24 June, 2024

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Voice Of The Voiceless

By Vishwamithra

“There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”  Arundhati Roy

The pathetic state of the rural Sri Lanka may not be visible to the pundits of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but it is real. The decline in living standards of the rural kin cannot be ignored. From three meals a day to two or one meal a day is a reality that the ruling powers would prefer to forget; either they are totally ignorant of such social cruelties or they are deliberately trying to sweep such dust under the proverbial carpet. That segment of our population has not been served by our successive governments. Sri Lanka boasts that it is the ‘Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka’; but at each and every time when they had an option to engage in the uplift of those who have been living in the most trying and miserable conditions, they, the rulers completely disregarded their primary responsibility of protecting and nurturing the most vulnerable sector, they were too engrossed in enriching themselves.

Leader after leader came to power promising to do something better for the poorest of the poor, yet were engaged in the most hideous corrupt practices and an undiluted nepotistic agenda. That is not political malpractice. It is unadulterated political crime. The voiceless eventually capitulated to the more powerful; The powerful had money; they had the wherewithal to resist occasional demonstrations and protests. Trade unions lost their clout; government servants from the ordinary peon to Ministry Secretaries and Government Agents willy nilly empowered the politicians. For them politics did not matter; for they were the permanent government, deep state, so to speak. When the politicians were corrupt, government servants encouraged them; some who had a conscience and a sacred oath to defend, kept quiet.

The whole government structure gradually became plagued with the most dangerous and most lethal of all human follies- greed and endless greed. An ailment that was somewhat contained in the nineteen fifties and sixties began its merciless spread across the whole polity. An economy that was wholly dependent upon the export of tea, rubber and coconut started crumbling like a pack of cards; its ruthless infection ate into every corner of society and what was constrained to the not-so-critical joints began its invasion into the bones, marrow and the flesh. What began as a bartering between one unit of elites and another eventually gave way to a systemic annihilation of a national life. What was limited to the politicians of the central government, top and secondary levels government service cascaded down to the lowest level of village bureaucracy. Officials from Grama Niladhari level to the village watchman were engaged in corrupt-laden regimes.

The British Raj left us rather a polished and sophisticated civil administration; their efficiencies were to be much desired yet its parameters were defined in detail and strictly monitored and evaluated each passing year. Yet the ‘common man’s government showed that that ‘civil service’ was fast becoming anachronistic. With the opening of the economy, the free market principles demanded that in order to fasten development, one has to break away from strictest of regulations and the private sector needs to be encouraged to compete with government departments and agencies. Development fastened, but its cost seemed to have been too high. With the withering away of educated and conscientious leaders in the field of politics and civil administration, the social structures that had been built around honesty, justice, equanimity, patience and human compassion started collapsing one after the other.

This pitiless tumble of central social architecture was hardly noticed by those who commanded political power. No one had a second look at the billowing artifacts of social, economic and cultural structures. When it began its tumble, the flattening of the process was not taken into any observance by any national leader. Those leaders who might have done so had left the land of the living by then. The people at large were totally apathetic to the derangement of their surrounding society and as a consequence of this debilitating social condition, the sociopolitical tapestry was torn apart. The individual pieces were mistaken for the whole and one lost sight of the total. Instead of the forest, the individual trees were taken as a representative whole. In turn, this social malignancy created a sequential continuation of the decaying process. A deeper study of this phenomenon would throw out some extremely corrosive elements of society which eventually paved the way for a newly emerging social paradigm. The consequences were nearly catastrophic.

Isolation of our rural, yet educated and semi-educated classes, became more acute. The cultural gulf between the two major classes, bourgeois and working, started becoming increasingly wider. No political leader recognized this process and the challenges this process hurled at the elements of this transformation were either misunderstood or not at all comprehended by the leaders. The resultant residue of social players misread this process altogether; until the great economic crash that occurred in 2022 April/May, not only our political leaders, the greater majority of our citizenry did not understand its gravity and dangerous side-effects it entailed. The rural-based men and women lost their voice, not because they could not express themselves, but because there was no one left to listen to them. This social condition remained unnoticed and latent like ember beneath ash. It was waiting for an occasion for the light veil of ash to be blown away.

Aragalaya-22 provided that occasion. Men and women from all walks of life gathered at the Galle Face Green; a mere protest by some concerned citizens assumed massive proportions later; ultimately President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ran away from office. The President’s House was raided by the protesters and what started as a determined effort by our determined brethren ended up with the ouster of the incumbent President.

The voiceless were heard; Aragalaya-22 gave the voice its first chords and the rhythm; when its echo reverberated the whole island, a new dimension of the crisis could be measured in length and breadth. That voice did not recognize any caste, creed, religion, race or ethnicity. The people at large immediately realized that there is life outside the cocoon of ethnic and religious silky covering. Judgment was passed on all those who enjoyed the misplaced privilege of power since Independence. They were branded, and rightfully so, as the status quo. Up to then the status quo had been successful in suppressing the voiceless; government servants were muted; journalists had been harassed and silenced; farmers had no time to make their voice heard and the middleclass were too busy waiting in lines for their petrol or diesel. An extremely unpleasant condition was created, not by the silence of the voiceless but by those who controlled them either by keeping the people in lines for this household item or that personal need.

The arrival of the IMF changed the situation; its offer of loans made it less cumbersome for those who had the misfortune of spending their time in queues. The torch of voice passed from the Galle Face Green to the massive rallies organized by the National People’s Power (NPP). A new dimension to our political panel was added. Swelling crowds, neatly organized meetings, well-articulated arguments and an ideas-starving electorate looked to a fresh start with fresh minds and fresher determination.

Aura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) rose up to the challenge with an unmatched voice. His second tier is not second to any one else on the other political platforms. AKD and the NPP have been sustaining a difficult situation with calmness of the experienced and energy and liveliness of youth.

In the meantime, relative to the NPP, Ranil Wickremaeinghe, the Rajapaksas and the SJB appear to be lethargic and less than creative. Oscar Wilde is credited with saying, ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness’. The NPP kept Sajith and the SJB busy with imitating the NPP. To cap it all, when the debating date and time arrived, only AKD appeared and Sajith was found missing in action. Once again the lone voice of the voiceless. Sajith does not possess the intellectual capacity, nor the inner stamina to sustain a mentally-demanding political debate with the likes of Anura Kumara Dissanayake. An ungracious non-participation at the Debate which was scheduled for June 6th proved it in no uncertain terms that the SJB led by Sajith Premadasa is not going anywhere with such action of inaction.

Nevertheless, all forces that are determined to safeguard the status quo would eventually come together; for the loss of the comforts and luxuries of the status quo is too steep a price to pay. In a circumstance of a binary choice before the electorate, the solitary voice of the National People’s Power will, in fact, be the voice of the voiceless. It is a voice that no person could un-hear.

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com   

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Latest comments

  • 13
    1

    English or no English ……. he has a very intelligent way of looking at things/situations ……. no wonder he strikes a chord with many people sans the dyed-in-the-wool Anglos ……… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJKnSkLpuy4

    • 4
      2

      Sri Lanka is 22 million Lankans + 1 Scot ……… it’s they who should decide who should rule them.

      It’s not for one man, rotten to the core monumental humbug like Ranil or his worthless hangers-on like Ranga Bandara to decide who should rule the nation.

      Cut the bloody crap and hold the blooming elections …….. and get it over and done with.

  • 5
    2

    The author is convinced that NPP will be the voice of the voiceless. That voice needs to be convinced and promise that the task here is primarily to stop the robberies going on and hence asking help from anyone who is willing to act in that direction. IMU can only give loans like all other donors. Even those will be robbed in this robbing nation and citizens will continue to go downhill in their ability to bring up the next generation. All that will happen is that they too will have to rob in order to survive. Such a beautiful nation called paradise has gone to such a low level and cannot rise as leaders are only interested in themselves. NPP needs to promise to rid this nation of robbers.

  • 5
    2

    … Sajith does not possess the intellectual capacity,
    Intellect and Sajith in the same sentence!

  • 5
    2

    … The pathetic state of the rural Sri Lanka may not be visible to the pundits of IMF,
    The lifeline of IMF hinges on the vastness of rural Sri Lanka.

  • 10
    2

    “ National People’s Power will, in fact, be the voice of the voiceless”
    When one thinks about the ‘Voiceless’ people in SL first and foremost ONE SHOULD think of the Tamil Speaking Citizens whose rights had been trampled since Independence.
    As a child I could remember the Sinhala Thugs walking down my road looking for the Tamils to kill and destroy their properties. Singhalese had been hellbent to bring down TSCs economy and their way of life.
    They made lots of Upcountry TSC stateless. They were the hard working people who brought foreign exchange to the National Coffers.
    SL is a country where whistleblowers are treated so badly. Some being demoted or transferred or sent to prison. Why did the Field Marshal SF go to prison?
    There are so many different kinds of voiceless people in SL
    Authors of the majority race is blind to the above FACT.
    Ignoring this isn’t helpful for the country to progress.

  • 8
    3

    It is true that the AKD/NPP raised the voice of the voiceless Sinhalese people and I hope the rural Sinhalese people who were ignored time over time should honour their votes in this election. But, one of the concern that happened in the past racism and fundamentalism along with a few benefits ( a bag of rice or bottle of arrack) to them near the election time may rob all the efforts made by the NPP.
    IMF won’t be bothered even if the Money given by them is used for such donations similar to the arms they sold to kill innocent civilians.

  • 10
    11

    Vishwamitra makes a false attribution of the dawn of our malaise to neoliberalism. It began with the communalism of APE ANDUWA that initiated Sinhala Only. It led to the decay of the political and administrative structure of the country. Remember Themis, the MP who symbolised the APE ANDUWA and the calamitous administrative and diplomatic appointments made initiating the slide that has resulted in the present calamity. The Sinhalas brought this upon themselves. They created false hopes of university education for the people, started the university at the race course, dubbed the ashwa vidyalaya, gave degrees in Pali, Sanskrit and Buddhist Civilisation to the village young while the idiot children of the leaders went overseas. The JVP is in the same communalist mode. Its leaders are largely the product of the same system, with convoluted mindsets born of bitterness. They are not willing to deal with the huge mammoth in the room, the ethnic problem.

    • 7
      12

      Cicero
      “The Sinhalas brought this upon themselves. They created false hopes of university education for the people”
      Totally true.

  • 2
    3

    Dear Vishwamithra,
    .
    You’re an amazing guy
    – although I’m saying this without knowing who you are! That is, not really knowing who you are. I’m saying this partly for the guidance of other readers.
    .
    Vishwamithra gives an email address at the end of each article. Occasionally, I send him an email, just to say that I like his article, but I don’t see many following my lead, because most are “trying like mad” to protect their identity, and I don’t think that every reader ought to write “Thank you” letters.
    .
    No, more often, I write when there I some little error that I have spotted, which ought not to concern any other reader. He then responds, but only as “Vishwmithra1984“. Has he there indicated the year of his birth? Possible. I don’t think of him as a doddering old man like me.
    .
    We must all thank him for his consistency, and his adherence to principles. This article appears to have been written after hearing Aruna’s Tangalle speech yesterday.

    • 2
      2

      Good heavens!
      .
      A reference to Sri Lanka in this video
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i06IJz3zSQI
      .
      by an Englisman, in England, who has never been to Lanka, is which has come out “34 minutes ago”, and the time now is 14.02.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe

  • 1
    2

    Dear Vishwamithra,
    .
    You’re an amazing guy
    – although I’m saying this without knowing who you are! That is, not really knowing who you are. I’m saying this partly for the guidance of other readers.
    .
    Vishwamithra gives an email address at the end of each article. Occasionally, I send him an email, just to say that I like his article, but I don’t see many following my lead, because most are “trying like mad” to protect their identity, and I don’t think that every reader ought to write “Thank you” letters.
    .
    No, more often, I write when there is some little error that I have spotted, which ought not to concern any other reader. He then responds, but only as “Vishwmithra1984“. Has he there indicated the year of his birth? Possible. I don’t think of him as a doddering old man like me.
    .
    We must all thank him for his consistency, and his adherence to principles. This article appears to have been written after hearing Aruna’s Tangalle speech yesterday.

    • 1
      2

      Dear Readers,
      .

      Please first go to the very last comment on Vishwamitha’s previous article, which is still accepting comments, and see the comment that is physically the last.
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/risk-and-fear/

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      .
      I have made comments later in time on that “risk and fear” article, but those have been placed way above the comment that appears at the bottom of the page.
      .
      Every one of us has the capacity, as human beings, to use the electronic media for honest good purposes!

      .
      This is a genuine request to all CT readers.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe

  • 3
    3

    On the NPP platform at Hambantota , young female actor Manoja Fernando
    blast off all ‘ oldies ‘ in politics for destroying their ‘ youth dreams ‘ and
    calls for their removal from politics and on the other hand joining of former
    CID director Shani and a former SDIG Ravi Seneviratne are being pompously
    greeted into its fold . Good and Bad Oldies ? Ugly ones are on their way ?

  • 4
    0

    Nowadays we find the “Voiceless” are the most LOVED and hold HIGH on the battlefield that the “MESSIAHS” trample each other and run to catch them – the VOICELESS.

    That “Voiceless” in the rush to collect “GOLD” who have been blindfolded to accept whatever is doled out have forgotten that it is with their sweat and blood that such handouts are, in fact, spent for. If not, are they – the “Voiceless” do not know the country’s debt load rose to US $ 100 billion from US $ 88 B. Where did that US $ 12 billion go? That Us $ 12 billion had been added to the debt load for the last 24 months. What have we EARNED from that US $ 12 billion? Perhaps, the Political Authority that runs the governing functions must be living happily with the thinking that they have “Earned” the voiceless.

    Not so this time. In today’s context the “Voiceless” have become AWARE thanks to information filtered to them by the organizational setup put out by them with the lead of NPP. For certain, this time the “Voiceless” will teach a lifelong lesson to those “ELITE” who plundered the country and its wealth.

  • 2
    0

    Vishwamitra
    ”….Trade unions lost their clout; government servants from the ordinary peon to Ministry Secretaries and Government Agents willy nilly empowered the politicians…, when the politicians were corrupt, government servants encouraged them….’
    I don’t agree with you on that statement. For starters, in my opinion, Trade Unions have always been political & usually destructive, in terms of overall benefit for the country, while the Union leaders benefitted from the Govt. in power with their clout. This applies to white collar unions like the GMOA to blue collar ‘labour’ unions in Govt service. There is a culture of sucking up to political masters for progression & even survival in the govt. service & when it came to corruption, its the politicians who lead the way.
    AKD is relatively new to politics, therefore, his hands are clean & can demonstrate by his own conduct because it is when the top is rotten, that the rest starts to rot away quickly. It would be a herculean task but once the current lethargic & indifferent govt. workforce retires, hopefully, the generation that takes over will be more honest & civic minded.
    Cont.

    • 1
      0

      Cont.
      I have always stated my respect for AKD. RW, with his laissez faire attitude & arrogance, particularly, his allegiance to corrupt cronies, does not inspire confidence but Premadasa jnr chickening out certainly confirms his incompetence. No doubt, he will have his excuses but if my memory serves, he has not graduated from LSE either as he has been ill at the time of his exams. Maybe he was too busy starting his career as a politician that he didn’t bother to sit for the exams when the opportunity was given for those who failed to re-sit. Now it is confirmed that SP backs out when the going gets tough & the SJB rank & file should question his leadership of the party. Last time round, SP said he will step down when he lost the Presidential election but if he fails this time round, his political career is over & he should step down gracefully.

      Apart from the Presidential elections, the citizens of SL have to decide on a new govt. at the next general elections. It is the people who made the mistake of voting for incompetent & useless politicians knowingly, therefore, I hope this time, citizens will be more selective with their choice & vote intelligently.

      • 4
        0

        Raj-UK: ” I have always stated my respect for AKD”.

        That has prompted me to tell what I feel about AKD. I trust him to walk the talk compared to the other politicians who have let us down for the last few decades. I trust his leadership and ability to lead his team to achieve our goals.

        If he performs with his team to take us out of this mess at least by 60%, I RESPECT him and his team. Till that walk the talk is achieved, I TRUST him.

        • 2
          0

          Douglas

          I respect AKD because his behaviour in public is not loutish as the average SL
          politician. However, sincerity alone is not enough to deliver & I don’t trust, particularly, politicians. In my professional life, I am involved in planing & strategy, & no board will accept a proposal without a feasibility report & action plan. Likewise, ‘draining the swamp’ is a mammoth effort considering the corruption that surrounds us, so AKD may not even know where to start. Nevertheless, I would prefer to live in hope

      • 1
        0

        Raj-UK,
        .
        Haven’t all political parties in the UK made an almighty mess of things, with the political situation in most of Europe been no better.
        .
        Panini

        • 1
          0

          SM

          Certainly, but compared to the yobs we have & had in the past in SL, they are way behind when it comes to corruption & incompetence.

          Just like the sinhala nationalists, the average man (& woman) on the street voted for Brexit, just to keep the ‘bloody foreigners’ away & Boris was elected, just like GR, on false assumptions, & his successor, Liz Truss emulated GR. Fortunately, the Bank of England intervened & prevented the economy collapsing totally. The difference is that, in UK, incompetence is not tolerated & Truss only lasted 44 days as PM. Currently, Sunack, who has got the economy back on track, is the better PM in my opinion but for most, including upper class Tories, Sunak is not the poster boy for Tories, instead, is the fall guy for past Tory blunders. The latest threat is extreme right wing Farage of the ‘Reform’ party throwing in his hat & most Tories, at least secretly, would welcome them to the Tory party. Labour’s Starmer is very much Blair but his predecessor, Corbyn, was a leader who stuck to his left wing principals, which were too radical for the rest of the party, so he was ousted.

          At the end of the day, the average UK voter is not much different from the SL voter but the politicians are held accountable & their career is over if they fail to deliver.

          • 0
            3

            The whole of Europe is racist, a colonial carryover.
            UK cannot still reconcile to the loss of the expire even after being turned into a vassal of the US.
            Do not blame the far right, it is there because the blue flag Tries and the red flag Tories have failed to deliver.
            *
            Corbyn was not too radical for the rest of the party but for the Labour Right and its key payer the Zionist lobby which campaigned hard to oust him accusing him of Antisemitism.

            • 1
              0

              Hello SJ,
              My generation was less racist than my father’s generation. It still exists but there are many restrictions (Legal and Social) on any public expression of Racism or its use in the selection of Employment Applicants.
              The Labour Party is a travesty of its former self. The whole point of singing the Red Flag was to show International Solidarity with Workers around the World. Blair banned it for a short while. But now we have Keir Starmer leading the Congregation in the singing of the National Anthem (a first for the Labour Party). As teenagers we walked out of Cinemas as soon as the National Anthem was played at the end. They soon got the message and stopped playing it. None of us were Royalists especially the Scots, despite Balmoral.
              “The former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had criticised the decision to sing the national anthem at party conference, arguing there was no precedent for doing so”. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/sep/25/labour-conference-delegates-sing-national-anthem-for-first-time-keir-starmer
              Best regards

              • 0
                0

                “My generation was less racist than my father’s generation.”

                LS,

                You would’ve had to come a long way!

                I’ve a friend from the deep South – I shared a house with him and some other students in my collage days – whose stepfather sits on a rocking chair in the veranda and rocks himself all day long …… going …….. a nigger in a nigger, a nigger in a nigger, a nigger in a nigger …..

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