24 June, 2024


Open Questions To The Opposition: A Plea To Have A Strategic Plan & Put Forward Your Manifesto For Us To Support You!

By Harendra de Silva

Vidyajyothi Prof. 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.

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Latest comments

  • 9

    Thank you for a thought-provoking commentary that seeks specific policy positions from the opposition.
    I hope I am wrong in thinking that not many of the politicians have an understanding of the issues (starred) you noted.
    Perhaps a waste of effort!
    My fear is that we may have a bloodbath (like what we experienced in 1971 and 1988 where over 60,000 were eliminated in the most brutal manner).
    The 225 we have are merely a reflection of who we are in terms of our political maturity.
    I remember how idiotic voters were when they voted in favour of the JR-led referendum seeking not to have parliamentary elections, which allowed him to continue with the 5/6th majority.
    It is the JR’s constitution that destroyed Sri Lanka.
    Our political system needs to be based on the premise that everybody is a crook!
    Parliamentary elections should be held once in every three years (Australia and New Zealand are good examples). It is interesting to note that PM of the UK, Boris Johnson, was fined by the police.
    That is what Sri Lanka should aspire to be – a totally independent administrative service (CAS), a competent and clean police department.

    • 8

      Will Galle Face turn out to be another Tianenmen Square. Deployment of police trucks albeit for few hours as show of strength, is a harbinger of things to come. Opposition is in disarray, with 41 members of 11 party alliance refusing to sign the no confidence motion, unless their conditions are met. To save face, opposition has announced that they are postponing the motion on the advice of economists, as throwing out the government at this time will affect the negotiations with IMF. This is hoodwinking the public, because in Pakistan when negotiations with IMF was going on, no confidence motion was carried through, and this did not have any effect. Best person to bring Rajapakses to book is Sarath Fonseka, and for the sake of the country he should be given the leadership. Sajith Premadasa is not only ineffectual, but also has fraud charges leveled against him, and is unlikely to take action.

    • 4

      Dear SA,
      “The 225 we have are merely a reflection of who we are in terms of our political maturity.”.
      This is exactly truth. If People would have been intelligent, no such men would have been in the parliament today. I am against calling them all – modayas, but majority of current parliament is filled with SLPP supporting idiots. Even school going children would not think twice to see it right, but most of SLPPers are crime-supporters.
      In a country all corners are reechoed with PIRITH and BANA being preached by SIVURU WEARERs, how can majority of buddhist adherents be this much of stupid ?#
      Answer – Media Mafia – 4 th pillar of a country should take the side of the general public, however, our MEDIA men (above all TV channels, which is the primary source for new picks for the average) are commercialized being close to CRIMINAL politicians. So how can MEDIA transport the message to clearly to the grass root levels of people.

      • 3

        Dear LM,
        Yes, I agree.
        Dr Harendra de Silva’s commentary provides clarity on what Sri Lankans ought to seek as the outcome of the current popular uprising (I use the term ‘uprising’ with trepidation because of the bloodbaths of 1971 and 1988).
        As such, Dr Harendra de Silva deals with the fundamental question of identifying the outcome.
        Refer to https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/removing-the-president-is-the-opposition-unaware-of-article-42/ where Dr Nihal Jayawickrama deals with the mechanics of achieving the desired outcome that Dr Harendra de Silva seeks to identify.

        I have always said that the digital generation would takeover.
        I am still hesitant to characterise the current uprising as a broad-based phenomenon simply because there are far too many old idiots around.
        The mistakes that Gotabaya has made as the President provide ample evidence that EITHER (1) he is a person of below average intelligence who is incompetent to remain the President OR (2) he has been very poorly advised by his team OR both (1) and (2).

    • 5

      Sunil , this is the curse of Lanka . When people elect election after election the likes of SWRD , Srima , JR , MS and Rajapaksas, for all the wrong reasons and turns out newly elected is worser than the previous ending up causing more damage to system / country. Right now Lanka is left with no meaningful political party , politicians, political system or even a constitution to help with transition.. Amidst bankruptcy and starvation Lankans are forced to look for leaders, who could help in changing the system which is a daunting task. When I say dysfunctional it includes everything including our political sysm. Our politicians have been crafty to break the very system into tatters for such occasion so that people will never have a say. Isn’t it a pity that people have to search for leaders to guide them. Even if Rajapaksas go home then who ?? RW , MS , SJ any one whose out there??? Whst is the chance of a changing the existing dysfunctional system, which is.
      meaningful not to politicians , neighbors or world. But for citizens.

      • 3

        What you say is true.
        Sri Lankan voters do not have an understanding of critical issues. I would not be surprised to see the current ‘Aragalaya’ dissipating in the not-so-distant future.
        The Government would organise protests to counter the ‘Aragalaya’ (there will be enough idiots to take part in such protests – who would be bribed with a meal and booze) and create a situation where the Army and the Police could be deployed.
        Government would bet on manipulating voters (particularly the old village idiots) in three years.
        Governments are changed by emotional voting and not by rational decisions.
        As an aside, JVP needs to be very careful not to be seen as taking an active part because that is the only vulnerable party that could be proscribed like JR did. I certainly do not like to see another bloodbath (our history is soaked in blood), a repetition of what we experienced during R. Premadasa’s presidency.

        • 3

          Prof, more the uncertainty and confusion is advantage Rajapaksas. The protesters should immediately elect a group who from then can maintain communication with other protesters, public, canvas for support, let know their plans to public on a regular basis and responsible to come up with names who they want to be in interim governance. They can get outsiders who they may think appropriate ( like Friday Forum) or any individual, apolitical, having knowledge and expertise in their field. They should also actively engage foreign diplomats to counter Rajapaksas and let the outside world know of their true intentions. They also should raise funds from within and more importantly by engaging Diaspora, so to sustain against Mafia family. With proper people in place they can easily engage domestic and international media , there by giving wider publicity, and taking the matter to all corners which will give them much needed immunity, support, money and man power.

          • 0

            Historical evidence to support my comment. Anna Hazare an elderly freedom fighter/ activist who created a nationwide awareness/ movement by going on hunger strike, protesting against the dysfunctional age old political system, later took off in forming a new party AAP which today is a major threat to government’s / old parties. Some what similar in Poland when trade unionist Leach Walesa created a political liberation movement and was later elected as President.

  • 12

    I had a quick look at the list of questions including executive power to agriculture, but I couldn’t see any thing to resolve the national questions regarding power sharing and the role of religion in politics.

    • 4

      “We also need to be conscious of interests of our neighbours wanting to divide and rule through federalism”. This demonstrates that the author is a racist. This is anti-Indian and anti-Tamil rhetoric. We are a divided nation since independence and there is nothing more to divide. Best way to unite the people is through federalism. Tamils want to rule their lands of historic habitation without any interference by Sinhalese, and this can be achieved by federalism. It is now convinced that any fair and meaningful solution where Tamils can live as first class citizens has to come from outside. What is wrong with India or any other power enforcing it. These are the type of people who are the cause of the country going down to this mess. When Tamils develop their land with honest and efficient leaders, Sinhala politicians cannot continue to plunder, murder and hoodwink Sinhala masses.

      • 4

        I am unable to understand the logical connection between:

        “We also need to be conscious of interests of our neighbours wanting to divide and rule through federalism”. and

        This demonstrates that the author is a racist.

        My interpretation of Dr Harendra de Silva’s view is that Sri Lanka should be conscious of what our neighbours want to do. Neighbours, in this instance are a synonym to India, which is our closest ‘Empire’.
        India will never allow Sri Lanka to undermine its interests. Our predicament would be infinitely worse than Ukraine’s because we are not a critical element in the global security structures or the economic order. As such, any future government needs to be cognisant of India’s interests in the formulation foreign policy.
        You may have considered Dr Harendra de Silva’s additional phrase “wanting to divide and rule through federalism” as evidence of racism or anti-Indian sentiment.
        I would argue otherwise.

        • 2

          Indian change in attitude was based on JR’s utter stupidity to antagonise India right at the beginning of his rule.
          That was when India was pro-Soviet Union. It was rumoured that JR offered the Trico tank farm to the USA. Such action was perceived by Mrs. Indira Gandhi as anti-Indian. There were other personality clashes as well where Rajiv Gandhi/Indira were referred as calf and cow. On top of all this JR acted to remove Mrs B’s civil rights, which was purely to remove a potential competitor.
          India opted to control foreign policy of Sri Lanka by exploiting the uncomfortable ethnic relationship between Sinhalese and Tamils. India was successful.
          Hence, it is critical that any future government treads very carefully when it comes to foreign policy. We need to be conscious of Indian interests and the potential use of ethnic issue to further destabilise Sri Lanka.
          Thus, there is no logical basis to call Dr Harendra de Silva a racist.

      • 2

        I agree with your statement:

        “When Tamils develop their land with honest and efficient leaders, Sinhala politicians cannot continue to plunder, murder and hoodwink Sinhala masses.”

        Why should Tamils suffer because Sinhala rulers have plundered Sri Lanka?

        • 2

          I have written an article on how to transform northern province into multi billion economy, which has been accepted for publication by Colombo Telegraph. If other provinces follow it, then the economy of the country can get out of this mess.

          • 1

            Thanks Gnana,
            That would be incredibly good.
            Look forward to reading it.
            We were used to illicit immigrants swimming across to Sri Lanka.
            Recently I read (can’t quite remember where it was – so don’t hold me to account) that Sri Lankans illegally move across to India now – as economic migrants.
            This sums up how Sri Lanka has performed since independence.

            • 2

              Illicit immigrants from India came because the economic situation in Srilanka was far better. But by 1961, situation in Srilanka worsened with import controls, and economic situation in India improving, people coming here stopped. At present Tamil Nadu has become richer than Srilanka with GDP of 360 Billion, in terms per capita income. They have achieved this by hard work and frugal living, which is sadly lacking in Srilanka, trying to live above its means.

              • 0

                What you say is very true!
                Sri Lanka is reliant upon remittances from those who work (domestic servants are the majority) in the Middle East. It is pathetic – we import luxuries with the remittances.
                Most Sri Lankans didn’t know what it is to be frugal – now they know it.
                The former CB governor maintained a low exchange rate for the conversion of remittances into Sri Lankan rupees.
                Low wage earners (domestic servants) in the Middle East were played out.

  • 0

    It’s never that complex. The simple references should be the Debt-Ratio, the GDP, and Exports vs Imports. If these are out of whack, the Regime should be kicked out immediately!

    Asking all those questions and installing procedures to combat the shameful answers, shows that our Motherland seeped in Evil that cannot be rationalized. Beat the Drums of War! Drive out the Demons!

  • 2

    A timely analysis. It’s unfortunate that the Opposition is yet to get their act together. Awaiting a free ride may be. Prof. Harendra has laid down his arguments, clearly and effectively. Hopefully, those who matter would listen. Tomorrow let’s believe would be a ‘new dawn’.

    • 2

      The country needs complete change, not change by just opposition parties. The opposition parties are afraid to accept that fundamental change that is religious fundamentalism and equal rights to all.

  • 0

    Federalism promotes power sharing at the periphery and if combined with power sharing at the centre democracy will be enhanced and corruption and nepotism reduced, why not try this system?

    • 0

      Rahul Gandhi recently told in Indian parliament that India is ruled by the states and not the other way about. If this situation comes to Srilanka, it will be the solution for all ills.

  • 4

    Unfortunately the Opposition have no strategic plan. The only plan they have is to take power and continue to loot the nation with corrupt deals and jobs for the boys. They won’t do this as efficiently as the Rajapakses, but they promise to do their best.
    The cancer of corruption has spread throughout society. The only hope is for the few upright individuals remaining in politics to form their own party and publish their own plan for the future.

    • 1

      The opposition is equally corrupt – remember the Central Bank performance when Ranil was the PM.
      Some previous Ministers have selective memory during testimony.

      The entire political class is corrupt and many voters still don’t know it. Nor will they ever understand it.
      I can’t see the way out of this mess.

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