16 January, 2022

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Tattumaru (Changing Guards) Mentality & The Role Of Educated Class In Future Governance

By Siri Gamage

Dr. Siri Gamage

In this early day of 2022, I see many articles in the media about the current issues facing the nation, the poor governance and need for regime change. My question is whether there is a credible and trustworthy alternative? If not, are there plans by those concerned to develop a new alternative? Unfortunately, while many are masters in criticism, I don’t see signs of any group attempting to initiate new parties or forces to gain at least a share of power at the next elections? Though we have a strong educated class of citizens-young and old- I don’t see it focusing on the need to get involved in the political process other than a few who are aligned with established parties? Why is this the case? What compels the educated class to be detached from the political process which is at the core of gaining a share of power to make decisions that impact the whole nation? Are there any underlying reasons for such detachment and inactivity?

Firstly, though admirable, relying on the prospects of the JVP or smaller progressive parties to gain a significant share of power at the future elections is a risky exercise. Going by the past experience, at most the JVP or its wider organisation NPP may be able to secure only a 20% of the parliamentary seats in the best of circumstances

The political class -though divided into several camps for gaining a share of power- is well organised and entrenched in terms of wealth, party machinery, networks, image building, media work, misleading the public and more. Tattumaru (periodic change of guards) mentality has been the cornerstone in Sri Lankan politics for a considerable time. Once in power the governance system reinforces the master-servant relationship inherited from the British colonial days. This is more evident in the tri-forces and the police as well as the so-called public service. It spills over to the broader society through the multiple hierarchies operating in society. In a proper democracy, those motivated by humanitarian, human rights and egalitarian considerations need to combat this entrenched system in place -not limited to a particular government – to liberate the people who are marginalised and oppressed by the system.

However, the educated class that benefitted from the free education system that was established to broaden the opportunities of higher education beyond a privileged few is silent-though some are masters of criticism? It has the capability to develop an alternative organisation and the required machinery to challenge the established parties and political forces. Yet it has adopted a hands-off approach possibly for self-advancement and personal security. This problem raises the issue about the role of intellectual in societies when they are facing crises. In Lanka, I wonder if there are any credible intellectuals who can grasp the unfolding situation from a broad historical, national interest and geopolitical perspective? If there were some, I suspect that they have been bought over by the national and international agencies -governmental and non-governmental to promote their own agendas.

My view is that those concerned about the impending economic and social crisis in the country needs to spend less time in criticising Rajapaksas and focusing on developing an alternative network of educated Lankans with wide experiences in the public and private sectors coupled with international experiences. Such a network should explore the possibility of building a future party to contest the elections – not in all the 225 electorates but about half of them to begin with. Consideration should be given to choose electorates that are marginal and winnable. The network should be managed by a small committee (about 10-20) and it should form committees for Provinces and districts as well. The principles governing the network as well as the aims should be defined e.g. work towards a better Sri Lanka, preservation of the rights of all individuals irrespective of the background or identity, reform education, legal, health, production and manufacturing sectors to be equitable accessible and efficient, abolish the executive Presidential system and restore the Westminster system of governance, strengthen the Local Government system, enhance the local manufacturing and production process, establish a society where rule of law is supreme. The national committee should be composed of those drawn from diverse backgrounds with a reputation and history of working to advance the prosperity of the nation. A communication and media strategy should be part of the plan. This should involve strategies for communicating with the not so educated people at the grass roots level. The goals should be defined not by opposition to a given party or an alliance but taking the whole postcolonial history and politics into account and where we have ended up? A main focus should be for developing a nation-building program of action thinking beyond the province, caste, ethnicity, religion, gender and political party.

Why am I advocating such a network/organisation led by the educated class? Firstly, though admirable, relying on the prospects of the JVP or smaller progressive parties to gain a significant share of power at the future elections is a risky exercise. Going by the past experience, at most the JVP or its wider organisation NPP may be able to secure only a 20% of the parliamentary seats in the best of circumstances. This means still the established parties and individuals will be in power with the support of JVP or not. Secondly, small experiments to change the government such as Nagananda phenomena ended in failure. Though he had a significant support base, his campaign was organisationally weak at the time of last elections. He did not have an effective organisational mechanism either. Smaller parties and groups may be strong ideologically – not organisationally. Thirdly, any strong network/organisation competing for a share of power needs to be able to cut through the rhetoric propagated by the mainstream media (controlled by those supporting the ruling class or belonging to the ruling class). An effective media and communication strategy can be developed by those who are familiar with the way media work in real world and have the ability to garner resources. Better social media campaign is a must. Fourthly, the educated class is believed to consist of individuals with an intimate knowledge about the economy and its various sectors, education, health, legal and corporate sectors, international relations and experiences as well as how other democratic governments operate in countries like the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand function? Such knowledge is essential to map out the future trajectory of the country. This class already has some power in this sense in terms of experiential knowledge, networks and professional qualifications plus experience. Finally, this class may also have access to resources-financial and technical.

If such a network/organisation is not established well before the next round of national and potentially provincial elections, and people will have no alternative but to vote for the existing parties and individuals some of whom may be corrupt, then there is no point in writing long articles theorising about what is wrong and what will be the future scenarios in the political and economic arenas. The aim of such writers may be to enlighten potential political activism but it is far more useful to imagine a better future with an alternative network/organisation as the engine of effecting change.

I do not doubt that the education class lacks the intelligence and understanding of the gravity of the situation that the nation faces in coming years. What they lack perhaps is the WILL to recognise like-minded others with similar thinking, generate enthusiasm for a common agenda among fellow citizens, and get involved in the political process. The educated class thus far has been seeking security from the government and established parties. However, the failures of governments should open their eyes and ears to the impending crisis and take preventive action now by means of imagining a new network or organisation and a future. Lethargy and delay can be counterproductive to say the least.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    1

    “the prospects of the JVP or smaller progressive parties to gain a significant share of power at the future elections”
    If there is a risk of the JVP ever adopting a seriously anti-imperialist programme and rallying significant support, Endowment for Democracy will show its fangs.
    *
    There are plenty of CIA funded organizations (really CIA fronts) that will do the needful.
    They notably succeeded in Latin America in the decade 2010-2020. But all of that has begun to unravel with a string of electoral defeats in Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Honduras and Venezuela. But the coup machine will go on to its very end. Their new battleground is in Asia.

    • 2
      0

      CIA is doing a good job then.

    • 0
      0

      Yes, SJ, that is a real danger.
      .
      RTF, CIA doing a great job in terms of American self-interest. Do you commend that?
      .
      I had felt that, like Noam Chomsky, you have a broader world view.

      • 0
        0

        If CIA is getting rid of repressive dictators that countries are crushed under, that is a good thing. If it is for American interests on countries that want to copy and steal from American interests, that is also a good thing. Unfortunately, CIA is selective.

  • 8
    0

    Dr. Siri Gamage

    1) Thank you for your thoughtful article on the largely superficial approach of our ‘intellectuals’ to regime change without thinking through on what happens in its aftermath for REAL change in the manner we are governed.

    2) On the JVP prospects at a parliamentary election you are spot on. Most likely they will not go beyond 50 seats at best and will need the support of SJB which most likely will not go beyond 75 seats.

    3) There is a CREDIBILTY factor haunting both the SJB and JVP – particularly leaders of SJB for their lackluster performance in the Yahapalana government.

    4) REALISTICALLY both the SJB and JVP will need the support of minority parties.

    5) The ground reality is that there will be huge INSTABILITY due to personalities in SJB and JVP jockeying for leadership positions.

    6) There is also a dearth in the level of professionalism in these parties. For the most part they are mediocre, largely due to undermining the role of English education since 1956.

    7) There is also a reluctance to ‘educate’ the population that unless there is national UNITY, there will NEVER be any real progress.

    8) On the subject of CORRUPTION which is a major bugbear, there is a reluctance to rein in corrupt businessmen, bureaucrats, professionals and the mainstream media who are the ENABLERS of political corruption.

    • 5
      0

      All of the above are valid points. To be fair, I listened to a recent interview by Anura Kumara where he talks about elements of the program in government. I am not critical of the JVP and its current formation. Neither I am critical of the work of front line Socialist party. In themselves,they are doing their best under the circumstances. However, their success can come from the degree to which they educate the masses at the grassroots level and connect with them-rather than the critricism of the current government and other parties(though this is required to some extent). A ‘common front’ of all concerned parties and groups will be required to face the crisis going beyond the NPP. It should also spread into the provinces and district. It should be a nation-building nationalist movement or formation. Can include SJB and elements from Pohottuwa if necessary. Such a movement cannot be successful if established purely on political grounds.

      Predictions based on old marxist theory etc are not going to help in the current circumstances. Those theoreticians stuck in the marxist theory or its later incarnations need to take a leaf from the Decolonial theory that emerged from latin America e.g. Mignolo, Walsh. Garfinkle. We are not to be liberated by the activation of working class alone. A cross section of society including the educated mddle class need to be roped in for a nationalist movement.

      Burma model and the popular uprising provides a recent example but the two countries are not comparable. South African model may be useful to draw lessons.

    • 0
      2

      I feel that the JVP has got “jockeying for power” well under control. Sunil Handunetti, valuable as he is, accepted the decision of the Party and its Secretary, Tilvin Silva, to allow Harini Amarasuriya, who was absolutely without personal ambitions, to be nominated.
      .
      The Secretary of the NPP, Dr Abeysinghe, doesn’t assert himself at all, rightly conscious of the numerical weakness of each of the 27 “other parties”. Vijitha Herath confirmed to me in a relaxed telephone conversation that they don’t insist on fellows like me reading Marx, Engels, and Antonio Gramsci (thank God Dayan Jayatilleka is not in the NPP!)
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/evaluating-trends-in-the-jvp-npp/
      .
      It is unfortunate that the Frontline Socialists (Peratugami) are not with “us”. They are pretty “sectarian”, in that they don’t compromise one bit on their “pure Marxism” – I’m so ignorant that I can’t put it any better. They are a disciplined lot where personal ambitions are concerned. Incidentally, I don’t subscribe to the view that the JVP and the FSP are the people responsible for the nasty ragging in the Universities. That such theories abound among English-users testifies to the extent to which Language divides us.

  • 5
    3

    “My question is whether there is a credible and trustworthy alternative?”
    Yes, definitely! But when Buddhist monks can publicity question the religious leanings of these educated and capable people, there is no chance of them leading the country out of this quagmire.
    Non-Sinhala Buddhists must be seen as fully equal Sri Lankans, and allowed to contest for leadership on their own merits.

    • 2
      1

      Old codger,
      .
      If India grows steadily and does the structural things right and carefully unties knots, builds an institutional process which sort of cleans up the corruption and the baggage in the system, I see it as a wonderful marathon.

      Uday Kotak

    • 0
      0

      Buddhist monks lead the people to one or other established parties.They are part of the hierarchical system of power in place and provide symbolic and ideological fodder for the elitist politicians and their parties. e.g. taking karanduwa on the head in temples.

      • 2
        0

        Siri,
        The problem is in giving monks such undue influence for cultural reasons. Will a Buddhist monk ever recommend a non-Buddhist for leadership? In their view, a non-Buddhist is implicitly a foreigner.

        • 0
          0

          OC
          But they endorsed a real foreigner, a US citizen, even before he relieved himself of it.

          • 0
            0

            SJ,
            A foreigner too, who makes sure that even his grandchildren don’t have a chance to live in this paradise he’s creating. What hypocrisy.

    • 2
      0

      “Non-Sinhala Buddhists must be seen as fully equal Sri Lankans, and allowed to contest for leadership on their own merits.”

      Amen to that. Until this happens you will be getting what you have been getting. The problem is Buddhism as preached in Sri Lanka and the majority community. They elect and complain after the fact.

  • 1
    0

    Are we going to continue with the Tattumaru (periodic change of guards) system?

    The 2015 regime change was spearheaded by some proponents of single issue as if regime change alone will make the difference, but were disappointed in a short time and facilitated the hated Rajapakses coming back with a thumping majority and with a vengeance.

    What went wrong? The simple answer is the insurmountable differences in attitude, education, personality, social strata between the top two- Ranil and Maithiri! It may be true to a certain extent, but why it was not anticipated beforehand? .

    But it is a fact that the elected 2015 team lacked a coherent socio- economic policy framework and a realistic workable strategy to move towards reconciliation, democracy, human rights, peace and prosperity.

    If we do not learn from history, we will see Tattumaru again with another Rajapakse back

    • 1
      0

      More than the pesonalities in leadership, we need to understand that the established parties have one agenda behind the scenes and one for the voters at the time of elections(to be deceived). Once in power,the game is how to share the fruits of power? It is here that differences emerged in yahapalana government e.g. in relation to cabinet posts, Central bank mankollaya etc.

      This dual track agenda of the mainstream parties need to be understood and exposed.

  • 4
    0

    There’s never ever perfection ……… whatever went before and whatever can come in the future can only be better than the Rajapakse Inc.

    Beggars don’t have the luxury of being choosers ………….

  • 3
    0

    From time to time in history ………. unique phenomena takes place ……….. Prabakaran, Hitler, Trump were unique ………. so is the Rajapakse Inc.

    Then things revert to normalcy …….

    It’s highly unlikely there’ll be another Prabakaram …… or a Rajapakse Inc ……… in Lanka again …………

    Let things revert to humdrum mediocrity of good/bad (not extremes of either) ………. normalcy ………….

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