18 May, 2021

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President Gotabaya Can Achieve Where Other Leaders Failed 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Despite its small size Sri Lanka has occasionally been prominent on the world scene for both good reasons and bad. Sri Lanka gained much positive publicity for having the first woman prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1960. This was one of the factors that helped Sri Lanka to host the non-aligned conference in 1976 which was attended by 86 heads of states or their representatives and enabled Sri Lanka to play a lead role on the international scene. In the decade of the 1960s and 1970s Sri Lanka was also known internationally as a model of a country that could provide its people with a relatively high quality of life on a relatively low income. At that time Sri Lanka had economic policies that emphasized income re-distribution and subsidies that kept inequalities significantly lower than what they are today.

The area where Sri Lanka failed from the very beginning was in inter-community integration. This was due to the use of ethnic politics without concern for the common good in which the wellbeing of all was set as the ideal to be achieved. First it disenfranchised almost its entire Indian-origin Tamil population. Then it imposed an official language policy that belittled and marginalized Tamil speakers. These two divisive events set the ground for conflict that has blocked the country from reaching its full potential and which it has still to overcome. Acts of mob violence, terrorism and finally years of brutal warfare brought Sri Lanka into an unfavourable limelight. Now today with its ban on the burial of Covid victims and its policy of enforced cremations, Sri Lanka has become a source of unusual controversy as it goes against both science and religion. Sri Lanka is once again in an unfavourable spotlight.

At the outset of the Covid pandemic the government took the position that Covid burial is not permissible due to the threat to the health and safety of the larger population as it leads to the possibility of groundwater contamination. However, today, the government is reported to be willing to consider the burial of Covid victims in specially located sites which would pose no risk of groundwater contamination. If there is no evidence for or against such contamination, then the prevailing law and practices relating to burial should continue as the course of justice. If proven otherwise, then the rationale would be to mitigate this in the larger interest of the society. By disregarding the strongly felt sentiments of a significant section of the population, and being unfair by them, the government is risking the buildup of conflict in the future.

Leadership Qualities 

The resolution of ethnic and religious that have taken root in society are very difficult to resolve without enlightened and credible leadership as witnessed worldwide, most notably in the last few years in the United States. This is part of the Clash of Civilisations warned about by the American political scientist Samuel P Huntington. In 1992 he wrote that prior to the end of the Cold War, societies were divided by ideological differences, such as the struggle between democracy and communism. However, at the present time he argued that “The most important distinctions among peoples are [no longer] ideological, political, or economic. They are cultural.”

The speeding up of economic development by itself will not resolve the tensions and clashes that arise out of culture and identity. Even if they were, Sri Lanka will be very poorly situated to utilize this method of resolving its conflicts and Covid and past loans have debilitated the economy. Therefore, the challenge that is can be dealt with at this time is not so much the economy but getting the fundamentals of inter-community relations in place. This is a time when the country requires statesmanlike leaders. First and foremost they need to be able to win the trust and confidence of their populations. Second they need to have the sagacity to establish institutions that enable equal rights, equal protection and equal opportunity for all citizens irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or other cultural identity. Third, they need to have the strength of character and legal power to push through with their reforms.

The nearest that Sri Lanka came to having such a leader was Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in 1994. She had a popular mandate for a political solution to the war from all communities, especially the Sinhalese majority. Her mandate of 62 percent of the popular vote was the largestever. Unfortunately, she faced an intractable obstacle in the LTTE who spurned every offer of hers to settle for a political solution within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. As her government only had a simple majority in parliament, her political rivals denied her the legal power to translate the new constitution her team had drafted from being passed into law. Instead the draft constitution of 2000 which could have provided the solution ended up being literally set on fire in parliament.

New Constitution

It is said that hope springs eternal in the human breast. The first year anniversary of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s advent to politics has brought hope to a majority of Sri Lankans who voted for him. This is a hope that can be realized for all Sri Lankans. While those who campaigned for him did so on a nationalist platform, a large proportion of those who voted for the president did so because they wanted a strong and decisive leadership that gave priority to the national interest. Whenever those with extreme nationalist views have sought election on their own, they end up getting very few votes as the general population does not favour extremism. Echoing the more prevalent moderation in Sri Lankan society, the president stated in his inaugural address after winning the presidential election that while he was voted for by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, he would be the president of all Sri Lankans.

Since winning the presidency, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has frequently reiterated that he will ensure justice and equal treatment to all sections of the people. In his address to the nation a fortnight ago the president said that “An administration that protects the rights of all citizens regardless of racial or religious differences will be established during my tenure.” At the same time the Sinhalese Buddhist majority place their implicit trust in him on account of his leadership in defeating the LTTE which was once deemed an impossible task. President Rajapaksa has a solid base on which to reach out to the ethnic and religious minority communities while retaining the confidence of the majority community. He has the opportunity to accomplish what the great Sri Lankan political leaders of the past tried to accomplish, which is a consensual solution that meets the needs and aspirations of all sections of the polity.

The primary need for a new constitution would be to resolve the conflicts between the state and people and to afford to all citizens the equal protection of the laws. The contours of a new constitution for Sri Lanka are taking shape as the Experts Committee has renewed its call for further public representations and given till December 31 to do so. Following the passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution that gives him sweeping powers, and which is backed by a 2/3 majority in parliament, the president also has the legal powers to implement any reform he wishes to put in place. Once again Sri Lanka stands at the edge of international limelight as it set to be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council once again in March 2021 due to its withdrawal from the co-sponsored resolution of 2015. The progress towards a new Constitution that will better reflect the country’s multi ethnic, multi religious, multi lingual, multi cultural and plural nature will stand the government in good stead and be a positive example to the world, like we were in the past.

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Latest comments

  • 16
    4

    Jehan Perera should not be writing his own version of our history.
    Prior to the British leaving our country the Sinhalese willingly carried a Tamil on their shoulders. Do you need more or better evidence of inter-community friendliness than that.
    Why is he saying that the area where Sri Lanka failed from the very beginning was in inter-community integration? Isn’t this to give a platform for his line of arguments.
    Then started ‘the use of ethnic politics’. When did it start? Who did it? Did the Tamils have a reason to do it? The polarization was pure politics of the majority community. Today, we are looking for excuses and solutions. We will never find it easy!

  • 6
    18

    President rajapakse is the first leader of the nation to actually have a job. D.S, Dudley and Swrd went law school but there is no evidence they ever practiced. Srimavo was wife and mother before she became PM. Sir John was in the volunteer army. JR also appears have never worked a day in his life. Ditto for premadasa. Chandrika has no higher education and worked as a nanny in Paris. Mahindra and ranil also went law school but never practiced. G. Rajapakse for whatever its worth saw active duty against the JVP and LTte. He also lived and worked in California apparently as an computer technician which indicates an analytical mind.

    • 1
      1

      Westham,
      “President rajapakse is the first leader of the nation to actually have a job. D.S, Dudley…”
      You are wrong. D.B. Wijetunga was a Co-op inspector and even Sorry Sira was a Grama Niladhari.
      But Gota is the first who thinks he knows everything.

  • 16
    1

    It appears that you are trying to Win Gotha over your Carrot and Stick approach, But I wonder whether it will work. Unlike your approach, it is evident from Gotha’s actions/activities he believes in using the stick more than the carrot, even for matters which could be solved by feeding the carrot. The fact, that, his party apparently bought over MPs to support the 20th amendment, is a clear indication of his true self. Not with standing, if he will follow lord Buddha’s preaching’s even in a small way, rather than paying homage to hamudurus frequently, Srilanka will be a valueless gem.

  • 22
    1

    “In the decade of the 1960s and 1970s Sri Lanka was also known internationally as a model of a country that could provide its people with a relatively high quality of life on a relatively low income.”
    .
    1958 – Ethnic Riots
    1961 – Coup
    1971 – JVP Insurrection; Enactment of PTA
    1973 – 1976 People queuing up at 4:00 am to buy bread with insects
    1977 – Ethnic Riots
    1978 – Dismantling of parliamentary democracy
    The country was also under emergency rule for most of the time during this period.
    .
    The writer was either smoking something or he is a firm believer positive thinking.
    Or maybe he is hallucinating about an island of lotus-eaters.
    .

    • 13
      2

      Ajay,
      “1973 – 1976 People queuing up at 4:00 am to buy bread with insects”
      Scientists have recently found that insects are the most economical source of protein. You should be proud that SL was advanced even in 1973.

      • 9
        2

        old codger
        You are hilarious!!
        Yo made me laugh inspite of the LOCKDOWN.
        Keep it up.

        • 4
          1

          Umberto,
          Can’t be serious all the time, no?
          😆😆

    • 6
      13

      Ajay,
      If Tamil politicians did not turn Sinhale (later Sri Lanka) to a killing field this country could have become the paradise in Asia.
      The Tamil racist politicians brought Separatism way back in 1922. That was the beginning of Eelam movement. In 1929, in Navalapitiya GG.Ponnabalam insulted Sinhala people by ridiculing Mahawanss and it resulted in the first Sinhala-Tamil riot. GG.Ponnambalam sought to seek 50-50 in 1939 creating a situation of minority rule over majority. Tamil Vellala politicians wanted to keep the Sinhala peasants in a South Africa like situation implementing minority rule over majority.
      In 1931 when Ceylon was about to get universal suffrage, Tamil Vellala politicians went to London to protest against giving universal suffrage to Ceylonese. They even wanted to legalize caste system. The reason is Tamil Vellalas were worrying they would be losing their privileged position if democracy came into play.
      During the time Brits ruled Sinhale, Tamil elite from Jaffna enjoyed power disproportionately. When the Sinhalese were emerging as a political entity in their Sinhala homeland, the Jaffna Vellalas feared they will lose their privileged position and started to create problems whenever Sinhalayo took measures to restore the rights they lost during colonial rule.

      • 5
        2

        Eagle,
        “During the time Brits ruled Sinhale, Tamil elite from Jaffna enjoyed power disproportionately.”
        Not only Tamils. Burghers, Sindhis, Parsees, Muslims, Christians……etc.
        Don’t you think that power should be linked to brains and ability?
        Didn’t the trains run on time with Tamil station-masters?
        “Sinhalayo took measures to restore the rights they lost during colonial rule.” What rights? Did Sinhala kings employ station-masters ? Even they imported South Indians as soldiers. Did the kings know something you don’t?

  • 6
    0

    Good Luck with that.

  • 17
    0

    “As her(Chandrika’s) government only had a simple majority in parliament, her political rivals denied her the legal power to translate the new constitution her team had drafted from being passed into law.”
    The UNP and Ranil should take much of the blame for destroying any chance of a solution in the 90’s.
    Now Gota the Redeemer is in power, with a 2/3 majority, but has neither the imagination or the willingness to provide a fair solution. Mediocre nitwits in uniform and sycophants get his ear more than experienced professionals.
    This is the story of Sri Lanka. Always too late.

    • 3
      4

      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

      • 2
        1

        Dear EE,
        thanks for giving us a break.
        :
        No sooner you will have to stand against GOTA led group becasue almost 80% of that 6.9 voters have become upset as of today.

    • 3
      12

      old codger,
      Please tell us what is the ‘FAIR SOLUTION’ that Demala people expect from Sinhalayo?

      “but has neither the imagination or the willingness to provide a fair solution. “

      • 10
        1

        Eagle,
        Good question. Even you know that before 1948, trains ran on time, even the tracks were clean, there were no DIG’s in jail, there were no doctors or nurses on strike, there was no national airline……..etc.
        What changed? Incompetent people given jobs simply because they are Sinhalayo, and others forced to migrate. Now a Tamil/Muslim can never be Army commander here, but a Tamil woman has become VP of the US, and another is Governor of Anguilla. Even Tamil crooks do it better than Sinhalayo crooks. My solution is to give jobs and university places to people on merit only. That is the only only way to stop this country breaking up or losing its independence.
        It is your Sinhalayo, and the Sinhalayo idiots they vote for, that are responsible for this mess.

        • 2
          4

          Old Codger,
          That Tamil woman should be ashamed to be the VP of a country under a white President where millions of Native people were slaughtered by white people and those who survived were confined to reservations. Now Native Americans have to live under White, Black, Brown rulers who are illegal immigrants.

          “Tamil woman has become VP of the US”

          • 1
            0

            Eagle,

            Sorry man, but in contrast, she is proud of being the Vice President of a country where a White President killed 10% of the Country’s whites to release the Black Slaves.

            Would you become the president of Lankawe and Kill 10% of the Sinhala Buddhist so we too can enjoy freedom? Then I will be proud of becoming VP to Lankawe.

        • 3
          5

          Old Codger,
          “Even Tamil crooks do it better than Sinhalayo crooks.”

          Certainly, Tamil crooks have done better in oppressing low caste Tamils (Dalits) than Sinhala crooks. When those Dalits come to South Sinhalayo treat them as fellow human beings.
          ===
          “My solution is to give jobs and university places to people on merit only.”

          Do you think Vellala Tamils gave jobs on merit basis? I know of two instances where Vellala Heads of Departments gave jobs to Vellala Tamils with lower academic qualifications ignoring Tamils from Madakalapuwa who had better qualifications.

          • 3
            1

            Eagle,
            “Vellala Heads of Departments gave jobs to Vellala Tamils with lower academic qualifications “
            Can you deny that the trains ran on time?
            It is not qualifications that matter, but ability.

          • 2
            1

            Eagle,
            “Do you think Vellala Tamils gave jobs on merit”
            It was the Brits who did it, not Vellalas.Once Sinhalayo took over, it went downhill. That’s why YOU left too.
            “That Tamil woman should be ashamed to be the VP of a country under a white President” . Really?? Then why are you living there?
            BTW, the Tamil woman might be POTUS eventually, and may not be friendly towards racist Sinhalayo.

            • 2
              0

              Eagle,
              Another Tamil woman Vanushi Rajanayagam , has become an MP in New Zealand. See what I mean?

      • 3
        8

        old codger,
        We appreciate if you could tell us the ‘PROBLEM’ as well to which you are seeking a ‘FAIR SOLUTION’.

        • 3
          1

          Eagle,
          “We appreciate if you could tell us the ‘PROBLEM”…
          Another good question. But the answer is not what you think. It is not the minorities who destroyed this country. It is the Sinhalayo themselves, who forced themselves into every available job. Like their current God Gota, they failed. 70 years of misrule proves that. Just think, why did YOU leave the country?
          Why not expose your children to their 2500 year old culture?
          Why did so many educated Sinhalese (not Sinhalayo) leave?
          The Sinhalayo are incapable of running a modern state. Only in a Sinhalayo state does holy water become a Covid cure. Only in a Sinhalayo state can judges deliver verdicts without reasons.
          The Sinhalayo ARE the problem.

          • 2
            4

            old codger,
            If Sinhalayo are the problem why the hell you guys took citizenship (by Registration) of Sinhale instead of returning to the cesspool from where your ancestors were picked up by colonial rulers.
            Please don’t grumble. Sinhalayo did not invite you guys to Sinhale.

            “The Sinhalayo ARE the problem.”

            • 3
              1

              Eagle Blind Eye

              “Sinhalayo did not invite you guys to Sinhale.”

              Nor did my people invite you descendant of Kallathonie converts.
              Who are these Sinhalayos anyway?

            • 2
              1

              Eagle,
              For your info, my ancestors were born here, lived and died in this country. It is you that ran away and took registration in Canada.

      • 4
        1

        EE,
        .
        Please the name of god,
        REPLACE your term “sinhalayo” with the term ” SINHALA EXTREMISTs/or SLAVES led by MEDAMULANA RASCALS”.

        I really dont think we (Old codger, Sinhala Man, Leelage Malli and Champa ) belong to that category. Our tamil friends would be able to differentiate it even if you ultra racists of your nature, would even shed the last breath being against tamil srilankens.
        :

        • 2
          0

          L.M
          Your breath is precious. Don’t waste it.

        • 2
          3

          leelagemalli,
          “I really dont think we (Old codger, Sinhala Man, Leelage Malli and Champa ) belong to that category.”

          Certainly you guys do not belong to the category called ‘Sinhalayo’. You guys belong to the category called ‘HALF BAKED SINHALAYO’ (Tamils who became Sinhalayo).

          • 2
            0

            Eagle,

            “You guys belong to the category called ‘HALF BAKED SINHALAYO”
            I suppose even that is better than being a “Uncooked Sinhalayo” SMO (sewage maintenance officer) in Toronto.

          • 1
            1

            EE
            “Tamils who became Sinhalayo”
            Do you also mean to offend the two major caste groups which did that rather recently.
            It applies to professional categories that did not exist in early Sinhala society as well.
            An unbiased look at surnames and vasagamas will speak volumes.
            So it is good to be sensitive to touchy issues.

            • 1
              0

              SJ,
              Let’s give the disguised vulture some credit for even inadvertently admitting that some Sinhalayo are more equal than others!

  • 11
    3

    Dear Jehan Perera,
    .
    ” In his address to the nation a fortnight ago the president said . . .” – Yes, I got the TV on (I rarely do) and listened intently – with growing horror.
    .
    This Gota is a man who lives in a world of his own. Heaven save us from what he’s going to do to us.
    .
    Yes, Gota & Co. got a huge mandate from the Sinhalese people – there’s no gainsaying that. To quote you:
    .
    “a large proportion of those who voted . . . a strong and decisive leadership that gave priority to the national interest.”
    .
    Yes, they voted like fools. Now they regret it.
    .
    What did I think of his address to the Nation? Similar to Donald Trump’s hollow boasts!
    .
    Yes, like chiv, I wish him luck – but it is we and our descendants who will pay for this folly.

    • 2
      9

      Sinhala_Man,
      How do you know that people who voted for President Gotabhaya Rajapakshe regret for their decision. Did you conduct a survey among the people who voted for Gotabhaya?

      Yes, they voted like fools. Now they regret it.

      • 3
        0

        Eagle,
        “How do you know that people who voted for President Gotabhaya Rajapakshe regret”
        Don’t you think that Sinhala Man, who lives here, is in a better position to judge than some refugee in the West?

      • 5
        0

        EE,
        how does Mr SINHALA MAN know ? Because he is a sensitve srilanken who is living in that hell amidst unbearable societal problems.
        :
        Besides, you the kind of BPs should better listen to local news telecasts. Most of them show it well, that RAJAPAKSHSE have failed within their first year itself. They have only passed, in terms of GETTING their court cases free from the judges. These judges are penisless buggers that would do any low work not caring much about their noble positions. Let alone these men should be grateful to srilanken free education systems and tax payers.

  • 9
    1

    Jehan Perera

    ” President Gotabaya Can Achieve Where Other Leaders Failed “
    You din’t mean completely annihilate the opposition
    And become an elected dictator for life!!!!!!!!

    • 5
      10

      umberto,
      President Gotabhaya will not go down to the level of Piripaharan who eliminated all his opponents and became a dictator.

      • 3
        1

        Eagle Brain Dead Blind Eye

        “President Gotabhaya will not go down to the level of Piripaharan who eliminated all his opponents and became a dictator.”

        What was he doing between 2005 and 2015?

      • 0
        0

        Eagle eye/mahindapala
        Gota will go one step further and kill eve his supporters to achieve what he wants.,
        Your wife is safe down under so you don’t need to worry.
        Bye the way are your half demalo offsprings turning sufficient tricks to supplement your hand out from the Australian state?

  • 5
    0

    Jehan ,

    One needs to look for the definition ” Charlatan.” This is applicable to most
    guys in parliament , public admin and many other areas as more than
    90% of them are on their seats through the backdoor and unqualified !
    The country was so bankrupt of leaders that we had a Charlie before Gota !
    Now Gota and next ? Gota has been brought to fight Minorities , not for any
    other job ! What he will be doing most of his time , doing just that until the
    next turn !

    • 1
      0

      Why why@ Gotas capabilities are not it’s all cracked up to be. Those were media lies. Even releasing duminda Silva or recently murdered Makandure Madhush would have become a leader to this nation. Journos over to u please discuss what talents gota had most🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔

      • 2
        0

        leelagemalli ,

        I happened to read a financial analyst listing out about 20 types of
        people who will not succeed in life . I ‘ll get you only three or four
        and it’s up to you to match it with the situation !

        1.People who always hide in the comfort zone .
        2.People who ae always looking at other people’s lives and never
        working on themselves.
        3.People who don’t do things that are in alignment with their goals.
        4.People who let society dictate their goals and dreams .
        leelagemalli , I gave you the cap , you can now hunt the right head !
        Good luck!

  • 4
    0

    Jehan, what have you been smoking, mate? You can’t expect to get much readership or respect for your views if you don’t get off the fence. This article looks to me like a “win and place” bet.

    Does the situation prevailing in Lanka fill you with satisfaction? Are you happy that three convicted murderers have been pardoned (so far, with Kudu Dumi straining at the leash? Basil relieved of his Divineguma “cross”? Lalith his “Sil Redhi” lunket? Are you happy with how SSP Shani A is being treated [Many people fear that he will be sacrificed at a concocted “caught in the cross-fire”, or “felled by Corona”]? Are you happy that 12+ inmates at Mahara have been gunned down mercilessly; some just in for a petty offence pending charges and adjudication? Have you seen pics of their mothers weeing at the feet of callous policemen? Are you happy that Lohan R is now overseeing things at Mahara Prison? And this is only the beginning….

    This is a disappointing essay, mate.

  • 1
    0

    Dr. Jehan Perera, whatever it is, a scholarly article, without any nursery rhymes, but then you an educated person, aren’t you Dr Jehan?

    Your latest essays, and I have been following your writing since the 1990s in Lanka Monthly Digest and other publications, your essays have seen a more conciliatory approach, no doubt due to continuing education as opposed to those minds who can produce only slurs and epithets that seek to darken other mind with the blackness therein.

    Realpolitik – I am sure you are aware of the concept, what are the realistic options for our country, and more to the point, where is the long term view which is missing from many analyses?

    • 0
      0

      Vanguardll ,

      Just a bit of helping hand ! The Free Dictionary by Farlex divides
      education into two groups:
      1.Teaching. 2. Learning .
      Learning Synonyms are described as : Learning,Reifnement,Cultivation,
      Civilization,Scholarship,Breeding,Culture and Schooling .
      I leave the rest to you Vanguard ll .

      • 0
        0

        Please read as Refinement . Than you.

        • 0
          0

          Sorry again , Thank “K” went missing ! And also a major part of
          teaching synonyms I wanted to emphasise was forgotten .
          Teaching has a name for Indoctrination as well according to
          Farlex.

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