By Sarath de Alwis –
This essay is about learned beings, who seek solace and refuge in the comfort of delusion, for they cannot confront the cruel truth. In his essay ‘What is this fuss over crowds’ Mr. Shyamon Jayasinghe an argumentative but a very learned man and a Trotskyite to boot in his days at Peradeniya blames me for calling an impressive gathering of people a crowd. In his logic crowds attend UNP rallies.
He begins his indictment with an unreasonable twist of reason. “Can any rational bystander make any sense about these cries of “Hurrah? We are winning!” while pointing out to relative crowd strengths at political meetings? To begin with there were no Hurrahs in my public musings of May Day. It is time he is exposed to a counter statement, a refutation of his make-believe fantasies. Mr. Shyamon Jayasinghe a proud product of the University of Ceylon – Peradeniya and a public servant of reasonable repute. Now, he carries a pouch full of prejudice and leaps far and wide with illogical reasoning. He is now domiciled in Australia. His admonitions are similar to the mama Kangaroo who threatens the young one in her pouch ‘now be quiet or I will come in there!’ Getting in to his own pouch seem to be his current concern.
What is the responsibility of the intelligentsia? Making truth conspicuous by exposing lies is the responsibility of the intelligentsia. Chastising charlatanry is the responsibility of the intelligentsia.
Mr. Jayasinghe is not alone. Several others like him were offended by my earlier commentary that was published immediately after May Day under the title In Imminent Immediate Distress May Day! May Day! Being wise after the fact, it seems that I should have been more specific and said May Day! May Day! Our Nation is in distress.
Are we to pretend Ostrich like, that Galle Face did not fill up on 1st May 2017? It did fill up and it appeared to be full. It was due to good organization. After the performance on May Day, several retired military types with declared allegiances to Gotabaya were heard exulting on a job well done – ‘Kohomada Apey Wadey?
A good part of the crowd was brought to Galle Face. Another good part of the crowd went to Galle Face not because they enjoyed getting baked in the hot sun but because they were sick of being chilled in the cold comfort of undelivered good governance.
Mr. Jayasinghe laments “Just imagine well-known writer Sarath de Alwis writing to the Colombo Telegraph pointing to the conclusion that “Mahinda is returning,” after looking at the Galle Face attendance last May Day.
What did Sarath de Alwis write about the last May Day crowds?
He said “Mahinda and his Joint opposition had the biggest, largest and positively preponderant collection of people…… Now should Sarath de Alwis choose his adjectives to suit some commentator busybody in Australia?
Sarath de Alwis continued “The SLFP filled a pitcher at Getambe. The UNP filled a jug at Campbell Park. In Galle Face the joint opposition filled a far larger receptacle a bucket nay a barrel, proving that Mahinda is the master of politics of emotion.”
Mr. Jayasingnhe’s problem is that the success at Galle Face was an unmitigated disaster for Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe who just a few days earlier was taunting the joint opposition to demonstrate their public support.
Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe declared his democratic credentials by announcing that he was prepared to allocate the largest expanse of free public space in metropolitan Colombo to the joint opposition under Mahinda Rajapaksa. He did so expecting Mahinda to fall short. That did not happen.
Ranil , being the prudent politician that he is, has wisely avoided the subject of comparative crowds. Yet, in the process, he has put the Consensus President in a bind. The official SLFP has got an object lesson in Mahinda mystique. So much so, that both factions now claim that Getambe plus Galle Face should be the logical way forward.
Being a student of Philosophy Mr. Jayasinghe should be familiar with Aristotle on the subject of what is truth. “To say of what is that it is, or of what is not that it is not, is true.”
Facts on ground at Galle Face on 1st May 2017 seen, experienced and then reported visually was proof of “what it was. Facts on ground in Campbell park and In Getambe –Kandy seen, experienced and reported visually was equally proof of what they were not – as large as it was in Galle Face.
Just as Mr. Jayasinghe , I too am disconcerted with that outcome. I have no desire to return to those days of guided democracy and open kleptocracy.
Yet that reluctance should not catapult me to a world of fantasy. I will not obstruct Mr. Jayasinghe withdrawing to the world that was explored by Lewis Carrol in ‘Through the Looking Glass.’ “Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”
This writer is grateful to Mr. Jayasinghe for precipitating this discussion. The current government that was installed by a miraculous coalition. The oppressed ethnic and ethno religious minorities [who made the difference] and nearly half the majority community who wished to breath freedom combined to elect President Sirisena. Half the present Cabinet wanted to retain Mahinda. If Susil Premjayanth and Anura Priyasharshan Yapa sided with President Sirisena after 8th January 2015 the SLFP story would have been different. What Galle Face and Gatrmbe demonstrated was that hunting with the hound and running with the hare is not only possible but indeed is demonstrably feasible.
The moral of the story is that this government has not only lost its direction but has now got in to that strange netherworld wherein they are deceived by their own deceit.
This government not only does not know what it is saying, it does not care about how they are saying it. It has lost its credibility.
President Maithripala Sirisena was elected not to reform the SLFP or to retrieve it from the Rajapaksa family or to restore it to the Bandaranaike dynasty. He is the executive president wielding considerable political clout and in this patrimonial democracy he can coax, cajole and coerce the present lot. Can he repeat it in an election?
Mr. Shyamon Jayasinghe who did philosophy at Peradeniya should be familiar with the Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and his analogy with the Eifel tower. The Eifel Tower can be moved from Paris to Berlin. But you cannot move the fact that the Eifel Tower is in Paris.
Maithripala Sirisena is the leader of the true, original, pristine SLFP. But after Galle Face, can he contest the fact that after ten years of patronage politics and distribution of spoils hitherto unheard of in Sri Lankan politics Mahinda has a stranglehold on the party machine as firmly as the Eifel tower in its moorings in Paris?
Ten days after, even today, the subject of comparative displays of political muscle by Mahinda at Galle Face, Maithre at Getambe and Ranil at Campbell Park seems to be the principal hang-up of the political class.
As this missive is penned, Former President Chandrika has joined the brawl claiming as reported in the Daily Mirror, that the Joint Opposition filled only 40% of Galle Face. The official SLFP procession in Kandy had a greater participation. She blames the SLFP organizers for allowing crowds to disperse sooner and not ensuring attendance in the Getambe grounds. Probably she is right. May be they did not to respond to contemporary indispensables of aerial magic – the bird’s eye view from a drone camera.
This writer has said this before and does not hesitate to repeat it. President Chandrika alone is responsible for bringing about the unthinkable alliance that made the Sirisena Presidential Candidacy possible aided no doubt by the moral authority wielded by the late Venerable Sobhitha thero. Time has come for her to persuade President Sirisena that a repeat of a second ‘expedient utopian’ would indeed be a farce.
She is correct in her assessment of the organizational competence at Galle Face. As she says “They filled the ground and did not allow the people to move and had tight security right throughout and confined them to the allotted area. They got everyone to take photos and put them in the media with the hope of scaring the people that they are strong,”
The question is how did they do it? They did it with superior organization. They did it with Dr.Dayan Jayatileka has described as a political army.
The unabashed Mahinda follower, newly converted Gotabaya aficionado and ‘Viyath Maga Ideologue Dayan Jayatilleka calls the Galle Face spectacle on 1st May 2017 ‘the tipping point’. Mahinda Rajapaksa, he avows “has the biggest political army – the biggest political movement and organized force– in Sri Lanka today; arguably bigger than any combination of his victorious rivals of the Battle of January 2015.
Dr. Jayatilleka’s turn of phrase ‘political army’ is noteworthy. It connects with the open gloating after Galle Face, by some prominent retired military types who now provide organizational discipline to the Rajapaksa restoration project. Recently I used one of those mini cabs for almost an entire day. The driver was a personable chap Nimal, an intelligent, articulate observer of men and matters. It is possible that he was ex-army. We were in Kelaniya. A large poster depicted the new UNP organizer for Kelaniya. That shifted the conversation to Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka.
He was supportive of the promotion and recognition accorded to the General who led the troops to the final victory. He also remembered that General Fonseka was convicted by a military tribunal. Yet something was puzzling him. If the Military Tribunal was wrong in convicting him shouldn’t the promotion of the Field Marshall have been preceded by an annulment of the court martial proceedings? How could the Generals who unjustly convicted the General go on serving, get promotions and then retire with great ceremony?
We were passing the Kelaniya Temple. A huge bill board announced the state sponsored international Vesak week. It had the President with a measured smile, The Prime Minster extending his grim beam. The Minster of Justice was wearing his President’s Counsel Wig made of horse hair.
I asked Nimal ‘Api Aspayoda Nathnam Booruwoda? Are we horses or Donkeys?
We are not hoofed. But to those beaming at us from Billboards we are pack animals who believed the pledge that such will never dot the landscape after 8th January 2015.