4 December, 2020

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The Moment, Opportunity And The Possibility For Change

By Siri Gamage

Dr. Siri Gamage

Dr. Siri Gamage

The moment and opportunity have arrived! Sri Lankans are going to the polling booths across the country on this 8th day of January 2015 to elect their next President for a six-year term. The opportunity for voting arrived quite unexpectedly toward the end of last year with much speculation about the possibility of a snap election following UVA Provincial Council elections. No one, I repeat, no one except a few leaders in the opposition coalition would have anticipated what was to come on the political stage. Invitations to various sections of the society and the state sector employees by the President to visit Temple Trees in their thousands were an early indicator of a forthcoming national election as were the plethora of cut outs of the President so visibly erected in cities and towns. Once the election was formally declared the country’s media reported that the President had finished half of his political race. When Maithripala came forward to contest as the common candidate, those at the helm of power stipulated that he and his colleagues will stand no chance of convincing the voters about the merits of changing the government. The ensuing campaign proved otherwise. The will of the people will soon be known.

Whatever the outcome, this is ‘a moment’ in Sri Lanka’s political and social history like many other moments that characterised the country’s evolution in good and bad times. Why I say this is because this election campaign allowed simmering tensions underneath the society to surface in a politically and socially articulate manner. The yearning for change aspired by the Buddhist clergy and citizens of varying ranks in the face of many failings of the system and who were in charge of it was translated by opposition politicians, artists, civil society activists and journalists in a manner that was comprehensible to the broader population. Maithripala himself was an articulate speaker who could not only repeat the key points of his message but also add a certain authenticity to the message by virtue of his background, simplistic demeanor, and broad political experience. Whether his message was powerful enough to convince a majority of the voters from the South, North, Centre, the East and West, we will see soon.

mahinda-maithriOn the opposite side was a tested and established leader in Mahinda who mainly won the hearts and minds of Sinhalese Buddhist people-and others — when he defeated the Tamil Tigers in 2009. He is equally authentic a political figure from the South whose self confidence grew with each winning election at national and provincial levels. The development projects his government implemented since the war victory was unprecedented in the country’s post independent history. Though certain criticisms started to appear during the political campaign, these development projects are substantial in the eyes of those who have seen and used the facilities. Mahinda and his inner circle, mainly the family, developed certain invincibility as time went by. He became a leader who was bent on developing the country the way he and his brothers wanted. Someone who knew and understood where the country should go in ten, twenty and fifty years.

With strong leadership often come certain failings. This could be seen from the emphasis given in his development agenda to the material and tangible aspects rather than the moral, cultural and social justice aspects. Underneath all his government’s development and infrastructure projects and the style of governance his government adopted, the populace became uneasy -except his supporters who believed in his patriotism as the only driver of politico-economic action. He projected himself as a godly figure with extra celestial powers –if not magic- to make things happen. To supplement this image, his supporters from the state machinery and big business developed accompanying symbolisms covered by the pro government media for the consumption of unquestioning public, particularly the rural voter. Such public symbolism is not uncommon in South East Asia. For example, the portraits of the King of Thailand can be seen in many public places. In one such portrait, he can be seen worshipping his elderly mother. In Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar also similar practices can be observed. Whether short term, once off, hospitality in Temple Trees, politically motivated gift giving of various sorts, larger than life cut-outs in public places and the 24 hour propaganda through state controlled media will get him through the line in this election, we will see soon.

If this is a moment in the country’s history, it is also ‘an opportunity’ for the voting public (and their children) to reflect on what has been happening to their government, society, culture, existence, frames of thought and action enriched by great religions and the democratic heritage inherited from the colonial experiences and state craft evolved in the late colonial period and after. It is a moment that everyone can compare notes, compare what they hear with what they see and feel, tap into their deep consciousness and discover what is joyous about the direction the country is being taken and what is concerning about all this? To judge for themselves with or without witnesses whether we should continue on the same path, i.e. development without substantial democracy and ethnic reconciliation, or choose a different path where the state institutions get reconditioned to drive long distance in a reconciled nation. To decide whether to re-frame society’s moral fabric in a way that it sits neatly with a development model appropriate for the country and vice versa. To decide whether to continue with an imposed peace along with continuing militarisation of the north and the south or change the course to seek a different future which is less costly in human, moral and material terms.

Either way, the destiny of the country will be sealed when the election officials seal ballot boxes to be transported to counting centers on the evening of the 8th. If the poll is conducted with no major violence and intimidation, it will be testimony to the high caliber of those who are in charge including the police department that provides security. From first hand experience, I have known that the conduct of elections in Sri Lanka can be done with a high degree of professionalism. However the danger lies in the situations that can arise after the declaration of results. It is important that in a mainly Buddhist country like Sri Lanka, all parties avoid political revenge from the defeated parties and their leaders.

So, the moment and opportunity have arrived. Many possibilities are on the horizon for the many millions of my countrymen and women who deserve a better present and a future. May our little Lanka prosper with correct leadership, vision, and virtuous endeavor!

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Latest comments

  • 9
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    Dr Siri Gamage,
    Do you make this request in national Sinhalese Newspapers? You have to….

    • 6
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      Dr. Siri Gamage

      “When Maithripala came forward to contest as the common candidate, those at the helm of power stipulated that he and his colleagues will stand no chance of convincing the voters about the merits of changing the government. The ensuing campaign proved otherwise. The will of the people will soon be known.”

      “Why I say this is because this election campaign allowed simmering tensions underneath the society to surface in a politically and socially articulate manner.”

      Thanks.

      This election is about Democratic Governance and Family Dictatorship, Capitalism, Exploitation, Intolerance and all those the Devils,and Maras promote.

      Is it a coincidence that Mara and Mara Sync?

      • 5
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        Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth for a year after election observers found that the elections which returned President Robert Mugabe to power were seriously flawed.

        Sri Lanka is not only a member of the Commonwealth. The Sri Lankan President heads the Commonwealth. He should set an example. If Thursday’s poll is proved corrupt, Sri Lanka will not only lose her membership but also the Post of Commonwealth Chairman. Such has never happened in the history of the Commonwealth.

    • 4
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      Dr. Siri Gamage

      This Time the works got jammed for Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, better known as Medamulana MaRa.

      [Edited out]

    • 4
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      Dr. Siri Gamage

      Medamulana MaRa did not want to retire gracefully.

      He wanted to be a Pig. He wanted the Dynasty to be established and handed over to his Prince.

      Fortunately the People of the democratic Socialist republic of Sri Lanka are much smarter. Let the people vote and decide. They love the country as much as anybody else as they were born there, even though they not be born at Medamulana.

      Noe he wants to influence Hambantota using the Sangha. Unfortunately for him, the People have already made up their minds…

      http://www.lankatruth.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8162:mahinda-in-bid-to-save-hambantota-&catid=42:smartphones&Itemid=74

      Mahinda in bid to save Hambantota

      Incumbent priests of all Buddhist temples in Hambantota District have been called to Naigala Temple today (7th) at 6.00 p.m. by Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa say reports.

      It is revealed that the objective of calling all incumbents is to influence masses in the District at the last moment through the Sangha.

      At present a large number of voters in Hambantota District have taken an anti-Mahinda Rajapaksa stand say reports. Immediately after the end of the war, when patriotism was at its helm, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaska received only 67.21% of the vote from the District. Currently, it has deteriorated drastically and Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa is attempting to amass Sangha to save his vote base in Hambantota District say reports.

      On the 9th morning

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=IKHJG5ztL68

      “No need to Panic. My Hambantota People would have paid me respect … “

      Sir,.. Hambantota, We have lost Hambantota as well , Sir. The Results just came in..

  • 9
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    As a ordinary citizen of this country looking for fairplay and justice, good governance and peaceful atmosphere , look forward to a free and fair election minus violence and hope this election would bring the Change the people dreaming about.
    Almighty God has his own plans and we pray to Bless this country.

  • 4
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    It makes me laugh.. When i see these last minute campaigns to influence the voter by these so called Articles, and A host of Letter writers as published by CMB telegraph non stop (even though all Media should refain from it at this stage A violation no doubt).. All this points to one conclusion.. All these socalled Anti MR self proclaimed Political pundits know in their Minds and Hearts the MR victory will occur.. Hence the last minute campaigns mounted today by them and CMB telegraph

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      Moron, CT is blocked in Sri Lanka and also there is no law in Sri Lanka barring social media work during this period.

      • 2
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        @Gona.. On CMB site it self says ‘periodically blocked access’ in 2013.. If you were living in SL then you would know some peole comment form here.. DUM Fool.. Foreign fools who ran away from SL think you know whats good for the nation?? WOuld you come and live here, if the President changes like the many pundits here on CMB???? I dont think so.. paracites ate from this nation now eating from other people

    • 7
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      To canvas until the last stage is a must when a kept media is all that is available to the Kings subjects. Sri Lankans have to be lunatics if they vote MR in for a 3rd term, after reading this Statement by a faternity of T e a c h e r s in SL:-

      (Statement by the United Front Of The Peradeniya University Lectueres and Alumni) ” Friends, time has come to educate one another about the massive corruption that happens in Sri Lanka under the Present Regime. The Executive has taken the lead in this process resulting in massive debt, virtually mortgaging our mother land to foreign countries. Each individual and even the unborn in Sri Lanka owes close to Rs 400,000.00 as debt to China and other lending agencies. Country is in the threshold of bankruptcy. Today more than 50% parliament members have not even passed the O/L examination. Present regime has no respect for education. Country’s development could be achieved only by educating people. We emphasise that more than 6% of the GDP need to be allocated for education, which the emerging new leadership has promised. Hence we strongly feel that the present regime should be removed for a more thoughtful, compassionate and considerate leadership to take reins to spearhead this beautiful nation to be a DEVELOPED NATION devoid of corruption, family favouritism and protected independent Judiciary. This Government ……… 1. Promised that the presidential system will be repealed, in the “Mahinda Chinthanaya”, instead extended the number of times a president could contest from two times to unlimited. 2. Robbed around 95 Million LKR from the “Tsunami” fund ( Helping Hambantota ) donated by the Japanese government. This was his first political robbery apart from what he made as the Minister of Fisheries. 3. Let all the ministers of his cabinet to rob at their will, hence he could blackmail them. He turned a blind eye when his Prime Minister imported Drugs and few members of his cabinet importing illegal ethanol and drugs. 4. Alienated the country towards China resulting in India developing bitterness with Sri Lanka. 5. Obtained loans from China at rates higher than Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) to earn commissions. These commissions in billions were routed to Swiss bank accounts via Seychelles, where MR opened a branch of Bank of Ceylon and also an Embassy in a country where only 92000 thousand people live. Sri Lankan airline flies to Seychelles. 6. Built a port where no ships come. Air Port where no Airplanes land. He made billions of commissions doing these projects. 7. Made money building Roads : The cost per km of the Outer Circular Highway from Kadawatha to Kerawalapitiya financed by China is US$ 56 m(Rs.7.3billion) This cost is three times higher than the Kottawa Kaduwela extension of the Southern Highway financed by Japan ,which is Rs.2.4 billion per km. 8. The cost per km of Extension of the Southern Highway from Mattala to Hambantota will cost Rs.2.14billion, whereas per km cost of the Southern Highway cost only Rs.975m 9. Bid price of A9 road was Rs.140 m per km when the departmental estimate for an A class road was Rs. 20m. 10. Construction of the Norochchole Coal Power Project was awarded to a well- established Chinese contractor at US$280.00M in 2005 by the previous regime. Soon after present regime came into power it cancelled the contract and awarded it to another inexperienced Chinese firm at US$520 million-almost double the previous price. Plant is inoperative even after 2years of completion. 11. On a dispute between Essential Services Commissioner and Asset Maritime (Pvt) Ltd arbitrator-a retired High Court Judge awarded Rs.600,000.00 as compensation to the company. A Committee appointed by the President on the intervention of the First Lady awarded Rs.180 million to this company owned by Dhammika Perera and Nishantha Wickramasinghe- latter being a brother of First Lady. 12. Due to the ill-conceived Hedging deal of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation headed by Asantha de Mel (a person connected to the political establishment) lost Rs. 230 billion in2007. No one has been held accountable for huge loss of public funds. 13. Failed to initiate investigations on 29 journalists murdered or disappeared. Lasantha W, Pradeep Eknaligoda 14. Failed to initiate investigations into the deaths of Members of Parliament 1. Raviraj and one other. 15. Appointed 38 numbers of the Presidents family and extended family, to diplomatic missions. 16. Turned a blind eye on losses at Mihin Air to the tune of 6-8 Billion, made by his closest buddy Sajin vas Gunawardane who had been criminally charged previously. He appointed his brother in Law Nishantha Wickramasinghe to Sri Lankan Airlines who has no formal education and made losses to the tune of Rs 70 billion to date. 17. Influenced the judiciary to President’s benefit. Impeached the 43rd Chief Justice for no reason. Makes judicial appointments to his benefit. 18. Allows Presidents children to play (Car races) on the streets of Colombo at their will by closing roads. He over ruled Mahanayake Theroes to hold car races for his children in Kandy town. 19. Failed to nominate Election, Police, Public Service and Judicial services commissions. 20. Udayanga Weeratunga – Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia. Cousin of President Rajapakse. Accused of involving in a shady deal to purchase MIG Fighters for the Sri Lankan Air force. 21. Paid 700.00Million rupees to Prabhakaran to purchase weapons to kill innocent Sinhalese using Karuna Amman who is now a deputy Minister and a Vice President of the SLFP. He uses Kumar Pathmanathan alias LTTE arms dealer to his personal benefit. 22. How Karuna was sent to London “ On August 30, 2007 the Department of Immigration and Emigration issued a diplomatic passport number D1944260 in the name of “Kokila Dushmantha Gunawardena” whose occupation on the passport was given as Director General of Wildlife Conservation. The photograph on the passport was that of Karuna Amman. The Department of Immigration, it is pertinent to note, comes under the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order of which Gotabaya Rajapakse is Secretary and President Rajapakse the Minister”. 23. Failed to conduct an impartial inquiry into killing of around 43 prisoners at the Welikada Prison. 24. Did nothing to improve the economy and failed to introduce workers charter. Economy in shambles. 25. Arranged for his son to sit for the Law exams in an isolated air-conditioned room, away from the other candidates. 26. Killed protesters in Rathupaswala (8), Free Trade Zone (1) and Chilaw (4). He used maximum force on all protestors.”

      • 2
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        Mr. Punchinilame,

        Much thanks for your effort and much appreciated.

      • 0
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        punchinilame

        Thanks.

        The 2015 Presidential Election: A view from the village,

        It has filtered to the Village Level as well, and we will know the results today…

        http://groundviews.org/2015/01/04/the-2015-presidential-election-a-view-from-the-village/

        ….

        “What has been a remarkable change recently in political affiliation after the emergence of Maithripala Sirisena as common candidate, has been the shift of the SLFP elements from Mahinda Rajapakse and the UPFA to Maithripala and the SLFP. Since the date the Election was announced until the 25th of December the only canvassing in the village has been for Maithripala. The highlight of the canvassing effort was a joint UNP/SLFP 30 member large group distributing the common candidates manifesto and 100 day programme. It is noteworthy that the group was composed of the principals of the five schools in the neighbourhood and pradeshiya level political figures. There has been no canvassing by groups supporting Mahinda for President so far. If this village is representative of the low-country Sinhala Buddhist constituency the shift in ‘loyalties’ could presage a major swing in this sector of the Sinhala-buddhist hinterland. But of course there are yet a few days more of campaigning to go.”…..

  • 5
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    The Holy Quran says in “Surat A-Anfal 30”
    “Although they plan.
    Allah also plans.
    And Allah is the best of planners.”

    He knows the best of the future and what sufferings and hardships people undergoing at present. So HE will plan the best for the people of our motherland Sri Lanka.

  • 10
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    If MaRa wins, then that’s karma at work. When thousands of innocent were slaughtered and made to refuge in the very land they were born, the majority making the noise now were silent and worse lit crackers and celebrated it. I sincerely hope MaRa loses though.

  • 3
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    Dr. Siri,
    “May our little Lanka prosper with correct leadership, vision, and virtuous endeavor!”
    I wish the same for a nation that has not had any statesmen since post independence. Dr. Siri’s above wish is badly needed for a nation reeling for lack of leadership. The wish will come true only if their will be a brave leader and strict disciplinarian that can overthrow a current evil regime made of a majority of Sinhala Moadayas by the bullet and not by the ballot. This election will also be rigged like the previous on Jan 8/9th. Never trust electronic polling data transmitted over state manipulated SLT communication lines. Good luck to the voters for exercising their civic responsibilities. As a back-up, prepare them for a revolution, if a rigged election and help bring an Arab spring in Sri Lanka.

  • 1
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    This is a sober analysis and a frank wish for the country. I agree with most of the sentiments.

  • 2
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    Dr Siri Gamage

    A very well written, timely article. An article that all Sri Lankan voters must read before they go to the polling station.

  • 0
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    Thank You Dr Gamage for your balanced summing up.

    Now that the contenders have fallen silent, let us wait for WE the people to speak.

    AND may their verdict be accepted with dignity and good grace by all our fellow citizens.

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