26 January, 2020

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Deciphering The Jana Bala Demo

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Not a flop (about 75,000), but it was fun and frolic not a political avowal; Deciphering the Jana Bala Demo (JBD)

After a tamasha comes the time of reckoning and by this I mean not the day of judgement, but as an accountant would reckon, the balance sheet – the profit, the loss and the balance. First on the plus side, it was big, not massive but not a flop either. The organisers promised 200,000 and ferried in about 75,000 – you think a bit more? Ok I won’t quarrel. My estimate relies on aerial photos on the web and in the newspapers. If I spent an hour dividing photos into 1cmx1cm counting squares I could make a more accurate estimate, but who cares? The point is that though only a third of the promise materialised it is comparable to Wembley Stadium on Cup Final Day (90,000); not bad. Second on the plus side is that the revellers had a good time. Like the Royal-Thomian of old, two or three sakkili bands, folks dancing in the streets, merrymaking and phoney slogan shouting. The organisers proved that they have access to numbers and can induce the faithful with offers of transport and the promise of a good time to visit the capital city and enjoy a day out. Gastronomic delights, like rice and curry packets and in the case of the men, tots of liverish if anti-social libations of the ‘old-stuff’ to wash it all down with were on generous offer.

Is this damning with faint praises? No; not at all. Yahapalana cannot repeat this feat on any comparable scale. It’s no secret that this is all about girding up to the next election cycle. Then the all-important question is ‘who do you despise less’. From the vantage of elections; the planners displayed another upside. They had access to boodles of cash and cash makes the electoral cow moo. February 10 showed that the Sinhala-Buddhist electorate was fed up with incompetence in bringing rogues to justice, Sirisena fifth-column inspired infighting, and two years of economic stagnation. “You have had two years and bungled. Enough is enough!” the electorate said. The query on every tongue was did the Jana Bala Demonstration (JBD) affirm that this trend has gained strength. I make no secret of my greater distaste for the despotic Rajapaksa power centre than the incompetent Ranil-UNP outfit, but believe me I am scientist enough to distinguish between what I like and an objective assessment. For reasons I will now outline I doubt that the ‘Rajapaksa cause’ has consolidated its advantage or made visible progress in the months since February.

It has been reported that Mahinda Rajapaksa declared during run up preparations for JBD that his forces would converge on Colombo, make the country ungovernable and had declared: “We will surround the capital, camp in the city and stay put until this government is evicted.” But mass power to disrupt governance did not materialise, instead it was a carnival of fun and frolic. Those who recall May Day rallies of yore, or old enough to remember the August 1953 Hartal will recall how deadly serious the mood, how thoroughly demonstrators grasped the matters in conflict and above all the timbre of leadership – Hyperion to a Styr. Simply put, JBD was not a gathering of conscious and motivated citizens who understood the issues around which they had supposedly mobilised.

What were the supposed issues? Here is how Colombo Telegraph summarised it: “The protest, organised by the Youth Wing of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna led by Namal Rajapaksa, agitated against the proposed ‘separatist constitution’, selling national assets, protecting the accused in the Central Bank bond scam, exacting political revenge, attacks on the Buddhist clergy, imprisonment of ‘war heroes’ and imposition of new taxes. It drew crowds from all parts of the country”. OK there is one point here that has merit; the government is dragging its feet over the bond scam. The reason is that the actual beneficiary (via the said ‘accused’) is the current incumbent and then candidate in the 2008 presidential tussle. It is also correct that value added tax has gone up but it is too complicated to undertake an assessment of the government’s failed economic strategy here. That will have to await a fuller critique, best done after 2018 all-year economic data become available. Watch this space!

Exacting “political revenge” is code for indicting, prosecuting and imprisoning Rajapaksa era rogues and murderers; this is exactly what this government has failed to do. And there is no reason to believe that these impotent UNP leaders will at this late stage sprout scrota and grow guts to drag villains off to court and lockup. What people should be demonstrating against is the incapacity to seek “revenge” on those who pillaged the nation, raped, abducted and murdered during the Rajapaksa decade. President Sirisena according to reports is now making himself an obstruction to justice. Folks in the rally know all this but their attitude is “Our lot are only slightly worse scoundrels than the other lot” – ung okoma horu.

Now to the most important of the opposition’s rallying cries, distributed in three points in the Colombo Telegraph summary. Let’s pull them together. The ‘separatist constitution’; attacks on the Buddhist clergy; imprisonment of ‘war heroes’. The purpose of this portfolio of slogans is unmistakable, it is to incite racial tension, fall back on wells of deep chauvinism and provoke anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim sentiments in the bleaker psyche of susceptible citizens. This wicked agenda did not resonate with on-lookers nor did it enthuse the marchers themselves. Bahu claims the racist cry (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnQryg2hKfw – in Sinhala) did not echo in the streets and was not taken up by the public. My other sources agree. So, is chauvinist incitement beginning to fall flat? I hope so, but I am not reassured. But he is right on another point: Salvation for this government lies in enacting the new constitution. He is, however, far more confident than I am of the ability of Ranil and the UNP to get anything important done in the next two years.

Then there is the Namal factor; or rather the war of the Rajapaksas which was evident in the jamboree. Basil seems to have been left on the side-lines. A high-profile attendee, Gota, has previously been touted as the opposition’s presidential candidate; but there’s a hitch! Big Brother himself rode in (not on a piebald stallion but standing in a grey-green jeep) charming, resplendent in white, a twinkle in his eye and a smile that does credit to his dentist. Reading the leaves, it seems the opposition has swallowed Nihal Jayawickrema’s shifty story hook line and sinker and is set to petition the Courts in earnest seeking a third innings for Big Brother.

If GL and his bunch of black cloaked dimwits proceed along these lines one possibility is that the government may find reasons to drag the match on for as long as possible in order to compound uncertainty in the SLPP. The worst would not be the uncertainty of candidature but the multiplication of infighting in the ranks of the hopefuls. Will Court interventions flop? Will the Courts play along with parliamentary (with Mr Speaker’s connivance) or government procrastination? Will Gota abandon the Stars & Stripes, if so how long can he delay jumping flagship America? The leading role given to Namal, the side-lining of Basil and the de-facto side-lining of Gota (that else is the message of Big Brother striding into JBD to the rapturous adoration of the flock) surely implies that the game plan is as follows: Another innings or two for Big Brother and thereafter the succession to pass directly to Eldest Son. Do you foresee another civil-war, this time inside the Rajapaksa wildlife park?

Two of the Dead-Left’s aging helmsmen showed their faces while their parties lie in tatters. Greed for one final round of Cabinet perks springs hope eternal in their asthmatic breasts. The Dead-Left is a cranky existential nonentity, but in the context of this pandemonium it has taken to promoting its own Quixotic challenger. But every SLPP and JO body I have quizzed declares that brother Chamal has as much chance as a three-legged donkey at the Ascot Derby.

There is however one useful thing Dead-Left leaders can do prior to their long overdue final public appearance in the obituary columns. They can campaign within the Joint Opposition in favour of the new constitution. It is no secret that Dead-Left leaders and cadres (I am in contact with dozens) know full well that the term ‘separatist constitution’ is racist rubbish. They know that many so-called ‘war heroes’ are war criminals. As for justice-obstructing, novice-monk sodomising, late dining men draped in saffron robes, sometimes referred to as clergy, every soul in the Dead-Left despises them. The problem is that most cadres and two leaders believe that they must turn a blind eye for the sake of playing along with the Rajapaksas. But with their mortal souls in exit mode in the departure lounge, if they were to take a stand against chauvinism inside the Opposition at least the last page on their copybooks will not be blotched and besmirched.

Let me sign off by saying that the JBD challenge fell flat; it was game and set (only) to Yahapalana. But no, not yet match! There is time more; but Yahapalana shows no inclination towards reincarnation, the constitution seems a non-starter. So, what do we have? A championship match where both contenders wrestle with one hand tied behind their back and thier mouths stuffed with crap. Consequently, the outcome of the parliamentary elections in 2020 is far from certain; the presidency is floored by uncertainty. Hmm time for a short nap you might say.

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    AKD cannot avoid taking a dig at the “dead left”.
    Can he tell us what the comatose left that emerged from a left that was brain dead in the 1960’s achieve by hitching on to the UNP bandwagon?
    The real danger of incompetent parliamentary government is a fascist outcome. The ingredients are there for all to see.

    • 1
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      KD good one! shall look forward to your “assessment of the government’s failed economic strategy here. This is urgently needed given crashing Lankan rupee which has lost 20 percent in value in years of Bondscam-Ranil Sira Jarapalanaya and neoliberal IMF debt trap reform. Media is completely distracted by Fake News and has missed this big story.
      Also, need analysis of the Weaponization of Religious and ethnic politics via FAKE NEWS on social media to distract from Lanka’s economic crisis due to Fake Aid and advice from Washington’s economic hitmen.
      Thus, Bondscam Ranil was saved from Impeachment when PCOI into Bondscam Report was released. Fake news weaponized Saffron Thugs to attacked Muslims in Teldeniya and Kandy to distract us from Ranil’s crimes. This pattern of weaponizing religious and ethnic conflict while Neolibral economic agenda is implemented also was apparent in July 1983. The worst anti- Tamil and Muslim riots have happened as a consequence and now cause of Neoliberal Economic Violence, at its height now as the Lankan Rupee crashes in the IMF debt trap and Bail Out Business. Singapore lawyers are in town to do Constitutional reform and get a piece of Port City…

    • 0
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      The promising prospects for the ULF left peaked in 1963/64, AKD may not have been born to see the light of day then.
      So it is not surprising for AKD hitching a ride on UNP’s back taking a dig at the “dead left.

  • 4
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    “It has been reported that Mahinda Rajapaksa declared during run up preparations for JBD that his forces would converge on Colombo, make the country ungovernable and had declared: “We will surround the capital, camp in the city and stay put until this government is evicted.” But mass power to disrupt governance did not materialise, instead it was a carnival of fun and frolic.”

    The Government is still standing, the Modayas had their fun and frolic (with biriyani, arrack and milk), and the camping by the King and his gang were not on the streets but in five star hotels. “Nava gilunath band choon”

  • 5
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    let me quote a former lssp may day slogan which may have some relevance today
    rosie to panadol
    hemeta netball
    premeta football
    apita follidol

  • 7
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    “But mass power to disrupt governance did not materialise, instead it was a carnival of fun and frolic.” Yeah, in the end the lack of toilet facilities in the “most beautiful city in the subcontinent” made them run like crazy propelled by Pusswedilla threatening to eject out. This was the disruption that materialized around the Lake House. But it was no carnival for the city workers who had to clean up in the morning the Royal mess left behind by the King’s soorayo.

  • 3
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    Scientific Analysis of the March: As usual my former Guru (Prof. Kumar David) is trying to please both sides. He claims that he is a good scientist. But good scientists never indulge in tom foolery. He says, The organisers promised 200,000 and ferried in about 75,000 – you think a bit more? Ok I won’t quarrel. My estimate relies on aerial photos on the web and in the newspapers. If I spent an hour dividing photos into 1cmx1cm counting squares I could make a more accurate estimate, but who cares? So it looks like his estimate is just a guess, because he is too lazy to do it in a more professional way. Actually, I did it using the Matlab image Processing Tool Box and found the crowd in the published photos to be 40,000 ± 2,000, the 2,000 being the estimated accuracy of the method in this situation. So, in this case, the Golaya has done better than the Guru.
    .
    The author says, the organizers have access to numbers and goes on to say they were able to induce the faithful with lots of booze, rice packets, and a visit to the capital. He is careful not to mention the cash inducements and the poisoned milk packets. Calling the marchers as faithful and then mentioning the inducements is surely a stark contradiction, because, faithful do not need inducements. They are motivated by faith.

  • 4
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    Jana Balaya
    5000+Buriyani Packet+Water Bottle+Arrack= Total 8000 per person. Now where did the funds come from ??

    • 2
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      That creates a dilemma for MR and the gang. With the estimated cost at Rs 8,000 per person (a low estimate) and a crowd of 200,000 the cost would be a staggering 1.6 billion rupees.

      1) If the crowd size is inflated, they would find it more and more difficult to explain how the huge cost was met.

      2) If the cost is reduced the number would go down to low levels and that would mean a the loss of political capital.

      So MR, what was it? Were you a big robber or failed politician?

      • 1
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        Hello Edwin,

        hope youa re doing well.
        I have been studying some video discussions within India these days.
        Their forums prove that Rajapakse-SINHALA Extremism is going to be a threat to indians.
        This may well be the reason Rajapkseh to be invited to India last week.
        Besides, did you notice – his responses to the questions raised to him were not clear to many. Lot of ambuiguity was mixed in his responses.

        Investments should be welcome. But each and every project needs to be subjected to proper feasiblity studies right ?
        Rajakshe boasted about his Harbour and Airport during the visit whoever posed a quesiton to him on that. But since they have opened them, no yet investors came into start anything – why is that ? So the journos though nodded head like cows would do- but no good questions came in either.
        I think .. it was just a visit to keep the world aware, that Indians are well concered of on going politics in SL.
        Indians in general are very nervous about any kind of reactions of Chinese.

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          Sam, not only the Indians but the USA too is nervous about China. India and USA are together and against China in this . In fact, everyone is nervous about China. Japan, Philippines, Viet Nam and many ASEAN countries find China to be a bully. Even North Korea is nervous.
          .
          They have reason to be so. China is huge. They can easily lose tens of millions Chinese in a war. Their non democratic systems allows that, while in democratic countries it would not be acceptable politically.
          .
          Their past record has been bad. The invasion of Tibet, the attacks on Buddhist places etc. make these suspicions justifiable.

          • 2
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            If as Rajapakshe drolls, Harbour and Aiport are gold springs, why no investors came in asking for lease yet ?
            Rajaakshe does not know what he has been talking about ? May be he has no knowledge to exchange in Forums of that nature. India may have not gathered valuable info from his during the trip.
            Anyways lanken web sites make head lines… that his trip to India blocked providing visas to Tamil travellers to India for some paritucalr forums.
            Lankens in general just speculate their favourites narrations, in favour of Rajapkashese right at the moment.
            Ranil and Sirisane and other are silent.
            They just let it go, not even paying attention.
            All in all, I believe, people will never become factual. And nor woudl Rajakseh back lickers either.

            Yes, China is a threat to entire world. They just see join venture or any other income brining cooperations with anyone. Angola ghost cities prove that high tech modern cities similar to that of Dubai or NY are no more of validity to those poor folks whose majorites are eartning less than 3 dollars a day.
            So, please check it out by yourself…. so have the chinese infected the POOR of POOR for their future efforts to be the world masters.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8HyDGCNxpo

  • 0
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    Reminder: The JDS acronymed by Kumar David is NOT Jaffna Business District but the recent Jana Bala Demonstration by the youth wing of the nebulous SLPP – organised by Namal R of ‘Tharunyata Hetak’ fame.
    It is unique because the absence of violence. Why? Needs some elaboration.
    The pogroms against Tamils were ‘us against them’. The 2014Aluthgama pogrom and follow-ups were ‘us vs a new them’. the JBD was ‘us vs us’. The teams came to an understanding ‘us’ must not hurt ‘us’. MR decreed, “No foolish actions/provocations”. Mangala assured “Rubber bullets aimed below the knee”. The carnival atmosphere was there but the after effects of the copious food and drinks was not allowed for. Will be taken seriously in future JBDs.
    .
    Kumar David: Did you get the hidden message, “We have control of the violence-button. Look out for what we do to ‘them’ in the near future”.

  • 0
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    Kumar David talks about ‘dead-left’. He was never a lefty and so has no business to talk of dead ones. Living lefties are found among liberation theologists.
    When Karl Marx laboured in British Libraries the working class did not know anything about the culture of corruption/nepotism/impunity which guided the rich to get richer. Karl did not take into account that Marxist will fall into this trap. This explains the failure of his otherwise perfect thesis.
    Any chance of a modern day Karl Marx? No, brilliant minds will be head hunted by the banks, intelligence services and the leftovers by the arms industry!

    Rest easy Kumar.

  • 1
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    Mahinda Rajapaksha asked the protesters and organizers not to engage in any disruptive activity that would give the Yahapals not only a reason shoot as Mangala has suggested but also use their(Yahapal’s) own goons to destroy property, take lives and blame it on the Janabalaya crowds, that is what Mangala wanted, but Mangala failed miserably because MR is no fool, in the meantime someone poisoned the poor and thirsty participants, the most cowardly and heinous act we’ve seen in politics in this country in my life time, KD does not want to talk about that does he? Why is he so coy about that? The reason will come out soon.

    • 2
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      The trap was set for large rats, but all that came were tiny mice.

  • 1
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    Wannihami,

    Latest investigations disclose that rotten milk packets were distributed by Basil Rajapakse groups to disrupt the monkey parade. Obviously, Basil R. cannot stand anyone stand in his path to realizing the dream of becoming next king of Sri Lanka. Ask Willie Gamage if you want more details.

    • 0
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      Nimal, Basil is too cunning to do such a stupid act only Yahapals can be as stupid and heinous and cowardly as to poison the protesters.

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