18 September, 2021

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Ranil & Mahinda Jump The Gun On Afghanistan, Lockdown At Last In Sri Lanka

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

After twenty years, trillions of dollars, thousands of planes, copters and drones in the air, and tens of thousands of military boots on the ground, the American enterprise in Afghanistan has come down like a house of cards. The returning Taliban forces took barely two weeks to establish their power all over the country. The Afghan armed forces, so called, walked away without resistance and their Commander in Chief, President Ashraf Ghani, fled the country with his family and now says he is ready to return for talks.

The reports and images streaming out of Afghanistan show the panic among the supporters of the fallen government. Many of them are storming the airport in Kabul jostling for a seat in any one of the American military planes flying out of Afghanistan. On the other hand, there are also reports that large numbers of Afghans, perhaps the ‘silent majority’ – to borrow Nixon’s crafty phrase during the Vietnam war, seem relieved that power has changed hands without bloodshed and that life can return to a new normal without gun shots in the background.

Outside Afghanistan, there is hyped up speculation about what the Taliban will or will not do in the country now that they are its uncontested rulers. Will they act like grownups now compared to twenty years ago? Not that the Bush-Cheney Administration was particularly mature twenty years ago. Today there is too much of manufactured outrage among American media pundits over the Biden-Harris Administration’s botched up exit plan. Too little, on the other hand, is said about what four successive American governments have done to the people of Afghanistan over twenty years. 

Other governments and leaders are watching the unfolding events in Afghanistan, and are not rushing to recognize or reject the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the country under the new Taliban administration. The exceptions are of course the US and its G7 allies, on the one hand, and the troika of Russia, China and Pakistan, on the other. The former propped up the now fallen government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The latter group is working to globally normalize the new Taliban government. In the South Asian regional context, the biggest beneficiary of the change in Afghanistan is Pakistan. The biggest setback will be to the Hindu Nationalist Modi government in India. But even Pakistan is not rushing to formally recognize the Taliban government even though it is only a matter of formality for the Imran Khan government.

So, it was somewhat bemusing to see Sri Lankan leaders, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapaksa, rushing to make statements on Afghanistan while other governments are watching and waiting. Ranil Wickremesinghe was the first to go, urging the Sri Lankan government not to recognize the Taliban administration, because under the Taliban, Afghanistan will again become a hub for terror groups, which may lead to terrorism raising its head again in Sri Lanka. This from the gentleman who claimed innocence over Sri Lankan security matters after the 2019 Easter bombings.

The very next day the former PM was contradicted by the current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who “re-affirmed Sri Lanka’s continued support to the people of Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.” Mr. Rajapaksa also let it be known that he had spoken with, not anyone from the Taliban, but strangely with the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai “to inquire about the ongoing developments unfolding in the war-torn country and further re-affirm Sri Lanka’s support for the Afghans.” Neither statement is going to be noticed by anyone outside Sri Lanka. But we can be curious about who within Sri Lanka will be taking note of either statement. Specifically, which embassy or high commission could be the intended target audience? Or may have prompted either of the two statements?

Lockdown at last

Even as global news is being dominated by Afghanistan and the Taliban, Covid-19 is front and centre in Sri Lanka. After weeks of foot dragging and denials, the government announced on Friday afternoon a 10-day lockdown from 10:00 PM on Friday to 4:00 AM on Monday, August 30. Whether a lockdown is going to be a week or two late is irrelevant now. At this critical stage no measure is too little, too early, or too late. Every measure counts, but every measure must be based on the considered recommendations of medical professionals. And not on the hocus pocus of some clairvoyant.

Until the lockdown announcement on Friday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s adamant opposition to lockdowns was becoming a national mystery. An SLPP Minister tried to give a rather lame explanation – that the President doesn’t like lockdowns because they will hurt the poor. The truth is timely lockdowns are needed to protect the poor from getting infected. A different explanation that has gone viral on social media, and has been authenticated by Colombo Telegraph, is about the President apparently heeding the advice of a lady astrologer named Gnanakka against imposing a lockdown during the Kandy Perahera season.

It is extraordinary that in the middle of a global pandemic, anyone would expect that any one country, however blessed, could be exclusively protected by supernatural influences. That is Sri Lanka, the most blessed of all lands. There was cynical expectation of a lock down being announced on Monday after the final Day Perahera is over. The President has answered the cynics by announcing the lockdown on the third day of the Randoli Perahera. May be new planetary positions have become auspicious enough to permit a lockdown before the perahera is over. 

In addition, the incorrigibly loquacious State Minister Channa Jayasumana is reported to have said that the government decided to impose the lockdown in response to the appeal by the Sangha to shut down the country for one week to contain the spread of Covid-19. This gentleman is a Doctor and a Professor of Pharmacology to boot. What was his advice to the President in his capacity as a medical professional? Did he try to professionally intercede between the President looking for celestial signals and the community of medical professionals who have pleading for weeks on end for stringent lockdown measures?

It is known that the Maha Nayaka  Theras of the Asgiriya and Malwatta Chapters sent a letter to the President requesting him “to close the country for at least a week to control the rapid spread of COVID-19 virus.” But they were only endorsing what virtually everyone else in the country, save the President’s clairvoyant entourage, were hoping for. The leaders of ten political parties in the governing SLPP alliance asked the President in writing to impose a three-week lockdown as a necessary measure to contain the spread of the virus. They even urged him to establish “a committee of health and economic experts to provide advice” to the government. Not too subtle a statement on the presidential task forces.

In Spite of the Government

These were all reactions to what was happening on the ground, as people were beginning to act on their own behalf in response to inaction by the government. Remarkably, they were beginning to act in spite of the government. This development is not only unprecedented, but has also unnerved the government and spontaneously empowered the people. Among the first were businesses and retailers who announced the suspension of business and commercial activities in reportedly 31 cities across the country to stem the spread of Covid-19. Lawyers’ Associations in a number of cities also decided to stop attending courts until the spread of Covid-19 is brought under control. Trade unions in the health sector, with support from the National Trade Union Centre, have notified that they will lockdown themselves if the government were to continue to rebuff lockdown calls.

Until the lockdown announcement on Friday, the government’s responses have been haphazard and reactive and not at all bold and decisive. During the week, the Ministry of Health issued a new set of health guidelines, most of which the people were beginning to observe on their own anyway. If these guidelines were late and redundant, the President’s mini cabinet shuffle last Monday provided the occasion for some mirth in the middle of a misery.

The shuffle involved a select band of cabinet ministers. Some of them apparently did not know that they were being shuffled out and in, till they were summoned for their swearing in. No one lost anything, while a few, or only one, Namal Rajapaksa, gained something. A kind of Pareto optimality (increasing the welfare of some without diminishing the welfare of any) in presidential cabinet making. No one could make head or tail of what the shuffle was all about, and editorial writers had a field day after the shuffle in pouring scorn over the whole thing.

Namal Rajapaksa’s new responsibility as Development Co-ordination and Observation Minister has been either laughed at or seriously interpreted, depending on the slant of the commentator. A devilish typo in a purportedly serious interpretation gives the game away. I am not making this up, and I quote from a Colombo newspaper:  “Main and among the latest change is the addition of a new portfolio to Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa. In addition to his current portfolio, he received the Development Coordination and Subversion Ministry.”  Subversion is indeed the term, because NR’s new responsibility is apparently a subtraction from the other long-tiled Capital Markets and Public Enterprises Reform State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal. Poor Cabraal. What he has lost, the Rajapaksa scion has gained – with a purse of Rs. Seven trillion for development projects – for observation, rather, subversion!

All of the above was on Monday last week. By Friday, the government was backpedalling. The President addressed the nation for 17 long (by dual-citizen American standard) minutes, 90 minutes before lockdown started. Speech watchers have noted that it was a much shorter speech than his earlier 69 minute defensive harangue. What was manifestly missing was any show of empathy for the people falling sick daily and dying in increasingly large numbers. He even took a cheap swipe at the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) for their due diligence before approving the Sinopharm vaccine from China. According to the President the NMRA “delayed” its approval. He should have contacted Gnanakka for a speedier green light. 

The reality of Covid-19 infections and deaths in Sri Lanka couldn’t be any starker. Soon after the President spoke on Friday, the official government totals for Thursday came out: 3,839 infections and 195 deaths. According to Google global data, Sri Lanka’s Friday totals are 8,647 infections and 195 deaths. The actual numbers could be dreadfully higher. No one is faulting the government for not finding a quick way out of the pandemic. There isn’t any. Vaccination has become necessary, but it is by no means sufficient. Just look around the world.

What the government can be blamed for is trying to find a clairvoyant way out of the pandemic. The President must eschew hocus pocus, stop burdening the military with tasks that require medical knowledge and expertise, and surround himself with genuine experts on health and the economy. They will give him the advice that he ought to hear, and not what he would conveniently like to hear. If not, the people will start looking after themselves and will start acting on their own behalf, not on account of the government but in spite of the government. To a large extent, people in general were already in a lockdown mode. The government only formalized it, albeit belatedly. Politically, it is never too long a distance for any people to go from acting in spite their government to acting in defiance of it. 

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Latest comments

  • 8
    2

    You mean
    .
    ‘After twenty years, trillions of dollars, thousands of planes, copters and drones in the air, and tens of thousands of military boots on the ground, the American enterprise in Afghanistan…..has succeeded in replacing the Taliban with the Taliban.

    • 3
      0

      As for Mahinda, it is all about votes. Aligning with the Taliban can win votes from a particular community. Hasn’t learned a lesson from the Easter Sunday terrorist attack.

  • 14
    1

    Thanks for this superb essay, Rajan. It is elegantly written and yet calls the rotten system in Sri Lanka, for what it truly is – based on Mumbo Jumbo and Joo Joo.

    Jayasumana is a fraud, and everyone knows it, but you put is very well: “Did he try to professionally intercede between the President looking for celestial signals and the community of medical professionals who have pleading for weeks on end for stringent lockdown measures?” No, he certainly did not. He’s too much of a sycophant and racist fraud to go anywhere near doing or saying the right thing.

    Namal too, is a joker. It is so appropriate that he is named as the all-powerful minister of sabotage (oops, subversion). Can’t have happened to a nicer chap. It is said that the big thug Mahinda was brought down by the screw-ball antics of his sons; now let’s hope that the little narcissistic, only partly complete thug, Gotabaya (as someone recently described him) also meets his nemesis on account of the same rotten, perverted scum borne of Mahinda’s loins.

    • 6
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      Easton Scott,
      .
      We have a we have a few writers like Rajan Philips who make life bearable for us by regularly writing disciplined sense. Such writing cannot flow automatically; it calls for dedication, honesty and hard work.
      .
      A few days ago, old codger had remarked that we now have too many nutters on CT, without naming them. I see only ten comments on this article right now, three from “Humble”. It is time for CT to block all comments from this fellow. He’s more knave than fool. Typically, each comment has an opening which resonates with most readers, who, therefore, seem not only to refrain from condemning him, but even commend his comment, without bothering with the next bit which talks of Freemasonry of all things. Having been persuaded to try Masonry for about five years, and found it not very relevant to me, I’ve tried, without success to tell this guy that there is nothing evil or dangerous about all their activity.
      .
      Other readers may know so little of this Fraternity that they get taken in, allowing the real crooks to get away with crimes in this country which now get more horrific every day.

    • 4
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      Yes, immensely enjoyable writing. Rajan Philips is the master of the ‘elegant bite.’

  • 6
    13

    Why is the masonic media and governments so obsessed with the taliban all of a sudden?
    It is because the talibans style of oppressive rule, is what they are trying to implement world wide.
    But instead using ‘islam’, they do it under the guise of a fake pandemic using modern technology.

  • 14
    2

    The only reason why Mahinda supported Taliban rule in Afghanistan is that he was ordered by his Chinese Bosses to do so. China is with the Taliban!

    • 2
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      China is already negotiating with the Taliban (like blood suckers), just like Sri Lanka, Zambia, nations in South America, and others, they will ply them with badly needed aid, and syphon off resources, and build airports, bridges, and railways at a cost. The foolish leaders, just like in Sri Lanka, will let them (they will benefit personally too).

      • 0
        0

        A
        China is already in Afghanistan for years, and had good diplomatic terms with both sides, so much so they even offered to negotiate peace between the government and Taliban.
        Can you suggest any supporter for development of Afghanistan?
        If you do, please send an urgent message before they get caught in what you may call some trap.

  • 3
    5

    Lockdown at last
    ——
    You make it sound like this is the very first time restrictions have been placed in sri lanka.
    The island has been under martial law on and off since 2020.

  • 3
    11

    but every measure must be based on the considered recommendations of medical professionals. And not on the hocus pocus of some clairvoyant
    ————-
    Many of these medical ‘professionals’ pushing this fake pandemic are freemasons.
    They very much believe in the supernatural, even if they make fun of it to the public.
    They are in those masonic lodges behind closed doors all sorts of satanic rituals to appease the devil.

    • 1
      0

      H
      Please give us a list of non-freemason medical professionals who can advise on the matter..

  • 6
    1

    Afghanistan has always been subjected to undue attention and interference by world powers because of its strategically critical location. At least now, why not let these unfortunate people, who had to endure more than their share of human suffering, sort out their own problems. Taliban is only the latest chapter in their long history of suffering due to the vortex of an oppressive religion and hostile geography in which they find themselves. It too will peter out like past tyrannies have done unless propped up by external interests. Current narratives of the turmoil in the country can help the process of liberation by telling the story from Afghan people’s point of view for a change, rather than repeating the discourses that have kept them under oppression for so long.

  • 4
    3

    Two words describe their motivation – Muslim votes.

  • 13
    1

    Rambuk , Shavendra , Jeyasumana and Johnston have told press , 4 different versions of lockdown. Each have given their version of who can venture out during lockdown. Poor public and law maintaining police have no clue amd more confused. This is Lanka.

    • 13
      2

      Rajapaksas have recognized Zaharan in past.. They kept many on their own payroll.

  • 2
    0

    After Taliban settles down it should look at Sri Lanka and Burma and see what it could do to protect vulnerable Muslims from murderous Buddhist.

  • 1
    0

    We need to get our country back on track as soon as possible to avoid the loss caused by lockdown.

    Human loss – Doctors advice
    Economic loss- Minister advice

    It is so important to know the facts about this dangerous disease, so you can settle any fears and concerns your child might have.
    As people were beginning to act on their own behalf in response to inaction by the government

  • 1
    0

    Part1:
    The author discusses matters from Afghanistan to clairvoyance. What requires in matters of state and its administration is rational thinking. Clairvoyance is a bug that has struck a vast majority of people in Sri Lanka, from high ups to the bottom rung, both in terms of economy and power (political or otherwise) and has not spared any ethnicity or religion. Some of them are smart not to reveal their clairvoyant connections. When the “Paniya” was the much-publicized remedy for COVID in Sri Lanka, the Ex-PM, Ranil in a statement urged to seek guidance from local health regulatory authorities or the AstraZeneca developers of Oxford University, claiming connections to the developer’s father as his classmate and compared the “Paniya” to Grease. The “Kapurala” (The human intermediary of the supernatural) claimed that though Ranil condemned the “Paniya” to grease, Ranil too consulted the “Kapurala” before the 2015 victory and gave all the spiritual blessings and guidance for the same. Voila! One wonders whether the reactions of the PM, or the Ex-PM on Afghanistan too is because of clairvoyance as both decide on some perceived notion when others are cautious in their approach.

  • 1
    0

    Part 2:
    “Gnanakka” or the more honorific “Gnanamani” has the reputation of guiding the present President to the point of irking some “pakse” family members. This bring memories of a Ms. Hofmans dominating the Dutch Royal Court sparking feuds among the royal family members and it is said that the Dutch Prime Minister of the day solved the problem by bundling her out of the Netherlands when she was on a stroll outside the palace. It is further rumored that the security of the clairvoyant has been tightened thus anticipating some misfortune on her precipitated presumably by the rest of the first family. We all know about the debacles of Macbeth as illustrated by Shakespeare and our own example of Mahinda upon falling prey to clairvoyancy.
    It appears that the spiritual advice of the clairvoyant (some refer to her as the Vice President of spiritual affairs) takes precedence over all professional advice and the only persons who could break the spell was the Mahanayakes. I am not the least surprised to find that this exercise was engineered by brother Mahinda. This is exactly what the Professorial State Minister of Health reported. His professional advice? Silence is golden!

  • 2
    0

    Organisations of Traders, Lawyers and other groups had already imposed a Lockdown of sorts. This was followed by the Mahanayakes of Malwatte and Asgiriya urging the Govt:to impose a Lockdown.
    Gota sensed danger; The horses were kicking their heels to Bolt. The stable doors were quickly shut to avoid a humiliation to his ego; After all, he was being challenged, he thought. Now is the time for a Lockdown,he said , to save face !
    As for Gnanakka, she will now say Sun has moved into Sinha[ Leo ] ,its own sign.
    Alls well that ends well eh?!

    b] Taliban, Al-Qaeda are all one and the same- Islamic extremists.
    The triumph of Taliban will lead to the revival of Al-QAEDA.
    China has got another feather to its cap with Taliban.

    c ] Will Buddhist Srilanka openly support Taliban, not withstanding the destruction of the Bamiyan statues?

  • 10
    0

    Both are despicable. MR has never read a book in his life. He thinks the whole world is corrupt like him and can be manipulated with cunning, a bribe, a job or a meal.

    Ranil obviously suffers from a complex. He knows he has no leadership quality or voter recognition . So he tries to pose off as a vast expert on everything. In foreign policy, economics, good governance, Central Bank auctions, political manoeuvres he is an expert ! ! He succeeds in creating this false impression because today the quality of the UNP membership is very low. If there were people like JR or Lalith, they would have wondered how Ranil can pose as an expert. Has anyone seen anything written by Ranil which has any depth or subject matter ?

    He is just a lawyer like the thousands of black coats who hang around the courts .

    His expertise is seen whenever he gets elected and soon gets kicked out. Today Ranil is in parliament without a mandate to be there . He is a man without any shame or sense of self respect.

  • 2
    3

    “…the troika of Russia, China and Pakistan,”
    When did they become a troika?
    *
    I would say that MR has a better grasp of the matter than RW. Taliban will be there for the foreseeable feature. The scenes created by supporters of the departing invaders made no impact, and the Taliban has not reacted in knee-jerk fashion.
    The image of Taliban created by mainstream media like that of all perceived enemies of US imperialism, is flawed. But countries will know better in months if not weeks.

  • 3
    0

    Ranil and Mahinda are very close allies helping each other. Media gives more priority to them because the media is controlled by them. Their purpose is to damage the popularity of Sajith because of his caste. They celebrated the murder of Ranasinghe Premadasa and now his son. The reality is Buddhist Fundamentalism only allows high caste Buddhists.

  • 3
    0

    The question that puzzles me most is why are the citizens of Afghanistan trying frantically to flee their country? And prefer to emigrate to non-Muslim countries at that! Don’t they like Sharia Law? This seems like highly hypocritical behaviour to me!

  • 7
    0

    That ugly oaf Bandula Gunawardene has joined the president and said that the ‘Public must make sacrifices’. The sheer arrogance of this SOB, it’s the politicians who should make sacrifices. Their resignation and suicide would be a good start.

  • 4
    0

    Don’t they say that behind every successful man there is a woman? And, so, now we know. Behind the man who was successful in the last Presidential race is also a woman – and a clairvoyant at that!

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