28 October, 2020

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Preacher Versus Prize Fighters

By Sarath De Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.”  Leon Trotsky

The debate on the 19th Amendment demonstrated the obscene contrast of ethical values of parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle.

A predisposed political commentator and an ideologue of the Mahinda Chinthana autocracy has described the opposition success in partially blunting the 19th amendment as a victory for JR Jayewardene. There is truth in that foxy inference. JR Jayewardene would have indeed chuckled at the twisty performance of the Rajapaksa acolytes Dinesh Gunawardena and Wimal Weerawansa. Indeed, had he not reached the biblical span of three scores and ten years when he reached the top of the greasy pole, he would have never introduced the two term limit on the presidency. The 18th amendment is hardly an aberration in comparison to JRJ’s attempt to have two members representing the Kalawana seat.

The committee stage proceedings on the 19th Amendment was ample proof that politics is a self-serving business. The labyrinthine maneuvering by Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalists to first scuttle and later to delay its passage in parliament was only one aspect of the Mahinda Rajapaksa strategy. A host of well-known Buddhist monks rejected it in its entirety with venomous rhetoric. Dr. Medagoda Abhayatissa thero head of the Historic Sunethra Mahadevi Pirivena termed its passage as Armageddon of the Sinhala people.

Clearly the game plan of Mahinda loyalists was to scuttle the legislation and precipitate a general election. This turn of events would have pleased the UNP as well. Wimal Weerawansa, the fanatical acolyte of the former strong man, showed how painful it was to lose gracefully. Unmasking the deep seated, insidious influence of the cash and carry politics of the Rajapaksa regime he exulted “They wanted a Cobra. We gave them a rat snake”.

Wimal ChamalDespite the final outcome of 212 votes in favor and one against, the assaultive and argumentative process was clear evidence of the strength and the tenacity of Mahinda machine.

Much of the corruption in the country is systemic. A sizable segment of this parliament owe allegiance to the earlier order. Mahinda Rajapakse did not make the system. He only perfected it.

The Executive Presidency and the precipitous introduction of the open economy undermined the social contract implicit in governance. ‘Let the robber barons come’ was the new zeitgeist. Public interest was defined by the new political order which promised a righteous society and a free market capitalist economy. The public perception of corruption until the introduction of the JRJ brand of ‘Laissez Faire’ economics and governance was mainly confined to wrongdoings by individuals and small groups of rent seekers.

President JR Jayewardene did not dismantle the rigid institutions of governance set up under the planned socialist economy. His free market initiative introduced a new dimension to corruption in the form of collusive politics. The corruption inherent in the issuance of permits and application of regulations was replaced by a new culture of entitlement of the business and political elite. The new chemistry of corruption was a synthesis of pursuit of profit, collusive politics and a new perception of corruption. It justified patently unethical business practices as economic dynamism.

In this fast lane to economic progress, corruption was seen as a functional imperative. It served to lubricate the rigid political and bureaucratic structure which remained in place. Private ownership of productive resources, profit motivation and a competitive market mechanism were super imposed on a society that remained glued to subsidies and protection of a welfare state.

Three notable members of the Jayewardene regime launched their own patrimonial crusades. All three leaders were imbued with equally phenomenal ambition to succeed the aging President. All three launched massive populist programs. The competitive patrimonialism of the three rivals linked them to loosely organized networks of loyalists, followers and power brokers which radically altered mass politics of the land. The Executive Presidency had created three Cabinet level satraps with their own constituencies. The free market economy was thus converted to a quasi-feudal order which encouraged an elitism at the expense of state resources. This UNP monolith imploded under President Premadasa.

In the absence of a competitive entrepreneurial class, the neo Gaullist constitution and the bastardized free market, led to patrimonial politics.

There were no institutions capable of monitoring public finance in the context of the free market economy. The enforcement agencies that existed were subject to ministerial fiat. The insightful historian Eric Hobsbawm remarked “It is often assumed that an economy of private enterprise has an automatic bias towards innovation, but this is not so. It has a bias only towards profit.”

The private sector of Sri Lanka was no exception. Described as the engine of growth, private business pumped a vast quantity of lubricants to keep a consumerist economy running. The new institutions of public and private sector collaboration facilitated collusion, corruption and crony capitalism. It was a corporate feudalism where the Lords and Barons were from a chosen elite.

The presiding Monarch remained aloof. He enabled and encouraged abuse of power by ignoring or side stepping existing laws. Tailor made legislation to fit the interests of the regime and its loyalists were introduced in a parliament sans an opposition. It wiped out accountability of the government to the governed.

It was the good fortune of Mahinda Rajapaksa to win the war. He claimed the ultimate prize in politics – unbridled authority coupled with unmatched national adulation. The personality cult that developed was inevitable. History tells us that such cults are possible only under conditions in which the image of the leader is associated with the values and goals that are seen as essentials for the wellbeing of the nation. Mahinda Rajapakse outperformed JR Jayewardene. Mahinda Rajapaksa perfected the system. The difference was that the new Lords and Barons were from a different social milieu. There was new migration to Gregory’s road and other addresses named after British governors. This was accompanied by a proliferation of urban temples with kiosks offering vegetarian takeaway food. A crony clergy took over the spiritual guidance of the kleptocracy.

President Maithripala Sirisena reposed his trust on Mr.Ranil Wickremesighe to dislodge Mahinda Rajapaksa and enact constitutional reforms. He can derive some satisfaction from Trotsky’s adage that “The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.”

Mother Teresa accepted more than a Million dollars from Charles Keating who precipitated the savings and loan scandal that rendered thousands homeless. She also used his private Jet. When Keating was convicted, she wrote a letter to the courts, urging leniency. She accepted donations from the Haitian Dictator Jean Claude Duvalier and said that ‘Papa Doc’ was loved by his people.

It is the fervent wish of this writer that President Maithripala Sirisena the politician would be more pragmatic than beatified Mother Teresa. Isaac Deutscher describes the murder of Rosa Luxembourg as the last triumph of Hohenzollern Germany and the first triumph of Nazi Germany.

The passage of the watered down version of the 19th Amendment was the last triumph of the Rajapaksa Kleptocracy. Will it prove to be the first triumph of Ranil Wickeresinghes Corporate Feudalism?

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  • 2
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    Sarath De Alwis –

    RE:Preacher Versus Prize Fighters

    “The passage of the watered down version of the 19th Amendment was the last triumph of the Rajapaksa Kleptocracy. Will it prove to be the first triumph of Ranil Wickeresinghes Corporate Feudalism?”

    Remember, Rome was not built in a day.

    Furthermore, Rome was nor rebuilt in a day after the Vandals destroyed it.

    Similarly, Lanka, the Lank of Native Veddah Aethho, cannot be rebuilt in a day after the Rajapaksa Gang and the Rajapaksa Vandals destroyed it.
    [Edited out]

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    Easily the most literate, rational and readable of all the anti-MR commentators.

    • 4
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      Dayan you are not readable.

    • 3
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      Unlike you, when you fawn over the deposed despot, I may add. Oh Dayan. How I feel for you and your delusions. To think you still believe Mahinda Rajapaksa will contest this election. You, the world’s greatest political scientist. (isnt that what you call yourself on Twitter?) But then I recall how wrong you were about January 8. You cant analyse for a bulto doesnt matter how many isms you sprout and how many phrases you make up in each article.

      PS: Who signs off as ‘dr’ even in web comments. This constant need to reassert your academic credentials. Not unlike your constant need to emphasise your pedigree and delusional proximity to power in the wonder years. It screams insecurity my dear man.

    • 4
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      Unfortunately Dayan, you are not in the same league as Sarath de Alwis. You could have been if not for your disgraceful and slavish oath of allegiance to the MARA clan of robbers, murderers, thugs, rapists and kudu mudalialis. You lost your credibility a long time ago.

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      Indeed, Mr De Alwis is most rational and very readable; all those things that our DJ would like to be (but cannot).

  • 2
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    “Wil ( 19th Amendment) prove to be the first triumph of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s Corporate Feudalism?

    The answer to that would depend on the degree of appeal and the capacity of satisfying power corporate big business has for the ordinary man on the street, compared to it’s love for making unconscionable profits at his expense.

  • 1
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    What has been seen so far is that the ‘old kleptocracy’ has been supplanted by a new one. We saw that within two weeks of the election.

  • 0
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    Well written piece for the new kleptocracy. Barring however that small but always lingering threat to the “best laid plans of mice and men”…,
    we shall wait and watch in the sidelines.

    Traitors and conquerors have come and gone but this nation’s core has survived through the ages.
    Will it, again?

  • 4
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    This guy Dayan jayatilleka has now become a literary critic ! How about becoming an expert on living off government money ? Dayan Did you not stay in 5 Star hotels( on public account) when in colombo back from world shattering diplomatic coups in Geneva ! The bill included wine and whiskey when the diplomat entertained his family and friends! Just pipe down Mr. Know all fraud.

  • 0
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    What subtle subterfuge.

    The END does justify its MEANS – as it has done with the rogue President.

    Notwithstanding, all else – if the rogue President had anything of value to offer for the betterment of Sri Lanka – he should have done so by now.

    He has made various commitments to the Chinese and the rogue politicians – if he had any basis to his commitments – he should have voiced them by now.

    He may have been taken seriously if he justified his various actions – His silence is deafening.

    He has half the Parliament of rogues agitating for he return – yet none seem to be able to justify his actions – especially with regard to the 18th amendment that they passed without a whimper.

    Now that GOOD GOVERNANCE allows them to Bark – they keep howling that the want the rogue President back.

    So, leave alone the have beens – if you can contribute to GOOD GOVERNANCE positively – we will listen to you ……….

    If, however, you feel that by criticizing the past, you could justify Mahinda Rajapakses inadequacies – THINK AGAIN.

  • 0
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    As citizens we have to fight for the accountability of the government to citizens; accountability of the political parties to the citizens, just like any corporate entity is accountable.

    We have to dismantle state patrimony,one step at a time

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