29 November, 2020

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The Old School Tie?

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

The recent kerfuffle at the Central Bank appeared to be a serious tug-of-war between, at least, the Prime Minister and the President of the Maithripala/Ranil (MR2) government in the matter of what an appropriate response should be to the affaire Mahendran and what flowed from it.

At the end of the day, we had a man whose opening statement expressed his intention to “divorce politics from economics,” utilizing rather hoary buzzwords like “economic stability.”

Most readers should be old enough to remember the Thatcher years when similar terminology was employed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

What is obscene about the Sri Lankan political scene is the fact that the common ground for all the major political entities appears to be their simple acceptance of neo-conservative political and economic thinking. Apart from any “pinko” considerations of social justice, it is this road that has led to the turmoil in international financial markets and the chaos that is flowing from all kinds of secessionist impulses. Brexit was the tip of that iceberg in case you didn’t notice.Ranil Royal Collehe

The new head honcho of our most important financial institution was quoted in banner headlines saying clearly and without equivocation that politics and economics were like oil and water. They shouldn’t and couldn’t be mixed.

Would somebody please tell me how the political process and economic policy can be separated while still trying to maintain even the façade of a democratic system of government whose very foundation is built on the belief that the citizenry, not some ivory-tower theoreticians, will ultimately decide whether they have food to put on the table for themselves and their dependants?
That is what all of this high-falutin’ language really adds up to. The end result is, simply, an elite maintaining themselves “in the manner to which they have grown accustomed” while the rest of society sups at the nearest garbage dump in order to survive. Dramatic? Perhaps, but let’s stop beating about the bush, take off the blinkers that “those who know better“ want us to wear and face up to the harsh realities that are going to be the end result of all this economic jargon and double-speak.

Reading D.B.S.Jeyaraj’s recent blow-by-blow description of the Central Bank Governor’s Stakes brought to mind the machinations that followed D. S. Senanayake’s premature death. It was one of Sri Lanka’s (Ceylon at the time) less well-kept secrets that the second most senior member of the D. S. Senanayake government, Sir John Kotelawala, had, with the connivance of Governor General Lord Soubury, been “jobbed.” In a tizzy, he penned, anonymously, a pamphlet called The Prime Minister’s Stakes. It was considered “scurrilous” in a time when Victorian norms of behaviour prevailed in Ceylon and, probably for that very reason, was much sought after! One common thread that is discernible between Jeyaraj’s narrative and the document that followed Dudley Senanayake’s appointment to the position that his father had left prematurely, is that virtually every one of those involved in the brouhaha came from very privileged backgrounds. The current mini-crisis probably overtook its predecessor by describing a degree of incestuousness in that pretty well all the players have a very narrow commonality: they were, seemingly without exception, old boys of Royal College and, often, contemporaries of Ranil Wickremesinghe. Finally, even though Indrajit Coomaraswamy was Maithripala Sirisena’s and certainly not Ranil Wickremesinghe’s, first choice, everyone concerned decided to bury the hatchet and rally round the old school flag because, God forbid, someone from one of the other so-called Public Schools might be anointed or even, horror of horrors, an old boy of some “lot pot, not got” central school!

In the meantime, Mr. Mahendran was, as they used to say, sold down the river (or is the expression “sent up s…t creek without a paddle?”) because he had become expendable.

The fact that Mr. Coomaraswamy shared with Winston Churchill the privilege of being an old boy of what is considered to be one of the two most prestigious public schools in England – Harrow – didn’t, I’m sure, hurt his chances in a country supposedly wedded to a culture of “2500 years of Sinhala Buddhist Culture.” Apropos of Harrow, my next little bit of Googling, when I have the time to do so, would be to try to identify an alumnus of that school who was recognized as anything resembling even a “social reformer.” Wasting my time? Perhaps, but then I have always been considered a glutton for punishment of that kind!

Even the Wimal Weerawansas and their guru, Mahinda Rajapaksa, have not raised their normally shrill voices in protest at this particular appointment. Is this yet another event that reinforces the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s battle cry of “Unuth Ekai, munuth ekai?” (“Six of one and half a dozen of the other” as that mundane English equivalent has it) In any event, it certainly sounds like the United Front concept has been embraced by all the mainline political configurations in our fair isle to a far wider extent than we thought possible. I have the sneaking suspicion also that this could be the return of the Common Front concept of which those with an interest in political history are not likely to have fond memories, being associated very closely, as it was with the emergence of 20th Century Fascism.

Why am I not surprised by the son of Esmond Wickremesinghe making common ground with the next generation of the only Sri Lankan to meet Leon Trotsky, no matter how fleetingly, and a head of state who participated in the first Che Guevara revolt in Sri Lanka in 1971 and those who claim to be of mainline liberal- or social-democratic persuasion?

The reason for all of this is very simple: without exception it appears that all of our prominent politicians are simply self-seeking opportunists and it is not just the recently deposed who believe in that old American truism that goes, “we either hang together or hang separately.” Simple self-preservation with the added prospect of self-aggrandizement beyond our wildest imaginings!

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Latest comments

  • 8
    0

    Yes, austerity will hit us hard, and not affect the very affluent quite so hard.

    However, the fact is that Indrajith C. is a decent guy.

    And we have to decide whether to assign his character-formation to Royal or to Harrow. I think the latter. In which case, let us stop talking so much about this being yet another Royalist of Reid Avenue.

    Certainly, I was myself getting a bit fed up with this necessity to be an alumnus of Royal College, but I give Maithri the credit for making this good choice; having said that, let me tighten my belt further.

    You are right about tough times being ahead of us. We have to pay for that nasty war which we (collectively) allowed to drag on for so long. I know that I did not personally contribute to that horror – but it would be silly to imagine that the suffering that awaits us depends on our personal merits or misdeeds.

    • 2
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      Sinhala-Man,

      “However, the fact is that Indrajith C. is a decent guy.” Indrajith may still be decent. But now he has to have the ear for the rogue whisperers. How long he will be decent will be anybody’s guess.

      All thought My3 was a decent guy. See what he is now.

      • 5
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        BBS Rep, Indrajit Coomaraswamy WILL BE DECENT throughout, as he knows no other way.

        Those who talk drivel without knowing the character of the man may be in for a surprise. He does not need this job; Sri Lankan needs him in that job. He will be decent in all his dealings till the end of his days, meaning, till the end of his days on earth.

        He knows no other way.

        • 3
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          Dear Justice & Fairplay: “he knows no other way”.

          You are quite right. You also say, “He does not need this job”. Correct. Not because he has amassed wealth, but because he will limit his expenditure to what he can meet.

          I visited the grave of his parents-in-law this evening – about 6.00 p.m. with my daughter.

          This is how it happened: my daughter comes up to Bandarawela occasionally, and she wanted me to accompany her to visit MY PARENTS graves in the Bandarawela Public Cemetery. We returned on the short cut, and even before going she had said that she’d also like to light a candle for the Fonsekas, Chandra (Indrajith’s father-in-law) in particular. They are buried in the two acre garden of “Padmalaya”, the house built by his cousin, Padma de Fonseka. Chandra had bought it from Padma, and then sold it when he was posted abroad (I think that Rome was the first place). He re-purchased it when he retired from FAO, and settled there for about twelve happy years (and a few years of ailing), passing away (can’t remember this well, but it may have been about 1997) after his wife.

          I know that his wife owned a house at Melbourne Avenue, Bambalapitiya (opposite the land which has been owned by the Maldivian State for at least 70 years – and where their High Commission now is). This was sold, and they bought a condominium at Pedris Road (that’s Colombo 3, technically, isn’t it? Opposite Royal Primary). Chandra was a workaholic, in a nice way. There was no legislation regarding the common amenities for such premises. This may have been about 1990, or earlier. I remember him studying regulations in Singapore, and submitting them to various government departments in Sri Lanka. That now belongs to the Coomaraswamys, as far as I know. I visited the place with Chandra ages ago, but I’ve lost contact since then.

          The house in Bandarawela was left to the Thai girl called “Dum” by everybody, but whose name is Ampai Anand. She was only about 19 years old when the family moved to Bandarawela from Bangkok around 1980. I’m just relying on my memory. Tara de Fonseka (that’s Indrajit’s wife, and the only child of the Fonsekas) and Indrajit did all that they could to make very sure that the wishes of the old couple were honoured, and the house was given to Ampai Anand. If I give you more details it will discredit the man whom Ampai (I don’t think that more than ten people in Sri Lanka will now know that to have been her name) married. He is now dead. We met Ampai today, and lit two candles.

          I hope you understand that I know what I am talking about. Do you know your facts as well?

          • 2
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            Dear Sinhala Man,

            Many thanks for your wonderful insight into this extraordinary man and his extended family, who have touched this land of ours with their benevolence and graciousness and left it for the better.

            We both know, IC will have added further lustre the day he goes. And may that day be very far away indeed!

            I know Indrajit Coomaraswamy well enough to know that he cannot be and will NEVER be what BBS Rep tries to make out.

            If we use the web to swop comments, it is important that we do so with due responsibility and not trivialize other human beings and measure them all with the yardstick we keep aside to measure the scum of the earth.

            Even if Indrajit loses every cent he has, I am pretty sure he will NEVER lose his dignity. That is unthinkable. Ask anyone who has even marginally been associated with him.

            Sirisena deserves Indrajit. I am not sure if I could say the same of Ranil. He is – for me – far too complex to comprehend.

      • 1
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        I’ve never met My3. But I still don’t think ill of him.

        A few things disappoint, but politics is not a game for smug do-gooders.

        A bit of humility on our part is necessary.

  • 3
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    “Self Seeking Opportunists.” You finally got it Mr Poorten.

    You should have added those LKR 35 Million Instant Lottery tickets as well, which is guaranteed to each and every participant of the “Yahapalana Pokemon”.

    Diaspora Sammy will certainly change the rules of Bond Dealing at the Yahapalana Casino , after the Singaporean did insider trading in the open.

    Anyway thanks for finally taking on Batalanda Ranil and his Royal mates who are giving you Yahapalanaya, left Right and Centre.

    Batalanada Ranil wouldn’t have invited Bodhi Sira for even High Tea, let alone take orders from him,if the situation wasn’t that desperate for him to get into Government before St Perter’s call comes.

    And thanks for borrowing some of my terms which I have reserved to “highlight the plight of our Dalits , like putting “food on the table.

    I am glad you even noticed “Elite” who dine on Dino’s home delivery and enjoy LKR 850 Margaritas at Royal Old Boys carnivals.

  • 6
    1

    Our “writer” this week seems to have got on to bashing the esteemed new appointment to the post of Central bank Governor, Dr indrajit Coomaraswamy. His gripe this Sunday seems to have been due to indigestion caused by Dr Coomaraswamy coming from the most esteemed educational institution of the country, Royal College, Colombo.

    He has not offered any suggestions as to where else the country can source its administrators.

    For example, he could have suggested the school by the sea, beaten Blue and Black due to its allegiances to a so-called “church” started by a mad, corrupt and syphillitic British Monarch called Henry VIII. Then we have another so-called school in the hill country, imitating the tactic of Satan in counterfeiting the things of God in order to make himself appear to be like God. That institution can only be referred to as the “unholy trinity” as described in Revelation 12 and 13.

    Compared to these tutories of ill repute, recruiting high level administrators for the country from Royal College that has a proven track record (Anagarika Dharmapala, JRJ, Colvin to name a few)is not a bad idea, despite the croaking from underneath the rocks at Galagedara!

    • 0
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      I agree. The title of the article could have been a touch more sensitive.

      I think there is FAR TOO MUCH emphasis placed on the old school tie and network in the press. Isnt Royal College is a school in this country and if so let it continue to produce good and clever men for all time!

      What we should do – if we are smart – is to apply pressure and ask them to perform. That’s it!

  • 7
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    Indrajith is an execellent choice. The fact that he is an old a royalist is irrelevant for me and as long as he has the right skill sets and experience and qualifications and knowledge.

    I would like to know as to why only Arjun Mahendran was replaced and not the others who were involved such as:

    1 Bank of Ceylon management who gave the primary dealer a blank cheque to buy bonds
    2 CBSL Public Debt Department staff who acted inappropriately
    3 EPF staff wh wee ever willing to buy the bonds from the secondary market

    Looks like Arjun was made the scape goat !!!

    • 2
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      Royal Primary only, up to age eleven.

      Thereafter, Harrow: something incomprehensible to most Sri Lankans, although I think that a villager like me can see it in its proper context!

  • 0
    0

    All of us have the habit ” Ape miniha beraganna” whatever wrong he did. In our society if you are at some social level there are informal paths to do that. This should not happen. Rule of Law should prevail all over.

  • 7
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    Sinhala Man.

    Royal College is no longer at Reid Avenue;It is now located down[or up] Philip Gunawardena Mawatha,thus losing its royalty!

    • 6
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      …and strictly speaking, there is nothing Royal about Royal College; not since the events of the fifties when it lost its ‘Public’ school status and became State School No 1. We lost all connections to Royalty once we sent the old colonial mastah packing. The old boys cling to the old connections (like the barnacles on the old breakwater) and will invoke the similarity to ‘Eton’ at the first sight of a Britisher. The truth is, there was a time when the intake reflected the neighbourhood. Not anymore. Nowadays, children needing a good education (usually in the English medium) are more like to go to overseas, or to one of the more reputable International schools. Consequently the character of the ‘Royal’ output now is more likely to be chequered – a reflection of the times. There was a time when Royalists set standards; now, they, more likely follow them – usually with the cry ‘oh they did it so we do it too’. How the times have truly changed.

    • 1
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      Sorry, it will remain ‘Reid Avenue’in the lexicon of all for another century. Wonder how Philip G was coined up with this road?

      This name change business is a mess – a cheap gimmick to only impress the ruling elite at best. Just imagine Havelock Road replaced by ‘Sri Sambuddhathva Jayanthi Mavatha’ as has been the case. Just try writing that on a post card!

      • 2
        0

        Justice and Fairplay

        I whole heartedly agree with you on the name-changing mess.

        As best as I can see, new names should be restricted to new roads. Who in their right mind would want their name on a second-hand road?

        When I asked my taxi driver to take me to Baddegama Wimalawansa Mawatha, he hadn’t a clue till I explained it used to be Deans Road.

        What a palaver!

  • 4
    2

    “Simple self-preservation with the added prospect of self-aggrandizement beyond our wildest imaginings!”

    This surely is a Freudian slip about your own persona, Pooton?

    Your carrying on about the good old Trinity days and colonial times when English was king is simply the definition of aggrandizement.95% of Sri Lankans love the Sinhala-only law and 1971 Land Reform that you hate.

    So you can aggrandize yourself as much as you like.
    But remember you are farting up wind!

  • 6
    0

    Thr more Royalists for the administration as true Royalists do not carry communal prejudices and believe in the policy “that the best man should be given his place irrespective of race,religion or community”.Ranil you are leading by example and all Royalists and lovers of Lanka should rally round our PM.
    Indrajith Coomarasamy is not only an old Royalist but went to Harrow and worked in the Central Bank and Captained Sri Lanka in Rugby and is a renowned economist. What more could you ask for to become Governer Central Bank and not forgetting the long list of qualifications to his name/
    Mr.President you have made a fantastic choice keeping the nation in mind

    • 0
      6

      colin,

      Harrow is the very place to learn maintenance of pound-sterling at colonial levels, via old-colonial countries.

      • 3
        0

        Peter Keuneman the Commie went to Cambridge so according to you Ramona he would have learnt Communism there

        • 2
          1

          Cambridge teaches greater philosophical idealisms.

        • 0
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          Thanks, Spring Koha.

        • 1
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          He (Keuneman) probably did!

  • 6
    0

    Van der poorten, you were never good at analysing political situations or appointments, probably because you were always biased in your thinking. In this instance you seem to have something against Royalists, those who went to Royal College, and so you attack the new Central Bank Governor on his appointment by the PM, BOTH Royalists of emminent calibre.

    While the PM has a proven track record of honesty and straight dealing of the first degree in the field of politics, the Central Bank Governor has a brilliant history of educational and administrative performances not forgetting his prowess in the field of sports. Let’s see how he comes off as the Governor of the CB shall we ?. Don’t throw barbs till then, particularly on the score that he is a Royalist. Pray, where did you come from ?

    • 0
      7

      eldorado ,

      Rajapaksas taught the game of rugby to rural youth!

  • 2
    7

    EVDP has hit it well this time.

    Can’t believe rational educated Lankans would actually think that the country is going to get stimulated into action by awing and gawking at school colors.

    The alma-mater elitist fixation that includes old-school British ties, is so very embarrassing for Sri Lanka, and has other countries in Asia smirking at us. Sri Lanka, as usual, misses the progressive cultural boat.

    US-British have studied our system. They have seen that our Elite are enraptured by old-boy unions. So they’ve decided to use it as a nice custom-fit for Sri Lanka so the US-$$ balance won’t ever be compromised : Sri Lankan variable to kept at a perpetual constant through Elite old-school unions. It’s the caste-system in India that will keep India from never progressing above the Western dollar; in Sri Lanka it’s the old-boy unions that will keep it in place. That and LGBT.

    Sinhala Buddhists have also been generally driven mad by caste-systmed Tamil cat-calls and hoots (US-British have also studied this phenomenon). And so reverence of school colors is a nice way to replace the Egalitarian Buddhist spirit, for the better of the Western monetary system.

    Rajapaksa and Sinhalese in general, are also afraid that that they will be called racists if they speak up about the CB-governor appointments (bad for their Karma, considering what they did in 50’s-80’s).

    So, fellows create their own personalized karmic formula, that equates non-racial with including Tamil Vellalas into the Sinhala fold (bad call for 91% ordinary Tamils……in other words, the Sinhalese are stealing your Vellalas, Tamils)………..although the risk at this time, is far greater than the risk taken during the time before the Kandyan convention; with all the knowledge we have already about that time, there’s no excuse this time, for doing the same thing!

    All kinds of these Mental Formations will of course, severely stall our natural democratic progression and honorability.

    In the end, it is mostly to do with the Elite being selfish dogs, as always. Royal colors are only there to protect their way of life. They can’t think beyond.

  • 4
    0

    Ramona Therese,

    History shows that the Elite in Sri Lanka were not selfish dogs BUT “loud mouth Bitches” particularly in recent history at five star dining !

  • 2
    0

    ramona therese fernando.

    Rajapaksas taught the game of rugby to rural youth.

    You are absolutely correct.
    They taught themselves the game.
    A game that had players like Justice E.F.N.Gratien!

  • 2
    0

    Although EFN Gratiaen was a Thomian AND A GREAT RUGGERITE AMONGST OTHER THINGS, he never played Rugby at STC as Rugby was never played at STC during his time. Rugby was started in the early 1950’s at STC, and it was a Royalist, Mahes Rodrigo who was the first coach at STC and taught the Thomians the Game. The RAJAPAKSA’S , at least those who played the game of rugby must have been in a “nebulous state” of existence at that time.

    • 0
      1

      Rugby has absolutely NOTHING to do with national robustness for Sri Lanka! (Of course some of our Vellala Thamils Looove the idea of rubbing shoulders with British brawn…… so they’d sit par excellencing Rugby in Thamil verse also, for the masses of Dalits to shiver in awe!)

      But indeed, in all sincerity, our Lankan destiny lies in what Buddha preached of. And Rugby doesn’t factor in.

  • 3
    0

    Ramon Therese,
    The robustness that Sri Lanka “luve” and has been “luving” is straight from the ‘Kades of Mariah’, and quite definitely NOT from the disciplined field of Rugby (NOT THE WAY OUR PRESENT DAY SCHOOLS PLAY IT). This has been amply illustrated in the marauding streets in the City,to the Universities COUNTRY WIDE ,and the Hallowed precincts of the House by the Diyawanna Oya, et al. The daily brutal murders and rape of women and children, the total breakdown of law and order, the rampant bribery and corruption in all walks of life are living examples of this ‘NATIONAL ROBUSTNESS’

    Buddha preached in vain to these loud mouth, corrupted to the core,fist swinging,dumbos AND thugs who ONLY mouth his precepts in the hope that it rubs off somewhere on their bloated national dresses or the red cloth they hang around their necks, AND on their blind and deaf followers. The Buddha’s teachings have Never ever been adhered to by this rampaging lot.

    I thought the Rajapakses taught the rural youth to play Rugby? Now “RUGBY DOESN’T FACTOR IN. Make up your mind. This is precisely the problem with the RAJAPAKAYOS AND THEIR boot licking vile mouth hangers on who ONLY talk about sincerity, SINCERITY, My foot !!

    • 0
      0

      I don’t disagree. However, the shameful Sinhala derangement is due to the after-effects of colonialism and the successive governments pro-colonial and neo-colonial stance.

      A sport like rugby is only meant for those who can afford to eat volumes of beef. For places like England, rugby is the common man’s sport, and was traditionally played in winter. It’s sorrowful to keep pushing our young men to play rugby with limited meat eating, and in a country so close to the equator.

      Rajapaksas taught rugby to rural youth because they were trying to build up the rural spirit so it wouldn’t felt left out. Truth is, it is the city spirit that is out of synch with the masses of the island. That city delusion is destroying what Lankan ancestors created for themselves and their progeny since the beginning of time.

      • 0
        0

        “For places like England, rugby is the common man’s sport, ….”

        This is incorrect. Rugby Union is definitely the upper class game in England. The common men play Rugby league. That means with 13 men a side.

        • 0
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          Well, coming from Roman gladiators (certainly not the senators), British decided to use it to boost up their colonial prowess. It ended up mostly a common man’s sport, though the British upper-classes alike to show brawn from time-to-time. Why a bunch of Dravidians are trying to rub shoulders with British colonial culture, is something very funny to see actually.

  • 1
    0

    ramona therese fernando.

    OK,ramona what if the game[I mean Rugby ah!] is played without Beef?

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