24 October, 2017

The Country Of Mirrors

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Madness is the purest, most total form of qui pro quo. It takes the false for the true, death for life….and the victim for Minos”. – Foucault (Madness and Civilisation)

Ciudad Constitution is a name unknown to most Peruvians, but this insignificant town-let of around 8,000 people was once destined to be Peru’s magnificent new capital. Few abandoned ‘model houses’ and a functioning highway are the sole relics of that grandiose project, commenced in 1984 by President Belaunde Terry. Bedevilled by financial troubles and corruption charges, the project to build a capital in the jungle was abandoned when its author lost the Presidential election in 1985.

Peru was a functioning democracy, so the system could auto-correct itself. Pre-Rajapaksa Sri Lanka had that capacity[i]; Rajapaksa Sri Lanka has all but lost it. In the absence of a functioning democracy and an informed and active citizenry, idiosyncrasies of rulers become national policy and determine national fate.

Like most megalomaniacs the Rajapaksas prefer big, tall and shiny. Such as the artificial ‘shopping’ island off the coast of Hambantota, to be built with Chinese loans[ii] and using the soil excavated to expand the Mahinda Rajapaksa Port. That port was inaugurated with much fanfare to mark the 65th Birthday and second presidential swearing-in of Mahinda Rajapaksa. The first ship to the new port (bearing Buddhist artefacts and pirith-chanting monks) arrived in October 2010[iii]. The 100th ship came almost three years later, in August 2013[iv]. That is an average of 3 ships (2.9 to be exact) per month (0.01 ships per day)! Had the Rajapaksas not ordered all vehicle imports to be handled through their Port (to the detriment of importers/would-be buyers), their signature creation would have become a ghost-harbour by now.

And the Siblings are expanding this barely used port even further. By what logic is that measure logical?

The new Rajapaksa airport is probably the only international airport in the world which is not visited by a single international carrier. According to the opposition, the proposed Matara-Kataragama railway line will be another record-breaking white woolly mammoth[v]. Billions are being spent on giving Colombo the equivalent of a ‘Gold Facial’ while its million+ inhabitants and visitors remain dependent on a sewage system built by the reviled colonials for 100,000 people.

The Rajapaksas are building the superstructure of a highly developed country on an economic base which is underdeveloped and debt-ridden. The equivalent would be a man who builds a Jacuzzi and a home-gym with borrowed money, while ignoring the leaking roofs and the cracked walls of his house.

The Rajapaksas are political narcissists, enamoured of their own (self-created) image and their own (self-fabricated) narrative. Like the milkmaid who became engrossed in her grand dreams and mistook them for living reality, the Rajapaksas seem to believe their own boasts about Sri Lanka being the ‘Wonder of Asia’. Unlike the milkmaid, the Siblings can indulge in this illusion for a while, with the country’s resources, at the cost of our future.

Sri Lanka and her people will continue to pay the cost of this madness long after the Rajapaksas had vanished from the political scene.

Pride or Shame?

Adam Smith identifies the promotion of private gain at public expense as a key sin of mercantilism: “It is the industry which is carried on for the benefit of the rich and the powerful that is principally encouraged by our mercantile system. That which is carried on for the benefit of the poor and indigent is too often either neglected or repressed”[vi]

The Rajapaksas are actively implementing a policy regimen which seeks to maximise the power, wealth and glory of the Ruling Family at public/national cost. Sometimes, this or that segment of ordinary Lankans might benefit from these completely family-centric policies, but their medium-to-long-term national costs would far outweigh these sectoral-advantages.

Familial gain and public cost cannot create a felicitous future.

Take, for example, the President’s recent UN visit with a 75-strong delegation. What did Sri Lanka gain from this juvenile jaunt? President Rajapaksa chatted with a few leaders, took a picture with Barack and Michelle Obama, had a disastrous ‘twitter-session’ and gave an unforgettable interview to Al Jazeera. He was not interviewed in the American media; he did not address any gathering of American opinion-makers; he was not received in the White House; he could not even meet the Indian PM. By what standards, apart from Rajapaksa-gain, can this trip be called good or useful?

While Mahinda Rajapaksa waxed eloquent to an almost empty hall, the new President of Iran was engaged in reaching out to the American leaders and public. Dr. Rouhani, described as ‘a man of considerable gravitas…serious, businesslike and fully in command of his brief”[vii], was acting not as a supplicant but as a serious statesman. This is a distinction beyond the capacity of the Rajapaksas, just as it was incomprehensible to Mr. Rouhani’s predecessor Mr. Ahmadinejad, who emitted shrill anti-Western rhetoric while pushing his country and people to the brink of ruin.

Government propagandists preach that we should be proud about being the Commonwealth host-county. There are still things in Sri Lanka we, as citizens, can be justifiably proud of, such as being an elderly-friendly country. What is there to take pride in hosting an international talk-shop? What did the hosting of the NAM Conference gain for Lanka and her people? And that was in 1976 when NAM had a far greater relevance in international scene than the Commonwealth ever did or will. The Commonwealth Summit would be even more deleterious to Sri Lanka’s financial health than the NAM. When it comes to grandiose-play acting the Rajapaksas beat the Bandaranaikes hollow.

Even though the Summit is more than a month away, the waste/corruption scandals are already seeping out. For instance, Commonwealth first ladies are to be presented with custom-made brooches embedded with their portraits. “The actual cost to make 72 brooches was Rs.2.88 million according to the cost given by the craftsman. However the price quoted by the (Sri Lanka National Gem and Jewellery) Authority for the….total cost to make 72 brooches was Rs.18 million”[viii]. This means a cost-inflation of Rs.15.12 million or a padding of 525%!

All this for Mahinda Rajapaksa to be hailed as ‘Leader of the Commonwealth’ by ill-informed and sycophantic followers!

Countries do not develop by holding international political/cultural/sports extravaganzas. Countries which are already developed can use such extravaganzas to showcase their socio-economic achievements. What can be we showcase? A youth unemployment rate of 19%? [ix] An HDI ranking well below the average for countries in the ‘High Human Development Group’? Falling from the 29th place to 28th place in the Failed States Index? Reaching the bottom 20 in the World Happiness Index? Being ranked among countries with 10 worse passports?

Societies and countries develop only when a majority of people who form these societies and live in these countries develop. When countries ignore that basic truth, and prioritise the advantage of a small clique, whatever gains they make become unsustainable. Beyond the glitz and the shimmer, an implosive future awaits such lands, rather like Macondo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘City of Mirrors (or Mirages)’ in One Hundred Years of Solitude.


[i] For instance, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga wanted to build a mammoth presidential palace near the parliament. Fortunately elections – and the term-limit provision – intervened.

[ii] http://www.srilankamirror.lk/news/10931-a-new-shopping-island-to-h-tota

[iii] http://www.news360.lk/economy/%E2%80%9Cbuddhist-artifacts%E2%80%9D-in-the-first-ship-to-hambantota-port

[iv] http://www.srilankamirror.lk/news/9959-breaking-news-a-ship-coming-to-h-tota-port

[v]http://www.ft.lk/2013/10/04/proposed-matara-kataragama-railway-line-project-is-marred-with-corruption-mangala/

[vi] The Wealth of Nations – Vol. IV

[vii] http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/sep/30/iran-opens-its-fist/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=October+1+2013&utm_content=October+1+2013+CID_

a95636a93daa4ee0e7df24dac5b3c22c&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_

term=Iran%20Opens%20Its%20Fist

[viii] The Sunday Times – 29.9.2013

[ix] http://www.colombopage.com/archive_13B/Sep26_1380172937CH.php

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    MR is not looking the mirror he is looking thr mirage for quite some time

    • 0
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      Another excellent piece Thisaranee!

      Many thanks, keep it coming and be of good courage. You are a brave, courageous and truly admirable Lankan! A very rare persons indeed!

      The National Peace Council and the National volunteer awar should go to you – they should give the award to you!

      • 0
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        Ha ha Ha -Rudra’s government ministers got caught in child molestation in Sudan

        What you expect from this barbaric terrorist where ever they live

    • 0
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      Thanks Thisaranee! Good money is still being thrown after bad to maintain the Hambantota white elephant port and airport which should be SHUT DOWN as loss making enterprises..
      The public has to pay and the debt increases because of the high costs of maintenance and debt servicing of these white elephants in Hambantota – port and airport whose ENERGY and LABOUR costs alone are massive..
      Thisaranee, the scandle is that UNP opposition and other economists at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and academics have not pointed out the fact that there is no qualified human resource/ demographic base in Hamabantota to sustain a service or manufacturing sector there and that the country should stop throwing good money after bad and write off Hambantota as and environment and development disaster.

    • 0
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      M Rajapassa is not looking the mirror,
      He and his boasting clan is looking thru there Hindquarters of that Development.
      As they are not educated enough [even in the society]to understand
      how ordinary people like us suffering because of their Show-off development with borrowed money from India and China.

    • 0
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      Pasel, He is indeed looking in the mirror, but sadly he likes what he sees.

  • 0
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    The reason for the artificial Islands off Colombo and Hambantota is because they needed a place to put the soil excavated from the port. These guys are idiots, one boondogle creates another. What did Sri Lanka do to deserve this?

  • 0
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    Cry girl, cry!

  • 0
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    Tisseranee do not play dumb. The port will provide an admirable naval facility for the government of China, enabling it to expand its maritime sphere of influence all the way to Africa in order to secure its considerable investments on that continent. That is in the near term. In the longer term it will become the rest and recreation base for Chinese deep sea rigs that drill for oil beneath the Sri Lankan continental shelf to the south east of the island. A good friend of mine has shown me maps of the sea bed in that area and this is why the supposedly mad geologist has been made the vice chancellor of the university of Peradeniya. He is far from mad and he knows exactly what is happening an he has to follow instructions because he is one of those who has been ‘filed’. Filing is of course a technique borrowed from India. He would of course prefer to go to America but then the file is too big it seems.

  • 0
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    These projects of the MaRa junta are for commissions only – the other things are bi-products of the projects.

  • 0
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    You know that all this is being done in keeping with Chinas strategy which China unlike India and the USA has the money to pay for.

  • 0
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    make no mistake Matalla airport and Hambantota Port is part of Chinese Military infrastructure. The Chinese must be amused as to how easy it was to buy out a country with a couple of billion dollars in loans.

    http://www.defence.pk/forums/chinese-defence/26043-chinese-naval-base-sri-lanka.html

  • 0
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    ‘[i] For instance, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga wanted to build a mammoth presidential palace near the parliament. Fortunately elections – and the term-limit provision – intervened.

    It was not a Presidential Palace but a palatial private residence. A gift from a grateful nation?

  • 0
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    Most Sri Lankans who speak on behalf of the ruling family is in a state of disconnect from the rest of the world. They hold their ethnicity more dear than progress and development of the country.

    A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” Thomas Jefferson

    • 0
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      MAgrhibi:

      You are an stupid idiot.

      People of most capitalist country in the world enjoyed wealth only for one generation.

      Now, the new generations are very different.

      • 0
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        Jim S. Stick to your medication as prescribed by your physician. Economic Stress causes serious mental illness. Try to focus on the topic rather than discribing your stupidity.

  • 0
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    The number of golden skinned chingalese children in the south is perhaps an indication of the long term nature of the china sri lanka affair.

    • 0
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      Are you jealous? Hahahaha

    • 0
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      Time to come Chingalese will be the official language of Chingalanka??

    • 0
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      Do they have ‘slanted eyes’ too ?

      • 0
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        Rajiva spoke of blue-eyed children in the East (under the tamil
        Prabakaran) and now we see slant-eyed children in the South
        under the Sinhala Prabakaran)!

        This is Progress, which the UN cannot see!!

      • 0
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        Today, The FM of India said that there is Democracy in Sri Lanka – a
        new find! So what, even Myammar has Democracy and is a UN/CW Member.

  • 0
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    The country is already neck deep in debt and very soon it be over the heads! Who cares?

    One can only feel sorry for the future generation!

    Sengodan. M

  • 0
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    The mothers of Sri Lanka who are suffering to feed their families and the fires burning should immediately send emails to all First Ladies who are attending the Commonwealth Conference to refrain from accepting the brooches as it represents dictatorship and covered in bribery and corruption, and its a “BLOOD BROOCH”, THE FIRST BLOOD BROOCH OF THE WORLD, similar to Blood Diamonds!

  • 0
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    TG,
    You have stated the truth,as always.
    But,the Rajapakses dont care a hoot.
    Our children and grandchildren are in for a tough time.
    After the CHOGM,what?
    Any predictions by you will be welcome.

  • 0
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    All these saying Hooray to TG are Tamils. they love sooth saying by TG.

    It is always Rajapskes and Sinhala buddhists are the culprits.

    So, the Sinhala Anglicans and Tamil – christians can have their way.

    • 0
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      @jim softly…you are such a waste of space with your constant inane comments. Please don’t post again untill you have something intelligent/informed to say!

  • 0
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    TG is lost.

    Sinhala – buddhist name.

    Middle Eastern Religion politicized by the Romans.

    European literature and

    culture ? whose culture it is ?

  • 0
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    spoken like a True GENIUS, Jim softy !

  • 0
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    Sorry about ur time and effort. Sri Lankans are intoxicated with war-succession and the dream od miracle of Asia.

    • 0
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      Bhante Sila, did you ever have time to think intelligently or at least with common sense or has it always been the case of showing your ignorence.

  • 0
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    T.G. has completely lost the plot. She has been beating up on this govt. for years and yet the people ( voters) of this country beg to differ.

    Can T.G. please answer why the over-whelming majority of voters continue to reject her ‘darling’ party at every election? This govt. has messed up so many times and T.G. has taken great pains to highlight each & every fault of this govt., but the voters think otherwise. Is it because our people are so sadistic that they prefer to bring more & more pain & misery upon themselves when ‘heaven’ is just an election away in the form of UNP with Ranil Wickremesinghe as leader?

    So T.G., please don’t fool yourself ( because you are certainly not fooling most of us) and waste your time ‘hammering away’ at the present govt. If you truly want a better govt., then you should focus more on demanding a better opposition because quite frankly, the people are not prepared to jump from the frying pan to the fire.

  • 0
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    Jazz, I suppose you have made a mistake on your name, it should read as Jack-ass. The words (not thoughts, ideas or any means) you have posted shows you sound like a lunetic.

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