20 May, 2022

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How To Topple The Rajapaksas; A Missive To Anura & Sajith

By Vishwamithra

“Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.” ~ Henry Adams

One must be careful when one talks about toppling a regime, especially in a democracy. In a democracy, only the people, the voters, can topple an incumbent government. And it is by exercising their fundamental right of vote at the polls, held in every four or five years as the case may be. There has been only one occasion on which an existing government had collapsed before its time and that was in 1964 when the then Sirimavo Bandaranaike-led government was defeated at a no-confidence motion brought against it by the then Opposition led by the United National Party (UNP). However much a government was unpopular, never before or never since has a government fallen before the prescribed time. It is a marvelous testimony to the deep rooted faith that our people have in the democratic structure of political administration of the country.

Therefore, when I begin talking about toppling the current Rajapaksa regime, my arguments, either for or against, would invariably be within that framework of accepted norm of changing the government, from one political party to another, inside the framework of democracy. Venturing outside that frame of democracy is essentially traitorous and could be prosecuted as a treasonous crime. Yet when the objective conditions in the country become exhaustively burdensome to the majority of the people, a well-organized minority group of activists resorting to paramilitary means to ‘topple’ a regime could be considered philosophically justifiable but in the ultimate analysis, such methods and means of changing regimes are self-defeating. In fact, it is against such self-defeating mechanisms the majority of our people have time and time again responded so calmly, once in 1971 and later in 1987-1989 periods.

In such a confusing context, how can the majority of our people who are being subjected to untold socio-political misery and cruel economic hardships express their displeasure and actively take part in a regime-changing process? That is the sixty four million dollar question.

On top of the harsh objective conditions, our voters are also confronted with a docile and unorganized Opposition, which on the other hand and in every sense of the word, could be called legitimate and legal. That Opposition lacks focus; it suffers from a severe dearth of charismatic leadership; it has lost the fundamental factor that often becomes the decisive determinant- planning and execution. Moreover, this tragic status of the country’s Opposition has contributed to the emergence of individuals and sporadic movements which are basically a byproduct of such a chaotic political environment. Such confusion and chaos in turn gives rise to further strengthening of the government’s oppressive machinery and methods. The Rajapaksas welcome this chaos; they welcome this status quo and they most certainly embrace this political indeterminate state.

Nevertheless, recognition of a leader or a group of leaders amongst this political barrenness is a hard process, even for a well-versed political strategist. Yet, we find in today’s political landscape only two men who may not have necessarily the inner strength and character, but palpable support of some people (I dread to use the word masses as both these leaders do not qualify to be called leaders of the masses). They are Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and Sajit Premadasa, the leader of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB).

In character, in mastery of oratorical skills, in authenticity and humility AKD is relatively way ahead of Sajit Premadasa. AKD’s focus has not faltered; his characteristic competence in gathering facts and figures on any subject that he is speaking about has not suffered any setbacks, at least not yet. But AKD’s woeful disadvantage is the rotten baggage he carries on his youthful shoulders- Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s past and its outdated economic philosophy. The youth of today might be attracted to the JVP’s leader’s marginal charisma, but their commitment would be basically dependent upon AKD’s oratory and apparent steadfastness in the political stance and unwavering consistency in his pursuit of a political goal. Those followers would not remember the failed revolution of the seventies and macabre death-dancing of the ’87-’89 era.

Focus on the future and discarding a malignant past is a must for any follower of any political leader. But that elementary principle must not be limited to the mere followers only. It must be applicable to the leaders too. However, AKD’s initial relative success as a clever political strategist is evident in the fact that, in order to galvanize people behind his thinking, he resorts to a basic essential in political activism- driving his opponents crazy. AKD has apparently identified this fundamental element of political strategy. Driving his opponent, the Rajapaksa clan, to the threshold of patience and even beyond that threshold, where a counter-revolution by the State becomes imminent. This is an oft-used tactic by most successful political leaders. J R Jayewardene in the mid-seventies against Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Felix Dias and Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali against R Premadasa in the early nineties remains classic examples of this political tactical process.

Where AKD becomes successful, Sajith Premadasa fails miserably. Sajith’s lack of consistency and faltering oratorical competence are further signs of mediocrity. As a matter of fact, when the two protagonists, AKD and Sajith, are compared, one against the other, AKD scores an absolute win over Sajith. But, when it comes to the strength of their respective political parties, JVP is way behind the SJB, at least as per the Presidential Election results in 2019. It is true that almost two million UNP voters did not go to the polls in the Parliamentary elections that followed the Presidential Elections, Sajith secured 5,564,239 or 42% of the total poll while AKD just managed, as I remarked in my previous column, a mere 418,553 or 3.2% of the total poll.

It is entirely possible that if the Presidential Elections are held today, AKD will score much more than 3.2%, but securing a majority in a three-cornered fight, that is, one vote more than 50%, is an impossibility. In the same vein, it is impossible for Sajith to secure majority of one more than 50%, given the current conditions of his declining popularity and the growing public perception that he is not totally committed to hurling attack after attack on the Rajapaksas.

In other words, Sri Lankan voters of today are being entrenched in an unenviable position of a political dilemma. That dilemma is entangled in an ever-tightening web of indecision after indecision of SJB or JVP. This Hamlet-style ‘to be or not to be’ indecision-mentality is testing the political stamina of our educated pundits more than the average voter. The usual black vs. white dual could lead the average voter to the polls without any vacillation or hesitancy, yet the resultant effects of the weighty verdict so made at the polls could produce drastically inopportune days and months to come.

In the writer’s view, there is only one path open for both these leaders, AKD and Sajith. It is too early to announce as to who should be the candidate of a common platform and if and when such a platform is constructed. It is even too early for a common program and policy direction for such an elemental process. Yet it is not too early to begin a dialogue to strategize as to how to make the current regime even more unpopular than it is today. That is not asking much from our political leaders. Saner and more sober minds should address this issue asap and both the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and Samagi Jan Balavegaya have within themselves clever and crafty political minds to understand this fundamental need and execute a seemingly workable strategy.

However, constant and consistent focus on driving the Rajapaksas crazy and near-madness, especially President Gotabaya who has time and again exhibited a manifest vulnerability to criticism, needs to continue from all quarters of these two parties. In this monumental struggle to keep Sri Lanka safe and its economy healthy, failure or hesitancy is not an option. Gotabaya Rajapaksa has betrayed the very principles of decency and justice. Appointments of Duminda de Silva, a convicted killer, as Chairman of the National Housing Authority and Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara, another convicted criminal in saffron robes as the Head of One Country One Law, a legal reform task force, are a brutal attack on the conscience of a nation.

These two appointments were made on top of some other lucrative jobs being offered to some ‘half-past-two-thirty charlatans, those who were supposed to have worked for Gotabaya’s victory at the elections. To make matters worse, Gotabaya went on record saying that the only qualification he considered in some of these State-appointments was whether he or she who was bestowed with these enormously responsible jobs was working for his victory at the elections. Decorum is out of the window; decency has suffered irreversible repercussions and dignity has become a thing of the past.

But our leaders in the Opposition must realize and they must do that fast that whatever that is left of Sri Lanka’s pride needs to be restored at whatever cost. If they fail to accomplish that simple but enormously significant task, they would be as brazen, if not more, as the ones who rule today.

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

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    It is not only the appointments of Duminda de Silva, a convicted killer, as Chairman of the National Housing Authority and Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara, another convicted criminal in saffron robes as the Head of One Country One Law, a legal reform task force, are a brutal attack on the conscience of a nation. Here is another news that Sri Lankan Ambassador to Germany Manori Unambuwe abused her diplomatic privileges. The Ministry of External Affairs has received complaints from Sri Lankans in Germany in this regard and revealed that the Sri Lankan government has to pay 15,000 Euros a month for her expensive house and 8,000 Euros a month for two workers and a plantation manager who have taken on the responsibility of maintaining the house. He has not done any work for Sri Lanka in the two years since he was appointed. Instead it has been revealed that due to his reckless activity, corruption and fraudulent activities have started to take place in connection with foreign passports. Meanwhile, her brother reportedly cheated several traders at a trade fair in Berlin and sought the help of various traders using the Ambassador’s name. Also the brother who abused his sister’s position was found to be staying in Germany illegally.

  • 2
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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

  • 5
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    Under the guise of democracy when the governments do or do not perform undemocratic activities, how can the people stop it by democratic means.?

  • 7
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    ‘Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
    and farewells him with hooting,
    only to welcome another with trumpeting again’ (from Khalil Gibran’s poem Pity The Nation)
    .
    Who do you replace the Rajapakses with? They will be just as bad and corrupt. They will accept dozens of crossovers. Old crimes will be forgotten, new crimes will start. The carnival will continue.

  • 3
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    “when the then Sirimavo Bandaranaike-led government was defeated at a no-confidence motion brought against it by the then Opposition led by the United National Party (UNP). “

    what is wrong in that.It is a democratic process after all isn’t it?In 1964 i suppose fresh elections would have been held.sirimavo would have lost the election.so the people had their say after all didn’t they?

  • 3
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    Looking at the back mirror and driving forward!

    JVP and SJB/UNP must agree on a common candidate. Not a loser who contested and lost already.

  • 1
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    “That dilemma is entangled in an ever-tightening web of indecision after indecision of SJB or JVP. “
    ha ha ha this vishvamitra is a joker.AKD will get only his block 500000 votes while sajit will get more than 6m votes.There is no one thinking about whther to vote for sajit or AKD.people are not interested in oratorical skills because they can’t eat from that,they will be more interested in policies because they know that policies are a driver for economic growth.The author himself says that the JVP has outdated economic policies.If AKD has a brain instead of oratorical skills then he would have used his brain to wonder why election after election the JVP however unpopular the government is,only get is hardcore block vote of 500000 votes.AKD shouldhave used that peanut sized brain of his to see whther he has to change the parties policies,especially the economic ones in order to atrract an addition 500000 votes to the already block votes he has.It would be a good idea to adopt some of the SLFP policies and JVP to make some inroads into their vote base as they seem ripe for plucking because they have been enjoying all the perks and privileges of a unpopular government while bad mouthing

  • 3
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    cont

    it as if they are innocent babies and the people are fools.AKD has to change the policies in line with the 21st century in order for the people to have confidence that they will be on the road to prosperity.
    Chandrika did that changing the policies of her mother so that people will forget that hardhip under sirimavo.Sometimes in some polices under chandrika it was hard to dscern the difference from the UNP policies.The tug a war of SLFP governemnts going in one direction and then UNP governemnts going in the opposite directions,and both cancelling all the previous things done and undoing it and wasting the time and resources of the country was not there when chandrika took over in 1995.
    Can AKD become a chandrika.I have doubts because he sincerely believes in the JVP ideology.

    Chandrika did that changing the policies of her mother so that people will forget that hardhip under sirimavo.Sometimes in some polices under chandrika it was hard to dscern the difference from the UNP policies.The tug a war of SLFP governemnts going in one direction and then UNP governemnts going in the opposite directions,and both cancelling all the previous things done and undoing it and wasting the time and resources of the country was not there when chandrika took over in 1995.

  • 5
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    Indeed a dilemma faces the citizens of SL. AKD, by far, is the astute politician needed but the ghost of JVP past (despite the reincarnation as NPP), is heavy baggage to carry. Premadasa jnr,, in all his years in politics, has still not carved a name for himself but continues to ride on his old man’s wave, his main strategy being expanding Buddhist temples with a Buddha statue in every street corner to win over the village Sinhala Buddhist vote, the vote base of the Rajapakse regime. As for the Rajapakse regime, the blatant corruption, absolute cronyism, stupid policy decisions & sheer incompetence, which are clear to everybody, except for the diehard Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists who refuse to accept reality, should be held accountable for destruction of the country, that can even be considered as treason.
    The JVP/NPP under AKD offers a glimmer of hope but I remain skeptic unless they apologise for their violent past, & as socialist, pledge to abolish the Presidency, an expensive office which does nothing, & also the generous perks & pensions of the Parliamentarians. In this scenario, I would welcome an independent party of intellectuals, led by an educated person with integrity to come forward. Any takers?

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    “Under the guise of democracy when the governments do or do not perform undemocratic activities”
    *
    Is even ‘not performing undemocratic activities’ a matter of concern?

  • 14
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    Not only did Ranil leadership destroy the UNP it also failed to raise the UNP leadership culture, ending up with a few old boys of one or two Colombo schools. According to the mind-set of that ridiculous failure Ranil , only old boys counting about 100 in each grade annually passing out ( or dropping out) of that school can be leaders.

    Hence 80% of the leaders of the UNP were from two schools, and 100% of the important decisions were made by old boys. In the case of Ranil it was still worse, several of his own class mates became leaders, deciding the fate of the country, like the sovereign Bonds.( Malik, Mahendran, Ravi, Dias of Srilankan airline fame etc etc)

    This is in a country with 22 million other people !

    Premadasa although of only one generation of this joke of an elite culture, also is from the same mold-father a former leader , has gone to the same school, and spent some time in London( Oxford, LSE, -does it matter? ) .

    The question is , like Ranil , isn’t Premadasa also a beneficiary of the same self-serving interpretation of leadership and elite culture ? A naked joke mouthed in their squeaky voices by these so called elite leaders !

    The country is always in crisis, it has never achieved ( from 1948) an impressive growth rate, every institution has only gone down, but the elite go on !

    • 2
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      Deepthi, well said!! But my question is, why does it matter in this banana republic, the school?? Why cannot a person (a man or a woman) from Nugawela Central College become the leader of this country?? The naked truth is, because we don’t have any clue about the good things in life, what real values are! Although we call ourselves an ancient humble society, majority of our people worship what comes from the West in a smart phone! Who cares about the simplicity that existed six decades ago? Hardly anyone.

      • 0
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        JIT
        i woud also add to that there are only a few percentage of true bhuddhists in the country.The percentage of people who call themselves bhuddhists but don’t really know what Lord bhuddha said in his preachings exceed the true bhuddhist percentage.If we can increase that true bhuddhist percentage then the country will be on the road to simplicity,peace of mind and eternal salvation of the soul.

        ps.I think bhutan is concentrating on true bhuddhism and discarding happiness through material wealth.We should too follow that path.

        • 0
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          Shankar, there is no doubt only a tiny percentage of true Buddhists live in SL now. However, will it be a decisive factor when it comes to rational voting and electing the people most suitable to lead the country? A big NO!! Why? Because the people all leading political parties put forward to run for the parliament are 99% absolutely corrupt! 99% of the people are corrupt as well!! Majority of people want to get their private agendas fulfilled by the forthcoming government, such as getting a job for their children, getting a permit to run a bar or petrol shed, or get an undue promotion in their jobs. So how can pure Buddhism can salvage the country?

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