21 May, 2019

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Post-Pāda Yātrā – Punditry & Polemics

By Sarath De Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

To say of what is, that it is, or of what is not, that it is not, is true. ~ Aristotle.

Confusing friend and foe with right and wrong is an occupational hazard of partisan commentators. Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka is no exception to the rule. Despite the voluntary stepping on a discursive banana skin, his latest essay ‘Politics Post-Pāda Yātrā: From Here To 2020’, delivers some startlingly uncomfortable home truths to those in power.

As the ideologue of the joint opposition, he has decided to mentor his charges in the role of a Clausewitz and drawn a strategy map for them. It was von Clausewitz who said “Engagements mean fighting. The object of fighting is the destruction or defeat of the enemy.” It was also Clausewitz who warned that theories become infinitely more difficult as soon as ‘they touch the realm of moral values.” Dr. Jayatilleka earns the admiration of this writer for his unvarnished contempt for moral integrity in political combat. He is well informed of the enormity of the crisis that confronts the nation and the government.

We are saddled with an economy sinking under a mountain of debt, a parliament where no meaningful debate is possible and an unprincipled government. The leading English weekend Broadsheet in a recent editorial summed up the crisis of governance by the Sirisena –Wickremesinghe consociation with agonizing clarity. “Politicians, past and present, are playing with fire using the debt card to attack each other as the country slides down the slippery slope of a debt trap. Then, the Government places the future of the country in the hands of a secretive few, some with vested interests, accusing others of destabilising the country’s economy when they are doing just that by themselves.”

The editor of the most widely read English Sunday News Paper was echoing widely held and broadly expressed public disgust.

So, Dr. Dayan Jayatillake does not need to exert himself. With detached calm, he explores the mine field that the government has to traverse in the coming months. He is acutely aware of the malaise, the pain and the cure.

His suggestion is what any general would make on discovery of an open flank on the opposite side. But, he wants a scorched earth policy. He wants the opposition to combine economic disruption and ethnic discord as their primary targets. He makes it abundantly clear to all that the sole purpose of the Pāda Yātrā was to restore Rajapaksa rule and or to thwart investigations into their barefaced frauds and outright embezzlements.

He offers options. “.. The more you resort to economic cut backs the less you can concede on either accountability or ethnic autonomy, because you are dealing with growing numbers of disaffected people from the majority community.” Then he twists the blade. “Indeed the more you push economic shock therapy together with ethnic devolution, the more you risk a backlash. The more you combine economic shock therapy, ethnic devolution and wartime accountability into a cocktail and shake it, the more likely it is to become incendiary.”

Dr. Dayan Jayatillake is undoubtedly a bright political scientist. He is adequately versed in Foucault’s theory of subtle and stealthy power to know the difference between the stratocracy that ended on 8th January 2015 and the faulty democracy that replaced it.

Systemic abuse of power, meekly accepted by an intimidated people has been replaced by a not so infrequent misuse of power. The difference is that today an empowered people talk about it and freely express their disgust.

Dr. Dayan J makes several Faustian pronouncements. The first is simple, straightforward and beyond dispute. The government of the Rajapaksa brothers did not understand the external realities.

The second assertion by the Ideologue of the Rajapaksa Restoration movement is complicated by his palpable prejudices. Yet his core argument has cogency. He says that the present government does not understand the domestic realities. The dual power centers makes it partially true. The President is very much alive to domestic realities. His Prime Minister is either oblivious to it or confident that domestic realities or disagreements could be managed, altered and redefined.

The third home truth is real, clear and substantially accurate. When stripped of the tortuous logic, what Dr. Jatatillake suggests is that public discontent over harsh economic measures of the government has the potential to derail constitutional reforms and perhaps even precipitate a collapse of the government.

To this end he tells the joint opposition that it must flood the courts with petitions. It must launch public campaigns of protest on the streets and in the social media on these issues, bearing in mind that the decisive battle will be the Referendum on the Constitution.

He is not concerned with what the new constitution contains. The referendum should reject it and cause the fall of the government. The idea is not farfetched.

The problem with this government is that the most vital functions of the government are in the hands of people whose loyalties to the prime minister are beyond all doubt. So are their debilities, weaknesses and frailties. In the age of information, the subject has been assigned to an exceptionally inarticulate person who thinks that the role of the Ministry of Mass Media is to locate gate keepers at every level of the Ministry.

Private electronic media by the simple expedient of presenting a cleverly circumspect contrary point of view claims independence and impartiality. Rupavahini and ITN with awkward attempts at concealing their organ grinders eminently succeed in portraying their Baboonish talents. In the learned opinion of the Prime Minister the public discussion of the issue of bonds by the central bank constitutes “irresponsible reporting” by a press bent on damaging the economy.

Opposition parliamentarians are arrested, remanded and released with TV channels showing routine clips of indignant opposition politicians accusing the government of a deliberate political witch hunts. Parliamentarians Banduala Gunawardane and Udaya Gammanpila whose mastery of the Sinhala idiom is unparalleled have discovered a contemporary actuality that has escaped the government’s media handlers Gayantha Karunathilaka and Karunarathne Paranawithana.

Any regular viewer of Television news will tell the governments media experts that government minsters and the Prime Minister come off as relatively ham handed in comparison to prominent opposition parliamentarians who have nurtured a symbiotic relationship with main stream media channels.

Electronic media presents current affairs in a form that hardly distinguishes news and entertainment. The increasing focus is on one on one interviews and panel discussions. Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila and even the portly ‘Raththaran are no match for the Prime Minsters light weights Akila Viraj, Sagala, and Gayantha. If Malik Samarawikrama is in command of his assigned portfolio he has displayed his genius by camouflaging it.

The gatekeeping functions of media outlets at the time of the illustrious father of the Prime Minister are of no relevance in these confrontational encounters. The role of the media in a democratic society is to reflect the common sense of the ordinary citizen and not to pander to the archaic assumptions of the elite in politics and commerce.

The Rajapaksa machine remains intact with their continued grip of the multiple axes of the state. It can still influence the fundamental structures that wield economic and political power.

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    To summarize this presentation, it would be nothing but truth to say, this Government in all the three time frames of “Post”,”Present” and “Future” and in acknowledged “Punditry” has FAILED miserably to identify the NEED to reflect the Common Sense of the Citizens. Ohoma Giyoth Unuth Vinasai; Apith Vinasai. (If things go on as it is, both the Government and the People would fail)

  • 5
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    The day this government cheated the people with 90 odd ministers, insulted the voters by appointing defeated candidates as ministers, gifted a non citizen friend with the position of head of Central Bank and shamelessly turned back to Chinese money Rajapaksha was vindicated.

    Soma

  • 4
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    Nice counter-critique, but “bright”?…:))

    • 1
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      I am reading your post from that day on. As your fans , I would like to know what your current position has been ? Why dont we hear from you that much these days ? I mean are u still giving lectures to the students at Cmbo university ?

    • 7
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      The current government is not perfect but hundred times better than the last regime! Even you should know that!

    • 0
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      [Edited out]

    • 2
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      Dr DJ,

      The counter-critique by Sarath De Alwis was not meant to be neither nice nor bright.

      The basic issue is that you are trying your learned best to bring back the much despised, utterly corrupt, murderous, former first family back into power, not by fair means but foul. All arguments you provided in your recent essay ‘Politics Post-Pāda Yātrā: From Here To 2020’ was an exercise in pulling apart and explaining the present untenable and dysfunctional situation of the Yahapalanaya coalition, which mostly is true, but the shame is that you can’t see a panacea other than to bring back the hated Rajapaksa mafia back to power. I for one is at a loss as to why of all learned people can’t see any other solution but to destine Sri Lanka to more or worse of the same – governance by the most inept and utterly corrupt.

  • 6
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    DJ proudly claims “It was my father, at the time Editor Daily News and Editor-in-Chief of Lake House”. Everyone knows these positions cannot be reached if you didnt kiss some serious ass. So like father, like son.

    • 1
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      It’s the beast from gladiators.
      THE DJ jockey syndrome:
      Hingannage Thuwale – or the beggar’s wound.

  • 0
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    Does Sarath express a hint of hope that this ‘Jahapalana’ government can be salvaged?

  • 3
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    “Dr. Dayan Jayatillake is undoubtedly a bright political scientist”.

    Maybe you’re right, BUT when he speaks from both sides of his mouth, one has to question his integrity.

    For instance, Dayan rightly states that “… the current crop of Sri Lankan government politicians and policy planners are, as the old English phrase goes, “either knaves or fools”, or more knavish and foolish, and arrogant to boot, than those in other societies.”

    But then wasn’t he being “conveniently myopic” (to use his phrase) when he had his head up the Rajapakse posterior and missed “the more knavish and foolish, and arrogant to boot, than those in other societies” when he was (and remains) chief apologist for the Rajapakse gang of criminals?

    “Bright”? Perhaps, but ‘cunning’ and/or ‘devious’ may be more fitting, and give him credit for ‘staying the course’ with his former “crop of Sri Lankan politicians and policy planners”, in spite of the rejection and insults they showered him with during their reign.

  • 1
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    NAK,

    Not a hint of hope. A fervent hope.

  • 0
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    Such a pity…sometimes you write so well and other times such rubbish !

    If you think that a decrepit, unethical, society and political system that has been embedded into the culture of this Country, can be changed with the swish of a magic wand….you have to be barking mad.

    Please confine your writings ( and note I don’t call them ravings) to subjects that you are well versed in and refrain from doing it because you may be at a loose end, with nothing to do.

  • 5
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    shilly & shally,

    `desperado patriots` in the island of tears,

    do they know?

    which one would grow and which would not?

    speak then to me.!.

  • 0
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    De Alwis:
    Dr. Jayatilleka earns the admiration of this writer for his unvarnished contempt for moral integrity in political combat.

    Brilliant!

  • 0
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    Both writers are like the Siamese Twins. One cannot live without the other
    Ordinary people cannot understand what they write.Are they paid by the length of their Articles. If so it is a meritorious act as they need little money to spend for their weekly requirments

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