23 September, 2019

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The Fish That Swallowed The Whale

By Sarath De Alwis –

Sarath De Alwis

“One definition of evil is to fail to recognize the humanity in the other: to see a person as an object or tool, something to be used.”

The observation appears in the book ‘The fish that ate the whale: Life and times of America’s Banana king” – the life story of Samuel Zemurray, the banana mogul who went from penniless roadside banana peddler in New Orleans to kingmaker of the Republic of Honduras and  inspirer  of the adage ‘Banana Republic.    Picking up roadside peddlers to perform errands is a tricky business as we are discovering today.      

This is an easy-peasy, elementary effort of an ordinary citizen to comprehend the mad scramble for power among the political class.

It is undertaken in the belief that the crisis we face is an opportunity to reject the family kleptocracy of Mahinda Rajapaksa and the corporatist kleptocracy of Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

We must treat President Maithripala Sirisena kindly. We the people promoted the man beyond his capacity. For three years we were either complicit in or were indifferent to the quiet buildup of a pseudo presidential persona that depicted him as staggeringly successful beyond his worth. 

Any person with a cursory understanding of the Freudian theory of personality – that of id, ego and super ego will forgive him for his present day penchant to exude an  atrocious arrogance that far exceeds his achievements.   

There is a silver lining in all this madness. A silent, substantial and sane segment of our polity now realize the stockpile of wisdom contained in the rhetoric used by Dr. N.M Perera to warn us on the inherent peril of the executive presidency. ‘What if a mad man becomes the president.’ 

That NM’s virologist nephew Tissa Vitarana has been bitten by the loony virus is a subject for another day. 

We often make the mistake of interpreting the polarization of a few and select power groups or political parties as reflecting a great polarization of  society as a whole.

For example, Mahinda does not represent Sinhala-Buddhist opinion. He has most of the Sangha in his wallet. We confuse the two. 

Mahinda gave diplomatic passports to prominent Buddhist monks. For the life of me, I do not understand why Buddhist prelates need privileged passports to preach the dhamma either here or abroad. 

The positive side of the current madness is that there is a discernible polarization of forces between the modern and the tribal. The principled stand of political formations representing ethnic minority interests with enlightened democratic segments of the ethnic majority is a sign that at long last the seeds of a true post-colonial nation state are taking root in the fertile soil of freedom and human dignity. 

Let us go back to 8th January 2015. The rainbow coalition had a simple objective. It rejected a state that was a kleptocracy and a state that sanctioned murder, abductions and disappearances.  More than the kleptocracy part, the fear and excesses of the deep state transcended all other societal fault lines communal, economic and ethnic. 

The successor state that was installed by the good governance enthusiasts did not sanction murder, abductions and disappearances.

But the kleptocracy remained intact. It was far too entrenched. The successors were far too greedy to make the structural reforms that would make a difference. The story of SriLankan Airlines, the Bond boondoggle, and legal gymnastics of two Presidents Counsel in the Ranil Wickremesinghe cabinet to stall the probe on Avantgarde bounty hunters are eloquent examples of the double dealings of the reformers. 

In the past three years, state sanctioned murders have not been conclusively resolved. The parents of the eleven youth who vanished while in the custody of the navy are hoping for closure in vain. The Admiral who shielded one of the prime suspects dressed in his grandiose white is exuberantly celebrating his proprietorial grip on the allegiance of a peasant mind  incapable of discerning the thin line separating perfidy and patriotism.

That said, this worrisome situation should not make us sceptics about democracy. The outcry, the tangible consensus against these problems as mentioned above and not mentioned due to space tell us that that there is indeed something about democracy that is worth mobilizing for.

At this moment of democratic peril, we must resolve to reinvent and expand our democracy.

The chaos in parliament is chaos that we created.

We don’t need to elect buffoons who after elections pander to the whims and ideocracies of ‘Mahanayakes’ cocooned in their tribal enclaves. 

The purported minister of Buddha Sasana according to today’s news reports has agreed with the prelate of Asgiriya-monastery that we must not allow foreigners to interfere in our affairs. May be Gammanpila wants the Australian investor to remain ‘Mumm’ on his charge of  a stock market swindle .   

Our democracy begins and ends with the nebulous notion of an electoral representative democracy. It relies on quite valuable but extremely brittle set of institutions, which cling on to the notion that the elected Political class somehow know better than their electors. 

The elected parliamentarians and in this instance our elected president does not seem to have much faith in the citizens’ capacity to make political decisions.

The challenge we confront is simple and straight forward. We must somehow survive this crisis and form a credible caretaker government and hold a general election in which we the people can decide on representatives who will offer alternative practices enabling genuine democratic participation. 

The great war hero is exposed in all the nakedness of a cat burglar stealthily stealing the expressed will of the people. Caught with the goods, he has now turned witness for the prosecution and wants a general election.

Thanks to the president’s puerile and precipitate action we have an opportunity to rethink and reframe our idea of democracy.

We must abandon this monstrous model.

There is no way we can restructure it. We must at the next general election, put forward a constitutional model that does not promise but guarantees equality, freedom and the space for ordinary citizens to have a meaningful influence on politics. We must reject both, neo liberal economics and free market economics. Markers need intervention by the state. There is nothing vulgar about state owned enterprises provided the vulgar are kept out of management.  

It is an urgent, immediate task. I live in Battaramulla. Every day I pass the edifice that houses the Ministry of Megapolis Development now taken over by the charlatan son of Philip Gunewardena father of the revolution that never arrived. 

I am compelled to avoid eye contact with  a monstrous billboard with an obscene picture of Dinesh Gunewardena and a sickening screech for the Boralugoda Lion to  roar.  I saw it once and I puked. Now I take my morning walk before breakfast. 

The task of rethinking our democracy is pressing. We are now witnessing the brazen, arrogant and aggressive attempt by a gang that openly attempted to hijack the parliament to take command and control of the ‘language of democracy’ to capture power and restore their rent seeking ministerial privileges.  

They involve ‘The People’ to subvert opposition to their machinations. The recent capture of state media institutions demonstrate their capacity to offer more undemocratic solutions to real and imagined problems. They seek to divide our society on parochial lines and undermine the climate of reconciliation that was clumsily but determinedly pursued in the last three years.  

You must remember how Mahinda Rajapaksa set up the family business. 

Mahinda Rajapaksa is not a selfish man. He institutionalized the exploitative privileges and perks of his team from base to the top of the pyramid. Despite his great charisma, this episode has made him a political clown. He has paid a high price. He has lost all political legitimacy. This is the beginning of the end of the Mahinda Rajapakse folk legend.  

Now we must focus on our president whom we elected as the common candidate. His humility and his humble life trajectory were his USP – ‘the unique selling proposition ‘the term used by professional marketeers in marketing FMCG – fast moving consumer goods- the stuff that has a limited shelf life. 

In fairness we must remember that he was proud of his achievement or destiny. At some point he concluded that he himself single handedly reached the hybrid of an Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. That is beside the point. He certainly has a deep seated antagonism towards Ranil Wickremesinghe the UNP leader who paved way for him to become president.  The problem is that half way through they both got confused. The President stopped being grateful. His Prime Minster never ceased crying over his spilt presidential milk.

When the president complains about the cultural chasm between him and the Prime minster my conscience dictates me to agree with him.  First, Ranil Wickremesinghe does not speak the Sinhala that Maithripala Sirisena speaks.

Second, no matter how humble you are, there is a limit to tolerating the uppity know all attitude of Ranil Wickremesinghe. It is not an act that is human possible unless your fate, interest or wellbeing is dependent on the UNP executive committee.   

Since defeating the no confidence motion against him, Prime minster Ranil Wickremesinghe did not bother to mend fences. Newspapers periodically reported that the president got mad over some cabinet paper or other. 

In high pressure politics getting mad over something is not unusual. Staying mad with somebody with whom you have fundamental differences is also not unusual. Getting mad is no big deal.  Going actually, really and truly mads is catastrophically insane.  

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Latest comments

  • 4
    6

    Rajapaksa was roundly defeated in two successive elections. Now who kept his image alive?. Tap your conscience to listen to your own tireless contribution towards that, Mr Alwis.
    Rajapaksa was portrayed as the ultimate evil. How his accomplice who would volunteer to betray his master for a bounty was considered as the most eligible person to lead a great moral journey towards ‘ yahapalanaya’ speaks volumes of the integrity of your Sobitha movement. Of all the henchmen around them wasn’t there a single person who had refrained from raising hand for the 18th amendment and impeachment of lady Chief Justice? You made use of his treacherous nature once and you are complaining of his treachery now when the target moves. You employed a contract killer and now he has trained his gun at you asking for more. How helpless we are at the hands you propagandists?
    _
    Soma

  • 11
    1

    You have well captured the utter public disillusionment with the system. We could, thanks to Parliament proceedings being televised, watch the inane behaviour of those who are supposed to rule us. Yet, ironically, the Government did not stop. The projects bringing in foreign money that are responsible for the rape of our environment and piling misery upon robbery, continued to function. We have been overtaken by something beyond us and not answerable to us. No doubt our officials and politicians get perks for their silence. I would say this fraud is inherent in many of our irrigation projects based on water that does not exist – the MASL’s Weli Oya project is a good example. Day after day we see the pipelines being laid for the project that is supposed to provide ‘drinking water’ for Jaffna by robbing the hard pressed Killinochchi farmer.
    No doubt, in expectation of water stolen from Vanni farmers, high rise buildings are coming up in Jaffna, as far as I could discern from answers I received at discussion groups, without proper authorisation or study of the environmental impact. Its effect would be to first deplete our ground water by overuse and degrade our wells. At some point the Killinochchi folk will be up in arms and repression will be deployed. This fraud will continue whoever sits in Temple Trees or occupies the presidential chair. Where do we go from here?

    • 6
      0

      Rajan Hoole
      Why do you write on a subject – Jaffna Water Supply – the water source, Kilinochchi farmers and allied issues, about which you know absolutely nothing. Colossal ignorance is pardonable but when it forays into a public forum, it has to be condemned in the severest terms.

      Do you know the name of the river feeding Iranamadu?. How deep is your knowledge of the flood discharge of Kanakarasan Aru? After feeding the tank by the same name, lastly feeding Iranamadu and eventually discharging its redundant volume into Elephant Pass and thence into the sea? Have you studied its spilling history? Do you know that spill level is raised with radial gates that are electrically operated ie unerring operation? Are you aware that addition to capacity doesn’t pinch a mili-litre off the farmer for whom you shed copious tears? Are you aware that Irrigation Department has hydro data for the Island from 1905 ie 113 years? Irrigation Department officials of stature and integrity, you facilely dismiss as “Our officials … get perks for their silence”. How damaging!

      If you are honourable, delete your erratic rave.
      Let the readership know with what vacuity Hoole is fooling them.

      • 0
        1

        Bharathan,
        You should not make strong imprecations presuming on the ignorance of others. As you say there is ample literature which, I say, the designers of the project have ignored. Chapter 10 of my Palmyra Fallen addresses the issue in some detail. Two relevant references found on the web are the World Bank’s Major Rehabilitation Project of 1984 and Water Scarcity Variation within a Country by Sakthivadivel et al, IWMI 1999. You could work out the relevant catchment areas and flows at different points along Kanagarayan River. The variation is what has been ignored.
        *
        The average annual flow at the intended location of Kanagarayan Tank is 25 MCM, and 147 MCM at Iranamadu, which would reduce to 122 MCM with impounding of water for Kanagarayan Tank. The corresponding 75% dependable flows at Iranamadu are respectively 80 MCM and 68 MCM. A. Level probability tells us that once in four years you could get less. Iranamadu requires 104 MCM for a single (Winter) crop. The WB report described the water situation at Iranamadu (average cropping intensity 125%) as relatively short.
        *
        Raising the bund is fairly irrelevant because it gives more water in a year of plentiful rain and nature functions in annual cycles, not four year cycles. You must give credit to the older engineers for calculating appropriate bund levels.
        You sound like an MBA; if you want a proper debate, please be good enough to give your real name.

        • 1
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          I regret to express that much of what you have said is outdated. After fall of the palmyra and around pre and post fall of the tigers, studies specific to the Jaffna Lagoon Scheme and in particular to ADR evaluation and funding were taken. These few lines as a matter of courtesy and not for discussion or debate.

          Pl. note that Iranamadu reading without a study of the critical potable water and health challenges in Jaffna is segmented and lopsided.

          • 0
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            Barathan it would really valuable if you write an article on this subject with up-to date data, we have very few people on these forums who are knowledgeable enough to back up their arguments with facts and figures, you are in that minority (pardon the pun), I do hope you will write about this issue to the Colombo Telegraph and copy to print media.

  • 4
    6

    What the fruck are you trying to say DE Alwis? You seem to be suffering from verbal constipation!

    • 2
      0

      perhaps true.But then not most of us are gifted with the writing skills of Mr.De Alwis,isnt it ? Sometimes one should be able to read between the lines as well I suppose.

      It would certainly help if Mr,De Alwis could manage the language in a lesser subtle manner

  • 4
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    Is Sarath De Alwis writing to remove Ranil. Is he working to bring Sajith to leadership. Beware.

    • 0
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      You may be right.We believe Maharajah is funding him

  • 1
    0

    No doubt a brilliant scholarly, incisive essay depicting what’s going on now and what needs to be done in the future. But how will the imediate solutions take place without recourse to anarchy ? I couldn’t quite comprehend the writer’s reference to the ‘charlatan’ Dinesh Gunerwardene’s distasteful billboard . Ofcourse however Dr.N.M.Perera’s observations on the perversion of power I could follow. On the whole, I wish the essay could have been cast in more direct,understandable language for the benefit of guys like me who have not reached the high intellectual heights attained by the writer, particularly so when addressing current , urgent topical issues. Thank you though, it was indeed enlightening.

  • 1
    0

    Sarath de Alwis, we do not have much time left to find out whether a ‘Fish’ swallowed a ‘Whale’ or not.
    The language/religion-divide led us to choose the better of two baddys.
    .
    The ‘happenings’ over the past few week is a coup d’état. We must address it as such.

  • 3
    0

    Another brilliant analysis Sarah! Many thanks. Unhappy are we as a people when one faction is led by someone who grossly overestimates his intelligence and yet goes to Kerala Hindu temples to beg protection from the gods, engages in ego trips to the Oxford Union when the rupee is going through the floor, and hands important management positions to Royal College cronies and the other faction is led by a megalomaniac who appoints his astrologer to a board of state enterprises and has distributed corrupt payments like Santa Claus. Unless devout Buddhists insist that monks don’t engage in politics and pressure political parties to respect the Sangha, Sri Lanka will continue on its downward trajectory.

  • 2
    2

    It is amazing. there is a prime minister who came from the back door and emptied the state banks and employee provident funds in 40 days is the fiicus here. NEws media was xhsed out by Rajapakse and that looks very fair as Maithripala Sirisena is the constant victime here at least in this attack by CT.

  • 3
    3

    did you listen to the behaviour of PArliamentarians during the speech of the Mahinda Rajapaske. I say, telecast PArliamentary speeches very often. this will help public to identify those fish sales in Peliagoda fish market type politicians and remove them. Did yoi hear, one Related to D.R. Nanayakkara went singapore and cashe changed hands with Arjun Mahendran and when he came back t Sri lanka he, the new minister, became a MP of the other side. HAve you heard how many times the Parliament did not assemble and it was postponed because the minimum number of parliament that have to be there were not there. IT is simply place to sell the country and crooks get rich. that system needs to be changed. Ranil had only 105 with the making of THA NATIONAL GOVT. NOW HE HAS 122. HOW COME WITH ALL THE CORRUPTIONS.. The corruptions is in the constitution too. I mean they know SLFP, UNP or SLPP (now) can not establish a govt. So, they always need three wheeler parties and the national govt. This is besides what the USA says to us saying you must do this and you must do that stuff. Listen to what people says. there was a humongous destruction of Sri lanka to make palataable to american business. Sri lanka has DIABETI
    S as oe major killing disease. Ranil and RAVI the LIAR were preparing to destroy some important lands in the BIBLE area and was preparing to start a CANE SUGAR factory and agricutural area for that. People are crying about losing their ancestral lands. this is sinhala people andnot the Tamil politicians crying out loud for Tamilnadu – Kallathonis came during the War.

    • 1
      0

      JD/ Jimbo,
      You seem to hear a lot of things in your head. Does Toronto Toilets give you free wi-fi to write all this rubbish?

  • 1
    0

    If UNP gives to PM post to someone else other than Ranil, the winner will be Sirisena. Why should we pay into this fake man’s hands?

    • 0
      0

      jeyaluxmy

      i agree with you.this is not the time to change ranil.Instead ranil must show more backbone and go for a impeachment.Karu has done his part,but ranil is weak man.

  • 0
    0

    “We must treat President Maithripala Sirisena kindly. We the people promoted the man beyond his capacity.”

    He came into office on self deception and voters who were stupidly optimistic and filled with hate for President Mahinda. What do you expect the result of the actions of unprincipled people.

    Hopefully next time the voters will select good people. We shall see.

  • 2
    1

    Ranil is a true gentleman. He behaves as a gentleman. I respect him more and more.

  • 1
    0

    De Alwis writes articles to attack Ranil. By doing that he sympathise with Sirisean. Where does De Alwis try to take us?

  • 2
    0

    Sarath De Alwis writes with an agenda. I think he is a Sirisena and Sajit Agent.

  • 0
    0

    Oh Sarath! Where did the love go? It was all rainbows and butterflies just over three years ago

  • 4
    0

    Sarath De Alwis,

    After your morning walks do you go for breakfast at Paget Place (Mahagamasekara Place) ? I think you are.

  • 2
    0

    Writers like Sarath De Alwis give impetus to the fraudster Sirisena to behave like that.. Sarath De Alwis must keep his hatred towards Ranil to himself

  • 2
    0

    Sarath De Alwis may eat breakfast with Sirisena, for goodness sake do not eat hoppers De Alwis.

  • 1
    0

    Now a MP is selling for US$3 million. The likes of Sarath De Alwis, Milinda Senevirathne, Raj Gonsalkorala, Dayan Jayathilake, Jayaweera fella should ask for some cash from the Rajapakses as this is the time to have some black money put into their respective wallets (say $10,000 per piece?) for relentlessly trying to mollycoddle Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapakse with their writings.

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