17 November, 2018

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The Story Of Successful Devolved Governance

By Mahesan Niranjan

Prof. Mahesan Niranjan

Prof. Mahesan Niranjan

Fast forwarding to the Eighteenth of May 2016, we observe noisy scenes in the Sri Lankan Parliament. A few members insist that the Prime Minister should intervene and stop separation from happening. They are a noisy minority. The majority, however, agree with Prime Minster Wikramaathiththan’s stubborn stance: “The right to separation has already been subject to maximum devolution. The central government will not interfere.”

Gosh! Who is Prime Minister Wikramaathiththan, and how can he devolve the most sensitive topics in our politics – the right to separation?

The recently formed jumbo cabinet of ministers was a disappointment to several of you. “Have we gone back to the bad old days?” you worried. Distracted by that, you failed to notice an innovation, the appointment of a Minister for National Dialog.

“But we already have dialog no?” an aunt of mine remarked, thinking of the telephone company.

The new Ministry for National Dialog has, as a starting point of achieving their objectives, given new names, with minimal edits to their present ones, to the main characters in the governance of our country. The aim is to remind those in power that reconciliation starts by the thought experiment of putting yourself in the other man’s shoes.

“Let peace begin with me,” is the slogan written on the entrance to the new ministry.

Wikramaathiththan is one such name, the epistemology of which I will explain now, and leave others to your imaginations.

Regular readers of ampulimaamaa will know this character – a king whose job it was to catch a genie living in the banyan tree and bottle it. The genie was smart and each time he caught it, it would tell him a story to distract his attention and escape back the banyan tree. The king, however, was not someone to give up in the face of serial failures. He tried and tried, again and again, and in the most recent attempt had caught the genie. Will he be able to hold onto it, we are not sure yet.

MN

*Photograph of King Wikramaathiththan capturing the ghost scanned from the author’s ampulimaamaa archives

Prime Minister Wikramaathiththan had introduced a bill to set up a form of governance that was to devolve much power and responsibility to regions of various granularities: provinces, districts, municipalities and villages. Each village chief was given a Pajero jeep, petrol allowance and had devolved power to decide what questions should be asked on the five page form to be filled before cutting down a palmyrah tree in your back garden. Obviously, if palmyrah does not grow in you part of the country, there is no need for this five-page form, is there? That is the beauty of devolved governance.

PM Wikramaathiththan made persuasive arguments in support of his devolution bill.

“Consider how we Sri Lankans have been poor at solving problems. We do not address problems of our youth in time. Instead we just let them get worse, let the pressure of frustration build up so our youth take up arms and rebel. That is when we bring out our tried and tested solution, don’t we?

“We kill.

“Consider how we handled problems faced by minorities in our country. We have recognized these problems, have set up so many commissions, held inquiries and have signed several pacts. Despite the diligence with which gentlemen tasked with finding solutions worked, when it came to implementation, we just shelved the reports and ditched the Pacts, didn’t we? We had a tried and tested response when challenged on this performance.

“What problem?”

The PM, given his track record in politics must have felt duty bound to think of a long term solution. After all, during his long career, he had observed, among other things, how his uncle sponsored the riots of 1977 and 1983, how his mates travelled to the North to make sure that the library was burnt, how the Hanuman army forced an Accord on us, how a past president ordered the surrender of some 600 policemen who were then lined up and shot, and, above all, he must have been a bit more than bystander of the brutality with which the rebellion in the 1988-90 period was put down.

Desirous of putting all that in the past, we welcome his devolution plan to achieve ever-lasting peace in our country.

However, the Devolution Bill faced strong objections from the Leader of the Opposition, Rt. Hon. Trigonometry Aarachchige Sampath (a new name given to him by the Ministry for National Dialogue, of course).

Rt. Hon. Sampath said, as leader of the opposition, he had to represent the majority Sinhala people as well. Hence he held the view that any devolution should be opposed — nipped in the bud, so to speak, because it is the first step towards separation.

“Which school did you go to? Did they not teach you authoritative texts of history to know that warriors from Tamil Nadu will swim across the Palk Strait and butcher us? Our culture, unique in the known Universe, will be ruined, this being the only country we have. Would the Prime Minister note they [Tamil Nadu fellows] are already engaged in doing just that, with low quality television soaps with Sinhala sub-titles broadcast on several channels

“Cultural genocide is what I call it!” Hon. Sampath roared like a lion in Parliament.

Contrary to repeated polite requests from the Ministry for National Dialog, Hon Sampath has not given up the “G-word”, as he is much indebted to it for his electoral prospects. If he didn’t say it often enough, Chief Minister Gandalf might gain ownership of it, he feared.

Throughout the debate, one member was chanting a mantra from a corner of the House. It was the Vanni representative, Rt. Hon. Ku Rangupillai. “Police powers, land powers, police powers, land powers” he was heard repeating to himself.

The constitutional lawyer Hon. Samaanthiram MP intervened. He is either a member of the government or probably from the opposition, we are not really sure. Yet that ambiguity is to be celebrated as a particular innovation of our new-found democracy. Hon. Samaanthiram patiently explained, in all three languages, the following: “Policing is not about power; policing should be a service.”

“In Sri Lanka,” Samaanthiram said, “police had the power to beat confessions out of suspects, and based on those confessions, people could be locked up and keys thrown away. In theory, this is still possible because the laws enabling these are still in place.

“But remember, prior to 2009, such power was devolved and practiced in the Vanni, with threats of hands being chopped off for voting at elections, legs getting chopped off for running away without carrying out your patriotic duty of acting as human shields, and bullets in your head if you thought anything different from what the thought police had thought, right? Do you want to go back to those dark days?” Samaanthiram asked.

“And it is unwise to claim power over land in such low-lying areas,” the eminent lawyer continued, “have you not heard of global warning? If we want to protect our culture for centuries to come, we need to find real estate on high ground somewhere. I am sure you have heard about Poompukaar,” he reminded his colleague of the ancient city of Tamil civilization, now lost to the sea. “Mind you, over half of our people live outside the land over which you claim power.”

The apparent logic in his explanations had no effect on Hon. Ku Rangupillai who continued to chant “police powers, land powers, police powers, land powers,” for he knew doing so was important for his future electoral prospects.

From the opposition benches Rt. Hon Patriotwasa was also opposed to the Devolution Bill. Now, Mr Patriotwasa is someone who claims to be a descendent of the lion, but the popular belief in Sri Lanka is he is a descendent of the donkey. A donkey in lions clothing, you might say. No, it is more complicated. He barks. The PM says that this behaviour is similar to that of monkeys. Geneticists reconstructing evolutionary trees are much puzzled by all this. Which of the four did our patriot actually descend from?

Hon. Patriotwasa strongly condemned the bill and in order to demonstrate his patriotism vowed to go on a hunger strike: “I shall starve until you withdraw the bill or my body and soul separate, whichever happens first” he shouted and walked out of the House.

That is the separation – the potential separation of the body and soul of the most patriotic member of our Parliament – is what was mentioned at the beginning of this story.

Are you surprised that Prime Minsiter Wikramaathiththan’s refusal to intervene – of the centre not interfering with local decision making — had strong support in the House?

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    The beauty of devolved government in Sri Lanka is that we have a minor army of ministerial portforlio holders to do everything for them. And the stake holders in the devolved government can park their pajeros and sit under the palmyrah tree and drink ‘panam kallu’.

  • 6
    12

    We do not address problems of our youth in time. Instead we just let them get worse, let the pressure of frustration build up so our youth take up arms and rebel.

    Well, lets just take a walk down memory lane and test whether its true shall we?

    Somewhere early 1970s a guy robs a bank. He gets caught by the police and in the ensuing melee ends up dead. The cop is Tamil. SJV Chelvanagagam refers to this cop as a “Tamil traitor”. At the robbers funeral, Chelvanagagam and cohorts rabble rouses and takes a blood oath to “fight for Tamil justice”.

    An event called Tamil Research Conference takes place in Jaffna afterwards. The cops find a extreme Tamil nationalist from India banned from entering the country giving a speech. The cops tries to take him to custody. Most of the cops are Tamil. In the ensuing Melee 9 people are electrocuted by a collapsing pylon. Again SJV Chelvanagagam his protege rabble rouses with various Tamil Nazi slogans.

    It was a common site then to see Japanese Buddhist monks walking everywhere praying for peace. A Japanese Buddhist monk while preaching peace is killed in Jaffna. SJV Chelvanagagam and cohorts were silent.

    SJV Chelvanagagam had referred to Alfred Dureiappah as a “Collaborating Traitor”. Essentially, any Tamil in the opposition was labeled “a Traitor”. He was shot dead. SJV Chelvanagagam and cohorts were silent.

    Can anyone see any “Youth” involved in any of this? It has always been full blown Tamil adults who incite, rabble rouse Tamil youths into violence.

    • 8
      1

      Vibushana: why think thou “our youth” is Tamil youth? Know you not of problems of Sinhala youth?

    • 6
      2

      Vibhushana the imbecile,

      You have done it again!

      “The cop is Tamil. SJV Chelvanagagam refers to this cop as a “Tamil traitor”. At the robbers funeral, Chelvanagagam and cohorts rabble rouses and takes a blood oath to “fight for Tamil justice”.”

      Can you substantiate the above rubbish that you write on a public forum?

      • 3
        12

        Look here. There are Tamil colonies outside of Tamil Nadu such as in South Africa, Malaysia, etc.

        The Tamils in these colonies had to put up with all kinds of discrimination ranging from Aparthied in South Africa to “Bhoomi Putra” in Malaysia.

        Its a fact Ceylon is in top 10% most generous country in the world. I’d like to think that is why the Tamils managed to do so well in Ceylon. Ironically the place where Tamils achieved most is the place they created violence.

        I did not understand why at first. But its in fact cyclic. The faster Tamils get educated the faster Tamils lose it all. What is says is that Tamils cannot handle education that well.

        That is why Tamils ended up in these foreign colonies in the first place. Tamils were illiterate and abundantly available for cheap labor. Its was because of previous bubbles you became like that. That is why your language is underdeveloped too.

        • 8
          1

          Listen you imbecile,

          As I expected, you have not backed up with any substance of the rubbish you wrote!

          You need to get one thing straight into your head that is that the Sri Lankan Tamils are Sri Lankans; if you object to this and mistreat them, they will become Eelamists; this is their country; got it?

          You pompous and arrogant writings only go to show your bigotry.

          “What is says is that Tamils cannot handle education that well.”

          You pathetic fool; is this why you guys burnt down the Jaffna Library? You could not handle the educational advancement of the Tamils! You really need to grow up and be a good Sinhala with responsibility. Concocting stories to undermine the Tamils will not get you anywhere.

          • 1
            0

            Nobody can be such an imbecile. I believe Vibushana is writing rubbish just raise your blood pressure.Ignore him.

            • 1
              1

              Old codger,

              You may have a point but there so many impressionable young Sinhala fall pray for this type of insidious approach.

        • 6
          1

          Sinhalese colony should have been created by God… (Buddha God?)) Humans living in Lanka wasn’t migrated from nearest India.. God created them??? what a foolish theory.. This Vibu type illiterate guys become so foolish because their mothers were housemaids in Middle… What a sad story… These VibushonaM like fools insult all people living in Lanka…

        • 1
          0

          Vibhushana, your first comment was spot on, but you had to expect it to get a thumbs down from Tamil readers.

          In this response, you have made some unnecessary disparaging remarks.

          Now, Sinhalese and Tamils, let’s all live in peace and harmony. Does that sound pompous? How difficult it is to get the tone just right!

    • 8
      1

      Vibhushana in urgent search, of cheap popularity off Boot Licking,

      Well, lets just take a walk down memory lane and test whether its true shall we?
      your memory is almost dried, and the Cerebrum is being filled by overflowing Piththam (The excessive bile).

      Somewhere early 1970s a guy robs a bank. He gets caught by the police and in the ensuing melee ends up dead. The cop is Tamil. SJV Chelvanagagam refers to this cop as a “Tamil traitor”. At the robbers funeral, Chelvanagagam and cohorts rabble rouses and takes a blood oath to “fight for Tamil justice”. You Come out with the name of that GUY who ROBBED the BANK if you have guts or Piththam is not filling your Memory. I know who, you are referring to, but if you first come out with the name, I may have supported you, because the robber referred by you the same guy I am guessing – the house he had been living had been taken over by me!
      Mind you The GREAT SJV Chelvanagagam never engages in cheap Political tactics, of your description in funerals or any other places,and is well respected by politicians of all respect, but cohorts, who you failed to name, being Tamil seeking easy boot licking, let me know the names I will put you in command for that job!
      All What you said is total rubbish of Piththam Memory!

      • 2
        0

        Vetmahadeva,

        Thanks for clarify the truth.

        Please also distinguish other people’s quotes within quotation marks or Quote and Unquote. This will make it clear for the readers. Certainly you do not want the readers to think that you wrote the rubbish Vibhushana concocted!.

      • 1
        5

        Hello there,

        The book reference is “Prabakran” by T Balakmuaran. It was on sangam.org a while back.

        I am not going to dig for that crap again. But I can assure you what I have mentioned here is what appears there.

        The chap was called Sivakumanan from my recollection. He was inspired to remove the Tamil caste system.

        • 3
          1

          Vibhushana you are a pathological liar. You lie for a sake of it and you do not give a damn! Such cheap existence suits!

          • 6
            1

            Burning Issue

            Please bear with Vibhushana as he has been suffering from a type of mental condition for quite sometimes.

            He hears voices in his head, many different voices all at the same time.

      • 4
        0

        CORRECTION PLEASE,
        Thanks very much Burning Issue, pointing out idea lost

        Vibhushana in urgent search, of cheap popularity off Boot Licking,

        “Well, lets just take a walk down memory lane and test whether its true shall we?”
        your memory is almost dried, and the Cerebrum is being filled by overflowing Piththam (The excessive bile).
        “Somewhere early 1970s a guy robs a bank. He gets caught by the police and in the ensuing melee ends up dead. The cop is Tamil. SJV Chelvanagagam refers to this cop as a “Tamil traitor”. At the robbers funeral, Chelvanagagam and cohorts rabble rouses and takes a blood oath to “fight for Tamil justice””.
        You Come out with the name of that GUY who ROBBED the BANK if you have guts or Piththam is not filling your Memory. I know who, you are referring to, but if you first come out with the name, I may have supported you, because the robber referred by you the same guy I am guessing – the house he had been living had been taken over by me! Mind you The GREAT SJV Chelvanagagam never engages in cheap Political tactics, of your description in funerals or any other places,and is well respected by politicians of all respect, but cohorts, who you failed to name, being Tamil seeking easy boot licking, let me know the names I will put you in command for that job! All What you said is total rubbish of Piththam Memory!

        • 0
          0

          Vibhushana the fabricating, blatant liar!

          There were series of bank robberies during that period you mentioned,
          all were of “swift snapping” of what intended by the robbers!
          Thus there was no any melee ensued, as you liar claim, but flee of all accomplices to complete the fleece!!

          Do not sell your ethnicity to gain cheap fame, you, imbecile pompous!!!

  • 5
    4

    Now that was cute! Hope Sampath is really like that. Fine piece of writing, Prof. Mahesen Niranjan!

    Ps. WW is the best of Lions.

    • 6
      1

      ramona mother therese fernando

      “Ps. WW is the best of Lions.”

      You mean Wimal Weerawansa, you may be right.

      Worst of human kind.

    • 1
      9

      As long as it has not been written to bluff the polity that Sampath cares for the aspirations of the majority.

      Also hope that palmyrah trees won’t get cut down for ethnic megalopolis center, and that village damsels will dance around palmyara trees, decked in gold ornaments that central government sanctioned to the provinces (Tamil cultural heritage preserved), with megalopolis reserved for cosmopolitan area of Western province).

  • 18
    0

    “The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom.”

    The Tamils seek freedom from the Singhalese for a Tamil homeland where all Tamils will never find freedom just as the Singhalese sought a homeland free of White-man’s domination where no Singhalese has found freedom and try to get into the ex-colonizers country or one of it’s outposts by boat, plane or foot.

    It’s a long process till we reach “End of History.” Or we can short-circuit the whole shindig and as a nation see the wisdom of John Rawls’ “Veil of Ignorance.” But I doubt it.

    In the meantime your writings breaks the monotony with humour when we are living in hope, although living in hope is what kills us all in the end.

  • 4
    0

    This professor Niranjan is great, second only to V Kanthaiya (and his donkey) in satirical writing. Why is it that the best humourists on CT are both Tamils?
    This must be a conspiracy by the evil Diaspora.

    • 5
      0

      old codger

      “Why is it that the best humourists on CT are both Tamils?”

      Under Prabharan’s rule people were never allowed to laugh. Their bottled up sense of humour is unleashed. Enjoy while it lasts.

      Now that he’s gone they are letting off steam.

      By the way, Vibushna, Somass Kantha, Mother thresa, sachooo the stupid, Maveeran, Nuisance, KASmaalam, OTC, Ramuuuuu ……….. need to get out and let off some steam.

  • 0
    0

    “The right to separation has been devolved, so separation will not happen”
    Can any one make a sense of the absurdity of that?
    Is that not proof our understanding of the problems that confront us is so deficient that we are unable make proper decisions based on knowledge but rely on belief or faith when we are faced with a set of uncertainties?
    When are we going to learn that an open society cannot be established by war, terror nor deceit, but only by constant reaffirmation to efforts at reconciliation and by acknowledgement of basic realities, instead of trying to find solace in a mirage of uncertainties?

    • 1
      0

      Uthungan,

      Are you sure you are reading ‘separation’ correctly?

      “…the potential separation of the body and soul of the most patriotic member of our Parliament.”

      ‘Separation’ here is about the strategy of ‘marginalizing’ the extremists on both sides.

      • 0
        0

        Agnos
        If marginalising the extremist is the main motive,then you are also saying that constant efforts at reaffirmation of that is needed to ensure it’s validity .
        If that is going to be he so, then no one would have any problem, don’t you think?

  • 0
    0

    The right to separation should be devolved to family level. Lawyers will be without work.

    • 4
      0

      The Professional

      “Lawyers will be without work.”

      I suppose you are worried about Namal. He is unemployed and unemployable. Hence you are worrying unnecessarily.

  • 6
    0

    I read out what the man has written to my neighbour Pattimahathayage Don Arunasiri who has the measure of our political class from his time in the old CAS. He sucked the few teeth he has left, and proclaimed ‘none of the buggers has a straight bone in his body’ ‘to find a man with principles in this lot is like finding a virgin on campus – hard, but there will be a few’ ‘the thing is you can never be sure until you try them out’ and he has tried a few in his time, I can tell you. After those gems, he sipped his strong tea and continued ‘there a too many ministers and each being a profit centre the buggers will follow whichever donkey leads. A new era is upon us, and WE the people who voted with hope in our hearts, now begin to despair when we see the horse-trading that is got up to by those we trusted to give us good governance. It is now clear that we have a fortuitous mix of old scoundrels who opportunistically changed sides, and some new crooks, already rubbing their hands in glee at the golden opportunity to make hay in the ‘yahapalanay’ sun.

    The Toppled One is already plotting a rather unconventional return.

    Wait and see, much fun lies ahead, but some of it may not be pleasant.

    Woe is us! WE the people have yet another dose of misery, before that true Golden Dawn.

    • 1
      0

      Dear Spring Koha,

      You come through as a wonderfully mellow, decent and wise old man. I’m sure that the guy whom you miscalled “Paskaralingam” is reading all this and, mercifully, keeping silent.

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