28 May, 2022


Where GR Was Right & MR Was Wrong

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

It is hardly my habit to agree with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and disagree with ex-President and current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, whom I supported politically for around 20 years. This is one of those rare occasions.

Addressing by video the 5th anniversary event of the founding of the ruling party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) “The President also said that an indelible role was already being played in the present in order to build a united, sovereign and prosperous nation.” (Daily FT)

His words are perfectly true, but that is largely to his own efforts, not Mahinda Rajapaksa’s. The keyword is ‘indelible’. How can anyone deny that the overnight ban on chemical fertilizer, weedicide and pesticide has left an indelible impression on the peasantry and peasant agriculture?

How can anyone deny that the resultant unprecedented protests by the peasantry have left an indelible impression on the Sinhala rural heartland and those who voted for Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President in 2019? How can anyone ignore the fact that the despair and anger of the peasantry have left an indelible impression throughout the island?

How can one bury under the rug the indelible impression of the Chinese embassy blacklisting the People’s Bank; an incident which would never have occurred if not for the “indelible” agrarian policy of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa?

How can one doubt that the experience of standing in queues for basics has been an “indelible” experience for the generations that have not experienced the Sirimavo Bandaranaike-NM Perera dispensation of the 1970s? Or that it has been a no less indelible experience for those who had been through it in the 1970s but never expected the nightmare to return in their old age?

How can we assume that the summoning of Rev. Fr Cyril Gamini Fernando, the spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Colombo to the Fourth-Floor offices of the CID will not make an indelible impression in the minds of the Catholic community of Sri Lanka? How can we assume it will not be “indelibly” recorded in the annals of the Catholic Church of Ceylon/Sri Lanka?

It would be impossible to imagine that the appointment of Ven Galagodaatte Gnanasara as chairman of the Presidential commission on One country, one law, will not register “indelibly” in the consciousness of Muslims, Christians, Tamils, and the legal fraternity of Sri Lanka.

The sheer symbolism of the simultaneity of the summoning of the impeccably behaved Fr Cyril Gamini to the CID headquarters and the exaltation of the demagogic Ven Galagodaatte Gnanasara to the Chair of the President Task Force on ‘One Country, One Law’, will indelibly impact the international image of Sri Lanka.

I wouldn’t bet on those being the only ‘indelible’ occurrences seared into the memory of the Sri Lankan people and the island’s contemporary history, during the term of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

All these indelible facts and phenomena will be indelibly associated by the Sri Lankan citizens and voters with the Rajapaksas. Before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the most indelible thing that would have been associated with the Rajapaksas would have been President Mahinda Rajapaksa having won the war. But that has been overtaken in the realm of the indelible.

These indelible experiences will also be associated in the mind of the voters with the Pohottuwa (SLPP). So long as there is a Rajapaksa at the helm of the party, the imprint of trauma will remain indelible.

That’s about what President Gotabaya got right at the 5th anniversary of the founding of the SLPP.

Mahinda’s Mistakes

What about what former President and current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa got wrong on this same occasion?

In a heartfelt speech he presented three key ideas:

1. The party should self-critically examine why the young people who painted murals on the walls of towns are now migrating in droves.

2. The party’s error has been absence of/withdrawal from a political presence and political work at the grassroots.

3. The SLPP and the smaller constituent parties of the coalition, who were at the inception of the comeback movement, should stay together and the bigger, newer party should treat those allies well.

It gives me no pleasure to say that Mahinda Rajapaksa meant well but got it wrong. The young people are leaving and the party is not doing grassroots political work for the same reason: the consequences of the policies adopted by his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In his video-address to the event, President GR talked of “The difficult decision to switch to organic farming with a focus on green agriculture has been taken for the benefit of future generations.”

What is a bit more difficult than that decision—over which he doesn’t seem to have agonized or consulted Mahinda Rajapaksa—is for the SLPP to do grassroots politics as MR has urged, among the people. The peasants are keenly awaiting the visit of SLPP personalities to do any political work, in order to have a few words with them. So are the urban lower-middle classes queueing for gas and kerosene even in Kurunegala.

It isn’t the absence of grassroots political work by the SLPP; it is the inability to do any. That inability is because of the policies of the President. The SLPP is being wrecked by those policies. The young people are running away from the effects and prospects of those policies.

All that may have been attenuated if not avoided had President Gotabaya Rajapaksa not seized all the powers of the 19th amendment and impounded them in the Presidency, and had instead implemented the recommendation of the Ministerial Committee appointed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. If that had been the case, Mahinda Rajapaksa, with his experience and popularity would have been able to balance some of the wildly imprudent and impractical of the President and his inner-circle.

In his recent speech, the final point that Mahinda Rajapaksa got wrong was in his very decent advice about the relationship between the SLPP and the smaller parties. In his mind, the United Front coalition government of 1970-1975 was doomed because of the split in that coalition in 1975. That is factually inaccurate on several counts.

(A). The Sirimavo Bandaranaike government was doomed because of the extreme economic hardship the citizens had to undergo owing to its horrible policies. That factor has returned today. The outcome will be the same or worse, because the post 1977 generations have never undergone such hardship before.

(C). It was not only the coalition that split; the SLFP did too, with TB Subasinghe, AM Jinadasa, Tennyson Edirisuriya and Nanda Ellawela breaking away and forming the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). That was because of the phenomenon that TB Subasinghe referred to in his letter of resignation as “extra-constitutional centers of powers”, which Dr NM Perera had earlier talked of as an ‘invisible government’. That factor has returned today, under the Gotabaya Rajapaksa Presidency. For instance, no one really knows who is responsible for pushing the overnight conversion to organic agriculture.

(B). Had the rebel SLFPers quit earlier than 1976-’77, and had the LSSP and CPSL quit the coalition in 1972, when the Communist Party’s Dr SA Wickremesinghe and Sarath Muttetuwegama left the government (they were unfortunately pushed back into the CP and government by the ‘parent’ Soviet CP), they would have survived in 1977 and not been wiped out as they were. There would have been a Left Opposition. The lesson today is that the SLFP and the other smaller parties in the coalition should quit early enough to survive, and there is no better issue to quit over than the disastrous policy towards the peasants. Having already lost the ‘guru’, the SLFP and the smaller coalition parties should not lose entirely their ‘govi-kamkaru’ vote base.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    Will there be elections?

    Rajapaksas know they are going to lose. And they can’t lose. They will spin some story and prolong the parliament and presidency.

    In vain LTTE is not around to save people from the president as they once did.

    People will love anyone who does another Premadasa May Day event to Gotabaya.

  • 7

    The failure is because 90% of the Ministers and MPs who got nominations and won their seats to sit in the Parliament are Mahinda Rajapakse’s crookish gang members. It’s the fault of Mahinda, maybe he did this because he himself is a CROOK!

  • 6

    We must not forget the “INDELIBLE” track record of Governing Functions that the “Rajapakse & Co.” (Mahinda Rajapakse as the “Big Boss) established from 2009 to date has been the “Foundation” for the “DOWNFALL” of this country and its people.

    Is Dr. DJ trying a fast one to distract us from what happened from 2009 under all “Rajapakses & Cohorts”. Please be aware that, the track record is “IDELEGLE”.

  • 5

    ” Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely ” may that be Gota, Mahinda, Basil, or any other Rajapakses and cohorts. They already proved to the majority of citizens that they play political – cannibalism and who do not feel the actual pains suffered by the innocent peasants and other ordinary masses who voted them to power.

  • 4

    This article is basically a narrative of events. The minute instances of who is right and who is wrong is immaterial. The key question becomes “Is everything alright?” The obvious answer is NOT AT ALL. There are several instances of bad decision making, the notable one is the fertilizer fiasco. Adopting a policy, presumably for the better is one thing. The methodology of implementation is quite another and it should be such that it should not cause mayhem. A militarized order “AT ONCE!” can be barked. The result? Nation wide farmer protests is one. On top of it is the issue of a ship carrying unsuitable organic fertilizer leading to the blacklisting of People’s Bank. A small timeframe of reducing sugar tax by 200 times to benefit sugar daddies in sickening. Now we have quite a lot of other daddies. The critical question is if a Presidential election is held now with the same candidates as in the November 2019 hustings, what would the result be? That is what Gotabhaya Rex must evaluate personally, unguided by various lackies in his Secretariat nor by clairvoyants.

  • 6

    …” the overnight ban on chemical fertilizer, weedicide and pesticide has left an indelible impression on the peasantry and peasant agriculture?”…..
    What is more significant is the ineptitude and incompetence of the officials in CFC and CCF, as importers, who bungled up the import of the “organic” fertilizer shipment by not opening a L/C that should have safeguarded the integrity of the country, with proper legal and specification terms. This fiasco is now costing US$9M for the rubbish.
    This is a reflection on the stupidity of the Appointing Authority in getting nincompoops for high posts purely for their apparent loyalty and not ability, both military or civil.

    • 0

      Part I
      “What is more significant is the ineptitude and incompetence of the officials in CFC and CCF, as importers, …………. This fiasco is now costing US$9M for the rubbish.”
      Normally Irrevocable, confirmed LC safeguards the rights of both seller/buyer, stipulating, payment of Goods (100%) is made to purchaser on receipt of Bill of Lading (BL), after custody and possession of Goods of Sale (GoS) are verified is under the control of a valid 3rd Party, namely, the shipping Line, which is governed by the International Maritime Law.
      So the Seller has lost his right or authority over the GoS. After this point, Shipping Company becomes trustee to deliver GoS to Buyer at Port of Destination (PoD).
      What is amazing is the nondescript and Cavalier style in which, CCC (Fertiliser) or CFC the terms of payment was not classified or structured for such eventuality!
      What are they?
      1. (Presumably – may be wrong assumption), no stipulation that compliance to approved samples being the modality of Payment.
      2. Pre Shipment Inspection (PSI) by independent bodies as ‘Intertek’ or ‘SGS’ for a small fee, w/o disastrous effects by cutting corners!

      • 0

        Dear Mahila,
        …..”Pre Shipment Inspection (PSI) by independent bodies as ‘Intertek’ or ‘SGS’”…..
        This is only acceptable for non hazardous goods or goods NOT covered by our Biodiversity Security Concerns. That is ok for usual commercial chemical fertilizer imports.
        But our Plant Protection and Quarantine Act should have been the final arbiter and governing position in respect of the testing authority as that is the SL LAW, to ensure our own biosecurity.
        Conceding that Authority to others is not allowed by Law.
        We have an Import & Export Control Act. Can we get a third party to interpret anything connected except the Controller or the Courts.

    • 0

      Part II
      3. Thereafter for instance the payment/release of funds are structured:-
      a. 60% or 75% or the total FOB value on presentation of BL
      b. 20% or 15% as the case may be on arrival at Port of Destination and Testing of final, shipped goods in the hold of of the carrier or ship
      c. Final payment of 10% in either case after the goods are delivered/received at the warehouse of the buyer and final random testing of goods, at the delivery point, in any case no later than 30 days of the final lot of the cargo being received by the buyer and tested.
      4. If this modality was followed, then the 8 million dollar request would and should have been addressed to SGS or Intertek as the case may be, instead of the CCC (F) or CFC, encountering legal wrangles and wild accusations, Embassy of China, which are unfavourable to SL reputation!
      5. Though Chinese “Ding Dong”, may be responsible largely for the mess, SL could have been more proactive, if they are smart! Clearly not so!!
      What short sightedness and amateurish playing with national assets?

    • 0

      Part III
      What is significant, is this reminds me of many instances of this kind of mess ups even in 1970-77 governance, especially the import/export trade of incompetence, ineptitude and subsequent cover ups!
      May be there were other corrupt motives were underlying reasons, but that does not diminish the responsibility of the Purchasing Tender Board, Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and the Chair, Secretary – the Chief Accounting Officer of MoA, which been torn and shredded by this mess.
      Unnecessary Melodrama, invaluable assets (I mean the 8 Million US dollars and not the rubbish – as claimed – organic Fertiliser) and so carefully built up reputation for a “Pot of Bacterial Rubbish mess for extinction of Agriculture in SL by MoA”!!!
      Whither SLAS!! The rot started in 1970 of the demise of CCs and the bifurcation of the Ministry of Public Administration, to ensure NM Perera, did not have any holds on the Public Service of SL in 1970, when he became Finance Minister!!!!

  • 1

    I fully agree with Simon’s views on Dr DJ and his methodology to distract the people.
    Shocked to hear that Dr DJ has supported MR politically for around 20 years. As Simon says it was MR who brought into to the parliament the so called ATA PASS ( those who have passed only the eight grade) and other corrupted politicians ( these are ‘INDELIBLE’ records indeed ).
    Hats off to MR to have won the war – instead of capitalising on that victory MR ruined the nation and he must take the full responsibility for all political, economic and social issues we are facing today.
    Suggest DR DJ rethinks before he pens on Rajapakshes in the future.

    • 0

      …. Hats off to MR to have won the war –
      This is not the correct depiction of how the revolt was ended.
      There was no war, only skirmishes. Both Chandrika and Ranil played a major role in weakening the rebels. The final nail on them was on MR’s watch.
      This is the best description of how the revolt was was brought to a halt.

      • 0

        Dear Nathan,
        Yes I do agree on that but MR could have easily dragged on without ending those skirmishes you refer to. Instead he gave the orders ( this may be subject to debate as there are numerous questions being raised on the methodology etc) to the forces to end it once and for all. The past Presidents and their henchmen simply lived on it.

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