By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
The unfolding events, one more telling than the other, defines the emerging political trends which, in the foreseeable future, seem to be irreversible. The polarization of the contending forces into Left and Right camps has also fallen into two clear cut political domains. On the Right is the Siri-Wicky regime with Chandrika Bandaranaike as the Third Party in the troika, leaning heavily towards the West. On the Left is Mahinda Rajapaksa, with stalwarts like Dinesh Gunawardena, forging forward with the inherited spirit of the rejuvenated Boralugoda Lion, with Wimal Weerawansa firing his deadly verbal artillery on Siri-Wicky targets, and with no-nonsense Vasudeva Nanayakkara ripping into the Wickremesinghe-led Right.
All of them are marching hand-in-hand to regain the interrupted regnum of the people. Collectively their alliance has given the New Left a reinvigorated meaning to rise against the Right-wing forces, both internationally and nationally. Collectively they have gathered an unexpected political momentum from a wide range of grass root forces. Simultaneously, the Right is witnessing (though they will not admit it) the fizz of the Siri-Wicky regime which bubbled on January 8, 2015 evaporating under their delusional eyes. The last bubbles fizzled out even before the abracadabra of their “100 days” ended. The disillusionment creeping up has come to stay. Theirs is an uphill task to recapture the rapture that took them to their peak on January 8. From day one the Siri-Wicky regime has been going downhill. What the Right is losing is gained daily by the New Left.
It began as an over-sized trickle at Nugegoda. Political commentators agree that it has now turned into an unstoppable wave sweeping across the landmass in the south. And this is happening at various people-to-people levels. The Siri-Wicky Right has no effective answer to combat the New Left. What is noteworthy now is the momentum created by the Nugegoda Man has gone through the ceiling and penetrated the upper levels Initially it was confined to daring and perceptive intellectuals like Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, Dr. Gunadasa Amerasekera and Dr. Nalin de Silva who exposed the hollow shell of the Yahapalanaya with their x-ray analyses. They were with the first wave that rose with the Nugegoda Man – the new political man. They were joined by public intellectuals like the former Chief Justice, Sarath N. Silva, who came out swinging with both hands to pummel the illegally constituted regime. Before long (i.e., within the 100 days) the sangha, trade unionists, artists, and some journalists who have the capacity to assess the new realities critically, joined the Nugegoda Man.
In the meantime, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was meeting various delegations at the Abeyrama Temple in Narahenpita for “discussions” (ceremonial Dækum, says Professor Emeritus. Gerald Peiris) almost on a daily basis. The rush to meet him, whether in Hambantota or in Nugegoda, is an unprecedented political phenomenon which reflects the underlying nature of the political crisis threatening the future of the nation. The rush to meet Mahinda Rajapaksa is not to hero-worship him but to save the nation form the perils hanging over its head like the Damocles Sword. They have nowhere to go except to him. They accept him as the only leader available in the political landscape who could lead the nation in this time of crisis to save the nation, once again, and reinforce the power of all that was gained at Nandikadal.
At the same time, the fire lit by the Nugegoda Man sparked off even larger fires in the other provincial cities. The “Bring Back Mahinda” campaign was creating a political sensation never experienced in the post-independent era. The closest that I can think of is the spontaneous mourning crowds that queued up to pay homage to Dudley Senanayake when his body was lying in state in the old Parliament. But that was a tribute paid to a dead leader. The people flocking to meet Mahinda Rajapaksa is a tribute to a living icon. Never had a leader – a defeated one at that – received a spontaneous response from the people as in the case of Mahinda Rajapakse. In both cases people have flocked to pay back their debt of gratitude for services rendered to the nation.
The message was coming loud and clear. The failure of the Siri-Wicky regime to live up to its promises was obvious even to the backbenchers who are putting up a brave front for public consumption. Oddly enough, just at the time when the forces around the Siri-Wicky regime began to fall apart they were hit by their close friends and political allies. The first big blow came from the NGOs. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Jehan Perera, “Paki” Saravanamuttu, J. C. Weliamuna et al, realized that Wickremesinghe, who was running the show, had cut the ground under the feet of Sirisena. As stated by the NGOs the Siri-Wicky regime was meandering “aimlessly”.
Even Rathana Thero of the JHU is now calling for another regime change. Champika Ranawaka, who was crowing that he launched the war in Mavil Aru, that he saved the nation, and that he was the prime mover behind all the victories, including the regime change and “the revolution” of January 8th, 2015, has suddenly ceased to claim fatherhood for the Siri-Wicky regime. JVP too is now insisting that the Yahapalana-yakos should pack up and go home. Even the lumpen Marxist School of the Peradeniya Campus blasted the Siri-Wicky regime.
At the end of 100 days the ground swell of “Bring back Mahinda” movement has grown too big to ignore, or write off as a passing road show. The latest political move coming from the re-awakened Peradeniya University confirms beyond any doubt that there is a distinct trend developing against the Yahapalana-yakos even at the highest levels. Almost overnight the leading lights of the Campus formed the Association of Intellectuals, Scholars and Professionals in Kandy to back President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the coming elections. The opening lines of the communiqué, written and issued by Prof. Gerald H. Peiris, one of the brilliant scholars of our time, says it all : “In the context of the intensifying crisis of governance in Sri Lanka witnessed over the past three or four months we have inaugurated an organisation consisting of certain members of the academic staff of the University of Peradeniya (past and present) and other leading professionals in the city of Kandy and its suburbs for the purpose of promoting the prospects of the political group led by the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa at the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Our membership is united and unanimous in its conviction that Sri Lanka’s interests and aspirations – in particular, safeguarding sovereignty, ensuring political stability, and pursuing rapid and sustained socio-economic progress – would be best served if the post-election regime would be one in which the former president could perform the key leadership role. Accordingly, our association expects to engage in a “pro-MR” campaign targeted mainly at the educated middle-class in our area of operation which we believe is critically significant to the overall outcome of the forthcoming parliamentary polls, and explain to those in that layer of society through a series of seminars and discussions the reasons upon which our convictions and objectives are based.”
This critical and perceptive response coming from our concerned intellectual and scholars indicate the depths of feelings and the sense of crisis threatening and overwhelming the nation. This reveals that the disillusionment with the Yahapalana-yakos is complete, from top to bottom in the south. The “Bring Back Mahinda” has gathered a momentum which cannot be reversed. There is, of course, the question of how all this will translate into votes in the coming election. But the prospects are that it will grow from strength to strength because of the failures of the Siri – Wicky regime. There are no signs of the Yahapalana-yakos recognizing the new realities that are dragging them into a grave dug by their pseudo-intellectual, Wickremesinghe.
He is at his best in kuth-thu-fying behind-the scenes and wrecking his own party and the nation. The Siri-Wicky-CBK troika was good at plotting with 50 other groups – i.e., 47 minor local political groupings, plus CIA, RAW and NGOs – to overthrow the Mahinda Rajapakse regime. But they have failed to replace it with the political nirvana they promised on January 8, 2015. Let alone the “ideal society” they promised in their manifesto, they have failed even to deliver the promised “difference” (when-a-suck), which was their prime slogan in the last presidential campaign. They were, of course, euphoric when they dismantled the old regime but they were pathetic in their failure to create a substitute. Greatness is in creating something valuable and viable, just not in breaking what had been there. Breaking is easy. Rebuilding a new world is difficult as seen in the “Arab Spring.”. It becomes impossible when the task of creating the new order is handed over to abject failures. President Sirisena’s biggest mistake was in handing over the powers of running the country to the two biggest failures in modern history : Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Bandaranaike. Their track record is abysmal.
Neither of them are figures that can inspire confidence in the future because their past history has been the worst ever on record since Don Juan Dharmapala, the turn coat, sold the nation to the Portuguese. Following in his footsteps Wickremesinghe even invited the Portuguese Prime Minister to celebrate 500th anniversary of the invasion of the first Western imperialists who destroyed every brick of Buddhist and Hindu sacred sites they could. Sadly, it is this pseudo-intellectual that is hailed as the hero by the half-literates in the UNP backbenches.
The response of the scholars, professionals and intellectuals to the new barbarism of the Siri-Wicky regime comes as a redeeming beacon of light to the nation floundering in the dark, choppy seas. A formidable band of intellectuals and scholars is leading this new front.
The Committee of Advisors consists of :
· Ven. Dr. Medagama Dhammananda (Secretary of the Asgiriya Chapter of Siyam Nikaya)
· Dr. Asoka Amaratunga, Professor Emeritus, and former Dean of the Faculty of Dental Sciences, University of Peradeniya
· Mr. M. D. Sirisoma, retired public servant (former Secretary of the Central Provincial Council)
· G. H. Peiris, Professor Emeritus, University of Peradeniya
The following office-bearers too are drawn from various disciplines: President: Dr. Ariyaratne Herath, Senior Lecturer in Economics at Peradeniya, Secretary: Mr. Nimal Premawansa (school teacher and former member of Parliament from Nuwara Eliya District), Convener of Meetings and Treasurer: Mr. Sumedha Weerawardena, Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University of Peradeniya. There are, in addition, 6 Committee members, five of whom are persons from outside the university.
This Association of Intellectuals, Scholars, and Professional has come at the right time to fill a great void. They constitute the needle of the compass which points to the new directions.
Highlighting the first meeting Prof. Peiris wrote : “A seminar of the Vidvath Vrutheeyavēdīngē Sansadaya (Association of Scholars and Professionals) on the ‘Post-January 8th Political Milieu’ was held at the Pushpadhāna Hall in Kandy with the participation of about 200 invitees (seating capacity of the venue was 220). It reached a level of success which I myself did not expect – 2 O’clock on a sweltering afternoon at a place about 1km from the car park of the excessively crowded city would have been a formidable disincentive to the motorised invitees sympathetic to our cause.
“Of the three main speakers Mr. Mohan Samaranayake (a reputed journalist at the peak of his career who had served at various times as Director of the UN Information Centre, Chairman of the Rupavahini Corporation and the Media Spokesman of the President’s Office) was extraordinarily brilliant. On the basis of what I observed from the Chair I felt that he really held the audience spellbound, not so much with his obvious oratorical skills, but with the content of his presentation. Professor Shantha Hennayake, the present Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Peradeniya and an ardent Mahinda Rajapaksa supporter, was also very impressive, especially in the submissions he made in order to show that the Muslims and Tamils have no reason whatever to be prejudiced against the former president. Dr. Wasantha Bandara, the Secretary of the ‘Patriotic National Movement’ headed by Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekara (doyen of the community of the Sinhala creative writers) was, as usual, persuasive in his demonstration of how ominously our nation is being imperilled by those who hold the reins of political power at present.
“My impression on the seminar participants,” added Prof. Peiris, “is that the majority were from the educated ‘middle-class’ (but not of its highest stratum) – a segment of the electorate from which Mahinda Rajapaksa did not have substantial support at the presidential polls, especially in urbanised electoral districts of mixed ethnicity. Our seminar, targeted specifically as it was at that layer of society, was also intended to contribute to ‘post-war’ inter-group harmony. We did not invite elected political leaders – national or local. The success of the seminar was made evident further by the requests we have had for conducting similar meetings in several other towns by persons who pledged to undertake some of the related organisational functions.”
The Peradeniya campus has been dormant for decades. Once the home of the best and the brightest of the nation it went into hibernation for reasons that have yet to be explained. It is heartening to note that it has once again re-emerged to give leadership to the nation that has lost its way under the misguided leadership of pseudo-intellectuals who have no sense history (our past) or direction (our future)..