2 December, 2020

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Politics Of The Middle Finger

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

We know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”~ Donald Rumsfeld

‘Coitus whilst concealing cojones is a risqué but a refreshingly apt Sinhala quip which ridicules blatantly obvious subterfuge of charlatans. Cojones in context is courage to do something. The absence of cojones implies undersupply of courage. The relevance of the pithy expression compels me to use it to anchor this commentary on the UNP led good governance of the past eighteen months.

There is nothing wrong with Arjuna Mahendran making a comeback in the admiration of Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe. If the Prime Minister wishes to tell the president ‘up yours’ it is his privilege. That does not mean that we the people who voted for the change of 8th January 2015 should remain silent.

Time has come for plain and honest speaking. There was a time when we mistakenly believed that the change of 8th January would help people understand how the government operated. We hoped that it would encourage people’s participation in political decisions. We hoped that government officials and ministers would be held accountable.Maithri1

President watching the vote on the 19th amendment

A president wavering between quid pro quo politics and the promise of good governance has painted himself to a corner. The grand alliance he hoped to forge when he announced his candidacy at the new town hall on 22nd November 2014 has not unfolded in the manner he and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga planned. They reckoned that a defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa would ipso facto deliver them control of the SLFP. It turned out to be dreadful delusion.

President Sirisena kept his pledge of making the leader of the UNP the prime minister of the interim administration of hundred days. Nivard Cabraal left his castle. Mohan Pieris raised his drawbridge. How the ‘Royalist Regent’ handled the two situations is contemporary history.

The parliamentary debate on the 19th Amendment was reflective of the pernicious impact of the central bank bond blunder. The word blunder instead of scandal is used with a purpose. May be there was no impropriety on the part of Arjuna Mahendran. Perhaps the role of others remains to be unraveled. That said, the primary dealer – the company connected to his son law did indeed profited from the transaction.

The appointment of the Presidential sibling to head the high profile state telecom was also a signal that promise would not match performance. The ‘Yaha Palanaya’ had lost its moral high ground by the time the 19th Amendment was passed.

What we have witnessed in the past eighteen months is quite different from what was expected by the movement for a just society. I don’t recall any Royal college alumni at those meetings at the Naga Viharaya Kotte. I am now advised that Mr. Javed Yousef a regular at the Naga Viharaya in those bleak days is not only a Royalist but played rugby for the school as well. That he is not prominent in the firmament of Mr. Malik Samarawikrama should tell us something.

It has been the practice of this government to simulate virtues of transparency by rhetoric. The transparency of the UNP administration of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has displayed exceptional skills of obscuring methodically and obfuscating routinely. It has displayed a phenomenal capacity to frustrate any attempt to reach political transparency by manufacturing new explanations for old maladies. In the case of the Central Bank bond blunders, it has adopted three distinct strategies.

First it relied on the ‘straw man’ gambit. This strategy attempted to identify a particular aspect of the argument of the opponent. It was then demolished and made the accusers look bad and them as paragons of virtue. The rhetorical query “does anyone here know what bonds are?” and the three member committee constituted the strawman strategy. The idea was to frame the issue based on their interpretation of events, while actually avoiding the real issues. It did not succeed.

Next they adopted the Alice in Wonderland strategy. They stubbornly resisted any discussion and adopted a convoluted logic to prevent a meaningful exposure of material facts. This too did not succeed.

The latest stratagem is more desperate. They are challenging the proof presented. They demand new proof. In this process, the member with Calvinist ethics is constrained. He does not measure up to the grueling task. A new member has to be coopted. Enter the recent flood hero who retailed other people’s charity under his brand. The road to ‘nirvana’ has plenty of toll gates in our sacred land. The new strategy calls for innovative action in playing dumb. Dispute the evidence presented.

Evidence may be lying somewhere but they are confident that it is either safely erased or hidden in another place which is yet to be probed. It has compelled them to challenge the statement made by an independent government authority- the Auditor General.

In a piece I wrote in the Colombo Telegraph on 29th April 2015 – ‘A season of light, A season of darkness’ a day after the passage of the 19th Amendment, I described its passage as a transition from the Rajapaksa Kleptocracy to a defective democracy under President Sirisena.

I said “The election of President Maithripala Sirisena was a near miracle brought about by multiple groups with contradictory aims. The minorities and minority parties wanted to dislodge a despot. The JVP wanted to frustrate a fascist regime. The UNP wanted to regain office. President Maithripala Sirisena and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga wanted to regain the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.”

The fourth Executive President and the Sixth President with diminished executive powers are yet to get their act in order. The Prime Minister has got what he wanted.

In the past eighteen months, every political maneuver of the President has been made to resolve an existential crisis of his presidency. His last hour intervention on electronic media on the eve of the parliamentary elections kept his principal opponent at bay. His intervention also helped the UNP to crawl in to a marginal victory. Today the Prime Minister is his shadow adversary, safely cloistered in office for the next three years while he is the lame duck President precluded from calling a general election for four and a half years from the day he swore in the government.

His strategy of avoiding a major collision until amendments to the election law for parliamentary elections and or revision of the constitutional order may not be easy.

If the Prime Minister coopts the former central bank governor in another high profile role in the government before the resolution of the Bond controversy, it would only confirm his disdain for public opinion. If he does that, he would be following Diogenes who showed his contempt for the oratory of Demosthenes. Showing the middle finger with other fingers folded under the thumb is an expression of insult and belittlement resorted to by arrogant wielders of power from the days of democratic discourse of ancient Athens.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    2

    Dear Sarath: This show of “Middle Finger” has already become archaic. The latest introduced to this “Art” is to show “Two Fingers”, that which explains the degree of condemnation and disgust. The very people who campaigned to bring MY3 are doing it these days; while “Joint Opposition” who solely rely on the campaign “Bring Back Mahinda” too are showing the “Two Fingers” at the so called “Civil Society” campaigners. Even this “show of fingers” happens between the President and the Prime Minister; e.g. when the President replaces Arjuna Mahaendran, the Prime Minister appoints him to another high profile position coming under his supervision. What a set of JOKERS the Sri Lankan 98.5% literacy rated are and have brought in to manage the Public Affairs and what set of BUFFOONS are the “Joint Opposition” who campaign to “Bring Back Mahinda”?

    • 3
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      Any one who trusted and believed Ranil and Chandrika to do the right thing deserves all they get. Sirisena has wanted nothing but revenge and the level of enmity he was harbouring was amply demonstrated,verbally and his facial expression while spewing venom.
      Now that all those big deal allegation against MR have come to nought what is wrong in him coming back?after all he has proven his ability to get things done!
      May be some dough may go the wrong way but comparing to what the JAHAPALANA’jokers are swallowing in billions while doing nothing it’s small price to pay.

  • 6
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    Come Mr De Alwis.

    Expecting something different (and better) from the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe government was forged in a moment of euphoria and relief brought about by the banishment of The Great Liberator and his band of Thieving Bastards.

    All that we really did was exchange one set of nincompoops for another. This lot are only marginally acceptable, but they are not vastly different from the other bunch who only made the arrogant mistake of thinking they could walk on water.

    Probably 75% of our body politic are not fit for purpose. How our (growing numbers of) professional class can accept their lives and affairs run by our political jokers remains a mystery. Perhaps it is a lack of cojones among the decent people in our society that allows this situation to continue.

    Never mind Diogenes, Our Ranil has (in his growing hubris) appointed Arjuna M as a sort of ‘raising of the sarong’. Nice and transparent, and more than a match for two fingers, anytime.

  • 5
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    24 June 1960 – 14 September 1960- Patrice Lumumba-the first democratically elected leader of the Congo as prime minister was assassinated by the Army because he was not patient of the UN and USA and decided to woe USSR.

    Gota and Mara challenged USA to train the forces or they would have China do it.

    The UK Diaspora willingly voted in favour of Matara Mangala’s Sirisena.
    Chandrika -played nasty at New Delhi after the winning saying she alone did it via Viper- she became a applications inventor.

    The sinhalese CHOGM -‘Coitus whilst concealing cojones- where was the protest??
    No balls galore.
    Then came the voting and you voted the same filth in sheep clothes.

    Democracy is not for the islanders of the plantations. Your independance was a accident and mistake. may be retribution for inviting the Japanese bombing of Colombo WW2-
    Enjoy until it becomes the Libya of South Asia.
    Start borrowing like japan- helicopter money of MR1.

  • 4
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    Douglas:-
    “What a set of JOKERS the Sri Lankan 98.5% ‘literacy rated’ are…”

    98.5% Literacy in Sinhala and Tamil, does not Constitute a Good Education!

    These 98.5% Literates have no access to the Rest of the World, by means of a Common World Language, but rely on the Sinhala and Tamil Media for their Information.

    This has given the Opportunity to Politicians Proficient in those two Languages, to Manipulate the Attitudes of the People to the Advantage of their Respective Ideologies.

    Incidents like the recent Jaffna University Brawl, could have been avoided if the Common Language, English, was Re-introduced. This was amply demonstrated by the Comment of a Reader, Pratheep whose command of the English language, (and thereby the access to a Wider World View), gave Him the Ability to assess the situation in an Unbiased Manner.

  • 2
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    Hamlet:Thank you. I agree partially. The people in Sri Lanka think that “Learning a Language” ( reading & writing) is “Literacy” – yes in its fundamentals. But what is needed is for the people to develop the “skills” in seeing and making decision of what is “Right” and “Wrong”. That skill has not been developed either by the education system and by the society leaders, such as clergy who interact on a daily basis. This skill in making choices between “Right” and “Wrong” is notably lacking, even among and mostly the people who administer matters of public affairs. Just see the behavioural patterns of those in public life. The other day I was STUNNED to hear a very senior and a responsible Minister of the Government making a very “Triumphant” declaration as to why 54 “Consultants”,one among them a Biddhist priest, have been appointed to the RDA. Does that indicate a lack of competency of language? No. In my opinion it is, inability and incapacity to decide what is Right and Wrong. The worst is to justify such “Wrongs”. That is the predicament of Sri Lanka.

  • 0
    2

    Cool article ….thank goodness for “search with bing.”

    So, this is what that Colombo bogus public school has taught her citizens : The best way to hoodwink the masses so personalized pyramids can be built! Greek and Roman Philosophy studies and all that – verbal sparring of the Roman senators that translated into Lankan duplicitous deeds! Where is the honor of Buddhism, and the Democratic aspiration of the people? Where are JVP, FSO, BBS, Gammanpila, Tamil-alliance, Muslim-alliance? Is all of this beyond them? Lankan masses lose, yet again.

  • 3
    2

    Get back on your MEDs’ Sarath ! Your writing ranges from the brilliant to the insane….and this is one of the latter.

    You don’t know what a bond is but Mahendran is guilty . Sirisena knows Mahendran is guilty but allows him to be retained in Government service. what sort of crazy ravings are these ?

    Sirisena is a gutless peasant who just plays Mr Nice guy with public opinion at the cost of our Country and her development.

    Jobless crazies like you simply make fools of yourselves in this perspective.

  • 4
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    Don Quixote,
    You don’t surprise me. You are not the first profoundly sick person to attribute insanity to me. You have chosen your alias/anonym with great discretion. Cervantes’s created the character ‘Don Quixote precisely to resolve your dilemma. He allowed a slight more sanity to ‘Sancho’ than to your namesake and even more to the donkey.
    Your refuge in an anonym, in order to pronounce definitive value judgements reveals the coward in you. Maithripala Sirisena is not the perfect transformational President we hoped for. He is not a gutless peasant. He is a peasant nonetheless. When the peasant offers me a fruit with his dirty hands I take in with heartfelt gratitude. He got his hands dirty for my happiness. Now I read the Colombo Telegraph first thing in the morning. I don’t need to search for proxy servers.

  • 4
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    If Namal could get Bail. Gota get Bail, Basil get bail why not Mahendran also get bail. Until proved guilty all are innocent

  • 0
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    To err is human. By and large we see that there are some individuals in society who seem to stand above this norm. Ranil Wickremasinghe is one such, where many believe to be an honest and clean person compared with the rest of the Politicians. However he has to dabble with others whom he has to take on face value to deliver a better life for the citizen of the country. He has years of experience and knowledge to decide for himself. Yet there are some educated who believe that Ranil should pay heed to their opinion, advice and bestow due recognition. When Ranil does not take note, they castigate Ranil as a head strong arrogant person and start attacking him to belittle him. On the other hand a guy like MR will give ear and recognition to this type of Professionals and Academics, as we had seen, but do exactly what MR wants. Then these advisers either has to fall out or tag along as yes men to enjoy the perks and positions given. This was clearly evident under the MR rule and how so many Professionals and Academics who backed MR against RW. Sarath De Alwis is no exception although he may not have backed MR, which I do not know.

    Otherwise all his writing points to this fact, Did I not say so? What one has to understand is all these Golden Brains were non existent the time MR ruled. Today there is the freedom for all to indulge with their two cents worth, sans the fear of being white vanned. If only they are in RW’s shoes that they will understand the difficulties. It is easily said than done. What is clear is, we are not short of Armchair Critics in this country.

  • 0
    0

    Gamini,

    To err is human. Covering it up, is terribly human. Indeed we are not short of critics in arm chairs, benches and even mats. A very wise lady who discovered the ordinariness of wrong said ‘most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.’

  • 0
    0

    Does one seriously imply that RW did not know Arjun Mahendran’s Son in Law, Arjun Aloysius worked for Perpetual Treasuries where Nevard Cabral’s sister was a director? Is it that RW believed that if a fraud was committed as alleged, that it would not be made public? Therefore what is to cover up after playing in to the hands of the enemy if RW is so dumb as these critics believe? Here lies the truth which RW’s critics try hard to infer their interpretation.

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