By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Sri Lankans are not an unfortunate people. We know that they are never vanquished by famine and drought. The Tsunami came, but that was a rare regional geological oceanic shift. A bit of flood comes now and then. The land is defined by scenic beauty; it is fertile for any tropical cultivation. People are quick at learning, imitating and creating. They are intelligent and free in spirit. The light of the Dhamma came early in the island’s history and spread throughout the villages and towns for many centuries. Through humanity’s historical evolutionary process a diversity grew in a tolerant atmosphere-a diversity in ethnicity and religion that was just thrown into a lovely curry pot. The island quickly got over political ups and downs and found solutions to political crises. The latest solution is now bigger than life before us: Ayubowan, Maithripala Sirisena!
I was most impressed listening and watching to the video going round of the speech that Maithri delivered at the UNP Headquarters before a UNP audience of stalwarts and rank and file. This is a genuine leader born of Lankan soil, I thought. Maithri instantly grasped his audience’ aspirations and apprehensions-which is the most important thing for a public speaker. He knew there were many doubts and suspicions and misunderstandings among the men and women of the Grand Old Party that have been long in the political drought. He effectively and dramatically pressed the button on the real crisis issue that all Lankans regardless of party affiliation do face today: In a third term, Mahinda Rajapaksa will leave no party left in the country-only a solitary dictatorship! The island is slipping fast toward the dictatorial paradigm, he warned.
Maithri beautifully reminded his audience of the great Gandhi who gave himself up for a noble cause. He reminded the audience about Nelson Mandela who languished in prison for 27 years; how he achieved his power- goal, completed his mission for South Africa, never asked for another term and handed over to another leader elected under democratic rule. The audience gave Maithri a rapturous endorsement when he said: “I am no Gandhi. I am no Nelson Mandela. But I regard the spirituality and philosophy of these personages in the highest esteem.” Maithri gave just 100 days to demolish the Executive Presidential system and restore parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka under which every party can live and compete peacefully for the popular vote.
I thought, for an ordinary farmer’s son who grew in a colonization scheme built by DS Senanayake (Maithri mentioned this) this was most amazing. I have listened to Oxford-educated politicians of Sri Lanka but the latter were no par with the understanding that Maithri exhibited. He showed considerable restraint, used the right metaphors and demonstrated a clarity of thinking that converted me into a fan. To a cognitively receptive and intelligent person political experience is adequate to impart a sophisticated level of self-education, I thought. Here is a leader with his feet firmly on the ground who does rise far above ground.
Sri Lankans must join hands to shed this path toward a dictatorial system that most unfortunately its current President has set out to inflict on the people. Sri Lankans, unlike citizens inhabiting the arenas of dictatorial establishments in countries like Africa, are an intelligent, literate, educated, freedom-loving people. Democracy has been comfortably rooted in this beautiful island. Many a time have Sri Lankans exercised their franchise to change governments. This very possibility of change acted as a check and balance on a ruling elite. It was an open society that the island possessed. Diversities had been respected and popular consent constantly sought. Information was open. Why on earth has Mahinda Rajapakse sought to lock the island in a dictatorial system? Mahinda does have a problem with his close associates and sycophants who have contributed toward a delusional personality disorder that he now suffers from. The end would be that the people will forget even the good he had done.