11 December, 2019

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How Humbug Holds ‘Hope’ Hostage  

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

Clever people often get trapped in their own cleverness. Convinced that nobody could fool them, they begin to fool themselves.  

Nobody in his right senses will believe the yarn about the UNP forming a national government with one solitary parliamentarian of the SLMC. That would make it an obscene obfuscation of a provision in the 19th amendment which is now assailed by the opposition. It would amount to a betrayal as bad and as nauseous as the one attempted on 26th October 2018.  

If the purpose is to obtain the support of a dozen or more members of parliament now under the whip of the UPFA and the SLFP, let us not falsify the need or fabricate reasons. The majority thus obtained must be for a justifiable cause. 

Why does the UNF need numbers? If it is to adopt the 20th amendment, abolishing the executive presidency which also requires a referendum, there is a morally justifiable reason to hold our noses and go along with it. As Trotsky famously advised in his essay – ‘Their morals and ours’ the end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.

It is time for the SLFP dissidents to choose the hound they wish to hunt with or opt for the hare they wish to run with. 

They have fallen between Mahinda’s solid stool and Maithripala’s rickety stool. If Ranil wants to play musical chairs with that lot, good luck to him.  Ranil’s   jiggery-pokery of a national government is an insult to the thousands who thronged the streets in defense of constitutional propriety.   

Hannah Arendt the celebrated political theorist wrote an allegorical critique of her mentor Martin Heidegger who became a theorist for the Nazi regime while she became a refugee in America. 

In the allegory which she called Heidegger the fox, she points out the danger of becoming trapped in theoretical constructions while missing the higher purpose.   

Once upon a time there was a fox who was so lacking in slyness that he not only kept getting caught in traps but couldn’t even tell the difference between a trap and a non-trap. … After he had spent his entire youth prowling around the traps of people … this fox decided to withdraw from the fox world altogether and to set about making himself a burrow. In his shocking ignorance of the difference between traps and non-traps, despite his incredibly extensive experience with traps, he hit on an idea completely new and unheard of among foxes: He built a trap as his burrow. He set himself inside it, passed it off as a normal burrow (not out of cunning, but because he had always thought others’ traps were their burrows). … Alas, no one would go into his trap, because he was sitting inside it himself. And so it occurred to our fox to decorate his trap beautifully and to hang up unequivocal signs everywhere on it that quite clearly said: “Come here, everyone; this is a trap, the most beautiful trap in the world.” From this point on … many came. Everyone except our fox could, of course, step out of it again. It was cut, literally, to his own measurement. But the fox who lived in the trap said proudly: “So many are visiting me in my trap that I have become the best of all foxes.” And there is some truth in that, too: Nobody knows the nature of traps better than one who sits in a trap his whole life long. (Arendt, Essays in Understanding) 

In politics there are two types of lies.  First is the lie intended to mislead. The second is the blatant lie, put forward to be recognized as a lie.  

The 187-page report presented to the constituent assembly by Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe contained a draft constitution. Yet, he insisted that it was not a draft constitution but a report. That is a blatant lie intended to be recognized as a fib, falsehood and wicked fairy tale. 

The former president and current leader of the opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa has now responded with a cleverly crafted response that contains mostly the other type of lie intended to mislead and screwup the debate on constitutional reforms. 

Ranil’s insistence that it is a report and the draft is yet to be discussed is pure humbug. Mahinda’s counter claim that the draft constitution will destroy the unitary state is cynical posturing. 

Between Ranil’s humbug and Mahinda’s cynical posturing there is ample space for a new negotiated constitutional order or at least an interim solution that abolishes the executive presidency. 

By presenting a draft constitution disguised as a report that calls for more discussion and fine tuning, Ranil wanted to assure the TNA that he was committed to constitutional reforms including meaningful power devolution. That said, he does not want a serious debate on constitutional reforms or the abolition of the executive presidency when a presidential election is around the corner.   

Mahinda Rajapakse in his initial cannonade identifies where he is headed and how he hopes to get there.  

First, he draws the battle line. “The UNP, TNA and JVP have forfeited the trust of the people due to the manner in which they practiced dissimulation and deception in the law-making process. The way the 19th Amendment was passed with dummy provisions inserted solely to mislead the public and the Supreme Court… “ 

Next, he deals with the executive presidency. 

“When the present rulers came into power in 2015, the only constitutional agenda they had was to abolish the executive presidency and to change the system of elections to ensure stable parliamentary governments. The draft constitution does have provisions to abolish the executive presidency, which we will not oppose.” 

He then tackles electoral reforms. 

“If the system of elections is to be changed so as to ensure stable governments, what should be introduced is the hybrid 70%-30% ‘first past the post/proportional representation’ system proposed by the Parliamentary Select Committee headed by Mr. Dinesh Gunawardena after years of careful study from 2002 to 2007 under both UNP and UPFA governments.”

He acknowledges the need for constitutional reforms. 

Opposing the draft constitution put forward by the present government does not mean that we as the opposition are slamming the door shut on constitutional reform.

Then MR administers the Coup de grace – the knockout blow. 

We acknowledge that extensive reform of the present constitution is necessary. The 19th Amendment alone has created a great deal of confusion that needs to be put right. Though we reject the separatist/federalist aspirations of some political parties, we acknowledge that local communities need to be empowered to look after their own affairs within a certain national framework.

If the TNA wants empowerment at the periphery, they should talk to the man who holds the hegemony at the center. 

On 26th October 2018 our prophet decided to turn ‘pariah’. Unfolding events since then, demonstrate all too clearly that we must seriously retool our democracy to restore trust in the system. 

Mahinda has conceded the need for constitutional reform. He is ready to accept electoral reforms if they are confined to the recommendations of the parliamentary select committee headed by Dinesh Gunawardena. He has declared that he will not oppose the abolition of the executive presidency.  Mahinda promises to bring about these reforms after the elections under his leadership. That is a reasonable proposition from the leader of the opposition. 

What does   Ranil Wickremesinghe want just now? At this point in time, Ranil Wickremesinghe wants to win the next election.  Constitutional reforms are not his priority.  He wants to win either the next presidential election or the parliamentary elections which ever that comes first.  That means that he must distance himself from the factual truth- that he is the least popular leader with most tenuous hold on his own party. 

The TNA and the JVP quite correctly helped Ranil Wickremesinghe to reclaim his premiership. In theory they helped restore democracy. In practice they helped Sagala Rathnayaka to become Minster of Ports and make his brother Kavan Rathnayaka the chairman of the port’s authority.  

There is something dangerously explosive about these times of total intrusive connectivity. Everybody is interested in politics while everybody is losing faith in politics. 

We are determined to keep track of the activities of those in authority while we are increasingly distrustful of those who wield authority. 

How much contempt and ridicule can our system endure, in this age when everybody can share their deeply felt opinions online?

The current electoral system will not produce a parliament any better than the current one. We must change the electoral system to an amalgam of first past the post and proportional representation. 

The current system of political competition through party lists has reduced representative democracy to political puppetry. Is it not absolutely outlandish that voting, our only meaningful participation is reduced to a phantom performance in the silence of the polling booth? 

Is the polling booth the only place where we can convert our individual gut feelings into shared priorities? Is it really where the common good and our long-term interests are best served?

Before the introduction of proportional representation there was a discernible trust in politics despite a degree of political apathy.  Today under the current system all we have is total turmoil and total distrust. 

The current dysfunctional cacophony in parliament offers the best opportunity and space to either abolish the executive presidency with the 20th amendment or work out a constitutional order that transcends seasonal political conveniences. 

Gotabaya Rajapaksa rightly points out that we must forge a Sri Lankan nation. The current parliament is the best anvil on which existing tribal nationalisms can be beaten in to a cohesive civic nation. This parliament with its unruly composition is the best place to develop a constitution based on the consensus reflecting plural political opinion. 

Politics is the art of the possible. We are familiar with this folk wisdom traced to Otto Von Bismarck who forged a German nation out of more than hundred German speaking principalities that in the 20th Century established its hegemony over the whole of Europe. But that is not what the iron chancellor said. We must pay heed to his entire piece of advice. “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best”.

Ranil must talk to Mahinda and arrive at what is attainable and what stands out as the next best. We can abolish the executive presidency and introduce consequential electoral reform combining first past post and proportional representation. 

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    And so he crosses to the other side. Bravo!

    • 8
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      wannihami,

      When do we, the people, stop talking about crossing over to the other side or talking about party affiliation or race & religion and everything that divides us and just talk about Sri Lanka?

      While we the people are at each others throat over these, our political leaches are laughing their way to the bank with the wealth of the country. A perfect case in point is the recent big wedding.

      • 3
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        Sarath you are brain dead. It is time for this corrupt and criminal generation of politicians to GET OUT and let the younger generation take over. Individuals over the age of 60
        must not be allowed to contest or hold office. There must be a compulsory retirement age for this generation of corrupt politicians which is living longer and depriving youth
        Bondscam Ranil and Mahinda Jarapassa must be prevented from contesting or holding office ever again and share the same prison cell.
        The Fake National government and renaming Independence day to national day to promote nationalism and Deny the history of COLONIALISM in Sri Lanka is another UNP racist joke. The worst anti Tamil and Muslim riots happened in Lanka during UNP regimes.
        2. Trumpland first destroys the economy of countries and then intervenes in them, by installing and protecting their puppets as is clear in Latin America and the Sanctions against Venezuvela that has destroyed its economy .
        Washington’s doing the same in Sri Lanka with the Debt trap and crashing the rupee, while puppet Bondscam Ranil’s butterfly mafia are undermining all governance institutions and defense and border security institutions in order to push the Trumpland agenda of setting up military bases, code named logistics Hubs in Lanka.
        Ravi K is selling off Lanka’s Liquid Natural Gas in the Indian Ocean to another Trumpland proxy South Korea and Japan and doing swiss challenge tenders just like he looted the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

        Bondscam Ranil must be impeached for his financial crimes against Sri Lanka and for totally undermining National Security by undermining Customs, immigration and defense proceedure so that his Trumpland friends can dig in in the Cold War with China, loot Lanka which is an extremely wealthy country given its massive marine resources under UNCLOS Fisheries and LNG in addition to its strategic location in the fastest growing region of the world.

        • 0
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          Don Stanley :-
          “Individuals over the age of 60 must not be allowed to contest or hold office.”
          Why not set a Test?
          They must be able to Climb Sri Pada and Worship there!
          Not Fly over and throw flowers at the Shrine!

      • 0
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        Rajiv, show me a country which is about the country and not about political or ideological division and I will bring you rice from moon. The other point is, ideological differences do not have to make people enemies with each other, people who become personal enemies because of ideological differences are rather narrow minded.

        • 1
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          wannihami

          “The other point is, ideological differences do not have to make people enemies with each other, people who become personal enemies because of ideological differences are rather narrow minded.”

          If ideological difference (bigotry) didn’t make enemies of unknown, unrelated, innocent people then what made them lose their life, properties, freedom, ….. in 1956, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1977, 1983, in 1971, and between 1987 and 1991, ……………….. and over 26 years?

          Was it the Sinhala/Buddhist fascist way of cleansing the island?

    • 1
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      Sarath de Alwis

      “Gotabaya Rajapaksa rightly points out that we must forge a Sri Lankan nation.”

      Is it possible for you or Gotabaya Rajapaksa to define what he means by Sri Lankan nation? Does he know how to get there, without a bullet being fired? Has he ever explained the “idea” of Sri Lankan nation?
      Does he know every individual has multiple identities, so is a country. How would he package the multiple identity of people and country into one word, Sri Lankan? .
      If we could not discover the “Nation” in the past 71 years, what is the guarantee that we will in another 71 years with or without Dr Gota?

      By the way Mahinda promised many things to many people since 2005, including Hindians, UN, the West, people of this island, ………………….. Has he ever attempted to full fill all what he promised? How can you trust this man who went back on almost all promises that he made before, during and after his reign, except to kill many innocent people in the name of war and unification of the country with a lot of support from VP and Hindians. The shameless coup leader is interested only in the welfare of Mahindawamsa, absolute power, ……………………. at any costs.

      Not many people are suffering from selective amnesia, however some of the elites are.

  • 5
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    Our first challenge is for political parties (leaders) to STOP nominating thugs, cronies, self-servers etc as party candidates. There should be stringent standards applied to those seeking election. Nepotism and cronyism must be punished by expulsion.

    Do away with national lists.

    Gotabaya Rajapaksa rightly points out that we must forge a Sri Lankan nation…..
    Good! Let us start with healing the wounds of the 30-year old war. Let us address the causes of that uprising. Let us be united as one against the evil machinations of groups like BBS, and the evil men dressed in saffron who are hell-bent on bringing us misery.

    That means kicking out 75% of the present mob.

  • 7
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    “At this point in time, Ranil Wickremesinghe wants to win the next election.”
    ———————
    Next election, when? Ranil is not interested in holding elections. He is trying to work out a way to drag on without holding an election because under present circumstances UNP winning a Presidential or General Election is remote. If Ranil continues after 2020 without holding an election none of the Western countries who preach Democracy to rest of the world or Civil Society guys or NGOs thriving on $$$s will utter a single word against that. All these guys are hypocrites.

  • 5
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    Who will get foxed and who the real fox is, will be seen very soon.

  • 2
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    Voila, another Sarath De Alwis bombsell!

  • 7
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    Hard to believe we are reading this kind of tosh as prescriptions designed to treat our national ills. This man is either really nuts, or gnorant, or both.

    He writes, “We are familiar with this folk wisdom traced to Otto Von Bismarck who forged a German nation out of more than hundred German speaking principalities that in the 20th Century established its hegemony over the whole of Europe.”

    For Adolf Hitler’s sake, German unity is founded on racial and cultural homogeneity of a group of people who have identified with it, including its alleged superiority, for millennia. They were never subject to the formation of a racial, cultural and religious ‘achcharu’ by colonisers, like we have been.

    Try getting the Sri Lankan Sinhalas, Tamils, Muslims and the Burghers and the sundry to agree on whose country Sri lanka, is and where we should be heading. You will have better success in herding cats! Even Burgers are denying priority status to Sinhalas these days, deviously claiming that Veddas were the original inhabitants and therefore they have equal claim to the Sinhalas.

    So you should stop bullshitting based on some Wikipedia ‘research’, without understanding the context or detail. That would be a great service.

    • 1
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      T. Devendra

      You are alive.
      Good to hear from you.

      “Even Burgers are denying priority status to Sinhalas these days, deviously claiming that Veddas were the original inhabitants and therefore they have equal claim to the Sinhalas.”

      Sinhalas, Sinhalayos, Sinhala/Buddhists, Sinha Le, ……………….. are a manufactured identity, with borrowed history, heritage, language, religion, arts, literature, GENE, ……………

      Why don’t you go back to your ancestral homeland North South India, where you would be able to assimilate with your long lost cousins.

      Go, …………

  • 2
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    The doyen of Lankan journalism has written again. My God what a pen!

  • 2
    3

    Sarath De Alwis, Emil van der Puten, Grusha Andrews, Shaymon Jaysinghe and Kasun Kamaladasa are forerunners for this year’s Gratien Cup, if awarded without political bickering like under Mara regime

    • 1
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      Swallowed another one, it looks like. Keep taking in.

      Sayan are brainless idiots!

  • 5
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    Complicated article. What do the Sri Lankan citizens want?
    We do want to live in a country that is peaceful /progressive /just/clean/uncorrupt/law abiding. We certainly do not want Thugs (either robed or not) roaming around the country instigating racial and religious divisions.
    We need to put those criminals (who stole national wealth)of the past and present into Prisons.

  • 1
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 1
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    Sarath de Alwis: We are in a corner having to choose the lesser bad from bads.
    Do not remember the last time we chose the better good.

  • 1
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    The opinion given by AG to H.E Srisena was interpreted as wrong. How can the same UNP now rely on the opinion of same AG on National Government. Earlier Ranil was kicked off by H.E . People will kick him out soon for the way he is behaving now. I do not know whether Sajith will have a party to Lead, the way Ranil is destroying UNP and the Country.

  • 0
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    munidasa

    While acknowldging the names (yes they are all well worth it) you are doing a great disservice by not mentioning the 4 names of Dr HLD Mahindapala, Shenali Waduge, Sharimini Serasinghe, and Dr Ruwan Wijethunga (psychiatrist)

  • 0
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    ‘Ranil must talk to Mahinda and arrive at what is attainable and what stands out as the next best. We can abolish the executive presidency and introduce consequential electoral reform combining first past post and proportional representation. ‘

    Off your track. They already have done the home work. It is only a matter of time to fool the masses again with some gimmick.

  • 0
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    munidasa I agree with everyone but please not Kasun; he is too immature to receive the Gratien Cup. Let him write more and learn

  • 0
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    Sarath De Alwis is the best in the country out of the entire lot closely followed by Emil van der Puten, Shyamon Jayasinghe and Dr Siri Gamage. Full stop.

  • 1
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    HLD Mahindapala seldom writes here. He must be bestowed with Gratien Cup the runner up should be the prolific writer Shenali Wadu Gani.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 1
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    “Nobody in his right senses will believe the yarn about the UNP forming a national government with one solitary parliamentarian of the SLMC… It would amount to a betrayal as bad and as nauseous as the one attempted on 26th October 2018.”
    Sarath de Alwis! You’re wrong.
    There is a big difference between the current UNP coup to increase its ministerial posts and ‘the one attempted on 26th October 2018’.
    People know that the current UNP plan is ‘the real constitutional coup’ that will cost at least another Rs 1 billion p.a for SL the taxpayer.
    They also know that the Oct 26th one (if it happens again) will give them some solace in the form of reduced prices on fuel and essential consumer items, elections that have been totally forgotten, some tax breaks to the poor and much more! At this time that is what the poor want (not lengthy articles of your type with no practical meaning to them!)
    When you and your family are being drowned you don’t talk about repairing your car or renovating your house but scream out for a life jacket!

    • 1
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      Raj

      “When you and your family are being drowned you don’t talk about repairing your car or renovating your house but scream out for a life jacket!”

      You are right, that is exactly what happened in North East for 30 years, in up country for more than 100 years, and in the South in 1971 and between 1987 and 1991, generally for people over 71 years.

      Now tell us what seem to be your problem?

      • 0
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        This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

        • 0
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          Those who have stolen our land and are still occuping the land will soon have to cry for life jackets when we take our land back and push them back to the sea.

          Get ready L.A.N.S.I

          • 1
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            Mud Hole

            You won’t be even alive just after the next tsunami.
            The waves are expected to reach 650 Metres.
            There is no guarantee Mahasangha would survive.

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