19 October, 2019

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Presidential Polls: People, Prejudices & Perils 

By Upatissa  Pethiyagoda

Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

The race for the Presidency is in full swing. The discourse so far is disappointingly trivial. We have had an Executive Presidency for over twenty years, and six tenancies. Is it not time for us to assess the worth of this system? Considering the overwhelming power of this position, there is good reason for alarm. It is time to consider whether any of the six EP’s we have had, has the qualities adequate to match the inordinate power (and expense) that the position entails? If the answer is “No”, – then this is the time to select a person who presents a reasonably good chance, of meeting our legitimate expectations. So far our hopes have not been achieved. Several incumbents have betrayed our trust. Pre-election pledges have disappeared once the comforts of office have been savoured. This must change. Prospective contestants should give an unconditional pledge that they will make every attempt to abolish the Presidency as it now stands. This should be irrevocable and give the right of recall if the successful candidate fails to keep his/her pre-election pledge of abolishing the position. The Nineteenth Amendment which stalled halfway, has only created more problems! Even the minimal need of shedding all Party affiliations after election has escaped attention. We all can see the result. A President represents the hopes of all citizens and not merely the Party that he represents.

Rather than addressing this core issue, the main diversion seems to be to cloud it by obsession with who the candidates of rival factions would be. Apart from a couple of aspirants who have disclosed their identities, and one who has produced something akin to a manifesto, the main political parties engage in a tantalizing game of make believe. As with our inexcusable disregard of the strong case made by Lord Naseby in regard to our Human Rights, are we “to await a suitable moment” for their disclosure? Till then, public attention is diverted to speculation. People matter more than principle. Most disheartening is the tacit assumption that political talent abides only within one or a few families. The ongoing debate can be summed up thus :- If not Mahinda, why not Chamal? or Gotabaya, or Basil or even Shiranthi to “hold the horse” until Namal comes of age? The alleged resolution of the Dual Citizenship problem, (it is claimed that some documents were forged), awaits entertaining disclosures. If in fact they are forgeries, the clever miscreants may face the full ire of US Agencies. 

Our nation is bent on promoting integration, consolidation, unity, compromise, mutual respect, understanding and brother hood. Yet we still have Sinhala Buddhist, Christian, Hindhu, Moslem “interests”, Sinhala, Tamil “enclaves”, Upcountry and Low Country attitudes and still look for “Unification”. Even Ministries cater to such divisions. Laws that discriminate – Shariah, Kandyan and Thesavalame remain, applicable to regions. While “Celebrating” our diversity, we see no such tangible actions to reduce division. Then we have Political divisions to complicate matters further. In fact, we delight in creating entities to institutionalize divisions, rather than encouraging a “Nation Outlook”. The most criminal has been the exploitation of language as a political tool, leading to “streaming” of young children into self-segregating cliques. Five centuries of foreign domination, have not destroyed our religious and linguistic structures. It would be silly to think that we would do so by ourselves. We have to defeat this misconception. Should not aspirants to Presidential office be compelled to disclose how they would set about resolving this self-inflicted folly? As someone aptly put it “We (politicians) have scrambled the eggs. We challenge anyone to unscramble them”. How appropriate for our confusion and deception.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”.

The current discourse is nakedly to promote personal ambitions or to secure “The Party”. Is either of these sufficient reason to expend a huge chunk of the resources of our impoverished and debt ridden nation?  Sadly, our nation has lost its way. We are witness to a nation that has jettisoned honesty and hoisted itself, to a state where fear (Baya) and shame (Lajjawa) have disappeared. For example, during the run -up to the last General Election, we were promised that all the looted public monies – mainly stashed abroad – would be recovered and used to wipe out our heavy load of international and national debt. This posturing was not translated into purposeful action and thus was all eye-wash. We remember the tales of Royal Palaces, underground shelters, “Lamborginis”, golden horses, cart loads of Gold, tons of narcotics, and many other such assertions that it is impossible and tiresome to recall. This in fact is a colossal hoax – or put into familiar language “All Lies”.

An interesting claim that surfaces periodically is that “Scientific” approaches would guide us to national wealth and all other things that we desire. Science as I see it, consists of creating a hypothesis, which is subjected to rigorous testing and eventually leading to recognition as firm truth. If it fails this test, it is discarded. My hypothesis is that our political system, is in reality a contest between Politicians of all stripes versus the people (us). All posturings and grand rhetoric of being otherwise, are irrelevant. “Unuth ekai munuth ekai “sums it up. If the postulates above are applied, I believe that the confusion and frustrations that face us, then neatly fall into place! As far as I am concerned, I find that most events (politically), seems to reinforce the above hypothesis. In fact it may be argued that the consistency and predictability justifies elevation of a mere “hypothesis” to the status of a “Theory” and even that of a “Law”. 

The World is urgently addressing various real concerns such as Global Warming, Environmental Risks, Economic Issues, Biodiversity, Energy, Sustainability, World Health, Population Growth, Immigration, Employment, and a host of other critical problems that stare us in our face. Meanwhile, our frenzied priorities are, Party Stability and protecting Individual personal fortunes. This we do under the guidance of Astrological forces. You may pick your preference, remembering the oft-declared assurance of adhering to “Scientific principles” in charting the future of our nation. Expert astrologers will continue to help by analyzing the search for the right “Yogas” of which we are told, the “Raja Yoga” is the most reliable to predict electoral success. Who dares to question these time – honoured traditions that have served us so well in the past, and certainly will do so in the future as well? 

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Latest comments

  • 0
    3

    Mr. Pethiyagoda
    Haven’t you noticed that this time around there is no commitment by candidates from major parties for abolishion of EP which was the most attractive proposition in earlier occasions.
    With the discourse on a Federal Constitution actively promoted by Ranil faction of UNP a substantial section of the Sinhalese seems to be reconsidering their position. For them an Executive Primeminister is as bad as an Executive President. Or worsse with a man like Ranil Wickramasinghe.
    .
    By the way, where are those big time NGOs? Will they be as voiciferous as in 2015 on abolishion? No. Why? Because they sense that it will have a negative impact on their favourite horse who is as greedy as anyone else. You have an opportunity to judge their stinking hypocrisy.

    Soma

    • 1
      1

      soman

      “For them an Executive Primeminister is as bad as an Executive President. Or worsse with a man like Ranil Wickramasinghe.”

      If it is worse with a man like Ranil then how would you describe it with the former and aspiring national hangman + his clan including 154 active members controlling nearly 80% of the annual budget of this island? Are you still looking for the right word or phrase to describe?
      Are you one of the 154?
      .

  • 4
    0

    Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

    The race for the Presidency is in full swing. The discourse so far is disappointingly trivial. We have had an Executive Presidency for over twenty years, and six tenancies. Is it not time for us to assess the worth of this system? Considering the overwhelming power of this position, there is good reason for alarm. It is time to consider whether any of the six EP’s we have had, has the qualities adequate to match the inordinate power (and expense) that the position entails? If the answer is “No”,

    *** From the track record and utterances of everyone so far the answer is an Emphatic “NO”. It is a Dual task (like Gothas Nationality) and the Country cannot move on unless both are resolved. 1) The Ehnic Problem 2) EP.

    In my view the first one is the most pressing and immediate problem and if that is settled the second one will either fall by the wayside or can be settled by common consensus.

    If Gotha is returned EP will be Obsolete as Gotha will become a Chief MInister. As day follows Night Ethnic Problem will be made reduntantant as Federal; System becomes a reality. Gotha ruling the South unable to be Airborne and North and East will be ruled by a Tamil.

    • 1
      0

      kali –
      Sri Lanka seems to be obsessed with Royalty!
      When we became a Republic, we should have abolished the Presidency too, which was a Travesty of the Queen of England!
      The ‘Raja’ Paksas seem to be Determined to Become ‘Royalty’, to which they have no Right!
      According to their Name, ‘Raja Pakse’; they are Only the ‘Followers of Royalty’,!
      Uncritical Voters understand only the First Part of their Name!

    • 0
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      Mr Kali
      “In my view the first one is the most pressing and immediate problem and if that is settled the second one will either fall by the wayside or can be settled by common consensus.”
      The problem is no one has so far presented a draft proposal for discussion on a ‘solution’ which encompasses at least 80% of minorities ( all Tamil speaking people irrespective of their religion, caste or the date of arrival scattered across the island) in Sri Lanka. It is up to the intellectuals of your calibre to take the initiative. I suggest you do a sketch of a geographic power sharing scheme covering at least 80% of minorities for the benefit of the CT readers.

      Soma

  • 0
    0

    Dr Upatissa Pethiyagoda has clear messages to our carpetbaggers who under the guise of “Party Stability” are ” protecting Individual personal fortunes” – astronomical.
    The sentence that says it all is {“……Five centuries of foreign domination, have not destroyed our religious and linguistic structures. It would be silly to think that we would do so by ourselves……”} .
    The silver lining is: There are others who see the perils

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