30 October, 2020

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Shall We Start Afresh Mr President?

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

President Maithripala Sirisena is no saint. He has not attained arahathood. He’s new to the job. He is, however, a seasoned politician. He has seen many leaders make many mistakes; enough to have learned some lessons. He’s been a big disappointment so far in terms of the much advertised promise of change.

Here’s a recap: He abused presidential powers to remove a Chief Justice and appoint a new one. He violated the basic principles of democracy in his machinations to take control of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He turned into people’s representatives (via the national list) those who were rejected by the people and arranged cabinet portfolios for them to boot. He has seen no wrong in his daughter Chathurika arrogating on herself presidential powers to turn state officials into minions. He took his son Daham, a man without any official status, to the UN General Assembly. All this after pledging to put an end to nepotism.

Let’s forget all that. Human beings are by definition frail. They are victims of circumstances. They are constrained by forces beyond their control. They are often made to assess victory not in terms of territory gained but ground not conceded.

Change gives hope. It makes everyone feel that things can get better. The fact of regime change as well as the freedom-pledges mouthed by the victors was certainly ‘freeing’.

It is an easy out, for example, for journalists to explain reticence in certain situations to the fact that owners of media institutions determine the terms of engagement and the parameters of the possible. Sure, we all work ‘within frames’. There are stated and un-stated boundaries. Some play safe and others test the edges. Sometimes we ‘go overboard’. There are ‘penalties’ to pay. Journalists know all this. During the Rajapaksa regime, for example, when ‘ownership’ by and large replaced ‘censorship’, outfits controlled by those close to the political leadership tested journalists to the maximum. To be fair, the President rarely interfered. In the case of ‘The Nation’, during the past four years, there was only one request made and that too had nothing to do with the Rajapaksas.

And yet, there were ‘holy cows’. Naming and shaming were of the no-can-do kind. We took liberties and sometimes got away. Also, since there are many ways to skin a cat, by and large we said what had to be said, one way or another. Not enough, some would say. Well, we do what we can or else do nothing. We note however that those who screamed slogans and waved banners hardly ever strung words together in a coherent sentence. And we note that certain institutions (overtly anti-Rajapaksa) were essentially bank-rolled by that regime through the channeling of advertisements from state institutions to help recover costs incurred in defamation cases.

Still, it was far from ideal. Regime change freed us all. Those who were brave remain brave and those who were not found some courage. And yet, sadly, the scandalous reluctance of the media in general to take on the President and the Prime Minister shows that it is less a fear instilled by a particular brand of governance than a syndrome of servility. Anyway, we are grateful for the ‘unleashing’ shall we say? We are waiting and not with bated breath the promised passage of the Right to Information Act.

So, returning to our not-so-perfect President, let us agree to put the past behind us, including the recent past (leading to Daham Sirisena’s antics). Here’s something that President Sirisena might find interesting.

In 2001, the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a speech. This was when his son Euan, then 16, was arrested in London ‘for drunkenness’. He was almost in tears. This is what he said: ‘We should take action against violent, aggressive and disorderly conduct and I’m afraid that applies to my son as well as anybody else’s. I don’t ask for any special preference for my kid. I guess most of us at the age of 16 have done something we might later regret. Not everybody has to see it in the newspapers, but that is the life we have to lead. I hope he would be deterred from behaving wrongly.’

Now Tony Blair is not my favorite politician. He is a liar and went to war on the basis of a lie. He is a war criminal in my book. And yet, there’s something in what he said. He gets top marks for it.

This is where President Maithripala Sirisena can give a new boost to the notion of ‘change’. He can do something that will restore some credibility to the term ‘good governance’, a term that is fast becoming a joke. President Sirisena can start afresh. Still. All he needs is a bit of humility. It’s a fuel that can take him and his stated program very far.

Here’s a start: ‘I erred’.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 7
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    The difference is the overarching objective.

    The overarching objective is good governance. On the way there hitches may develop and will be sympathized.

    Mahinda never had such a trajectory and therefore people had nothing to look forward to.

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      And also a kabaragoya can be considered a talagoya if one desires to eat it.

      • 2
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        MS it would be more useful and to the point to lecture Sirisena on the meaning of the English word MERITOCRACY. He is an uneducated man who only has some Sinhala Buddhist native cunning.

        MERITOCRACY is a concept that is absent in Sinhala society and polity,judging from the behavior of politicians.

        Meritocracy means that those who have the education, skill and expertise go places and get good jobs, rather than those who have family connections, no qualifications or expertise who thrive on nepotism.

        Unfortunately the term MERIT in Sri Lanka has become associated among the Sinahla Buddhists with feeding fat monks Dhana in order to achieve so-called ‘merit’ in the next life!

        But in English merit means something else. we talk of a MERIT based society and professional culture as opposed to a corrupt and feudal business and political culture. The concept of a MERIT based society must be promoted and moda Sinhala public need to be EDUCATED by scribes like you, MS! Thanks!

        • 0
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          Appoint Daham a presidential coordinating Secretary with back a dated appointment letter.
          Problem solved!

    • 2
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      Malinda Seneviratne MaRa Shill and White-washer..

      RE: Shall We Start Afresh Mr President?

      Yes, we should start,

      maRa MaRa Chatu Mara
      MaRa MaRa Mmana MaRa
      MaRa MaRa HoRa MaRa
      MaRa MaRa Dhushana MaRa

    • 4
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      Malinda,

      do you think you have any right to criticise the current president ? as a person who all along supported Rajapakshe thugs? When did you criticise MR regime at the time they did not react on any kind of crimes ? Today, girls, boys, infants and anyone are being murdered int he country- dont you think if you guys could do your job well, could have saved many lives ?

      I really dont think you the like deserve any respect from anyone. You are on e another Hudson silva who abused the nation almost every morning..

  • 8
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    Malinda

    “To be fair, the President rarely interfered. In the case of ‘The Nation’, during the past four years, there was only one request made and that too had nothing to do with the Rajapaksas.”

    You’re right. Mahinda was smart enough to know if something works you don’t go fixing it.

    Other than that all what you’re saying is …..you’re a good journalist whereas most others are afflicted by the “syndrome of servility.” And President Sirisena has done some boo-boos……DUH

  • 2
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    “Shall we start afresh” – Good proposition. It is time for this President to WAKE UP, because things are going in the wrong direction. We had the same situation in 2010 when Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse became the President. He could have done a lot to harmonize the situation, but was carried over by those around him- the vultures, who made him a real Kabaragoya. Then things were getting from bad to worse and we brought a talagoya on January 8th 2015. But after ten months, we see that talagoya is being converted to be a kabaragoya. At the end, if things are allowed to go as it is today, this kabragoya will be exterminated completely. This President must REALIZE that soon. First he must know that some of those non-cabinet rank state ministers and deputy ministers and some cabinet ministers are in the wanted list along with some of those officials who are still hiding in the important administrative positions. On the other hand all those who are to be hauled up before the Judiciary are working day in and day out to pull stings at every possible opportunity to make this talagoya a kabaragoya. All these people a waiting for the opportunity like vultures to identify the WEAKNESSES and tie the string very tight. So it is not that EASY as we think. Mr President you need to have all the time the first of Buddha’s way: SAMMA DITTHI – Right View – Wisdom or Panna. Also remember ASEVANCHA BALANAG. – DO NOT ASSOCIATE THE UNDESIRABLES. You have a living example, a victim for not following these principles and that is none other than our ex President Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse. He himself accepted and confessed it in public. What more lessons to learn? Let us start afresh, Mr. President.

  • 0
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    I like President Sirisena most of the time. I think he is well meaning and has the best of intentions. However, he is also a human being, a father, a husband and most of all a politician. Trying to balance all these roles should make most heads spin into a tizzy. Obviously President Sirisena has his moments because no logical explanations can justify some his recent decisions and choices.

    In Politics they say, there are no nevers… just maybes. Whatever the hell that means.

    I share the frustration conveyed through multiple contributions on CT about the hypocracy of our elected leaders. To have promised one thing just last month and then do the exact opposite yesterday, whilst pretending no one noticed?

    Is it base human nature or are we seeing a vile, conniving almost criminal tendency in our politicians? After all, they are representative of our society, is’nt it? So, are we expecting them behave like angels and not like us?

  • 4
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    Malinda’s ‘confession’???

    “And yet, sadly, the scandalous reluctance of the media in general to take on the President and the Prime Minister shows that it is less a fear instilled by a particular brand of governance than a syndrome of servility.”

    Is that “syndrome of servility” the fuel that powered your subservience to your idol MR? And where was all your new found ‘morality’ during MR’s reign??

    Give us a break from your hypocritical ramblings, as your credibility as an objective journalist is shot full of holes!

  • 0
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    Sure, lets all start afresh. Will the change affect the future political career has always been the question.

  • 0
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    Fat hopes! Here is a man who did not care to attend the funeral of his own brother. That brother may have been a criminal. Nevertheless, He was his own brother. And he was killed in an extremely violent way.

    Buddha pewached Metta for all beings and even ordained mass muderers like Anguli Mala. MS does not miss a single chance from the Dhamma but he himself does not seem to follow them.

    I have a feeling that MS looks at criticism against him with a lot of disdain. It looks as if he does not care two hoots what other people think or say about him.

    He is not going to change!

  • 1
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    I think this should start with you, like the saying goes, “people in glass house shouldn’t throw stones “

  • 0
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    I have never been a fan of yours Malinda but I certainly go a very long way with this essay. Compared to the Prof (GLP – a man with his belly lower than that of a snake that changes colour as it creeps through the political rubbish) and our self-proclaimed Political Scientist (Dayan – the man who supported Eelam cause just because of a Provincial Ministerial position and licked MR’s boots expecting a plum post if he won) you don’t seem to oppose whatever the new government does for the sake of opposing it. Some things like taking control over SLFP My3 had to do as otherwise he wouldn’t be the powerful President he is today. I certainly agree with you that My3 should say “I erred” in matters related to his daughter and son and start afresh. I hope he will also get rid of his corrupt ministers of the previous regime one by one through legal gateways. Keep on writing sensible critical comments of this nature Malinda without shadowing the Prof and Political Scientist.
    Cheers

  • 0
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    There is a very picturesque Sinhala saying that describes the present situation: “Kehi geni deela hotu geni gaththa wage), which may be loosely translated as “Like exchanging the woman with the cough with the one with a running nose”.

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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/

  • 0
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    Malinda Seneviratne, we know where your loyalties lay (I am amazed a laptop could secure so much. Perhaps there was more). You are wasting your time trying to blind us with science. President Sirisena’s involvement in the illegal impeachment of CJ Bandaranayake was his attachment to the government at the time. You are trying to make it sound as if he did it all himself and it had nothing to do with your benefactor President Mahinda Rajapakse. A slap on our wrists for thinking he was an utterly corrupt individual.

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