4 December, 2020

Blog

President Sirisena: A Curette’s Egg

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Good in parts; quite odd in other parts

Before taking up my subject for the day I wish to make an urgent comment about last weekend’s news from Turkey; a failed coup attempt by mid-ranking officers who were unable to establish a chain of command. The top brass of the army seems not to have been involved in the botched adventure of a fraction of the military. Erdogan was lucky; he was able to bring tens of thousands onto the streets. Let this be a lesson to Sri Lanka’s President and Prime Minister that to coexist with vipers in one’s bosom is perilous.

Now I turn to my topic. The President is turning out to be rather a mixed bag and I say this as one who strongly supported his election – admittedly for the purpose of keeping Rajapaksa out though Maithripala Sirisena did come across before and in the first several months after his election as decent and dignified. But of late things have become complicated – I ignore gossip about his close relatives financial impropriety – and deal with substantial political issues only.Srisena family |Photo via Sirisena’s Facebook

A happy family; just keep them out of public affairs | Photo via Sirisena’s Facebook

As should always be the case I say the good things first. Though I invested political capital in Sirisena expecting only the minimal return of keeping MR out, it soon turned out that I was getting rather more on my outlay. In the first year President and Mrs Sirisena made several foreign visits were they were dignified ambassadors who did the country proud. His government accomplished a proportion of its 100-day programme, and apart from the rotten choice of his brother as Telecoms Director General, there is no big wrongdoing that one can grumble about. More recently he did well in putting his foot down that Mahendran cannot be allowed to serve a second term and overruling a very unwise, on this score, Prime Minister. (Ranil for some odd loyalty or hush-hush benefit maybe for the UNP dug in right to the end, but I suspect he is secretly pleased the way things have turned out without him having to double-cross Mahendran). Generally, Sirisena remained quiet up to a few months ago and his infrequent political forays were laudable.

Things have changed; a more aggressive and interventionist Sirisena is the norm now. To anyone from selfish medical practitioners, to army brass who want to cling to other’s property, to nativists who abhor war-crimes probes, President Sirisena will lend a sympathetic ear. Sometimes he does look a bit silly as his remarks about transformers and power blackouts. At other times he gets himself into a jam; I will take up the UNHRC and foreign judges sham anon.

Surely Maithripala Sirisena is not naïve and can see through the GMOA’s attempt to protect doctor’s incomes and privileges from foreign competition. These people are no different from British plumbers who voted ‘Yes to Brexit’ to keep the influx of Polish counterparts out. There are three million EU immigrants in the UK (5% of the population) and one can see the point in their grouse. Likewise our men of medicine will brook not the slightest challenge to the wellbeing of their pocketbooks. That is to be expected, but the President riding along with a decoy (that’s what this ‘National Policy on Foreign Trade Pacts’ is) is unwarranted. Is the medical profession going to hold Lanka ransom and dictate the nation’s trade policy? If President and PM are playing good-cop-bad-cop with a wink and a nod, that’s fine, provided they tame the braying ass in the end. But I am not sure this is a prearranged drama. I think Sirisena is enjoying his moment basking in a populist sun, but his sunspots are damaging prospects of manpower infusion essential if Lanka is to make economic progress.

His ambivalent stand on SAITM (the private medical school in Malabe) is also spineless. Carlo Fonseka, Chairman of the Medical Council and his team held that SAITM facilities are inadequate to grant its graduates registration. Let’s accept Carlo’s judgement as objective and not motivated by intrinsic opposition to private universities, but when he threatens to resign his Chairmanship if the government does not uphold his findings it is emotional. President Sirisena created the impression in his audience to the GMOA and other pressure groups that he is opposed to private universities in principle and his concern is not about SAITM’s shortcoming per se. If there are inadequacies then the short-term fix is, in consultation with the Medical Council, to run bridging programmes to bring graduating classes up to spec. In the long-run staff and equipment updating, again in consultation with the Council has to be done. We are doing this sort of thing in engineering all the time all over the world when accrediting bodies so demand. Their attitude is a constructive; not to throw students on the dust heap but overcome shortcomings and ensure that graduates are competent professionals. The President and Prof Carlo give the impression that they oppose private universities in general or at least in medicine. If that be so they need to explain their case. Should private universities be abolished all over the world including India too? Socialism through the back door is vacuous populism and President Sirisena is inching close.

According to the Lanka Business News website we are to form a consultancy company with Singapore’s part government-owned Surbana Jurong. The report, shorn of its verbal diarrhoea, says: “The government has identified the need for investment and a state owned consultancy company is planned. Malik Samarawickrama is to sign an MoU for cooperation in city planning, development management and project management. This was approved by the Cabinet”. I am curious what petitions and protests will reach the President from Joint Opposition (JO) and Dead Left (DL) because “imperialism’s running dog” Singapore is to be involved in Lanka’s development.

My complaint is the opposite of that of the JO and DL. Why limit it to service activities? Well, we know the answer: Malik, Ranil and the UNP economic-pack cannot think out of the box that JR and the IMF shoved them into a long time ago. I favour the state intervening actively and facilitating and directing economic strategy – the Deng Xio Ping, Lee Kwan Yew, Korea post-1962 approach. I support the current initiative but my grouse is that collaboration in industry and manufacturing is not envisaged. For this reason the initiative falls short of what is needed. Will we see is our recharged president interve to correct this defect?

The issue on which President Sirisena has got himself in knots is foreign judges in the UNHRC probe (euphemism for war crimes tribunal). He bellows that under no circumstance will they be allowed to sit in Lankan tribunals. But even the Island in a burst of logic observes editorially on 15 July “The participation of foreign judges cannot be wished away. Political leaders may bellow but the fact remains that they are under pressure to do as they promised as cosponsor of the resolution”. From Chandrika’s time Lanka has acquired an unsavoury reputation for habitually two-tongued dealings with the rest of the world on human rights. The US however does not want regime change in Sri Lanka again so soon and may agree to a compromise proposal recognising that Srisena is with his back to the wall.

The editorial then goes on to say what I need as a lead to my next point. “Having sought to curry favour with the western block by co-sponsoring the UNHRC resolution the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government finds itself in the soup politically”. This is wrong on the first score and hits an unintended bull’s-eye on the second. The government co-sponsored the resolution not to curry favour with the west but to save Sri Lanka’s neck from the copping board when the world (not only the west) knew that some charges of human rights violations and war-crimes could be substantiated. It was a desperate concession to take the heat off a negative UNHRC resolution and possible sanctions. Sinhala chauvinism, in the dog box at that time, understood and acquiesced in the grovelling.

The second point about the government finding itself in the political soup is more interesting. I doubt very much if the Editor of the Island and most Lankan newspapers (TV is worse) intend to say it, but a progressive stand on the national question in general, let alone war-crimes probes, will get any government, this one, the previous one, or any future one, in the soup. It will be curtains for any Sinhalese government that has the temerity to dare. I assert this not as moral indictment, I am tired of that, but as simple fact. No government since Independence has, could, or can in the future, dish out moderate autonomy and devolution or create a national ethos of pluralism if it wishes to retain power beyond the next election. That’s plain fact akin to proposing that Pakistan no longer be an Islamic state or equal rights for Palestinians in Israel.

Anyway it’s not editors, but the President and his choices that are my concern. If he does not keep promises his government gave in Geneva, Lanka would yet again be a deceiver and a poltroon in international eyes; not just the west, but Asia too. If he dares go ahead as promised he had better kiss his good health goodbye long before the scoffed at second-term issue arises. [En passant, I am of the view that the Sirisena-Ranil team should continue in its current format for a second-term; feasible alternatives are deplorable. I have to revisit that topic head-on on another occasion].

I differ from the hoi-polloi of analysts who cuss and swear at the chauvinism of political leaders. No it is primarily the people themselves who manifest these traits. SWRD was not the architect of Sinhala Only, the Sinhalese petty-bourgeoisie was. If NM cried ‘Sinhala Only!” and Banda intoned the virtues of Tamil rights, the incumbency of PM and Opposition Leader would have been inverted. Bad leaders do not corrupt good and decent people; on the contrary people choose leaders who suit their style. My point is this; Sirisena is playing the game of balance between good sense and chauvinism one way it can be played if he wants to hang on to power. Whether he should hang on, whether the game is worth the candle, that’s a moral question!

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    I think Arjun Mahendran was caught in a dilemma. It was Ranil who wanted money to spend in the election. So, he got Malik to find that money via Central Bank and he did that. Only wrong thing Arjun Mahendran over looked was he gave that deal to his Son in Law (that is conflict of interest). Somehow he is gone from the Bank. But, Ranil corrected him appointing him to another position.

    If the SAITM graduates are not up to the standard, govt can appoint them as APOTHECARIES (They were there those days) or some medical practitioners. Later, they will become doctors. Anyhow, in the future, even a Computer or a pharmacist can prescribe medicine. So, these medical practitioners will do better (The reason doctors will ask more and the govt find computer software will do better in writing prescriptions).

    I think Mali is signing the MOU, that is to get money for the next election and that LEaves Ranil clean even though he approved it.

    • 0
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      Mahendran’s son-in-law, Alloysius was tangoing with Nivard Cabraal, Mahinda Jarapassa’s Central Bank hora, before Ranil-Sira came on the scene and anointed Arjuna Mahendran.

      Aloysius, Mahendran and Nivard Cabraal,as well as, the entire Jarapassa family all should be arrested and tried for financial crimes under the US Govt’s Kleptocracy Initiative against public corruption that is going after the Malaysian Prime Minister and his networks that stole govt. funds from a Massive Malay govt. bond issue..

  • 5
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    The heading should be “A curate’s egg” (only partly excellent).
    Curette is an instrument used by surgeons to scrape body parts.

    • 1
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      You are right. I have also used the wrong spelling in my comment.

      Dr.RN

    • 1
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      Absolutely right.

      An error that diminishes the value of the contents.

  • 5
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    Guess Surbana Jurong is about Mahendran’s bonds taken undemocratically from Sri Lanka and coalesced with Tamil diaspora bonds (US 7-billion, stolen from America – exonerated as long as Sri Lanka forms required US alliances).

    Coomaraswamy and Mahendran are needed in the banking sector to handle the massive Tamil diaspora investment.

    There are 2 Port-City scenarios US is allowing us to think on :

    1) N&E Port-City with Separatism.

    2) Unified Lanka with Port-City in Colombo with the compromise: Tamil diaspora to be installed country-wide and having large stake in finance and politics.

    Sinhala-unworthy GoSL, naturally jumped to the 2nd option.

    Sri Lankan won the battle and lost the war. Eelam is soon to be fulfilled.

    • 4
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      Read that Subana Jurong is for Trincomalee. That then moves towards
      Seperatism, especially with the Galleon bonds in the deal. Unworthy masochistic government betrays its own people yet again with gross disdain.

      • 0
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        What does this have to do with reconcilliation? Maybe it IS reconcilliton that we are asked to do now:

        Excellent quote on reconcilliation from the UN:

        “Reconciliation is an over-arching process which includes the search for truth, justice, forgiveness,
        healing and so on. At its simplest, it means finding a way to live alongside former enemies – not
        necessarily to love them, or forgive them, or forget the past in any way, but to coexist with them, to
        develop the degree of cooperation necessary to share our society with them, so that we all have better
        lives together than we have had separately. “

        • 0
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          It’s not reconciliation, when money has been stolen from American public to further propagate the ancient mythical concept of Eelam, over the bodies of multitudes of Sinhalese inhabitants that have lived there for over 2,500 years.

  • 3
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    Where does the attitude that the Tamil take stand in this embroilment? As far as I could see Tamils should be clear on what they want which is a gradually increasing level of devolution of powers to the provinces even incrementally, however slow. There is no other way. Tamils should have the patience to see a gradual development of enlightenment among the Sinhalese on this critical issue which need not necessarily be viewed from an ethnic angle alone. Greater devolution essentially means greater democracy and it is as simple as that! Fanciful ideas such as merger of the North and East should be given up for good because everyone knows that it will never ever happen as neither the Sinhalese nor the Muslims in the East will ever vote for it. So, let us Tamils be realistic and practical in our approach. We should tell our youth not to to permit emotions to run high as happened recently in the incidents of the Jaffna campus.
    Sengodan. M

    • 2
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      Mr Sendagon

      Appreciate your sensible words.

      “Tamils should have the patience to see a gradual development of enlightenment among the Sinhalese on this critical issue which need not necessarily be viewed from an ethnic angle alone.”

      My most valued comment on CT:

      “It is my duty as a Sinhalese SriLankan citizen to stand up for fellow Tamils. If their equality or aspirations are violated by the State.

      Sinhalese are only horrified by relentless, unceasing Ealamist attempts to dismember &
      Balkanize Sri Lanka. One cunning way or the other.

      Once that fear is weakened in the Sinhalese mindset resolution of this problem will be a formality. Millions of Sri Lankans will fight alongside Tamils.

      Fellow Tamil Sri Lankans should help Sinhalese to reach that mental state.

      I am afraid TNA is doing the exact opposite.

      I hope Tamil moderates will cease control from Ealamist extremists soon. Sinhalese need to do the same on their side.”

      Soma

  • 2
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    Dr. Kumar David, it is a chicken or egg first question – as to whether chauvinism lies with the masses or their leaders?

    The plain fact is DEMOCRACY entails MAJORITARIANISM (the tyranny of the majority), and politicians massarging and constructing ethnic vote banks is the oldest trick in the book to win a seat in a parliament of clowns. The ethno-religious faultlines in Lanka as the rest of the global south were set in the post-colonial world where DIVIDE and RULE was always already at play with colonizing powers.. This is well established in the serious social science literature!

    Sri Lanka needs to EDUCATE the people and a PUBLIC Policy on MULTICULTURALISM and valuing diversity which goes well beyond teaching Tamil to Sinhala and SInhala to Tamil. Mainstreaming multiculturalism as practiced in Canada for example would be a good start!

    In short, I do not buy your argument that the masses are more racist than their corrupt political leaders.

  • 2
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    Surely Prof Kumar David meant “President Sirisena: a curate’s egg”

    A “curate’s egg” describes something that is mostly or partly bad, but partly good.

    A “cruette’s egg” is personally laid by KD Hen (similar to RIR Rhode Island Red) – KD for??)

  • 2
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    “President Sirisena: A Curette’s Egg”.

    With a President who is increasingly dissociating himself from cabinet decisions- a cabinet he chairs- and with a propensity to fly in the direction the wind blows or depicted to blow, the chances of a larger part of the Curette’s egg becoming rotten is very likely. The media portraying this President as ‘All powerful’ despite the 19th amendment has made many believe that the MR style of governance yet prevails.Maithripala Sirisena’s play acting gives substance to this fallacy. I am beginning to think Maithripala Sirisena is increasingly engaging in cheap politics and has no intention of not contesting for a second term!

    Credit must be given to the Prime Minister for dealing with this situation tactfully and wisely, while not conceding in anyway the authority vested in him by the 19th amendment. He has to trapeze on a thin rope!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0
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      Dr.RN
      For your entertainment:

      https://youtu.be/xIoqholH508

      Soma

      • 1
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        Soma,

        Thanks for your response to Sengodan above.

        Thanks for providing the YouTube link to MS’s speech praising MR. It was entertaining .’

        However, what interested more were the associated links to Satguru’s speeches. Listening to him was apleasure and explained many aspects about life, of which death is also a part.

        Dr.RN

  • 4
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    The warning in italics by the learned professor regarding the Turkey coup is timely.

    But Ergodan has obviously learnt not only from our experiences but from Egyptian President al-Sisi as well. He is sacking judges and replacing them with his own sycophants. The courts will pass death sentences – thousand in five minutes. He will reintroduce death penalty. Like our former NP Governor Maj Gen (retd) GA Chandirasiri he will send soldiers to monitor university lectures. Culture of impunity will prevail – white vans, Turkish Avant Garde. Mind boggles.

    • 0
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      For your information Turkey is the fifht largest econnomy in the world.
      America sees it fit to station a nuclear weapons base there.

      • 0
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        Vanguard:”……Turkey is the fifht largest economy……”
        Where did you get this information?

  • 0
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    What is Prof Kum trying to tell us? He says:

    Firstly he supported the election of Prez Sirisena just to throw Jarapassa out.

    Secondly he is not satisfied with the stand that Prez Sirisena is taking, particularly with the case of Foreign Judges.

    Frankly, I for one thought a change is necessary because of the Royalty displayed by the then first family to the extent of treating others as “Plebians” and that trend would not be in the best interest of the country. But I know whether it is Jara, Sira or Ranil all are politicians. They have there weaknesses. Neither Prof. Kum nor I should expect Prez. Sira to act the way we want. Both Prez. Sira and Premier Ranil have made it clear about the Constitutional position regarding appointment of Foreign Judges. Only problem with Prez Sira is he was more vociferous than PM on the issue, the reasons for which can be many. PM, without talking would pull Foreign Minister Mangy’s leg at the right time if necessary.

    There are two options. One is to go through a bill to create a tribunal with provision to appoint foreign judges. That requires a two thirds majority and a referendum. If you hold a referendum the repurcussions are obvious. No sensible person would want another Pogrom of the type of July 1983. The second option is just appoint some foreigners as Judges, say as Commissioners of the High Court, like the way the National Anthem was sung in Tamil. Then you set the stage for a Turkish Delight (What happened to Turkey but with less public opposition), another costly onslaught on the National Economy and well being after a bought of violence.

    Does Prof Kum think that if either of those events take place will the friendly west send troops to “Assist”? Will the friendly west open its doors for another influx of refugees? The reality is that the West too has their own share of problems in a big way and assistance in either form would be bare minimal and the genocide that it would create is unimaginable. I think Prez Sira as a common sense politician knows that too well. I am for ethnic and religious amity and I would not want the dignity of minorities being hurt in any way. Instead let us all try to be a part of one Sri Lanka.

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