29 June, 2022

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President Affirming Majority Identity To Reform Or To Repress?

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The president has recently been venting in his frustrations on public administrators and government officials whom he sees as failing to deliver on their duties and commitments. Several of them have been fired from their positions and some have resigned on their own. Ironically, most of these persons who have been moved out by design or by circumstance have been persons against whom there were no allegations of corruption, unlike in the case of many in the government. Though he had appointed many retired and serving military officers to high positions in the state, it does not seem to work well either, though this is less acknowledged. There is a lack of cohesion across many sectors and even within the ruling alliance. Building cohesive relationships between political parties and communities across the country is a challenge facing the President in 2022. The most important thing to hope for in the new year is that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa gets the right team around him and implements a zero-tolerance for corruption policy with all sections of the community being treated with fairness and equity.

The country is going into an uncertain future in the New Year. Its foreign reserves have never been so low before threatening default on foreign loan repayments. The disconnect between the lifestyles of the rulers and ruled has never been so stark before. On the ground people were lining up to buy gas cylinders for cooking purposes. In the air were as many as one fourth of the country’s parliamentarians with their families who went abroad to enjoy the Christmas festivities using dollars that are not available for import of essential food items. The national airline is continuing to make huge losses which denies the state the resources to subsidise other needy sections of the people. Such an inequitable situation was not anticipated when the country went to the polls in November 2019 in the hope of electing a strong leader who would instill discipline and self-discipline in the country and take it on a course of Singapore-style development (or even China-style development) with greater efficiency and zero tolerance for corruption.

There was, and continues to remain, high hopes that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will make a change for the better as he comes from outside of the party political system that has got steeped in corruption, much as the United States over a century ago. “Chicago politics is a national cliché, evoking images of a one-party system, dominated by a boss-controlled Democratic political machine whose crafty politicians dangle patronage before competing ethnic and racial groups in return for votes. Indeed, no political, ethnic, class, or gender group in the city or its suburbs has escaped the lure of patronage politics or the stain of corruption. When reform Republicans captured control of the Common Council in the late 1890s, they behaved exactly as had the ousted Democrats. Republicans replaced all Democratic appointees with their own followers, a practice the Republicans had decried when done by Democrats. Democratic Alderman Johnny Powers did not find this strange: “To the victors belong the spoils,” explained Powers.”

Tough Decisions

Addressing the gathering at an event in which he was bestowed an honour by Buddhist monks, the President recalled that he had been elected by a majority of the Sinhala people and promised to protect them and their heritage. He said, “I pledge to protect and nurture the Buddhist philosophy in this country. We must always protect the Sinhala culture and heritage that has a history of thousands of years. Therefore, the government will continue to provide patronage to protect our values, traditions and customs.” Equally significantly the he also said, “I will always uphold the right of all Sri Lankans to live in peace and harmony by preserving their religious identities and to live with dignity in association with the main culture of this country that persisted throughout the history. I am ready to embark on a new journey by overcoming the obstacles we have encountered so far, and to fulfill the aspirations of the people who elected me as President of this country. I responsibly declare before this Most Venerable Sangha community that I am ready to take any tough or bold decisions that need to be taken in this regard.”

There are some key things the president needs to do to honor his pledge to uphold the right of all Sri Lankans to live in peace and harmony by preserving their religious identities. The international community, most notably the European Union, has been insisting that the PTA should be amended or abolished to bring Sri Lanka’s laws pertaining to the arrest and detention of people in line with international law. There is currently a case before the courts in which the eminent lawyer M M Zuhair has argued that the accused in the case pertaining to attacks on some Buddha statues at Mawanella are completing three years in state custody, though there is not a single eyewitness who had seen any of the accused in this case attacking any of the Buddha statues. They are in remand custody without the availability of judicial recourse to bail under the provisions of the PTA. But where attacks on other religious sites have taken place, the suspects have all been given bail. This is a clear case of discrimination, unequal treatment before the law and unequal protection of the law contrary to Article 12(1) and 12(2) of the Constitution.

There are other issues too where Sri Lanka is falling short of international standards, and in a most shameless way due to political interference. The country now risks getting downgraded in regard to international trafficking. “Officials working to combat human trafficking in Sri Lanka revealed that a number of women trafficked to Sri Lanka from Uzbekistan have been assisted over the past few months. The foreigners either arrive in Sri Lanka as tourists or on a work visa and are forced into sex. The official said that the women who escape and seek support often face issues with shelters or safe houses. The official also revealed that internal trafficking is also continuing with some brothels operating with powerful backing. They are often alerted about such brothels by authorities who find that their hands are tied because of the involvement of VIPs. Human trafficking in Sri Lanka is at a level that the country faces the risk of being downgraded in the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report issued by the United States.

Collective Effort

In his speech accepting the award from the Buddhist monks, the president said, “On this occasion, I would like to specially mention the fact that I was born into a Buddhist family, the disciplines I received when I am studying at Ananda College, Colombo, one of the leading Buddhist schools in the country, the inspiration I received from following the advices of the Maha Sangha and the discipline I received from serving in the Army were the factors that made my life better.” The president comes across as an abstemious person, being a vegetarian, and not indulging in ostentatious and self-indulgent practices. He needs to ensure that the law and ethical practices are followed, and not shameless cover ups and the pursuit of ill-gotten wealth at any cost, regardless of who wants to break them, even those near to him due to past and present relationships.

The Chief Secretary of Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Maha Sangha Sabha, Head of the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Peradeniya, Aggamahapanditha Most Ven. Prof. Kotapitiye Rahula Anunayake Thero delivering the main sermon, said that the blessings of the Maha Sangha will be conferred on the President to build the country properly managing the remaining three years as there is still more time left. When there is a success, there are many people to share it. But when an attempt fails miserably, the blame falls on the leader himself. Most Ven. Prof. Kotapitiye Rahula Anunayake Thero said that this was a normal situation and wished the President strength to build the country in the future bravely while facing bitter experiences in politics.

It is an observation of management theory that one man, however competent or strong, cannot run a country on his own. He can run a system and give it leadership and ensure that it operates without breaking down. The president’s pledge of a new constitution provides an opportunity to reform the system of governance and put an end to the violations and weaknesses in it that breeds impunity and resentment which is the fuel for extremism of all sorts. The reintroduction of the scheme of appointment of higher officials of state through a constitutional council consisting of members of government, opposition and civil society would lead to appointments that are more deeply considered and have a wider political backing rather than ad hoc appointments that disappoint. The present deterioration in the integrity and quality of decision making at multiple levels and in multiple institutions highlights the need for a strong system of government based on checks and balances to which President Gotabaya Rajapaksa can give leadership as urged by the religious clergy and, indeed, all people of goodwill.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    3

    Gotha will lead the country to Vistas of Prosperity through imminent IMF funding. He will achieve Spender through the ensuing property with the blessings of the Buddhist hierarchy, which is ever willing to prop up Sinhalese-Buddhist racist supremacy. Let the blessings of Allah also be with him.

  • 17
    1

    Dear JP.
    Are you so naive or just bootlicking, to say “President Gotabaya Rajapaksa gets the right team around him and implements a zero-tolerance for corruption policy with all sections of the community being treated with fairness and equity.”
    Can you expect the above from his record over the last two years.
    Today he has sacked State Minister Susil Premajayantha from his post with immediate effect – why? For saying the truth. Is that ” treated with fairness and equity?”

    • 26
      3

      “On this occasion, I would like to specially mention the fact that I was born into a Buddhist family, the disciplines I received when I am studying at Ananda College, Colombo, one of the leading Buddhist schools in the country, the inspiration I received from following the advices of the Maha Sangha and the discipline I received from serving in the Army “
      Those are exactly the reasons why this
      monocultural moron should NOT have been elected to lead a multicultural country. If he is so proud of it, why has he made sure that even his grandchildren will live in the US? The height of hypocrisy!

      • 5
        0

        OC,

        Shhhhhhh! ……..At least for now, you are safe …….. Gota has painted all his white-vans Phottu kurrakan-red!

        Jehan Perera is looking for the NGO US$ ……. Gota is looking for the Rupee to convert to US$ ……. Cabbral is looking for the US$: he has such disdain for his own printed-Rupee ……. Rajapakse kids are looking for the US$ to hoard in Dubai and San Marino ……. no one accepts the SL Rupee other than EE …….. and Soma?

        Long time ago, I told you to convert your Rupees into $ and keep them under your pillow ……..You would’ve been the richest man in Lanka today!

        Money = Power = Adulation = = = Hot women!!!

        All the gals are after the ugly Rajapakses …… no one wants to take a look at good-looking Native! ……….. except Ramona?

        • 2
          0

          nimal fernando

          “no one wants to take a look at good-looking Native! ……….. except Ramona?
          Logged in as Native Vedda. Log out?”

          You mean the scatter brain Ramona?
          1. I am better off on my own.
          2. I don’t want any confrontation with old codger the Casanova (Champa also likes him and in return he is very generous to her).
          3. I know what you are up to.
          4. You have to deal with old codger.

        • 1
          0

          Nimal,
          “Long time ago, I told you to convert your Rupees into $ and keep them under your pillow ……”
          I believe gold is still available- at a price. You ought to check out the scramble to buy bits of land in these parts.

          • 1
            0

            Nimal,
            The other day some guy stole my ekel-broom. Does that mean ekel-brooms are a good investment?

      • 0
        1

        old codger, US is founded as a christian country which worships the creator of this universe and hence is multicultural due to acceptance by the creator awaiting the return of the prodigals from all cultures. His buddhist grandchildren will one day in their future schooling, receive the truth of creation and reject evolution and big bang, unless they too embrace monoculture lie and go with its proponent.

        • 1
          1

          Good David, evolution didn’t reject creation. That part is only your invention. Evolution trying to trace back until Big Bang. But Darwin could not explain who fired the Big Bang cannon. It is only explained in Neo Mahawamsa that the Rapist Army planted the bombs and created Big Bang when their job was done. So the Big Bang lies always co-existed with Ultimate Truth. It only depends on how a moron one is to how well the one is comparing or contrasting the Evolution and Bing Bang. Those who don’t believe in Big Bang believe in David the Good. God send the Lincoln the David to liberate the Negar Jews from Roman-ic Europeans. So the world’s first Secular religious constitution got implemented at least in part. That is why Allah sent the Jihadists to take the Americans back into the lrgacy path. (Please don’t keep writing empty Mahawamsa with words only, no intellectual content. )

        • 0
          0

          DG,
          Doesn’t the Creator have a soft spot for Jews over others?

          • 0
            1

            old codger, When God sent sinless Jesus to pay for sins of humanity on earth, he was born into Jewish family to which nation had been given the scriptures as well as the land of Israel by covenant to Abraham. Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem and also coming back to Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and also to Jews still waiting for their Messiah. So UN cant give Jerusalem to Palestinians who worship Allah and not Jehovah the father of Jesus. End time Armageddon battle is from the throne of a Jew.

            • 0
              0

              DG,
              “So UN cant give Jerusalem to Palestinians who worship Allah”
              Perhaps you don’t know that Arab Christians worship Allah too. The Jews don’t worship Jesus. And the salutation “Aleikum Salam” means the same in Hebrew. Christianity too is an Eastern religion.

          • 1
            0

            old codger

            “Doesn’t the Creator have a soft spot for Jews over others?”

            Like the Sinhala/Buddhists they are also a chosen people.

      • 1
        0

        Hope Gota was not your classmate.

  • 8
    1

    The total mess the country is in might not be the complete fault of the President but a major part of it is.
    He wants to take unilateral decisions but does not have the knowledge or foresight on the subject matter.
    He was elected on popularity due to main stream media and the leading monks not competency or education. Now people are harvesting the results.
    He has put Ex-Military personnel in civilian administration and these guys don’t know whether they are coming or going.
    Sri Lanka politics was always a joke unfortunately now the country too looks like a joke.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1becxqi6VU&t=838s

  • 6
    1

    It would be interesting to read about the contemporary history of countries that followed a similar trajectory that SL is traversing right now. I hope the author will incorporate those destinies in his future writings rather than beat about the bush ambiguously..

  • 15
    2

    “The president comes across as an abstemious person, being a vegetarian, and not indulging in ostentatious and self-indulgent practices.”

    Hitler too was a devout Christian, teetotaler, non-smoker, vegetarian and was strictly monogamous (He was not legally married but was utterly faithful to his mistress).

    By the way, did our president keep sharks in a tank? I am not sure about the veracity of those reports, but if he did, that was an ostentatious and self-indulgent practice. And he did divert a commercial flight to pick up a puppy!

  • 7
    1

    “Addressing the gathering at an event in which he was bestowed an honour by Buddhist monks, the President recalled that he had been elected by a majority of the Sinhala people and promised to protect them and their heritage. “
    “Ironically, most of these persons who have been moved out by design or by circumstance have been persons against whom there were no allegations of corruption”

    * So, Protection of Buddhist Sinhala and Monks means eliminating non-buddhist people and Priests. In other words, he is going to reduce the population by one third within next three years.

    * So, Corruption should be a necessary requirement to serve under the President.

    • 0
      0

      “So, Protection of Buddhist Sinhala and Monks means eliminating non-buddhist people and Priests.”

      You got that right.
      “These include the killing of five Tamil students in Trincomalee and of 17 humanitarian workers in Muttur in 2006; the assassination of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge in 2009; the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda in 2010; the killing of protestors by army personnel during a demonstration at Weliwerya in August 2013; the anti-Muslim riots in Aluthgama in 2014 and Digana, in 2018, as well as others.”

      This country is cursed. Until justice is served all Sri Lankans are going to suffer, natural or man made.

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