22 October, 2020

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Gota’s ‘Backbone’, Mahinda’s ‘Ability’ And Gemunu’s Pragmatism

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

The President of the Private Bus Owner’s Association, Gemunu Wijeratne, has demanded that the Ministry of Private Transport Services be taken off C.B. Ratnayake.  He wants President Rajapaksa to handle it himself.  Wijeratne, moreover, has opined that only the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urband Development, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has the backbone to resist political interference and vanquish what he calls ‘transport terrorism’ .  He was prompted, he said, by the prevalence of corruption, mismanagement and numerous other problems that beset this sector.

With that request, Gemunu Wijeratne has offered a nutshell description of all things political in Sri Lanka.  Let us elaborate.

First of all it indicates a notion of where power really resides.  If, for example, all power is concentrated in a particular individual, position or administrative apparatus, and if those individuals or institutions so endowed are not in the practice of delegating authority, then it would be a rank waste of time to address grievance or proposal to lesser entities.  One has to query only those who can or will answer, those who have decision and directive.

Thus, in this instance, Wijeratne’s is not just a no-confidence motion on the relevant subject minister, C.B. Ratnayake but a pragmatic recommendation consequent to an honest appraisal of prevailing political realities.

In an earlier instance, when several students of Jaffna University had been arrested on suspicion of trying to resurrect the LTTE, President Rajapaksa ordered them released, following an appeal by their parents and a verbal guarantee from them that their progeny would ‘behave’ thereafter.  TNA MP M Sumanthiran welcomed the decision at the time, but made the pertinent observation that it should not have come to a point where the President had to issue a directive.

A few years before, a hitherto unknown individual, climbed atop a tall post in Vihara Maha Devi Park, demanding that the President intervene to resolve his various problems.

More recently, i.e. on Friday, the matter of the controversial arrest and detention of former Deputy Mayor of Colombo Azath Salley, was resolved in a similar manner, with Salley, in a sworn affidavit, explaining his position (including ignorance about the organization that had invited him to speak) and appealing for presidential intervention.

Wijeratne, thus, has condemned all politicians and public servants as being incompetent and/or corrupt. Only the President can sort things out, he concludes.  The flip side of the ‘cannot’ and ‘will not’ of official and minister, then, is the ‘can’ and ‘will’ of the President and his brother.

Wijeratne’s statement raises certain questions. Is it a question of competence, sloth, fear or not having authority (which could have been wrested formally or informally)?  Is this state of affairs a product of constitutional provision (or lack thereof) or politico-administrative culture/realities?  Has the President (and his brother), in order to get things done or because he has the power and the will or because he wants to impose will on each and every matter, subverted institutional processes, rendering institution and official irrelevant?  Is this the ‘full manifestation’ of the powers vested in the office of the President by the 1978 Constitution?

The truth is that when Gotabhaya Rajapaksa takes on a task (eliminating terrorism, cleaning up Colombo) he goes about it in a methodical and relentless manner.  He will not let politicians re-draw game plans.  Being the brother of the all-powerful executive president helps in a big way, no one will disagree, but that indicates feudalism if not anything else which perhaps what Sri Lanka has been post-Independence, the plus point being that Gotabhaya (as Wijeratne and many others believe) gets things done.

But can one man (or two) do everything?  Is fear inhibiting officials?  Does this indicate that our entire institutional arrangement is a non-performing behemoth?  Are we individual-focused and system-dismissive?  If so have we always been like that or is this a post-1978 issue?  Or is it a ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa Regime’ peculiarity (both the dependence, structured or on account of charisma and assertion, as well as the ability to deliver)?

There’s obviously a lot of power and a corresponding magnitude of dependence.   The only problem is that both the President and his brother are human.  They can err and they too can get exhausted.  What then?  What ‘thereafter’?  When systems are not used, they first become irrelevant and then they perish.

Wijeratne has not elaborated. He’s a here-and-now kind of operator.  But he has said it ‘as it is’, at least the ‘what matters’ in the business of getting things done.  But President Rajapaksa can only do so much and that holds for Gotabhaya Rajapaksa too.   Some might cheer the fact, some might worry. Either way, the indictment on institutions and officials is cause for concern, not applause.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Gemunu mallo,

    Get ready to start milking, you can buy an apple orchard soon. Good luck!

    • 0
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      I hear that.

      It looks like he is trying to make some big money in easy way.

      Just people come and hand over because he rewards them with licences or some thing.

    • 0
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      This is the worst I have seen from Malinda. So far.

      Malinda, Sri Lanka is in total collapse. All national institutions are being gradually made tothless or dismantled.

      We are being made dependent on the Rajapassa clan for everything. From jogging tracks to justice against murder and rape.

      As a nation, we are showing signs of “Stockholm Syndrome”. The abusers have become our saviors. Gemunu Wijeratne is seeking the gift of survival from Gota. The almighty.

      I find all this to be highly embarassing. As a citizen of Sri Lanka. In the 21st century.

      What we need is a Sri Lanka governed by rule of law.

      We need real organisational infrastructure, real institutions to run our country. Not just a few almighty siblings and their offspring from Hambantota.

      We need bureaucrats who are patriotic, efficient and talented. We need rulers who respect human rights. Rulers who tell people the truth. Rulers legitimately elected by people who respect our constitution. Rulers who respect their won promises.

      We need rulers who do not protect or mingle with cold blooded killers, rapists & drug dealers.

      We do not need a corrupt family run dictatorship. By 300+ members of the same family. Plus 7-8000 cronies and henchmen.

      Malinda, Sri Lanka is one of Asia’s oldest democracies. Our labour rights are the envy of other Asians. Sri Lanka has millions of very intelligent, decent people.

      A nation run by a bunch of highly uneducated siblings and their offspring? Hell No! Sri Lanka is too good for this rubbish.

      • 0
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        You are absolutely right. Because of the Rajapksas’ hold on power and their dictatorial manner of administration the institutions you speak of are deteriorating rapidly so much so that I wonder whether they can be ever rehabilitated. Malinda’s oblique reference to the 1978 constitution is misplaced. It is the 18th Amendment that is the principal cause of this malaise.

  • 0
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    “But President Rajapaksha can do so much. That holds tor Gotabaya Rajapaksha
    too” this sentence is the most hailarios of all that he has written in his article.
    This is a pathatic effort by Malinda to white wash Rajapaksha brothers and their
    criminal, wasteful and and anti Srilankan family rule.

  • 0
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    If a majority of the citizens in this country had backbones and brains, people like the Rajapaksas’,Dumindas and Mervins of this country would not have had the power they have today or the ability to get away with genocide, murder, rape, corruption, thuggery etc.

    I don’t know who said these words, “Keep the people afraid long enough and they will willingly accept anything you do to make them feel safe…” …this is exactly what the Rajapaksas’ have been able to do to some of the backboneless and brainless majority of this country, and that applies to ‘kaday yanna’ journalists as well.

  • 0
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    Power depends on obediant underlings carrying out tasks allotted – not because of concern for the nation, but by FEAR of what wil happen if they dissent,disobey or disregard directives.
    People are afraid to dissent/disregard government’s actions in public.
    What happened to jaffna university students was usurping of judicial powers by the army – in sending them to jail cum correctional fscility called an ‘army camp’ for ‘rehabilitation’,actually brainwashing with coersion by threats of dire cosequences for disobediance.
    The army is now judge,jury & executioner.
    Noone dares to criticise.

  • 0
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    Malinda rides the obfuscation trail. Again!
    This is an extremely poorly disguised attempt at rationalising a system that has been put in place and is being strengthened day by day by this fraud’s paymasters. That is the simple reality present here.

  • 0
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    Mahindas despotism, Gotas Tyranny and Gaminis Stupidity. Gota doesnt have a backbone he has a gun. Mahinda gets things done by bribing and coercing the politicians. Gamini is a stupid ass who doesnt know how to run a proper bus service.

    • 0
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      @Safa

      You missed out one.

      It should read as Mahindas despotism, Gotas Tyranny, Gaminis Stupidity and Malindas Sycophancy. :)

      • 0
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        Yes, The people Terrified benign under Malindas Sycophancy.

    • 0
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      COULD NOT HAVE SAID IT BETTER

  • 0
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    Um, didn’t Malinda see minor road works having boards saying they were being done on the direction of the president? What about all the investigations directed/ordered by the president?! This is a carefully cultivated personality cult a la Kim and his brood of great/supreme leaders. Oh the balanced musings of a balanced journalist!

    • 0
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      The GOSL and the government parliamentarians create all the problems and then finally the President Rajapaksa is called upon to intervene and solve the problem. Is it so difficult for the people to understand all this DRAMA? These are all bi-scope movie scenes where the President Rajapaksa turns out to be the HERO.

  • 0
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    Malinda, you say: “Either way, the indictment on institutions and officials is cause for concern, not applause.”

    Right! The other question is whether the “indictment” is on the President (and his brother) in the way the decision making process has evolved, making the “institutions and officials” virtually impotent. Should we “applaud” or be “concerned”?

    How do YOU see it?

  • 0
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    Malinda you wasted lot of ink, paper, time and effort to write this piece of so many paragraphs, sentences, words and letters. Put it simply in few words. Gota and Mara & Co have the white van goons, CID goons, their patalays and the PTA do their job but not for others. My friend, this is how they get things done.

  • 0
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    Dude! There is nothing left to say.

    You got taken to the cleaners in next to no time!

    Next time, think twice, thrice and then give up! Before you think of singing the hosannas of the rulers.

  • 0
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    Malinda, this time you are right. Gota with his Army & US training knows how to get the help of professionals in planning and then having an efficient team to implement the plan. That is what he did to win the war and beautify the City.

    How many ministers are there capable of matching him? Yes, Basil has done a good job of economic affairs, not because he is the brother of the President, but because of the training and the work ethic acquired in USA. Any others?

    Gemunu Wijeratne has made this request as a pragmatist. You cannot develop the private bus transport industry with Ministers who do not understand planning and implementation with the help of professionals and do not show any interest in having consistent policies.

    Minister Welgama is another person who understands business. He can do a good job as the Minister of Private Transport. Then the Ministry of Transport can be restructured as an Authority under Dhammika Perera, to make both the Government Railway and the Sri Lanka Transport Board function without operational losses within a specified period.

    The Treasury cannot once again go to the World Bank or IMF and ask for a loan to close the budget deficit, caused by loss making government business organisations.

    • 0
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      Allocate 40% of the budget to any “Joe Blow”. He would do
      the same what Gota had done perhaps better. If Gota was
      so capable of winning the war, why did they extend General
      Fonseka’s service not once but three times? Remember
      what army personnel in the battle feild used to say. If
      go forward “Johnny”, if come backward “Fonny”. That’s
      how general Fonseka won the war. About the economy,
      just read the article in this week’s Sunday Times. We
      need 103% of total government revenue to service
      the debt this year. That says it all.

  • 0
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    Malinda poses these questions:

    Is fear inhibiting officials? Does this indicate that our entire institutional arrangement is a non-performing behemoth?

    The problem in Sri Lanka is that there is no independent public service. Public servants are not allowed to work independently according to set rules and procedures. Ministers and MPs intervene in the work of public servants and public servants, in turn, become stooges of ruling party politicians to win promotions or to simply stay in their preferred stations. I have in the past heard even Tamil MPs from the Opposition threatening government officials that they will be transferred to “jungles without water”. Some may think that provisions of the abolished the 17th amendment would have enabled the functioning of an independent public service. I do not think so because Sri Lankan MPs and politicians of all shades have the habbit of intervening in the work of public servants. In Sri Lanka government servants have no say. They will have to work to the dictats of MPs and politicians. Further, government servants are appointed on MPs quotas and they will have to necessarily listen to the MPs who got them their appointmebnts.

    Malinda, how then can you expect government servants work without fear?

    Contrast this with the situation in countries like Australia. Australian public servants never takes orders from their MPs or other politicians. They are governed by a strict code of ethics and will have to take decisions impartially. No MP or politician can enter a government office and demand the public servants of any favours. Also, it is not in the culture of Australian politics for MPs or other politicians to interfere in the work of the public servants. If any MP enters a government office to get anything done they will be treated like any other member of the public. If there is a queue waiting to be served they have to stand in the queue and take their turn. That is the beauty of public service in Australia.

    In Sri Lanka we can only dream of such public service.

  • 0
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    This character is on all sides. He sweeps the US embassy for hacking software in return, [Edited out], works for the casino man’s paper on the government side and writes irrelevant bullshit and infects all other media also.

    [Edited out]

    Wish he never got in to the writing buisness and learnt to do some real work, like working in micro finance.

    Pls save us CT.

  • 0
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    Truth.
    You are absolutely right. All the kicking and screaming against the present situation in the GOSL is not going to change matters. As Malinda says, Gemunu is a pragmatist. The transport system needs cleaning up NOW-not at some future date depending on govt change.

  • 0
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    Malinda how stupid can you be? You are sucking up to Gotha, who may be your God Father. Open your eyes and see what he has done during the JVP resistance days, last days of the LTTE battle, BBS instigation, and above all how he has killed the democratic rights of the people by misusing PTA. If educated folks like you are sucking up and trying to be blind (as I know you are not blind but singing for your soup)SL will go to dogs even quicker than we all think it would take. Do not think all of us Sri Lankans are stupid as you are.

  • 0
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    This guy writes some cwap. (Now I have begun to doubt he writes on his own after looking at his interviews on youtube – poor communication skills for a professional journalist.) He posts it at nation where he is the editor. Finds that their views counter shows a digit figure – 95 when i checked it (Gemunu Wijeratne’s ministerial recommendations) now to confirm. [Edited out] And the guy gets some publicity, who cares if that’s positive or negative.

    These people are political pwostitutes that can be bought to justify such disgusting things like racism.

    • 0
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      *views counter shows a two digit figure

  • 0
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    this clown… lol. must be thinking he is awesome to have jotted a bunch of words to start with gemunu and touch upon gota, mahinda, sumanthiran, salley and finally to justify a dictatorship. CT did a good job in disrobing this shameless creature that craves for every opportunity to show his masters its loyality by removing his original title and giving it the title which suits his original theme. this guy should go back to cornell and learn some professional ethics and finish the degree he started.

  • 0
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    Sometimes I wonder if ‘systems’ would ever work….

  • 0
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    In Sri Lanka they say government servant but there is nothing called government servant, it’s only public servant because they get their pay and perks from the funds of the public – the people.

  • 0
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    When a dictatorship prevails every one is subservient. No one contradicts or challenges the leader. No one gives a dissenting opinion through fear. Malinda Seneviratne is a clear example and his writing too sadly reflects this attitude. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa gets the job done most times ruthlessly. Others wait for direction from the Master. Dictatorships always breed a servant population.

  • 0
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    Isnt that Gemunu chap a UNP member and i think he contested the local elections too

    well he does have a point about rising costs BUT they the bus operators need to a lot of things to put in order before asking for a rise

    i)take off before a passenger can get off/get in (terrible accidents have taken place)

    ii)know how to talk to commuters

    iii)stope racing dangerously esp on Galle road stretch after Moratuwa

    iv) wait for ages in bust stops

    v)GIVE BACK THE CORRECT CHANGE TO PASSENGERS!

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