15 August, 2020

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Silver Lining Amid The Chaos: Hats Off To The Gentleman Politicians – Welgama & The JVP

By Lalith Goonatilake

Prof. Lalith Goonatilake

The events in the last three weeks has left the country in shock, and Sri Lanka becoming the laughing stock around the world, and setting the scene for a major economic  collapse. We have observed the recent parliament sittings, the many “press conferences” from all sides, some full of lies and fake facts and one sided justifications. What examples would our children draw from seeing all this? Can they differentiate right and wrong, truth and lies, and correct democratic procedures? In addition to the politicians, various priests and unknown pseudo professional organisations are giving one sided opinions, making further confusion. 

The timing of all this was bad for the country. The first time ever LONELY PLANET the renowned travel magazine ranked Sri Lanka as the No:1 country to visit in 2019. We spent millions re-branding Sri Lanka as a travel destination and the new logo “So –Sri Lanka” created by J. Walter Thompson at a cost of USD 2 Million was launched in London on 5 November 2018. Last year tourist arrivals YOY have seen an increase of around 12%, and a major tourism boost was evident. Tourists seeing our law maker performance in parliament (knives, chilli powder, assaulting Policemen, breaking and throwing chairs and missiles), would draw conclusions on the law and order situation in the country, and would have serious safety concerns about visiting Sri Lanka. This safety concerns cannot be wiped out by spending another US$ 2 Million on a publicity contract.

The economic benefits of the EU GSP plus concessions were just kicking in. The Apparel sector is witnessing a 12% YOY growth. Once banned fisheries exports were returning to pre-ban levels. Due to short-sighted and selfish actions of our politicians, the country risks losing all these potential economic gains. 

The negative impacts of the recent events are far reaching. The US$ which was Rs. 173 a month ago has jumped to Rs. 181- the highest depreciation we have seen in a month. Rating agencies have downgraded the country standing and the rating of three major Banks. IMF and some donors have suspended funding. Some countries have requested us to follow the democratic practices (hinting that we are not following such practices). The possibility of losing the EU- GSP plus and  Sri Lanka entering the EU embargoed countries list are on the horizon. At the domestic level, there is social disorder and possibility of reviving the once settled religious and ethnic conflicts.

The core issue is the selfish and thugs like behaviour of some of our elected MPs. We saw the pandemonium in parliament. Knives, chilli powder, chairs and books thrown around, injuries caused to MPs and Police officers attacked. 

Among this chaos, I see two silver linings that demonstrate all is not lost and there are gentlemen politicians others can emulate. First is HONORABLE  Kumara Welgama MP. He  gave an excellent interview on 21 November 2018 on Daily Mirror titled “Sirisena has a hidden agenda”. During the chaotic parliamentary events, Hon Welgama made a number of comments to the media. First that if the SLPP/SLFP faction has no parliament majority, Mahinda Rajapaksea should resign and contest the parliamentary election scheduled in 2020. Second, that looking at the shameful performance in parliament, foreign countries should consider travel bans on those misbehaving MPs (I sincerely hope this could happen).

While the SLPP plans to take power was brewing few months ago, Hon. Welgama was the lone voice against this action. From the outset he said “if we do not have 113, let us wait for another 18 months and face the new election”. He also said, “if Mahinda Rajapaksa wants to be in power now, I would vote in favour, but will not take any Ministerial posts and would sit in the opposition”, demonstrating his loyalty to the former President. He was criticised by a number of SLPP MPs in press conferences. Mr. Welgama in his Matugama speech on 17 October 2018, gives a solid answer to the critics and exposes their dubious actions.

Hon Kumara Welgama- hats off to you and hope other parliamentarians would follow your well demonstrated principles.

The second silver lining I see is the JVP. Through their recent parliamentary speeches and TV talk show inputs , they presented solid analysis, arguments and explanations on the current crisis. They refer to the constitution, Parliamentary  procedures and past practices and clarify to us what is right and wrong in very clear terms. Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Vijitha Herath, Bimal Ratnayake, Sunil Handunheththi, Nalinda Jayatissa etc. were making significant interventions on the current crisis in a logical, calm and factual manner.

This JVP performance reflects the educational background of the JVP membership. All are graduates in Engineering, Medicine, Physics, and Commerce etc. An educated lot that behaves in an calm and logical manner. 

The current crisis arises from the following: “Ninety four MPs have not passed their GEC (O/L) examination while there are only 25 graduates among the 225 legislators in the present Sri Lankan Parliament” former Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya (Daily News 15 March 2017). 

Instead of graduates we have kassippu mudalalis, drug dealers and thugs acting as MPs. No wonder the country is in this state !!!

*Lalith Goonatilake – Former Professor of Industrial Management, University of Kelaniya -Retired Director, Trade Capacity Building-United Nations Industrial Development Organisation- Vienna

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Latest comments

  • 11
    1

    The UPFA should seriously consider naming Kumar Welgama as their Presidential candidate.He will stand a good chance of winning the election .
    .

  • 3
    0

    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

  • 15
    0

    I am sorry learned Professor,

    It was the pioneering Oxford-educated SWRD Bandaranayake set the Sinhala-Only ethnic/language ball rolling to divisions in the society and all the destruction that followed.

    Education, or lack of it is not the cause of the political madness that has morphed over 70 years.

    Integrity, dedication to the country, justice and airplay for all the communities to unite them to common goal for the country is lacking:
    It started with the word go with DS Senannayake.

    It is metastasized cancer now!

  • 3
    1

    The writer’s article is worth reading many times! A commendable article revealing the truth as it is!

  • 5
    0

    Dear prof ..
    I totally agree with your description..
    Sri Lanka is enjoying a higher literacy rate and yet why do we send thugs into parliament ..
    Because of money; drug dealers influence Mps to get nomination ..
    So; we need to put some qualification to contest election.
    JVP is really doing well and yet why people do not want them…
    Their knowledge of politics far better than M&S ; Mahinda and Ranil ..
    Consider their arguments and debate.
    They language and style of presentation.
    Many of them prepare their talks well yet; why people do not want ?

    • 4
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      Dear Critical thinking,
      .
      I’ve been a teacher all my life – in quite a cross section of educational institutions. The problem is that although we ensure that very nearly all our kids grow in to literate adults, very few receive any worthwhile Education.
      .
      It’s an important distinction; what cant they engage in? Critical Thinking!

      • 1
        0

        Sinhala Man,

        my issue is different from yours. Nobody else, lanken media should be accoutable for the mess we ve been fallen into today.

        I truly believe it is the biased media in this country, that almost made easier former rascals to take grounds: Had they been fair towards the general public, not being biased to any politicial underhands , things would NOT have turned worsened this way.

        Besides, SIRASA sender has always been abusing their rights exclusively focusing on bond scam.Why the very same media men failed to bring lot more coverage on AVANDGARDE losses deliberately made by Gotabaya. Both losses according to experts are making up over 12 billions. However, Bond scame funds have been frozen by them and main culprits have been remanded for the last 6 months.
        I truly beleive, this country ‘s media should take the responsiblity for the mess being made in the country today.

        Yesterday I got to know from reliable sources over 60% of the huge debts that the country by every means ought to pay in Jan 2019 are from Rajakashe govt. Most of theose huge loans taken on high interests rates and the funds grabed by them for their own too are contained in those sums.

      • 0
        0

        Desperate Sinhalaya,
        .
        Yes, Orwell seemed right. We are allowing our thinking to be controlled.
        .
        At global level by Google. In the gmail account, they often suggest three possible quick responses; that means that their computers (are they what are called servers? – see how we get mesmerised even by their vocabulary) . . .their computers are able to “understand” our mails.
        .
        We follow like sheep: “get t know”, but don’t follow up. True of all of us.
        .
        Action has to be far more decisive than this.

  • 2
    0

    Writing articles expressing one’s opinion on this issue is well and good. But if one fervently wishes for a just resolution to this issue, one needs to be more pro-active. One needs to form a united Group to pressure the parties concerned to make just decisions and also petition the Courts for a just verdict so all know for sure, legally what needs to be done to resolve the issue. At the present time, MS, MR & RW say the positions they have taken are constitutional and legal. All 3 cannot be right as they are contradictory. So let the Courts decide. Take it to the Courts! Is there an individual or any group of People who is prepared to do this?

  • 2
    1

    talk is cheap, walk the talk.

  • 4
    0

    the only credible politician in the SLFP SLPP fold is Mr.Welgama. He should be the next SLFP, SLPP presidential candidate

  • 2
    0

    Excellent analysis of the players in the current dismal situation afflicting our country

  • 5
    0

    Professor

    I agree with you in general but I wouldn’t call Welgama a gentleman. To me, he is just another self seeking yob, who, apparently, spoke against his former boss but that doesn’t make him Honorable or a gentleman.

  • 0
    0

    Prof Lalith Goonatilake reiterates here that our bane is the quality of our lawmakers.
    Lalith stresses ~ “Due to short-sighted and selfish actions of our politicians, the country risks losing all these potential economic gains”.
    Remember when GSP + was removed, the then GoSL said “We can put up with it”.
    Yes the leaders could, but not the workers in the apparel industry.
    .
    Lalith also says ~ ” ………..At the domestic level, there is social disorder and possibility of reviving the once settled religious and ethnic conflicts…….”.
    Our present desperation can be traced to the creation of the language/religion-divide.
    This is there as strong as ever.
    SLPP, chaired by a retired Law professor, exploited this in the LC elections and will do so at any other elections.
    .
    By the way Lalith, the degreed and the GCE (OL) failed, go after wealth with the same gusto.
    We do not have any gentlemen lawmakers.

  • 1
    0

    Dear Professor,
    your timely analysis of present constitutional and political crisis is well presented. And many people agree with you. Anyway moving forward there should be a mechanism to educate rural masses of the value of democracy. Make them understand how they will loose their freedom if democracy is lost. Not only the uneducated even the educated politicians and their cronies appeal to sentiments of these not-so knowledgeable rural people using race, religion, cast and now culture to get their votes. JVP try to educate people to a certain extent, but not enough.

  • 4
    1

    Lalith:
    You are day dreaming with the following.
    “Among this chaos, I see two silver linings that demonstrate all is not lost and there are gentlemen politicians others can emulate. First is HONORABLE Kumara Welgama MP. He gave an excellent interview on 21 November 2018 on Daily Mirror titled “Sirisena has a hidden agenda”. During the chaotic parliamentary events, Hon Welgama made a number of comments to the media. First that if the SLPP/SLFP faction has no parliament majority, Mahinda Rajapaksea should resign and contest the parliamentary election scheduled in 2020. Second, that looking at the shameful performance in parliament, foreign countries should consider travel bans on those misbehaving MPs (I sincerely hope this could happen).”
    ***
    How can you say all is not LOST.
    My friend everthing is lost. HONOUR, DIGNITY , TRUST and the lot. Sinhala Lanka is not just a laughing stock it is subjected to RIDICULE with terrible consequences.
    Look at the evdince.
    Some writers claim that there is a Civil Society in Existence which will RIGHT the WRONG. This society is sadly made up of people like the Elected CROOK MS , Dayan the Pankawala, Laksri the Pretender, Promonent writers , Professors like Sarath De Alwis who describes THUGS & CRIMINALS as War heros and join the Chorus singing MAHINTARAM.
    Look what has been revealed by a UNPer that MS is guitly of blocking investgations and firing those who are getting too close to the Mass Murderers ( 250 skeletons found recentlt, the missing sons) to save them. We know why RW was sacked and MR appointed as PM that was only to provide him with an Immunity. MS fires all the officers who are investgaing the killers of thousands , Killers of Lasantha and Thajudin and threatens to appoint a panel to look into the abuses by RW what a farce.Even Africans behave in a much more civilised manner . Look at what happened to Mugabe.

  • 1
    0

    I will wait for few months before commenting because as I understood , Lankan Politics is like a weather report which changes from day to day (some say hour to hour). MS and MR are the living examples. Yesterday it was hoppers and today it is biriyani, tomorrow ???? Did you,ll see what is happening with Vasanths Senanayaka who is clueless and lost with directions. Then we had Suresh who went for a day and returned next day. These are true Lankan politicians.Some were at a time in all three, SLFP, SLPP and JO and off and on identifying with UNP. Really multi talented/ tasking circus artist ????

  • 4
    0

    PART ONE
    .
    Dear Prof Lalith Goonatilake,
    .
    A fine article emphasising the need for us think independently, and to speak out. There being so much hypocrisy and sycophancy is surely one of the major problems facing our body politic.
    .
    Getting to know Kumara Welgama (I have no memory of him from days bygone) was good, and I listened to his entire speech. I had been aware only of that sexist remark he made to Rosy Senanayake! This was a worthwhile speech. How I wish other parliamentarians were as straight and independent minded.
    .
    One mistake, though; probably inadvertent. It isn’t a distortion to say that S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake left the UNP and re-started a party of his own because he foresaw D.S. Senanayake handing over to Dudley. {Complicating my response to that bit of nepotism is the fact that Dudley was the nicest politician we ever had}. However, the fact is that Banda crossed the floor about nine months before D.S. fell of his horse and died. Dudley possibly was thrust in to leadership too early; Sir John was, of course, a disaster. Listen to the Welgama speech at 35′ 10″ – for about half a minute.
    .
    However, I agree that the Welgama speech was impressive. He looks and sounds younger than his years; yes, he’d make a good National Leader.

  • 4
    0

    Part TWO
    .
    The other silver lining that the Professor sees is the JVP. Yes, they’ve been performing well, and I did vote for them in February 2018, at the Local Council Elections. However, that’s not a promise to do so all the time.
    .
    The JVP has been excellent during this crisis, and on the whole their performance in Parliament has been good. However, I didn’t at all like this performance by one of their erstwhile MPs:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/jvp-councillor-samantha-widyarathna-seeks-unhrc-intervention-to-secure-compensation-over-uva-wellassa-rebellion-in-1818/
    .
    Also, there’s this thing about “Critical Thinking” that I’ve commented on here, some distance up. I fear that in their recruiting field of Higher Education, they don’t play fair. How much do they encourage the undergraduates to think for themselves? Not at all. On the contrary, it looks as though the average undergraduate is disallowed the opportunity to think. They just have to take orders from the “Anthare” – that is campus slang for the Inter University Student Federation (may not be the English title, but readers will understand).
    .
    Lastly, Welgama, JVP, D.S. Senanayake, SWRD Banda; none of them have shown consistent fairness to the minorities, especially the Up-Country Tamils. Was it fear of over-population? If so can’t we encourage population control among all communities. It is the World that needs it.

    .

    .

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