24 September, 2020

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‘Civil Society’ To Yahapālanaya’s Rescue ?

By Rasika Jayakody –

Rasika Jayakody

A prominent Cabinet Minister, in a recent interview with a state TV station, made the statement that civil society organizations would play a vital role in the government’s national election campaigns in 2020.

This prescient prediction came, ironically, just a few days before the Economist Intelligence Unit, in its latest country report, forecast that the party backed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa would win the next Presidential and Parliamentary elections. It also predicted a close aide or a relative of the former President would assume presidency after President Sirisena’s imminent exit next year.

It doesn’t require the wisdom of Economist Intelligence Unit to realize that the government, three and a half years into its term, is batting on a rugged wicket. The UNP-SLFP’s combined dismal performance at the LG polls earlier this year predicted doom and stressed the need for radical improvements in the government’s affairs. There have been little signs though, these past few months, to suggest the government has understood this ominous signal. Where things stand now – approximately 15 months from the next national election – the possibility of ‘radical improvement’ remains as bleak as ever.

In light of the recent thrashing at LG polls, the UNP-led government’s strategy to win the forthcoming national elections seems arcane. But, the Cabinet minister’s statement illuminates that the government is banking heavily on the ‘civil society organizations’ to drive its campaign – a task they undertook, to some degree, in 2015.

In the context of electoral politics in Sri Lanka, the term ‘civil society organizations’ is often identified with a certain set of faces and a certain group of Colombo-based organizations. There is a clear distinction between this group and Colombo’s NGOs and research outfits in terms of modus operandi.

The popular face of this ‘civil society movement’, in the run-up to the last Presidential election, was that of Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera, the convener of the Movement for a Just Society which almost single-handedly united all opposition parties around the common candidate’s campaign. Alongside Sobhitha Thera’s movement, organizations such as Purawesi Balaya, Aluth Parapura and Pivithuru Hetak also actively campaigned on the ground to orchestrate the victory of the Common Candidate.

After Sobhitha Thera’s death in 2015, just months after the election of the ‘unity government’, the mantle was passed on to a new crop of activists who were relatively new to the domain, unlike their mentor who was a long-standing crusader for democracy and freedom in Sri Lanka, even under the most trying circumstances in the late 80s.

Those who replaced Sobitha Thera led their organizations right into the cesspool of power politics – which Sobitha Thera avoided with contempt throughout his active years. Some of them even went on to form front organizations for political leaders (often under the banner of anti-corruption) while the majority sided with various ‘centres of power’ within the ruling coalition for short-term, personal gains. Aluth Parapura, an organization formed by young artistes, gradually lost momentum after the presidential polls and a handful of its members aligned themselves with the JVP.

In short, their conscious decision to move away from Sobhitha Thera’s path has damaged their credibility and shrunk public support.

When leaders of the government deliberately derailed the promised reform agenda, the civil society organizations that previously vowed to function as a pressure group signalled little resistance and failed to carry out a sustained campaign against the derailment. Their occasional sqauwks on isolated issues were mainly tied with the interests of certain of the top echelons of the government, who often used these ‘civil society leaders’ as mouthpieces. Their overall contribution to the ‘Yahapalanaya’ cause was reduced to giving media statements or ‘voice cuts’ on contentious issues, often favouring the positions of their political masters.

In the process, they have betrayed Sobhitha Thera’s hopes for a better society, paralyzed their own organizations and let down the public. Those who gathered around them before the last Presidential election – especially the educated, urban middle class – have abandoned these organizations as they see little meaningful civil society intervention in shaping the government agenda.

This is the context in which one has to understand the futility of government leaders’ dependency on ‘civil society organizations’ to drive their election campaigns in another 15 months. With waning public support and little to no credibility, these civil society organizations and their leaders have very little to offer at the next election.

This illusion will, in fact, prevent the government from conducting a thorough, a necessary self-assessment to understand what needs to be corrected before the next election. It also indicates how flippant they are about setting things right, even at this late stage.

A government whose popularity is on a sharp decline, should lean more on truth-tellers than servile, self-serving cronies who will only lead the ‘yahapalanists’ into political oblivion.

*Rasika Jayakody is the former Editor of the Daily News and Asian Mirror and may be contacted at rasikajayakody2@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 8
    0

    A very reasonable thoughtful article to save this nations future. First of all, all the political leadership who took part in this unity government have to sit together with civil societies and openly discuss what went wrong during the past 3 and a half years in implementing what they have promised and those who should took leadership should take full responsibility for their failure and hand over the power to those are capable of take forward those promises they made during 2015 elections. In this regard both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe should step down from their power but still they can play a significant role in bringing the public together using their popularity to the benefit of the unity. At this stage, most important thing is improving the living standard of people, employment and income generation. Polticians as public servants should saccrifice their luxurious lifestyle at least for the next two years and go into the public to the villages and become partners of the people. Corporate with the government to reduce the number of Ministers to the level of 30 as promised in 2015. You should get the trust of the people that you are not part of the corruption, but part of the anti corruption group.

    • 6
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      Economic Intelligence is that Jarapassa will win is FAKE NEWS.

      The Future of Lanka is NOT with Bondscam Ranil’s UNP, nor with Corrupt Mahinda Jarapassa family of thieves.
      It is time that we start talking about ALTERNATIVES to these corrupt political leaders of UNP, SLFP, PP, who brought 3O years of war, and now, Economic Disaster as rupee crashes and Debt trap magnifies.
      Economist Intelligence analysis is Fake News to suggest that Jarapassa will win!

      A new generation of leaders is needed, NOT a new constitution. The Constitution Fetish of Civil Society and JVP is a form of Fake News to distract people from the Economic disaster that Bondscam Ranil and his Royal College thieves bought to Lanka which is now a colony of Singapore and IMF!
      Sadly civil society the JVP has been playing constitutional games to distract itself and avoiding the massive Economic Crisis and Cost of Living debacle. Civil society has failed miserably to address bread and butter problems.
      People cannot eat Constitutions!

      • 4
        0

        Quite true Dinuk,
        Lanka has had too many Constitutions and each one worse than the other. A new constitution with or without Civil society in a parliament of corrupt clowns will not change anything!

        What is needed is a new political culture and civil socety must demand that all politicians must retire at 65, and had over to next generation. There is too much law and lawyers and commissions that go nowhere in the absence of political will and change in political culture.The Constitution fetish is a huge time wasting UN-and international war/peace industry Distraction us from the real issues of Money Politics and weaponization of religion to Divide, distract and Rule the masses, by corrupt politicians and their foreign backers who are militarizing and looting Lanka.

  • 4
    1

    “A government whose popularity is on a sharp decline, should lean more on truth-tellers than servile, self-serving cronies who will only lead the ‘yahapalanists’ into political oblivion”.

    Who are the “truth tellers” ?? Politics is a dirty game. Economist Intelligence Unit did get it wrong in many countries. Too early for a firm assessment of the situation. Sri Lankan voters can be bought for a toffee. Maybe we are in for some surprises.

    • 2
      2

      Steve,

      the worst is this govt let any idiots to spread blatant lies on the facts of the govt.

      Like for example, former goons have the audacity to call this govt did nothing which I think is totally wrong.

      They have been continuing with construction projects but no publicity is given to them by media why ?

      Katunaraya rollerfeld relay was done – within 3 months or so. If that would not hahve done … no planes would ahve been able to land in SL.

      Highways have been made since take over- however no publicity is given.
      Pay hikes have been made. but no
      Sajith Premadasa has been operning allmost hundreds of housing schemes for the poor of poor, but nothing is in the air why ?

      • 2
        2

        There is no actual publicity campaign by the government. They are caught in a siege mentality. RW keeps talking of visions. MS keeps stumbling at every turn.

        They have first got take the bull by the horns. Have public meetings and inform people especially in the cities, why the cost of living has gone up so much. The village folk dont care much about the cost of living. They have to inform the people why the rupee has fallen so sharply. It is simple logic. We are paying for the debts taken by the former government for projects that were not priorities.

        If nothing is done to explain to the people, the government is on a free fall. And they deserve it.

        • 1
          1

          Heart problems are the number one among the sudden deaths of SL or in the US today.
          I have got to know from Health Ministry, not just few drugs but over 80 drugs and heart stents have been subjected to much higher price reductions.

          THe public is not yet well informed on the price reduction why ?

          And there have been lot more services being done and continued by the govt in power today, but none of them are in the air why ?

          The news is only about Ekabadda Join Opposition and their culprit programs.
          Why state news media are not given the priority today ?

          Why state news media dept behave as if they are servile to privt media ?

          Derana, Hiru and Sirasa are all pleasing their favour politcials parties and figures.
          But SLTV and ITN seem to be far behind of spreading EVEN essential information to the people.

          Printed media are the same. They talk ONLY about Rajakashes.
          Why cant the NEWS departments or the responsbible authoriteis take proper actions against and kind of culprits ?

          Derana and HIRu Hhave been abusing their MEDIA freedom by making HEADLINES mostly for not even important issues.
          They dont give the same publicity to HOUSING programs of Sajith Premadas or some village development projects .. why ?

      • 1
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        Simon
        Agreed. Instead of criticizing the previous regime , highlight to the masses what the present regime has done. Anver comments above the same below.

    • 1
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      JVP has lost the plot completely, playing bourgeois Constitutional games and avoiding the people on the street that they claim to repesent.
      AKD has become holier than the Pope- more bourgeois than the Ranil and his Royalists, and aping them in thinking that a constitutional amendment can change a rotten political culture!
      Imagine if there were no President Bond scam would never have been investigated! JVP has completely lost its credibility with its constitution game to please Ranil — and lost the people;s support.

  • 1
    0

    One of the bad thing in Sri Lanka is that politicians do not respect experts in economics and other area of policy making …
    Idiots want to control all..
    Look education Minster or any other ministers ..most of them do not have basic qualificstion to be Mps..

  • 1
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    It was a great mistake of the so called civil society to choose a person as a common presidential candidate, who was already a politician.

    They should have brought an alien, personable, professional & very strict, copy book style character to make him/her the perfect politician/leader in the hour of need.

    As a matter of fact it’s a difficult task but that’s how a responsible civil society unit should plan & work, not to give way for corrupt politicians in both ruling & opposition.

    We have enough time to get ready for 2020.

  • 1
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    To rescue thieves!

    Only thieves can rescue thieves.

  • 0
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    CT has chosen a nice cover pic of how Govirala Sirisena was chosen.

    Rev. Sobitha Thera is holding his nose.
    Ranil will great difficulty is tolerating the stink.

    Result has been see during the last three years.

  • 2
    1

    Venerable Sobitha thero enforced Yahapalanaya on the 70 % Sinhala Buddhists Inhabitant population and attained Nibbana.
    UN now says 5 Million of them, even adults are malnourished because they are on average under Two and Half Dollars a Day.

    In contrast, Civil Society Dudes and their backers in fact are on USD 12.500, according to the Pan Asia Bank boss who does business only with high net worth Clients in Colombo.
    Dr Ranil’s was soooo excited after Vernerable Sobitha deliverd him the PM Gig , Dr Ranil bragged that he has engaged the Malwattu Boss to write a new Constitution on Sinhala Buddhism .

    Now the Country is in chaos.
    Namal Silva the DIG in charge has been plotting to kill Sira and Gota instead looking for Terrorists.
    One time Terrorist supporters are now dictating to the Government how it should change the Constitution.

    Dr Ranil has lavished our Politikkas in Kotte with so much Moolay, they are now one of the biggest cash rich segments in Lankawe.
    LKR 34 Mil car permit in just one payment, plus free vehicles, plus free drivers, plus free unlimited Gas, on top of the Wages, Living away allowances in addition to free housing, and Dr Ranil’s special payment to them to encourage their enthusiasm to divide the country..

    Add all that up and dived by 43 and you can work out why they must be biggest monthly income earners in Yahapalana Lankawe..
    Add the other Santhosams like One Million from Aloysious and even Monarch free rent . the average income must be a Colossal…

    Anyway our Dalits do not know maths, And Dr Ranil’s Privatisation of Education is meant to keep it that way.
    The pity is Venerable Sobitha apparently didn’t give any tuition on Yahapalana to his Samnaras at Naga Vihara.

    • 1
      1

      KAS/Rasika Jayakody
      You forgot the Rs One Million each, most of them accepted from Perpetual Treasuries – during the huge CB Bond Scam.
      So far, no action to prosecute them in a court of law – all of them are BEYOND law enforcement.
      Do you think they care a hoot for ‘civil society’ or any other organisation.

  • 2
    1

    Now while agreeing with everything said in the article, one would be compelled to ask the question as to the story behind the photo (with Rev. Sobhita holding his nose, probably fearing for his life)?

    The reader can only assume that Ranil ‘let rip one’ in the presence of the poor holy man!

    Ranil being such an ‘anally retentive’ man, it is surprising that the monk survived the vile emission attack produced by rotting matter. Probably he himself was dying for a ‘mood enhancer’ at the time!

  • 0
    0

    “Economist Intelligence Unit, in its latest country report, forecast that the party backed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa would win the next Presidential and Parliamentary elections. It also predicted a close aide or a relative of the former President would assume presidency after President Sirisena’s imminent exit next year.”
    Answer: This same unit had predicted a Rajapakse win in 2014. Second, this time’s prediction is based on the LG elections. That is a bad resource base. Besides the LG elections were ruined for the government by President Sirisena who went round attacking the UNP and its leader.
    “The UNP-SLFP’s combined dismal performance at the LG polls earlier this year./..”
    Answer: there was no combined UNP-SLFP campaign at the LG elections
    RASIKA’S analysis is bad reasoning. Is he working for MR?

    • 1
      0

      Economic forecast or predictions are purely based on the past and based on assumptions that similar pattern foloow in the future. These forecasts can only become accurate if the assumptions are right. No body predicted the economic collapse in 2008. Nobody predicted LTTE will be defeated.Nobody predicted Mahinda will be defeated. Human believes and characteristics always changes.But we cannot deny the fact that behavioural changes can be influenced by creating fear or continuous propaganda with promises. For example, telling the Sinhalese that federalism is separation and separation means Tamil Nadu and North East Region attack Sinhalese. This fear is enough to change the Sinhalese. Similarly,making Sinhala and Buddhism as the only official language will influence Sinhala. Similarly, Tamils can also influenced by similar fear or promises. In 2014 forecast, the assumption was that the war victory will give victory for Mahinda. The assumption was people will not give same weight for war victory and corruption and dictatorship and anti minority policies. But the corruption and dictatorship took a considerable reduction of War victory impact assumption and anti minority impact impact outweighed war victory impact among Tamils and Muslims. So, for the anti-Mahinda group, it is important to keep the same fear factor that threat of Mahinda to democracy, freedom of speech, and corruption. Here the negative factor is bond scam. So, it is very urgent to recover the lost money and take strict legal action against who were involved in that scam.

  • 1
    0

    I fully agree with the comments of Mr Ajith.Unfortunately the leaders of Yahapalanaya govt dont realise that.Especially the President and the Prime Minister should know the reality and take corrective action though its late.
    Otherwise they can expect a humiliating defeat.

  • 1
    0

    Lanka is best reflected by its national cricket team. Every attempt they make to go up in return they see them selves crashing with the thud. Not because of lacking talent. They were Asian champions more than 10 times, and world champion too. But now before even the real game started they have thrown in the towel and exited the ring.India or Pak has not even played a real game and Lanka is back in country. More than sports, it is about politicians, influence, corruption, nepotism,abuse of power, self serving attitude …etc….etc. If not same it is worse with Srilankan Airlines, Banks , govt sector, Lankan athletes returning EMPTY handed from recent games, The rise in $, White elephants, Loan deficits…etc…..etc. Midst of all these the politicians continue to have a gala time not just boozing, and partying hard but leaving poop all over the city for the hard working citizens like you to pick. Way to go Lankawe and the Lankans.

  • 3
    0

    Rasika Jayakody
    .
    No doubt there are shortcomings in the civil society organizations/movement. But to be fair, one has to ask the question, “who started the process of betrayal and deviation from Sobitha Thera’s project of good governance?” The civil society organizations (CSOs) did their part to get the common candidate elected. Once installed in power it was the duty of the President, PM and the cabinet – not the CSOs – to implement the mandate given by the people. Because the CSOs were not the government, they didn’t have any power. But what did the government do? From the word go it was demonstrating a severe lack of unity of purpose and was implementing only half-measures towards fulfilling the election promises. The 100-day program was a letdown. The office of the president was not abolished but only tinkered with. No effective, credible measures were set in motion to bring the criminals of the previous regime before the law. Instead what the people perceived was a government mired in an internal power struggle and not willing to act decisively. Both factions returned to backroom deals and political games to consolidate their own power. The ousted Rajapaksas were allowed to meddle in the judicial process. Within 2 weeks of assuming office, Sirisena took over the leadership of the SLFP. That’s not what he was elected for. He was the common candidate of Sobitha Thera’s civil society movement to implement Yahapalanaya once elected. But now he was raving like a maniac on national TV for the handcuffing of Gotabhaya and other senior military officers, and induces the Director General of Bribery Commission to resign. (Contd.)

  • 4
    0

    (Part 2)
    .
    Ranil for his part appointed Arjuna Mahendran, his friend and father-in-law of Arjun Aloysius whose involvement with bond auctions under Mahinda’s regime had already set the alarm bells ringing. There was no surprise when the bond scam exploded within 6 weeks of Maithri-Ranil government coming to power. Since then the story of Yahapalanaya has been a story of unravelling and dashed hopes. So the great betrayal in Sri Lanka’s modern history is the handiwork of Maithri and Ranil. In my book, the failings of the civil society movement are only secondary, not the decisive factor in this debacle. In fact, one could argue that they were also taken for a ride, and then left ashamed and demoralized.

  • 1
    1

    While agreeing with everything said in the article, I want to ask the question as to the story behind the photo (with Rev. Sobhita holding his nose, probably fearing for his life)?

    I can only assume that Ranil ‘let rip one’ in the presence of the poor holy man!

    Ranil being such an ‘anally retentive’ man, it is surprising that the monk survived the vile emission attack produced by rotting matter. Probably he himself was dying for a ‘mood enhancer’ at the time!

  • 1
    0

    These “Civil Societies” have proved that they are the most “Uncivilized”, in that, we have seen how some of the activists have gained lucrative positions in Governing affairs and some even making a “Good Life” out of all “Gifts” received. That is some knowledge and experience we gained after January 8, 2015. So useless speaking of any of these ‘Civil Societies” and depend on them to stand for “Rights & Wrongs”. Instead, it is time for a “Peoples’ Movement” to take place, so that the “PEOPLE” become a “FORCE” to put things right. The success of such a move was very recently demonstrated when the residence living around a “Development Project” undertaken by an Indian Developer, in Buthgamuwa , Rajagiriya formed into a “Protest Move” . That brought the State Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva to the very site for an inspection and found for himself how the the “Authorities” viz. The Adviser to the Ministry of National Policies & Economic Affairs, R. Pakaralingam (another IMPORTED by PM), the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation & Development Corporation – Mr, Rohan Gunawardene and the Municipal Commissioner of Jeypura/Kotte – Mr. Wasntha Ratnapala(who purposely avoided the inspection); have all LIED to the teeth from the word “Go” for the project. The details and the findings of the State Minister are now in public domain and I do not wish to give details here. But, what is important to note is how a “PEOPLES MOVEMENT” can SECURE SUCCESS and that is the only way to chase away these PSEUDO “Civil Societies” from the public eye. Let these types of PEOPLES MOVEMENTS be established every where in the country by REAL LEADERS of villages and cities and take charge of a genuine movement to put thing right for the country. That is the WAY for WINNING for the PEOPLE.

  • 0
    0

    Rasika Jayakody ~ “‘Civil Society’ To Yahapālanaya’s Rescue ?”.
    There was no ‘Yahapālanaya’ in distress to be rescued.
    .
    Rasika: The 08 January 2015 was the first election where language/religion-divide was NOT an issue and sadly may be the last.
    You refer to the poor showing of MS/RW at the recent LC elections. This was because SLPP lit the fire of language/religion-divide wrapped in “Constitution change will lead to federalism which will end up in separation and invasion…blah blah blah…….”. People bought this parcel, albeit with a small margin, that this is more dangerous than the culture of corruption/nepotism/impunity.
    What next? We need few more Sobithas to change/eliminate this mindset. At least one immediately.

  • 0
    1

    “Nettle Grub”
    Confronted as we are by gloom and desparair, I see a glimmer of hope. All the main parties currently in Parliament have completely debased thermselves and “Blotted their Copy Book”. I see that the different parties in Politics are actually in cahoots. The distinction has to be Politics versus The People. The pretended antagonisms are merely play acting. As President Reagan put, “I have been taught that Poltics is the second most common profession in the World. The more I remain in it, I see that it is no different from the First”. That about sums up our predicament. I see hope for a third force. I am optimistic that one may emerge, at least for the Presidency and also for Parliament. We should throw out the present incumbents lock stock and barrel, retaing only the few worthy ones. But they must, by word and deed showthat they abhor the present set of uncouth rogues and will resist the temptation to join the gravy train.

  • 0
    0

    The so called economic guru who had all the answers! He’s now on his favorite pastime of globetrotting again , making hay while the sun shines .

  • 0
    0

    T Devendra as a retired public service ought to be more civil

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