14 December, 2018

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From Parliamentarians Of Intellectual Giants To Those Accused Of Corruption, Crime, Fraud & Hooliganism

By Latheef Farook

Latheef Farook

During the second half of 1960s when I started my journalistic career with the now defunct Independent Newspapers, I was sent to cover parliamentary proceedings. Within weeks I realized that here was a place where one could learn a lot. Those were the days when parliamentarians in general were educated, cultured and well-mannered .They respected religious, cultural and social values.

They came well prepared for discussions. In this regard parliamentarians from left parties contributed a great deal. To name a few Dr N.M. Perera, Colvin R De Silva, Bernard Zoysa, Peter Keuneman, Dudley Senanayake, J .R. Jayewardene, Ronnie De Mel, Felix R Dias Bandaranaike, George Rajapaksa, M Sivasithamparam,  A Amirthalingam and several others.

They were a respected lot for their intellectual caliber and integrity. Many used to buy Hansard comprising their speeches at 30 cents and preserve for future reference.

They were not only familiar with domestic issues but also well versed on international developments. For example in August 1968 Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia and installed its stooge in power. This was discussed in the parliament. 

Then Minister of Industries and the leader of Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, MEP, and Philip Gunawardena explained the reason behind Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He gave a clear picture of the political scene in countries under Soviet control. It was intellectual tonic for those who wanted to know   about socialist world.

However unfortunately half a century later today one could say that most parliamentarians know nothing about some of the burning international issues including the Israeli Palestinians problem or the United States led UK,France, Israeli and Russian wars destroying Muslim countries in the Middle East under the guise of fighting a deceptive war on terrorism. 

Commenting on the high standard of discussions then former Arab League Ambassador in New Delhi, also accredited to Sri Lanka, Abdullah Murad who watched a session told me that “these discussions are   free, enlightening and are of high standard. You don’t see this anywhere in the Middle East as most countries there are dictatorships.

Listening to late Finance Minister Dr N.M. Perera, the commercial attaché of the Iraqi Embassy in Colombo Jawdat Al Khidairy said “Dr Perera should be the finance minister for the whole third world. 

They were also known for their simplicity, honesty, integrity and respect for talent without any racial prejudice. For example I remember when the then Finance Minister U.B. Wanninayaka was approached to help a person who had applied for a job in one of the government departments, his response was; I can speak, but the problem is we will deprive if a more qualified person has applied of his job.

Once I went to the vegetarian restaurant Indo Ceylon Café at Colpetty for breakfast. I was shocked to see late Prime Minister W Dahanayake having his breakfast in the traditional banana leaf which he later threw in the garbage bin and washed his and mouth in the common pipe.

Thus the parliamentarian of yester years had shown us the path which the politicians in the subsequent years discarded.

The standard of discussions began to decline under late President J.R. Jayewardene whose 1978 constitution made him a democratically elected dictator. This made free expression     impossible  aggravated further by possession of undated resignation letters of government parliamentary members.

This gradual decline continued under successive governments.

With the end of the 30 year ethnic war most people expected former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to learn from the racist politics which brought death and destruction and use the golden historic opportunity to put the sinking country in order.

Therefore everyone thought  Mahinda Rajapaksa will  remove bitterness and bring  divided and devastated communities together, restore democratic values, pave the for political stability ,economic development  and move the country ahead for a better future for all and earn a name in history.

However he miserably failed and ended up as godfather of crime, corruption and brought about a dark era. Racism flourished. Government institutions including judiciary became corrupt.  Tamil grievances ignored and violence unleashed against Muslim community. They drove terror into the minds of Muslim community which culminated in the burning and looting of Muslim owned houses. Provincial council members were accused of gang raping a tourist who later died. In short there was mayhem everywhere.

It was in such an atmosphere that parliament was dissolved and new elections were called.

SLFP Minister Maithripala Sirisena left Rajapaksa government and led the opposition in the election campaign together with Ranil Wickremesinghe and his United National Party. Stage after stage in all political meetings both Maithri and Ranil promised the country to bring all corrupt, criminals and those looted the country’s wealth to bring to book.

People trusted and voted them to power with great hope of a country free of crime, corruption and peace. However Maithri formed a government with former ministers accused of very crime and corruption.

Three years later today Maithri-Ranil failed to fulfil their pledges to the nation. Instead there were allegations of corruption against them now.

Those accused of corruption, crime, plundering the country and other allegations remain free and enjoying same positions and perks. People are disillusioned and fear that the government’s failure may bring back the dark era.    

It was under this political environment that government and opposition members accused each other in the parliament on 6 January 2018 of corruption. The overall conduct of the parliamentarians was of absolute disgrace and shameful.

The country is facing acute political and economic crisis. 

During the time of independence in 1948 the country had all the required fundamentals to turn  into one of the most progressive and prosperous as then Singapore Prime Minister had reported to have told that “he would make Singapore a Sri  Lanka”.

Sri Lanka today is one of the most mismanaged countries in the world. Both United National Party and Sri Lanka Freedom Party, ruled the island alternatively, are responsible. It looks like endless Greek tragedy for the island where people continue suffer and politicians flourish.

All because the majority Sinhalese community failed to produce a visionary leader who could think for the whole country instead of indulging in racist politics to remain in or capture power.

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    See. It is a SLFP minister who saved UNP and promoted to them again to a GOVERNING party. What UNP did was within the first 40 days of the 100 day govt they emptied the state banks and employee funds and most importantly they just ransacked the Central bank. See what Bons Scam Ranil and his group of thieves are saying. They do not like pick pocketing their good ones to the other side. Because most of the prominent members are corrupt thieves.

    • 0
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      Very true, Jim softy.

      I just gave you a thumbs up. Many seem to have got into the habit of giving Jimmy a hostile reception.

  • 5
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    When politics ,a social service , becomes a vocation this is what happens!Intellectual discourse then disappears and is replaced by thuggery and hurling of insults by a filthy group of uneducated politikkas and gembbas(frogs)

    • 0
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      Humty – Politics has now become a business, a profession and increasingly, many are trying to make it a family monopoly. Remember those Amarasuriyas of Galle – who sacrificed their immense wealth in doing selfless political service? While the Republican system restored the right of rule to the people from the earlier Kings, some of our low IQ but shady politicians are trying to make themselves Kings and their immediate family The Kingdom. Our punnakku-eating voter, meanwhile, continues to vote them in – sucking in to their bogus promises to save Buddhism and the Rata.
      From whom, for God’s sake?
      Backlash

  • 2
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    There were commendable politicians when we were Ceylonese. After we became Sri Lankans in 1972, the rot set in. It seems, it is set to stay. As the saying goes, we get the leadership that we deserve.

    • 1
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      Muhandiram makes regular and welcome comments.

      Methinks the problem began in the early 1950s when we declared War on English and blamed the Brits for all the country’s evils. We divided ourselves on the basis of language. This followed the division on the basis of religion. On all these it was necessary to create hatred and suspicion against “the other” We created more than one. Count on our politicians to do a good job there. They did’nt disappoint. Alongside followed the battle to share resources – and, this lead to the armed insurrection from some of the youth in the North that resulted in a full scale 30 years war.
      That bankrupted much of the treasury while political leaders falsely mouthing Nationalism, Aagama andJathiya emptied what decaying meat was left in the cadaver. The astonishing thing was our “98% literate” voter allowed the crooked politicians to fool us – one after the other.

      Backlash

      • 0
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        Thanks Backlash for the complement. I was referring to the politicians not politics. There were some decent politicians till about the 1970s. Even Mrs. B has to be commended because when the Ceiling on Land holdings was introduced in the 1970s, she had to surrender a few thousand acres of land to the govt, and she did that without trying to escape by using her powers as PM.. Imagine today”s politicians doing such things.

        As for politics, must agree with you that the rot set in in the 1950s.

  • 2
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    Mr. Latheef, Please tell us ONE good thing that these intellectual giants, namely Dr. N..Perera, Dr. Colvin R. De Silva, Felix, Peter K., etc did for Sri Lanka. Yes, we all agree they were highly educated but what was ONE good thing these people, who served in Mrs. B’s government did for the country. Just ONE useful thing that really benefited Ceylon or Sri Lanka.

    • 0
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      Soysa,there are more than one thing that the left movement achieved.It takes more than A simpleton’s mind set to recognise them. To start off the country achieved REAL independance in May 1972 when Sri Lanka was made a republic. If that did not happen we would still have the Queen of another country as head of state. The self belief in the capability of its peoples is another achievement. Under many previous UNP govts thosewho exploited the people also exploited the country. Remember the bus mudalalis, and the petty village thug lording it about. Fishermen lived in Cadjan huts and the larger part of their catch after toiling both night and day on the high seas went to the mudalalis. The sense of righteousness that was instilled in the people by the left movement brought a new dignity to labour which was denied previously. I don’t have the time or inclination to list out all the legislativeenactments that have helped the country to progress, but I recommend that you take the time to research and find out for yourself.

      • 0
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        Percy, so did India, Singapore etc. And without your ideas of a “left” movement! The head of the Queen on the currency note is not the real thing, its the value of the cash. Self belief? What do you mean by “self belief” of our people? What do they believe in?! Do they believe in their politicians or even in themselves, as compared to the people of say, India and Singapore? So the bus mudalalis are out of the way but the present bus operators are preferable to you along with run-away costs? Go to a little township called Marawila just South of Chilaw and speak to them about their catch, profits, cost of fuel, and what profit they have? You speak of dignity of labour! Estates are being abandoned in many parts of Galle, Coconut triangle area as their are no labour, because they dont want to work or have gone looking for “dignified” jobs abroad ! Legislative enactments?!!? We can have all the legislative enactments but if they do not work, its of no use! Yes, Percy we dont need “research” We need to face reality. Good luck!

  • 3
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    Standards have dropped[ or is it plunged?] in the country over the years particularly in the types of MPP. The type who contests for a seat in Parliament starts with hardly anything to call his own. A couple of years later he would have amassed enough wealth to last him for a few more generations.
    Duty free cars, Heavily subsidised food, and an unending list of perks like rent allowance over and above a fat salary and a pension to boot attracts these types.
    Are the aforesaid really necessary?
    I still remember, when Dudley Senanayake died in April 1973 his bank balance was a Princely sum of Rs.300! apart from his Triumph Herald car.
    Can the trend be reversed? or is it wishful thinking?

  • 1
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    I was travelling in a bus when on vacation in Sri Lanka and there were two men, obviously very drunk, seated in the seat in front of mine.
    Man 1 to Man2: Whatz yoush like?
    Man 2 to Man1: Me I liksh Ass Yell Yef and then Pee. You?
    Man 1 to Man2: I not like Ass, Yell and then Pee . I like You And .. Pee.
    The old lady sitting next to me, who was getting angrier and angrier as the conversation progressed with impolite words like Ass, Pee etc. shouted, “What kind of dirty people are you to discuss sex in public?
    The Men explained, “No lady, ass not dishcush sexsh, ass dishcush politics”.
    So, it seems that the problem is not in the parties or their members per se but in the party names.

    • 0
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      Edda,

      Are you trying to duplicate the joke two Italian guys in a train
      in the USA were talking of spelling Mississippi? That was hilarious
      as the one on Norfolk, Virginia.

      Backlash

      • 0
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        Yes, It is based on that. I am not clever enough to make such a funny original joke.

    • 0
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      NIce one Edwin but if you claim originality then your credentials are in doubt.

      • 0
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        Edda the Joker: People, how can you think even for a moment that I am stupid enough to think that you guys are stupid enough to believe that I am smart enough to make an original joke like that? The joke involves two countries as does the following one, which is not really a joke.
        I happened to watch the coverage of the US Senate proceedings on the Government shutdown on CNN and could not help comparing the behavior of the US legislators and our ones. In the US Senate, both speakers (Democratic as well as Republican) spoke in measured and unhurried style never getting disturbed by their opponents.
        There were no Booruwansas, Vasudevas or Gunawardenas to disturb them, no Lokuges to start a fight or any cheer leaders to behave like school boys at a big match. It went smoothly despite the seriousness of the subject. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, they knew how to disagree without being disagreeable.

        Of course, the absence of the previous President and the defeated candidate could have been a demotivation for the Democrats.

  • 1
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    Weerawansa, who later became a senior Minister, said Tony Blair was the political head of the USA. He thought London was the capital of the USA. The same man, part of a delegation to North Korea a few years ago, on return here said the North Koreans have an admirable agricultural set-up, whereas more than half of that country’s population were near starvation then. A perusal of our English papers reveal the pathetic level to which our English has declined. India, on the other hand, did not let go of English and has blossomed to the position some of their Writers and Journalists are on top of the world. As to the IQ of our politikkas on current world affairs, these guys will pack the Marx Bros home.

    F.N. Stein

  • 1
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    Latheef Farook ,

    My3 didn’t lead any election campaign as you have stated , it is UNP that led
    My3 campaign , SLFP votes went to MARA and in the general election My3
    managed to dig into a small portion of SLFP . Farook , I think you forgot N M
    Sirimavo coalition achievements of sending Naleem , Mukthar and Mubarak
    Thaha to prison over framed foreign exchange control violation in clear
    revenge for supporting UNP of Dudley ! The creation of DASA monopoly and
    the by-election for Colombo South with Suriyapperuma standing against JRJ.
    No argument , the parliament of their day was full of gentlemen politicians
    but also we can not forget those were the days that were the beginning of
    today’s decay, pseudo leftists doing everything to destroy private businesses !
    When Dudley was entering the parliament after the defeat in 1970
    he was jeered and booed ! So don’t try to say we are down to this level today
    suddenly out of the blue . Today ,nobody , including the die-hard leftists won’t
    dispute the fact that Dudley was a gentleman politician. Today a decent citizen
    (if any) , should feel guilt-ridden to have the friendship of a politician who
    shout at each other “thief.” How can a thief be a friend of yours ? A politician’s
    children might be getting jeered in schools and in social circles ! Rebuilding
    the lost glory is not an easy road. As for your reference of JRJ demanding
    resignation letters , yes , JRJ for resignation letters , anti-democratic and MARA
    white van- ambulance ? What we must understand is , if we don’t have decent
    and democratic MPs in the parliament , where would you get the leaders from ?
    Some say the whole bunch of 225 must be in prisons !

  • 1
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    ‘Intellectual politician’ is an oxymoron!
    Philip Gunawardena (of MEP) was a “Sinhala Only” man.
    Colvin changed the secular constitution in 1972. JR J went the extra step in 1978.
    Did they not see the growth of culture of impunity?
    Intellectuals my foot!

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