26 June, 2019

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The Staunchest Friends Of The Regime

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

The word in the street is that Ranil Wickremesinghe’s is the regime’s best friend.  Inept leadership, fuelling division in opposition ranks to prompt defection, refusal to take on the Government in any meaningful manner on crucial issues of public concern, rhetorical slip-ups made to be pounced on for purposes on ridicule and being conspicuously out-of-touch with the sentiments of the masses are often cited as evidence to support this friendship claim.

On the other hand, it must be mentioned in Ranil’s defence that the 1978 Constitution does not grand the opposition any favors. In fact, just as it confers dictatorial powers on the executive president, it also disempowers the opposition.  Sarath N Silva’s horrendous crossover ruling that made parliamentary traffic a one-way matter hasn’t helped.  These factors helped scuttle the 17th Amendment and worse paved the way for the 18th, further strengthening those in power and conferring further disempowerment on the opposition.  Ranil’s detractors might say ‘Still!’, implying that he could do much better.

But is Ranil really the only friend that the regime can count on among those who object to it on matters of policy and policy implementation, and of course corruption, incompetence, inefficiency and overt and covert attacks on democracy?

Mahinda Rajapaksa had few friends when he was running for President in 2005.  Today he has few enemies and fewer still have the courage to stand up and object.  That’s not unusual.  Power corrupts.  Power also attracts.  There was a time, after all, when there were countless ‘friends’ swarming around his predecessor.  That was not the case before she became President and it is not the case now that she is Ex-President.  It is about playing the right card.  It is about mutual benefit.  Important no doubt, but still less critical than friends among the enemy in times of declining popularity.

It’s not just Ranil.

In the past few years there have been ample reason for many to object to the regime.  Not just object but to be appalled, in fact.  The umbrage however has not translated into mass protests. ‘Fear,’ some explain, but that’s just a part of the story.  A small part, one might add.  Where does the anger find expression, then? Why, in social media!

Facebook is full of people who have serious problems with the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.  Among them are the usual sour-grapes types, i.e. those who wanted a different outcome in November 2005, May 2009, January 2010 and April 2010.  There is a sizable number though of case-by-case assessors, who would cheer some and critique some.  There are also many who have voted for the President and his party but have run out of patience and are convinced that astute political thinking is about burying gratitude along with the LTTE. They have a point.  The President and the Government did what they were elected to accomplish.  That’s ‘job’ and therefore does not necessitate ‘unlimited bonus’.   But what do these objectors do and what do they accomplish?

Many of them rant and rave. Some are more academic with objection.  They all call for ‘uprising’ of one kind or another.  Some even organize protests, run campaigns to mobilize people and make it out that it is all spontaneous, free of any agenda except expressing objection, and borrow from the extensive material pertaining to rebellion from all parts of the world.  They cry, ‘Occupy Colombo’.  They say ‘Sri Lanka Spring’ (never mind seasonality ignorance).  They put up campaign-related profile pictures. They ‘like’, they ‘share’ and they ‘blog’.  Some say ‘wish I was there’ and others pip in, ‘I am there in spirit’.

They seem to be so busy doing all this that they forget to make it to the events they organize, endorse and cheer.  Then they wait for the ‘Next Big Moment’.  They move from ‘spark’ to ‘spark’ and meanwhile the regime moves from one crisis to the other, not in a crisis-snowballing context but in the classic getting-by of doing it, dealing with it, counting on ‘forget’ if not ‘forgive’.

Facebook and other social media sites are therefore regime-friendly.  Of course there is nothing to say that activity therein will not add up and contribute to regime-change at some point, but it is safe to say that impact will be marginal.  In the end it boils down to feet on the ground, feet marching together, voices raised in real time and in real space in unison and not in the artificial congregation of feel-good solidarities.

There are other ‘friends’.  There are the many ‘news’ sites that are hardly better than gossip rags capable of mild titillation and deflecting and dispersing righteous anger into feel-good laughter.  Objectors who laugh at regimes and do nothing else, don’t challenge regimes.

There are of course ‘serious’ web-gatherings.  Like Groundviews and Colombo Telegraph. The former is clearly slanted in favor of federalism and federalists, those who have poorly disguised hatred for Sinhalese and Buddhists or feel a compulsion to attack them to be counted among ‘intellectuals’ and those whose communalism, racism, religious fundamentalism is thinly covered by a cloak called ‘neutral’.  The latter’s content is more eclectic, more in-your-face. There’s news and views.  There’s greater generosity of accommodation.  Those who run these objection-forums if one may call them that would probably agree that they are frequented by roughly the same clientele.  Both writers and commentators.

Perhaps some of these people actually meet up for chat over coffee or wine, but if gatherings and protests organized by the movers and shakers are anything to go by, they don’t add up to regime-overthrowing-by-mass-uprising. A perusal of commentary reveals untrammeled invective, penchant for abuse and foul language, a privileging of emotion over reason and a conspicuous lack of sobriety.  A neutral may be swayed by argument but would think more than twice about joining hands with the cheering squad.

All these ‘sites of resistance’ (let’s be generous here) function as outlet, opportunities to let off steam, and spaces to feel you’ve done your bit (and inflate contribution to oneself).  Ironically, in Sri Lanka, the more effective users of this space happen to be those who are ready to walk the talk and not all of them walk in peace.

In the end, therefore, true challenge to regime would probably come from those who for whatever reason don’t use these spaces to vent their anger.  They get the bullets, history has shown.  Those others, the ‘friends of the regime’ as argued above, will cry foul, weep virtual tears, like, share and blog, but in the end they will not count. Most of them will remain the internet versions of Ranil Wickremesinghe, doing their bit to prop a regime they love to hate.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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    Malinda,

    “The word in the street is that Ranil Wickremesinghe’s is the regime’s best friend. Inept leadership, fuelling division in opposition ranks to prompt defection, refusal to take on the Government in any meaningful manner on crucial issues of public concern, “

    Yes. Yes. The ideal opposition leader for the Govt/.

    Compare this to the LSSP in 1953 Hartal. They walked the talk.

    “In the end, therefore, true challenge to regime would probably come from those who for whatever reason don’t use these spaces to vent their anger. They get the bullets, history has shown.”

    Ranil, the ideal opposition leader will not be part of it.

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      Amarasiri:-
      “REMEMBER….
      POLITICIANS AND NAPPIES
      SHOULD BE CHANGED OFTEN
      AND FOR THE SAME REASON”.

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        … and the Judge species adorn flipped nappies on their heads with might and arrogance.

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        S K ;

        Just Think,This StaunchNappy is Yelling;

        “The President and the Government did what they were elected to accomplish.
        That’s ‘job’ and therefore does not necessitate ‘unlimited bonus’”

        elected to accomplish. HOOOOOOOOOOOO,

        Elected By Who???????.
        Nandihi Kaddal piss tank.

        Accomplished What?????????.

        LOOTING of PEOPLE’S COFFERS.
        , 10%, Jilmart,Kudu Commission , White Van, Brothel Business.

        “unlimited bonuses”.

        That one every body knows,

        Can Ask from AMMO Siri Or MOdawangsa.

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        Sanjay,

        Needed, the Young Turks.

        Needed, the Young Lankans.

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    How true Amarasiri. Sociologists and Psychologists will analyse Sri Lankan hsitory and tell us that because we got independence without much action, we do not value it. And the fact that everything was subsidised and free from health, essentials and education, we never learnt to value it, until the threat to do away with the subsidies was upon us. And, even then, the govt in power raised salaries and did other gimicks to mull the populace.
    Today, Sri Lanka is falling behind even some of the worst managed countries and no one cares to do anything about it because we are all involved in our private struggle to survive. Even the so called super rich are in a constant struggle on how to maintain their debt and bribe driven consumerism. Bribes are not easy to give or get!
    In the meantime our wonderful island is eating fresh fish by the grams and not by the kilos. It shocks me to see people buying Milk Powder, sugar and fish by the 100’s of grams.
    Blaming the Rajapakses is easy. WE HAVE TO STEP UP FOR THEM TO STEP DOWN!
    And, Ranil Wickremesinghe should have no role to play in it. And neither does Sajith, Karu and the rest of the nincompoops in the UNP.

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      Dead on Upul and Amere! This is simplistic stuff re. social movements and revolution – as usual from MS! The guy has stopped learning it seems..
      Karl Marx long ago said: “the Vanguard of the revolution is NEVER the working class”. That comes later..
      Some of the analysis and comment on these websites will travel and RAISE THE CONSCIOUSNESS and EDUCATE people which is the FIRST STEP in getting the Lanka Spring going..
      Social movements take time to build.. we have already come a long way from the days when Rajapassa was God King – Allah, Buddha and Duttugemunu in one!
      At this time there is a process of anti-regime snowballing .. as the snowball grows and gathers size and weight for regime change..
      After all, change comes first in the MINDS and HEART of folk, then they walk the talk on the streets.. MS you really need to START READING AND EDUCATING YOURSELF AND LEARNING.. You have stopped growing and merely mouth incorrect platitudes these days..

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        well said

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    >
    > Mahinda Rajapaksa had few friends when he was running for
    > President in 2005.
    >

    Absolutely. Well said. One of them was a brutal, evil terrorist by the name Velupillai Prabhakaran! Rest is history.

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      rest is history?
      this is only the beginning,,,

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      When you betrayed the your Staunch friend
      and Wipe out him and his family from the surface of earth,
      AND YOU BECAME THE KING.

      HOW IS THAT BACKSTAB,

      You Can Use White Flags For Wipe Some …. ?????.
      ,
      That is New Yasalalaka tissa Era.

      So, MALINDA, K A SUMANA WATHI LEELA, JIN SOTHTHI, INJUSTIN, beware of

      The Staunchest Friend.

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    Ha ha. What poppycock! Social media prevents mass uprisings! Malinda imagines that people are so spent venting their spleens that they can’t muster enough energy to mobilize physically. Amazing thesis. Mass protests don’t take place due to the justified fear that they would be the victims of a weliweriya or vellamullaiwaikal type humanitarian operation. I wonder why the government has blocked so many sites, if they were helping the regime. Amazing how such crap gets published- oh i forgot he is the editor!

    This is Mali malli’s typical insidious attempt to demoralise contributors and prevent debate. He knows that these debates keep showing him up.

    S

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      Egypt?

      No deaths among Jews, Hindus or Buddhists. Most of the dead are Muslims! Why? Media is banned.

      As the proverb goes, “A barking DOG seldom bites”!!

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      Sulaiman:
      Absolutely correct!
      Seneviratne should head the queue of those who are due to “get theirs” when our local judgement day arrives!

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      agree with you

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    Does not say much for the majority of the population who voted the present regime in.The one conclusion we can come to that very few are really bothered about the country.As to Ranil capability well no one will know unless he is made President.
    One thing any intelligent person will realise is that the war would not have ended if the CFA had not been initiated when Ranil was PM. It made people on both sides, specially some of the rebel leaders realise what they were missing out on and helped the Gov. by giving the necessry info.It made the northern civilians realise that peace was possible if you really worked at it and all people were genuinely interested in stopping the war.
    TOO MANY PEOPLE PROFITTED BY THE WAR IN THE COUNTRY AND OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY SO WHY STOP IT.Ranil is one of the few politicians ‘who is WHAT WE SEE -‘ no costumes-even when necessary sometimes for his own benefit.He knows that unless the people want a change the fight is futile.So its the choice of the people.Give him the opportunity AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

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      Nelun Gunasekera:
      Thank you for that well-reasoned argument,madam. A breath of fresh air in a forum that, too often, is full of little but hot air!

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        … But the Baloon flies upwards.

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      Very well said Nelun.
      We know he is the ideal but some expect him to buils a Rome.

      MS is singing baila again. He does this play this same record in different tunes. But its the same Pro-MR baila.
      Indirectly MS is saying that RW is a Friend of this regime.
      Go and fly a kite Mali. You have become so bored.

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    Ranil W – Permanent Leader of the Opposition. Deferential followers in disarray; the party in slow atrophy. A few global jaunts, invitations to cocktails, dinners and tamashas. So, what’s not to like? And so we have a de facto one-party democratic republic that is indeed the political miracle of asia.

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    Ranil Wickremasinghe is the only leader with integrity and insight who can lead our country out of this frightfully growing darkness and sel-strangling.
    Ranil understands that Opposition tactics under a dictatorialfamily mafia have necessarily to be different from Opposition tactics under a democratic system. Sri Lanka’s successful Hartal protest in 1952 pressurized the then Prime Minister, gentleman Dudley Senanayake, to leave office. That was in democratic climes and when gentlemen ruled. Can such things be done today? For a government responsible for carpet bombing in the North and ruthless attacks on civilians most recently in Weilweriya the kind of protest moves of those days will be counterproductive.It is a differtent game that Ranil has to play in today’s context.Many persons used to stereotyped thinking do not comprehend this essential difference.The writer,Malinga, is one such opaque being who should look for other career options than journalism.

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    “A barking DOG seldom bites.”

    This is what is happening.

    They bark, bark and bark most of the time bark up the wrong tree. Nothing happens! :)

    People are fed up of their barking. Let them bark so people hate them more.

    If they stop barking, people will think white vans (or dog vans) took them.

    This is why NO SPRINGS in USA, UK, Australia or India.

    Only in dictatorships were people h

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      “A barking DOG seldom bites.” :) Like you Leela Furzana.
      Champika Gota Gnanasara all barking too but the trouble is they are Mad dogs.
      Were you born like this or you went insane after Gonraja came to power?

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    One cannot totally dismiss the role played by the independent media. For instance the Weliveriya incident would have been swept under the rug if not for the media uproar. So would the Grandpass incident. If not for the media and web we would hardly know what is happening except for rumours which are very often inaccurate. So the role of social media and web cannot be discounted.

    What happens in the country today is due to a few who are the minority who are in positions to make the greatest impact. It works on the Pareto ptrinciple that the 20% account for the 80%. The vast majority are simply cannon fodder and election votes for the movers and shakers of society. The independent media is important because it exposes the corrupt and immoral activities of the few as well as highlights the pros and cons of the various situations.

    RW is one man who has the most negative influence on the country due to his contribution in destroying the UNP. It is not a mere question of perks and cocktails.

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    The kick ass inauguration of the ‘Srilanka Monsoon” on the back of Weliveriya turned out to be a fizzer.

    Even the Badulla and Biyagama mobs promissed by their Gun UNP MPs didn’t turn up causing great grief to the proletariet leader Dr Bahu..

    What could be the reason for this abysmal attendance?.

    What do the ordinary punters see an an alternative offer to Rajapksa rule, from this mighty alliance of the UNP Ranil Faction, the TNA, Dr Bahu,CBK and last but not least the “minirity” champion Mangala?.

    Rajapaksa rule is delivering 7.5 % plus growth. 5% unemployment,Superb Roads. Clean cities.Mega Infrastructure,and Mega investments in Tourism and Leasure which create real time real jobs for the long haul.

    Have the inhabitants seen or heard any thing from Ranil , to at least match let alone better these achievements?.

    Not to their knowledge.

    Instead all they hear from the Opposition is , Begging the White Sahibs from Diaspora territory to send Election Monitors to ex Tiger Territory,

    Send Forensic Teams to Weliveriya.

    Pleas to Pillai to punish Rajapaksa,

    Reports to Canada, Britain and America how bad our Sinhal Buddhists are,

    Demands to CHOGM to cancel their talkfest.to roll Rajapaksa

    Demand economic sanctions to punish the poor sweatshop workers.

    And demand Police Powers and Land Titles to Mr Sambandan but won’t come to the PSC to put the demand in writing and on record.

    Can the “Facebookers ‘put Ranil into the Prez’s House or even the Templetrees?

    Although Malinda seems to have some hope, it won,t be Ranil for sure, for the great majority will need at least another two terms of the current pace of development to bring our rural poor who are the great majority in to the Facebooking Class.

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    I do not appreciate much of you write, but this piece i do not have any doubt that you talk some sense at times, lets look at the history. JVP did the bulwark of protesting and campaigning against previous governments but fruits were enjoyed by the UNP or SLFP(UPFA). same happened with old left as well.

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    Its TNA who can make or break the Rajapaske regime. Going back 6 years 2005 Prez election LTTE needed someone in Colombo that met their criteria. Given the “final battle” and subsequent dejure Eelam being planned they needed someone with less credibility internationally. If it was internal self-determination they needed Ranil would have been their pick. Well, they chose Rajapaske and the rest is history. Without TNA’s help Rajapaske would ever have won. The winning margin was 300,000 roughly the population in Vanni that was prevented from voting.

    If TNA enters PSC and ends the political impasse that will be the first chink in Rajapsaske amour. The opposition will still have a battle. Although it will be less of a challenge over economy etc.

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    So what’s the point of this article? Sure those digital critics do so from the safety of their keypads, perhaps because they just need to get it off their chest, but the opposition is paid to do the job of holding the government and its agencies to account and if they can’t do it Ranil and whoever else must step down

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    Malindha: They may be friends of the regime by your delightful definition here, but at least unlike the likes of you and the equally delightful editor of the Daily News at least none can accuse them of being in the regime’s pay.
    A bit wet, eh all this regime-friendly invective against other writers who disagree with the policies and antics of your paymasters.

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    Malinda your game is known: You are the editor of something called “The Nation” online site.This is a government sponsored site. It means you are in the family pay for your loyalty. Thus your pretence to be concerned about a good opposition is not taken seriously. You dub Opposition leaders like Ranil as friends of the regime just in order to try and bring down Ranil, and with the latter, the UNP. Ranil, you know, is careful when he picks people to be close to him. He doesn’t trust persons like you, Mahindapala, and Dayan. This is why you all have ganged up against Ranil. On the other hand, the High King is a Machiavellian crafty fellow to whom there are no friends or enemies. High King uses all of you like on a chess board. He will use you and drop you. You are lost either way. Don’t waste your time.Run a kudu business.

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