18 September, 2018

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Politics: The Road To Privilege In Sri Lanka & Everywhere

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

“Sri Lanka is drowning in parochialism  as the island people  are being  swayed by greedy politicians  to avoid thinking, ‘Sri Lankan.’ As a community, our internal tribal differences are being exploited. Fear-mongering stories like the recent one in Ampara are being privately touted and disseminated by politicians.”

Money, Power, Privilege & The Political Short-Cut

With money playing a more and more critical role in the lives of people world over, the road to political power is being sought after as the short cut to personal achievement. Besides, power at the top brings with it an enormous hold over resources that are both public and private. Men and women are at your feet and if you know the art, you are in Nirvanic bless.  Life can never be better and abusing the right of a private individual to his own life and his own enjoyment becomes  a trifle too easy.

Politicians who get a taste of power don’t want to leave off their hold.

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump

The above proposition has latest support in a story in the news outlet, “World,” as cited by news.com.au (4/3/18). Here, it is:

“After news of Chinese President Xi Jinping possibly ruling his country into the indefinite future, a transcript has surfaced of Donald Trump saying he might do the same.  In closed-door remarks, a recording of which was obtained by CNN, Trump congratulated Xi for consolidating power, adding he wouldn’t mind making such a move himself.

“He’s now president for life. President for life. And he’s great,” Trump said.

“And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day.”

Yes, indeed, maybe we can soon see the American President manoeuvring his way in Machiavellian style to reach this new goal. It is hard, though, given the American Constitution and the American people.

Our Own Mahinda

On the other hand, Sri Lanka’s system has been fluid and flexible. And so it has had many recent experiences: the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa humbly inhabited his position as President in the year 20005. Utilising the great coincidence of a thirty- year -old war ending during his time, Mahinda snapped at a grand ambition.

By a Freudian slip of the tongue he announced that the General who had won the war Is “the greatest Army Commander in the world!” However, soon he realised he had blundered. With the help of his powerful brother Gotabaya who had the Defence under his hold, Mahinda went about putting down the posters that a grateful public had put up  hailing the General. Hey presto: in no time the narrative was changed: the war was won by the President’s own effort; it would have been won sans Fonseka. His brother gave the strong supporting arm.

Our slave media men followed suit and history was re-written in a flick. Now it was “Gota’s War.”  Story writers were engaged. Fonseka was put into prison jumpers and soon converted from being the greatest Army Commander to the lowliest jailbird. He stayed in a tiny cell for three years until international pressure helped have the poor devil released. Charges had been framed up against the war General and a controversial special court had him tried; his hard-won titles grabbed away from him.

Men and women are assessed by their doings and not by what they utter in public. Remember, Mohideen Baig’s song: “Sinhawen ho kathawen behe  maninnata minisa.”(Judge not a person by the words from his mouth or the smile on his face). This malevolent deed is enough to unveil the quality of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother as human beings.

Ten Years

Be that as it may, that episode was over. Mahinda ruled for ten years watching over the mysterious murders and disappearances of the few dissenting journalists that had the courage to delve into abuses of that regime. Gotabaya also kept watch over those dark episodes. The latter did nothing and, having been the Defence “Chief,” what could he not have done? He once, arrogantly, told off the BBC interviewer, “Who is Lasantha Wickrematunge?”As if to say that Lasantha was a small man who can be forgotten. Small or big is not the question. It is all a question of respecting the right of an individual to live. If leaders don’t respect human life, can one expect big things and noble things from them?

Then came the notorious 18th Amendment to our constitution that would have had Mahinda and his family ruling Sri Lanka for the foreseeable future like Xi Jinping to be. Fortunately, good old Sumanananda, the astrologer, helped stymie that.

Maitripala Sirisena

Maitripala Sirisena took over as President with a promise to demolish the executive Presidency.That did not happen. Just within three years of his incumbency, he had got a wonderful taste of the power he wielded. The crooked ones who had crossed over from Rajapaksas had managed to do a mind-game on Maitri and make him have a go at an extension. The law of the 19th Amendment was clear. Yet, Maitri did have a shot at it-as Trump, now, promises to do. He tried a hopeless misadventure by attempting to stake for monopoly power against his major coalition partner who had put him to his seat in the first place. The campaign killed the credibility of Maitripala ,which he had gathered in the meantime through three years of cooperative rule with the Prime Minister and the Grand Old Party of the UNP. It nearly killed the UNP, too, and gave much needed oxygen for the Mahinda Sulanga.

Morphing of the Power Experience

What is revealed in all such incidents and episodes is a universal pattern of human behaviour, namely that the possession of power turns into an aphrodisiac that transforms the mere act  of possession into an emotional  clinging to power. In Buddhist parlance, it is both balaya vindeema (experience of power) and bala upadaana ( clinging to power) that operates in situations like this. It is an imperceptible morphing of the power experience.

As is obvious, this is not something uniquely Sri Lankan but something that is universal human behaviour. World history is so replete with examples. We began this piece by mentioning the most recent experiences  about Chinese Xi Pinjing and America’s Donald Trump. However, right through history and in every culture this transfer from balaya vindeema to bala upadaana can be seen.

Such leaders will necessarily develop an ideology and a suitable rhetoric to sell themselves to their gullible publics. This is for sure. Hitler and Muusolini’s fascist regimes came up with their own versions of ideology, rhetoric and slogans. In Germany, the Jews were the target and the ordinary Germans’ intrinsic dislike of the economically powerful Jews was played upon by Hitler. In Russia, Stalin carried out one of the world’s most ruthless dictatorships  in history chanting the idea of Marxist-Leninist socialism. In Sri Lanka we have the easy targets of the minority Tamil and Sinhala communities. “We must make America great again,” cried Trump. Much before that, SWRD Bandaranaike and Mahinda Rajapaksa suggested,”We must make Sinhalese proud again.”

Ethnic Parochialism

To the ordinary people, however, would be the poorer for all this narrow ethnic nationalism or parochialism as is evident in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is drowning in parochialism  as the island people are being  swayed by greedy politicians  to avoid thinking, “Sri Lankan.” As a community, our internal tribal differences are being exploited. Fear-mongering stories like the recent one in Ampara are being privately touted and disseminated by politicians.

The demographic reality is that Sri Lanka is sustainable as a unified state, only on the assumption of multi-culturalism. The three communities must learn to live together. Sinhala nationalism will end in genocide and in the balkanisation of the island into separate parts. Sampanthan stated prophetically a few days ago: “Pohottuwa (election symbol of the Sinhala Nationalists) will bloom into Eelam!” Like it or not; it is the truth.

Material Condition of Poverty

There is a causative link between parochial nationalism and the state of the economy. It is all a vicious cycle since the poverty of the people would necessarily induce such parochialism. In Australia, we have a prosperous and growing economy that leaves the sky of opportunity open to anyone and all. Hence, some165 ethnic groups get along together. Tensions are quickly sorted out. There is room for everyone. On the contrary, Sri Lanka has a claustrophobic economy with little room for all. Being import-dependent and debt-driven, its economy is structurally weak and vulnerable. In such a stifling context, groups turn against each other in a tribal blood- let. Dog eating dog; birds grabbing from birds.This is Sri Lanka’s current plight in a nutshell.

Karl Marx has given us great  insight here:

“It is not the consciousness of men that determine their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” Mind is not the forerunner; material conditions are.

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Latest comments

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    Similarly, Einstein has said that the self-worth is relative. It may be very low infront of another individual. Tamils use their block votes all over the world. Muslims use Qatar money and Arab money. I heard, Arabs have other conditions imposed in Sri lanka. Ranil uses dictatorship. Maithriapala is sold to Qatar. Mahinda Rajapakse is playing another game. Anyway, LAsantha was passing information to VVIPS in colombo and now he is a great hero. Mahinda Rajapakse had 18th amendment but he left silently after the elelction. Maithripala sirisena appoiunted Ranil as the PM while he had powers under 18th. Now under the cooked up 19th Maithriapala is a jailbird and can not fire Ranil or appoint his own cabinet. In australia some 165 ethnic groups live happily. But, no one including Shyamon Jayasinghe doe snothave time to see how Aborginies are living in their enclaves even though they are teh owenrs of the country. In Srilanka too, Muslims and Tamil can have Their specific political parties and whatever they do are neglected. On the other hand, JHU and BBS are blamed even when Muslims start their own NASIRISHTHAN Wars. Go and see how silent the christians are.

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    In Australia are politician are white – nationalists and they protect that old boys club. Every one is happy to be a Tax payer and a luxury life jogging in shorts with the water bottle in hands, spices are smelly – that kind of life. In Sri lanka they can not live their life. they have to watch Teitter, Face books, drink Alcohol, go to Casinoes, cart races, Teacher has to knell infront of the politician – father figure because of human rights.

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    both India and China want to give prominence to buddhism as a politicfal tool. I think, that is to escpae the Western influence. In Srilanka, christians are trying the same thing, the use of buddhist terms in politics. Recently, Dr. W. wijewardane did something like that. Here you have done it while blaming reconciliation among different ethnic groups. I think if you asked it is Almighty’s wish or Allah’s wish that only the buddhists are dominenet in Sri lanka not the christians or muslims, that would not work. On the othe hand, buddhist Sangha members say, they can not have even a AKTHA PATHRA offering to a Sanga Memeber, the politicians want to makt that a political meeting, Puravesi balaya say invite us, similarly diplomatic community wants they also invited. So, there is a double talk here.

  • 5
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    Fail Your School Leaving Certificate, Politics is the Answer!!

  • 0
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    so the inevitable happened
    the rats are deserting the sinking ship

    if the reshuulle had been a cross party affair instead of within party it would not have been such a comedy but it is too late now
    if sirisena is not the fool he is being made out to be he should take on the role of being president of the whole country and not just the president of the slfp and develop the the country with ranils assistance concentrating on improving rural infrastucture
    and leave urban development to the private sector. then he might leave a legacy

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 4
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    Interesting, speaking of privilege, that there is no mention of the individual responsible for continuous degredation of the one of the oldest parties in SL, the UNP in the this article. One individual, namedly Ranil Wickramasinghe, holding on to the leadership of the UNP since 1994 is the ultimate privilege. This is one of the biggest jokes in the country. MR loved RW for this very reason. As long as RW was there, there was no real opposition. Instead of this moron, privileged, colombo-7 royalist (RW), if the UNP had an actual leader that appealed both the Urban and Rural masses, this country would have been quite different (Nothing wrong in dreaming). There would have been be a proper challenge toward MR’s dictatorship as well as CBK’s utterly incompetent leadership. Oh, and speaking of privilege, “bandaranayake” is another one. But, I mean seriously people, Ranil Wickramasinghe claiming he is the only person capable of leading the UNP (for nearly “25 YEARS”!!!!!) is the ultimate privilege. This fellow has twisted the UNP constitution to his own liking, putting his own cronies to high places in the UNP especially the working committee, I mean like WTF! people? Oh and anyone remeber this fiasco – youtube.com/watch?v=3g_E7C_O-gw.

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    “Sinhala nationalism will end a genocide”..
    A true but a dangerous prediction..
    It is sad but bitter fact of the matter is Sinhalese leadership and some extremists elements in Sri Lanka do not know their limits and limitations.
    They do not realise that true fact ..in politics every thing could change in a matter of minutes even in seconds..
    What do I mean by this ..
    Indians created LTTE. What is your assurance that they would not create LTTE type problem once again….
    With 20 million Sri Lanka out of that 15 million Sinhalese we are dealing with 70 millions Tamils in Tamil Nadu ..ideologically most of them support TAMILS IN SRI LANKA..
    So; we want to deal with centre in India..
    What is your assurance the centre will be always loyal to us?
    So; is it not wise for us to solve our internal problems within us ?
    Why do not think about our limiataion and limit?
    Can know how to live in peace with all communities in Sri Lanka.
    If Sri Lanka sets some.good examples no one will point finger at us .
    It would be easy to create problems but it would be difficult to solve it ..as we suffered for 30 years ..

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      Lankan 7
      Have the Tamils in Sri Lanka thought of a Possible takeover by Tamil Nadu if they get their Separate State?
      Would they be happy under a Tamil Nadu Government?

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
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    Once you are on the ‘Privilege Highway’ the only concern is to overtake the vehicle in front of you. The racers use ‘corruption’ as fuel.

  • 2
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    Mr Jayasinghe has done a better job than the Great Liberators astrologer

    Once more, Mother Lanka is sleep walking to disaster, and our political leaders are scratching their balls and atrophying. Our much beleaguered Muslim community will soon stop turning the other cheek, and instead prepare to fight back and defend themselves, and they will have many waiting here at home, and over the seas, to help them. The next conflagration will not be like the last; its centre will not be far away in the north and east, it will be in the surroundings of the flourishing megapolis.

    When will they ever learn!

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      Spring Koha

      “When will they ever learn!”

      Learn???????????????????

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    Trump is saying and DOING like a Third world dictator. His daughter, the handbag designer thinks she is intellectually on par with the likes of Angela Merkel who has PhD in Physical Chemistry. The Jewish Son in law whose father was convicted and spent time in jail has access to TOP SECRET classified documents without proper clearance. And he cut deals with UAE and Qatar for his private real estate development SELLING Paw-in-Law’s name. His father was in jail for corruption.

    Christian fanatic. Pence hates gays and rolling back all civil rights gains. Trump has annulled good laws and executive orders Obama signed into law simply because they were signed by Obama. Public parks are now open to rape by developer and miners in Utah. No more concerns about safety standards on oil rigs or coal mines. No more concerns about environmental damage. Evangelical christians running amok but no violence. Neo Nazis and Racist rightwing white supremacists are now open and are growing rapidly. The man tweets every day and lies everyday. No Sinhala President has lied like Trump lies.

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    Trump also wants a military parade; He got excited when he saw the Bastille day parade. So he will now have a parade on Nov 11; armistice day. He wants to compensate for his tiny penis with a giant military parade. He wants to be saluted like a king on the dais. USA has no traditions like a military parade. Only this lying sack of shit narcissistic man demanded one so he can be like Kim Jong Un.

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      The election of Pussyman to the highest office in the land is irrefutable proof that even a mature democracy is capable of produce a lemon, albeit every two hundred odd years.

      The unedifying sight of fighting men striding up Pennsylvania avenue will give much comfort to the growing lowest-common-denomination.

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    Is it possible to start a Go Fund Me campaign to teach Jim Softly to think and write clearly. Sometimes I get a sense he is saying something important but the idea gets lost in verbiage and confused grey matter. Perhaps he must limit himself to bullet points. That may allow him to express exactly what his arguments are. After all, it could just be that he failed to move his bowels in the morning. Readers need to understand when comments are written, even though it might just mean constipation is the complaint being made.

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