28 September, 2020

Blog

Reflections On The Political Crossroads

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

First of all let me add my own tribute to all the others on the stunning political skill shown in the choice of Maithripala Sirisena as the common candidate. The tribute for this, according to public perceptions, should go primarily to Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Bandaranaike. It is worth a song and dance because political skill of a high order has been for the most part been conspicuously absent from our politics. MS is a true son of the rural soil, to a far greater extent than President Rajapaksa, as Premadasa was a true son of the urban gutter. He has a blameless political record, and can be expected to split the Sinhalese Buddhist vote to a substantial extent.

But he is a rather colourless figure, which raises the question of why it has been so difficult to find a credible common candidate. We have come to a crossroads in our politics at which it is desperately important to choose a new road as the present one can be expected to lead to another doom-laden 1989, as I argued in my last article. The need of the hour is therefore a charismatic leader, but none can be spotted on the horizon. I believe that this is not accidental but tells us something important about our politics. It is that there are no ideals in our politics, only interests. When India won independence in 1947 there was a desperate need to forge the unity of a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multicultural nation, which was seen as a noble ideal. Nehru provided stable charismatic leadership over a long period, the unity of the nation has been firmly established, and there is no longer a need for charismatic leadership: a bureaucratic type of leader would do to suit the regime of the quotidian. In 1948 the Sinhalese saw no need to forge national unity as this is the land of the Sinhalese, while the minorities are visitors. The minorities furthermore were seen as privileged; in fact they are still seen as privileged, and therefore the essential thrust of Sinhalese politics from 1948 to 2014 has been to ensure that the lion gets the lion’s share. It is essentially a politics of interest with no ideals worth speaking about, and therefore our political culture is so low-grade that it cannot produce a charismatic leader.

Maithri SWRD

MS has a blameless political record, and can be expected to split the Sinhalese Buddhist vote to a substantial extent.

The way the Opposition parties and groups are conceptualizing the present critical juncture in our politics seems to be highly significant. The focus is mainly on the dichotomy between democracy and dictatorship; it is not on the economy and the ethnic problems. This is understandable in the case of the economy because there is probably a broad national consensus about it. Economic growth requires a market-oriented economy, but Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” ensuring a beneficent outcome for all does not seem to be much in evidence. It does not seem possible to combine economic growth with equity under a capitalist system. We can expect corruption and inequality to keep on growing along with the growth of the economy. Probably a Government dominated by the UNP will be even more ruthless in suppressing the economically dissatisfied than the present one. On the ethnic front, the Opposition has had nothing to say up to now about the problem of implementing 13A more fully and working out a political solution for the Tamil ethnic problem, nor about the Muslim ethnic problem which has now to be regarded as a major one. The reason for this is of course obvious: if the Opposition raises a clamor about the ethnic problems it will lose a sizeable chunk of the Sinhala Buddhist vote. There is also the fact that the Opposition is seeing the problem of dictatorship in a simplistic way, ignoring the specificity of the present drive to dictatorship which to my mind is clearly neo-Fascist with racism built into it.

We badly need an analysis of why the family has been so important in our politics. I have argued earlier that dictatorship leads to division and hierarchy. A dictator places himself above the people, and his coterie is also placed above the people, so that it becomes arguable that division and hierarchy are at the very core of dictatorship. In addition to the authoritarian and dictatorial drive shown by several of our Governments – notably those of Presidents Jayewardene, Premadasa, and Rajapaksa – our Governments have also been, to varying degrees and in different ways, racist. In other words our politics have been deeply divisive from 1948 up to the present day. Consequently, our minorities have a deep sense of alienation, and the Sinhalese themselves seem to be becoming more and more divisive. As I pointed out in an earlier article, the Sino-Indian War of the early ‘sixties resulted immediately in a tremendous affirmation of unity across the length and breadth of India, but the coming of the IPKF troops – which was seen by many Sri Lankans as posing a grave threat to our sovereignty and unity – was followed by the Sinhalese butchering each other on a massive scale.

It is in this context of divisiveness that we must try to understand the problem of the family in our politics. It is of course not a problem that is peculiar to Sri Lanka but something that has been pervasive in Afro-Asia. However, there are significant differences of degree in the extent to which dynastic politics are practiced. In India the Nehru dynasty held sway over decades though not continuously. But with the election debacle of the latest Nehru scion the dynasty seems to be coming to an end. A noteworthy fact is that in between spells of power by the Nehru dynasty – Nehru, Indira, and Rajiv – there have been several other Prime Ministers, but none tried to found a dynasty. The case has been very different in Sri Lanka where the dynastic principle seems to be more rampant than ever before, with – it is said – the Rajapakse family controlling 56% of the Budget. The dominance or otherwise of the family in politics seems to be related to the extent of the sense of unity in a country. Where relations of trust and reciprocity are badly in deficit, where there is no vibrant sense of unity in a society, it has to be expected that the Leader will feel that ultimately he can depend on none other than his kith and kin. India has been forging national unity since 1947; in Sri Lanka we have yet to realize the need for it.

I mean by forging national unity much more of course than preventing the division of the country by separatist forces. Authentic national unity has to be based on a notion of citizenship as conferring equal rights on all irrespective of ethnic and other affiliations. National unity in this sense is a requisite for achievement, as I pointed out in my last article, something that is not widely understood. But it is certainly very widely understood that the lack of national unity can lead to a loss of independence. This point hardly needs laboring with Sri Lankans because the history of this country shows that at several critical junctures one group invited foreigners to take its side against another group, the foreigners obliged and took over parts of the country, until the British – the most astute of them all who knew a good thing when they saw it – took over the country in its entirety.

Today colonialism and imperialism are anathematized, but we can still lose our independence in all but name while retaining a nominal sovereignty. Our politics have become so degraded that many Sri Lankans believe that a substantial proportion of our politicians can be bought and sold like potatoes. Will India or some other foreign power buy some politicians to gain control of a future Government? It is the kind of thing that can happen if we continue without any sense of national unity worth speaking about. I am wondering in fact whether some amount of erosion of sovereignty has already taken place. Has there been some foreign pressure behind the very surprising latitude that the Government has allowed for the anti-Muslim campaign? I am raising the question in order to emphasize that at the present political crossroads our first imperative should be the forging of national unity.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 1
    1

    Izeth Hussain –

    “First of all let me add my own tribute to all the others on the stunning political skill shown in the choice of Maithripala Sirisena as the common candidate. The tribute for this, according to public perceptions, should go primarily to Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Bandaranaike:

    Yes. Fully Agree.
    [Edited out]

    • 3
      3

      Mr Hussain ays, ” He …can be expected to split the Sinhalese Buddhist vote to a substantial extent.”

      A Freudian slip no doubt. The Muslim objective since the Turks ruined India has been to divide and rule. In fact the European vandals learnt the practice from these criminals.

      He also says “Sinhalese politics from 1948 to 2014 has been to ensure that the lion gets the lion’s share.”

      take a walk from Kollupitiya (Galle Face round about) to Ratmalana and take stock of residences, commercial buildings, and businesses before you complain about who has the lion’s share.

      You are an unreformed Muslim bigot Hussain.

      • 3
        1

        Poomail

        “You are an unreformed Muslim bigot Hussain.”

        Poomali You are an ignorant uninformed Tamil bigot and sucker who sucked idiots like you to get killed for your leader VP Maveeran, because your jobs with the Govt decreased from 50% to 25% when the SLFP came to power over the years.

        Even today, the Muslims Constitute less than 2% of the govt workers. Even at the University, the numbers are small. It is a combination of culture and discrimination by the majority.

        Look at the statistics. The average per capita income of Muslims is lower than the rest of the population. That is partly due to education as well.

        So, the only way Muslims to survive is do business or go overseas. True for many rural Sinhala as well as Tamils as well.

        • 0
          3

          Strange choice of name to appear as a Muslim to fuel ethnic disharmony!

          But the fact remains that Badiurdin’s 1970 plot to favour Muslims through the “district basis” has worked. Prabhakaran rode on the tail of this measure.

          You go to any of the universities today, you will see thousands of black-garbed, hijab wearing females all over. You go to Kandy Town, all the cross streets are complete taken over by Muslims, from petti kada to big stores. All the lanes and Glle Road in Colombo from Fort to the Bentota bridge has beome Muslim too.

          They multiply at twice the rate of the Sinhala people and have Wahabi funds coming from the thieving Saudi Arabian royal family.

          Hussain is still complaining, with poofter Amarasiri’s backing!

          • 1
            0

            Poomail

            “You go to any of the universities today, you will see thousands of black-garbed, hijab wearing females all over.”

            Use Statistics.Perceptions are delusions. Remember, the Sun Rises from the East and sets in the West. Is the Sun going around the Earth, as the Church and the Ancients claimed?

            Count the Black clad Muslims and the total. It will give you real statistics.

            You do not see that many Muslims and Sinhala in the Northern Province. Why?

            Ethnic cleansing and racism by Maveeran, or rather Madu Veeran, VP

        • 0
          0

          Absolute scum.-Yeah, Gota and his faggot friends,
          workers with several icons, poo(freudian slip from hindian)
          trying to take the piss but missing the hit.- poo, poo,r.

  • 3
    1

    ‘MS has a blameless political record..’

    A member of the Rajapakse government has a blameless political record? Surely a contradiction.

    • 2
      0

      This is indeed a contradiction. How about the Passikudah incident where MS’s son and his hooligan friends assaulted a DIG’s son, until the latter had to be hospitalised? The miscreants apparently were released out of police custody, thanks to papa’s intervention.

      MS might be the lesser evil at this point. But that’s all he is. It is a delusion to think that politicians have blameless records and give them respect that they do not deserve. As citizens we need to be vigilant that politicians (and their relatives) do not get away with violence and lawlessness.

      • 1
        0

        Humanist,
        MR may dig this case to blackmail Maithiri. Devils are dancing.

  • 3
    0

    `But with the election debacle of the latest Nehru scion the dynasty seems to be coming to an end.`

    not with charismatic priyanka around.
    `party old farts to go jump the cliff`
    rahul is still hugging the cow in the village shed

  • 1
    0

    Brother Izzeth,

    I think it is time you got moving pass the haras-veediyas you have been stuck in for the last couple of months.

    Yes, Sirisena may be one of the lesser of the evils in the current government but shameless he is NOT!

    After all he stuck it out until this offer was put to him. In the meantime his family made full use of his connections…

    Yes, politics is a scoundrels past time and even the best of men lose their character in the cesspools of governance.

  • 3
    0

    As IH rightly points out the problem is the perception that Sirisena is a lack-lustre candidate. And is obviously being used by the wily Ranil and the revenge-seeking Chandrika guided by their own separate agendas giving the impression that Sirisena may merely become a “puppet” President if elected.

    Unfortunately BBS has spoiled the hitherto Muslim support base for Mahinda, and this may unfortunately be a tilting point. It is a given that the Tamil diaspora is openly against the regime, and we all know where the TNA stands. The born-again Christian vote, though not significant will probably be guided by what the BBS has done to them too.

    The campaign managers for Mahinda are certainly not unaware of these challenges.

    Therefore, besides platform obfuscations by smoke and mirror garbage, one should expect some hard-boiled tactics and painful surprises emerging from the street-fighter Mahinda’s team during the campaign.

    One should not be surprised that somehow (legally or otherwise) Sirisena may even find himself disqualified from contesting. Watch this space come Monday the 8th.

    It is certainly not a cake-walk for the common candidate.

  • 1
    0

    If we take wealth statistics and property ownership statistics for Colombo you know Izeth is talking poppycock about Muslims being marginalized. Median income and average income is highest amongst Muslims. He wants to split the Sin-Bu vote and so he infers that that the muslim votes will go enmasse to MS because Muslims tend to vote enmasse for the UNP?

    How about the Pasikudah beach thuggery incident Izeth? Also can you unequivocally come on this forum and condemn radical wahabi islamists in Beruwala and those Salafists attacking Shia and Sufi muslims in Sri Lanka. ? can you condemn outright Islamic extremism in Sri Lanka? I admit and declare BBS to be false patriotic thugs in robes. How about those hidden Jihadis bro?

    • 1
      0

      Pakis Pettiya,
      You are absolutely correct. Izeth is just dreaming.

    • 0
      0

      Pakis Pettiya – Can you tell me where I can get statistics about the economic standing of the Muslims in relation to our other ethnic groups? Statistics about their standing in Colombo and other urban centers won’t do. What is required are statistics covering the whole island.In the 1980s there was such a study by the Marga Institute, which I used copiously for a study of the SL Muslims which was published abroad. That study established that none of our ethnic groups was better off than any of the others. Some years ago I was interested again in establishing the real economic standing of the Muslims. I was told by the Marga Institute that the available Government statistics don’t make that possible any longer.
      As for Jihadis and other matters I have covered them in a series of 24 articles on the SL Muslims at the cross roads. – IH

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.