28 November, 2020

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The Worst “Thotalanga” Is In Kotte!

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Not too long ago, when in the name of development, the economic prosperity of Colombo and city beautification, slums and shanties as well as other areas described as ‘urban blight’ were bulldozed, there were howls of protest. The howlers mostly wrote in English.

They deconstructed ‘development’. They talked of high-handedness. They spoke of illegality, the violation of human rights and decried the uncivilized, arrogant and violent nation of both the act and the thinking behind the act. There were photo-essays and video productions recording testimonies of the victims and covering histories of the relevant places. The lives, livelihoods and neighbourhoods were captured in word and image in what was a conscious and righteous but ultimately futile exercise to show that these were “far removed from the popular imagination of slums and shanties”.

Moving.

Moving on, we come to ‘Thotalanga’. It’s not the Slave Island of “rich history” made of “colourful lives,” right? But wait, aren’t all places historical and aren’t all people colourful? Or is it about who is being evicted, why the eviction and who is doing the eviction? Is it like, for example, the difference between the reactions to the JVP and the LTTE, and the different treatment of the various regimes that took them on (or pacified, as in the case of the LTTE)? Is it about the right (or wrong) kind of victims (“they deserved it!”) and the wrong (right) kind of victors or doers of the dirty (“they had to!”)? Is it about “it’s ok if our guys do it but dead wrong if their guys do it”?

We see the same kinds of justifying narratives in this eviction business, but we see a deafening silence from the aforementioned howlers in this instance. Perhaps it is because it appears (for now) to be a one-off affair. Perhaps it is because the illegality is better defended in this instance. But we can safely conclude that for all the egalitarian ethos spewed about ‘people’, people are different. Victors and victims are applauded or decried, defended or attacked, based on political affiliations and preferred outcomes.

We can dismiss the circus cynically thus: “are the Thotalanga squatters lesser citizens than those who are happily squatting in and around Wilpattu? Are their lives and the places they peopled less removed from the popular perceptions of slums and shanties, never mind the relevant legalities or otherwise, than those in Slave Island?”

It is still early days in the Megapolis Drama, so let us see how the story unfolds and who, how and why it gets recorded (or ignored as the case may be). Let us instead talk of a different kind of squatting, that of the Parliamentary kind.

No, we are not going to go into the National List and the refuge this has been for the politically displaced. It is about the whole lot, the entire Parliament and in particular the Cabinet. And it’s about squatting. Courtesy the 19th Amendment.

The 19th Amendment allows for a maximum of 30 Cabinet Ministers. Forty more comprising of Deputy Ministers and State Ministers can be appointed. If a single party/coalition obtains the minimum 113 seats for a majority, at least 42 will be just ordinary members (assuming that the 43rd would be the Speaker). This means that these 42 (or 43, say in situations like 2004 when W.J.M. Lokubandara, from the Opposition, was elected Speaker) would be ordinary MPs. They would be unhappy and discontent being a political bomb that can wreck Parliamentary Arithmetic, the architects of the 19th Amendment obviously had to find a way to diffuse it. This is perhaps why they inserted the caveat of a ‘national government’.

Article 46(4) of the 19th Amendment 46(4) allows Parliament to approve a number beyond the ’30’ legislated under 46(1)a and 46(1)b. This is an instrument that can make both winners and losers happy or relatively less upset, given that no party has secured 113 or more seats. The winners and losers can now come together, call it a ‘national government’ and discontent immediately erased through the offer of portfolios. That’s what happened in August 2015.

There is a problem in the wording which we are compelled to conclude was deliberate. The problem is the lack of clarity.

This is how Article 46 (5) defines ‘National Government’: “A Government formed by the recognized political party or the independent group which obtains the highest number of seats in Parliament together with the other recognized political parties or the independent groups”. Had the wording been ‘any other,’ it would have allowed for a then a cabinet larger than 30 legitimate. The (deliberate) ‘out’ is the fact that it does not say ‘all other’ (parties), which of course would have made the current cabinet illegitimate. The wording is vague and shows carelessness and incompetence. At best. At worst, it is antithetical to all the rhetoric spewed out by the winners of the 2015 January Presidential Election and the 2015 August General Election.

What this means is that the architects of the 19th Amendment deliberately made room (courtesy interpretive looseness) for the subversion of the limiting clause pertaining to how large the cabinet could be. As things stand, there are more than 30 members in the cabinet and this means that the overall number minus 30 is the number of “portforlioed” squatters we are saddled with. As things stand, we have a half-way legal (at best) set of ministers and deputy ministers.

The question is, who is going to evict them? The question is, if anyone does seek eviction, who will object and why?

Now this is something that those who object to eviction on principles drawn from human rights narratives and those who approve eviction on the basis of development prerogatives can think about. Those other evictions follow the obtaining of approval by a cabinet that is partly made of squatters! Is this funny or is this tragic? Perhaps the lovely people who loved Slave Island so much, were blind to Thotalanga and Wilpattu, can say some lovely things about this state of affairs?

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Latest comments

  • 14
    2

    [Edited out]
    Where were your “howls of protest” when Percy Jilmart manufactured a 2/3rds majority and brought in the 18th amendment doing away with presidential term limits? :O

    • 3
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      Now MS Malinda[Edited out]

      • 4
        2

        Malinda

        You have lost all credibility as a journalist.

        You went behind MR as if you were blind folded and said yes to everything.

        Time to look for another job.

        Jagath

  • 6
    5

    When will they ever learn?! Thanks MS for sending this to CT which seems to have no one covering the Thotalanga story which is most important!

    DEVELOPMENT DISASTERS is what Sri Lanka is generating in the name of post war economic development – Social, environmental and financial disasters are being created in the name of MEGA Polis mega economic development! The China port city will be for Russian and Chinese Oligarchs while COlombo’s poor are displaced to make way.

    This MEGA DEVELOPMENT DISASTER PROJECT MODEL was the Mahinda Jarapssa corrupt and disaster model of development. It is still the same model now under Ranil-Pathala Champika Mega EGO development man!

    Ranil should NOT make a humanitarian disaster in the name of development with either China or Indian projects and agreements.

    India is pushing hard on the other side- Palaly Airport and Sampur Coal Project in northeast despite OBJECTIONS of impoverished local communities who are internally displaced war refugees and Sri Lanka citizens, who should have their lands back. Sri Lanka is rushing into MEGA development projects in a time when Mega development projects that increase INEQUALITY and POVERTY of local people are highly SUSPECT and ILLEGITIMATE.

    • 5
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      Quite right Dinuk!
      Pathala Champika, Mega city Mega Ego man, is the wanna be Sinhhala Buddhist Emperor of modern Lanka and that’s why he is into the high profile MEGA city development project which will be a disaster. This port city is a lot of hot air with NO substance. The public transport crisis in Colombo is not addressed in any way.

      The Chinese funded Colombo Port city is Pathala’s vanity project, just like Chinese funded Hambantota airport and port was Mahinda Jarapassa’s vanity project.

      Sri Lanka is rushing madly into MEGA development projects in a time when Mega development projects that increase INEQUALITY and POVERTY of local people and communities are highly SUSPECT and ILLEGITIMATE in the world. Hambantota is a Chinese development disaster that the people of Lanka have to pay for and so too will be the Colombo Port project for Chinese oligarchs that will cause huge environmental pollution for Colombo residents.

      Lanka should refuse the Trojan Horse gifts/ loan that both India and China offer where they will cause ruin of local people and environment and steer a NON-ALIGNED DEVELOPMENT POLICY – and also keep IMF at arms length too!

    • 2
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      True, true SM! Sri Lanka is rushing into MEGA development projects in a time when globally, Mega development projects that increase INEQUALITY and POVERTY of local people are highly SUSPECT and ILLEGITIMATE.

      Rather than Port city, the first development challenge and PRIORITY for Colombo is to find a SOLUTION to the Public Transport Crisis, instead of talking non-sense about MEGA cities and port cities!

      Very Soon the Colombo commuters will REVOLT and PROTEST against Champika Ranawaka and his hot air mega city, because unlike him they we have to travel like cattle due to lack of a DECENT RAPID TRANSPORT SYSTEM that is clean and air conditioned.
      Colombo is polluted and traffic at a stand still causing more pollution but Pathala has no solution to this. He want to build another city with 9 million people! What a bloody JOKER!

  • 8
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    You are absolutely right to expose the hypocrisy of this government.

    The unfortunate part of your righteous indignation is that you condoned all the excesses of the Rajapakses during their reign, so the double standards you adopt are as worthless as a twenty dollar bill!

    Now please give us a break from your hypocrisy!

  • 1
    3

    MS,
    You are totally correct. Today the best job is to become an MP – and any “variety” of “minister”.

    This is why, those who have money crave these jobs.
    They even get a pension after five years only, unlike public servants who have to perform with “efficiency, diligence and fidelity” to earn their annual increments of salary, for 40 years, for a full pension.

    This government ignores the loosing ‘state enterprises’ and supports unnecessary ‘mega’ enterprises.
    The entire national income is used to service ‘international debts, from ‘Economic Hitmen’ like World Bank and IMF.

  • 9
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    Another ranting racially slanted article by this MR ass licker. No one or nothing has TRESPASSED Wilpattu, nor the houses in Slave Island SLUMS donkey. Where were you when these DEED owning Slave Island houses were bulldozed by the UDA under Army GUNS with Gota overseeing the destruction ? Or was the silence due to the fact that the MAJORITY of the houses belonged to MUSLIMS ? Such a shame for this noble profession to have PAID RACIST MERCENARIES like Milinda touting his trade.

  • 9
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    Where was this [Edited out] joker Malinda when Rajapakse kicked out the shanty dwellers in Colombo? At that time Gotha did not even give homes for those shanty dwellers. At least the Yahapalana Govt has built homes before the shanties were destroyed. Malinda have some dignity, be fair in your writing. Don’t be a Rajapakse sucker!

    • 1
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      Those who had obtained houses through housing schemes have to be vacated before the houses are demolished. Houses must be marked by a competent authority to be demolished. The people who received must have been reviewed for proper allocation. There should not be any similar game of Indian houses occupied by Rishard’s gang. Only after filing a court action against the people who forcefully occupying the illegal land, with the court appointed supervision, people’s houses should be demolished. This how the Old King regime bulldozed the people bodies in Mullivaikkal before they brought UNSG Ban-ki-Moon. I do not see a difference between the Old Royals and the New Royals other than as pointed Marilinda, now the howlers are missing. No body have courage to come forward and talk for the those who really lost their homes. Is there an NGO is certifying that all residents had been allocated houses in the housing schemes?. Is there a public report on that?

      There are news pieces says that some owners had proper legal ownership deeds documents. Why the Muslim leaders present these documents at the courts and get damages for the dwellers? There are big, worms scawling, puss dripping wounds on the muslim leaders’ heads. So they cover their beggar wounds, the heads, and go to Middle East to beg. They do not have time to attend the Lankawe problems. Or I am not sure if their illegal girl friends’ deaths descended into the Yahapalanaya governments too and still haunting them. So that, just like they destroyed the Aluthgama evidences, they can hide only the evidences of ownership of the Thotalanga dwellers too.

      New Royals’ Thotalanga is only an extension of Old Royals’ Slave Island. Malinda is 100% correct on comparing both. Just because of he had not commented that time, he cannot be stopped this time. He has a laptop paid by people; he can put it for the peoples’ use anytime. Same way 19A is only an extension to 18A.18A was there to ensure the 10 years president, the Old King to continue on the power. 19A was written to extend Ranil’s premiership of 100 days (actually 200days) government. One used its techniques to extent SLFP government and other extended UNP government. They both are illegal amendments. Again Malinda, though he is a pantham of Old King, he is 1005 correct on the 19A too.

      • 4
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        Autonomous lunatic Mallaiyuran strikes back!

  • 2
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    The 19th Amendment allows for a maximum of 30 Cabinet Ministers. Forty more comprising of Deputy Ministers and State Ministers can be appointed

    So, 19th amendment is another fraud.

    They talked to the public about the 30. but, they did not mention anything about the 42 to the public.

    I think the Whole political set up in in Sri lanka is a Fraud. Same fradulent practice Mahinda Rajapakse govt still continues.

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