By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
“Loudest voices will dominate, irrational, ill-motivated decisions will be made and the complex arena of politics will turn into a crazy circus”~ (Anja Steinbauer-Philosophy Now, March-April 2014)
Even a sensible, balanced and informed personage like our Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has fallen into what I call the ‘Tirupati Mental Trap.’ We used to observe how, time and again, former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa rushed to the Tirupati Deyyo in South India-causing a measurable consternation among the Sinhala nationalists who formed the core of his political support. After all, Mahinda was not as strong as good old Tirupati. However, I had all along borne the opinion that Ranil was more strong-minded than even Tiru.
No leader in the prosperous, modern part of the world believes in God, or Gods, auspicious times, charms or pirith nool. Imagine our Malcolm Turnbull tying charms on his person! Or Merkel in Germany, for instance! Some of them might mouth ‘God,’ but that is to be politically correct among a deferential population.
The Sri Lanka case is totally different. The machine of governance is like Plato’s ‘ship of fools.’ The country is simply capricious for good rulers with a knowledge of statecraft. The best equipped to govern will have to fight hard to stay in power. “Loudest voices will dominate, irrational, ill-motivated decisions will be made and the complex arena of politics will turn into a crazy circus.”
Here’s the relevant news story from today’s (19/12/16) Daily Mirror: “Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will visit the Lord Balaji temple at Tirumala in Andh ra Pradesh, on December 22, an Indian news agency PTI reported today. ‘Wickremesinghe will arrive here (Chennai) on Dec 21 for the visit,’ it said quoting officials referring to the Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s tentative itinerary. He will take a chopper from Chennai to reach Tirupati airport (Renigunta) which is about 130 kilometers from here and proceed to the temple by road from there, they said. Wickremesinghe is set to return to Sri Lanka on the same day after offering prayers at the hill temple, they added. He was in India in October last, for an official visit and had last year offered prayers at the Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayur in Kerala.”
Why do Sri Lankan leaders rush to Tiru and pray to the latter? I thought they had more of the grey matter given to them from the elephant-nosed “Lord Gana.”
Again, when I reflect, who else can save our miserable Paradise? The lot that it has fallen to over decades of ‘Avapaalanaya.’ (bad governance). As things are, Yahapaalanaya will always be a dream until Tiru steps in. Tiru didn’t help Mahinda probably because there was blood in the latter’s hands and enough cash in his pockets to help himself. Even Tiru has a moral code
Just look at the state of our country: We used to have a decent and civilised constitution before the watershed year of 1971. The evil British Empire was really responsible for that constitution although Kalu Suddas (Black-Whites) passed it in the new independent Parliament. The Constitution we had over those brief years was inspired by Lord Soulbury. Persons acceptable to their areas of inhabitance were nominated by the political parties to contest Parliamentary Elections. So we had decent MPs from the different electorates-be it Devinuwara, Galle, Baddegama, Hanguranketa, Matale,Pelmadulla, Jaffna and Chavakachcheri and so on. The simple reason for this was that these candidates had passed the first test of local popular acceptability. Only, basically good men could gain such popular clearance.The Constitution of JR in 1971 changed that with proportional representation. Party bosses and the corrupt political elite within parties did the picking of candidates. Upon election, these men and women (overwhelmingly men in a misogynistic society) wouldn’t care about a local population as they represented a ‘District,’ and a District was large enough to ignore local people and to pass the buck.
The outcome? We had refuse and rubble and stinking uneducated bloodsucker boys creeping into the august assembly. The old quality of NM, Colvin, Leslie Goonawardena, Edmund Samarakkody, SA Wicks, MDH Jayawardena. MDF Banda, Gamini Jayassoriya, Ponnamabalam etc were replaced by riffraff and murky characters. Under Mahinda, we even had a guy whose occupation was to snatch gold from the necks of passing-by girls and women. To add insult to injury this rascal became a Minister. The better folk avoided Parliament like the plague.
With material like this in our august assembly what is the kind of policy-making that can get through? Your guess is as easy as mine. Even the few good and educated leaders had to bend to the majority of thugs, fools and hooligans to whom Parliamentary privilege had been the passport to a prosperous life. The outcome is that for decades Sri Lanka has had no policy-making in any areas of public endeavour. Our education has never moved with the times; our economic policy has been something worked out from day-to-day according to political expediency. Sri Lanka has had repeated trade deficits running into billions and nothing has been done to restore the chronic imbalances. We have now o worm our way into a balance of payments green area thanks to the blood and sweat and tears of our poor housemaids and other expatriates. Tourism is also bringing in dollars but this activity is extremely fragile and dependent on external conditions. In economic terms, Sri Lanka is surviving on a day-to-day basis-putting out fires and living in the “now.”
The behaviour of our MPs do not reflect in any way the perilous state of our economy. They have to be kept bribed with increased allowances, payment for attendance in parliament and, above all, with car permits. The permits are sold by them on the spot and they recoup big profits. While their Indian counterparts go about with locally manufactured Indian Fiats and Ambassadors these beloved MPs of Paradise hit the roads with Mercs and BMWs, and luxury Four-Wheel drives. What a turn of life’s fortunes to the man who snatched gold chains!
Only Sri Lankan roads mock them. Look at Colombo’s eternal traffic jams. Road accidents are inevitable. The Bus Owners association went on strike over a proposed hike in road fines. Don’t these bus owners know that speeding is impossible in chock-a-block road arterials. Recently, a cop was run over and killed by one of these buses while he was trying the impossible of attempting to manage traffic.
The other day, our forthright movie star ‘One-Shot’ Ranjan Ramanayake did give just one big shot pointing out at a particular Mahinda Rajapaksa Minister. He showed how this foul character had only a motor bike to go about with in his meagre job of an insurance sales rep. How he became an ugly rich man and was able to part with his vexed wife in a divorce settlement that cost him several hundred millions. If his irked spouse didn’t reveal we would not have known about his ill-gotten wealth.The former Minister is now a JO strongman who, like all JO men, are fighting to duck being locked in jail by the Yahapaalana government. They have made an effective presence good enough to make yahapaalana not work at all. All they have to do is to attend FCID call-ups and come out released like heroes of yore. No wonder they are seen gong on arrest with hand-cufffed wrists and beaming heroic smiles.
Astrologers cannot predict in Sri Lanka because the country is unpredictable. So we see the blind astrologer trying to eke out a miserable living by conning. The TV channels are full of these soothsayers.
The ship may be sinking but the music will go on. It is baila all the way. Thanks to Portuguese imperialists.
Readers please tell me: Who else, but God Tiru can help us?
*Shyamon Jayasinghe can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org