By Vishwamithra –
“A gentleman would be ashamed should his deeds not match his words.” ~ Confucius
There is no serious negotiation under way. When the country’s constitution is being so seriously questioned, when the animal-like instincts and uncouth character of its political life are being portrayed in public to the whole wide world, when those who have been elected to political office, except one solitary man, are acting like the power that they wield is their private and personal property bequeathed by a ‘divine being’, when they act as if that power qualifies them to behave in the most atrocious manner in the very ‘House of the People’, Parliament, when those who are purported to be representing the ‘common man’, are debasing the values that common man holds so precious, sacred and noble, the real common man is astounded on the one hand and angry and thoroughly disgruntled on the other with those who have deliberately chosen to tear apart the document which is our Constitution from which cascade the rule of law, our justice system, its intricate and intrinsic measures and the very substance of a democratic society.
What was exhibited to the world is not an angry reaction of one party to an antagonistic point of view of another. Over the last few days, specifically on November 14, 15 and 16, what in fact was manifested was an ugly orgy of the representatives of the ‘common man’; this is what SWRD Bandaranaike created; this is what resulted from the ill-planned, ill-thought out process of an Oxford pundit. When uneducated ruffians are sent to parliament and when their ‘Masters’ are openly backing them, what destiny are we seeking as a collective people?
Who is the solitary man who stood between these marauding hooligans against justice and fair-play? Who showed that he still possessed a spine that is made of tempered steel? Karu Jayasuriya, the Speaker of the House of Parliament defied the odds. The odds stacked up against him and against fair-play were formidable; they were uncouth, uncivilized and inhuman, yet to withstand such an outbreak of un-nuanced vitriol, such a barrage of disgraceful and shameless greed, catapulting of books and chairs, to endure the scorn of a minority and yet literally hold his floor and promulgate the factual status of the majority’s wish of the House was no easy endeavor.
But Karu did it. When Bandaranaike’s ‘common men and women’ ransacked the Chambers of Parliament and its invaluable books and journals, when they used such invaluable material as their bullets and bazooka, Karu Jayasuriya, a very common man born and bred in Siyane Korale, educated at Ananda College, a leading Buddhist Educational Institution in Sri Lanka, did all of us proud. Ranil Wickremesinghe should step down in the name of his Party, of his ancestors, his government and in the name of his country. Period. How would President Sirisena respond to the nomination of Karu Jayasuriya as Prime Minister? Would he renege on that too? It’ll be unimaginable. The only way to call President Sirisena’s bluff is to nominate Karu’s name as PM. And if Karu agrees, they can save their PMship, their coalition-government without the SLFP, (if the SLFP guys want to join the Cabinet, they must join the UNP or any other Party that is part and parcel of the coalition) and above all the country and her democratic way of governance and life. Defended and armored by unarmed bodies of policemen, forming an impenetrable ring around the Speaker, a gallant proclamation was made: there is no confidence in the Rajapaksa-Premiership.
Hard times require harder decisions. Ranil’s legacy would be that he saved democracy in Sri Lanka and he would be proud to leave behind such a glorious legacy. All matters that are bound to matter in the ensuing twelve (12) months are secondary at this very moment. A resuscitation of the Rajapaksa family and their inglorious rule should be given permanent leave.
November 16, 2018 was, to quote American President Franklin D Roosevelt, a ‘day of infamy’ for all Sri Lankans. We ought to be thoroughly ashamed of our own political leaders and especially of those who wrongly assume as if they are the ‘government’. Such a blatant exhibition of hooliganism and vitriol, gushing from those who represent the ‘Pohottuwa’-gang has no precedent in the manner in which the very substance of the issue in question: who controls the majority in the House of Parliament. The apparently bottomless mine into which the Executive has plunged the country’s polity seems to be spiraling further downwards; those who are near the mine are digging deeper and deeper; there doesn’t seem to be any sane quarter that is genuinely interested in the interest of the country and her people to ask them to stop digging!
It is indeed a sad story to tell our grandchildren. But let us not leave this to our future historians. Their interpretations may well be out of context. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s unlawful assertion and his obvious disentitlement as the country’s Prime Minister are not in question anymore. An ordinary parliamentarian who was sworn in as Prime Minister under the cover of false Executive powers, read out a statement that consisted of assertions beyond comprehension; it spoke about his ‘love’ for the country; he alleged that the Speaker of Parliament was wrong in recognizing the right of the majority. In other words, he, from the well of the House of the People’s will, prophesized a ‘tyranny of the minority’. A minority consisting of corrupt, uncouth and uneducated set of street thugs garbed in western-style suits of usual Manthree (MP)-kit, resorted to bullying, intimidation and savagery. What can one expect from the ‘commoners’ who were elected from a political ideology that idealized the commonness of the ‘common man’?
Decency is uncommon; dignity is uncommon; respect is uncommon; commonsensical conduct is uncommon and the great irony is all these ‘petty hoodlums of parliament’ pretending to be its custodians are ‘common’. The ‘common man’s’ party has produced wastes of Sri Lanka’s politics; their puny personalities are so ‘common’ it is hardly separable from the common waste matter of any species.
Yet the real authentic common man is doomed; his hopes and desires for social climbing are being threatened; his educational aspirations are dwindling and his life-goals are receding further and further. These so-called representatives of the common man are a disgrace to the grace of that real common man. He wakes up each morning; wakes his children up and gets them ready for school; offers his thanks to Buddha in the tiny shrine room. He drops the children at the bus stand and treks his way to the paddy field he so fondly ploughs and sees that sufficient amount of water is channeled to his plot- it’s real hard work which none of these politicos have ever understood or had the competence or basic discipline to apply themselves to. That is the real life of a real common man.
When he gets back home with a crimson sun setting on the distant horizon; dusk surrounds his humble abode; his children are busy with homework; his sweetheart wife is preparing a measly meal of rice, pol sambol and kiri hodi which the whole family partakes of with unpretentious pleasure and no complaint. His desires are few but he knows the limits his desires could reach. But his hopes and aspirations are many and more often than not, boundless. He wants freedom of movement; he desires freedom of communication; he demands freedom of thought and its limitless expression. One thing that he does not demand or require is to be represented by a village thug or a city-dwelling ruffian who makes all his money from illicit liquor or trafficking life-endangering drugs.
It is that common man and his humble desires and wants that Karu Jayasuriya tried to defend in Parliament on that fateful day. Karu Jayasuriya stood for the common interests of the common man while the Rajapaksa-led hooligans in parliament openly expressed in no uncertain words and action that they wanted to destroy and extinguish the common man’s unassuming goals.
One unconstitutional act, the naming of Mahinda Rajapaksa as new Prime Minister, has to be defended by another unconstitutional act, dissolution of Parliament. As in all human affairs, when a crisis deepens, when the abyss looks nearer and nearer, a very few good men and women rise up against such a suicidal march. Karu Jayasuriya dwells among those few. Without trying to blow his own trumpet or prompting or pressuring others to blow his trumpet, Jayasuriya made that stance look like an event of his normal day at work.
The country needs such men. The present crisis needs such men. The hour needs such men. Remember, the legacy of the present generation has to be one of magnificence and courage; it needs to be one of humility and sacrifice; it needs to be one that our grandchildren would be proud to tell their grandchildren. Karu Jayasuriya is a gentleman in politics, maybe among the last few of that kind.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org