By Harendra de Silva –
The present economic, psychological, and social catastrophe is unprecedented in living memory. It is partly a realization by the middle and upper middle-class intelligentsia of the folly of supporting the present government at the last election, its financial implications and irregularities as well as the gravity of a bleak future, hence the uprising in cities and English posters and proper discipline in protests. Remember, this group although not that big when you consider the whole population, represents the heart and the brain of the population! Although it is not that the base of the pyramid, the poor are not involved but they realise mainly the hunger and crop failures! It is interesting to observe the parallel uprisings in Negombo, Kurunegala and Galle are not coordinated, absolutely no mindfulness, and obviously by the lower rungs of society with marked violence! This type of unrest will not be contained and is what the rulers want! A scapegoat to tighten the noose. Certain things have to be noted if this uprising is to be sustained. Going on Aristotle’s theory of Rhetoric, in order to persuade a population to take decisive action, you need to fulfil 3 main criteria. One is the Pathos, the suffering of the people which no doubt is obvious. The next is Logos the logic of the argument which again is presented well with the reasons for the economic calamity and the issue of corruption and mismanagement. However, the most important aspect the ethos which is the authority and credibility of the speaker/ is rather lacking. Hitler and his group had accepted speakers, Gotabaya in 2019 had a host of ‘Viyathun’ and clergy of many denominations who were acceptable by the people. Although most were pseudo professionals some who indulge in mythological directions in their dreams for guidance including promotion of Organic fertilizer against all scientific odds to the contrary. They had all aspects of Aristotle’s Rhetoric covered to ensure victory. I personally believe the ethos needs credible and acceptable leaders who are guiding this uprising. Film stars, singers and sportsmen will show their faces make statements and go but the movement will not be sustainable for long. Some economists who make YouTube statements are not really linked to ‘this’ movement. The popular opposition political regimes are bewildered and are groping in the dark to get a foothold in order to piggyback the achievements so far. Failing which they may even attempt to sabotage the progress made so far! The wild horses have to come out but they should have an excellent track record of credibility. At the same time, in terms of reality, young and brave patriots may have honest hearts with a will but practical experience in administration and professionalism; (not simply a job but skills and attitude) may be lacking. Therefore, the old guard with a good track record irrespective of affiliations as long as they have no conflicts of interests may be needed. Some people in the professional groups need not necessarily be credible and may have different agendas. BE CAUTIOUS. We also need to be conscious of interests of our neighbours wanting to divide and rule through Federalism.
Another aspect of Rhetoric is Telos and ultimate aim in a campaign is crucial such as a motherland, Subha Anagathayak (although vague) is critical. Aristotle refers to the full potential or inherent purpose or objective of a person or thing, similar to the notion of an ‘end goal’. In this respect ‘Gota Go Home’ is totally inadequate end goal. If he does go home, what next? You cannot start thinking then! We need a broader outline of a process. The end goal should be a just society dispelling all myths, corruption, Good Governance (not what MY3 comprehended and practiced!) and a whole host of many end goals.
We need to know history, where we went wrong! There is no doubt that this reaction has climaxed due to a fairly prolonged series of poor governance over several decade and many if not most in the opposition too have contributed to the present state. Briefly, if you look back, the turning point was when the SLFP used (I don’t blame SWRD alone) racism with the Sinhala only slogan to gather the support of the base of the population pyramid to ‘blaze into power’, which resulted in experienced administrators and professionals, including Sinhalese leaving our shores with rather poorly educated, inefficient unprofessional group of ‘podi puthas (Mudiyanse T)’ and ‘kavi kola karayo’ taking over the legislature! This was followed later by the dismantling of the Senate, Judicial Services Commission, Police Commission, Administrative System of Permanent Secretaries (replaced by Stooge secretaries changing with the minister) amongst other changes. Then the takeover of private companies in a Marxist rage left a large number of State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) that are white elephants and financial burdens on the system but used only to give jobs to the ‘pakshikayas’ on both sides. In a nutshell these processes removed checks and balances, that addressed accountability and transparency and other components in good governance of a democracy, while strengthening executive powers of the leadership that introduced fearless corruption in a big way. It was this need that made people rally behind the 2015 ‘victory’! Although a few changes such as the 19th amendment and laws like the RTI act were positive steps, the leadership did not understand or did not want to understand the concept of ‘Good Governance’ because the crooks in the system did not want transparency, monitoring, or remove conflicts of interest and accountability etc to thrive personally. This is why commitment is necessary rather than tokenistic slogans! The Conflict between the President and the PM did not help. It was the Fox’s nephew wanting to manipulate a supposedly ‘simple’ Simon who had delusions of grandeur that dirtied the word Good Governance!
Coming back to the present dilemma: Several questions crop up. It is useful to be brief in the questions. This applies to the old guard opposition as well as the leadership in the new uprising.
* Are you not aware that the issue of divide and rule is a huge component in gaining power and the different opposition members wanting to grab power over predictions of Raja Yogaya by Mythological clairvoyants like the Natha / Kali preacher/s in Anuradhapura or elsewhere? The more divided we are the more likely the culprits survive! Are you going to cover half your forearm with multi coloured threads? Personally, you have the right to do so in your closet, but not to deceive the people!
* Is anybody hoping to piggyback the present uprising for your own benefit or the peoples benefit?
* Will you vouch never to involve clergy of any denomination that divides the nation though racism and bigotry.
* Do you expect the rats to jump ship without incentives in the event of an impeachment? Those days packets of 50/100/200 million were used to lure the rats. It has been done this time too. These same rats know the taste of this delicacy and expects the same. If you do that, we the people will not vote for you!
* Do you expect to involve that same old rats who have jumped ‘to and fro’ from one paint tin to another? This principle is applicable even to your present members who have dirty track records. What would your conditions for nomination be? Age and seniority or ability and vision for change and attitude? Would you include any of those who disrupted Good Governance? If so, do not expect us to support you.
* The standard definition used all along in declaration of assets for nomination should be revised to several degrees of relations over a certain period. Conflict of interest and poor governance happen when we have investment in businesses that would affect our governance. Absolute transparency in nominees with a clean track record is crucial. Are you ready for that?? We want it!
* Would you have a briefless lawyer as Health Minister or a Doctor in charge of tea plantations or in Skills Development or Vocational Education (Skills are relevant to any vocation or job and not a separate entity!)
* From CBKs time the executive presidency was going to be abolished. But when you come to power you have convenient excuses. There will be no excuses now!
* Recently at a meeting of an opposition member when asked about reducing the entourage defence vehicles, it was justified as important! It is not at all justifiable don’t fool us!
* Would you have qualified experts in Economics as powerless state Ministers?
* Would you have professionals i.e. “Viyathun” in your campaign in order to sell their credible names, then let them down! But give positions to half-baked pseudo – viyathun? In other words, those who can be manipulated especially for corruption? All parties and groups take note?
* Would you give National list positions to defeated candidates?
* Can you categorically change the policy on MP pensions, other facilities of duty-free gas/$ guzzling V8 vehicles every time you come into power? Are you stopping bribery of officials /professionals with duty free vehicles that necessarily have an impact on the economy including the petrol crisis and pollution?
* What is your policy on Public Holidays?
* Corruption is not necessarily limited to politicians: the Present administrators, officers down to the grassroots are corrupt! It’s rooted to the system and is a norm. How are you going to eradicate this issue? How are you going to address good governance from the minister to the peon and to the three-heeler driver? What’s your road map? The system change should include teaching transparency, conflicts of interests, and accountability from early childhood?
* A proper independent judicial system with an independent Judicial services Commission is critical without any appointments made by the president to make accountability work. It is critical for speedy processes. The Private bar earns and wins by delays and it should be checked and stopped. Some of your supporters who appear on your behalf or supportive of the movement are also culprits!
* Are you willing to go back to the CAS (Ceylon Administrative Service) era (rather than the adulterated SLAS) of professional training of able young administrators who are professionals not political catchers who will be permanent secretaries who carry out policies irrespective of the minister or party? India is doing it well on this score.
* We have many economists who have already come up with possible solution to debts, loans and IMF. However, it goes beyond.
* Directly connected to the $ is the dependence on fossil fuel generated power whether for electricity or transport. We are aware about officials/politicians who get commissions from every drop of fuel and gram of coal! The sun however cannot give commissions. What is your plan to phase off fossil fuel towards renewable energy? Even today there is a huge delay in getting approval for solar grid systems, WHY is the sabotage? Instead, the government should give grants and popularize off-grid batteries (Akin to Tesla batteries) to couple with solar panels. Can you vouch that you will not build any more fossil fuel generated energy production units?
* Are you going to continue catering to a 3-wheeler driven economy and transport for the people? Why are we not promoting electric public or personal transport? Spell out your plans in your Telos!
* What are your plans on the Return on Investment (ROI) on education? Change to a logic-based education rather the parrot method! We are investing our dollars to the Brain drain for the benefit of other countries!
* Agriculture policy and fertilizers the vicious cycle of feeding, fertilizers and dollars! Are you going to go on dreams of mythological gods?
* What are you planning for the white elephant State Owned (SOE)? How are you planning to dismantle them and deal with present employees?
* We have part of the economy based on earnings on alcohol and tobacco taxes! Hence the reason why a large number of politicians are involved in either production of alcohol or distribution! They find ways of avoiding taxes. Both are detrimental to society. What you earn from taxes are paid back for the resulting health and social problems! What are your plans!
I could go on and on addressing the issues of poor governance and the resulting corruption and economic issues…. Let’s be content in getting answers to these issues for the time being.