people and the country at large was not ready for a wholesale change; nor did they demand a system change as such. But when even the main macro demand, ‘Sinhala Only’ and what ensued during an utterly inefficient and divided government that was led by the so-called ‘Veeraya’ (hero) of the common man failed to deliver the broad results expected by the voters in ’56, they resorted to the most basic and unwise method of voting and electing governments. They resorted to change the ruling clans from one government to the other with each election cycle.

Although Sirimavo, SWRD’s widow did not make the country bankrupt, she nearly drove it towards the edge. Her macro issue in 1970 which was ‘handen haal’ (rice from the moon) failed miserably during her period from 1970 to 1977, the people demanded a change; but yet they did not demand a system change. The only political entity that demanded a system change at the time was the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Towards that end, a system change, they engineered an uprising, a violent one. The ’71 JVP-led insurrection failed for many reasons but the main, macro reason was that the the  country was not ready for an armed overthrow of the government. Nor were they inclined to support a system change either. The JVP was way ahead of the times.

In 1977 when JR Jayewardene launched his campaign to capture power, his macro issue was nepotism and economic hardships faced by the people. What he did after assuming power in ’77 changed the country’s economic journey forever. Opening the economy to a free market system did have its glorious benefits; but the inglorious entry of by products of a free market economy and coupled with his eventual change of the constitution and introducing an Executive Presidency did result in some fundamental changes in the governing system but failed to satisfy the broad masses. The man who followed was no friend of democratic governance principles. Premadasa exposed the loopholes and glaring ill-effects of an Executive President running a government. The Rajapaksas went to town with it.

While these changes were rolling over the landscape of southern Sri Lanka, in the early nineteen eighties, Tamil youth in the north was not asleep. Being fed up with their own leaders and having been repeatedly let down by the governing Sinhalese rulers in the South, they launched a totally different campaign in the North. It was not just a random skirmish aimed at military posts located in the peninsula. They had an aim, they had a strategy and they adopted murderous tactics in order to attain their goal. Their goal of achieving a system change was punctuated by many military style attacks at the government’s military and security forces. Ultimately they too failed and the price Northern Tamils paid was way too disproportionate to the sacrifices they made at the altar of Elam.

All these examples and historical instances attest to the fact that Sri Lanka was not ready for a fundamental change. It was not ready whether the methods which were employed by those who led the struggles were armed or peaceful. The country was not ready on the one hand or the time was not ripe for such a system change which indeed is too complicated and abstract for a mundane mind to comprehend and digest. Whether the needed change was expected to be done in the voting booth or through the barrel of the gun, the end of the story is clear. The people at large were not ready.

Now the question is whether the country could embrace the varied denominations and facets of a system change now. If the answer is yes, what tempts one to reach such a conclusion. The only applicable answer resides in the declaration of the country as an economically bankrupt nation and the Aragalaya-22 that ensued has manged to convince a majority of the people that there is no plausible alternative other than a system change.

We will not know the answers to these two questions until the election results are announced. The only political entity that has offered a system change is the National People’s Power. The rest of the political parties have become the protectors of the status quo. Doing away with the status quo is not an easy decision an average voter could reach. Unless and until they are driven to the brink by the existing system and what appears at the end of this uneasy and adventurous journey is more than promising, the people shall not join the NPP in this potentially dangerous journey.

The task before the NPP and its leadership is no mean one. Convincing a majority to share their journey which could be eventually fruitful or disastrous would take more than skilled oratory; it may involve the ultimate sacrifice of more than one could; promising is one thing but delivery is totally another cup of tea, so to speak. I take the reader to my column that talked about ‘Risk and Fear’. The path is not clear and obstacles many; the will alone will not take the country to the promised station. It takes more than will; it takes more than the necessity and it takes more than being at the right place at the right time. The nuanced aspects of such an adventure could be more alluring than one could handle. Yet the journey is promising to be utterly enjoyable and enthralling.

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 4
    10

    Vishwamithra
    .

    “They want a change; a total and unadulterated change; an absolute change. “
    .

    1) Granted that the NPP/JVP is possibly the best of a terrible lot in the context of the duplicity bedeviling almost all parties vying for political power. Even IF the NPP/JVP was to obtain power, it is almost certain they will not be able to govern since other entities including the MEDIA will gang up to prevent them from ‘draining the swamp’. There are signs of this even now.
    .

    2) The NPP/JVP itself are not helping their cause since there is NO CLARITY on how they will address major issues which include the economy, minority issues and the scourge of corruption. For starters there are concerns on their campaign finance and obligations to their funders. In this respect they are no different to the others.
    .

    (continued below)

    • 3
      10

      Vishwamithra (continued from above)
      .

      3) Another example concerns AKD visiting the AMUL dairy conglomerate in India and to date not uttering a word on the CONTROL given to AMUL of the country’s VITAL dairy industry which also involves the demise of Sri Lanka’s dairy agencies and associated infrastructure which include valuable farms being controlled by AMUL with Sri Lanka’s minority interests for the most part being mere bystanders. There seems to be HYPOCRISY on the part of AKD on his party’s approach to mindless privatization.
      .

      4) These are some random thoughts.
      .

      Amrit Muttukumaru

    • 4
      6

      “Granted that the NPP/JVP is possibly the best of a terrible lot in the context of the duplicity bedevilling almost all parties vying for political power.”

      It is a valid point to vote for NPP/JVP for those who wants a better government for the future of the country and people. It is also true that NPP/JVP are still afraid to tell the truth to the Sinhalese people that the country was destroyed by racism and Buddhist Fundamentalism. It may be difficult to tell this truth because of the influence of Buddhist Fundamentalism among the Sinhalese people. The change should not only start from the South but also from the North, East and West as well simultaneously.
      It cannot be done by NPP/JVP because of their past but it will happen within that communities simultaneously with the change in the South. It happened in the North and East as well but unfortunately it was forcefully eliminated by those powers that benefitted from the existing political culture.

  • 6
    5

    The author seems clear. Ends up with “promising is one thing, but delivery is totally another cup of tea”. Guess one has to drink, to know what to do. The path is not clear he says, and obstacles are many. So where does all this change lead to? Guess there is no real meaning to the change described, allowing readers to offer solutions.

    • 6
      7

      Who wants a change of regime. Most people do. What is the way this change can happen. It is through an extremely challenging battle of resistance but there is nothing impossible in this world, originating from a loving Creator God with a clear will and purpose for the family he created for himself. If we consider just the physical realm, what we see as enlightened mental pictures only will exist. But if we submit to the reality of our Creator, our expectations and what we see happening, will give us a true reality of peace and rest in spite of the happenings in the middle east right now, from threats demonically originating to prevent Christ’s return.

    • 10
      14

      “The only political entity that has offered a system change is the National People’s Power. “
      I will believe that when AKD stops giving the front row seats to Buddhist monks, and promises to implement 13A in full. Also, its unions have to stop organising pointless wildcat strikes.

      • 0
        0

        old codger, NPP has to assure the people more details of their policies regarding governing so as not to make fearful the people who own some property reserved by their ancestors for their welfare. The need is to do jobs and create wealth which must not go to the jobless robbers.

  • 16
    15

    “Always do what you are afraid to do.”


    People are afraid to live in Lanka …….. I’m scared out of my whits to come to Lanka! I’m scared out of my frigging whits to step on a blooming pedestrian-crossing in Lanka!!

    If you want to be so bold …… try it …… it’ll be the last time we’ll hear from you.

    One major reason Finland is the happiest country in the world is the trust that pervades their society. All the time we’ve been here we haven’t seen a single cop. Helsinki is full of narrow cobblestone streets where cars/vehicles compete with tramcars …….. but still all the drivers religiously adhere to the road rules/manners and show the other drivers/pedestrians proper courtesy.

    In Lanka, bad manners starts with the teachers …….. how many thousands of bad-mannered students Sinhala_Man alone has produced ……. starting with some stalwarts in the JVP?

    We can write all the feel-good crap we like …… but our stars for the future don’t look too good …..

    • 17
      16

      “One major reason Finland is the happiest country in the world is the trust that pervades their society.”

      Another reason Fins are happy. They would rather spend time in the sauna than bashing Finland all day on the Internet.

      • 15
        15

        Sure, Finns enjoy the sauna …… but you, with your 2 inch micro mini pecker, will be be scared out of your wits to step in a public sauna!

        Poor you! Looks like there’s no place for you to feel safe pal ……. except among the “Sinhala Buddhists” with the same hangups!!

        Better luck in the next rebirth! :))))

        • 15
          5

          Freudian slip? You probably fantasize about your hero VP’s one incher. Insecure individuals are prime recruits for terrorist organizations.

  • 10
    1

    Truly a time for change. I am just tired of the present.
    Thank you.

  • 3
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    Change is constant. Paradoxical, indeed!

  • 4
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    Changes already happened the funniest way in the paradise . INTELLIGENT
    VOTERS , 6.9 Million Chooses A WAR HERO For Their SAVIOUR and This HERO
    was IMPORTED from the World Power By Another Hero Brother MARA along
    with World 8th Wonder Brain turned KAPUTA to entertain the 6.9 million .
    Change Starts . Kaputa & Co becomes Jokers in front of 6.9 and sees stars in day light
    at Galle face . That was second change . Third change , 2500 year old history Runs
    Away In Fear of Death to Maldives and the company was hiding on a ship ready to
    run away wherever they can land , no choice . Fourth change , A Zero is again made
    to become Hero in a 2500 year Historic land of No Real Heroes . And the other
    Funniest Change , The Fifth Happens With The Disappearance of Hero Aragalaya
    at the sight of a Zero Becoming Their Hero Fun Supplier . Many Changes in a Funny ,
    Very Funny Order Already Have Happened . Now we are waiting to make another
    impossible possible ? NPP Magic ? Yes , the lot have some Juggling Balls in their
    hands in different colours . The Paradise of Domestic Aids , World History Makers
    for Centuries , Guinness Can’t Wait !

  • 0
    0

    “CHANGE” is Universal and happens all the time even with or without our knowledge. It also gives meaning to IMPERMANANCY. Change can be better or worse….. It all depends on our ability to rely and predict. According to Buddha’s teachings…… “You are not who you think and see you are”. All that is “Religious”.

    If no change there is no betterment or improvement. That is social and political. Another side of the coin. That change comes with EXPERIENCE.

    We have experienced for decades and seen “Changes” that have gone sour without any solace. So why not CHANGE and test the outcome?

  • 5
    14

    The “CHANGE “ the Tamil Speaking Citizens desire is have a UNITED SL that has one Federal state for them and the other for the rest.
    Provincial Governments are total waste of Tax payers money . It only creates more crooked politicians.
    The CHANGE should see SL becoming SECULAR one with Clergies being prevented from dabbling in Politics.
    The CHANGE should happen in the MINDS of Sinhala Buddhist Supremacists.

  • 2
    0

    This article is another rosy picture of the JVP/NPP. True! They have excelled in the management of co-operatives which they won far beyond expectations. Alas! The number of Co-operative elections held were a few. Had the local government elections were held on time then we could have seen their performance by now. So! At this point it appears that it is the best of the available. But is a decision based on the best available ultimately turn out to be good or disgust as in the “Yahapalana” regime or a nightmare in the Gotabhaya regime? Sample voting results indicate that a sizeable proportion is of the opinion that it is NONE OF THE ABOVE. To put a long story short, being clean, disciplined and ethical alone (which is very important) is not enough. One must be able to sail the ship of Sri Lanka in very rough seas of geo-politics and geo-political rackets. The post India visit reactions of the leader seems not favorable to Sri Lanka. The closed-door discussions with the Communist Party of China makes things not satisfactory. Promising the moon to the big power players is suicidal and the credibility in the international arena is diminished.

  • 12
    10

    ‘The “CHANGE “ the Tamil Speaking Citizens desire is have a UNITED SL that has one Federal state for them and the other for the rest.’
    .
    That is the change that the Tamil diaspora (who dominate these columns) desire. The Tamils who live in Sri Lanka just desire a meritocracy.

    • 5
      14

      … The Tamils who live in Sri Lanka just desire a meritocracy.
      Is your statement an admission that meritocracy is wanting?

  • 2
    0

    Nathan, yes, of course.

    • 2
      14

      If so, I see some justification of the desire of the Tamil diaspora.

      • 0
        0

        Nathan, tamils here need to enter into dialogue as the diaspora left here sometime ago and made their wealth. Of course, they can use that wealth to negotiate for those who are here.

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