18 November, 2018

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From Mahinda’s Soft Autocracy To Maithri’s Cartel Democracy

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

The new consensual alliance of national unity is now in place. Will its leaders search for consensus or mold a consensus? Conceived initially as an experiment that would last for two years, President Maithripala Sirisena has now given it a fresh lease of five years. Its composition has transformed the ‘land like no other’ from Mahinda’s soft autocracy to Maithri’s ‘cartel democracy’.

The who’s who of Cabinet Ministers, Minsters of State and Deputy Minsters betray the perils that lie ahead for the Maithri- Ranil- Chandrika troika in their strategy of forcing political change through orchestrated crisis, consent and cohesion.

Susantha Punchinilame as Deputy Minister of Public Administration demonstrably emphasizes public service values. Lakshman Wasantha Perera as Deputy Minister of Plantation epitomizes the distilled essence of our cash crop economy. Portly Nishantha Muthuhettigama as Deputy Minister of Ports and Shipping will surely outperform Guy Fawkes as he has already announced that he set alight the port of Galle. Nimal Lansa Deputy Minister of Tourism Promotion and Christian Affairs and Arundika Fernando Deputy Minister of Home Affairs have exchanged their portfolios with the concurrence of President Maithripala Sirisena. That is as it should be. Arundika has the ability to locate missing Lankans in the back alleys of Paris while Mr.Lansa can detox home affairs now in ecstatic confusion.

Chandrika Maithri RanilThat former President Chandrika Kumaratunga has countenanced the return of the rejected S.B. Dissanayake who wished to strip and march her in public for her spunk in opposing the Rajapaksa autocracy to parliament and cabinet is evidence of the desperation for interparty collusion to avert the spectre that is haunting the new parliament – intrigue by an adored autocrat.

The 17th of August verdict was not about good governance. It was about Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Movement for Mahinda restoration, gathered its momentum due to the failure of the UNP and its leader to grasp the spirit of the Maithri Mandate of January 8th. The ‘Nugegoda’ rising was the direct outcome of the UNP’s misapprehension of the people’s desire for change.

Ranil’s cerebral strategies were no match for the tribal instincts of Dinesh Gunawardena and Wimal Weerawansa. The duo with the support of a segment of the Sangha brilliantly succeeded in igniting the Mahinda movement in less than two months of incessant, irrational and communal posturing.

As the acknowledged ‘Pen’ of the movement has so precisely delineated ‘The Mahinda Movement hoped for, believed in and fought determinedly for a victory at the August 17th election.” They nearly succeeded. A shift of 13,000 votes in Gampaha, 10,000 votes in Kegalle, 8,000 votes in Polonnaruwa and 5,000 votes in Matale would have given the UPFA 106 seats and Mahinda the first claim in forming a government.

Even today, dismantling the Mahinda legacy is no easy task. During the ten years of his Presidency the country saw the end of a thirty year war, a rapidly burgeoning middle class driven by an insatiable consumerism and a massive upgrading of infrastructure essential, trivial and prodigal. A complacent and often collusive opposition made him so secure in his presidential perch, that the mere suggestion of toppling him was tantamount to blasphemy in many Sinhala Buddhist homes. He effectively restructured the democratic institutions with the help of a pliant legislature where the main opposition opted to walk out in token protest and implied consent. Only the three JVP and Seventeen TNA parliamentarians remained to record public discontent. He was the great unifier of the territory and the peerless divider of the Sri Lankan nation. He championed an oligarchy that still survives intact and deeply entrenched.

His work cannot be undone by mere rhetoric. He has created a new normal in our public life. Free and fair elections alone cannot bring about the changes promised in the 8th January mandate. The elections did not eliminate the rascals.

Mahinda Rajapaksa the Charismatic autocrat tamed the judiciary and the legislature. He refashioned the public service to respond to his interests. He was the benign leader who delegated authority and access to power and privileges of the government to UPFA units of his choice. By devolving his absolute power to select members of the ruling clique he offered a share of power and the spoils of office to those who invested in him as opposed to those who wished to challenge his presidency. The credibility of his power and spoils sharing proposition was never in doubt. It was too strong for President Maithripala Sirisena to persuade a majority of SLFP parliamentarians to abide by his reform agenda. In particular he could not command the allegiances of Messer’s Susil Premjayanth and Anura Yapa to exercise his prerogative as SLFP president in deciding party nominations. Having won the Presidency as the Common opposition candidate he could only hope to share his good intentions. While Mahinda could promise effective control and access to political positions in the future, President Maithri was trapped in his reforms platform.

The Cabinet now includes the two sacked secretaries of the SLFP and UPFA and Nimal Siripala the altruistic Siri Sangabo. T.B. Ekanayake who played gallant Lancelot in the Wayamba Camelot is Minster of State for Lands under M.K.D.S Gunawardene the unrepentant foe of Mahinda. These contradictions should help us understand the motives of the political actors and the depth of conflict underlying their decisions.

As for this writer, excitement on good governance is now replaced with anger and apathy. Why did the last elections that were decidedly free and fair in comparison to previous elections produce such bad choices? As the former Auditor General Sarathchandra Mayadunne who created parliamentary history by encapsulating his maiden and farewell speeches in one, corruption is not high on the public agenda of our citizenry. The nation it seems was polarized between patriots and democrats. There is an explanation. While democracy is supposedly a promise of maximum choice, the current electoral system minimizes our choice of public decision makers. The prevailing system encourages low-quality citizens to seek public office that are perceived as opportunities to extract personal rewards. In contrast candidates of stature and substance are the ones who stand to lose more by failing at elections or having little to gain even when elected. The present electoral system is tailor made for corruption, cronyism and clientelism and a guarantee of individual and collective moral failure. Dirty politicians win because the present system does not allow good politicians to either run or succeed. “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely.”

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    I am sure you would have listened to the parting speech made by Mr. Mayadunne – the JVP nominated member of Parliament. If the “Voters” who were told so many times by so many to take this opportunity to send only the “honourable” and “intelligent” members as their representatives to the Legislature; but did not care to listen and made their choices as in some of the examples given by you, what more can you wish and expect? The President, on the other hand was also compelled to “dish out” whatever available to keep these “roughs” happy and contented, as otherwise they would deal with the Government in place very seriously. They also had an “Alternative” waiting among themselves to take the “Lead” and the President and the Prime Minister had to “build” a “cohabitation” agreement for their own survival. This valuable lesson was taught to both of them by the ex President -MR. That will also be approved by the People. So what a “FEW” has to talk about it. Just live with it. After all the “GOD”has given what was asked of HIM.

  • 5
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    “Mahinda’s Soft Autocracy”

    white van autocracy.very soft.heh,heh,heh

  • 4
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    In the Bad Lands of Colombo Telegraph, from time to time spouts a spring of intelligence, and this article is such
    ” A shift of 13,000 votes in Gampaha, 10,000 votes in Kegalle, 8,000 votes in Polonnaruwa and 5,000 votes in Matale would have given the UPFA 106 seats and Mahinda the first claim in forming a government”,is spot on, but even Mahnida Movement’s own tribal leaders lack the initiative or the intelligence to see this..just look at the rejected votes in these electoral divisions, dammit!

  • 5
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    Sarath de Alwis

    RE: From Mahinda’s Soft Autocracy To Maithri’s Cartel Democracy

    “Conceived initially as an experiment that would last for two years, President Maithripala Sirisena has now given it a fresh lease of five years. Its composition has transformed the ‘land like no other’ from Mahinda’s soft autocracy to Maithri’s ‘cartel democracy’.”

    They had a difficult project. Unseating and displacing or transforming MaRa and his carnivorous cronies. Conceived initially as an experiment that would last for two years, President Maithripala Sirisena has now given it a fresh lease of five years.

    We all need to be thankful for the trio for achieving that. They are not perfect, but they got the Job Done. Bravo!

    Is Medamulana MaRa retiring to Medamulana and fishing. It is high time that he spent some quality time with the Medamulana Buffaloes. They are roaming aimlessly around the Mattala Paddy Warehouses.

    • 2
      2

      Such a bull by the name of Amarasiri! You should double check your humanity whether you are a human being or some other creature who is full of maliciousness and hatred towards Rajapakshas. Have you ever gone to a school or at least to a montessori to learn basics of balance criticizing?

      • 1
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        max

        “You should double check your humanity whether you are a human being or some other creature who is full of maliciousness and hatred towards Rajapakshas”

        It is Mara, MaRa is a reincarnation of MaRa, who ooposed Buddha and all the good works.

        School taught, identify the bad, and oppose it.

        Mara MaRa has been identified. ask Sarath Fonseka and many others, both ling and the dead, if you can get to them.

        [Edited out]

  • 7
    3

    Thank you for that brilliant but terribly pessimistic reading of the political status quo in this country, Mr de Alwis.
    While I cannot and will not contest your central argument with regard to the reasons for our present predicament, I would strongly urge you NOT to give up the fight.
    Maybe, it is a statement bred of desperation but while there’s life there’s hope!
    WE CAN’T GIVE UP! WE MUSTN’T GIVE UP BECAUSE WE OWE THAT MUCH TO OURSELVES AND THE PEOPLE OF THIS COUNTRY!

  • 7
    0

    You hit the nail on the head when you said “Dirty politicians win because the present system does not allow good politicians to either run or succeed. “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely.””

    Maithri’s choice of including disgraceful characters like SB and Dilan, etc, must surely be to try isolating MR by bringing in those, who along with the ousted Dinesh, Vasudeva, Weerawansa and Gammanpillai could have given the present administration a hard time. Time will tell if he will succeed.

    Time will also tell if the law will take its course and put away those who have charges hanging over their heads as another way of getting rid of the riffraff in Parliament.

    Having said that though, one is mystified as to why the Avant Garde case has been thrown out without any reason given by the AG for his decision. Surely ‘we the people’ have a right to know???!!!

  • 12
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    Like few other honest analysts here, you have made a good analysis at the topmost/surface level.

    There are different levels of truth/reality and the validity of the analysis is confined to the level you choose to plug-in to. It’s like saying grass is green and analysing truth at that level. But at another level someone with a basic understanding of Physics would know that grass absorbs rest of the colours of the spectrum and reflects green. And to find out why green is reflected, one would have to go into another lower level; to quantum mechanics particle/wave theory etc.

    The greatest human insight is contained within the pages of Will and Ariel Durant’s “The Story of Civilisation” – all eleven volumes were read to us as bedtime stories by Irish nuns in our Montessori! – and to me which is more profound than anything Plato, Kant, Einstein or anyone else came up with. It’s so simple 99.9% of the people would miss it. How did the concept of “God” first enter into the human consciousness? It entered due to one enterprising man’s scheme to avoid a honest day’s work! In the beginning a single man would go hunter-gathering but with time, it was discovered, that it is more efficient to hunter-gather with a another or a group. Among the group there was a man (I believe he is my earliest known ancestor!) who found it is a chore to get up early every morning and go hunter-gathering with the rest. He knew there were things that the others were afraid of; things like thunder, lightning ……. so he came up with the concept of an angry God that was trying to do harm and offered to be a conduit between the group and God. In return he not only was allowed to stay behind but also got the first choice of the hunter-gatherings!

    Sri Lankan politics (or most others for that matter) at the lowest level is nothing but a ploy to avoid a honest day’s work! Throw in religion and you have the story of civilization in a nutshell.

    Mr Sarath de Alwis, I wish a honest skilled analyst like you would plug in to the Sri Lankan truth/reality at the lowest level.

  • 2
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    The fact that a person could not be produced in courts does not imply that all the blunders he did are correct or good.

    We all know the behaviour of Mahinda and Gotabhaya. Can we consider them as our leaders again.

    Former Army Commander went to the battle field, plan the war and win the war releaving all of us from the 30 year long standing fear.We should all respect him for his great service,

    • 4
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      Sriyani Mangalika

      “We should all respect him for his great service,”

      The war criminals SF,MR,GR … are eternally grateful to VP for winning the war for them with the huge support of Hindia.

      Sarath Fonseka is no less racist than the others.

  • 2
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    People do not respect him since he was called Desha Drohiya…He was not a Deseha Drohiya at all. No person is ready to be punished for a serious fraud he never did. That is why in 2009 he told a serious story to media If it is wrong they have punished nedia personnel but not.

  • 1
    1

    Today no one is communicating for no reason, My mother does not understand what I say.

    In September2013 I kept my mobile on ear and talked alone since isolated. No one is around. I stated SF is not a Dershadrohiya No one is prepared to undertake a serious fraud done by some one else. Therefore he stated that serious story.

    All my communication is blocked withot reason, I imagined there is a gravity in my ststement

    If big people did big errors they should be peanalized I cannot allow my whole family to be ruined due to others blunders

    MR and GR are extremely wicked and shrewed. Even today people are afraid and they can contrl this system

    I wrote this my whole family would be ruined without any mistake of mine People are not angry but they naver tslk/ Whereever I go I am unduely harassed

  • 3
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    Thank you Sarath de Alwis for this analysis.

    The movement for good governance and Sobith Thero must challenge the 90 plus Cabinet in Courts, just as Sirisena’s national list for the SLFP is being challenged in court.

    How can Ranil claim that there is a new political culture when he has bribed the corrupt politicians you mention here with cabinet posts?

    The so-called good governance duo are entrenching bribery, corruption and impunity for politicians in the Diywenna parliament of corrupt clowns. All this is in the name of national unity and some boru claim that there will be a Geneva resolution on war crimes, when the US has already said it will support domestic processes..

    Sirisena plays games and lies: He gave Mahind Rajapaksa nomination to lead SLFP and contest the general election and return with his corrupt supporters to Parliament.
    Sirisena is sorry to say, barely educated, has some native wisdom and cunning, does not know how to lead from the front and is a back stabber who became Sri Lanka’s accidental president on the instigation of CBK. Now he is trying to assert himself with the help of Mahinda Jarapassa’s corrupt supporters. He needs to be watched and handled carefully..

  • 0
    0

    Dear Mr. Sarath de Alwis

    Sri Lanka is not a normal democracy, if one could call it that. Simply consider the past presidential elections and how much the National Question as it is called, has featured, some would say distorted the electoral process.

    I will not go into much detail, but simply mention some names, and you tell me that their appointment to and leaving office, somewhat unfortunately, was not due in large measure to forces of this storm we call the national question:

    1. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike -PM
    2. Ranasinghe Premadasa -President
    3. Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga -President
    4. Ranil Wickramasinghe -PM
    5. Mahinda Rajapakse -President
    6. Maithripala Sirisena – President

    If there was no National question would these people have been elected to office or have been denied of the presidency one way or another?

    The sooner the question is solved the better – bring it to parliament, where the Honorable Ministers Sambanthan, Sumanthiran, Weerawansa, Nanayakkara and Rajapakse and others can argue it out and come to some sort of a solution.

    The trend worldwide is towards devolution. But lets move towards a developed nation status with no interest in politics. Some developed country citizens do not even do not know who the PM is.

  • 5
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    Brilliant analysis of the current political situation in the country and what we can expect for the foreseeable future.

    But how can we get out of this filthy morass? Have our morals failed? Has public education failed? Has media failed? Have the universities failed? Have our writers and artists failed? And dare I ask, have our religious personnel failed us?

    We can only hope a charismatic leader, with ability, will rise from this mess and come forward lead us out of this quagmire.

    • 0
      0

      ” Have our morals failed? Has public education failed? Has media failed? Have the universities failed? Have our writers and artists failed? And dare I ask, have our religious personnel failed us? “

      Our morals are based on the Mahavamsa, which says it is ok to kill non-Sinhalese.
      Any writers and artists with unconventional ideas get shouted down ( or murdered)by the patriots.
      We have no religious leaders, only demagogues like Soma Hamuduruwo.
      No amount of getting schoolchildren to chant pious gathas in the morning is going to make them moral or educated.

  • 7
    1

    Very true.

    “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely.”

    Good governance cannot also succeed, if expediency and opportunism underpin governance, however lofty the stated objectives are.

    The alchemy that is being tried will not work, unless an impossible miracle unfolds. Charcoal cannot be made into diamond!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0
      0

      Dr R N,

      The MY3/RW plan as I understand is, there is the group work horses set RW, Champika, Wijedasa, Ravi, Arjuna, Harsha etc to manage the country and economy.

      Then there is other ‘perahara Ali’ converted from MR camp to MY3 camp to keep the government alive so that MR camp will not make any coups within next 5 years and diminish the MR influence in SLFP. Nobody expect ‘perahara Ali’ to do work. No alchemy is expected from this group. This will be charcoal still. Diamond is expected from other group.

      • 1
        0

        Sumith,

        You are right and it is clear. However, the grouse is that all these Perahera Ali have to fedfed, watered, bathed, kept in luxury and permitted to run wild on occasion and dealt with when they are in musth. This is not going to be an easy task and is going to cost the government and goveranace much.

        Their mischif and antics are also going to distract the government quite a bit, from the tremendous tasks ahead.

        Is it worth it?

        Dr.RN

  • 4
    0

    The British failed us by invading us and creating ethnic shock waves that are with us to this day.

  • 2
    0

    We live in a sort of utopia, but it is a busted utopia. Thus far every Utopian
    is one shocking reveal away from being a dystopian nightmare.
    Apathetic and angry voters never knew that their dream of democratic
    form of government /governance could all too easily deteriorate into an oligarchy. Oligarchy, wrote Plato, is government by “greedy men”

  • 2
    2

    This election & the previous one on Jan 8th was ONLY about removing Mahinda Rajapakse. It was clothed in the guise of Yahapalanaya to fool the voters. And fools they became.
    It’s as simple as that.
    And it seems there are a majority of them in this country who failed to see this even though it was led by a ‘woman scorned’ & whose only goal (which was well known) was to have her revenge on her ‘scorner’. And it’s not as though the people didn’t know her track record.
    And it’s not that they didn’t know the track record of the ‘serial loser’ they chose as PM.
    As far as the track record of Sirisena went – there was really not much as he was a non-starter & a follower not a leader. That much at least was evident.
    And the co-habitation of historical arch-enemies towards one goal – that of ousting Rajapakse, logically could only be short-lived once the goal was achieved. After that the fencing would start anew, as is evident now with dire results.
    So the people of Sri Lanka made their INFORMED choice and need now to live with it.

  • 0
    0

    Mr. de Alwis, I hope you will take the time to look at the rate of rejected votes at the Aug 17 election and analyze democracy in Sri Lanka in the context of rate of rejected votes…only the voters in the Southern Districts seem to perform at the level of voters of developed countries like Germany or Australia which also have preferential/list voting systems…all is far from well in the Sri Lankan electoral system.

  • 3
    0

    Flocam,Inconvenient Truth & all
    The People on 8th January took a collective initiative to dislodge a despicable despot. In doing so they believed that they could alter, transform and redesign their pitiful circumstances. Creating a genuine democracy is no easy task. That does not mean that we should abandon our struggle to make the government an instrument of the peoples will.

    • 0
      0

      Good luck. Make Ranil President, then, or Prime Minister. It is too late to go back to the days of the the early parliament, however.

      See the video on YouTube: “The Queen of Ceylon opens parliament”

      “In her address the Queen refers to Ceylon’s disturbed political situation but expresses her belief that with mutual confidence, a solution will be found” -1954

      We know who disturbed the political situation.

  • 4
    0

    From Mahinda’s Soft Autocracy To Maithri’s Cartel Democracy

    A good analysis,

    It would have been pandemonium if Mahinda had taken the lead, though not necessarily with marginal majority 113, Sri Lankan people, the entire section of voters including those did not vote for the good governance are fortunate enough to the great escape, through the wiser prevailing mainly within all township and urban voters.
    I can’t still assimilate Bo(o)ruwanse, whose 2/2= 0 theory not getting into even Colombo voters and receiving more than 300,000 votes.
    All by the ostentatious picture of winning a war by alone and visible mega projects framed in the gullible minds by Mahinda, adding to this 100 days government approach towards, the wrong doers, induced fear among the gullible that their ardent hero would be punished, as well if let alone.
    The war was won because VP also becoming a gullible of Mahinda, I though not underestimate the security forces’ uninterrupted consorted last ditch actions on that line lasting 3 years 2006 to 2009;it was too late for VP himself to realize, the grievous mistake and shot himself point blankly skull of many fusions to be dislodged. Gotta played the cards of situation meticulously to ascend his brother to a permanent throne though thru democracy of their own. The civilian causalities and shooting down the surrendered leaders of LTTE, played a huge role in the minds rural gullible as of suitable revenge that has to be in gratitude for ever! Mahinda flew down and fell on the ground for climax of the drama, but for Mahida’s credit he made the VP his gullible and that is all he did…. it needs long chapter to describe
    This is where in went wrong for them, their believe in unassailable, made them run amok, mind you Maithiry, was at the helm of defense ministry, when the war was reaching the last stages, and he would have shrewdly kept silence and as for his composure, and the rest is history of late 2014, and whole of 2015.
    Only a good intelligent delimitation during electoral reforms, PRS Count can give a comfortable breathing space for GOOD GOVERNANCE.

  • 0
    0

    Great article by CIMOGG here: citizens need to participate more in changing the constitution:

    “POLITICIANS WRITE CONSTITUTIONS FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT”

    excerpt:

    “The Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (www.cimogg-srilanka.org) has repeatedly reminded the people of this country that it is they who are supreme and that MPs are persons to whom the people have only granted “delegated powers”. The degree of Parliamentary privilege that Wickremasinghe clearly holds dear to his heart is utterly excessive and will rob the people of their sovereignty.”

  • 1
    0

    The Government has taken steps to implement “Let’s Awaken Polonnaruwa” District Development Programme 2016 – 2020. Under this District Development Programme a number of projects have been proposed to be implemented with a cost of Rs. 60 billion under the five year programme.

    How much the govt is spending in other districts???????

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