19 September, 2020

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The Need To Do “The Right Thing” Vs “Political Reality”

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

By the time you read this, minds will have been made up and all we’ll have to look forward to is, by all indications and for the first time since the Rajapaksas took over the political process, an election without the threat and violence which had, unfortunately, become the prime feature of the electoral process in this country, at every level, the difference being that the UPFA candidates at local and provincial level didn’t have as much of the machinery of violence at their command as those running for the country’s national legislature!

An interesting development, as this campaign has progressed has been the increasing respect for the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) from a quarter from which its traditional support never came: the English-educated and/or politically-sophisticated middle class. The lack of a fluency I once had in Sinhala precludes me from assessing what the Sinhala-only middle class feels in this respect, as reported in the Sinhala media and, in the case of the Tamil media, I have to admit to total ignorance except for hear-say information.

While the greater majority of Sri Lankans who suffered through the second JVP insurrection, appear to continue not to forgive them for their acts of wanton cruelty, that party, for inexplicable reasons, given its otherwise smart assessment of the national mood, persists in resurrecting the memory of those dark days with its beret-clad depiction of Rohana Wijeweera, like a second-rate Che Guevara. In fact he has, in their minds at least, reached a state where canonization or the revolutionary equivalent thereof is imminent! This is truly one of the things I find inexplicable given the intelligent manner in which the spokesmen (they all appear to belong to the male of the species!) of the JVP have projected their organization’s aims and objectives against an otherwise neutral and dignified background.

AnuraWhen I think of the story that a retired Grama Niladhari friend told me, one of many being told and retold in the village adjacent to where I live, it makes that piece of the publicity campaign of the party led by Anura Kumara Dissanayake most puzzling, to say the least.

This man told me that his father-in-law, for the “crime” of being a long-retired police constable, was decapitated and his head put on display on the doorstep of his house. His son-in-law did the only sensible thing to do in those dark days: he went into hiding, away from his own village for a significant length of time. The need for doing this was reinforced by the fact that a colleague of his was also brutally killed for the “crime” of being a Grama Sevaka.

That incident was in stark contrast to what I remember and had personal experience of during the first (1971) JVP insurrection, where I saw, at first hand, the disciplined and, in one case, truly noble (and I do not use the term lightly) behaviour of JVP cadres on the run, knowing that their revolt had failed and they were doomed. One of the prime characters in one of the incidents from that time is still alive and his story is truly unbelievable but will have to wait for another time and another (larger) space!

The irrationality of insisting on invoking the image of a man who, to a very large extent in this country, is viewed as an opportunist living in luxury while those he led into the abyss were perishing in the most horrible ways possible is inexplicable. There is no other term for it. A friend, a JVP village leader of that time, to whom I’ve made passing reference in the previous paragraph has the same opinion of Rohana Wijeweera. A part of Wijeweera’s rehabilitation might be owed to the alleged manner of his demise. What I have heard from many sources and read about, did not bring credit to a government that was claiming to defend law, order and justice from the likes of the JVP. And that’s putting it mildly!

To return to more recent times. The first politician I encountered on my return to Sri Lanka the February after the tsunami was Mahinda Rajapaksa and this was on the occasion of the foundation stone being laid for the new town of Hambantota after the Tsunami had destroyed the original.

The friend who took me on my first trip down south in years, claimed a very cordial and close relationship with Chandrika Kumaratunga who was President at the time, as well as a seemingly good one with Mahinda Rajapaksa to whom he introduced me at one of the meetings held adjacent to the proposed town site.

I have to admit that, despite many years of political activity which did endow me with a healthy streak of skepticism, I was impressed by Mr. Rajapaksa’s demeanour and the impression he gave of being a genuine “man of action.” Did the scales fall from my eyes since that dim distant day on the site of what was intended to be the new town of Hambantota or did Mahinda Rajapaksa change very substantially since that time?

I suppose, given the benefit of perspective today, it was a bit of both.

What I hadn’t also taken cognizance of was the fact that my friend had and, presumably still does have, a foot in both camps despite the divergent paths that Mahinda and Chandrika have taken since. After all, isn’t that what the “realpolitik” of Sri Lanka is all about: not merely surviving but doing so very comfortably at all times?

While an old-fashioned belief in principle, morality, ethics and other “airy fairy” beliefs would date me somewhat and might even place me in a category that modern Sri Lankans consider akin to that which once awaited the Dodo, I don’t think one has a choice. People of my vintage – literally, a dying breed – might recall that old “Autograph Album” chestnut, “Unto thine own self be true” which used to be a safe staple of those with limited imagination when faced with the daunting task of applying some words of wisdom in a journal that was presumed to last for eternity!

In my many years with the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada, the eternal debate appeared to be whether the NDP should form some form of alliance with the Liberals which, even in the days of Progressive Conservatism, were to the “left” of the Tories and closer to the social democrats in the matter of policies and principles. That temptation was avoided and, lo and behold, the NDP has won majority government this year in the province of Alberta which has long epitomized right wing, redneck politics. The Progressive Conservatives were defeated after 43 years of unbroken majority government, preceded by the (Christian Fundamentalist) Social Credit party for three decades before! The Alberta NDP’s success was the closest thing to a miracle in Canada’s political history!

Perhaps, considering that the most seats the NDP ever held in the provincial legislature of Alberta was sixteen, every one of which they lost in 1993, what happened in 2015 was truly a political resurrection and the polls subsequent to the Federal Conservatives calling a national election show the national NDP, traditionally a third-place party, leading both the Tories and the Liberals, with the distinct possibility of forming government later this year!

Is there a lesson in this somewhere for us in little Sri Lanka? Perhaps there is, in the choices facing us in order to keep the Rajapaksa wolf from continuing to indulge its ravenous appetite if it gets in the door of government again. Many of us are certainly on the horns of a dilemma in wanting to ensure the most violent, undemocratic and corrupt government Sri Lanka has ever had stays away from the seats of power and continues to languish in the political wilderness, on one hand, and, on the other having to choose between two alternatives. One of these has not, particularly by its recent conduct, convinced me that it will completely abjure conduct reminiscent of Mr. Rajapaksa’s cabal while the other, the JVP, while it has displayed cohesion, discipline, clear direction and a seeming commitment to principle, seems to lack the capacity to generate the numbers to take power by themselves. The matter of a possible working arrangement between the UNP coalition and the JVP to govern this country appears to be a moot point at the moment. They have one area of fundamental agreement: Rajapaksa and his familial cabal must not be permitted to return to power. However, there appears to be no clear indication on the part of either the UNFGG or the JVP of how they propose to deal with a situation where neither of them has a majority but together they could.

For myself, for the first time in my life, I think I’m going to hold my nose and vote strategically for a coalition that contains the likes of the racist Champika Ranawaka and the “insurance buyers” from the United National Party to whom I’ve made reference several times before. I hope to salve my conscience by vowing to hold their feet to the fire no matter how maliciously they try to “get me” for exposing their duplicity! I closed my last column by quoting an ancient Chinese proverb. This time let me stand a Sinhala village saying on its head and say, “If you lose, you lose and if you win you lose, as well.” That aphorism loses a lot in translation and the closest to it in the English language might be that, “Sometimes, there’s no winning for losing!”

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Latest comments

  • 0
    12

    From Alberta NDP to Che Guevara JVP ..

    What a transformation for this landed proprietor cum Dutch Aristocrat who is growing Durians now for the benefit of Dalits.

    I thought Mr Poorten is holding the nose not, to get affected by the stench coming from Mr Mahendran’s Offce in Colombo 1.

    Perhaps Mr Poorten must have been wearing ear muffs too, not to hear the bullshit which his new pin up boy Anura “Prince” Kumara has been belching out to protect Mr Ranil Wickremasinghe.

    Poor Wijeweera would have drunk poison if he was still around ,together with the Monk who advocated his disciples to drink poison if they engage in corruption.

    BTW.. What odds did you get from Bombay Bookies or m London Bookmakers for a UNP win?.

    I might put a few Bob too, if it is bakable,

    • 9
      2

      To be fair, Sumane, we feel like drinking poison every time we see one of your comments too, you delightful degenerate.

      • 9
        2

        I think Sumane needs to change his name to Vamane. That would characterize his mindset better. Low down and good for nothing.

    • 7
      1

      Sumaney:
      If I wrote about a visit to the North Pole, I’d bet you’d have a “definitive and expert” opinion on the subject.
      Haven’t I already reminded you (more than once, I’m sure) that it’s better to keep one’s mouth shut and be considered an idiot than open it and confirm the fact? Ah, but then when idiocy exists on a plane as high as yours, there, obviously,is no hope whatsoever of redemption!
      Incidentally, while I have nothing against the Dutch, neither I nor my forebears have ever been citizens of Holland. However, there again, you wouldn’t know a Dutchman from an Inuit, so why am I wasting my time trying to bring some light into the life of the eternally benighted!!

      • 2
        3

        Mr Poorten,

        Native Veddas in my village used to call you guys Sudu Hamula,

        As an adult only I realized you came from from different tribes like Dutch , English and Portugese.

        Portugese as I understand didn’t have any Aristocrats.

        That s is why I picked you to be Dutch.

        And the Pommy Aristocrats I believe didn’t even come to my motherland ..

        But it is different nowadays, Even that Labour Aristocrat Tony Blair has come down to give the the Elite Anglicans and the Vellalas a helping hand.

        But I doubt whether that is going to help.

        Looking at the sea of people at every Mahinda Rally , I wonder whether even Mr and Mrs Blair can stop the Land Slide.

        Happy voting my friend,,

        Remember even if you vote for Prince Kumara , it will be Kiriella , Batalanada and Ravi Galleon Karunanayakaa who will be giving you Yahapalnaya.

        • 6
          1

          Sumaney:
          How many times need you be told that everyone is not like you – a simple bootlicker and “gun for hire” who will do ANYTHING for the compensation that their patrons provide!

          Your lunatic babblings are not even funny anymore but then how can one ever expect an idiot to realise that?

          • 3
            0

            Emil van der Poorten

            “old-fashioned belief in principle, morality, ethics”

            I don’t think KASmaalam K.A Sumanasekera have heard about those principle nor would have understood the meaning.

            Could you translate those sacred words into simple language and make it easy for him to understand.

            Still he will find it difficult to grasp.

    • 4
      1

      KASmaalam K.A Sumanasekera

      “Poor Wijeweera would have drunk poison if he was still around”

      He didn’t when he surrendered, being tortured and burnt alive. As you know leader’s live was more precious than his/her followers’ and as a the prime b***s carrier of the crook and war criminal you should be aware of the fact that MR would not hesitate to sacrifice you or other supporters if he could get away with murder.

      ” I might put a few Bob too, if it is bakable”

      You are not only a drunkard but a gambler as well. If I remember correctly Buddhism does not encourage both unless of course you follow Sinhala/Buddhism.

      Have you apologised to those who were born in Barber caste. You won’t simply because you follow Sinhala/Buddhism which is understandable.

      • 1
        5

        Dear Native ,

        You seem to know how Batalanada Ranil and his President put iron rods up the poor youth and even their parents and roasted them on Tyre Pyres , specially in Kurunagala.

        One of my mate’s uncle who had nothing to do with Anura Kumara’s party was taken away and burnt,on the side of a main road.

        Your idol Pirahaparan got our people shot and hacked . But he never burned them like what the Kselwatta Sr and Batalanada Ranil’s mates did.

        Now JVP is massaging Batalanada day and night to relieve him of election fatigue.

        Any way you know nothing about Buddhism.

        Our Buddha said do anything in moderation.

        • 3
          0

          KASmaalam K.A Sumanasekera

          “Any way you know nothing about Buddhism.”

          Please tell us what you know about Buddha’s teaching. It won’t take more than two sentences.

          Here is some the Awakened one said to his deciples.

          The Buddha said:

          By birth one is not an outcaste,
          By birth one is not a Brahmin;
          By deeds alone one is an outcaste,
          By deeds alone one is a Brahmin

          By your thoughts, words and actions you have successfully converted yourself into an outcaste along with MR and his cronies.

  • 4
    0

    An interesting article, but I am too long in the tooth, and I fear time is too short to address the many varied points you have touched on. The simply truth to me is that Sri Lankan politics has been infected, and something chronic, with the visceral urge to ‘be seen as the leader’. That has invariably led to a rash of chameleons, and their interminable jostle looking for the main chance. Ever since Banda saw his way blocked by Dudley and JR, our political game has been one of ‘divided we stand together’ – when it suits us. Our politicians have got quite adept at bending their principles when opportunity comes a calling. I couldn’t resist a chuckle when you recalled those old staples, principles, morality and ethics; our politicians jettisoned those a long time ago, though it is heartening to see recent attempts by one (or three?) to bring them back.

    You have recalled just some of the many horrendous crimes that Sri Lankan has perpetrated on Sri Lankan. A fuller list would require reams. But the saddest point is that far too many have got away without being brought to justice, and have lived to boast of their actions and, in my opinion, fed the rash of impunity that has now come home to roost.

    Who will lift the curse?

    • 2
      0

      Agree with you Sir. Sadly our country does not have any heroes.

  • 1
    1

    There’s no challenge. RANIL AND UNP WILL SWEEP THE POLLS.

    • 1
      0

      …and Ranil will have to ditch protecting the Rajapakse’s and govern for the mutual benefit of all other SL’s

  • 1
    2

    It is an open secret that JVP has become pawns of UNP. JVP was a party with a strong vision whose followers were supremely dedicated to it. That vision was based on socialism. Dedication of its followers saw two youth uprisings in the 70’s and in the 80’s. Uprising of 80’s was brutally suppressed by the then UNP government. Youth were massacred and tortured by the UNP using state sponsored torture houses. Batalanda being one such infamous torture house. JVP leader and founder Rohana Wijeweera was burned alive in Borella cemetary. JVP also killed innocent government workers and army personnel. It was a dark, resentful period in the history of Sri Lanka. During the 90’s JVP entered main stream politics laying to rest its belief in revolutionary struggle using weapons. Its followers were dedicated to socialism and were supremely disciplined & dedicated to the cause of the party. How such a party becomes pawns of UNP and thereby help implement capitalism policies is beyond reason. The hardcore JVP supporters would never cast their vote to the JVP this time around. Current leadership is a humiliation to everything JVP has stood for all these years. People correctly see them as ‘red elephants’. JVP’s previous leader Somawansha Amarasinghe has publicly charged current JVP leadership of accepting money from UNP and aligning itself with UNP policies. In the coming general election voting for JVP is indirectly favoring Ranil.

    [Edited out]

    • 0
      0

      Why dont you form a two man Party with [Edited out] Somawansha Amarasinghe?

  • 0
    0

    Where is [Edited out] Mahindapala these days?

  • 0
    2

    If Poorten can read what is written in Sinhala about JVP he will surely die of an heart attack. Let him live in the fantasy land until 17th

  • 1
    0

    “.. a coalition that contains the likes of the racist Champika Ranawaka”

    You may have seen the interview with Champika Ranawaka in the Sunday Leader. Is there anything racist there? If having an opinion on Federalism or unitary state is racism – that is what is in the mind of the Kolombians. Any alternative opinion is instantly categorized as racism. Not good for intelligent debate on the issues.

    • 0
      1

      Read the text of his speech to Sri Lankans in Paris….

    • 0
      0

      Patriot:
      If ever there was someone who lived up to the accusation that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel you are IT!

      You’ll have to wake up very early – in fact, in the last century, perhaps – to be able to educate (or give me a heart attack) in any language!

      There should be a law against ignoramuses of your dimensions!

    • 0
      0

      Vanguard:
      Your pseudonym must refer to that old British car built by the Standard Motor Company, because it certainly doesn’t denote being in the forefront of anything resembling knowledgeable discussion. On the basis of ONE INTERVIEW, you claim that Champika is not racist. To call that defensive balderdash would be to elevate that rubbish to a far higher level than it deserves.Champika has lived up to the title of the organization he leads (led?) which simply identifies a racist entity. But then, what would someone with your obvious proclivities know about racism or fascism?

      Incidentally, it is interesting that Sri Lanka has made the very word “federalism” a criminal term, when, in fact, it is the prevailing system of government in more DEMOCRACTIC countries than I would care to list.

  • 2
    0

    If the Rajapaksa curse is eliminated and we have a government dominated by the UNP new faces, with the JVP forming the bulk of the opposition, I feel it will be a win – win situation.

    Not so much of that losing talk my liberal friend or else you will be mistaken for a JVP er of the past, when all the JVP did was criticize everything without having any solutions. Of course that was after the murderers’ were knocked off.

    We have to give the present JVP the credit for being able to communicate with the grass root populace effectively. They will not be trusted to form a Government for a long time more, I think.

  • 0
    5

    Pooty goes on another rant . Nobody cares .

    Cheers

    Abhaya

    • 1
      0

      Abhaya:
      “Potty mouth” notwithstanding it is patently obvious that you “care” even if nobody else does. Otherwise, why would you be reading my stuff and trying to add your 1 1/2 cents worth which, very unfortunately, CT keeps censoring?
      Abhaya, you are truly one of those people who give the word “idiot” a bad name.

      • 1
        0

        Emil,
        these men would never learn it. That is why we the srilankens have to suffer this much. Every 2nd of the nation behaves like Abhaya. Kapuwath nila.. even if his wife would have been raped by Rajaapksshes, Abhaya or men like Dayan Jayathilaka would never change. That is their nature. These men are born idiots – they should be kept in dark by ignoring them where ever they make every efforts to add their thoughts.

    • 1
      0

      Abhaya the toilet cleaner of Rajaakshe regime will never see it right.
      Non-PhD man to have got appointed for them by STUPID armies should really be unthinkable.

  • 2
    0

    Here is my prediction.

    UNP 125 UNPF 48 JVP 23 TNA 22 SF 3 OTHERS 4 TOTAL 225

    LANDSLIDE FOR UNP and also for young people who really want change and not backward village rule.

    • 1
      0

      Tasimo, your prediction suggests that you were in an inverted U position and counting your own balls when you came up with these numbers, you imbecile!

      • 0
        1

        Boom Boom:
        I don’t know about that chap “counting his balls” but we all hope that your pseudonym doesn’t come from the sound of yours when you grovel before your MARA.

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