By Rajan Philips –
Most political societies, to generalize Marx’s writing in 19th century France, are accustomed to circumstances that enable “grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part”. But over the last two weeks Sri Lankan politics witnessed the spectacle of grotesque mediocrity playing out grotesquely mediocre roles in brokering and nominating candidates for the parliamentary election. There was no heroism, not even hero acting. Manifest blackguards thumped at every scintilla of political decency. The sheer weight and the subversive inertia of the political system has been snuffing out every bit of life from the offspring of hope for good governance that an inspired and a heroic electorate had brought forth on January 8, pushing aside every official obstacle that stood in its way. With due apologies to principled purists for mentioning Marx and Nanayakkara in the same paragraph, I am constrained to quote Vasudeva Nanayakkara’s intuitive assessment of one of the most heinous betrayals in Sri Lankan politics that was played out over the last fortnight: “The President has given up the January 8 mandate, and has joined us.”
If, as Marx also wrote, world-historic facts and personages have a tendency to appear twice, first as tragedy and later as farce, in Sri Lanka historic facts and personages have shown a tendency to repeat themselves multiple times, tragically as well as farcically. And within these cycles, the same individuals are heroic at one moment and mediocre at another. Maithripala Sirisena acted heroically in November last when he broke loose from the Rajapaksa regime to challenge and eventually defeat the incumbent president against all odds. For six months, he conducted himself with dignity and seeming sincerity. But then in the last two weeks he unravelled inexplicably and has become a lame duck waiting for direction from a new Prime Minister after the August election. In January, he achieved something extraordinary in not only defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa, but also securing a victory for the project of good governance. Now he has performed something extraordinarily mediocre. The Maithri-Mahinda moment is, rather was, a moment of grotesque mediocrity.
Maithripala Sirisena was not elected by 6.2 million people to draft the UPFA nomination list, or to resurrect Mahinda Rajapaksa from presidential defeat to parliamentary victory. He was technically elected on a mandate but most people voted for him mostly because they were fed up with the corruption of the Rajapaksa regime and the swaggering, in-your-face, abuse of power by the Rajapaksa family. Sirisena was elected as President on the promise that the new government(s) under him would investigate and hold to account the perpetrators of corruption under the old regime. How could he expect a UPFA government with Mahinda Rajapaksa, or any one of his cronies, as Prime Minister to continue the investigations against its own members? Imagine the fate that awaits police officers and government officials and lawyers now handling the investigations, in the event of a UPFA/Rajapaksa victory. Imagine, as well, the confusion and vendetta that will spread throughout the government machinery.
Having given away nomination blank cheques to the UPFA bullies, Mr. Sirisena is relying on karma to punish the corrupt and the abusive. Addressing a gathering of Archeologists in Colombo a few days ago, the President reminded everyone of the warning in a rock inscription attributed to the reign of King Nissanka Malla: “Those who steal state assets will be reborn as dogs and cows”. Now he plans to place this warning on every government desk – starting from his own, to remind politicians and officials their rebirth destiny if they were to steal government money. In other words, it is alright to let every scoundrel run on a UPFA ticket and leave it to karma to deal with them if they steal from state coffers. But many UPFA ministers and chairmen are not going to be worried too much by karma. They will consider making money in a re-elected Rajapkasa government fully worth the risk of being born as dogs and cows in the next birth. Looked at it another way, there will be no need for investigations of corruption because those who are corrupt in government are doomed to be reborn as dogs and cows anyway. Someone might make that argument in the Supreme Court as an argument against double jeopardy.
More to the point, there is double-mediocrity, as well as double-jeopardy of a different kind, in the much celebrated Mahinda-Maithri unity. The smarter option for both men would have been to stay clear of each other, politically speaking, after the presidential election. No one asked Mahinda Rajapaksa to hand over the SLFP leadership to Maithripala Sirisena, but he did so voluntarily. The suggestion that this was done on the advice of Basil Rajapaksa to set a future political trap for Sirisena is rather farfetched to fathom. But the pro-Mahinda (Dinesh-Vasu-Wimal) troika, none of whom is a member of the SLFP, made the SLFP leadership transfer a broader political issue by ill-advisedly and illogically interpreting it as a betrayal of the 5.8 millions who voted for Mahinda Rajapaksa. They formulated the ‘bring Mahinda back’ campaign as a fight to win UPFA/SLFP nomination for Mahinda Rajapaksa and his supporters, and invariably put Rajapaksa and Sirisena on a collision course. In hindsight, a head-on collision would have been politically better for both men than the contrived unity that is claimed to have been forged between them over the last two weeks. An open collision would have shown off the two to be at least less grotesque even if not more principled. The forged unity has made them not only look grotesquely mediocre, but also politically vulnerable.
If principled politics, and not the craving for power and perks and positions among the beneficiaries of the old Rajapaksa regime, was the driving motive behind the ‘bring Mahinda back’ campaign, it would have charted a third way independent of the UNP and the Maithri-SLFP. But there is nothing political about the Rajapaksa beneficiaries except their self-interest, and they cannot be in politics without the UPFA apparatus of their benefactor. So they bullied Sirisena to forge the Mahinda-Maithri unity and hijacked the announcement of the Rajapaksa candidacy a week earlier. Now it has backfired on them, because the coalition of forces that was ranged against the Rajapaksa juggernaut, in January, is now reunited for the August parliamentary election. The August parliamentary election will be a re-staging of the January presidential election, but without Maithripala Sirisena likely playing any role to play on either platform – either as the heroic common opposition candidate or the wounded mediocre president.
Without the Mahinda-Maithri unity, the common opposition parties that supported Maithripala Sirisena in January would have been competing against one another in the August election. They were already discredited and divided in government thanks to mediocre political leaderships and self-serving agendas, not to mention the Central Bank scandal. There is nothing heroic about the new United National Front for Good Governance, but it will be seen as much less grotesque and mediocre than the Mahinda-Maithri axis. That axis itself may not last another week, let alone the full campaign. President Sirisena has lost all his allies who supported him in January, and even though he has little credibility left to lose, he is unlikely to campaign for the UPFA that will include Mahinda Rajapaksa. And he may not be invited to the new Front. Sirisena has brought political isolation upon himself, but that may be a blessing in disguise inasmuch as he could stay neutral in the campaign. His capacity for silence that deafened the country over the last two weeks may be his greatest asset until August 17.
Nari-bana / July 12, 2015
Rajapakse’s return is inevitable. With all his misdeeds and that of his family in the last 10 years, a vast majority of the Sinhalese are waiting to vote him back to power.
These voters would gladly countenance the abuse and the corruption of their imagined present day “Dutugamunu”. It is not that they don’t know how bad Rajapakse, his sons, his brothers, his kith and kin are. They know. Still a majority of Sinhala-Buddhists will vote for him in spite of all his evils, because the Sinhalese Buddhits are: (a) stupid and cannot see beyond their noses and (b) they are downright racist.
They are anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim and, perhaps in time anti-Christian too, if they are already not so. And the only politician who would give leadership to such racism is Rajapakse. Little do they realise that, in the longer term and with Rajapakse and his mob at the helm, they’ll destroy Sri Lanka and break-up its unitary status.
That fact makes me very sad. Although said in a different context, how true are the words of Reginald Heber when he said:
What tho’ the spicy breezes
Blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle;
Though every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile?
Dude / July 12, 2015
CT Editors: why don’t you do an interview with President Sirisena and ask him why he did not take a stand against Mahinda Rajapaksa who ran a very corrupt government dominated by his brothers and criminal cronies – and refuse nominations to Rajapaksa?
We need a full picture on this matter from horses mouth..
1. Was he (Sirisena) was disillusioned with Ranil Wirckramasighe and the failure to pass the 20th amendment because Wickramasinghe thought he could win the next election as it seemed the SLFP was splitting and was in a hurry to dissolve parliament?
2. Does Sirisena think that party unity in the SLFP is more important than ethics and good governance? If so, why? And what happened to the Civil Society group with Sobitha Thero leading the good governance platform?
3.Why does he not explain his (SIrisena’s) position to the people – if both the SLFP and UNP are corrupt, rather than letting Rajapaksa’s corrupt SLFP political machine keep running?
4. Was it because Ranil’s Governor of the Central Bank is as corrupt if not more so that Nivard Cabraal who was MR’s CB Governor?
We need answers to these questions from the President of Sri Lanka and the media should try to find them..
S.Modaya / July 12, 2015
Perhaps President Sirisena has done a good thing in the long run.
Now both the SLFP and UNP leadership have to go back to the drawing boards and prove themselves – no short cuts to winning this general election. The result will be a hard fought election which will hinge on whether the good governance group can EDUCATE the masses to vote wisely.
Voter education messages Lanka needs is:
1.That Sri Lanka is a country of diverse ethnic and religious groups and UNITY IN DIVERSITY is a strength. Unfortunately, dirty and short sighted politicians like Rajapaksas, want to Divide and Rule the people of Lanka along ethnic and religious – just as British did – for their own personal, selfish gain.
2. Good governance and getting rid of corrupt old generation of politicians is key to prosperity and development in country.
Ranil will not have the cake walk to the Prime Minister position he hope for as the SLFP is still united, albeit under a corrupt and sick leadership. Instead will have to work with civil society groups and educate Sinhala Modayas on what good governance means, and get rid of that corrupt crook Mahendran from Central Bank and investigate Mahendran and son in law Aloysius and his firm Perpetual Treasuries.
Supun Jayawardhane / July 13, 2015
whoever allowed the nomination, it is on the hands of people.
Now it is time people to rethink before voting to guys as had been earlier. They have enough inofrmation on the guys through the media since Jan 8th. So, no need to put the blame on Prez Sirisena – he is caught by devil right at the moment.
MsMaralathoni / July 13, 2015
In a nation every second is an idiot – you cant see anything else – they the people would see nothing but any kind of developments regardless of the high fraud being made by Rajas.
I had the chance to speak to few of the representatives of various walks of life down there – the most seem to have not realized that today we have more freedom of expression than had been been before the 8th Jan.
This means they dont care even if a dictator would continue reign the nation. Except few tuktuk drivers – all others spoke roads and road devleopments carried out by Rajapakshe regime. No matter even if the women of them had been raped by Rajapakshe men – they continued aruging that they would vote for Raja for one reason that the war is no longer there.
This is the nature of their thinking. Sinhalese in general are born fools. I really dont think that any other leaders will get the chance to fool the nation so long Rajapakshes and their supporters are there. This is a very dangerous situaiton in my home country.
Vanguard / July 12, 2015
Double mediocrity on the part of the gullible voters.
Kumar David / July 12, 2015
Like Marx, Rajan writes best when he is angry, even better when he is very angry!
Did you hear the thunder of the prophets echoing through this one?
Edward Upali / July 12, 2015
Dr.Rajasingham Narendran / July 12, 2015
Now I understand why there are so many crows and stray dogs in this country. All reborn corrupt politicians! They yet continue to scavenge and make a lot of noise, The stray dogs in particular are prone to contracting rabies too. Karma indeed!
Kumar R. / July 12, 2015
What a hypocrite now screaming at “Reborn corrupt politicians — those continuing to scavenge and make a lot of noise!”
Did you not materially benefit from those same politicians driven by avarice. Why are you unable to deny that? Did not Maharaja’s [Edited out] your services in cheer-leading the Maharajah and his minions for five year, sing hosannas and give all the over they needed from local and international criticism for five long years after the war ended, thus helping deprive any help to the desperate thousands of the war affected? Why is that difficult to deny or be forthright?
R K Raghavan / July 12, 2015
Rohan / July 13, 2015
WOW… wow indeed!! All right DOCTOR Rajasingam Narendran, it is your opportunity to confess.
Dodo / July 12, 2015
good piece Rajan. Please translate and publish in Sinhala to educated the voters..
One point however, you have forgotten to mention Ranil Wickramasinghe’s grotesque appointment of a corrupt fellow to the Central Bank and the failure to get rid of shameless Arjuna Mahendran who is an insider dealer has no doubt also meant that Maitree has to distance himself from Ranil and the UNP and its cronies.
Fact of the matter is that Ranil is only marginally better than Mahinda Jarapassa and both are responsible for leading the rot in political culture in Sri Lanka.
K.A Sumanasekera / July 12, 2015
The King Maker CBK is more outraged than the BTF or the the Tamil groups in Srialanka.
CBK ‘s departing words to the President was “I would have never given you the Presidency if I knew that you are such a traitor”.
That was before she scooted off to London after quarrelling with Bodhi Sira , soon after the latter gave the okay for Mahinda’s nomination.
This news come from the Elite Website which is allied to Mr Samaraweera.
It further states that CBK warned the President “Do you know this is going to result in a Blood Bath “
This is what really bothers me, considering that the Blood Baths we have experienced in recent times were in Egypt and Syria following Elections.
And both these were the result of the British Government’s direct meddling and intervention in those two countries.
And CBK our ex President’s destination after the skirmish with the current President is also the United Kingdom.
Doesn’t sound good for the inhabitants…..
AVB / July 12, 2015
What you expect from a country full of Sumenasekaras and Absys… Shame…
Lever / July 12, 2015
MY3, ranil, Mahinda all played politics since the 8th of january. Now they are all facing their waterloos. It is time for a genuine third force to emerge.JVP should be given chance and send all these betrayers to the political oblivion.JVP should have strong representation in parliament to nullify the effect of crossovers and implement people friendly policies.
Amarasiri / July 12, 2015
RE: Sirisena’s Isolation: The Triumph Of Mediocrity Over Heroism
“Most political societies, to generalize Marx’s writing in 19th century France, are accustomed to circumstances that enable “grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part”.
What can you expect when the National IQ is 79. Thre are substantial numbers of people with IQ below 79..
Mediocre players and even traitors may try to play heroes part as we are seeing now.
Defense / July 12, 2015
In Defense of Rajapakse
Why will people vote for him? People know what he stands for. His stance is anti-separatist, and he is wary of the separatist movement, what is wrong with that? He has experienced their intransigence first hand. It is MR who said there are no minorities. Everyone is important.
There will always be corruption – so quoth Sirisena on his election manifesto. It was always a case of how much – all are just allegations of corruption, corruption that will always be there even under Yahapalanaya.
Authoritarian? So was Lee Kuan Yew, and look at how people worshiped him, despite his record on democracy.
Family in government – well they were at least as competent as the opposition. Why should being related to the President prevent someone from being appointed to a position that in any case they performed admirably? I am referring to the Former War Hero and Former Secretary of Defence.
All this hullabaloo about one man contesting from one district – perhaps they think he will become prime minister on the democratic vote of the people? What is so corrupt about that? What could be more democratic.
As for President Sirisena he should be judged on his intentions, not his actions, unfortunately no one know what they are since can read his mind. His love for the party, the SLFP, however is Very much to be admired.
Navin / July 12, 2015
This is the latest at lankanewsweb from the Thief Robber Rapist (TRR)
Mahinda demands helicopters from Maithri
It is reported that the UPFA election campaign committee has demanded air force helicopters from the current president for the former president and his elite group of the UPFA to start their election campaign.
The higher echelons of the UPFA during a discussion held on 10th have forwarded this demand to the president. Meantime in order to transport the supporters they have requested CTB busses. Since there is a difficulty in obtaining these facilities from the current UNP government they have requested the president to involve in this.
Further they have demanded to further expand the current 250 security personal provided to the former president and requested the president they want two special houses and accommodation facilities in the presidential palace in other areas.
Bensen Berner / July 12, 2015
A very good expose. The question is whether Sri Lankan politics can descend further. Maithripala’s offers of hopes offered to the right thinking and discerning Sri Lankan people were a mirage.Bensen
Shrikharan / July 13, 2015
“The President has given up the January 8 mandate, and has joined us.” This is the best sloganized truth and Vasudeva Nanayakkara said it correctly.
He should really resign from Presidency and allow another Presidential election. This election was a mockery. Factually this invertebrate brainless puppet never really won the elections; it was MR who narrowly lost the elections. Maithri never had much of a vote base and it was the anti Rajapakse votes that pushed Maithri to victory. May be Rajapakse was right when he supposed to have sort advise to nullify the elections towards the end of counting.
This invertebrate should apologize to those who voted him to power without knowing he was merely a puppet on strings being puppeteered by Ranil & CBK duo. This is the biggest joke of the century and the other joker is Rajitha Senaratne to come in public to tell Maithri has not let down his voters. What has happened to his promise to have good governance when he gives nominations to the same set of criminals he accused? If so what wrong did Rajapakse do and he merely did the dirtiest thing to his boss to stab him on his back after working with him enjoying all the perks till the very end when he thought he is of no further use.
What is the purpose to tell now he should not split his party and that is what he did at the very start when he walked away from Rajapakse who was the party leader? He is only trying to cheat again with his lame excuse he should not split the party, when it is a past tense. If his faith is so, he should have stuck on with his party 8 months or more ago and supported the victory of the candidate nominated by the party and that was Mahinda Rajapakse. So why did he take leave of his faith and he did all this for his power hunger not knowing he was not a leader. Now he is trembling. He has made him a joker to the rest of the world. In the actual sense Rajapakse and his close associates now would be feeling it was a blessing in disguise he ‘lost’ the elections and this election and his defeat has taught the public a good lesson, the value of having a proper leader like him. A leader has to be firm and assertive, which was misinterpreted as cruel and unkind. A harsh and firm leader is better than a ‘soft’,’ flexible’, ‘kind’ and ‘accommodative’ spineless wimp.
I feel since as The President has given up the January 8 mandate, and has joined mama again to drink milk realizing unable to stand on his feet and is sure papa will provide him a white van and make him a new home 6 feet under.
This Maithripala puppet kid should resign and let proper leaders contest the elections. The people of this country have suffered long enough cheated by all the dirty politicians including this invertebrate. In my opinion the Presidential elections should be re-contested soon after the General election as the previous Presidential elections was a sham and mockery.