29 September, 2020

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Ranil’s Dunkirk Moment: A Reprieve Not A Win

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

This line is a hurried addition added around 8pm on Saturday 7th April. A huge banner on the perimeter fence at the UNP headquarters Sirikotha’ gloats ‘Maha Balayak Ekama Ratak’ – A colossal force – One country. Hannah Arndt comes to my mind. Truthfulness has never been counted among the political virtues and lies have always been regarded as justifiable tools in political dealings. Ranil did not win. He got a reprieve.

In the temple of democracy  

On Wednesday, in the temple of democracy, fiction eclipsed fact. Truth turned tentative. Ethical norms turned elastic.

In a manner of speaking, the debate on the no confidence motion which President Sirisena claims he did not either suggest or promote was profitable, productive, informative and instructive.

We discovered something about our vitiated democracy. The delegated will of the people is not an abstract concept. It is a tangible, tradable commodity. Our delegated will if entrusted to gentleman such as Mr. Dilan Perera or Mr. S.B. Dissanayake, you can bet your bottom dollar, rupee or paisa that, they will e parlay it for good ministerial office irrespective of them being for, against or neutral on Ranil.

If one adheres to etymological purity ‘bull shit’ means the defecated product of a bull. Princeton Professor of Political Science -Harry Brandenburg informs us that ‘Bullshitting’ is a recognized form of political communication.

Art of political communication – Bull Shit

The English Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Bull Shit’ as a noun and slang for ‘stupid or untrue talk’. As a verb ‘Bull Shitting’ implies uttering nonsense.

There is a distinct advantage in using the term ‘Bull Shit’. It is precise. It differentiates between lying and politicking.

Politicians don’t lie. They stretch the truth. The liar violates the law. The bull shitter does not violate the law. On the contrary, Bull Shitters claim to be upholders of the law.

Politicians rely on bullshitting when the truth is inconvenient. It is the better option to lying.

So that is what they did last Wednesday. They engaged in political communication and unloaded container loads of ‘bull shit.’

There are lessons to be learnt from the debate and the final vote count on Wednesday, 4 April. There were three responses during the count. ‘Pakshai’, ‘Virudhai; and Absent. The word ‘absent’ is now in the Sinhala vocabulary.

Staying away is now a form of political statement. It is more than that. It is subterfuge and deceit at its most eloquent.

We are to be blamed. We don’t understand our political class.

Our problem is our inability to understand how politicians see the road ahead. They don’t use a rearview mirror. They don’t need to watch where they are headed to. They don’t remember where they have been.

If the reader understands this bit of convoluted wisdom, he or she would have no problem in deciphering the expositions of Susil Premjayanth and S.B. Dissanayake the two outstanding trapeze artists of last Wednesday’s circus.

The point is to change the system

Philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways said Karl Marx. ‘The point was to change it.’

Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha thero was someone who attempted such change. He was a barefoot prophet. He relied on two emissaries Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The two were not ready to wade in barefoot. Maithri has put on Sinhala Nationalist Ranaviru Boots. Ranil has opted for neoliberal ‘Hush Puppies.’ Give the devil his due. Mahinda is barefoot and walks in the opposite direction.

‘Yahapalanaya’ was a movement. Over three years, it turned in to a business. We have eighteen months remaining to make it again a movement. Failure to make it a movement will make it a swindle in history.

The real and moral

Politicians are realists and not moralists. To us ordinary, little people, conscience is what keeps us awake at night. Not so, if you are in the business of politics. Politicians sleep well. They all slept well on Wednesday night.

Conscience, as the German thinker Nietzsche said is a fake adornment used by little people trying to come to terms with superior people in their midst. It is those superior people who practice the craft of politics.

Ranil will be committing a grave error, if he considers Wednesday’s vote as a win. It was at best an engineered survival. If he is elated by the noise of the crackers paid for by the party, his elation will be at his own peril.

Cronyism is a phenomenon that is as old as the discipline of modern economics.  Adam Smith, the intellectual founder of modern free-market economics, famously called the economic system he advocated “the obvious and simple system of natural liberty.

 What he called natural liberty was applicable especially to the non-elite who are represented by the Range Bandaras.

Robust economic growth offered the only way out and the means of creating opportunities for the less advantaged members of society. The trick is to convince them by speaking their language. Ranil has 18 months left to find people who speak with coherence the language that they understand.

A reprieve, not a win

 It is a reprieve and not a victory for Prime Minster Ranil Wickremesinghe. The rainbow collation of January 8, 2015 is not dead but in a state of hibernation. It can be resuscitated by a credible leadership. At present, that excludes any leading light in the current firmament.

No Tamil or Muslim parliamentarian voted for the no confidence motion. The minorities do not want a return of the Rajapaksa tribe.

Should the SLFP follow this duplicitous path , it will not merely end up divided, it will lose its coherence and relevance as a political party ceding more ground to the rival ‘Pohottuwa’. Wednesday’s vote has a clear message for both parties. In the absence of a genuine will on the part of both sides, and a failure to restore a working relationship the national government will be a circus populated with clowns. People will not be amused. Popular outrage can be surprisingly spontaneous.

The convoluted logic of the president in not noticing the incongruence of SLFPers who voted for the motion opting to remain in the cabinet headed by the Prime minister and presided over by him- the president is a subject that we must discuss another day another time.

The defeat of the no confidence motion is not a win for either Wickremesinghe or his party. It is only a reprieve and not a final resolution of its internal crisis.

The ousted tyranny lurks close, breathing down our necks hurting memory, tormenting emotion and spoiling our mood.

Lessons of Dunkirk

If Ranil is prudent and prescient, he will regard his parliamentary survival on Wednesday night as his Dunkirk moment. By doing so, he will be able to trace a Churchillian path towards abolition of the executive presidency, honest to goodness power devolution and purposeful national reconciliation.

Dunkirk was the unplanned turning point that allowed Britain to recover from its humiliating defeat and withdrawal in the face of Hitler’s advancing army. Dunkirk represents both – abyss of despair and a fountain of hope and courage.

British troops trapped between the Nazi juggernaut and the channel were saved in a massive evacuation by sheer grit and enormous luck.

The success of the evacuation was a morale booster. It allowed beleaguered Britain, time and space to recover and finally defeat Nazi tyranny.

What happened in parliament on Wednesday night was such an evacuation of troops. In case they notice, it helped identify enemy infiltrators.

Blunders and miscalculations

Novelist J.B. Priestley was a BBC reporter on the beaches of Dunkirk. ‘What began as a miserable blunder, a catalogue of misfortunes and miscalculations, ended as an epic of gallantry.’ A fitting summing up of the past three years of Yahapalanaya!

On Wednesday night our miserable blunders, miscalculations and misfortunes ended when the good sense of the UNP rebels prevailed over their anger and disillusionments. Their gallantry of purpose overcame their reticence of the leader’s shortcomings.

The promoters of the motion knew that SLFP defectors alone could not do the trick. UNP dissidents were a vital component of the equation.

Evident, seeming and obvious    

The motion of no confidence was evidently aimed at the Prime Minister. It was seemingly condemnatory of the bond scam. It was obviously intended to change the composition of the government.

The grand hoopla created by its architects, sponsors and wanna-be legatees is irrefutable proof of Mahinda’s mastery over popular imagination.

Mahinda Rajapaksa having won the war proceeded to remodel our socio-economic and political structures. He converted impersonal institutions that trace their origins to the time when universal franchise was introduced in to extractive agencies, managed as personal fiefdoms. Kinship and friendship determined political allegiance.

The Yahapalsanaya successors found the proposition too seductive to dismantle. They foolishly attempted to replace existing kinships and friendships with their own.

Remaining eighteen months

In the remaining eighteen months, the government cannot do what it failed to do in the past three years. That said, it can by exploiting this Dunkirk moment, outwit the tyrant by opening a second front in the form of credible investigations and prosecutions of crimes that the Rajapaksa regime committed.

These are crimes that everybody talks about and nobody seems anxious to do anything about. Lasanatha. Prageeth. Thajudeen. Yet, in the last two weeks, there are signs of movement in these emblematic cases of Rajapaksa excesses and brutality. A sudden spate of arrests, refusal by courts to grant immunity from arrest in the case of high officials now under criminal investigation for abduction and murder indicates a turning point.

A Cabinet not exceeding 30, that excludes national list members who cannot claim exceptional and demonstrated competence and achievements would help restore credibility to a government that is perceived as rudderless.

Only, firm decisive action and demonstrated political will in the next eighteen months will reawaken the reformist constituency of 8th January 2015 ahead of the elections in 2019 and 2020.

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    Sarath, you have decided to completely ignore the ‘contents’ of the NCM, like everyone else you have focused only on the man affected. The subject of Bond scam and culpability of RW is totally missing in your beautiful essay which is mainly about corrupt, hypocritic, double-tounged nature of politicians, as I understood. Nowhere in our parliamentary history this character of our politicians was so dazzlingly displayed as in this NCM affair. Now you want this very same rotten lot to do a Dunkirk and display their determination, heroism, galantary and patriotism in order to reverse the public anger displayed on February 10. How? By taking vigilante action against Rajapaksa offences and offenders EXCLUDING those that happened during the last three years. Like the Tamil leaders who demand one sided accountability. You have one and half years to cover up three years of sin. Again, who are your gallent, patriotic soldiers for the Dunkirk I wonder. Some hope Mr Alwis.
    Soma

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      Soma,

      Point taken. “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” ― Francis of Assisi

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        Problem, Sarath is that BOTH sides of a devide can adopt such public advice. I have been always puzzled by the fact that Sun Tzu is available for all sides of a war – so who is guaranteed the win?
        Soma

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      Sarath,

      There are 2 types here, that we fail to identify ……… full-bull-shitters and half-bull-shitters …………. full-liars and half-liars ………

      Full-liars/ full-bull-shitters have a distinct advantage over the half-liars/ half-bull-shitters ….. as their narrative does not require to accommodate any component of truth/ethics/morality ………

      Mahinda Rajapakse, Donald Trump, JO, ……… et al ………….. fall in to the full-liars/ full-bull-shitters category ……… Mahinda or Donald can’t even say a single word of truth even if their lives depended on it; everything is twisted for advantage, the truth does not even come into the picture ……….. that’s the nature of the beast …….. and people don’t mind ……… and their defenders can be found in the highest positions of respective religiosities whose bread and butter is to uphold the highest standard of morals/ethics ……… Such is life ……….

      Ranil, Sirisena, Hilary Clinton, Obama, …….. et al ………… fall in to the half-liars/ half-bull-shitters category ………… and the nature of the stance they have taken put them at a distinct disadvantage because they can never live up to the ethics/morals there stance compel them to profess ……….

      Mahinda, Donald, JO ……. et al …….. can say or do anything and get away with it …………… but not Ranil, Sirisena, Hilary, Obama …………..

      This is just an observation …….. I’m in no position to throw stones ………. I know bugger all about politics; not my cup of tea, just not interested ……..but I’ve done the same in another area of human shindig ……… in the volcanic hormonal eruptions of youth ……….. sell the gals …… that I am the knight on a white horse they have been waiting for …….. not much different to what Mahinda or Donald is doing with the voters …….. (or probably both!)

      There are no victims ……… the deceived are as responsible as the deceivers ………. there is no such thing as one-hand-clapping ……….

      It’s a funny thang ………. this human-nature ……………..

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    To begin with why Ranil does not establish a govt on his own with those 122 people ?. Even some SLFP MPs did not vote and others stayed out of the Ordeal.SO, he won without the help of SLFP.

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    Can the reformists in civil society yet again rely on bankrupt politicians for leadership? Why don’t they go for a non politician with an island wide strategy?

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    Sarath: The crisis in Lanka is Structural and organized by the sole superpower that is using its Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhist Diaspora citizens – Basil and Gota Rajapaksa -as Manchurian Candidates while “advising” Ranil Wickramasinghe with Fake Reconciliation and Economic Development Experts.

    The bi-partisan UNP-SLFP political corrupt governance racket IS a structural crisis in Lanka today, and is organized and brokered by Ranil’s US/ Washington handlers and “policy advisers” whose anti-China game in the Indian Ocean and strategically located Sri Lanka is: “Heads I win, Tails you lose”.Just think, Ranil’s UNP goons have attacked the Sirasa and News First media, just like Mahinda and Gota Jarapassa did!

    US citizen Gota, who privatized the most lucrative SL navel operation to a foreign Surveillance and globalsecurity company called Avante Guard is the Manchurian Candidate for President of Lanka today protected by Bondscam Ranil on instructions of his foreign handlers, in the name of FAKE RECONCILIATION!.
    Lankan masses are screwed in this game of Thrones
    Also, Anti Tamil 1983 riot/ pogrom, and more recently anti Muslim riots in 2018, all happened during the UNP regime pushing neo-liberal reforms (advancing US strategic interests and access to Data platforms – financial, biometric, marine, land bank etc) for which the minorities were scapegoated as the economy crashed due to corruption.
    Anti Muslim riots were to distract us from Bond scam, organized by Pathala Champika Mega Polis BBS and Mahasohon Patron to benefit Ranil and keep mega ego Pathala – China’s emperor..
    Bottom line is, Bondscam Ranil must be impeached for Grand Larceny at the Central bank of Sri Lanka sooner or later and Ranil should share a prison cell with Mahinda Rajapaksa, and US citizens Basil and Gota the Avant Garde Navy Scammer.
    Long live Miracle of Modayas!

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    The original Dunkirk was not about one trying to tarnish another.

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    Your article is like a half rotten fish baked in a micro wave oven There are some good parts and bad parts as well.In some bad parts worms are still wriggling as always happen in microwave cooking
    suggest next time you select a good fish

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