By Malinda Seneviratne –
Regimes acquire tags, leaders too. When they resonate with general public perception they become part of everyday usage. It was Victor Ivan who called President Chandrika Kumaratunga ‘Chaura Regina’ (The Thieving Queen). It stuck. No one knows who first used ‘Sahodara Samaagama’ (‘The Company of Brothers’ or perhaps ‘Brothers Incorporated’) to describe President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers Basil and Gotabaya, but it stuck.
Whether or not either of the Rajapaksa brothers were the best qualified and most suitable given circumstances for the jobs they did is of course another matter. Basil in essence ran the economy and had his share of pluses and minuses. Gotabaya was the trusted right hand man of the Commander-in-Chief and later took over the arduous task of rebuilding Colombo. Again, there are pluses and minuses. These have been discussed enough. The problem of this ‘samaagama’ was the ‘sahodara’ part. This is why there were passionately articulated pledges to ‘do away with nepotism’ by the then Opposition.
What do we have now though? We have Ravi Karunanayake and his brothers-in-law (yes, in the plural), Arjuna and Dhammika Ranatunga, Charitha and Suren Ratwatte and who knows what else in the offing. Now these brothers-in-arms may be competent and qualified. The case has to be made however that they are the most suitable for the particular job for nepotism-flak aside, a country with a serious human resource problem cannot afford mediocrity at the top.
A related question is, ‘why is it that politicians operate as though they’ve already forgotten the slogans of the election campaign?’ This is how it happens: if the person at the top does wrong, he or she is essentially issuing a general license for wrongdoing; if someone down the line does wrong it means the person at the top is also doing wrong or else is incompetent.
It began with the appointment of President Sirisena’s brother as Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom. It would be hard to claim that the individual is the best suited for the job. What that appointment did was to give the green light to sahodara-samaagam or ‘fraternal’ arrangements. Those who went into business (shall we say?) with the near and dear or are planning to do so can brush off criticism easily with the following: ‘If it is good for the President, it’s good for us as well!’
President Maithripala Sirisena can still make things right. These are still early days of his tenure. He can say ‘I was poor in judgment’ and the people will forgive, forget and even applaud. The early signs, apart from that initial error in appointing his brother, are worrisome, however. He looked the other way when his daughter played ‘princess’ and he essentially conferred ‘prince’ on his son by taking him to New York. This kind of indulgence by Mahinda Rajapaksa would have earned the wrath of the self-appointed ‘Good Governance Police,’ one notes. Their silence is as scandalous as the President’s decisions and consequent silence.
Despite all this, President Sirisena can be bold, humble and thereby give a massive boost to the business of ‘putting things right’. It is what those who voted for him expect. The rot is seeping down and unless it is stopped at the top, it will spread all over the place. That is not ‘change’, Mr President. That’s ‘Same old, same old!’
Navin / October 10, 2015
You [Edited out] you had no business to allude to the Victor Ivan manufactured title (which befits him in the masculine). There is no relevance, unless to give vent to your malice.
Samuel Dodankotuwa / October 10, 2015
My question is why the very same fake haward graduate stayed as if a crocodile fed with clay ( kirimati gilapu kimbula wage) at the time, real sahodara samagama looted every corner of the island ?????. I wonder why this journalist and the like seem to be miles away from their healthy conscience. For them, selbstrighteaousness is above fairness – latter should be a sickness.
Don Stanley / October 10, 2015
Good on you Malinda for speaking out rather than keeping mum about Sirisena’s corruption. Sirisena is a national disgrace!
People are not stupid – why does he need 2 gigantic houses to live in at Keppetipola Mawatha colombo 5, if he is a simple man? Is one grand old colonial house not enough for this farmers son from Pollonaruwa?
Fact is Sirisena is affraid to live in the President’s house because Mahinda Jarapassa had various astrologers do huniyan and other witch craft there..
This is a massive waste of state funds on Sirisena and his family, he is following MR and should get the same treatment that MR got at the next elections and booted out!
Samuel Dodankotuwa / October 10, 2015
You the kind of gonharaka would criticise every bit of the new president. But I wonder why you ilk stay deaf at the time, Mahinda Jarapakashe abused the natiion multiple times than it isseen for today.
No matter you are a farmer son or coming from an aristrocratic family – Mr.Sirisena is incumbent president of the nation. SO, there, he has every right to see the renovation of the place he is going to live. Mahinda and you guys would not have enjoyed the freedom that we enjoy today, if Mr. Sirisena did not risk his life. Well known fact about the majority of the nation is they loose their memories within a short period of time. I hate to see this – I think the current situation of the country is multiple times better than had been before Jan 8th. We are all on a right track by almost every facets for the future.
Sincho / October 11, 2015
A mild portion of nepotism should be digestable and inevitable too to any saneone. What we talked was the degree that Rajapakshe men and women abused it. In last 6 months of Rajaakshe Regime, as a president he had not allowed any of his cabinet men to share their thoughts. It was like Mahandamutta and his golayas. He had all right to dictate while the rest were like passive listeners. Do we have the same environment today ? Obviously not. It has worked 200% to the positivity and accetance, that PM and Cabinet men and women are given all powers to act accordingly. That is what you guys should see it right at this very critical turn of the ruling.
Just because Malinda or the other add their thoughts suppotive to former regime makers – we the listeners or readers must not nod our head saying THIS so called Haward graduate (aka harward insult)uttering the truth.
Sincho / October 11, 2015
Attorney General of Sri Lanka
33 Victor Tennekoon Central Province 1 July 1970 1975
34 Shiva Pasupati 5 June 1975 1988
35 Pandikoralalage Sunil Chandra De Silva 1988 1992
36 Tilak Marapana Sabaragamuwa 1992 1995
37 Shibly Aziz 1995 1996
38 Sarath N. Silva 1996 1999
39 Kandapper Kamalasabayon Eastern Province 1999 2007
40 Chitta De Silva Western Province 2007 2008
41 Mohan Peiris 2008 2011
42 Eva Wansundera North Western Province 2011 2012
43 Palitha Fernando 17 July 2012 23 October 2014
44 Yuwanjana Wanasundera 23 October 2014 Present
Thiru / October 10, 2015
Yes, It is the ‘Same old, same old!’ – appe aanduwa(Our rule – good governance or not).
Will they ever learn or change?
Navin / October 10, 2015
Would you like if someone called you AHWP? The letter A stands for Ammata.
Navin / October 10, 2015
Where was this [Edited out] when Mahinda Rajapaksa looted the Tsunami Funds sent by charitable people?
still unfinished / October 10, 2015
Right, sad indeed that the ‘Sahorada Samaagam’ continues. Nepotism is something that’s ingrained in everyone, irrespective of their position in the social spectrum. The severity of it of course is apparently more in the Asian countries. Whether that’s to do with the DNA/culture or lack of scrutiny is a futile question because the only thing that can be acted upon is scrutiny.
Rightly so in the recent past, the media is on the right track. You have also joined the band wagon. Whilst we welcome you, we can’t help wonder though that you are doing this because you are not in this ‘Samagam’ with this regime. (Would a laptop help you cross over?)
Jango / October 10, 2015
Malinda, you’re spot on with your observations and conclusion in this instance. However, the pity is that it’s a bit late in the day for your critical evaluation of ‘leadership’ and ‘nepotism’, don’t you think?
Or have your values changed since the exit of the Rajapakses?
This is what happens when double standards are par for the course for ‘journalists’ of your species – your history will judge you. And in your case, not kindly!
Jagath Fernando / October 10, 2015
Your write up is altkeast 7-8 years too late. You did not have the back bone to raise these issues under MR.
It just shows how biased you are as a journalist. It is a shame that guys like you are continuing in the media business.
Jim softy / October 10, 2015
You are targeting just one or two most probably. The system is corrupt since JRJ, and every president was a thief. They stole as much as they could. There are numerous accusations against every one.
See, they increased the number of politicians to large numbers. If you remember the 100 day scandle, They want to increase it more. Yet, they can not handle even the present number of MPs from corruption, misuse, wastage, immoral actions blah bah blah.
Voters don’t know what is happening and some are supporting because they get to eat crumbs or sometimes, for people like Ravi Karunanayake who gets to pay for what they got from LTTE in the past, reward the family.
It looks the verse, power corrupts is really true when it comes to Maithriapala Sirisena.
The next solution is a temporary military govt. But, they are fishing military by rewarding with medals for service and getting into photo ops.
Mallaiyuran / October 11, 2015
The appointment of his brother to the Telecom may be the Sinhalese Accepted first one by the New King after he was crowned. But after he became the New King his first selfish thing was refusing to thank the upcountry ot North-East Tamils. Basically he demanded it from Tamil, rather than accepting it something offered. Then delivered his speech from Dalada Maligawa, instead of of common place. These all the deliberate designing procedure to exert his kingship.
Even before he come to power, his son has been roaming around in the residential neighbourhoods like wild asses. New King was solely responsible for Health Ministry destruction.
The common candidate promoter kept arguing during the election that unknown Angel is better than a known devil. Now the people are seeing that their unknown angel is nothing but another Royal From a rowdy region. That is, he was not an unknown angel, but he was a very well familiar and known devil. This is only “Kann ketta Piraku Sooriya Namaskkaram” from the Sinhala Buddhist and foolish Tamils.(Praying the sun only after losing the light on the eye).
mythbuster / October 11, 2015
This is our generation’s problem. We wish and pray for an “ideal behavior” from powers that be. As a person who studied economics, you know that humans are reacting to incentives and favoring one’s kith and kin is a part of that incentive system of being a politician. You will see the same “favoritism” in developed countries. There, rather than politicians, the senior bureaucrats and senior executives in the private sector pull their favorites in the system for promotion etc.
It is useless to wish and pray for “ideal behavior” from politicians, you will not get it from any “sahodara sangam” or “non-sahodara sangam” (as in the developed countries). MR did not behave ideal way (thereby he dig his own grave) neither would MS (he is showing very bad signs in this direction already). Bottom line is politicians know that they could mend the process of selecting an employee for any job, including VCs of universities to sanitary workers of the city, anywhere in the country. WE CANNOT STOP THAT.
But what we have to fight for is for proper institutional mechanisms so that when these cronies of politicians abuse the system (that is the most dangerous part of the favoritism), the civil society will be able to punish them and politicians’ interference in that process need to be minimized. The trouble in our country is NOT Shahodara Sangam (I don’t have a problem if they deliver) but impunity provided to them by the top powers. If MS’s brother (chairman of some telecom) were to be tested for a wrong doing, could the system proceed without MS or his henchmen interfering that? We have to clamor for strengthening our institutions to remove this impunity for the cronies. Politicians are so pumped up with a theory that their political enemies “slinging mud” with the accusation of favoritism, hence they just laugh off these allegations. This is our problem.
Rather than grieving that MR did it and now MS doing it and in 20 years down the road Sajith, Namal or Daham WILL DO IT, we have to fight for closing all the avenues for this “impunity”. Unless we put our all energies to strengthen our institutions to minimize this idea of impunity (will never bring it to zero), we will continue to be in this sorry mess.