7 December, 2019

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When Political Power Marries Market Power

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Where in history do we find such a fusion of political power and person affairs? In the Roman Empire where the emperor….could make his horse a senator and force all those courtiers who didn’t appreciate his poetry to slit their wrists….” – Umberto Eco (Turning back the Clock)

Almost one and a half centuries after Marx published his Capital, another Capital is taking the world by storm. Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital in the Twenty First Century’ uses a trove of data to demonstrate the truth of an old belief – left to its own devices, capitalism causes wealth to concentrate in a handful of hands and inequality to soar.

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The rapid rise of Dhammika Perera is symbolic and symbiotic of this process of turning the private sector economy into another Rajapaksa dependency – like the military, the judiciary, the bureaucracy and the Sinhala-Buddhist establishment. – Photo courtesy – www. businesstoday.lk

Prof. Piketty is no advocate of systemic change. He argues that it is possible to halt and even reverse the First World’s retrogression into a new gilded age: “There are nevertheless ways democracy can regain control over capitalism and ensure that the general interest takes precedence over private interests, while preserving economic openness and avoiding protectionist and nationalist reactions”[i].

What about countries where democracy has been subverted from within and rendered flaccid, where a primordial clique has gained control over the state, and uses state power to control the market?

What awaits a land where state power marries market power, under the aegis of a single ruling family?

In his May Day address President Rajapaksa proclaimed, “Be it Rathupaswala or Katunayake or elsewhere, the efforts to close down factories were not in the interests of the working people but in the interests of Geneva”[ii]. The people of Rathupaswala demonstrated against a factory which was poisoning their ground-water. The Katunayake protests were against an attempt by the government to impose a fraudulent pension plan on private-sector employees. Neither struggle was politically-partisan; SLFP supporters participated in the Rathupaswela demonstration; SLFP trade unions joined the Katunayake agitation.

So why is the President attempting to equate these genuinely popular struggles with anti-patriotism and treachery? Is he, like a babe-in-the wood, being misled? Or is his false equation an inevitable function of that Rajapaksa construct – acolyte capitalism?

Political favourites amassing fortunes is a timeless phenomenon. The Rajapaksas are doing something qualitatively different – they are using state power, systematically, to gain control over the private sector economy. Instead of using the old method of state-takeover of private enterprises, the Rajapaksas are using acolyte-businessmen to colonise the market.

The rapid rise of Dhammika Perera is symbolic and symbiotic of this process of turning the private sector economy into another Rajapaksa dependency – like the military, the judiciary, the bureaucracy and the Sinhala-Buddhist establishment. In 2007, Mr. Perera was made the Chairman of the BOI; in 2011, he was made the permanent secretary to the Ministry of Transport, perhaps the first time a functioning businessman was appointed to a senior position in the state sector. Today Mr. Perera has fingers in every conceivable pie and is on a monopolisation drive[iii].

The Colombo City Guide, Yamu, did a review of Bellagio, a casino owned by Mr. Perera: “The Belliago is smoky, bright and generally dodgy. It is not an extremely pleasant place. However much they try to glam it up it is still a gambling den…. The ubiquitous prostitutes are the most depressing sight of all, tired and long-faced, working what seem to be interminable hours…[iv] Mr. Perera is said to be the richest man in Sri Lanka; he is also a senior civil servant. The first can be attributed to luck, acumen or both; but the second is proof-positive of his Favoured Acolyte status. Prostitution is illegal in Sri Lanka, but which police is going to raid a casino owned by a man of such potent parts?

Acolyte capitalism, because of its very nature, creates businessmen who are more politicians than bona fide entrepreneurs. Since their success depends primarily on political patronage, sycophantism is a more necessary attribute than genuine ability. Like acolyte politicians, acolyte businessmen enjoy impunity; so long as they are politically loyal, they can break the law and ignore regulations. Since they are but agents of the rulers, they can also depend on the police and even the military to protect them from the consequences of their illegal activities. The controversial factory in Rathupaswala was owned by a company controlled by such a Teflon-businessman – Dhammika Perera.

Acolyte capitalism cannot function in a land where the rule of law prevails and best business practices are observed. For instance, stock market manipulation is reportedly a key method used by acolyte-businessmen to amass fortunes. And as Tilak Karunratne explained, Sri Lanka has one of the least regulated stock markets in the world. When Mr. Karunaratne, during his short tenure as the SEC chairman, tried to crackdown on market-manipulators, he was asked to resign by the same man who appointed him – the President[v]. Mr. Karunaratne had misunderstood his brief – his task was not to clean the Augean Stables but to lend his reputation as a cover for the muck. He was succeeded by an acolyte businessman widely regarded as a pawn of the inflate-and-dump stock market mafia[vi]. The new boss knew what was expected of him. For instance, under his able stewardship, the SEC made a generous financial donation to Namal Rajapaksa’s Tharunyata Hetak[vii].

The 0.1% Country

The Rajapaksas are the authors and directors of Lankan militarization. Under this sui generis model, the military is not an autonomous power centre/wielder. As the military’s encroachment of civilian spaces increases, so does the Rajapaksa control of the military.

The Rajapaksas understood the dangers of allowing the military, Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism or the judiciary to function as autonomous actors. If these entities are permitted to retain even a shred of autonomy, they can, in self-interest, assist/join an anti-Rajapaksa opposition, someday. There is an identical danger to the dynastic project in allowing market power to be un-dependent on political power. A relatively autonomous military can impede the Dynastic project via a coup or by refusing to implement extra-constitutional orders. A relatively autonomous judiciary can rule against abuses and excesses of the ruling family. Similarly a relatively autonomous private sector can resist the excesses of familial rule, especially when Rajapaksa interests run counter to systemic interests.

As the unification of political power and market power intensifies, whatever limited capacity the private sector has to ameliorate the negative results of Rajapaksa policies will evaporate completely. Fearful of repercussions, even the non-acolyte segments of the private sector will allow themselves to be used by the ruling family. The covert and illegal censoring of the internet is an excellent case in point.

Governing a country is like an act of juggling. The golden mien is one which avoids extremisms of all sorts, and balances contending claims and interests. The Rajapaksas are taking the antithetical path by subjugating national, popular and general interests to familial interests. Patriotism is being used as a cover to hide this reality from the masses. This is the source of the President’s false charge of treachery against the protestors of Katunayake and Rathupaswala. The day may not be far distant when protestors against the abuses/excesses of acolyte capitalists are arrested by the Rajapaksas police/military under the PTA and convicted by the Rajapaksa-judiciary of terrorism.

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Latest comments

  • 13
    1

    Another brilliant piece Thisaranee. Keep up your excellent work. The fact is however the Jarapassa grip is slipping and the Sinhala Modayas are waking up although the SLFP May Day circus to Deify Mahinda Jarapassa was sad to see..

    Look at the Health Sector run by a corrupt Mahipapa Sirisena who has not passed the National Drugs Bill. Hospitals are at a stand still due to a nurses strike. Lanka Hospital which is GOta the Goon’s Military Hospitals is accused of Kidney and organ traffiking..
    The Health and Education sectors in the Sinhala Moda Paradise are a mess and the Modayas are waking up slowly.

    • 9
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      Yes indeed, excellent analysis as usual Madam T! Many thanks and take care…

      Don is right here! The Health and Education Sectors are a mess and CT and the JOINT OPPOSITION needs to focus on these sectors and educate the voters… All the focus on minority issues and civil and politica rights does not appeal to Sinhala folk…

      CT editors: we need much more on the daily ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS issues and the chaos in these sectors in this website, which is a media trend setter and can help educate the Sri Lankan press and voters.. “

      • 7
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        Right on Dude.. the Jarapassa project is to DISTRACT, divide and rule Sinhala Modayas by using Balu Sena to attack minorities. This is to DISTRACT the Sinhalayas from the real problems such as lack of decent education, health care and transport facilities..

        The fact is that there should be much more analysis of the Train disaster and the mess in the TRANSPORT SECTOR on websites like CT, as well as, coverage and analysis of disasters in education and health which is due to the CORRUPTION and LACK OF EDUCATION of the relevant MINISTERS who any EDUCATION or expertise to run the sectors. The responsible Ministers need to be named, shamed and forces to resign..

        Sinhala Modayas should be told that they need to hold the Jarpassa Cabinet of corrupt clown due to corruption, nepotism and lack of qualified expertise in the various sectors..

        • 7
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          Sri Lankan Media (Anti-minority Private Media)has to take full responsibility for this whole mess.

          Their racism has brought untold misery to this nation which is getting clogged in the pit of sewage (Majoritarianism) where other countries headed 100 years forward in the advancement of their societies.

          One guy said He wants to see the day MR lying in a coffin and he gets closer to the dead racist’s body and say ” Is it for this you did all these killings, you scoundrel….?

  • 1
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    kingsbury…queensbury

  • 5
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    Another superb article Thisaranee, dear. All good wishes to you and keep up your great work. I will write the Nobel Committee to give you a prize of courageous writing..

    Thanks for focusing and exposing MR KINGSBURY of the KING AND QUEENSBURY LIFE STYLE!

    Dhammika Perera aka Mr. Kingsbury and his wife Queensbury are on a binge with the support of Jarapassa family who love floating gold fish is glass pillars
    KINGSBURY is Gode (as in Godeyata Magic) to die, dear!

  • 0
    0

    Paradise Poisoned: Learning about Conflict, Terrorism and Development from Sri Lanka ‘s Civil Wars(2005), John Richardson, Professor of International development in American University’s School of International Service and Director of the University’s Centre for Teaching Experience:
    ”….. In 1993, Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi, invited me to contribute to a volume, entitled World Without Violence, memorialising the 125th anniversary of the Mahatma’s birth. Motivation for the project, he told contributors, was rooted in a life-changing sojourn at his grandfather’s ashram when he was a very young man. Through relatively simple words and examples, Gandhi tried to share some fundamental ideas with his young grandson.
    The causes of violence in society are not complicated, Gandhi maintained, and could be traced to eight blunders:
    1. Wealth without work, 2. Pleasure without conscience, 3. Knowledge without character, 4. Commerce without morality, 5. Science without humanity, 6. Worship without sacrifice, 7. Politics without principle and 8. Rights without responsibilities
    The ‘eight blunders’ became the organising concept for Arun Gandhi’s commemorative volume. Each contributor was invited to use one ‘blunder’ as a theme around which to organise an essay on a World Without Violence.
    I chose ‘politics without principle’ and drew two lessons from Sri Lanka ‘s experience. First was that practising politics without principle, even in pursuit of principled goals, is likely to push a society toward violent conflict. Ethnically diverse societies are particularly susceptible to this pathology. The second lesson was that processes of democratic political campaigning and elections pose nearly irresistible temptations to practice politics without principle. The more worthy the aspirant, the stronger the belief that his or her leadership is needed to deal with crises or achieve worthy goals, the more irresistible will be the temptation to compromise the principle of satya (truthful or moral conduct) and commit the seventh blunder. ………”
    If this was true in 1993, it is much truer, a thousand times more, now.

  • 9
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    Sixty six years since independence a ruthless mass-murderer and thug who robs the people’s assets is elected to rule, and continue to elect him.

    What does it show of the(Sinhala) majority of people who elected this devil?

    They are either not ready for democracy, don’t value it, or incapable of reasoning things out: The last is the obvious conclusion one can make – Sinhala Buddhist prejudice.

    Sinhalese crowd psychology at its height, and craftily exploited by their leaders since independence.

    • 0
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      Even with all this, the “53 members” of the Commonwealth acted like the
      S.Modaya Voters and continue to do so despite overwhelming undemocratic
      activity by its own Chairman. Will Her Majesty the Queen who has a final
      say not raise the matter??

  • 2
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    The Senators killed Julius Caesar in the interest of the Republic. He was getting too big. It is time for Mara and Dhammika to go. Obvious. Any volunteers?

  • 3
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    People of this country should finally sense that current leader of the nation is a meeharaka (stupid by all means- no knowledge to be bound world starndards). Why I am telling this is – immediately after opposition opposed the Hotel complex of PAKER to have passed in the parliament few days ago, President himself spoke to the media saying that the complex is a hotel complex without involvement of casino.

    Today we read on the news.

    http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140504/news/casino-games-govt-says-no-packer-yes-94785.html

    This is not the first time this president has fooled the nation.

    Either he has not talents to comprehend what foreign investors intend or he is so stupid not to get the bits clearly.

    Entire world is laughing at us today, just because the leader of the nation himself makes statements to the public without thinking twice. It has become a laughing stock to the IC.

    • 4
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      You forgot to mention the immunity from prosecution touted by the Meeharaka President if the rapist offers to marry the victim.

      • 5
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        Navin,
        I doubt any developing country of today is being led by an all low level man similar to the president of ours. He is a great shame for our nation. How can he make himself a clown in this way ? Rural folks which are the voter base of Rajapakshes would nevertheless support him also in Uwa PC election scheduled to be held next.

        So in today’s context, to measure democratic values by the turn outs of the elections are not at all correct.
        In the same time, him to be the chair person for CW nations (that are recognized as rich nations on the world)these days – is the greatest joke. This world is really hypocratic.

      • 4
        0

        May be the man himself had been a rapist to handle in that way. ? In his previous positions, he had been varied characters.

  • 1
    4

    TG:

    How about the Religious power, – vatican is married to both the politics and to business enterprises.

    Many denominations of the Christian Church has roots in world politics and corporate business empire empire. some of the big corporations are indirectly owned by the church.

  • 0
    3

    I think U – thang was last buddhist allowed to function as the HEad of the UNited NAtions. Since then only the christians are allowed.

  • 1
    4

    “Mr Dammika Perera , is one of the most astute businessmen in Srilanka , if not Asia.”

    “His net worth is estimated to be over USD 500 Million and employs over 65,000 people worldwide with the bulk in Srilanka”.

    This is what Forbes says about Dammika..

    Ms T tries to portray Mr Perera as a pimp who is living off long faced and worn out prostitutes from Eastern Europe.

    Obviously Ms T doesn’t read the Forbes Magazine.

    LTTE and Prabakaran followers in the Diaspora and SL can be excused.

    But the Colombo Elite and their Christian Faction who gave Mr Perera his three Casino licences and set the foundation for him, going along with these insults and character assassinations of Capitalists who once were their pillars of strength is pitiable.

    • 2
      0

      K.A Sumanasekera

      “Ms T tries to portray Mr Perera as a pimp who is living off long faced and worn out prostitutes from Eastern Europe.”

      Would you like Ms T to confer the same title on you? You do envy Perera’s with his title, don’t you?

      • 0
        1

        Dear Native,

        One would have thought you to be the mouth piece of Thisahamy ,,not this anti Buddha Thisaraneee…..

  • 3
    1

    This is very common in Sri Lankan political history not only in Rajapaksha regime. You could see from SWRDB to MR all below market leaders came.
    Sirima – Dasa
    JR – Upali
    Premadasa – Nawaloka
    Chandrika – Harry
    Rajapaksha – Damiika

    • 3
      1

      You guys should study it closely.

      Just because similar cases were found also in the past, should we always compare it with them ? Today, even far poor african countries raise their head towards the real democratic values while ours has been making every effort to do things other way around.

      Taking the example of you and the ilk you represent – I am telling you, the current president is the most stupid person that the nation ever has elected. He does not even concern about the views of most sacred high priessts – like Mahanaayakes when they asked his regime not to pass the hotel complex bill (with casino or not), but he just ignored their views.
      Today, parker wants his hotels to be involved in with Casinos, while govt says no they will be no casinos.. So can anyone with sanity trust the leader^s words in this regard. His has reduced to the levels of the man who chased teh MPs with a pistol on his hand lately.
      No people with brains would ever support this man – but the rural people that paved the way idiots to grab the power, do. But how long ?

      • 1
        0

        You talk here in respect of difference issues which did not focus in this article. That is mainly Law and Order, Governance and Ethics. These things have to be address by the ruling party government bodies and respective professionals in my experience no one addressed those areas properly I agree with you the present ruling party is worse than before but remember next ruling party will be worse than this since no one is bothered Governance and Ethics (specially professionals)

  • 2
    0

    Just recognize Tamil right of self determination, Tamil nationality and Tamil homelands.

    Then all of you will have peace. NOT otherwise.

  • 3
    0

    Another great analysis by Tisaranee. We need many more like Tisaranees to contribute to CT.
    Did not hear from Darshana Bastians for a long time. Hope she is well.

    Yes after consolidating Judiciary, Police, Election commission, Bribery commission, Media, Journalists, reporters,Economy, trade, all contracts, three armed forces etc,etc, under Rajapakses Powers, the only final issue is to control the Private business sector enterprises under Rajapakse oligarchy.

    By taking the private sector economy under Rajapaksa oligarchy, Rajapakses plan to achieve two objectives.

    The first is Rajapakses know that it is the Private sector Businesses that mostly fund and contribute to the opposition parties and specially to UNP during their election campaigns.

    Therefore by taking over the Private businesses under Rajapakse Goons, the possibility of funding opposition parties become weak and restricted.

    For example one Western Province UPFA candidate spent 1,125 Million Rupees during last PC elections. Just imagine which oposition party candidate could spend even half or even quarter of that amount…..

    At the same time UNP PC candidate Royce Fernando was arrested and jailed for a robbery charge during last PC elections, while the UPFA Drug king pin Nimal Lansa was set free by Rajapakses when he got caught transporting drugs.

    Aslo how MR distroyed Hon.Lalith Kotalawela’s Golden Key enterprise shows how far he goes to destroy opposition party supporters.

    Also Impeachment of CJ Shirani Bandaranayake was part of this plan while getting 85 Billion Rupee Divineguma fund under Basil Rajapakse.

    It was also in news that now UPFA Dayasiri used over 100 CTB busses to transport 5,000 people free of charge from Kurunegala to Colombo for the May day rally, while Namal Rajapakse brought 25,000 people from Hambanthota using both CTB and Private busses while using prohibited new Colombo Matara Highway.

    This is how the Rajapakse maglomania control our Private sector enterprises.

    It is noted that last year over 20% of businesses have not renewed their annual business licenses, meaning they have gone out of business.

    Rajapakses systamatically plan to destroy private sector transport and subsequently take over it. Last year CTB lost 10 Billion Rupees while Railway lost 5 Billion. Rajapakses keep on squeezing Private sector bus operators until they bleed and go bankrupt and subsequently take over their businesses.

    Similarly Rajapakse will destroy the public Health and education sectors and subsequently take over them giving incentives and funding.

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sri-lanka-a-country-ruled-as-a-family-business-by-four-brothers/

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/11/15/mahinda-rajapaksa-and-sri-lanka-s-reign-of-terror.html

    Please keep on writing great news articles Tisaranee. We CT readers appreciate your contributions.

    Thank you again.

  • 1
    0

    My Response to Thisaranee Gunesekera’s “When Political Power Marries Market Power” in the CT https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/when-political-power-marries-market-power/

    A not so recent discovery akin to the discovery of the Americas and Australia is that in addition to our genes and memes there is 3rd member to this modern trinity called the microbiome that comprises of nine tenths of us humans whilst our human cells are only a tenth of whole human cellular body mass in the totality of all organs. Hence not only MR and his gangs but whatever is left of VP and his minions along with the rest of citizenry of Lanka should be tested for this parasitic organism called Toxoplasma which is a microscopic protozoan organism that lives as a parasite in the organs of vertebrates, especially birds and mammals. When the brain is affected by an overwhelming multiplicity of this organism the host take risks and do dangerous things that people not having these organisms would not do. The outcome would may fall between looking like an accident and/or suicide and or even drive them to get to murder as well as get murdered.

    In a random sampling in France around 52% had this Toxoplasma in their brains. I have seen in the two part documentary “Life In Us” which should in reality be called or mean to be entitled “Life in, on and through us”; A mouse with Toxoplasma would play with the cat and make it easier for the it to be eaten by the cat.

    In the light of the above should not the UNHCR give a higher priority to get the services of its sister organization WHO to test all citizens and the members of the GOSL to be tested and treated according to the degree of severity before the next general elections, instead of passing inept and unenforceable resolutions? This suggestion could well apply to a whole host of others like the Israelis, Palestinians, Ukrainians’ and Russians etc.

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