28 November, 2020

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More In Touch With Reality

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Understanding in some sense is always retrospective. The past two, were years of hope for good governance. This essay is an attempt to be more in touch with reality.

“Millions were spent to get down a horse from Queen Elizabeth’s stables. It was taken to Nuwaraeliya. The prince goes to Nuwaraeliya by helicopter to ride the ‘Buckingham’ horse. He comes back to Colombo in the chopper in the evening. However, youths in our villages have to wait looking at the future. Do we allow this dictatorship to continue?” asked the common candidate at Panduwasnuwara on 14th December 2014.

Thanks to the internet, it is possible for us to recall and relive , the passion and the indignation of the common candidate expressed in 2014 in all its spotless accuracy from digital archives available on the internet.

In a recent address to the Judicial Services Association, President Sirisena said that he was the person who earned most censure from web sites. No one else could come close. He had totally given up scanning websites and advised even his family members to ignore them.

All politicians including Presidents are human beings first. His instinctive reaction to web contents though flawed is unsurprising. That said, the Ostrich’s approach is appallingly stupid. In politics, lack of objectivity can be a deadly sin. Confusing statements of fact with statements of value is a mistake. In the age of information we need to be reconciled to a world of volatile politics.

Ours, is also an age of acceleration. Its momentum is fueled by advances in communication technology. The internet can inform and misinform. It can make the dumb, dumber and the informed better informed. The internet has out flanked the main stream media.

The main stream media did not report how the self-proclaimed hero of Nandikadal manhandled a sixteen year old student who was about to enter the examination hall to sit for his O levels. The web sites reported the incident.

Main stream print and electronic media reported in great and grand detail how the President and Prime Minister felicitated a Buddhist monk celebrating his 74th birthday, diminishing the Buddhist doctrine of transient, evanescent, inconstant, impermanence. The Web Sites ignored it. Rightly so.

Mass communication is no longer the preserve of media owners. The flow of information is not subject to the discretion of traditional gate keepers. The proliferation of sources of information has empowered the citizens to select sources of information they trust. If citizens opt to follow a website that the President has decided to ignore, it is just too bad for the president.

It is time for clarity and precision. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have positively and conclusively succeeded in forfeiting the trust and respect of those who voted for change on 8th January 2015. The country is in a state of protracted flux.

The signs appeared early. The man who promised an end to nepotism appointed his brother to the top job in Telecom. It was not all that bad. There was yet, plenty of hope. He had many brothers and only one was chosen. Revolutions don’t come cheap. Okay. Every Fidel needs a Raul.

Then something else followed. The restoration of rejects to parliament determined the trajectory of the new order. Capture of the political base of the common candidate was the priority. It removed whatever hopes the public had for a government that observed ethical propriety.

The alleged Bond Scam undermined the promised integrity in governance. The resignation of the Director General of the Commission investigating Bribery and Corruption undermined public confidence in the government’s ability to fight corruption – a key campaign pledge. These deliberate detours underscored the government’s indifference to public opinion and contempt for due process.

The third year in office commences with strong evidence of intolerance for dissent. The regime consistently evades accountability. It avoids explanations for its conduct. The Prime Minister makes policy statements but refuses to debate issues. His strategy of trivializing the opposite view earns him enthusiastic table thumping from his backbenchers. Cheap applause and the praise of underlings! 
To the vast majority in the country, he remains a stand offish leader removed from reality.

The President adopts a different style. Philosophizing even the most mundane comes naturally to him. His homilies invariably begin with a ritual request for sufferance of his dispensed wisdom. “වන්දනීය හා පූජනීය මහා සංඝරත්නය අවසර”. (Venerated and sacred Maha Sangha, permit me…)

Our Buddhist monks are masters of statecraft. In the business of devotion and piety they practice free market principles of competition. They know that the President is engaged in a battle of wits with his predecessor for control of the SLFP – the party that epitomizes Sinhala Buddhist quintessence according to conventional wisdom.

There are many ways to deceive other people. An outright lie is the simplest. It is also possible to deceive by avoiding the truth. Obfuscating or exaggerating the truth are equally effective. The most damning is casting doubt on the truth. Reports on investigations and court proceedings offer more than adequate evidence to illustrate the collusion between hound and hare.

Trust in and respect for the political process is vital for a credible democracy. The proposed constitutional reforms will not be endorsed by an electorate that is deeply skeptical of its authors. Good governance is not an abstract principle but a practice. The Presidents and the Prime Minister’s lectures and sermons are no substitute for ethical governance.

Regional economic integration makes eminent common sense. Yet, we cannot make Sri Lanka another Singapore. Unburdened by a manufactured history Singapore has leveraged its geography. Singapore has no Maha Nayakes and Anu Nayakes advising on policy.

Ahilan Kadirgamar, political economist and member of the Collective for Economic Democratisation in Sri Lanka captures the current stalemate.

“With the ETCA debate polarised between the free trade elite and the anti-Indian forces, there has been little informed debate including critical analysis of trade liberalisation, broader neoliberal reforms and the deteriorating global economic situation. For those bothered by xenophobia and economic marginalisation, the challenge is to oppose both the reflexive anti-Indian campaign of the nationalists and the neoliberal policies of the liberalisers.”

In the past two years, we have witnessed far too many instances of double standards in both decision making and policy implementation. A recent new report has Nimal Bopage Secretary Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media declaring to the media: “I have been told to sign or resign not as a threat but as a matter of course. The prime minister is a good statesman. What he said was correct; as my duty is to sign a document which has been approved by the Cabinet — and if I fail to do so I should resign.”

The statement of this public servant is symptomatic of a rudderless government. The Secretary of the Ministry of Mass Media wants us to believe that that the Prime Minster is a good statesman and he, an equally good public officer. In this country people in high office do not resign. They resign themselves to whatever new situation that emerges after throwing the dice. Making Governance a circus and himself its leading Bozo is his prerogative.

A skeptical public now refuse to swallow stories of profligacy by the predecessors and are convinced that the successors are no better. The failure of the Prime Minister’s technocrats to engage with people’s concerns has compounded popular resentment.

The previous regime brilliantly introduced the idea of ‘Ranaviru’ in to the collective unconscious of the Sinhala mind. Yet, it remained an inexplicit idea. President Sirisena in October 2016 made it an explicit idea.

This government has failed. Speed is essential for meaningful reform. If reforms do not follow immediately after change, the movement loses its momentum. The change of 8th January 2015 failed to dislodge the entrenched elite. All they needed was a small window of opportunity to hijack the movement for reform by raising concerns of national security.

People who yearned for good governance now demand it. The demand is directed to a regime that has reneged on its promise. The political success of a reform movement pivots on the consistency with which it correlates vision with process. Proof of the pudding is transparency of process.

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Latest comments

  • 13
    0

    Very well updated article covering the 2 year period of the supposedly yahapalanya government led by President Maithre and P.M.Ranil W. This the government must accept in good SPIRIT and rectify the misdoings.
    Look forward to a positive response.dcn

    • 4
      0

      Very same leaders to reach cross roads by today – is more than questionals. They dont communicate with the people either.
      What is wrong with current duo ?

      Longer they stay away from the people s hearts, worst will be the result: Today with christs celebrate their christmas in the country, most that have fed up not seeing anything being as promised by elected leaders -stay without hopes:

  • 6
    0

    Well, I recall when Obama took office there was a lot of hope. I was mesmerized with his oratory skills. He is the most intelligent of all USA Presidents. I think now looking back the shine is gone.

    So yes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    When listening to people who visit Sri Lanka they are full of praise. The clean roads, discipline on the roads, cops who are kind etc.

    I think good governance is not a destination, its a journey.

  • 5
    0

    This is only a SYNOPSIS “In Touch With Reality”. Over the last two years, both the President and the Prime Minister failed to give “CREDIBLE LEADERSHIP” to steer the CHANGE that people WANTED. As LEADERS in Governing, both of them could not put together a TEAM to administer Governmental affairs commencing from the transfer of the Central Bank to the Prime Minister and the subsequent appointment of the Governor of the Central Bank. The President by sheer incapacity to make assessment of political development allowed a “campaign” termed “Nugegoda Man” to take off and spread out to the reach of the common man. As the writer explained the President got embedded in “Mud Pit” by appointing the “Rejected” candidates to Parliament, many of whom are accused of corruption and misdoings during the past regime. Even in appointing his electoral organizers, he did blunders and acted without shame disregarding morel ethics of conduct. On the other hand the Prime Minister, very visibly extended “Sympathies” on those who were to be brought to book for corruption and robbery of Public Property. In the economic front too he (PM)could not make any appreciable changes to put the house in order. As a Leader, the “Statements” he made in Parliament were seriously flawed, in that, the country’s “Financial Situation” was not properly analyzed,(e.g. the National Indebtedness) resulting in implementation of “ad hoc” measures that receive public agitations and condemnation. On the whole both Leaders failed to view objectively the Public Opinion and take corrective measures in time. The worst of all now is both of them have gone utterly disillusioned and started attacking the Media, (particularly the Social) to the extent that the President has told his family to avoid reading it and the Prime Minister publicly stating that he intends to bring legislation to “muzzle” its power. Ironically both of them (President and the Prime Minister) have completely FORGOTTEN how they “THANKED” and “PRAISED” the Social Media for bringing them to power. So no wonder, when the BEGINNING is FORGOTTEN, the FALL is IMMINENT. However, these two Leaders still have some time left to REVERSE the trends. First contemplate on the ASSIGNMENT they got on January 8th and August 17th of 2015 and secondly put their acts together to FULL FILL, HONESTLY and FEARLESSLY to COMPLETE the job assigned by the PEOPLE, but NOT to SAVE and PROTECT the “CRIMINALS” who robbed and are robbing the Public Properties. That is the ONLY WAY TO GO.

  • 7
    0

    Down to earth in simple English. Brilliant.
    This can be called a timely political awareness precipitation.
    Will most of it go as a waste into the Indian Ocean ?.
    Hope CT will make the intensity of this precipitation to infiltrate and reach villages where agricultural citizens can thrive and benefit.

    Comrade DJ how is this doosra ” Revolutions don’t come cheap. Okay. Every Fidel needs a Raul ” ? ? cheers !

  • 11
    0

    Brilliant analysis that has been beautifully composed. It is the truth and nothing but the truth. The government is indeed on a slippery slope. It failed to strike when the iron was hot. As a result the people voted for it feel betrayed. Time is exposing its own failures. It has given opportunities for comparisons with the MR regime and is icresingly on par.

    Maithripala Sirisens in increasingly becoming a bundle of contradictions and a libility for the govenment.

    Dr.RN

    • 7
      0

      I’m pretty sure that an overwhelming majority of those who voted for change are disappointed.

      Unfortunately, few of them have the leisure or the Internet access, plus this foreign language to put their act together. They turn cynical, and they will not be able to think of anybody else to vote for, come the next elections.

      For at least thirty years now I have been able to vote in such a way as to reflect some of the idealism that even a poor guy like me harbours within his breast. Where do I turn, despite hours of reading, and writing on the Internet. Even we guys don’t know how to vote in future.

      How can the workers who keep the country running find a suitable leader? And it is admitted by all that it is the poor housemaids in the Middle-East, and now further afield, who keep the economy going; they can’t even vote, when elections come round.

      Yes, Maithri; two years ago I was taking risks to get you elected. Now, why don’t you listen to what you yourself said then, and promised?

    • 7
      0

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      “As a result the people voted for it feel betrayed.”

      On the whole people know what has been going on. Deep down in their heart they know regime changes do not benefit them.

      There is a very good chance of electing a fascist in the next election due to protest vote.

    • 0
      0

      Dr RN

      Did you ever know that you can mitigate the environmental impact of an infrastructure project by changing its name?

      Soma

      • 0
        0

        Soma,

        Everything is possible in this wonderland of ours! We have also gone down the rabbit hole!

        Dr.RN

  • 5
    0

    “There are many ways to deceive other people. An outright lie is the simplest. It is also possible to deceive by avoiding the truth. Obfuscating or exaggerating the truth are equally effective. The most damning is casting doubt on the truth.”

    To lie is not only to say what isn`t true. It is also and above all, to say more than is true, and, as far as the human heart is concerned, to express more than one feels. This is what we all do, every day, to simplify life. – Camus

  • 0
    0

    Dear Mr Sarath De Alwis

    ““Millions were spent to get down a horse from Queen Elizabeth’s stables. It was taken to Nuwaraeliya. The prince goes to Nuwaraeliya by helicopter to ride the ‘Buckingham’ horse. He comes back to Colombo in the chopper in the evening. However, youths in our villages have to wait looking at the future. Do we allow this dictatorship to continue?” asked the common candidate at Panduwasnuwara on 14th December 2014.”

    You seem to have missed this:

    https://youtu.be/xIoqholH508

    Any comments?

    Soma

    • 0
      0

      Soma,

      Maithripala Sirisena is a ‘typical politician’ and a tongue that twists and turns comes with that package.

      Dr.RN

  • 0
    0

    ““There are many ways to deceive other people. An outright lie is the simplest. It is also possible to deceive by avoiding the truth. Obfuscating or exaggerating the truth are equally effective. The most damning is casting doubt on the truth.”

    A gem. Ranks among those of Shakespeare.

    Yahapalana crooks won the elections by “exaggerating the truth” – mole hills to Himalayan proportions.

    How brilliantly they still manage to talk about white vans during Rajapaksha without making any mention of burning tyres in 1989 or what color vans were used then or Batalanda / Ranil.

    Soma

  • 2
    0

    Well analyzed. It is unfortunate that MS and RW think people are born to be fooled. MS can advise his family to boycott web, if he imagines that people will follow he is sadly mistaken. Nobody cares about the likes and dislikes of RW or MS. They are concerned of the promises they have made to hold office. If they cannot, then both should get out.

    • 1
      0

      Adrian,

      So does an ostrich hide its head!

      Dr.RN

  • 0
    3

    A good article– thoughtful and well-written. Perhaps a Left bloc of the JVP and FSP under a leader like Sunil Handunetti, can attempt a Syriza-Podemos like intervention.

  • 1
    0

    Yes Sir, now a days no one could hide news. All are getting more news from the citizen journalists than from the media. The smart phone in one’s hand is a TV as well as a radio station. Anyone could shoot a video and upload to Youtube, millions of people could see from any corner of the world, and also they could have their channel in it. In Facebook, they have live streaming too. One could record his voice, and do a podcast, people in any where in the world could listen to it, and it becomes radio as well. These people have a check on everything, and shaping the new world.

    Also there is some thing called fake news as well. One young man in Macedonia minted a big pail of money with fake news during the last US
    Presidential election. On his site, he put fake news, supporters of the candidates were hitting at it at high rate, due to the heavy traffic to the site, he earned big sum from the web advertisers.

  • 3
    0

    Maithripala and Ranil have lost all touches with reality and are blissfully taking us all for a ride downhill. Now, as we are picking up speed, they can either slow down with their stupid policies and actions that are completely at odds with their promises OR wait for the crash!

    Poor Sri Lanka, looks like Kuveni’s curse is still alive and well!!

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