By Gamini Seneviratne –
Politicians attempting to exercise authority they do not possess, is not new. We may take it that in this world in which Democracy is said to reign, the only source of such authority would be a mandate sought from and obtained from the people. The violation of that imprimatur seems to be a pandemic that afflicts much of this otherwise blessed earth. By way of example one could mention the USA where the true legislators are the large commercial or military outfits for whom ‘commerce’ and ‘crime’ are coterminous. Or the client agencies of those criminals in, say, Brazil, Israel, Ukraine, India which are never given their name but are identified, quite otherwise, in the mass media that underwrites and sanitizes their crimes in languages such as English. As has been quite clear for, say, three or four centuries now, English is a language that has accumulated a vocabulary of deception such as humanity has never seen before.
Let us for example take Trump, Bolsonaro, Modi and Zelensky who at least initially acquired a semblance of legitimacy in the electoral domain. They lost even that in double-quick time: Trump focused on enriching himself and his family, Bolsonaro gave his energies to carrying out the mandate he had received, not from his country but from the USA, to get rid of its millions of native peoples and of the lungs of the earth, the Amazon forest, Modi went to town trying to erase the land of millions of India’s farmers so it could be handed over to his big business controllers (in addition to the Muslims who have retained, in human terms, the most significant manifestations of culture in that vast land, – the Mughal), and Zelensky, the puppet on display by NATO to justify its attempt to grab the resources of Ukraine, seems so pleased with himself in western foto-opps that tell us he is ‘brave’.
And what have we here? A bunch of politikkas that the people want out, a gathering of charlatans who have long lost every trace of legitimacy and whose deals in the parliament premises have no force in law other than such is sought to be conferred by some shoddy lawyers placed in the temples of justice by the guilty parties.
As you would well know, however much the US embassy may wish it were otherwise, your claims to legitimacy, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, are non-existent.(Its titular head’s now trying to confer, on behalf of us, some of the usual kind of yankee legitimacy on your JVP acolytes) .There is no need to enlarge on that statement of reality. Though it may seem otherwise given the statements your buddies – and you – make, none of you have been conferred the freedom of the wild ass.
Now for a bit of history to help you towards the most mundane manifestation of enlightenment. I saw you first at your parents’ home in Thimbirigasyaya over 40 years ago. Following the last of the General Elections that were ‘free and fair’ – those held in 1977 – I had been shoved into the public service ‘pool’, salaried but assigned no work.
Before I was put aside, though, those decision makers were smart enough to know that whatever knowledge officers like me possessed had to be used.
And here’s where the IMF moved in for a subject-specific intervention: the revision of our entire tariff system to make investment easier. That was to be done in conjunction with a hundred per cent devaluation of our currency: the rupee/dollar parity was to move from Rs. 8/- to Rs. 16/- to the dollar. Only a few public servants were apprised of that last detail. The revision of tariffs was entrusted to the Controller of Imports & Exports, Gaya Cumaratunge who had also served a long spell as the Principal Collector of Customs and myself who served as the Director/Regulation of Industries and of Industrial Policy. We were to use our judgment on how the above changes were likely to result in an increase or decrease in trade movement of items and to aim for a total national customs revenue of an amount indicated to us.
The role of the public servant then may be gathered from the fact that in the early hours of Budget Day, 1977, I was summoned for a meeting with the Prime Minister, JR Jayewardene and the Minister of Finance, Ronnie de Mel. The IMF had demanded that certain provisions, relating to industrial machinery and some raw materials, in the revised tariff structure be changed. I explained the rationale for our recommendations and despite further pressure from Washington, that was that.
In the context of ‘the media’ fashioning how we should see what the mostly criminal corporations and such rogue States as the USA and India are doing to us one and all, you should remind yourself of what your father sought to do to counter such forces. In early 1978 Esmond Wickremesinghe had discovered that I was in ‘the Pool’ and decided to entrust me with the development of ‘Lanka Puvath’, a wholly national news agency. He was talking to me about what he had in mind when you walked in. As was quite clear then, while he helped oust a duly elected government in the name of ‘Press Freedom’, Esmond never betrayed our country or worked for her enemies.
You should perhaps consider also the legacy left by your paternal grandfather, CL Wickremesinghe, (the first Ceylonese, i.e., non-Englishman, to be appointed as a Government Agent here). His contributions were many (and your own clarity of vision in dealing with matters of administration is well known); what is referred to here is the compendium of first- hand accounts of their customs and history by village headmen, vidanes et al that he gathered for the North Central Province in the early 1930s. It consisted of five volumes (of which three are extant) of hand-written entries and was lodged with the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS) by Dr. Andreas Nell. A single copy of an abridged version of them edited by Professor D E Hettiarachchi, titled “sinhala sirit sangrahay’ is available there. This seeks to bring to your notice that while the denizens of the Diyavanna complex continue to loot billions, the annual Treasury grant to the RAS has been reduced to Rs. 1.0 million.