2 December, 2020

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Escaping Armageddon, Living With Pessimism

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

The Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremsinghe on Saturday 23rd July made a ferocious assault on two English Language Newspapers and its editors. He said that the Daily Mirror had demanded the ouster of Mangala Samaraweera the country’s Minster of External Affairs who had contributed immensely to restore the image of Sri Lanka as was demonstrated by the invitation to President Sirisena to attend the G7 parley in Japan. The Daily Financial Times he alleged attempted to sabotage the economy by publishing negative articles despite which the government succeeded in raising funds by the issue of sovereign bonds. His indignant denunciation of the Daily can be reasonably attributed to the article published in the Daily Mirror “Why Mangala must exit and Amunugama must enter” by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka.

It also stands to reason that his grievance against the Daily FT has to do with opinions expressed on the Central Bank Bond issues by the likes of Dr. W.A. Wijewardena Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank and Mr. Chandra Jayararatne, a former chair of the Chamber of Commerce and an eminent and prominent civil society activist.

To begin with, I unreservedly share, approve and endorse the Prime Minister’s opinion of Mr. Mangala Samaraweera. In addition to his forthright performances in international gatherings that indicate to the world of our desire to move from a tribal society to a modern, he is the one senior Cabinet Ministers who consistently seeks to keep us reminded of the dark times of the deep state with its freebooting economy that we reeled under till 8th January 2015.

Offering specious advice on the composition of the cabinet of Ministers is the privilege of Dr. Dayan Jayatillaka. Observance of the principle of keeping readers informed of various hues of opinion is the professional obligation of the journalist. The editor of the Daily Mirror in this instance may have been also influenced by a previous report that the Presidential secretariat had invited Dr.Jayatilleka for a seminar on foreign policy which was held for the benefit of his Excellency the President of the republic.

This writer is convinced that Dr. Sarath Amunugama does not share Dr.Jayatiklleka’s current ethos of mongrel Sinhala nationalism. The last occasion I met him was at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies auditorium where Dr. Amunugama paid a moving tribute to fellow Anthropologist Stanley Thambiah which I described as a Buddhist requiem for the author of ‘Buddhism betrayed? ‘

That brings us to the free exchange of opinions in the columns of the daily FT on the controversy of bonds issued by the Central Bank under Governor Arjun Mahendran. We do not know what COPE will report to parliament.

Dr.W.A. Wijewardena former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank in an article ‘The Bond Scam and the story of selling government securities direct’ on 11th July 2016 sums up the predicament. Our small pond cannot be the preserve of a few giant toads. Direct sales which are now referred to as ‘private placements’ was an instrument available to exercise due diligence. Dr. Wijewardena narrates the reaction of former Governor A. S. Jayawardena when he was told that direct selling would impede the market. Said Governor Jayawardena: “There is no competitive market here because the licensed primary dealers are a group of oligopolists who can drive the rates to their advantage. The Central Bank, while seeking market development in the long run, has a right to prevent a situation that would lead to unfair trade practices by a few primary dealers who might have access to inside information. Hence, market development means market taming too.”

It is now clear that the Prime Minister has on this occasion decided to be ‘Casabianca.’

The boy stood on the burning deck

Whence all but he had fled;

The flame that lit the battle’s wreck

Shone round him o’er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,

As born to rule the storm.

That is his privilege. His choice. That said, this writer is convinced that Voltaire is correct. Common sense is not so common. The Prime Minister who is undoubtedly a clever and canny politician has for some bizarre reason decided to wage war on the media at a time when the right to information bill is before parliament. It seemed that he was losing his marbles.

There are other signals that are ominous. He has appointed his Additional Secretary –Media Mr.Saman Athaudahetti as acting chairman of the state owned ITV. One of his first acts in office was to invite a former ITV boss Newton Gunratne who was an ardent advocate of free media under the Rajapakse Presidency for a program that sought to map the future trajectory of ITV.

Tisaranee Gunasekara in her most recent essay observes tartly ‘The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration is only marginally better than its Rajapaksa predecessor when it comes to corruption, nepotism and venality.”

His focus in Kandy with a captive audience of UNP apparatchiks was on two English newspapers. That in itself is another narrative. Our Sinhala print media does not focus on foreign policy or finance to the same extent and depth of its English counterparts. The present editors are poor substitutes for giants in the caliber of D.B. Dhanapala, Julius Lanerol, Dharmapala Wettasinghe and Gunadasa Liyanage. The editor of a Sunday Sinhala National Paper has been appointed to the Press Council by the ‘Yahapalanaya’ as a reward for appearing with firmer CJ Sarath Silva on a TV show justifying the impeachment of CJ Sirani Bandaranayake.

After 8th January 2015 we are a nation in transition suffering an acute sense of uncertainty. We turn to different sources for information- mainstream print and electronic media, alternate media, social media and the grape vine. The public does not expect impeccable integrity either from media or the politicians. A heighted state of anxiety is the reward of those who helped install this government in power. A video in which Gamini Viyangoda recites Professor Carlo Fonsekas Sinhala rendition of Berthold Brecht’s ‘The Buddha’s parable of the burring house’ has gone viral. An extract from it seems appropriate.

“Lately I saw a house. It was burning. The flame
Licked at its roof. I went up close and observed
That there were people still inside. I entered the doorway and called
Out to them that the roof was ablaze, so exhorting them
To leave at once. But those people
Seemed in no hurry. One of them,
While the heat was already scorching his eyebrows,
Asked me what it was like outside, whether there was
Another house for them, and more of this kind. Without answering
I went out again. These people here, I thought, 
Must burn to death before they stop asking questions.”

The learned Prime Minister seems to be living in the land of OZ where water is wet. He should heed to George Orwell’s opinion on the freedom of the press. “Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose”

Some people feel the heat. The octogenarian performer Trini Lopez appeared before a packed house in Colombo. The tickets were prized at Rs.7,500, Rs.5000 and Rs.3000. When the audience was informed that the guest of honour was Finance Minister the packed house responded with a deafening BBBBOOOOOOO. The hapless Mr. Karunanayake had an audience different from that of the Prime Minster in Kandy.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    2

    Has Gamini Viyangoda paid back those shareholders of Ravaya who were swindled out of their monies a few years ago?

    People in burning houses shouldn’t smoke pot.

    • 5
      0

      Very good question and observation.

      Another question he needs to answer is, how many members does his “Puravesi Peramuna” have? Not many (apart from Sarath Wijesuriya and Ratnapriya) as far as we know.

      I am one such person who lost close to Rs 100,000 to thieves like Viyangoda and Athula. There is no talk of paying us bak at all.

      But Viyangoda keeps doing the rounds around TV stations, preaching his own version of Buddha Dhamma!

      Thieves need to be exposed, CT. Do a piece on im.

  • 0
    2

    Good to hear that poem from one of the stalwarts who toiled hard to bring down the past Despotic Regime. However, without knowing what is in stock for the future and banding with another bunch of time tested crooks in the political arena, no wonder this team has to now sing for us even using Buddha. Now where are they heading? They are in that HOUSE on fire. People are shouting from outside that the HOUSE they built and still continue to occupy is burning. They are asking them to get out without risking their lives. But they are still contemplating what could be salvaged and debating where to go. Mr. Uyangoda has already burnt his mustache; but still living in the HOUSE asking the people whether there is any “comfortable” place outside. Aren’t you guys comparably similar to those inside the house on fire. Please don’t ask the PEOPLE what that NIRVANA is? They will be as silent as BUDDHA. The PEOPLE are now becoming BUDDHAS. Please remember that FACT.

  • 4
    2

    Bagehot,

    I have no idea of what you are talking about. I am commending Brecht’s parable rendered to lyrical Sinhala. When you resort to attacking the messenger and not the message, you have lost the debate.

    • 2
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      Oh my goodness, I am sorry. I wasn’t entering into a debate, I was asking a question that came to mind when I saw the chap.

  • 2
    2

    Trini Lopez fans Booeeng Gallion Ravi..these are the signs of turning of the tide. These are the bourgeois Colombians who wanted change who flocked half a million in number to bring Ranil in. Poor Sarath is looking for a place to hide. Don’t hide join the Pada Yatra mate that is where the peoples heart is everywhere else it is only Diaspora money nothing else.

  • 3
    14

    Sarath de Alwis’ observation that Sarath Amunugama is not a “mongrel Sinhala nationalist” only proves my point by reiteration.

    Sarath’s personal anecdote deserving another, the last time I met Dr. Amunugama–at Dinesh Gunawardena’s son’s wedding– he graciously gifted me and Prof Sudharshan Seneviratne an autographed copy each of his work on Anagarika Dharmapala. As I have said that he is a rare cosmopolitan who is committed to ethnic devolution while sensitive to Sinhala sensibilities.

    Amunugama’s combination of scholarly, civil service, journalistic and UN credentials place him far above someone whose educational background is in dress design. The fact that he is no Sinhala nationalist, mongrel or otherwise, is all the more reason he should be foreign minister, in place of the clownish Mangala Samaraweera who makes the US “poodle” Tony Blair seem like a veritable Rottweiler of national sovereignty!

    • 11
      0

      I believe the reason behind you to side by Amunugama could well be – asking him to give you a place if he would be the foreignminister. Else, we can see any other reasons you the kind of camelian to praise him that way. Whoever Mangala has been, what he achieved sofar is more than what GLP has done during the last 5 years. Alone the fact him to succeed that the public is no longer under threat as had been painted by Rajakaashse rule – is a key point to commend his work. Gonibilla principle is no longer there.. nor can we see all low level diplomats are being appointed by him representing the country as had been the case under the rule of Alibaba and 40 thieves.

      • 9
        0

        You may be very right.

        DJ is said to be unemployed for the moment. His dream was Rajaakaspseh to come back and he be offered a better position like Foregin Minister or… since the dream never came true, he even risked joining all the low class men but on a public stage – that was Nugegoda wedikawa.. there he cut his genital by his own not allowing him to give a birth to anyone. Now again, being unable to see it turning fully other way around.. he adds the kind of articles.
        So who would respect him today- perhaps, only the men such Wimal Buruwanse.. or Gonthadipilaa or Maxes of this forum…

    • 7
      0

      Dear Dayan Jayatilleke

      Please list out the top 5 achievements that GL Peiris achieved during his tenure. And let’s not talk about those BS resolution delays at the UNHRC that ‘prevented’ our ‘armed forces from being betrayed’.

      Go on, tell us.

      • 1
        0

        Looney, you will have a long wait. Jayatillka ‘s is only empty rhetoric.

        What GL Peiris achieved is akin to plain dishwater compared to what Mangala Samaraweera has so far achieved.

        It is to the credit of the Prime Minister to have recognized that.

        That said, the Prime Minister’s tirade against the newspapers has been unwarranted; coming from a man of his breeding, education and background.

        As usual, a brilliant dissection from sarath de Alwis whose writings are such a pleasure to read.

        Trini Lopez was way past it when he visited Sri Lanka some 15 years ago. One could just imagine – despite the unending hype on radio – how limp a performance it would have been from him.

    • 6
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      You please change your Punnaku brand if you really want to see some progress in your charactor. Good luck DJ. I really dont want you to become the most known lauging stock of the nation.

    • 4
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      It’s more than a ‘bit rich’ for DJ, aptly described as a “[Edited out] Sinhala nationalist”, to use the analogies of the [Edited out]to defend his position, when he has displayed his servile allegiance to the criminals in the last regime ad nauseum.

      The “[Edited out]” went on to”prove his point” when he was begging for scraps from the Rajapakse table after his master dissed him and accused him of being in the pay of the “NGO kakkas”. His ‘tail between his legs’ stance at the rallies organized by the other “[Edited out] Sinhala nationalists” (read Weerawansa, et al) at Nugegoda, etc didn’t help him either.

      Hence the vitriol against Mangala S, who, regardless of his “educational background”, is faring very well in his role as FM.
      [Edited out]

    • 4
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      The references to Mangala Samaraweera by Dayan Jayatilleka are uncouth, snobbish and ill-informed.

      They are in fact far from the truth, if what I hear from some of the Diplomats themselves, is anything to go by.

      Dayan Jayatilleka’s ‘sell-by’ date is long gone. This is yet another instance to show that he operates through innuendo, imagination and plain bias. He is not fit to be a political analyst.

      Mangala Samaraweera has been brilliant in his role and his past vocations are of the least concern to all those in the know. Jayatilleka now very much in the ‘outer’, depends largely on imagination to give substance to his empty rhetoric.

      If Dayan Jayatillaka who did not come from the foreign service could serve as ambassador(despite many others far better) under the watch of that notorious dictator Rajapakse, why not Mangala Samaraweera as Foreign Minister under the watch of far more benevolent leaders?

      The only difference between the two is, Dayan J was sacked as ambassador. Mangala has not been sacked from his job, and very unlikely to be, given his performance.

  • 2
    0

    “The Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremsinghe on Saturday 23rd July made a ferocious assault on two English Language Newspapers and its editors. He said…..”
    That was not an “assault” but a “verbal assault” of the outburst kind.

    Free press must accept that the right of reply (or whatever) may take various forms – for extreme forms ask Egyptian President al-Sisi. Other forms of right of reply may be white vans – hopefully this is history.

  • 2
    2

    If not Sinhala tribalism, what else is there? Tamil tribalism? You mean Yahapalanaya would actually pick Tamil tribe over Sinhala tribe because Tamil tribe has more bonds, courtesy America?

    It is imperative that man in house has sprinkler system installed. If he hasn’t installed one, he is at the mercy of his neighbor who after saving him, will surely use him as a slave.

    Ultimate hero standing on deck could have prevented the fire by getting the sailors to do some extra work to prevent the fire in the first place.

    Yep! Comprehensive tax plan and the courage to tackle Elites for due taxes, would have surely stopped the overheated engine. Never mind, workers are willing to work even at this stage to put out the fire. Ship CEOs can be pummeled later, to pay for extra work of the hardworking crew. Hero, crew and ship are saved! In the absence of that, we can throw a lifeline to China, Russia,….maybe some Tamil bonds will work….albeit good Tamil bonds (do we have a choice with USA?)…………..US is going to set up harbor in Trinco, isn’t it!!! Never mind, as long as we retain Sinhala Buddhist status – is that a promise?

    Buddha said “Human life is so precious, it can never be mongrel.”

    • 2
      1

      Yada yada yada and blah blah blah from the queen of gobbledy gook!

      • 2
        1

        ….sure sounds like you……

        • 0
          1

          That’s only because I was quoting you, my dear!!!

          • 2
            0

            Not at all….I was giving focus to the actual article. Read it and understand if you can, and then your turkey gobbling Tourettes will ease.

    • 0
      1

      reply ramona
      “…..Yahapalanaya would actually pick Tamil tribe over Sinhala tribe because ……….”
      ramona is bringing Tamils into the conversation as crudely as ever.

      ramona: “….hero standing on deck could have prevented the fire by getting the sailors to do some extra work to prevent the fire ….”
      Boy stood on the burning deck was written under poetic licence. In Lanka’s context who started the fire ramona?

      ramona again : Buddha said “Human life is so precious, it can never be mongrel.”
      When was this statement made. If at all Buddha said that all living beings are precious. Do not devalue Buddhism ramona.

      • 2
        0

        K.Pillai,

        If the Sinhalese are supposedly tribal, then what do you call the Tamils. and present GoSL certainly is attempting to coalesce Sri Lanka with South India via Tamil diaspora bonds, with the excuse that Sinhalese are tribal.

        Chelvanayakam started the fire.

        Buddha however gave precedence to human life (if one kills an ant, one’s karma is compromised by 1/100th; if one kills a human, one’s karma is compromised by 100………..and all humans were equal irrespective of race, color, national origin, caste et al)

    • 1
      0

      “Ultimate hero standing on deck could have prevented the fire by getting the sailors to do some extra work to prevent the fire in the first place. “

      Sums up everything that’s wrong about Ramona Therese Fernando. Thinks she knows what could have been done to prevent the fire spreading without even knowing what caused the fire in the first place.

      • 1
        0

        Bagehot,

        It is well known that it was Chelvanayakam who started the fire!

  • 0
    0

    Mr de Alwis do not take this PM Wickramasinghe seriously since he is a joker and the best joker the country has produced so far.

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