Diplomatic Incident Involving the Swiss Embassy


Swiss Embassy in Sri Lanka

By Nanda Wanninayaka

I don’t know what REALLY happened with the Sri Lankan employee who worked at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo. Nobody will ever know, would they? The embassy says one of their local employees was kidnapped, detained and was questioned for good two hours and then let go. But the Government of Sri Lanka says that there is no clue about such an incident after their thorough investigations. We know that our Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is not the FBI nor the Scotland Yard, but the victim has to assist the CID to continue their investigations to bring the culprits to the book. But it looks extremely impossible with the way the things go and if the said employee and her family are taken out of the embassy to board a plane to Switzerland, this would become an extreme diplomatic incident that can damage the relationship between the two countries.

A Sri Lankan Passport

Without going any further with this, I would write down how my students and I were treated by foreign missions in Sri Lanka when we wanted to travel to certain countries.

  1. My first travel abroad was to China (assisted by a US project) in the year 2000. Once I went to the Chinese embassy the Chinese employee at the embassy told me that my destination in China was not to a hotel but some government office. I had to reiterate that the destination was correct before he granted to process the visa application. (Apparently, the place I stayed in China was a government building related to some scientific affairs and there were enough star-class rooms and a restaurant to entertain 1000 odd visitors from different parts of the world. (I think all these embassy people follow the espionage missions’ “Suspect Everyone” method when granting visas.
  • My second trip was to Egypt in 2000 to attend a regional event organized by the same organization that organized the above-mentioned event in China. The Egyptian embassy man at the gate didn’t even open the door but talked to me in a very rude manner as if I was some criminal. But the visa was approved later. (In most cases, it is these minor staffers who tarnish the names of their countries but we cannot believe that the higher officials are unaware of these.)
  • My third overseas tour was to the USA and the visa was provided with the help of the US State Department and I had no problem at all in getting my visa as Ms. Chulie de Silva (a local official at the American Center) who knew about my work assisted me getting it. But I was detained for some time as the immigration officer in the New York Airport kept asking about a document I never knew I had in my possession. I was asked to find it in my luggage and I had to open up all the stuff in my luggage but it was not to be found. Later I found it among the documents I already handed over to the officer and he sincerely apologized for his mistake.
  • My next visit was to Italy with 3 young students of Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya and the Sri Lankan visa officer in the Italian Embassy did not even give us visa application forms to proceed with visas. His argument was that I would not return and will stay in Italy as many other Sri Lankans do. This was a ridiculous argument because I had already been to the USA by then and if I wanted, to be an illegal immigrant, the USA must have been the best option. I never want to become an illegal immigrant even during the most trying conditions I faced in Sri Lanka. The 3 kids had obtained passports and even had bought warm clothes to wear during that cold season in Italy. If the visa officer’s concern was the three kids’ security, I could easily arrange a chaperone for them to travel. But he was arrogant and did not even provide us the visa applications. So, the three kids lost their chance of traveling to Italy with all the expenses paid by the sponsors.
  • I visited Japan twice and at the interview for the visa, I never saw the Sri Lankan visa officer but could only hear her voice as she spoke to the interviewee from behind some screen where she could see me and I couldn’t see her. I don’t know why they do it. Do they treat all Sri Lankans like rogues?
  • Two students and a lady teacher from my organization (Horizon Lanka Foundation) were invited by a Delhi-based Indian organization to do a presentation and we submitted the visa applications at the last minute as one of the students could not find the money needed to buy the flight ticket. (The expenses were to be reimbursed upon arrival to India.) But the Indian visa center that has been outsourced the visa process was very helpful and did not let our team down. They ensured they get the visas without any trouble. So my team could visit India without me having to travel with them.
  • I planned to visit Ecuador two years ago to volunteer as a teacher of English and after I submitted all the documents properly to the visa center. The Ecuadorian visa was to be obtained on arrival in Ecuador. For some reason, the organization that sponsored my trip had selected a flight route to Ecuador via Amsterdam, Holland. After submitting my papers, the visa center that dealt with the so-called “Schengen” visas turned down my request and handed me over a letter saying that I would disappear in the Amsterdam airport and seek a job in the Netherlands!!! I needed a transit visa in Amsterdam only for 3-4 hours till I caught the next flight to Ecuador. The other friend of mine who went to Ecuador via the same route for the same purpose around a few weeks ago was a Tamil guy from Batticaloa and he said, “Most of the embassy officials are Tamils in Sri Lanka and they favor only Tamils. This might be the reason for the denial of your transit visa.” Till that, I thought this was only a rumor but I understood it was a lot more than just a rumor.
  • I was to send a female student with a female teacher from Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya to South Africa for a conference. Since the invitation letter from the event organizers came from a Gmail account, not an account with the organization’s domain, the South African High Commission in Colombo hesitated to grant them visas. Fair enough. Still, the local and the South African High Commission officers were very supportive and gave us the visas at the last moment but the lady teacher from our organization hesitated to go since it was her overseas tour and was not comfortable at the 11th hour. That was our fault, not theirs. I can say that the South African High Commission in Colombo was the best foreign mission I have dealt with so far and they are very efficient and people-friendly.

If you can remember, most of the embassies in Sri Lanka treated the local people like trash until recent times. We had to be in long ques in the hot sun or torrential rains outside the embassies without any shelter. The government of Sri Lanka did nothing until some people raised the issue in the local newspapers. Now the treatments are better and still, there is a lot to change in this regard.

So, I wrote this to tell you how foreign missions treat Sri Lankans and we should make use of the present issue with the Swiss embassy to make things right. The late president Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa had an issue with H. E. Mr. David Gladstone, the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka by interfering into internal issues and he was ordered to leave Sri Lanka. I don’t say the same should happen in the light of the present diplomatic incident but the West has to learn a lesson too when interfering with the internal issues. Instead, we should try solving this type of incident amicably without risking too much.

ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ පෞද්ගලික ටුයිෂන් අධ්‍යාපනය නියාමනය කිරීම


ටුයිෂන් පංතියක ආකර්ශනීය පෝස්ටරයක්

රජයේ පාසල් දෙකක ඉංග්‍රීසි ගුරුවරයෙකු ලෙස මා සේවය කර ඇත්තේ වසර තුනක් පමණි. එමෙන්ම පෞද්ගලික උපකාරක පන්ති (tuition) ගුරුවරයකු ලෙස මට ඇත්තේ මාස කිහිපයක අත්දැකීම පමණි. මා ටුයිෂන් ගුරුවරයකු ලෙස දිගටම සිටියානම් කෝටිපතියකු කෙසේවෙතත් ලක්ෂපතියකුවත් වීමට බොහෝ සෙයින් ඉඩ තිබුණි. එහෙත් මම කළේ (හැමදාමත් කළා සේ) උඩුගං බලා පිහිණීමයි.  මගේ ගමේ සිසු සිසුවියන්ට නොමිලේ ඉගැන්වීමෙන් මට වඩා සංතෝෂයක් ලැබිණි.

මේ ලියවිල්ල මගින් ශ්‍රී ලංකාවෙ පුද්ගලික ටියුෂන් කර්මාන්තය ගැන මගේ මතයන් බෙදාහදා ගැනීම ම්ගේ අරමුණයි. මගේ අදහස්වලට විරුද්ධ මතවාදයක් දැරීමට ඔබට නිදහස තිබේ. මම ආර්ථිකය ලිහිල්කරනයට (liberal economy) අනුබල දුන්නද, අධ්‍යාපනය මුළුමනින්ම නිදහස් නොවන්නේ නම් අඩුම තරමින් අඩු මිලට හෝ තිබිය යුතු යැයි තවමත් විශ්වාස කාන්නෙක්මි. දරුවන් 9 දෙනෙකුගෙන් යුත් පවුලක 8 වන දරුවා මම වන අතර මගේ පවුලේ සෑම සාමාජිකයෙක්ම නිදහස් අධ්‍යාපනය නිසා අසීමිතව ප්‍රතිඵල ලැබූවන් වේ. අපට නොමිලේ අධ්‍යාපනය නොලැබුණේ නම්, සමහරවිට මට මෙම ලිපිය ලිවීමට පවා නොහැකි වනු ඇත.

පෝස්ටර් යුද්ධය

මගේ අදහස නම් පුද්ගලික ටුයිෂන් මාෆියාවට (සමාවෙන්න, ටුයිෂන් මාෆියාව අවස්ථා ගණනාවකදී දැක ඇති හෙයින් එම වචනය භාවිතා කිරීමට සිදුවිය) එරෙහි වීමට වඩා හොඳ ක්‍රමය රජයේ පාසල්වල වර්තමාන පාසල් ගුරුවරුන් සවිබල ගැන්වීම/පුහුණු කිරීම/වැඩිදියුණු කිරීම කරන අතරතුරදී පෞද්ගලික උපකාරක පංති කර්මාන්තයේ සිටින හොඳ ගුරුවරු රජයේ පාසල්වර්මාන්තයේ සිටින්ලැබූවන් වේත් එයට විරුද්ධ්ල කාර්ය මණ්ඩලයට බඳවා ගතයුතු බවයි. මෙමගින් ගුරුවරුන් සපයන අධ්‍යාපනයේ ගුණාත්මකභාවය මත පදනම්ව තරඟකාරී ව්‍යුහයක් නිර්මාණය කරනු ඇත. රාජ්ය පාසල් ගුරුවරුන්ට රැකියාව බේරාගැනීමටනම් වඩා හොඳ කාර්ය සාධනයක් කිරීමට සිදුවනු ඇත. ඔවුන් එසේ නොකළේ නම්, බටහිර රටවල සිදුවනවාක් මෙන්, ඔවුන් රැකියාවන් දොට්ට දැමිය යුතුය.

රජයේ පාසල් තුළ නියාමනයට ලක් කළ පෞද්ගලික උපකාරක පන්තිද කළ හැකි විය යුතු අතර මෙය පෞද්ගලික උපකාරක කර්මාන්තයේ පිරිවැය ද අඩු කරනු ඇත. එහි ප්‍රතිලාභ ලෙස උපකාරක පන්ති ගාස්තු අඩු කළ හැකි නිසා එහි ප්‍රතිලාභ කෙළින්ම සිසුන්ට ලබා ගත හැකිය. මීට අමතරව, රජයේ පාසල් පරිශ්‍රය තුළ සිසුන්ට වඩා හොඳ ආරක්ෂාවක් ලබා දෙනු ඇත. උපකාරක පන්ති පැවැත්වෙන විට රජයේ පාසල්වලට දෙමාපියන් හෝ ආරක්ෂක නිලධාරීන්/භාරකරුවන් සේවයට බඳවා ගත හැකිය.

පෞද්ගලික ටුයිෂන් පංතියක සුළු ඉඩක සිරවී අධ්‍යාපනය ලබන සිසු සිසුවියන් පිරිසක්

මෙය සිදු කිරීමට වඩා කතා කිරීමට පහසු දෙයක් වන බවද මම දනිමි. නමුත් මෙය පුද්ගලික උපකාරක පන්ති නියාමනය කිරීම සඳහා ප්‍රායෝගික විසඳුමකි. මෙය අධ්‍යාපනය පෞද්ගලීකරණය කිරීමක් යැයි තර්ක කරමින් ගුරු සංගම් සහ ව්‍යාජ මාක්ස්වාදී දේශපාලන පක්ෂ මෙම පියවරට විරුද්ධ වනු ඇත. නමුත් ඔවුන් නොදකින දෙය නම්, දරුවන්ට එතරම් හිතකාමී නොවන උපකාරක පන්තිවලට යැවීම සඳහා දෙමාපියන් විසින් විශාල උපකාරක පන්ති ගාස්තු ගෙවීමට සිදුවීම නිසා අධ්‍යාපනය දැනටමත් භයානක ලෙස පෞද්ගලිකකරණය වී ඇති බවයි.

සංවර්ධිත රටවල පාසැල් හා විශ්ව විද්‍යාල පරිශ්‍රයන් අධ්‍යයන කටයුතු සඳහා සති අන්තයේ සහ පාසල්/දේශන වේලාවෙන් පිට වේලාවලට අඩු මිලකට ලබා දී ඇති අතර එමඟින් එම පහසුකම් වඩාත් හොඳින් ප්‍රයෝජනයට ගත හැකි වන අතර පාසල් හා විශ්ව විද්‍යාල ක්‍රියාත්මක වීමට යම් ආදායමක්ද ලබා ගත හැකිය. මෙම ආදර්ශය ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේද අත් හදා බැලිය හැක.

Regulating Private Tuition Industry in Sri Lanka


A Poster for a Tuition Class

I have only three years’ experiences as a teacher of English at two state schools and only a few months’ experiences as a private tuition master. Had I continued as one, I might have become a millionaire by now if not a multimillionaire. But I chose not to. I was more comfortable in teaching free of charge to the students in my village.

I share my thoughts about the private tuition industry in Sri Lanka and you obviously have the liberty to differ. Though I encourage liberalization of the economy, I still believe that the education should be low-priced if not totally free. I am the 8th child in a family of 9 children and EVERY MEMBER in my family benefited from free education. If we did not have free education, I wouldn’t have been able even to write this post.

The Poster War

My point is that the better way to counter the private tuition mafia (sorry, I had to use this 5-letter-word because I have seen it that way in numerous occasions) would be to empower/train/improve the present schoolteachers at state schools and also recruit good teachers from the private tuition industry to the state schoolteachers’ cadre. This would create a competitive structure based on the quality of education they provide. State schoolteachers will have to perform better to retain the job. If they don’t, like it happens in the western hemisphere, they should be laid off.

The private tuition classes could be done inside state school properties and this would also reduce the costs in the private tuition industry so that the benefits could directly go to students in terms of lesser tuition fees. In addition, students will have better security inside state school premises. The state schools could recruit either parents or security guards/caretakers when the tuition classes are held.

Private Tuition Classes Cluttered with the Students

(All photos used here are taken randomly from the Internet and used for public good.)

Radella Relay Station of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation


With Sudarshi Madanayaka and the staff of the Radella Relay Station

I had the pleasure of visiting the Radella Relay Station of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation on September 22, 2018. It was my good friend Mr. Sudarshi Madanayake took me there.

I am publishing the pictures I took during the tour. The station is situated in a beautiful mountanous terrain in cold and amazingly attractive Nuwara Eliya district.

The beautiful mountainous terrain outside the relay station

Most of the equipment in the station are very old but they still work well. These are mostly German equipment.

The old building that houses the relay station

Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part X – ORATORY SKILLS


Nanda Wanninayaka nanda.wanninayaka@gmail.com   

Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.

In my last 9 marathon articles, I was comparing and contrasting the two main presidential candidates’ strengths and weaknesses in 9 areas of concerns in alphabetical order. This 10th and the final post deals with how ORATORY SKILLS of the duo would influence the voter. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part IX – NEPOTISM for the previous post. 

ORATORY SKILLS

I am glad that I just managed to compile the last of this series of posts a few hours before the election campaigns come to an end by midnight. Not that this little post of mine is going to make any difference in the voter’s choice but I am happy that I could accomplish my task.  

When it comes to oratory skills of presidential candidates, I am totally disappointed with the way they go about it in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan politicians have repeatedly shown how low they can go in throwing mud at the opposite candidates rather than targeting his or her policies. Hardly anyone even reads policies of the candidates. Putting a document of policies forward has become just a formality over here whereas in the West, the policies play a major role in gauging a candidate or his party’s direction for the next few years.

The next big drawback is the endless undeliverable promises the candidates make during the election campaigns. Unfortunately, even though the voter has been fooled many a time since the Westminster style democracy came into the picture, nobody learns it seems. Sri Lankan voter has been fooled by the prime ministerial and the presidential candidates with promises ranging from “rice from the moon” to “8 pounds of grains” to “a loaf of bread at 3.50 LKR” to “free Wi-Fi access” to the masses. The voter knows what happened with those promises yet for all, the voter still is gullible to similar ridiculous promises.

Gota

Gota never was a career politician. He was an officer in the army, an IT professional and a secretary to a ministry who doesn’t necessarily need the ability to make lengthy speeches. So, he never was comfortable in addressing large gatherings, taking questions from the media, taking part in debates. He was more of a presenter in small scale meetings. He knew it and so did the voter. But he tried to show something he was not by trying to become a big orator. Instead, he should have openly expressed at the very beginning of the campaign that he has no interest or the capacity in making speeches to give gallery a go and stuck with his way of communicating he proved he was good at. Besides, Sri Lanka has had leaders who were great orators such as Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, Mr. J. R. Jayawardene, Mr. R. Premadasa but whether they achieved much for the nation remains a big question. So, Gota’s inability to talk eloquently has become a plus point as the voter has been listening to useless lengthy speeches for ages. Gota is a doer, not much of a talker

Sajith

Sajith, on the other hand, can speak literally till the cows come home, just like his late father used to be. I won’t call him a great orator as most of what he talks directly goes down as some of the most idiotic speeches made during a presidential campaign. In addition to that, he has the same shrill voice his dad had which is irritating to the listener. For me, Sajith’s voice is as irritating as that of the Hollywood villain Joe Pesci. Feel sorry to draw parallels here as one cannot expect every politician to have a deep booming voice like the former US president Mr. Barrack Obama had but at least Sajith’s advisors should have advised him to use less screaming and let the sound systems do the rest. But Sajith has the ability to attract people for his speeches especially from the villages and they might vote for him with the kind of promises he made during his campaign. This is a country where throwing mud, undeliverable promises and jokes of bad taste decide winners in politics. So, let’s hope for the best.

Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part IX – NEPOTISM


Nanda Wanninayaka nanda.wanninayaka@gmail.com   

Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.

In these few articles, I am comparing and contrasting the two persons in question in 10 areas of concerns in alphabetical order. This penultimate post deals with how NEPOTISM would affect the rest of the country with one of these two ascending into power. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VIII – NATIONAL SECURITY for the previous post.  The next and the final post would be dealt with the ORATORY SKILLS of the two candidates. You can read it in the post Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part X – ORATORY SKILLS.

NEPOTISM

The origin of the term nepotism dates back to the 17th century. (From French népotisme, from Italian nepotismo, from nipote ‘nephew’ (with reference to privileges bestowed on the “nephews” of popes, who were in many cases their illegitimate sons. – https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/nepotism) Well, contrary to the popular belief, the nepotism these days also means favoring both family and friends, not only the family anymore.

Gota

Gota has the disadvantage of being at the receiving end as far as nepotism is concerned due to the long line of Rajapaksas that held high offices between 2005 and 2015, both as elected politicians and recruited officials in various government institutions. I don’t think the public complains much for Gota holding the post of the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense & Urban Development because he has accomplished the unimaginable in that capacity. But it is the other Rajapaksas – maybe except for Mr. Chamal Rajapaksa, the moderate member of the Rajapaksa dynasty – get most of the blame, not to mention the three sons of the former president Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa (jokingly referred as the Three Idiots.) People have reasonable fears that the same will keep happening if Gota becomes the president and you can’t rule out such a possibility given Rajapaksas’ past behavior, can you? This doesn’t mean that fear of nepotism should deny Gota a presidential term with his past achievements as a strict disciplinarian and successful execution of precise work. There is a big portion of the population that believes the country should run under a dictatorship to make things right and they think Gota is the one.

Sajith

Well, the Premadasa clan does not have a lengthy political dynasty that runs for several generations but the previous United National Party (UNP) regimes have repeatedly shown the other form of nepotism, giving undue and unfair advantage for the friends of the leader. This was proved right with the late presidents J. R. Jayawardene and R. Premadasa and the present Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremesighe went berserk by favoring his friends whenever he became the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. So, with this type of past of the UNP, there are reasons to believe that Sajith also would give in to nepotism. I personally don’t believe who Sajith is trying to show he is as I can very well remember how humble his father R. Premadasa showed he was during his presidential campaign. Immediately after rising to power, his true color was shown by becoming the most ruthless leader of the country since Independence. So, there is a big possibility of history repeating itself.

Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VIII – NATIONAL SECURITY


Nanda Wanninayaka nanda.wanninayaka@gmail.com   

Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.

In these few articles, I am comparing and contrasting the two persons in question in 10 areas of concerns in alphabetical order. This post deals with how the two candidates might impress the citizenry in the sensitive issue of NATIONAL SECURITY. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VII – MINORITY SUPPORT for the previous post.  The next area, NEPOTISM, would be dealt with the post Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part IX – NEPOTISM.)

NATIONAL SECURITY

Everyone was complacent that Sri Lanka gained durable peace with the annihilation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorists by mid-May, 2009. Nobody anticipated peace to come for good that soon with the end of a bloody war that lasted for almost three decades. In most parts of the world where wars ended in the recent past, for instance, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. even though so-called “dictators” and jihadists were wiped out, still suicide bombers, car bombs, surprise attacks, prevailed big time. And they continue to this day whereas in Sri Lanka, from the day the terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed and his bloody terrorist organization declared that “the guns were silenced,” not a single suicide attack or bomb was blasted. So, I used to describe this situation among my foreign friends who asked if Sri Lanka was safe to travel, “Yes, buddy. Sri Lanka is perfectly safe. No bombs explode anywhere in Sri Lanka now. If anything explodes over here, it would be popcorns,” with great pride. Alas! Cowardly attacks on Catholics and Christians on Easter Sunday this April by Muslim terrorists changed the whole complex of the social fabric of Sri Lanka. The peace achieved after much sacrifice done by literally the whole nation shattered into pieces within a course of a few hours in a single day.

  • Gota

Gota is considered as the most successful official in the whole history of the war against Tamil Tigers. Nobody expected him to win the war in just three years which had already dragged for more than 25 years. Everyone (well, at least except Professor Nalin De Silva and I) thought the war was unwinnable and we won’t see peace coming during our lifetimes or that of our kids. But Gota got everything under control and hence the whole credit for him. But the 4/21 Jihadist attack on devotees showed how fragile the national security had been and how easily the security establishments took things for granted so much so that even the clear warnings issued by local and foreign intelligence services were grossly ignored resulting mass scale casualties. Everyone shared the sentiment that if Gota was in power, this wouldn’t have happened. So, peace-loving Sri Lankans, which I guess a heavy majority of the citizenry, would want to give Gota another go, even with his flawed track record of alleged human right violations, corruption and unleashing terror on media personnel and media institutions. So, he has a big chance of winning the presidential election this November beating his younger counterpart. having said that, one must remember that in politics, 1+1 does not always give the mathematical total of 2. So, it is better to expect the unexpected on November 17th, just in case.

  • Sajith

The public opinion is that whenever a UNP government came into power since the Tamil Tiger terrorism started in 1983, national security was at stake and it even worsened during the periods where Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister. The gross killing of members of the intelligent units and informants was the norm of the UNP led governments. Betraying the very people who risked everything for the motherland by exposing them in public was something that cannot be expected during even peacetime, let alone during a bloody war. Yet for all, frankly speaking, to secure the support of the ethnic minorities, the UNP found appeasing terrorists and separatist elements more useful than the national security of the bellowed motherland. Sajith cannot escape saying that he was not party to this. He was very much a member of the ruling party every time this happened and his late father, Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa has earned the bad name as the first Sri Lankan president to reward the Tamil Tigers with a large number of weapons, cement and an undisclosed amount of monies. Even worse, it was him who ordered some 600 plus policemen to surrender to the Tamil Tigers ultimately resulting in them being killed in cold blood. So, when it comes to national security, Sajith is way below Gota. But with the way the curious case of ethnic minorities manipulates Sri Lankan politics, Sajith is way ahead of Gota in terms of garnering voted from ethnic minorities as he has been able to win the support of extremist elements of both the Muslim and Tamil alliances. Especially the Muslim leaders who are dead scared of the ordeals they will have to go through due to their alleged links to the Muslim terrorists who were involved in the Easter Sunday attacks will do their best to convince their constituents to vote for Sajith so that they won’t be prosecuted, or disturbed. This is why I mentioned above that the logic of 1+1 does not always give the result 2 in politics.

Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VII – MINORITY SUPPORT


Nanda Wanninayaka nanda.wanninayaka@gmail.com   

Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.

In these few articles, I am comparing and contrasting the two persons in question in 10 areas of concerns in alphabetical order. This post deals with the MINORITY SUPPORT for the two candidates. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VI – LEGACY for the previous post.  The next area, the NATIONAL SECURITY, would be dealt with the post Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VIII – NATIONAL SECURITY.)

MINORITY SUPPORT

Sri Lanka being a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and a multicultural society, minority support plays a key role in a presidential election. This was well displayed during the 2015 presidential election to a great deal. So, if you want to become the president of Sri Lanka, you have to woo the ethnic minorities to you. Unfortunately, what keeps happening is the main two parties promise the things they cannot deliver and once a party wins, the minorities feel they are cheated because the winning party won’t be able to keep the promises due to the objection of the opposition, religious establishments and pressure groups. Fair enough, but why don’t the minorities also learn not to ask these two parties the things that they cannot do? No one learns.

  • Gota

If Gota loses this presidential election, it will mainly be due to the minority votes. Most of the Tamils in the North and the Tamils and the Muslims in the East won’t vote for Gota for obvious reasons. Radical Tamils think it was Gota who wrecked the LTTE and killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, the “Sun God” of the ethnic Tamils. In the case of the Eastern Muslims, the recent Easter Sunday Attacks created an anti-Muslim sentimentality among the general public of all faiths. They expressed the view that if Gota was the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense this type of a heinous attack wouldn’t have happened. And the Muslims at large believe that a future Gota administration would not be easy for the Muslims as Gota would go an extra mile to eliminate the radical Muslim elements in the country and that would mean even the moderate Muslims will have a hard time. This feeling is kind of reasonable with the way the present government acted in the wake of the April massacre. Their lukewarm attitude to a carnage of such magnitude might make such attacks possible in future too. If Gota comes to power terrorists would find it very difficult but the Muslims will have to pay a price (of being searched and their cultural sensitivities compromised.)

If Gota doesn’t get the minority support, which I don’t think he would, he will have to get an amazingly big majority from the Sinhalese voters. Gota has been able to get the support of Mr. Arumugam Thondaman and his Ceylon Workers’ Congress but Thonda doesn’t enjoy the sole power in the Hills as some breakaway groups have left him and formed new parties or alliances. Besides, you can’t trust Thonda as well since he has kept changing camps as a habit, mostly by ending up with the winning side. So, Gota has to work hard to retain Thonda and also try his best to woo the minority votes from the North and the East before it is too late. With my experiences being in the North most of the last year and the East this year, I find the moderate Tamils and Muslims are of the view that a return of Gota will ensure stability which will result in economic development in the two provinces. Having said that, it is too early to predict if this sentiment of the Northern and Eastern people will convert to votes for Gota.

  • Sajith

This is where Sajith has the upper hand. Traditionally, the UNP has been accommodating the ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka even before the Independence. Minorities have held high positions within the party hierarchy and also in the UNP cabinets whenever they were in power. The SLFP being a late comer to politics as a breakaway fraction from the UNP and the former’s slogan being the controversial “Sinhala Only Act” alienated the Tamils and the Muslims from the party I guess. Sajith will go to any extent to get the minority support, which he has already successfully done to ensure his chances in the final battle. He already has been able to secure some fractions of the Estate Tamil powerhouse by ironing out political deals with them. But he can’t be complacent about their support as some political surprises that could come out of the blue might upset his apple cart at a crucial time. It happened during 2005 edition of the presidential race, didn’t it? Who can say such a maneuvering won’t happen in two weeks’ time?

Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VI – LEGACY


Nanda Wanninayaka nanda.wanninayaka@gmail.com   

Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.

In these few articles, I am comparing and contrasting the two persons in question in 10 areas of concerns in alphabetical order. This post deals with the LEGACY of the two candidates. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part V – EXPERIENCE for the previous post.  The next area, MINORITY SUPPORT the of the two candidates, would be dealt with in the Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VII)

LEGACY

Well, a presidential hopeful’s legacy is going to play a vital role not only in Sri Lankan politics but in most of the countries in the subcontinent as well. Bandaranaike’s, Senanayake’s and Rajapaksas in Sri Lanka, Gandhis in India and Bhuttos in Pakistan, are good examples of this. Political dynasties have played a role elsewhere, even in the developed world as well. The Bushes in the USA and the Pitts in the UK are a few to mention.

Gota

Gota comes from a very affluent political dynasty in the Down South of Sri Lanka which has a long history by producing MPs, a Speaker of the House, ministers, a prime minister and an executive president (Mahinda Rajapaksa) as well. The family is far from the Colombo elite but has been enjoying enough power and the public support and amassed wealth to fight any challenge in the political sphere. And the main thing is Rajapaksa family is a very united family and will go to any length to save if and when someone in the clan is in trouble.

Sajith

Being a late president’s son is the only legacy Sajith has been left with. Being just a father’s son won’t take him much longer if he doesn’t believe in himself rather than his father who was assassinated some 25 years ago. The present-day generation hardly knows about Premadasa Senior and even if some of them do, it is mostly for the wrong reasons. The late President Ranasinghe Premadasa (RP) had started as a member of the Colombo Municipal Council and, with a lot of resistance from his own party, just managed to end up being the second executive president of Sri Lanka. But the Premadasas is by no means a long political dynasty as yet. It is difficult to believe they would have one in the future too.

Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part V – EXPERIENCE


Nanda Wanninayaka nanda.wanninayaka@gmail.com   

Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the front-runners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.

In these few articles, I am comparing and contrasting the two persons in question in 10 areas of concern in alphabetical order. This post deals with the EXPERIENCE of the two candidates. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part IV – ELECTION CAMPAIGN for the previous post.  The next area, LEGACY of the two candidates, would be dealt with in Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VI – LEGACY.)

EXPERIENCE

Almost all the former presidents concerned, except for Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga, came to the high post with a wealth of experiences in active politics. According to many this experience will have the upper hand in the election process as well.

Gota

As far as experiences concerned, Gota is not what you call a career politician. He has only 10 years’ experience as an administrator in the capacity of the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development. Whatever said and done about the ways he carried out affairs in that position, none can contradict that he was a highly effective administrator as he won the war against Tamil Tiger terrorists and made the country, especially Colombo, clean and orderly, two tasks that many of his predecessors or not even the leaders of the country could boast of. And the people have a natural fear of him turning out to be a dictator with his experiences as a former army officer, a justifiable fear of many concerned citizens. Even if Gota is inexperienced in politics, he has the inevitable support of the former president Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) and the rest of the Rajapaksa clan which is a very strong outfit at any challenge.

Sajith

In addition to Sajith’s experiences as an MP, a deputy minister and a minister in local politics, he has interned in the US Foreign Relations Committee under Senator Larry Pressler. Wikipedia says Sajith has met many other influential senators, including the former presidential candidate late Mr John McCain and the former Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry. This will be an added qualification to Sajith if he or his election campaigners make use of those areas to silence his critics who say Sajith doesn’t have much exposure with the rest of the world. It is questionable how he carried out with those high-level friends though. Sajith keeps ranting he has a lot of links with the developed world and will be able to get foreign aid to develop Sri Lanka. But with the economic model he suggests which is full of freebies, one starts to doubt if much difference can be done with charitable handouts without increasing the productivity as a nation. Unfortunately, his election campaign is focused on petty issues and thousand and one undeliverable election promises which won’t help much these days as the masses already know these promises cannot be delivered. But, the voters in this country have been so gullible to promises such as 8 pounds of grain to rice from the moon to bread at 3.50 LKR to free Wi-Fi, haven’t they?