31 October, 2020

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Style, Emotion & Rhetoric Of The Maithri Presidency

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men. – Plato

This correspondent entertained no illusions when voting for the Swan – symbol of the common opposition candidate on 8th January 2015. It was a vote for what the swan stood for. The candidate was incidental. On 31st December 2014 exactly a week before the epochal change of the Presidency, I wrote in the print media: “The current political discourse is not about choosing a captain to lead our nation state. It is about electing a president for our Republic. On 8 January we should not and must not elect a captain who will rule, lead and command. Instead we should elect a president attuned to the rhythm of the age of information.

We now find that we have elected a preachy President rich on rhetoric and short on delivery. Hence this retrospective search for clues in understanding the paradox of Maithripala Sirisena Transformative President, indulgent father of Daham Sirisena, caring brother of Kumarasinghe Sirisena and hardnosed succorer, salvager of his party the SLFP.

It now seems that this president is not as attuned to the rhythm of the age of information as we hoped. If he was, he would have been far more receptive to the public abhorrence of nepotism, cronyism and profligacy.

By appointing his brother as the head of Sri Lanka telecom and taking his son to New York as a member of the official delegation to the General Assembly sessions he has determinedly excluded siblings and offspring as falling within the compass of nepotism. May be. It may just be, that the double helix structure of DNA allows some presidential double standards on nepotism as applicable to Thamankaduwa today and Giruwapattuwa yesterday.

The appointment of election rejects as members of parliament under the national list and conferring Ministerial office on them was never explained by the President himself. It was left to the rejects themselves to explain why they deserve to be treated as bearers of popular sovereignty. Our democracy flawed as it is, is dependent not only on rules but norms as well. There are limits that one could go to but not any further to advance one’s own personal political ends. Our adherence to the system supersedes our immediate partisan interest. The motivated reasoning given by the likes of Wjithamuni Soysa, S.B. Dissanayake and Mahinda Samarasinghe are remarkably innovative in meeting their personal assessment of moral reasoning. The moral rationalization of the imperative of his being in Parliament by the suave Mahinda Samarasinghe was a lesson in the ability of an individual to reinterpret an immoral actions as intrinsically moral. Public condemnation was intense and cacophonous. The decidedly demonic distortion of democracy was the nomination of the defeated candidate S.B. Dissanayake. He championed militarization of our universities, encouraged the public abuse of a former woman President and publicly justified the interruption by Sri Lanka telecom of the first live TV political program by the common opposition candidate.

The purpose of this missive is to tender some timely advice to correct these apparent auditory disorders currently experienced by our transformative president. The election of President Maithripala Sirisena on January 8th this year was not his personal triumph. Undoubtedly he deserves recognition and adulation of the nation for his personal courage in heading a political movement that challenged an entrenched political machine. But the last Presidential election was not about the candidate. The constant ‘manthra’ of Venerable Maduluwawe Sobhitha was that “public office is a public trust”. It was the overarching ethical principle that was endorsed in near unanimity by the minorities and an evenly split vote of the majority. For 6,217,162 voters who made up 51.28 % of the electorate ‘public office is a public trust ‘was more than a metaphor. For a nation that weathered a storm, it was a ‘rain bow’ that held the promise of a brighter dawn.

The Presidential Secretariat recently took great pains to explain its version of a supplementary estimate that allocated Rs 180 million to renovate and refurbish the official residence of the President. The Secretary to the President pointed out that the Government had to rehabilitate and improve the residence of the President by joining two old houses to bring it to a proper condition that was adequate for the use of the President.

If the President used the President’s House, the Government would have incurred expenses adding up to more than 15 million rupees per month for utility costs of water and electricity in addition to maintenance costs. No doubt it is a rational explanation of a pragmatic decision of a frugal unassuming President. But what are the politics behind the rhetoric of eschewing the grandeur and the glory of Mahinda the ‘magnificent’ by Sirisena the ‘Simple’. In the battle for the Presidency, Maithri the candidate gave us the glimpse of an ‘Inner Siddhartha’ near ascetic in taste and temperament.

This is what the President actually said before the elections of his living arrangements as the transformative leader.

“When I become president on the 8th of January, I will not set foot in Temple Trees or the Presidential Secretariat. I need to state this fact clearly to you. King Vijayabahu ruled the country from Polonnaruwa. The Great King Parakramabahu later united the country. Since then, there has been no leadership in Polonnaruwa. Come the 9th of January that leadership will return to Polonnaruwa.

If the political leaders of the political force that I represent agree, and if the political parties, groups and organizations that selected me to be their Common Candidate agree, after my victory, I will administer this country from Polonnaruwa, which is my home …”

In a subsequent TV interview with Upul Shantha Sannasgala on ITN President Sirisena declared that he did not intend to use President’s House in Fort, other than for State functions, while President’s Houses in the provinces will be used for State functions in the respective locations. This he said was pending a final decision on their use for optimal productivity.

It is not the intention of this writer to hold the pre-election Maithri magniloquence against President Sirisena who single handedly steered the 19th Amendment through a dysfunctional parliament. He handled a UNP greedy for office and a UPFA that planned a scorched earth retreat with a political acumen that puts him in the Mandela league. He still remains the ‘great white hope’ in enacting the right to information act and devolution of power as a conclusive formula for the national question.

President continues to speak on issues of great importance. He is no doubt a sincere leader trapped in the cruel game of expedient politics. He is entitled to some wiggle room.

In his essay on “Fearless Speech,” the social theorist Michel Foucault explains his understanding of the Greek concept of ‘parrhesia’, a framing of free speech originating from Ancient Greek democracy. He says “In parrhesia, the speaker uses his freedom and chooses frankness instead of persuasion, truth instead of falsehood or silence, the risk of death instead of life and security, criticism instead of flattery, and moral duty instead of self-interest and moral apathy.” And so, Socrates the best, the wisest and the most upright man drank hemlock.

Will Minister of Ports and Captain cool insist on appointing brother Dhammika as Chairman of the Ports Authority? President Sirisena is no Socrates.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    “Will Minister of Ports and Captain cool insist on appointing brother Dhammika as Chairman of the Ports Authority?”

    Of course, he will; Money has to be kept within the family. And President will not drink the hemlock. He will get the foolish masses to drink it.

    • 6
      1

      In the Avissawala area, the wife of the eldest brother, used to be also the wife of the younger brothers. The objective was to keep the wealth within the family!
      In the present time we have adopted this practice to keep political power within the family and share the booty with the family! Sharing within and with the family seems to be in our blood, not withstanding the democracy and good governance we talk so profusely about. In the Anuradhapura district, a mother, to whom the daughter complained of being sexually abused by the father, is reported to have simply said, ‘Fathers are like that’. It is not incest and aserious crime to these simple folk, but an acceptable tradition!

      We have our ways and it is domestically evolved, however abhorent they may be in this day and age. In appearence we are very modern and westernized, but in our core, we are quite medieval in our lack of elevated thoughts and actions.

      Incidentally, if the President’s House (Former Queen’s House) is fit to be used for State functions by the president, why cannot he live in it. The White House has been occupied by American presidents from the times of George Washiington. Excuses, excuses and more excuses to hoodwink us!

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      • 7
        1

        In the up-country there was a marriage called ‘Eka Gei Kema’ where many brothers live with one wife to keep the wealth within the family!. It is the so-called Kandyan budhdhists who practice this tradition. Never heard that it is practiced in the Avissawella area. On the contrary, there are wives who share many men, as well. One good example is the president’s brother who was hacked to death by the husband of his mistress. Anything is possible in this land which has a 2500 years of history.

      • 2
        2

        I would say President share the wealth , share with people of the country most deserves.

        You may say I am going off the point a little but look at our future generation , their bloated size in the common knowledge that our children are ” Putting on in Weight ” why ?? Is it to do with the Good Life ? Bad diet, or parents negligence , and lack of exercise?!
        These major factors needed to be addressed. URGENTLY. Having Gym facilities in private clubs are only attracting the rich and famous and that too only available in the cities of SL.
        These rich kids are not interested in Gym they’re only interested in drink and fight. These are common occurrences in the cities.
        The village kids needs proper sports facilities to be future sports men and women of the country.
        Channel the plundered money. Punish the crooked Ministers and MPs who are mismanaging state funds and foreign donations , see that there is no Pilfering and bribe and corruption.

        Mantra of Politicians came into Politics should not be ” What they can get But what they can give “. to the country and the people who elected them.
        This should be given the utmost importance , Serve your country and serve your people. “.

        Why the Modayas are still bantering for the murderous family?? These morons and bootlickers of MARA what do you call them??
        Any proper names for these idiots??

      • 2
        0

        Oh, but Dr Rajasingham, didn’t you read Sirisena’s reply? He said he would incur a monthly maintenance expense of Rs 15 million if he used Queens House. He doesn’t know that currently the maintenance is almost the same. And of course he hasn’t yet calculated how much will the refurbished place cost eventually for maintenance per month. Is he really brain dead or is he a liar? People in the know say that the coward is scared that MR has done huniyan (shuniyam) for occupants of that place. Sirisena is the most shameless President / Head of Government Sri Lanka has had from 1948. To borrow some advice from from another thief and bandit S.B. Dissanayaka, he should be stripped naked and driven down the street.

  • 5
    0

    Power corrupts even Mr.Sirisena. It’s all the same Lankan politics and mentality.
    Can’t blame them, none of them are brought up with moral conscience, values, humbleness, humility and honesty. Even the religion they say they are practicing is not helping to mould the quality.It’s a very long way to go..
    All our so called politicians are the same, after all.
    The political show biz is not going to last much and all our hopes will get dashed sooner than later. Unfortunate Lankans !

    • 7
      0

      “All our so called politicians are the same, after all.”

      I am not too sure about the above. I was thinking about this because of the comment below by Lasantha Pethiyagoda in “Smart Student Will Outsmart The Teacher Soon” by Ranga Kalansooriya

      “He cannot realistically expect good ethical conduct from educationists or any other professional as the POLITICALLY IMPOSED SET OF SOCIAL VALUES is utterly corrupt to the core. Morality and virtuous values do not bring personal benefits in such a system. Hence everybody seems to practice dishonourable means of achieving their goals.”

      I am no analyst or writer, just a plebeian that do not accept conventional-wisdom at face value. I can vaguely remember that Buddhism is enshrined in one or both of the constitutions (Sirima’s, JR’s) to project to the world Sri Lanka as a Buddhist country. But anyone has to drive only for half an hour on the streets of Colombo (SL’s premier cosmopolitan city, by no means inhabited by all primitives) to realize that Sri Lanka is not a Buddhist country. Not a practicing one. Do people drive like that because the politicians are corrupt?

      Do people do not stand in a queue at a bank because the politicians are corrupt? When they had free choice, do people give the highest number of preferential votes to a man in remand prison for murder because the politicians are corrupt?

      There is no doubt our politicians are corrupt to the core. But are we a reflection of the politicians? Or are the politicians a reflection of us? It’s a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” question for which I can’t find an answer.

      By the same token, I do not know how many Buddhists are there in Scandinavian countries; probably only a handful. I do not know if they have even heard of Buddha’s teachings. Nothing is perfect but although they do not call themselves Buddhists, on the whole they seem to be practicing Buddha’s teachings. What’s in name?

      As a side note – The most remarkable Sri Lankan people I’ve met is an older group that had not been exposed to any education or religion; a group of people who on their own had to come up with a set of “morals/rules to live by” which has led me to believe, education, religion and culture, in the main is nothing but a gang-rape of our minds from infancy that smothers independent thinking and prevent us from thinking for ourselves and seeing the simple truths.

  • 2
    1

    Quotes from this article!!!
    “It was a vote for what the swan stood for”
    “The election of President Maithripala Sirisena on January 8th this year was not his personal triumph”
    “We now find that we have elected a preachy President rich on rhetoric and short on delivery”.
    “Hence this retrospective search for clues in understanding the paradox of Maithripala Sirisena Transformative President, indulgent father of Daham Sirisena, caring brother of Kumarasinghe Sirisena and hardnosed succorer, salvager of his party the SLFP”.
    “The appointment of election rejects as members of parliament under the national list and conferring Ministerial office on them was never explained by the President himself”

    • 4
      0

      He never explained to to the country on his return why he took his playboy son of his who has nothing to show on paper as valid qualification which almost equals the Fake Certificates of former idiotic Leader’s Sons.
      All came out of the same mould , liars , cheats and hard nosed.mmonkeys.

      There are no hopes for the future of Srilanka some of us are just wasting our time.

      Nepotism continues , plundering ,bribes and corruption continues too..
      By the way the 2500 year old Buddhism and its values has been raped and murdererd by the culture mix occurred during the past centuries by the invaders of the West the East and the Middle East .

      Forget about Buddhism this is all watered down Religion made by the OPPORTUNISTS OF SRI LANKA.
      This sacred Religion is used to Plunder ,Lie , and Murder.
      Is there any value as we
      believe in the sacredness of Buddhism??

      While the MahaSangha is preaching the nobleness of Buddhism some of the Yellow Robed thieves are misusing the Religion.
      Doing exactly what the Religion says Forbidden , these Yellow Robed Buddhist Monks doing against what MahaSangha says.
      It’s all a JOKE OF A RELIGION??

  • 3
    1

    Plato never dreamed in his wildest dreams that President Sirisena would not turn out to be a Socrates!

  • 2
    1

    We as citizen wanted to remove MR not because he was there but because we wanted meaningful change …we never ever look the face of the candidate whether beauty of not but we placed trust on however…..sorry.com

  • 3
    0

    Shall we nominate Pallewatte Gamaralalage Maithripala Yapa Sirisena for a Oscar?

    Soma

    • 2
      1

      som ass

      “Shall we nominate Pallewatte Gamaralalage Maithripala Yapa Sirisena for a Oscar”

      Oscar may be too difficult a award to win. you should nominate him for Nobel prizes in all categories, Economics, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Litrature, and peace.

      Nobel Prize for peace this year should have been awarded to Mahinda Rajapaksa brothers jointly for not bumping off Sirisena in Jan 2015.

  • 2
    0

    If you want to do well in SL, you got to have connections.

    From the time you are born, at the time of schooling, finding employment, when you are sick and finally when you are just about to be six feet under ground, you need connections.

    This system will not change whether it is MR or MS.

    • 2
      2

      This system was created by MR and is being successfully continued by MS.

      • 0
        0

        The nepotistic system to say it in a historically correct sense, was created by DS.S, when he manipulated the British GG to ensure his son the so called playboy eligible bachelor of at that time as PM of the country.
        The rot started then when he displayed his cowardly inefficiency the following year in 1953, when he took refuge in a ship moored in the Colombo harbour complaining of bad-a- ache after having lost his stamina and became a lame duck over the price of rice.
        Then his rival the fox Yankey Dickey targeted him and eventually set the pace for MaRa Chintaya to follow.
        That is history and how My3 Ranil Yahapalanaya would record it in the Mahavamsa let us wait and see

  • 5
    0

    Looks like Lord Acton’s quote on ‘Power’ has stood the test of time, and in spite of President Sirisena’s noble intentions prior to being elected, he has succumbed to that heady infusion that has been the downfall of many well-intentioned leaders throughout history.

    Let’s hope that something or someone jars him out of his stupor.

  • 3
    0

    1

    “Will Minister of Ports and Captain cool insist on appointing brother Dhammika as Chairman of the Ports Authority?” Of course, he will; Money has to be kept within the family. ….. Imitiaz

    SHAMELESSLY…… Arjuna & a Delegation in shopping in Hong Kong getting ready for a presentation on Monday 19/X/2015 by the China Merchants on further developments & improvements to the Colombo Port.

    Yes….. Dhammika Ranatunga must be there to collect the Chinese Commission…. The clean Captain Kool operates in superitiously.

    The President & his Politicos of the GOSL acted in a humiliating matter to redicule China during the election campaigns AND NOW WE FIND THE PORTS MINISTER GOING BACK TO CHINA FOR LOANS AND DEVELOPMENT.
    It appears the Western backers are wary of investments in SL

  • 2
    0

    We were so desperate to kick out MR that we would have voted for a dead parrot nailed to its perch. Alas, the whole of our political class is infected with the twin curses that have plagued our land for decades; nepotism and crony-ism. A young Sri Lankan with political aspirations would be better advised to export his talents to somewhere more appreciative than to join out national political cesspit. Meritocracy is all but dead in this Debacle of Asia.

  • 1
    1

    We all need to remember that we did not vote MS in….we strived to vote MR out. The level of corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism that MR engaged in was caustic and was slowly hemorrhaging our little nation. His grandstanding and royal aura had all but alienated us in the eyes of the world….China continued to feed the Rajapaksa ego and the Rajapaksa package much as the white settlers bribed Indian chiefs with mirrors and trinkets for vast amounts of land and resources.

    MS has had a few slip-ups since becoming Prez but these are small potatoes…thankfully he seems to understand his limitations and leave the running of the Country to the PM and his cabinet. True, his single-minded goal of a national government has created a jumbo cabinet…but it has also united Parliament and placed the TNA as Opposition, assuaging a long held cry for minority rights and representation.

    True the economy is right now in the doldrums but this was expected…..our leaders now need to shed 10 years of Rajapaksa luggage from the public sector and achieve fiscal breathing space before things stabilize. Why do you think MR called elections 2 years early, he knew very well that the smelly brown stuff was about to hit the fan and was desperate to get his foothold before the dam burst.

    Its still early days, let them find their own groove.

    • 0
      0

      They certainly are finding a parallel groove

  • 0
    1

    I am not sure if this 100% correct but i get the feeling that all the failings listed in the article specially regarding the national list is like a sacrifice on principles in lieu of a greater benefit to the nation as a whole .
    MS /RW could have stuck to their guns or positions whih would have resulted in
    NO National government
    NO 2/3 to pass vital bills for national reconciliation Development etc
    NO 2/3 to make the constitutional changes that are needed

    Do we all think its better to have principles and let go the last chance on offer to make the country a better place for all ?

  • 0
    0

    MR & GR did everything they liked and all the other ministers had no power or did anything at all, except enjoying the monetary benefits and associated lavish perks.
    Now we have PM, Chandrika, Hon. Sobitha, Mangala and a host of others to advice MS to steer the govt. in a proper way. What are they doing ? It’s not MS who decides on everything here !

  • 1
    0

    Now that Law & Order is getting back, with hickups, the Public Interest litigators
    can question all these nespotic acts, as surely the very appointment was not made by
    MS but a Public Authority, who has to substantiate it. In this logical way, it can be
    overcome, to a good extent.

    Should not CT undertake this, instead of asking MS to apologise as a TV host was able to do it !!!!

  • 0
    0

    The dawn of January 8th was consequent to a ripened antagonism over a growing “Dictatorial and Megalomaniac” type of Governance that the people were being subjected. It is true and must be admitted, were it not for the “Common Candidate” personality of Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, the previous administration would not have been changed.His appearance in the contest drew the peoples’ attention to a “Commoner” from an “Elitist” who had failed to impress at more than dozens of elections. So the real TEST of assessment, both of the “Commoner” and the “Elitist” combination started from January 8th up to now. The short period from January 8th to August 17 DID NOT impress the voters that much and the resultant disapproval was shown in the results of the general election, in that, many of the supposed to be sent out of power were brought back to the Legislature, in some cases with huge preferential votes. This created a “Big Problem” for the President to keep in tact the party he headed and wield power within the frame of Governance. That resulted in forming a “Mega” Cabinet inclusive of “outcasts” and “undesirables”. That was the FIRST BLOW, the President created for himself, but I would say “Unavoidable” too.

    Now as things are rolling on, in day to day administration, people are getting “uneasy” and the “Question” surfacing steadily is: Did we entrust our State to people with “Courage”, “Discipline”, “Justice” and “Maturity”? The answers given by the Governing Authorities are received by the people with mixed feelings and they do not seem to be feeling well with what is going on. The writer has quoted some of those events and there seem to be no “review” of what is being done. Even these types of already “condemned” actions of appointment of “cronies” to foreign assignments are being done openly with the blessings of the President himself. In the insistence of a one time “Boss” of the President and now calls “whose Boss I was” has apparently got his son-in-law appointed to a Sri Lanka Mission abroad, who is not even a citizen of this country. This will come to light very soon, because the Sri Lankan community are reeling with anger and disappointment. It is even learned that the Foreign Affairs Ministry is not “Happy” as things are turning out to be in regard to the subject of Foreign Affairs. So this dictum of “My Boss, Whose Boss I was” has started influencing in a big way in matters relating to Governmental affairs.

    The above matters highlighted by the writer and more and more things coming to light, the BIG QUESTION viz. Have we brought in the correct people including the President to administer our affairs for us? will crop up sooner or later. In my opinion, the real concern for the President and those at the helm of affairs is not with external affairs, but with his and their “Inward Self”; “True Concerns” and “Intentions”. If this “Self Assessment” is not done and make a REVIEW, things will definitely fall apart and it will be too late to regret. That is what happened to the Ex President and he is a living example. Time will tell us the truth of this statement.

  • 0
    0

    MS must set an example as a simple honest sincere politician without following in the foot steps of the former regime. Every one is watching every thing MS, RW doing these days. RW got adverse opinion after the central bank fiasco. MS is also getting bad reviews for a number of things now a days.
    Certain political moves may be inevitable due to the prevailing fluid situation but he should not get carried away and do things people do not expect or appreciate. He should prove himself to be a caring and level headed leader.
    He also should make feel every citizen that he is the president of all communities-majority and minority and make all feel Sri Lankans. People want to see the difference and not the same old style of governance anymore ! No one wants to get into the same cycle of crime, violence, nepotism, corruption, cronyism, waste and dirty political games. We all want rule of law, actions to improve farming, economy, employment, overhaul of educational system, a sincere reconciliation mechanism, a reasonable decent living for all without any discrimination. Discrimination of any kind anywhere should be eradicated, since that is the root cause of all the evil things.
    No country can live in peace or prosper with state sponsored discriminatory practices and state terror. We have had enough of that which destroyed the peaceful existence of all and a beautiful nation of such a friendly people.

    MS,RW combo must do only good things and differently for the country.

  • 0
    0

    Diluk Desinghe ,

    What you overlook is that Maithri’s election was due to a coalition that wanted reform and transformation.

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