24 September, 2020

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For Whom The Bell Tolls

By Dushy Ranetunge

Dushy Ranetunge

Dushy Ranetunge

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, GL Pieris and several other VIPs were at the Independence Square Arcade last week to watch the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka perform to a large audience on a rainy evening. I took the opportunity to speak to some of their security escorts sitting inside their escort vehicles. I asked them the same question I had been asking since that fateful morning that I landed in Colombo, about 10 hours before Sirisena came out of his closet to declare his candidacy.

The question was, “whom will you be voting for?” They always hesitate to answer, fearful of compromising themselves. I then rephrase my question, “what is the opinion of your family, friends, colleagues etc?”

The answer has been a consistent “It’s good if there is a change”. I have had the same answer from air force officers at the airport, police officers in the streets and military escorts. There is a new boldness to the assertions by members of the security services and the police.

In the rural villages in Sabaragamuwa and even Kandy, especially amidst the most vulnerable and uneducated sections of Sinhala society, Rajapaksa may still command allegiance; but the ground is clearly shifting beneath him.

Supporters of the Rajapaksa’s are of the opinion that this rural factor will see them through. But unlike westernised Ranil Wickremesinghe, unsophisticated rural Sirisena has the potential to eat into Rajapaksa’s rural constituency.

Incidents of violence and intimidation will backfire on the Rajapaksas with significant sections of the electorate determined to see an end to the regime. We may see large numbers of Muslim women mobilised to vote at this election.

Rajapaksa’s strategy of exploiting the dogs of Bodu Bala Sena to herd the sheep of Sinhalabuddhism into his pen has come a cropper with Sirisena grabbing a chunk of that vote base, as the voters of Raja Rata aspire a God King of their own.

Gotabhaya with BBSIn many respects the Rajapaksas are victims of their own success. Often they have repeated that there can never be an Arab spring in Sri Lanka. But that’s exactly what they are facing. Just like in Egypt and Libya, the rural population support base has shifted away from the great leader. Increased economic prosperity has given them access to mobile phones and social media, which in turn has exposed them to alternative propaganda, aligning their thoughts in a direction different to that which the state hopes to bring about through Rupavahini and a subdued and self-censoring subjugated private media.

The Rajapaksas were clearly alerted to the dangers as they blocked websites such as the Colombo Telegraph and issued periodic threats to control Facebook, but these were never going to be effective strategies to maintain control. On the contrary, it provided free publicity to the Colombo Telegraph.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sirisena is selling a dream of a utopian democracy, of liberté, égalité, fraternité, with accountability and good governance thrown in for good measure.

Sirisena clearly has the edge, with a more professional, focussed, well-researched campaign featuring social media and facebook propaganda in both Sinhalese and English. His speeches seem well written, while Rajapaksa struggles to deliver old wine in new bottles.

Crossovers have also weakened Rajapaksa’s front line team, leaving ministers of low quality and lacking integrity, whose delivery is ineffective and poor. Like rats abandoning a sinking ship, more crossovers will further erode Rajapaksa’s credibility before a wary electorate.

But what of Sirisena? Just as the population got carried away amidst the sound of rabanas in May 2009, some even calling for Rajapaksa the god king who could do no wrong to be President for life, today, Sirisena the dream-seller is viewed as the coming of the new saviour.

What is worrying is that everyone on Sirisena’s line up has a score to settle with the Rajapaksas. Sarath Fonseka and Hirunika lead the way with the forgiveness and humility of Gandhi and Mandela fading into the horizon.

As promised, it is a certainty that there will be no submission to an international war crimes investigation. But such international investigations will be marginalised in the face of robust, vigorous and harsh domestic prosecutions for corruption and war crimes which lie ahead, shattering perceptions of the faithful about Rajapaksa, the Thecia Thalaivar of the Sinhalese of May 2009. Ironically it is Rajapaksa’s files that will make the news in the coming years.

Even if Rajapaksa was to win by Diego Maradona’s “hand of god”, the wheels have come off the wagon, as the sun sets on the empire.

Winston Churchill won the war and lost the election in 1945, but in 1930 in his publication “My Early Life” he wrote “Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace, and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war.”

Perhaps Sirisena is that saviour who could deliver the peace that is long overdue and restore the greatness that Sri Lanka once had – greatness that was squandered by misplaced nationalism.

The broad coalition, which includes a wide spectrum of ethnic minorities and political parties, make the dream that Sirisena is selling attractive and appealing. It mobilises the silent majority and marginalises the racists who hang on to authoritarianism to enforce their greedy selfish madness.

The downside is that those who are manning Sirisena’s dream are the same old cabal, with the same old nationalist conditioning, complete with multiple gold rings, gold bracelets, gold sceptres, and a plethora of blessed religious strings of yellow, white and black covering six inches of their wrists to invoke the blessings of all those gods. Not very different to that old wine Rajapaksa is selling in new bottles, only better labelling.

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Latest comments

  • 12
    4

    Dushy Ranetunge

    An article to pulverize the chances and hopes of the incumbent President as no other has done in recent weeks.

  • 3
    26

    “Uneducated Sinhala Society” …

    Does this old Punk think he is King Dick , because he has a smattering of English?…

    • 14
      2

      He has more than a smattering of English, no ?

      • 12
        1

        Of course, more than just a smattering; A torrent, I should say.

    • 13
      3

      K.A Sumanasekera

      ““Uneducated Sinhala Society” …

      He meant 20 Million of them.

      Those who are eligible to vote, they vote for the wrong reason, wrong candidate, …. at wrong elections, …..

      “because he has a smattering of English?…”

      You should be happy that at least one person from this island has smartened his English.

      “Does this old Punk think he is King Dick”

      Did you mean MR the old punk (a failed actor)?

      • 1
        5

        Dear Native,

        Your Tamil brethren may discriminate ( not openly of course, after Prabakaran ) fellow Tamils on caste and origin..

        But they never call fellow Tamils uneducated, at least in public.

        And I admire that .

        Our Sinhalayas are the only race on this planet who disparage fellow Sinhalese for lack of ability to speak English or not sucking up to them..

        It is sad…

        • 3
          0

          K.A Sumanasekera

          “Your Tamil brethren”

          Please stop insulting me as I am not that stupid to share my gene with Tamils and Sinhalese.

          I am not sure what education brings to people who want to be educated definitely it never made them wiser.

          “But they never call fellow Tamils uneducated, at least in public.”

          How do you know? They call fellow Tamils worse than that. No different to their Sinhala brethren. I have known both stupid people very well to make such judgement. By the what has education got to do with wisdom? For example GL P (PhD) is a minister in MaRa’s cabinet, so are Weerawansa and Karuna. Why did GLP spend most of his life learning, researching, thinking, teaching, publishing papers,…. to be appointed to cabinet whereas O/L drop outs sit with him as equals. GLP shouldn’t have wasted his time.

          Gota is the most feared butcher in this island. Do you thing education would have changed him?

          • 0
            1

            Dear Native,

            You are spot on on one thing.

            There are lot of educated bodies wanting Wisdom..

            Murali Amman and Weera amman may not have education,

            But they have Wisdom in bucket loads.

            That is why they helped the Government to save thousands of innocent lives ands even poor Dalit children from Tamil butcher Prabakaran.

            And guess what.

            JHU and TNA and your latest mates SLMC are going to prosecute everyone who waged war including Prabakaran..

            And it is the JHU Abiththaya, Champika who said so, according to one of the the main English rags in Colombo.

            Elite Anglicans and the Vellalas must be ecstatic..

            How Cool….

            • 3
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              K.A Sumanasekera

              “Murali Amman and Weera amman may not have education, But they have Wisdom in bucket loads. “

              Thanks if that is what you think wisdom is I find them in cattle farms.

    • 7
      2

      Facts are stubborn!!

    • 10
      1

      It is because they are uneducated that he has brought down Salman Khan to campaign for him.

      • 10
        1

        When Salman flexes his muscles (dont get me wrong, I didnt mean the muscle there!), and Jackie wiggles her arsx on stage, the gamay modayas will be thrilled and think MR has brought progress into the country and vote for him enmasse.

        • 5
          0

          Miracle of Asia never fails to amuse us, the incumbent President Rajapakshe has brought in Salman Khan and the 3 damsels Jacequinle Fernandes, Sameera reddy, and Lara dutta to boost his sagging campaign and provide unlimited Moda choon to the ‘Uneducated Sinhala Society’ to vote for him.

          Miracle of Asia’s another great strategy to kick My3 out, LOL.

          • 0
            0

            Uneducated Sinhala and Tamil can easily recognize a professional tart be it male or female. They will vote to house them with druggies.The druggies can give them a good time.

    • 8
      2

      Dear Sumane,

      “Uneducated Sinhala Society” …

      Take it easy. Stupidity is not an exclusive domain for Sinhalese only. All other ethnicities that inhabit this Island are well represented in the “Uneducated Index”.

      Dushy’s writing, unlike your’ s has a lot to do with his heart, mind & soul. Rather than mere language skills.

      Cheers!

      PS: New Year Resolution proposal for Sumane. “In 2015 I shall live more in accordance with my conscience”. Good luck my friend.

    • 4
      0

      Dushy’s language has hit Sumana modaya’s raw nerve. What Dushy says is the fact, the whole fact and nothing but the fact. I wonder from which pirivana this [Edited out] Sumanasekera (most probably a [Edited out] who is always jealous of Vellala & Govigama/radala) got his education?

  • 17
    1

    For Democracy to thrive, there needs to be a change of leadership periodically. If not the Government becomes stale, runs out of ideas, becomes complacent and democratic values get eroded. For these reasons alone, it is time for a ‘Change’ in SL. There are multitude of other reasons in the current environment in SL that this has become an urgent and critical need. Briefly, the leader has become a Dictator who pays lip service to true Democracy, there is too much power vested in one family, all facets of public life have been politicised and there is rampant corruption and waste not to mention the ruination of the Economy. To cap it all, there is no law and order and the Leader himself violates the Constitution with impunity.

    People need to give the right verdict on the 8th.

  • 12
    2

    “Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
    Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave
    and eats a bread it does not harvest.

    Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
    and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

    Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
    yet submits in its awakening.

    Pity the nation that raises not its voice
    save when it walks in a funeral,
    boasts not except among its ruins,
    and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
    between the sword and the block.

    Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
    whose philosopher is a juggler,
    and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking

    Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
    and farewells him with hooting,
    only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

    Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
    and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.

    Pity the nation divided into fragments,
    each fragment deeming itself a nation.”

    ― Khalil Gibran, The Garden of The Prophet

    • 0
      0

      Mithura,

      Thanks. Khalil Gibran must have had a premonition of our national plight!

      Dr.RN

      • 1
        0

        Indeed! Every verse seems to have some relevance, even JR the old fox.

  • 10
    1

    Excellent insight into the hearts of the security establishment.

    Our Nation has always been a ” Thattu-Maru ” system. We are used to changing of the guards.

    Indian Gods and Indian Bollywood types aside, our people will nod to change.

  • 4
    0

    “Winston Churchill won the war and lost the election in 1945.” There is a parallel emerging in 2015 and it would be welcome and about time. The change of government in Britain in 1945 introduced the Welfare State and the crowning glory, the National Health Service, still regarded as Britain’s greatest achievement and the best healthcare in the world. 2015 would be the year we turn a new page to treat all Sri Lankans, rich or poor, Sinhalese,Tamil, Muslim or Burgher, as equal citizens and make our growing economy benefit all of us instead of the chosen few.

  • 4
    3

    But unlike westernised Ranil Wickremesinghe, unsophisticated rural Sirisena

    Westernised means sophisticated? What is wrong with this guy?

    Sophistication is not a place you moron. Its a state of mind.

    • 6
      1

      Vibhushana

      “Its a state of mind.”

      It is your state of mind that most in this forum are worried about.

      ” Sophistication is not a place you moron.”

      It is not pancake either.

      “What is wrong with this guy?”

      Before we respond to your question could you tell us whats wrong with you?

  • 8
    0

    The country needs a change of rulership.
    Maithree does not have all the answers for the nation’s ills, but he will be a ‘new broom’ which will sweep away the trash in politics, and usher in new governance.
    We need to break out of this police state’s dictatorship where dissent is brutaly suppressed.
    My3 cannot be half as bad as MR.

  • 0
    0

    Education, Intelligence and Wisdom!
    Well Dushy really have an education! That is all.
    Reminds me the Bull in the china shop, David Cameron.

  • 0
    0

    “If a person is not talented enough to be a novelist, not smart enough to be a lawyer, and his hands are too shaky to perform operations, he becomes a journalist. ”
    ― Norman Mailer

  • 2
    0

    If a person continues in power, he becomes more and more power hungry which in turn will definitely destroy him. That is history.
    anyhow one would not count the chickens before they are hatched for they are a ruthless rots.

  • 0
    0

    This could be the mother of all elections; one candidate promising HOPE and the other promising to KEEP the PEACE that HE WON.

    The question is that if MR stays in we are sure to have ‘more of the same’ whilst Sirisena may end up giving us much the same anywhere.

    Consider the rash of ‘crossovers’ to jump aboard the Sirisena caravan; like a wildebeest stampede in the rutting season. Sirisena’s first 100 days will be pre-occupied trying to keep the peace amongst all his new ‘best friends’ who will be looking for more of the same that they enjoyed under the ex-King.

    Sirisena pins his hope on the fact that the Sinhalese have short memories (and are not noted for steadfast gratitude).Whatever credit accrued to MR by finding the political win to defeat terrorism has been squandered by allowing his coterie of sycophants, thugs and rogues to plunder the common wealth.

    WE the people pin our hope on Sirisena, the new broom. The fact is that he was a key member of the Rajapaksa coterie, and now in his epiphany, he has teamed up with many you wouldn’t trust further than you could throw.

    Who would envy the dilemma of the Sri Lankan voter in these rainy times!

  • 0
    0

    Dushy Ranetunge are you honest to your heart?

    Do you live on a policy?

    Do you remember the article that you wrote a few weeks back about Maithiripala’s supporters parking their vehicles down your road?

    Do you remember the articles that you wrote in late 90s?

    Do you remember what you and Bandula wrote about Lasantha?

    Putting all these together, my conclusion is that you look for a venue to increase your revenue in all sorts of currencies.

    Today you are against Mahinda Rajapaksa is understandable.

    Rajapaksa family never hired you to tarnish anyone’s image in which you are very good.

    What you have earned in the past all blood money.

    Today you are waiting for Sirisena to come into power, so that you can write nonsense on his enemies and earn your blood money.

    Do learn to live with a policy. So everyone will respect you.

    One should not forget their impending old age!

    When people like you on a wheel-chair, it will prove to others that there is one above us is watching our activities.

  • 0
    0

    For Whom The Bell Tolls – Dushy Ranetunge

    Dushy, you write articles like an intellectual. Let us know you Academic qualification.

    Don’t mislead the readers like you an intellectual writing articles.

    You and me know, what you are up to!!

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