10 August, 2022


Gamperaliya: Ranil & Mangala, Before Transforming The Village, Transform Yourselves

By Vishwamithra

Gamperaliya: Ranil & Mangala, Before Transforming The Village, Transform Yourselves; Your Optics Are All Wrong And They Do Matter

“Nothing happens until the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of change.”  ~Arthur Burt

One does not have to look beyond the banners. They tell the whole story. Either both Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mangala Samaraweera are incredibly stupid or they are dishearteningly insensitive, or maybe both. If it’s stupidity, then one can understand, may even forgive them for such stupidities, but if it’s insensitivity, they shouldn’t be in politics. The banner included among the written content, photographs of Ranil Wickremesinghe, our Prime Minister and the leader of the United National Party, (UNP) and of Mangala Samaraweera, the Minister of Finance, both clad in their Western dress, tie and black coat. One couldn’t find a more incongruous attire for a launch of a program aimed at rural Sri Lanka. 

Ranil Wickremesinghe, of course, has been a stubborn and inflexible leader. This quality of his has not only cost him personally in particular, but the Party that he is supposed to lead, with many an achievable goal in general. The change that SWRD Bandaranaike brought in in 1956 has come to stay. The overwhelming majority of this country is Sinhalese Buddhists and the way in which that majority looks at its political leaders may be utterly narrow and warped, but that reality must sink into the mindset of our political leaders. 

Optics in politics is of paramount significance. The image that is created at the very beginning lasts a lifetime in the minds and hearts of the observer, the people. Examples are aplenty. Bandaranaike after stepping on the soil of Ceylon in the early twentieth century, with a burning ambition to be the Prime Minister of the country, changed into the ‘national dress’. JR Jayewardene, although there is no evidence of any such ambition, when entered the then State Council, chose the ‘national dress’ as his professional attire. He never deviated from it and when he visited the United States of America, he appeared attired in this ‘national dress’ before President Ronald Raegan and made a most eloquent speech outdoing the US President himself, both in diction and content. However, when making his famous San Francisco speech on Japan’s independence’, JR was dressed in the western attire. 

But ever since 1956, almost all Sinhalese politicians chose the ‘national dress’ as their fixed customary dress. For instance, the official photograph of the ’56 Cabinet of Ministers is a prime example of this custom. All the Ministers were dressed in their national dress. The optics of such a photograph were tremendously successful. The immediate relatability of such optics is an essential part of a politician who is ambitious enough to go the extra mile, so to speak, in order to satisfy the superficial, yet burning desire of the voter in the context of ‘Identity’ politics’. 

1956 was a watershed in local politics. The transformation of the mindset of the average voter and its lasting consequences are real; influence on Sri Lanka society by English-educated elites became history; the replacing class which was and is still being vernacular-educated and predominated by nationalistic fervor cannot be undone. Modern-day politics is being totally defined and shaped by this new class of society that has resorted to easy and entitlement syndrome-solutions. The problems that emerged after Independence are complex; they were exacerbated by the new sense of nationalism that was felt and assumed in day-to-day real lives. The anger and phony patriotism, brainwashed by the Buddhist clergy dispersed in the four corners of the Island, of our men and women assumed most violent and aggressive forms. The politicians, by this day are mostly clad in the so-called ‘national dress’, were identified by the great majority of Sinhalese Buddhists as ‘Apé evun’ (our ones). Anyone dressed in the western dress, other than at weddings or when flying abroad, were considered the ‘other’. Polarization of our society as ‘ours’ and ‘others’ couldn’t be helped.

Yet, the system of Presidential Elections in which the constituency assumed the whole country, instead of electorate by electorate, required that the entire population of which the Northern Tamils and Eastern Muslims are an integral part of our country vote, as one single nation. This changed the course of our political journey for good. But behold: all those who won the Presidential Elections up to date. JR Jayewardene, R Premadasa, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena were all identified as ours and those who were defeated at each of these elections were, Hector Kobbekaduwa, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Srima Dissanayake (this needs to be disregarded as the then prevailing circumstances were exceptional), Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sarath Fonseka and Mahinda Rajapaksa.

In all these elections, Ranil Wickremesinghe stood out as the ‘other’. Clad in western suit, never trying to change and stubbornly clinging on to anachronistic values of yesteryear, Ranil Wickremesinghe has failed to attract the ‘ours’ voter. But he must take into consideration the invaluable lessons from his uncle, JR Jayewardene. JR was born to the Colombo elite. His father was the epitome of that class of society that existed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Yet JR foresaw as early as 1930s that if he were to be successful in politics, he needed to be identified with the majority Sinhalese Buddhists in the land. He not only changed his religion, he changed his attire. Never failing to be attired in spotlessly white national dress, J R stepped into the halls of the then State Council with pride and honor of the local majority. Never did he appear in anything other than his national dress in the local scene, whether it was a political function or a private party.

Being clad in the local national dress is no mere appendage; it was an integral part of the identity of the man in post-Independence Ceylon. It becomes even more emphatic and illustratively arrogant if those politicians who profess that they represent the ‘common man’, deliberately appear in clothes that are not identifiable with those of the ‘common man’. Optics of a launch of a major government-financed politico-economic program aimed at the poor and/or underprivileged déclassé, needs to be perfect, not 99%, but 100%. The failure on the part of Ranil Wickremesinghe is understandable, given his insensitivities to the mundane affairs of the poor, yet a gross violation of political dynamics by a media-savvy Mangala Samaraweera is unforgivable. 

Mangala is one of the very few, who they say, could influence the mind of the Prime Minister. Influencing the mind of the Prime Minister should not be limited to non-political matters. At this hour of dire need, refining and polishing the UNP-Brand is more important than anything else. Mangala is known to be clever and bright in the business of advertising and branding. Then it is not beyond anybody’s wildest expectations that he would assist in the rescue of the Party’s vanishing style and Brand. Creating the optics of a given event- the way in which such optics deliver the core essence of the event- sustaining that essence over a substantial period of time and making adjustments and improvements to those initial branding dynamics are part and parcel of the event and its optics. 

Gamperaliya program is a massive politico-economic program the government has undertaken with a clear view to enhancing its appeal to the rural masses and generating firstly, the enthusiasm of those who take part in the program to enrich their current lifestyles and incomes in general and secondly, increasing the chances of their favor at the polling booth come election time. These are not the seventies, eighties or nineties. This is the twenty first Century. Its susceptibility to the impulses of social media and lewd gossip is enormous and immeasurable. In such a complex context, politicians need to be extraordinarily sensitive and alert to the responses of the masses. And if complex and sophisticated methods need to be employed in order to reap the benefits of programs that are earmarked for vote-getting, politicians are expected to do the right thing. There is no trophy for the second place in politics. First place secures power while second place secures retirement. An exit in ignominy is no strategy, it is weakness and impotency in power-play.

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com                                              

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Let the basics go to people, they’ll transform the village (as they want it).

    RW or Mangala or anybody needn’t transform the village, they don’t have a right or mandate for that.

    • 2

      “This great desire and effort to teach villagers how to be villagers.” — V. S. Naipaul

    • 3

      Dude Vishwa,
      Bondscam Ranil must be impeached for looting and destroying the most important financial INSTITUTION of the country- the Central Bank of Sri Lanka!

      But you are worried about what these 2 gay dudes are clad in for a show for the villagers, while Bondscam Ranil is selling off Lanka’s village lands, water, ocean resources, Pulmodai mineral sands etc. to pay for the foreign fake aid debt trap that he and his financially illiterate finance minister have put Lanka into on the advice of IMF that works for Washington First and the Global 1 percent?!

      Looting the CBSL is why there is no investor confidence in Sri Lanka, and no FDI and single biggest reason for debt trap. Also with the Bondscam RW gave the signal to ALL his corrupt politicians that they can do corrupt deals in all foreign funded fake “development” projects to fund their re-election campaign chests.

      • 2

        The So call bond scan only use to discredit RW and facts around still not supported it real have happened.if this bond auction went on curupt,all bond auctions of CB since 1997 were illegal or great robberies at midnoon as BG said.all adverse views surround on the bond scan only hypothesis assumed by vested interest inviduals against the RW .those parties never have knowledge on bond auctions and what were changed from to direct placement to action system after the new government taken power .my only view happened at the so called bond scan was conflict of interest other then anything happens .

  • 1

    Gamperaliya is a Popular name, because Lester James PEiris is not there to make objections, probably Mrs. Peiris was fooled with some coins as royalty, Now MCCis money spent mostly for Matara and some electorates which may ruin Ranil if those Candidates =were allowed to join the opposition.
    Srilanka needs parliamentary corruption and Bribes in order to run the country. That is how International community allow it. One Day Sri lanka goes really bankrupt (because now it is bankrupt, but those women working in the middle east has saved Srilanka). at that time, Politicians will change and International community will give up Sri lanka. Until that all these talks are just talks, good enough to earn some Petty cash. There are countries bankrupted by the international community. Even tourists do not come to those countries. Present 9000 are good for the present Bribe and corruption system. they do not allow any one else.

  • 2

    Really surprised that col telegraph published. this. Thanks, Vishvamithra.

  • 1

    Excellent article. Mangala’s useless howling against the Rajapaksas that is cheered on by some idiots is not enough. He should perform. What was that fiasco with Charles? And re Ranil, words fail me…

    Transform yourselves indeed. Good call.

  • 1

    Our Dalit Youth, both Male and Female are l waiting for Dr Ranil’s Gold Bracelets, Iphones, Free Wifi and jobs in Kuliyapitiya to build Volks Wagens for the Colombo Elite ,
    And they are still waiting,

    Dr Ranil very recently promised to Digitalize all Secondary Schools in Lankawe, with the first Four Full Digital Set ups in Colombo.
    Our Dalit youth in the Village I don’t think would bother about it.

    This Gamaperaliya would have been nice, if Dr Ranil didn’t cull that One Thousand Mahavidyala Program which really gives a Level Playing Field for the Dalits.
    But Dr Ranil’s first Yahapalana act was to castrate it.

    What worries me is that photo of Dr Ranil with White Shirt and the Saravala, sitting on a Mat with the Missus, praying to Hindian Gods, when Malwatta Mahanayakas who take care of our Dalits most precious and holy Relic, have been blessing him since Dr Ranil’s Birth..
    Wonder what happened for Dr Ranil to get converted?..

    Apparently the main reason for Appa Sira to sack his mate, Dr Ranil was the Millenium Challenge Corporation .
    If Sira didn’t sack him ,Dr Ranil and Mangala would have brought in a Cabinet Paper to lift the Land Holding Limitation Act, and transfer all Public Land to a to Land Bank under them.
    This apparently is part of the Strategy of the MCC… .
    I am not sure whether it has something to do with this Gamperaliya.

    I always thought Appar Sira wanted to break the the UNP -SLFP Pact ,so that Dr Ranil , Mangala and Abraham can’t get that Two Thirds to break up the Land Mass..
    How silly am I?….

  • 3

    Ranil maybe arrogant, his attire & actions may indicate to the simple villager that he is not ‘one of us’ but in general, if that is supposed to be a deciding factor in the voting process, then SL is indeed a land of ‘modayas’. Rajapakse, Sirisena, Premadasa, appealed to the masses as the ‘common man’, as you have correctly associated with their ‘dress code’ but that was not the case for JR, even though he was never seen in western attire after he took up mainstream politics. He still remained in the elite class as far as the average voter was concerned. SWRD, the biggest hypocrite, who I understand, could hardly speak Sinhala, may have won the hearts of the simple folk with his social transformation but at the end of the day, he did not give up his elitist ways. I remember many decades ago, during vesak celebrations, there used to be a giant pandol of CBK (probably an atheist with a christian background), Vijaya Kumarathunga (a strong catholic) & their children, dressed in the ‘national cloth’ attire, holding trays of flowers, depicting as offerings to the Buddha outside their house in Narahenpita & if I remember correctly, even had the audacity to print vesak cards with their pictures. Rajapakse, Sirisena, & even Premadasa, although considered as having the common touch, have done more harm than good but, at the end of the day, it is what we choose to believe in.

    I prefer a man to be true to his beliefs, rather than the hypocrisy, which indicates lack of integrity. As the saying goes, clothes does not make a man but we seem to be dumb enough not to see through hypocrisy & class differentiation.

  • 2

    Dear Vishwamithra,

    (Except the last paragraph) 90% of your essay is devoted to discuss the politician’s attire!
    Grow up , where are your critical comments on the Gamperaliya Program?

    The disappointed Reader

  • 1

    Politicians the world over are driven by personal ambitions.
    In the then Ceylon, now SL, this led our politicians into a ‘Culture’ of corruption/nepotism/impunity.
    We now have only ‘bad’ leaders.
    The ‘Gamperaliya’ that Vishwamitra refers to, is a mask. So too is the SLPP’s phantom defence of protecting Sinhala-Buddhism from danger.
    We, layLankans, have to choose the better bad.
    We will not be any worse off if we try RW.
    Or even MS, in spite of his mishandling of the ‘drug menace’.

  • 0

    JRJ’s identity with Muslim mixed that Tamil decedent for generations ,by happily married Sinhalese Buddhist family from Dehiwala was that so rich and well -do family got humping dowry by Rupasinghe Mudalali; that wealth has turn into by fortune for political ideals UNP leadership.
    JRJ neither Sinhalese nor Buddhist has no-faith and NOT that committed nation’s Independent, Sovereignty and Unitary nature of state of Sri lanka. .
    JRJ has been working under UNP leadership by following that aim of that splitter our nation.
    The UNP’s politics of 11 years by JRJ has ruled of Island done irrapala damage our democracy system of governances, as well as disharmony among major ethnic groups.

    By and large an unleashed violence against Tamils community by 1977,1979 ,1981 and 1983. Eventfully Result of that JRJ -UNP has created new anti-Tamil violence’s that injected UNP leadership and pave way for New Path for LTTE Terrorism through -out an island.

    By harmed Tamils that UNP-JRJ wanted to established Neo-Liberal- political, economy and Social order by carry forwarded New Gun rule politics in whole Island.. The Ballot that Island rule of democracy turn into politics by JRJ ….UNP!

    Indeed that mode of politics of UNP carrier until his death bed by his success of R.Premadaa and Ranil Wicks has unchanged that last 43 years since 1977. His political achievement and ambition of that road map brought country by fragmentation of our people by 1987 JRJ-Rajiv Gandi or Sri Lanka-Indo Accord.

    As Nation has lost its Independence 1977 ,we have turn into process of that re-colonization People of Lankans. Subsequently that big power by owing nation prime location of Island.
    Needless to say RW of UNP in way of surrendering all our wealth and assets to foreign power, but by regardless consent of People’s mandate.?

  • 0

    Correction as follow;
    Ballot of rule of Island democracy replace by that Gun rule polities by UNP of JRJ! RW of UNP do not wanted skip of from Gun rule democracy!

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