By Sarath de Alwis –
A motion of censure of the President is expected to be debated in parliament on Tuesday 17th May. Ranil Wickremesinghe will also attend parliament on this day as the country’s new Prime minster. Will the censure motion be taken up? If it is debated, will the new Prime minister defend the president?
There are long queues for food fuel and fertilizer. Cost of living is punishingly overpowering. Yet there is freedom in the air. Three or four months ago, a dissenter could not voice a point of view without risking the ordeal of an interrogation by a blackhearted mind assassin serving the deep state.
On 12th May Ahimsa, the daughter of Lasantha Wickrematunge presented a statement before the Peoples Tribunal on the murder of Journalists at the Hague, Netherlands.
“As I speak to you today, remarkable, and truly historic events are taking place in Sri Lanka. After years of suffering under the tyranny of Rajapaksa misrule and despotism, the people have risen in one strident voice and are demanding that these abusive leaders exit from government.”
Now this same abusive leadership has made Ranil Wickremesinghe the Prime minister. How will he react to this strident national voice demanding change?
Can evil deeds be redressed or rectified by a coalition in which the party of evildoers hold a majority stake?
After his manipulative poker game with a besieged president, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe invited the Samagi Jana Balawegaya(SJB) to join hands with the new government to resolve burning issues, leaving aside party politics.
His letter to the Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa is an invitation to solve the burning issues faced by the people.
Ever since the Rajapaksa hegemony was imposed on this land following the civil war the burning issue that quietly but surely roasted every ‘thinking mind’ was our ability to think as free citizens. Instead, we lived in an Orwellian world.
“If thinking is your fate, revere this fate with divine honour and sacrifice to it the best, the most beloved”
It is not unreasonable to presume that Ranil Wickremesinghe has read Friedrich Nietzsche.
While I wouldn’t bother to discuss evil with any of the Rajapaksa brothers, I have no issue discussing ‘evil’ with Ranil.
At some point in life I had the good fortune to listen to Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe who together with S. Nadesan QC founded the Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka.
Defining evil with the nephew of Bishop Lakshman is not a bizarre idea although it may be pouring water on the back of an extremely sycophantic duck.
Identifying evil is a moral problem. When your own self-regard exceeds reason, it is easy to succumb to evil.
I am afraid that is the predicament of Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Ranil Wickremesinghe seems to think that as Winston Churchill claimed he walks with destiny. But Churchill was never ambiguous. He held fast to his own values.
Churchill did not compromise with Nazi or Fascist evil.
Ranil Wickremesinghe is the cocksure white knight absolutely persuaded of his own ability to rescue the nation caught in a hopeless economic quicksand.
Why do I call him a cocksure white knight?
Why shouldn’t I be more accommodating and call him a well-meaning leader with vast experience, with a name recognition that allows him ready access to mover and shakers in global finance?
If he was the well-meaning white knight, he would have first attempted to forge an opposition concord with Sajith Premadasa and M.A. Sumanthriran.
That is not how he operated. He negotiated a backroom deal and then turned towards the task of building a grand coalition.
The opposition rightly wishes to know whether he is the monkey or the organ grinder.
He compares himself with Winston Churchill. Churchill was already in the Cabinet of Neville Chamberlain. Churchill was the first to warn of the ‘Gathering Storm’. Ordinary people turned to him in their ‘Darkest Hour.’ The reluctant elite of the Conservative party had no alternative but to rely on the one man who had the ‘cojones’ to tame the tyrant. Churchill did not suck up to the tyrant in some dark dingy bunker.
I am fortunate to have a grand daughter who connects me to the new technocratic world of the young. She was intrigued by Ranil’s retreat to the first half of the 20th Century. Fortunately, both films Gathering Storm and the Darkest Hour are available on Netflix.
There is no doubt that Ranil Wickremesinghe has now acquired a small support base. It consists of two distinct groups- the naïve and the cynical.
The naïve are the middle class matrons who hope that Ranil will be able to restock empty shop shelves with butter, whipped cream and all other stuff needed to make cheese cake and other pies in Visa card skies.
Then there is the cynical lot who are ready to use the ‘cardboard’ Churchill to survive the real ‘Dunkirk” of keeping state banks standing, paying public servants, and getting railways and busses to run.
Ranil has no real time link to the young people in ‘GotaGoGama’ who are demanding policy not posturing.
I have nothing against Ruwan Wijewardene. Ruwan’s great grandfather D.S. Senanayake died in Gall Face while riding a horse. People don’t ride horses in Gall face today.
It is ironic that Ranil wants Ruwan to offer succour to protestors at Galle Face. It demonstrates how removed he is from reality and history.
I intend no offence. The reticent unassuming Ruwan is no match for Wasantha Mudalige the convener of the Inter University Students federation whose fire in the belly is the amalgamated fury of a generation that holds Ranil Wickremesinghe’s type and class with the same reverence that a lepidopterist may regard the common moth.
Any other person would have faded out of politics after such ignominious performance as Ranil’s in 2020 general election. A cynical intellect explains his resilience.
Evil cannot be tolerated. Politics is a deliberative process. Even if it is necessary, this deliberative process excludes compromise with evil.
Alan Wolfe, a distinguished professor of political science has written a dispassionate guide to the quandaries we face with Political Evil.
A few years ago my daughter Rashmi gave me a copy of his book ‘Political Evil’ as a birthday present. When I heard that Ranil was being sworn in as Prime minister at a peculiarly poetic time between dusk and midnight, I fished out the book to refresh my understanding of political evil.
Alan Wolfe separates evil in general and political evil in particular. There is no honorable compromise with political evil.
A predator molesting child is evil. He can be punished. What do you do with a predator exercising legitimate coercive power of the state to molest the public mind?
Political evil is a process. It is madness with a method. It is essential that we make sense out of the insanity of autocratic governance.
Self-righteous indignation is another form of political evil. Alan Wolfe makes a point that applies to the current logic of Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe. Moral precision is a precondition for political precision.
Even in these dark days of shortages and deprivations the world demands moral clarity.