31 October, 2020

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Dayasiri’s Crossover, Rajapaksa’s Political Power And The Hope

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

First Principle Of Governance Must Be Got Right First

The crossover of UNP Parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekera to the government is being seen as yet another example of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s political power and acumen that is proving difficult to resist. It is also seen as an example of political opportunism and venality.  More than adding to the strength of an already over-powerful government the crossover of the former UNP stalwart will further demoralize an already demoralized opposition.  It will also serve as a warning to any potential dissenters within the government that they can be replaced by the President if need be.  The President continues to be the dominating figure of Sri Lankan politics.  Therefore those who are concerned about the political direction of the country, have to find ways to work with the President and his government.  This is the justification that many of those who join the government have given.

At the present time the opposition cannot match the government in regard to the material power that can be thrown into the political arena.  However, there are also other forms of power.  One is religious power. It is from religion that human societies first learnt of universal values, and that what applies to oneself, needs to be applied to others as well.  The first principle of good governance is to look at the larger interest, at the wellbeing of all, rather than the wellbeing of the few.  It is said that Mahatma Gandhi combined the spiritual symbols of Indian society with personal asceticism which made for a powerful appeal to the Indian psyche.  This is one of the attractions of Justice C V Wigneswaran’s nomination to the TNA’s Chief Ministerial candidate at the forthcoming Northern Provincial Council elections.  He has steeped himself in the Hindu religious tradition, so much so that he became a representative of the Hindu religion at multi religious functions.

The most recent crossover to the government ranks, however, has emphasized how politics in the country is about personal power and being part of the power structure. In justifying his cross over in his farewell speech in Parliament the latest chief ministerial aspirant from the government side blamed his former party leaders of taking no effective action to oppose the passage of the 18th Amendment to the constitution, the impeachment of the former chief justice and the electricity price hike.  He expressed his disappointment that his former party leadership did not effectively oppose the government.  But he joined this very government when it offered him a position.  Unless there is more to the agreement he has with the government that took him in, it looks like he will only seek to strengthen the government to continue on its path without changing course.  Politics at the present time is too much about attaining and retaining personal power, and too little about looking at the best interests of the larger community.

Abusing Power

There is a tendency to blame the UNP leadership and its internal divisions and weaknesses for the sins of the government.   But the criticism of the opposition leadership for its ineffectiveness needs to be accompanied in equal if not greater measure by public pressure on the government to practice good governance.   The greater challenge to all who want good governance to prevail is to find ways to express their concerns to the government and not only to the opposition.  It is the government that has the levers of military and economic power under its control, and not the opposition. It must use its powers in the interests of the larger society and not of itself or its supporters only.  This recalls the timeless advice of Arahat Mahinda to King Devanampiyatissa over two millennia ago, recorded in the Great Chronicle, the Mahavamsa, when he said that the King was not owner of the land and its inhabitants, but only the trustee.

That this type of thinking is being talked about at the more intellectual levels of civil society is a reason to be optimistic and not pessimistic about the future. This was indeed the thought that emerged at a symposium on Religion and Reconciliation organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations where the keynote speaker was the founder of the Sarvodaya Movement, Dr A T Ariyaratne, who spoke of the inspiration of Gandhi’s thought in his own work, regarding the importance of the wellbeing of all, which in Buddhist terms is the Awakening of All.  The other speakers who included senior Buddhist monks, Ven. Dr Bellanwila Wimalaratana and Ven. Galkande Dhammananda, and leaders of other religions, Kurukkal Babu Sharma, Fr Benedict Joseph and N M Ameen who were also speakers at the event equally stressed the importance of universal values.

Although the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute is a government-controlled one under Foreign Ministry auspices, those who attended the symposium showed a much greater liberality and universality of spirit than is presently visible in the political discourse which is dominated by half truths and ethnic nationalism.  One of the monks said that he saw the country heading towards renewed conflict, and we would have no one to blame but the present generation.  If the thirty year war that ended in 2009 could have been blamed on the previous generation, the coming conflict will be due to the mis-governance of the present generation, and all who implicitly sanction the absence of morality in politics.  He also said that the time for religious leaders to act was now, since violence has ended, and not later, when violence might come again and leaves no space for the social practice of religious values.

Hope Remains

A notable feature at the symposium was the dissent of youth.  When a representative of an extremist religious group tried to criticize the universal values of the main speakers at the event, he was immediately challenged by the youth present in the audience.  This echoed another event that took place a week earlier where the opposition leadership was itself challenged and was unable to come up with an adequate response.  The growing impatience of the youth with the older generation of leaders is one sign of change. The duty of politicians who aspire to elected office, or hold it, is to lead the country as a whole to a better future, not to cater to only a section of the people in order to secure themselves in the seats of power, whether in government or opposition.

The frustration at the opposition’s inability to get correct the government’s abuse of power is continuing to grow amongst those thinking and progressive sections of the population who see the need for a new mode of governance to meet their expectations.  This was also evident at the discussion organized by UNP parliamentarian Eran Wickramaratne which took place a fortnight ago at the Institute of Chartered Accountants.  The hall was filled with younger professionals and businesspersons who represent the cutting edge of the country’s economic and political future.  Undoubtedly the key attraction at the discussion was UNP and opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who showed readiness to face a disappointed constituency at an open forum.  He took the opportunity to explain the outlines of his party’s proposals for a new constitution for the country.

Amongst the audience and the large number of critics of the weakness of the opposition, were outspoken young people with a high level of education, many of them foreign educated, but still who had chosen to return to their motherland.  They were not afraid to challenge the opposition leader at the forum discussion.  A comparison was drawn to the CEO of a company that is continuously making losses, and whether the Board of Directors and shareholders would long tolerate this situation.  To his credit, the opposition leader did not try and suppress the critics, but even invited them to have their say, which is not a common feature in Sri Lanka today due to the intolerance of dissent by the ruling politicians.   A truly democratic society, as against a nominal democracy, is one in which the leaders encourage their people to assemble freely, speak freely and express themselves, even critically, for the higher truth to emerge without suppressing them.  At the present time this will be to get the first principle of governance correct, that the good of the whole is essential for the good of the part, and the larger interest must come first, not the personal interest.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Jehan, Dayasiri and Ranil are equally unprincipled, corrupt and venal. Period. Indeed, Sri Lankan politicians in all parties except for a handful and criminal and corrupt and the BIGGEST LAW BREAKERS in the country. Political culture in Lanka is rotten to the core and there is need to reiterate core principles and values. Civil society organizations need to do 2 things:
    1. Civil society organization need to take the lead to formulate a CODE OF ETHICS AND CONDUCT FOR POLITICIANS and a CODE of GOVERNANCE FOR POLITICAL PARITIES which have become petty dictatorships and family businesses in the interest of saving democracy in Lanka.
    2. civil society organizations who should launch a massive PUBLIC VOTER EDUCATION campaign to educate the masses on the need to hold politicians accountable and to vote for honest politicians. There is too much focus on Constitutional discussions for power sharing and not enough focus on the SPIRIT OF DEMOCRACY and public education re. the meaning and practice of democracy.

  • 0
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    Jehan,
    Dayasiri, MR and Ranil are equally unprincipled, corrupt and venal. Period. Indeed, Sri Lankan politicians in all parties, except for a handful, are criminal and corrupt, and the BIGGEST LAW BREAKERS in the country. POLITICAL CULTURE in Lanka is rotten to the core and there is need to reiterate core principles and values. Civil society organizations need to do 2 things at this time in the interest of saving democracy in Lanka:
    1. Civil society organization need to take the lead to formulate a CODE OF ETHICS AND CONDUCT FOR POLITICIANS and a CODE of GOVERNANCE FOR POLITICAL PARITIES. The latter have become petty dictatorships and/or family businesses.
    2. civil society organizations who should launch a massive PUBLIC VOTER EDUCATION campaign to educate the masses on the need to hold politicians accountable and to vote for honest politicians. There is too much focus on Constitutional discussions for power sharing and not enough focus on the SPIRIT OF DEMOCRACY and public education re. the meaning and practice of democracy.

    • 0
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      Right on Don!
      Ranil, Rajapassa and Dayasiri are a bunch of unprincipled, corrupt, self-serving and criminal POLITICIANS – the SCUM OF THE EARTH and no one should every vote for them and their cronies..

    • 0
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      Code of ethics should be drawn up for all the following:
      1. Politicians
      2. Civil Servants
      3. Judiciary
      4. Police
      5. Army,Navy and Air Force
      6. Religious Priests

      Sri Lanka has gone to dogs and its time that all these non-law abiding groups should be governed by code of ethics.
      However, no stupid thing such as a different court for the Buddhist Monks, another for the Army and may be another may be constituted for the podiyans who work in various household.

  • 0
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    Talking about moral values, intellectual values, inspiartions of Gandhi, buddhist values of awakening are, all like ‘beeri alinta veena wadanaya karanawa wage”.

    the way it is going it will end up with another uprising like last 2 we had in south.

  • 0
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    As long as we have a shameless, spineless selfish leader as Opposition leader MR need not be afraid of losing elections. Arrogance& snobbishness is not going to make RW to win any election.

  • 0
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    As long as we have a shameless, spineless selfish person as Opposition leader MR need not be afraid of losing elections. Arrogance& snobbishness is not going to make RW to win any election.

    • 0
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      Who said the last Prophet sent by GOD was Mohamed? See this Prophet Jayasinghe Perera’s prediction.

  • 0
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    Can anyone point a finger at Ranil and say that he has robbed anyone or any thing.No they cannot.Then is this not the need of the day? Ranil is the only honest and decent politician left today it is up to the people to recognize this.

    Remember this my friends the people deserve the government they get.

    • 0
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      Now UNP has appointed a new MP to the parliament. Who is stupid here, Ranil or Dayasiri? What can Ranil do, Dayasiri has resigned and lost everything. Supreme Court has now approved the Bill to completely repeal t Provincial councils. Who are the dishonest politicians? Those are good lessons to all MPs cross over for money betraying the voters.

      • 0
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        No provincial council to become Cheap Minister, monkeys who cross over ends up with nothing at the end.

        Will the voters vote again for those who cross over once they get elected, voters are not that stupid to do the same mistake again. Monkeys will never be in parliament again.

        • 0
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          Frogs and Monkeys do not have any policies , greed is the only policy they know . If the bill is passed, no provincial councils to satisfy their greediness. according to latest developments , JHU 19th amendment would suceed.

  • 0
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    Ranil Wickramasingha can not get on with any body. He thinks he is a bigger dictator than MR. You can see a pattern. Here there are bootlickers way past their prime propping RW up. Dayasirij is an a’ hole who has no respect for the voters. Vote the whole lot of them OUT. Sri Lankans stand up!!!!!

  • 0
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    It is easy to say that mahinda is corrupt. As a politicain mahinda is there in the open and anybody is free to attack and criticize him. Among his supporters there are only a few who can defend him in english. But in the case of ranil there are quite a few who rise to the task between their million rupee deal making and evening functions for old boys ! Is ranil morally clean? Does he account for all the money that he gets as donations ? In developed countries politicians have to account for such donations. what about political morality ? Will anyone argue that ranil as a politican has political and ethical integrity ? Is he not riding on spurious claims of family history ? Then what about pundits like Jehan perera ? At various times he has taken various stands . Who funds him ? Atleast politicans go before the public get criticized and have their personal life under scrutiny.Do we know who funds Jehan ? Should not the standards he demands for politicans also apply to foreign funded NGOs who do not have any local support but make a big noise for the benefit of the embassy cocktail crowd ?

  • 0
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    A penny for your thoughts. – Oh, I was just thinking how people can sell their soul and do everything for a few dollars more.

  • 0
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    UPFA intra-party battle for CM post hots up
    July 29, 2013, 10:02 pm

    article_image
    By Dasun Edirisinghe

    Intra-party rivalries have begun to peak in the North-Western Province with several UPFA candidates from the Kurunegala District staking their claim for the chief ministerial post while those from the Puttalam District have entered the fray demanding that one of them be made the CM as that position has never been held by a candidate from there.

    Former North–Western Chief Minister Athula Wijesinghe claimed that he would regain the CM’s post, but former UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera has asked people to vote for him to become the next Chief Minister.

    However, former Fisheries, Electricity, Road Development, Housing and Construction, Minister of the NWPC, Sanath Nishantha Perera, said that he would not allow anyone to occupy the Chief Minister’s chair if he obtained the highest percentage of preferential votes from the Puttalam District.He said that the Chief Minister’s post had not been given to the Puttalam District since inception.

    Perera said he only had the opportunity to work as the Acting Chief Minister of the province for two weeks.

    Asked whether he felt threatened as there were rumours that the government had already agreed to appoint former UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera as the CM, Perera said that Jayasekara was a UNPer and they would not allow him be the CM as he (Perera) was confident of polling the highest number of preferential votes. “I will chase him out if tries to occupy CM’s Chair after obtaining fewer preferential votes than I,” he said.

    The SLFP Puttalam District organiser said that there were around 1,300,000 registered voters in the Kurunegala District and only around 600,000 in the Puttalam District, according to the 2012 register. Therefore the percentage of preferential votes obtained by candidates should be taken into consideration when appointing the Chief Minister, he said.

    Perera said that they had already requested President Mahinda Rajapaksa to grant the Chief Ministerial post to the Puttalam District.

    “We hope that President has decided to keep the post open,” he said.

  • 0
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    Tasil Samarasinghe – Where are you living? In Sri
    Lanka, overseas or on the moon?

    You say RW has not been tainted. There is none so
    blind as those who refuse to see.

    A little learning is dangerous they say. WAit, and
    you will learn more about Mr. Clean. He is unclean
    from head to toe.

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