27 September, 2021


Sri Lanka: Living In A Skeptical Age

By Sarath De Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

Just think, reader, what will happen to you if the truth of a mad beast overpowers the sane truth of man?” – Maxim Gorky in Untimely Thoughts”

Last week saw our genial, rustic peasant President and the patrician Prime Minister indulging in matters sublime. What emerged from it all is that Maithripala Sirisena is clearly the representative of the purpose, the promise and the potential of the SLFP.

Both addressed a gathering of Literati at the book launch of Upul Shantha Sannasgala – Tuition Master, prolific writer, public thinker and media celebrity.

They differed greatly in style and content. The savoir faire displayed by the president in reaching the hearts and minds of a microcosm of the Sinhala speaking intelligentsia was electric in its impact. The Prime Minister cultivated, elegant and detached emerged as the affable outsider.

The contrasting approaches of the leader of the SLFP and the leader of the UNP created a palpable sense of Déjà vu. The cold war between politics of patrimony and politics of entitlement since the uprising of 1956.

Sannasgala Ranil Maithri Pic Prez MediaThe business like Prime Minster used the occasion to trace the evolution of mass media from the Ola leaf and Papyrus to Guttenberg and the Rotary press and thence to the digital age. He reminded the chosen elite gathering that it was the UNP that pioneered Television and introduced free Wi-Fi access.

The President was raconteur and social critic. He was fascinated by Sannasgala’s most recent literary expedition ‘Amma’. It reminded him of Maxim Gorky’s ‘Mother’. He was overwhelmed by the first person omniscient narrative of the writer’s early and adolescent years in rural poverty.

What was striking about his entertaining and insightful observations was his disarming authenticity. The description of the scabies infected urchin wondering in the small piece of parched earth reminded him of his own beginnings.

Describing an incident in which the imperious Sirimavo Bandaranaike reluctantly suffered the company of a drunken journalist he unwittingly and innocently laid bare the distilled essence of the SLFP ethos under its founders – their belief in an imperfect but dignified humanity. He did not say it. He certainly inferred that ‘every man’s experience is his private literature’.

In contrast to the pragmatic UNP that is eager to erase its past, the SLFP has the capacity to confront its painful experiences and reclaim mastery of its future. It is the task of the SLFP to move beyond its folly of the Rajapaksa years and rediscover itself in a functional and an accurate way consistent with itself. It is the SLFP of literate men of the caliber of T.B.Ilangaratne, Sagara Palansuriya, Reggie Perera and activists of the caliber of Peramunetileke and Karunasena Jayalath.

Few realize that the Rajapaksa years spawned “political entrepreneurs,” who gobbled up the ideological adherents of left of center politics paving way for parvenus of the Weerawansa variety. The Rajapaksa regime created a constituency of an apolitical mass seduced by patrimony. Yet another class of passive and inert followers remained indifferent to public affairs.

The authoritarian state allowed limited competition among a chosen elite within managed boundaries. The Rajapaksa democracy perfected the Schumpeterian theory that democracy is the ‘method that institutionalizes the arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a managed competition for people’s consent’.

We live in an age of skepticism and doubt. The larger segment of our society believes that governance is in the hands of those corrupt interests in power. The Central Bank bond scam has totally undermined the good governance initiative. It has created its fissures in the UNP ranks as well. Confronted in a live TV program ‘Satana’, Eran Wickramaratne clearly displayed his discomfiture and unease over the bond fiasco. He put up a brave defense of the indefensible and was candid enough to confess that he did not know the credentials of the three handpicked members of the Prime Ministerial committee. In sharp contrast Dr. Harsha De Silva continues to insist on the eminence and the forensic integrity of the committee that determined that Governor was not directly involved.

The divergence in opinion of the two dynamic trend setters of the new UNP can be explained. One is the Calvinist ethics of propriety. Not isolated good work but a life of good works combined in to a unified code of conduct. The other is the Lankan Buddhist ethic of expediency. Karmic fatalism is a convenient substitute for moral consistency. We don’t have the luxury of ethical universalism. Why should the UNP be exempt?

Reckless populism put Ajith Nivard Cabraal in office as Governor of the central Bank. Shameless manipulism put Arjuna Mahendran in the same office.

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Well I never! You wake up after a long refreshing sleep and everyone is playing Happy Families.

    • 1

      Nothing like the “rise” of empty idiots like Sannasgala shows the pathetic situation in our country under Bahapalanaya.

      Sporting a @pol mudda” on his upper lip, his recent attempt to white wash the unpatriotic rogue Paikyasothy Saravanamuttu showed how the media is being abused through idiotic henchmen like Sannasgala to launch anti-people programs.

      What has this fool got, other than a band of naive school students he has been abusing?

      Whay can’t we have better quality people appearing in our media. He can go to hell with Sirisena and Don Juan Dharmapala otherwise known as Ranil Wickremesinghe.

      • 3

        The Gotham Hero is clearly one of those vacillating apologists pining for the return of the Paksha (Demon) Mafia. Instead of a relevant comment he does his usual vomiting abuse on his favorite whipping boys.

        How pathetic can one get?

        PS: I’m sure the more discerning readers will know immediately who this Gotham Ghoul is. No prizes for guessing correctly, though!

  • 3

    The Stock market which is a casino of the corrupt is rising because the new corrupt governor of the CB is following in the foot steps of the former corrupt governor of the CB.

    Both have lowered interest rates and are penalizing those who save and live off their savings while trying to force them to put their life savings in the Corrupt STOCK MARKET and take risks since fixed deposit pay nothing now – particularly for the elderly.

    The economic development model is TRICKLE UP and let the stock market expand on the backs of those who toil in the REAL ECONOMY. This joke must stop. Interest rates must go up and the savings habit encouraged, rather that widening the deficit by lowering interest rates to encourage borrowing and spending…

  • 5

    I too saw that episode of Satana. It was sad to see Eran’s credibility, as a honest politician, slowly erode during the course of the program. this will be a first of many UNP debacles that he will have to defend. And everytime he will sell piece of his soul, all in the name of party loyalty, politics and power.

    • 0

      Yeah but he’s an evangelical capitalist Assembly of God gutm his soul is saved. They can do anything they want and lie or kill because they are “saved “

  • 8

    You’ve hit the nail on the head dude Sarath!

    While Mahinda Rajapassa wants to shut down Financial crimes investigation, Ranil Wickramasinghe has appointed a corrupt clown as governor of the Central Bank!

    Moral of the tale: the politicians are ALL a corrupt bunch! A CODE OF CONDUCT for politicians that is ENFORCEABLE and includes financial disclosure and a SEALING ON ELECTIONS SPENDING is far more important than electoral reform.
    Electoral reform has become a joke and another means to expand corruption by expanding the number of corrupt politicians in parliament!
    TIme for the President Sirisena to fire the corrupt governor of the CB! That bond issue to his son-in-law’s firm must be cancelled!

  • 3

    Eminently readable and civilized article.

    ” the Schumpeterian theory that democracy is the ‘method that institutionalizes the arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a managed competition for people’s consent’.

    Indeed, this describes the familiar political culture in this country that seems it will stretch on forever.

    Since the previous president is still a member of the SLFP, he will only be too happy with an SLFP win in the next election.

    A powerful minority will not.

  • 1

    [Edited out]

  • 2

    So Sira was born with scabies followed by hunger..

    And Ranil had the Silver Spoon.

    So what is Sira doing with Ranil now.

    Give Federal States to Sambandan and Baththudeen .

    And keep the Sinhala Nationalist great majority hungry and suffer from scabies.

    Or give them scabies and keep them hungry?..

    Because Ranil sacked thousands of our Sinhala youth from UDA , RDA and BOI with his first directive as the un elected PM.

    Second directive funnelled 15 % per Annum interest payment alone, on a LKR 500 Million to his mate’s Mahendra’s Family trust

    Or is it 5000 Million, because I am a bit confused as our FM valued our MIG 27 fleet at USD 18 Billion and whittle it down to 10 Bil under pressure from his Elite Mathematician mates..

    And LKR 500 Mil is peanuts if we have to pay interest on even that USD 10 Billion .
    Ranil has Stopped each and every development project in the South.

    Galleo Ravi has lent Millions of Samurdhi Money to Business mates through Lankaputhra Bank , without asking for collateral.

    While Keselwatta kid gives Samurdi Dosh only to UNP ID card holders.

    On the other hand the Vellalas are holding ceremonies in Mulivaikal with the great Chief’s BIL as the Chief Guest.

    And has declared 13 – 16 May as the week of mourning and ceremonies in the future Federal state in the North,. while Baththudeen is busy settling Wahabis on Govt land in the East.

    Do they have Wahabis in Pakistan?..

    And the Governor there who is a former UNP defence dude, has stopped even a Japanese Power Plant because there are Baththudeen people living there.

    Never knew there are so many landlords in the East.

    Skeptical !! You bet…….

  • 2

    “We live in an age of skepticism and doubt”.

    This is only partially true. Trust and faith yet exist and in plenty. The latter give rise to the hope that exists within most of us. Skepticism and doubt, if dominant will make us a cynical people. WE are yet not a cynical nation.

    Most people doubt the State and this definitely breeds skepticism as a ripple effect. However, most people yet hope that things could be changed for the better. This hope if realized will bring trust and faith to the fore and relegate skepticism and doubt to the back burner.

    If we have only trust and faith, we will become naive. If we cultivate only skepticism and doubt, we will be a cynical people. There has to be a balance in which both sets of characteristics co-exist, while trust and faith predominate.

    We will become less human, if we permit doubt and skepticism to rule our minds. There are yet a majority of good people in this country, but they been
    dominated by a minority of crooks and cheats, because crookedness and cheating have been empowered and they pay dividends. Let us create the system to empower goodness in all its manifestations and make crookedness and cheating the domain of criminals who are behind bars.

    Good governance should pave the way for trust and faith to be restored. The judicial system has already kindled hope and in due course should strengthen faith. The law and order system; priesthood and monk-hood; the public services; the political arms of the State;and the media should also be reformed to perform and kindle hope and seed faith in the people.

    ” Nallaar oruvar ularayl, avar porruttu ellaarkum Peiyum Mallai ( If there is one good person, there will be rain for everyone)

    This is the hope and faith that sustains life and makes people try to be good.

    The Tamil Kings of old, are believed to have asked from their ministers, whether it was raining thrice a month in their Kingdoms (Maatham mum maari polihiratha?). In a country ruled by a just , fair and conscientious King, it was believed that rains never fail? We may not understand the impact of good governance on rainfall patterns, unless we take it that it also included concern for the environment!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0

      With reference to Dr.RN’s mention of Tamil kings of old and the seasonal rains then,the following verses may be of interest as a digression to readers..

      “Vedam Oothiya vedidiaruk Oor Mallai (Priests who utters the Vedas)
      Neethi Mannar Neriyinarku Oor Mallai (Kings who rule righteously)
      Maathar Katpudai Mangaiyak Oor Maali ( Chaste and faithful wives)
      Maatham Moondru Maaliyenap Peiyume” (on account of them all,rain
      falls monthly)

      The verse below refers to the opposite of the above, more appropriate to present period.

      “Arisi Vitridum Anthanarku Oor Maali (Crooked Brahmins who sell rice)
      Varisai Thapiya Mannarku Oor Maali (Unrighteous rule by crooked
      Purusanai Kondra Poovaiyarku Oor Maali ( Unfaithful wives who had
      (killed their husbands)
      Varusam Moondru Maaliyenap Peiyume” (Because of them all,the rains
      would fall thrice yearly)

      Apologies, for the poor translation.

      • 1


        Thanks for the poems. I will memorise the lines.


    • 0


      Aren’t you lucky to have the Queen back on deck in the future big Eelaam.

      That will bring Rain to our mini Eelaam in the North too, according to the welcome speech of TNGTE aka World Eelaam Senator Ms Skadarajah.

      What our great majority are worried is how many of them will have scabies and go hungry after Yahapala King and the Queen (? ) complete their Diaspora, West and UNP London drawn Manifesto and the Vellalas and the Wahabi’s are settled in their respective Homelands.

      And the Anglicans and Evangelical,US Church ( Born Again ) preachers, upper crust English speaking Christians and fake Buddhist Sinhala Elite take over with the help of the Colombo Vellalas and Colombo Wahabis who do not want to migrate to their own Homelands for obvious reasons…..,

      Thanks to “TripotJihadi” for the last paragraph which he has put together so succinctly to awaken our Sinhala Nationalists who are still sucking up to the King and the Queen…

  • 2

    Fine article, beautiful prose, well articulated thoughts. Sarath De Alwis has arrived!

  • 3

    At last, a sensible and civilized discussion at the end of a sensible and civilized article in the Colombo Telegraph.
    Let us hope that all those who generally vent their anti-Rajapakse venom
    through these comments threads have exhausted themselves of it, and are more concerned about the serious situation that is developing in the country wherein a point is being reached where all the factions will be forced to come together into seeking SOLUTIONS…..instead of engaging in endless squabble.

  • 1

    Evangelical US Assembly of God church tyoes, Anglican ancestry of Ranil abd arrogant elitism of the uppercrust English speaking colombo Christians and aristocratic fake Buddhists are alk having a field day with Anglican Ranil in power. Evangelical US churches are undermining Buddhism, Hinduism and Catholicism and centuries of live and let live healthy respect for each other’s faiths. These US assembly of God types will never socialize, interact or treat with respect other faiths. They are dancing to another tune . Ranil is surrounded by them; their final aim is to make Sri Lanka like South Korea by bribes and other financial offerings and material possessions to convert people. That is how the US destroyed S.Korea’s buddhist majority in under 25 years. Ask that guy who lied about CB if he had even been to a Buddhist temple and paid respect

    • 1

      It is a a pity our Champaka and Venerable Rathne can’t read English.

      Thank you “tripotjihadi”…

      • 3

        K.A Sumanasekera

        “It is a a pity our Champaka and Venerable Rathne can’t read English.”

        No, both of them are “Sinhala Only” pure Sinhala/Buddhists hence they do not need to read or write in your colonial language.

        • 1

          Dear Native,

          You got it … Right..

          Even Sira, I don’t think can read it..

          Like Tripotjihadi said, it is translated to him by a pretend Buddhist Sinhala elite,So he doesn’t get it either.

          Another thing is Ranils Sub Committee directives are also in English .

          No wonder poor Sira get to know them only after the horse has bolted to Singapore..

          In vain I bought so many of those Bank Notes,Unless Siripala change his mind and pull the lug on the ” Queen.”

  • 3

    It is difficult to say whether a person wearing a national dress is automatically good and honest. MR , Basil , Namal are examples of rogues in national costume.

    It is also not correct to use words like patrician, honest etc to describe a man like Ranil who seem to prefer the formal western dress. Does Ranil ever explain how he funds his endless foreign travel ? Either it is campaign money given by businessmen or these trips are funded by foreign NGOs or governments. If that is the case we should know who these funders are and whether Ranil is compromised because of the benefits he has received from foreign sources.

    The Arjun Mahendran affair, the Ranil (Sirikotha)sponsored campaign of spreading disinformation about opponents, feudalism of Ruwan Wijewardena appointment , holding on to UNP leadership despite the obvious fact that the voter does not want him .

    We automatically use words like patrician or respectable when describing Ranil or Chandrika. Ranils family is one of those nobodies who became somebodies during the British era when being a catholic was a great advantage. It is even said that the origin of the family was moor.Having climed to the top he has the audacity to make everybody else feel small ! Without calling him patrician why not use words like small minded ,insecure, pompous , to describe him ?

    One day when history is written it will be said that Ranil’s main role in politics was to make others like MR, Chandrika , Prabakaran, Sarath fonseka, Sajith Premadasa even Maithripala Sirisena look good in comparison. They all benefitted from the Ranil factor .

  • 1

    Maxim Gorky has told us as quoted in this fine article that the Rajapakses need to be analysed by Social Anthropologists!

  • 1

    I only wish that Mr Sarath de Alvis is able articulate his thoughts in simpler English that an average English speaking person can digest, unless of course he wants us to pursue a Linguistic study. I personally feel less than 10% of the English speaking public would readily understand his article. I certainly had a great deal of trouble.

    It is well known that Lord Denning, whom many British lawyers regard as one of the greatest judges of the last century always delivers simply-worded judgments.I also understand that Sir Winston Churchill, a master of the English Language has written a book using merely 200 simple words.

    Mr Alvis, we’d love to read your essays but for the benefit the average English speaking person I would appeal to you to please write in a language that is a little more easier to understand.

  • 1

    “Reckless populism put Ajith Nivard Cabraal in office as Governor of the central Bank. Shameless manipulism put Arjuna Mahendran in the same office.”

    “Shameless” seems to fit Ranil like a glove! I wonder if he is even aware what problems he is causing for Maithri, as he seems so arrogantly indifferent to the mess he has created with regard to his buddy Mahendran and the CB scam? Maithri should put him in his place in no uncertain terms and leave no room for ambiguity as far as his view of Yahapalanaya is concerned.

  • 0

    I concur with the writer who wants to highlight the “launching” of the books written by Mr. Sanasgala. We, the country and the nation, need the people who could contribute to develop the literature wealth. Since of late, we have been deprived of such developing talents in the fields of literature, art, music and it is a fact that the Rajapakse regime created the band of “Prasasthi Gayana” who stooped down to “prostitute” their talents to crate and color wash the “Mha Raja” concepts. We need to have people like Prof. Ediriweera Sarachandra, Mr.Mahagama Sekera, Mr. Panee Baratha, Mr. Henry Jyasena to mention a few who could lead our society to its past glory.

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