27 April, 2018

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What Is This Fuss Over Crowds? 

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

Can any rational bystander make any sense about these cries of “Hurrah! We are winning!” while pointing out to relative crowd strengths at political meetings? We have seen this phenomenon occurring with regularity in Sri Lanka for a long time. We never learn lessons. Supporters of rival sides go into euphoria. That is the purpose in political parties gathering crowds. It is to create a false perception about winning. On the other hand, we have known many a time in the past that crowds at meetings do not necessarily translate into votes. Crowds gather for different reasons and your guess is as fair as mine. This is not to speak of the fact that crowds are by nature fickle.

During the last Presidential election huge crowds were drawn to Mahinda’s meetings and the television media relayed that ad nauseam. The result said something else. Writing to the Ugandan ‘New Vision,’ in November 2015, David Mukkholi said this: In the just concluded elections in Tanzania, the opposition presidential candidate Edward Lowassa pulled crowds at some rallies that were larger than those of the ruling party’s John Pombe Magufuli. But in the end Magufuli won.”

Just imagine well-known writer, Sarath de Alwis, writing to the Colombo Telegraph pointing to the conclusion that, “Mahinda is returning,” after looking at the Galle Face attendance last May Day. His fellow-mate Dr Dayan Jayatilleka rushes to Sarath’s side by lauding him for a “lucid analysis.” For heavens’ sake don’t lean on my assessment; but you yourself judge and let me know if there is anything but the opposite of being lucid in such reasoning. It is a totally illogical.

Actually, to be fair I do not have an accurate assessment of the relative attendances. But for the sake of argument, let us say that Mahinda’s rally was more impressive than the other three rallies. Sarath de Alwis’s reasoning isn’t lucid even then.That is not merely due to the obvious truth that one cannot jump from the premise of crowd attendance in one spot on one day to the inference that Mahinda has already won even the momentary concurrence of over 12 million voters spread out all over the length and breadth of Sri Lanka. It is also because the voting time is still over two years away.

Furthermore, Sarath Alwis has not even bothered to recognise the simple maths that the totality of the crowds of the other three meetings would have exceeded Mahinda’s rally. The UNP rally, from all accounts had been huge. JVP’s was impressive,too and the SLFP rally at Getambe was not far away despite the heavy rain. All those are all presumably anti-Mahinda voices. Then, what about the votes of our Tamil and Muslim brethren? The net result is obviously negative for Mahinda. Logically Mahinda has no chance on this line of reasoning.

It is clear. This is all fanciful wishful thinking by the two prominent writers. DJ has been in the fancy La La Land for a while now and there isn’t any sign of his waking. He experienced delusion years ago at the famous Nugegoda meeting when the ‘Mahinda Sulanga started.’ He, or another like him, coined the term “Nugegoda Man.” DJ was thrilled he got a place on the podium and he could not outlive that excitement. He wrote that the meeting signified Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rising. But, like any politician, DJ wouldn’t care repeating fiascos. The basic assumption of politicians in Sri Lanka is that masses can be fooled; that they have no memory. DJ is by now a scholar muted into a politician. He is on record (I have the video), during a Mahinda Sulanga meeting, rhetorically asking the audience: “Do you like a son of yours becoming like a Mahinda Rajapaksa or a Ranil Wickremesinghe?” Would you call a person like that a scholar or political analyst?

I can see one good thing in having public meetings like the May Day. It is an occasion when politicians distribute their black money among poverty-stricken people. It is a great moment of income distribution. Masses jump to the side that give them most cash in return.

Another good thing happened this time on May Day. It was that the CTB made 69 million rupees just on one day -hiring its buses for rallies. This is a sign of yahapalanaya because previously Mahinda and his men ordered the buses but never paid for them; the state had to bear the cost. This time all parties including those of the government paid for the hire. Even enemies of the YP government should congratulate President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe for this record.

Responsible writers and the intelligentsia in our country should get away from this kind of squad cheering and think larger about the country. What we now see is that writers like DJ and Sarath de Alwis and so many others of their ilk regard themselves as spectators in a big game of cricket. Each of them pitch on to sides of their choice and keep cheering. Considering the plight that Sri Lanka faces this is not a responsible move on the part of the of intelligentsia.

Our country is in poor economic shape. It is in the grasp of a severe debt trap. We have to extricate ourselves from this pathetic situation. Since the year 1977, we have not had a single year of trade surplus. It has been a case of recurring deficit trade balances. We have been living far above our means. We managed our Balance of Payments largely because of foreign remittances and that simply means that our economy has been sustained by the slavery of our housemaids. We have boastfully shown “growth,” but that growth is built on debt. We fool the people and the media by concealing that fact. The urgent need, thus, is to restructure our economy from an import dependent one to an export-led one. This means we must create an environment for foreign and domestic investment.

If we do not do this and instead create instability in the country for political gain all Sri Lankans are doomed to a tragic plight. Some of the intelligentsia who act as spectators and cheer squads will find a way out for their families and themselves. They will join the shouting Diaspora.The powerless will stay behind and reap the havoc of populist policies. Sri Lanka has had enough of populism. May Day antics are a public manifestation of populism. It is interesting to note how Sarath de Alwis is impressed by Mahinda being a ‘master of emotional politics,’ and how he deprecates Ranil Wickremesinghe for his appeal to rationalism. I like to tell Sarath that what Sri Lanka needs is precisely an appeal to reason.

*The writer can be contacted at sjturaus@optusnet.com.au

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Latest comments

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    Rusirpalka who shops for the the corrupt former regime should be happy about this news piece today
    “The case against former Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa for allegedly misappropriating Rs.2,991 million and another Rs.36.5 million of funds belonging to the Divi Neguma Department .”
    This is the bugger who organized the Galle Face May Day for Rajapakse

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      Mr. Shyman Jayasinghe,

      quoting your above “Would you call a person like that a scholar or political analyst?”.

      This has been the question constantly bothering me over the years.

      DJ has been calling himself a ” political analyst, senior diplomat, a well educated guy, coming from a scholarly family etc” but I am afraid, I have not read anywhere in international press him to be given the place as DJ is held being within the lost island.
      For his long term begging or any other hidden and enother devious agendas, Vantage point and sithijaya of Sirasa seem to be giving him a place repeatedly calling DJ as the most senior person to know almost everything about lanken EA, even if this creature only did a backlicking function to previous regime.

      This man has been a pain to the educated communities in the country today, for simple reason, he promotes the mediocratic men allowing them to loot and destroy it again.
      While respectable men are being attacked by him again and again, now in the past two weeks, how many articles the bugger has brought in a consecutive manner, but none of them contained any valuble substance but attacking, CBK, RW and current regime. We should attack current regime, if they are worst to the previous one.
      Today we have democratic values and entire world is repsecting us.
      Not to have anything else, but that is the top of the pledges they made sending thuggish leaders home.

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    Basil has misappropriated not 3 million, not 30 million, not 300 million but 3000 million! What a bloody set of rogues these two gentlemen are covering up for?

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    Shyamon, whether you want to be honest to you or not numbers do have an impact.I watched live telecast of the rallies in Galle Face, Gatambe, Cambell Park and BRC and it’s clear where the largest gathering was. It is quite significant when the largest gathering occur at an opposition rally. I have also perused many comments from govt and opposition figures and was quite fascinated by what they have said and not said. One thing was clear…….They all seem to have heard the signal loud and clear. If you want to help Ranil, it is no point trying to trivialise Galle Face rally. Readers are not fools. Instead it would be better if you add your voice in reasoning with Ranil for the urgent need of course correction, even though Ranil may not be capable of such an action. Otherwise Ranil would be history very soon. It will not be like the previous 28 times he lost. Thuggery using the Field Marshal or reducing MR’s security, or imprisoning politicians in a selective manner will not help him either. A forced physical absence of MR would be a much bigger draw card for JO and SLPP if Ranil, Sirisena , Rajitha, Champaka etc are thinking of it. There may have been a window soon after elections to nullify brand MR. However that window has closed. You can’t nullify it but can compete with it. Now it is a battle about peoples’ stomach, heart and mind. Ranil’s current political trajectory doesn’t seem to be aligned with winning any of it. That inability inversely relates to enhancing brand MR by default.

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