I never expected this futile war to end during my lifetime or during that of my son’s for that matter. But, thanks to the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the brave armed forces, the police force, the Civil Security Force and the … Continue reading
The infamous 13th amendment was forced upon both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE terrorist outfit by India for a problem that would have been solved between the government and the terrorists. The said amendment was a solution that had no sensible approach at all. Both the government and the LTTE equally opposed it and the then president late Mr. J. R. Jayawardene had to sign it as he was forced to do so by going against his own cabinet and the rest of Sri Lanka. This is the high time that a totally new constitution is introduced by taking the issues in the immediate past and the foreseeable future are addressed. This has to be done with the participation of all ethnic groups to make everybody feels they are part of one Sri Lanka. Each different ethnic group would have to sacrifice some of the long enjoyed privileges and come to a compromise.
There are three leaders the new President can learn from. Rwandan President Mr. Paul Kagame who made Rwanda the “Switzerland of Africa,” Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan who tries his best to fight corruption, end the terrorist issue of the Taliban, and the Philippines President Mr. Rodrigo Duterte who fights the drug war, underworld activities, jihadist terrorism and corruption. All these leaders are far from saints. Well, no one in politics is. Most charismatic leaders who changed the fates of the countries had many a skeleton in their closets. Obviously our own President cannot be an exception. So, we have to live with it to see a REAL change.
However, Mr. President’s main challenge would be to keep Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Prime Minister and his notorious three sons who are popularly known by the citizens as “Three Idiots,” at bay throughout the President’s office. Mahinda Rajapaksa has done his share of duty to the country by finishing the terrorism that no one expected to happen before 2009 and then improving infrastructure (even amidst massive corruption allegations) and the best thing he should do is to help the present President with his political experience and help groom a new leadership to take the country forward. Mahinda can become a senior adviser than in active politics anymore. It would make more sense if he becomes such one without accepting a remuneration and any other privileges that he is entitled to as an ex-president. (But this would be the last thing one could expect from him though.)
I know very well that many will criticize my stance about the new President here. At the moment, I have seen his positive moves. If he disappoints me and the rest of the country, it is our bad luck. So, for the moment, we will just wait and see. If the things go wrong, you would know it well because I won’t be able to write this monthly review about him anymore. You know what I mean. 🙂
Nanda Wanninayaka firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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 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.
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.
Nanda Wanninayaka email@example.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)
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 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.
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.
Nanda Wanninayaka firstname.lastname@example.org
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.)
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.
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.
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?
Nanda Wanninayaka email@example.com
The controversial former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, considered a moron by the West and the rest of the sensible world died a few weeks ago. Had Mugabe stepped down after two or three maximum presidential terms gracefully, he would have gone down in the history as a legendary leader who saved Zimbabwe from the imperialists. But it was not to be due to his extreme greed for power. He opted not to leave the office till his death, but, as in the cases of most of the similar despots at the end, he was dispatched home by the protesting citizens and the army. Till that, there was no sign of Mugabe relinquishing power even after ruling the country for 37 long years with manipulated and rigged elections.
The same fate could have befallen on our own former president Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR,) had he won the 2015 election and went on being the undisputed leader of the country till his death or till his three sons became old enough to contest the presidential elections. So, he should thank the voters and Maithripala Sirisena (MS) for opening an early (and quite decent one for that matter,) exit from the Temple Trees which the former never expected.
This doesn’t mean MR’s own younger brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) won’t be suitable for the job as the next president. He was ruthless in crushing the Tamil Tiger terrorists and winning the Civil War. It took him only 3 years to finish the war which couldn’t be won for nearly 3 decades by different governments since 1983. Instead, many say, the leaders of Sri Lanka were neither bold enough to take the bull by horns nor had the strength to ignore the growing pressure by India and some countries in the West. Besides, there were rumors that the army big guns and politicians heavily profited from the war. Some former leaders were even accused of providing funds and weapons to the terrorists. Gota managed to fight against all odds and win the war which was unimaginable before 2009.
The near success of brutal crushing of the underworld too is attributed to Gota. One might not be happy with extra judiciary killings of the underworld dark lords but it was the need of the hour as everyone knows that a long extended legal process to bring the criminals of the underworld to the book hasn’t helped reducing thuggery and extorting money from the businessmen who are a needed class in developing the country.
Gota’s involvement of war against drug kingpins is disputed. Some say that he reduced it and some accuse him of associating the big drug kingpins. Gota posing for photographs with some of those alleged drug dealers are also freely available.
They say Gota was even more ruthless in making the country beautiful through the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development in which he was the all-powerful secretary. Making the country clean was something none of the previous governments could even dreamt of doing as it becomes opening a can of worms because any government would face rigid resistance from the illegal dwellers of the cities, especially in Colombo.
If it was the right way Gota controlled free media, specially even after the war was over, is highly questionable. But for some reason, it was part and parcel of the game that Gota was playing and he never took any chances in help reviving the Tamil Tigers and those who sympathize with them. I am sure a lot of atrocities might have happened against the journos even if none of them was proved in a court of law which is too big an ask under the conditions prevailed.
This country needs a benevolent dictator and Gota would be the ideal (and the best available) choice if he survives all the investigations going against him on the charges of corruption, human rights violations and war crimes. I know I am making myself unpopular here but this is the way I see it. We need a strong charismatic leader who can take bold decisions to develop Sri Lanka. (I don’t have to waste my time and that of yours who have already read how the Europe got rid of its feudal kings and got the benevolent dictators to rule the countries and then finally got the elected democratic leaders to rule.)
As the legendary cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan once said, Sri Lanka had other priorities after the war than good governance and democracy. I too subscribe to the same sentiment as this country had to be made suitable for those two elements and it would have been easier for a next leader to prioritize good governance if and when the country was ready for it. By 2015, the country was still not ready to recognize good governance as its first priority. There were other burning issues such as poverty, ignorance, cost of living, infrastructure development, etc. that the citizens looked up to the government to engage in.
While the country needs to ensure a long term and a permanent peace for the businesses to thrive, freedom to invest, pleasant environment to attract foreign tourists, etc. the present government was embarked on good governance which was too big an ask with the UNP’s history of corruption from the top to bottom. The huge scandal of the daylight robbery of the Central Bank by manipulating the treasury bonds even before the new government’s 100-day-development-plan completed its term tells the story better. There were some court proceedings and the culprits were in remand prisons for some time but nobody expects that the looted money would be returned to the treasury nor the offenders would be punished.
When it comes to beautifying the country, the present government has failed big time as they failed even to continue what Gota had initiated. Within a few weeks of coming to the power, hawkers reclaimed their illegal spots in Pettah and other parts of the city and it ended up with whole Colombo started stinking without a proper garbage disposal plan.
As per the Under World, the drug kingpins, extortionists and bounty hunters returned to the island who left the country during Gota’s time and started their activities with almost no resistance from the present government. Every now and then a businessman is killed due to extortion or gang rivalry. We don’t know how high the extortion figures are as it is only when a businessman is killed that such activities are exposed. Most businessmen might be paying ransoms without informing the police. Country is never safe and businessmen don’t want to take risks in investing which apparently reflect on share market too. The GDP growth which was around 7% died down to mere 1.6% and Sri Lanka is ranked only above Afghanistan in the South Asian region in terms of GDP growth which is a shame as all good work of the former regime were undone by the present government that promised “good governance.” People genuinely felt that former regime’s “bad governance” was better than the newly introduced fake good governance.
Easter Sunday Attacks well exposed how weak our intelligence units, police and three-forces had been. Once formidable forces were on their knees when those heinous terrorist attacks rocked the country as the police, military and intelligence units had been made paralyzed by the tomfoolery of the present government that promoted good governance and reconciliation and totally neglected the national security.
We all know that there can be many a skeleton in Gota’s closet. Who hasn’t in the political sphere? This is something common to the whole of South Asia, Africa and South America. Leaders are either corrupt, human rights violators or in short, despots. We have the agony of choice when different political parties field their candidates for elections. But what can we do under the circumstances? Importing a democratic leader from the North Europe? No, you will have to select the best out of the worst. Under these conditions, I would say, Gota is the necessary evil to run the country with all the odds against him and at any cost to the people.
Nanda Wanninayaka – (Column 02 on November 10, 2018 – From Palmyra Peninsula) (This was originally written a couple of months ago but I was deliberately waiting till a General Election or a Presidential Election was called to publish this piece. Now that the first option has come into effect, here I publish it.)
I am not trying to explain how the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka happened and the different perspectives to its root causes. I am only going to talk only about how I perceive it. I was born in 1972 in the village of Mahawilachchiya (in Anuradhapura District of Sri Lanka) bordering the Wilpattu National Park. Velupillai Prabhakaran, who went on to create and lead the Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – L. T. T. E.) and waged a bloody war on all communities of Sri Lanka) got his first human target late Mr. Alfred Duraiappah, an SLFP MP in 1975. I was just 3 years old by then. When the real Civil War in Sri Lanka broke out in 1983 I was a 11-year-old schoolboy. Therefore, I can remember most of the sequences and developments of the ethnic war after the infamous “Black July” in 1983 into a fully-fledged civil war, that hampered the development of Sri Lanka into a possible regional economic power by dragging the country down literally to the Stone Age.
I never expected this futile war to end during my lifetime or during that of my son’s for that matter. But, thanks to the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the brave armed forces, the police force, the Civil Security Force and the citizens at large who sacrifices the unimaginable, the war ended for good on May 18, 2009, before my son celebrated his first birthday. What a relief? Endless attacks on civilians in so-called “border villages,” heinous acts of killing civilians in public transportation systems, constant bomb blasts inside almost all high security zones, suicide attacks on dignitaries, air raids on Colombo etc., kept the whole nation anxious and alert and the people were tormented for almost three decades. War was that horrendous and it was a welcome decision that the former President Rajapaksa took, to take the Tigers head on, not from the tail like the other ineffective and cowardly leaders did since 1975. Mr. Rajapaksa sent the Tigers to the right place, the dustbin of the “bloody” history. This is why former president commands a lot of respect – despite the fact that he was allegedly corrupt and violated human rights – from the people islandwide, especially the people who were directly affected by war. Me being a person who comes from a so called “border village” – Mahawilachchiya – a farming settlement inside the government controlled area but on the edge of LTTE’s haven, i.e., the sprawling Wilpattu National Park from three sides of the village, I have every reason to praise Mr. Rajapaksa for his daring act of taking a stern decision to finish the terrorists’ war with counter war, if not counter terrorism.
I know a lot of atrocities must have happened during the war, especially towards the last few days of the war. There could have been killing civilians, raping women, robbing valuables from fleeing civilians, etc. During the ancient wars, this was called “the spoils of war.” Killing men, raping women, enslaving children, looting treasure were part and parcel of war. It is true that the modern-day wars should be fought by keeping with the human rights accords, etc., with least damage to the civilians. But this is the last thing one could expect during a war. There are no such things called “war crimes” for what happens during a war. War itself is a crime and the smart thing to do was (and is) to take every effort to prevent a war, not to let a small misunderstanding to grow into a national issue and develop into a full-scale war like the late president Mr. J. R Jayewardene and his successors did. What I believe is there is nothing glorious about a winning a war, especially if it is fought with your own countrymen. The most glorious thing is to live in peace with every ethnic groups.
In fact, the 3-decade-long rancorous war was not Tamils’ war or Sri Lanka’s war. It was by no doubt India’s war. The hitherto peaceful, studious, hardworking Tamil boys and girls were dragged into a bloody civil war by India against their own fellow citizens in Sri Lanka. It was India’s disastrous foreign policy against her neighbors that was turned into an ethnic war during the late Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. With India’s secret spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW,) she misread the political situation in Sri Lanka and manipulated it into a full-scale civil war. As I see it, (I strongly believe I am right) Indira did not like the newly elected Sri Lankan president J. R. Jayewardene’s Open Economic Reforms that opened up the door for investors in the West that could create a rapid economic development in the island nation. The open economy could have easily made Sri Lanka the economic powerhouse in South Asia, just like Singapore did in the South East Asia. Mr. Jayewardene enjoyed a huge mandate of 5/6ths of enormous majority in the parliament and he only wanted a vicious Indira Gandhi to upset his apple cart and that of the country. And she was up to it and absolutely successful at that. (India would sarcastically brush off this claim stating that India was already a super power and Sri Lanka was not a significant player when it comes to the former’s economic realms to wash her hands-off Sri Lanka’s misfortunes.)
India, being a more leftist patriarchy with a soft corner to Soviet Union and the rest of the communist world, was a far slow economy with her ill-advised “License Raj” approach to domestic production of goods and services, was upset when she came to know that Sri Lanka had an open minded and a futuristic leader in the capacity of J. R. Jayewardene who had stronger links with the White House than with the Rastrapti Bhawan or Kremlin for that matter.
It is customary and “politically correct” to a Big Brother like India to harass a tiny island nation like Sri Lanka if the former takes the latter as a threat economically or otherwise. It happens elsewhere too. The USA – Cuba, Ukraine – Crimea, China – Hong Kong, etc. are the living examples to prove my point.) But being politically correct does not necessarily mean it is the right thing to do. Besides, fostering terrorists has been compared with nursing the serpents for the time immemorial by the visionaries and Mrs. Gandhi was so irrational not to understand that universal truth and decided to turn the Tamil boys who were very peaceful and committed to whatever work they took on to a terrifying terrorist outfit in the name of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE.) Let us not discuss how the LTTE crushed its brotherly terrorist outfits to be the so-called sole representative of the Tamils here.
Mrs. Gandhi used its southern powerhouse (Tamil Nadu) lead by M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) an actor-turned stupid politician who did not know much about politics than being the emblematic knife-wielding movie hero he was cracked up to be on the silver screen. He knew pretty well that it was easy to change the mindset of the Tamils in Tamil Nadu who were docile enough to treat their sly political leaders (especially actor turned politicians) as demigods.
The result, my friends, was MGR’s Tamil Nadu becoming the cradle of Tamil Tigers with the full blessings of Mrs. Gandhi. And the lambs to the slaughter were the poor Tamil boys in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Later the whole Northern and Eastern Provinces were infected by the deadly terrorism. Sri Lanka, being such a promising country with a lot of economic and other developmental opportunities, went to the labyrinths of endless terrorism as a result.
If Mrs. Gandhi believed in self-governance and promoted it, she should have offered Khalistan, the de facto nation that the Sikhs fought for, on a platter. But she didn’t. Instead she spearheaded a brutal war that killed both the terrorists – yes, I call anyone who breathes the air of a country and drinks its water and eats its fruits and fights for parts of the same land terrorists – be it Tamil Tigers, Sikhs, Tamils, Talibans, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS, etc., whatever – and the civilians in Punjab saying that their claim for a Khalistan was illegitimate. How can she advocate self-determination for Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka and say no to the Sikh terrorists who claimed more or less the same for the same reasons? She went ahead with the controversial attack of reducing Amritsar’s Golden Temple, the holiest place of worship of Sikhs, almost to rubble (and finally paid for it by being brutally gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards of her own security cordon.)
Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination should have reduced the calamities in Sri Lanka if a smart and visionary leader succeeded her. Unfortunately, it was her own son, Rajiv Gandhi who had nothing but the being son of the slain Mrs. Gandhi and the grandson of late. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru as the only qualifications to rise to the thrown – ascended to power in the aftermath of this avaricious woman’s death and later went on winning the General Election also by a big margin, mainly of sympathy votes, something the subcontinent is cursed with. Mr. Gandhi resumed from where his mother left and went onto reinforce the support RAW, India’s notorious secret service was providing for the Tamil boys in the North and East of Sri Lanka. (For documentary and pictorial evidence just read Professor Rohan Gunaratna’s Indian intervention in Sri Lanka: The role of India’s intelligence and Shenali Waduge‘s articles on the subject. Just rummage through the web and you would find scores of them). If you think these two authors are biased for the fact that they are Sinhalese and Sri Lankans, read the books written by some of the Indian journalists, ex-diplomats assigned to Sri Lanka, ex-RAW personnel, ex-military high ranking officers, etc. and those of the independent sources to see how foxily Mr. Gandhi manipulated and escalated Sri Lanka’s cursed civil war.)
Proving the theory of proverbial nursing serpents, Rajiv Gandhi was paid with what he richly deserved, being blown into pieces by a Tamil woman who was allegedly gang-raped by India’s forcibly-sent Indian Peace Keeping Force – (IPKF,) on the former’s way to make it to the PM’s chair once again at a victorious election rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. (Don’t think I am happy to hear that these unscrupulous politicians paid for what nasty things they supported. I feel for every human soul, but one should be human enough to deserve such a sympathy. Being part of or masterminding massacres of civilians or even soldiers or terrorists for that matter, is no trivial matter. There are better ways to solve regional politics without resorting to the devastating terrorism.)
See what happened to the then internally stable Pakistan after creating Talibans to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan with the US money. See what happened to Afghanistan after the creation of Al Qaeda by the United States who also fought for American interests in Afghanistan. See what happened to Iraq, Libya and Syria after the advent of the ISIS terrorist outfit that was allegedly created by the United States. They all turned back and waged war on their very creators.
So, after a lengthy explanation, let me come back to the title of this essay. “Does Sri Lanka Really Need a Federal Solution?” A big NO, is my one and only answer and I won’t change this for any reason. Why? I am no political analyst or an expert on political science. The only academic qualification I have to talk about political science is the mere “C” pass I obtained for Political Science at high school level. All the rest comes from my own experiences and extensive reading about politics.
Sri Lanka does not meet any of the criteria that a federal state requires. We are a small island nation with enough access to any part of the island within a couple of hours. We don’t have the divisions some other countries have within ourselves, i.e., Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. We were living peacefully and our cultural heritage and religious beliefs are very close to each other and we share the same faith or reverence to places like the Adam’s Peak, Kataragama and Nallur rather than fighting each other to claim the ownership of those holy places to each ethnic groups like it happens with Jerusalem in the Middle East. Christians, Jews and followers of Islam are fighting for it while we harmoniously climb Adam’s Peak holding hands with each other respecting each other’s beliefs that it is their respective holy messengers’ footmark that lies up there.
I have seen how so-called intellectuals, both local and international, bring about various logic to prove that Sri Lanka needs a federal solution to solve its “nonexistent” ethnic issue. All three communities in Sri Lanka suffer because of the corrupt governments and corrupt politicians we keep electing. We are discriminated not because of our race. All three communities suffer because of the dirty politicians’ shortsighted decisions. Rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer. Rather than treating each other enemies, we should understand that it is our poverty and ignorance that these politicians manipulate and we should unite and fight them, not ourselves. All three races are equally ill-treated by successive governments since the Independence in 1948. Those governments included politicians from all three communities and they held high offices in them. The only thing they did was looking after their own welfare rather than that of the citizens’ whom they were voted in by.
There are talks of how bags of dollars changing hands in the process of advocating a federal solution to Sri Lanka but I have no proof. At least nobody paid me to write this piece. I am not a big fan of Professor Nalin de Silva. But I do believe in at least two of the many theories he kept advocating. What he said long before the things got worse and complicated in Sri Lankan polity was
He said something to the effect of,
- There is no solution other than a military solution to fight the terrorism and the military can definitely defeat the terrorists in Sri Lanka.
- If the government kneels down before the terrorists and agrees to create a separate state for Tamils (Eelam,) from the next day onward, there would be an endless border war.
He was (and is) correct. Without an official state, the Tamil Tigers had an almost conventional army, a sizable navy and a tiny air force, something that no other terrorist organization in the rest of the world ever had. Imagine what could have happened if they had a federal state that would definitely upgrade itself to a legitimate sovereign nation, how strongly the Tamil Diaspora and the West pumped money and technology to initiate and sustain an unending border war. Sri Lanka would have been the “Israel of the Indian Ocean” and the chaos would have kept going in Sri Lanka till humans started civilizations in Mars!
Ranil Wickremesinghe was never my hero. He wasn’t anybody’s hero for that matter I guess, especially those of his own party, the United National Party (UNP.) Politics was never his field of expertise or his field of interest. I have read somewhere when his uncle, the late president Mr. J. R. Jayewardene (JRJ) asked him to join politics, the former had flatly refused and said, “Please, please uncle. Politics is not my field of interest. Just let me be like this.” or something to that effect.
Well, Mr. JRJ has done several mistakes in his political life.
- JRJ politicized the then well-established civil service by giving the powers of the civil servants, especially the District Secretaries – who were then called “Government Agents” – and the Divisional Secretaries – who were then called “Assistant Government Agents” – to the conceited and corrupt bunch of politicians from the ruling UNP who were then called “දිසා ඇමති” (District Ministers.) The whole governing system was turned upside down as a result and the repercussions are seen and felt today than ever.
- Introducing the Open Economic Reforms in an unprecedented and hasty manner creating lot of chaos in the country which totally disturbed the lifestyles of the people. Local industries collapsed like a card of dominoes and the hitherto surplus of the balance of payment became a huge deficit and the whole country was submerged in a quagmire that never was able to get out of to date
- One of the gravest mistakes of JRJ was masterminding the notorious “Black July” in 1983 and letting his own UNP goons to kill, wound and loot the Tamils living in the South of the island. JRJ’s thugs did not stop at that but were given an “unofficial license” to rape Tamil girls and women. These heinous acts were understandably reciprocated by the Tamils who were the dominating ethnic group in the North and East of the Island. Being the all-powerful executive president of the country, JRJ never took the correct path of quelling this unwanted riots and what happened in the aftermath of this is the history.
- I think the worst mistake JRJ did for the country was getting this very lethargic and non-practical young man, Mr. Wickremasighe to the political arena. You don’t need any example as to show how disastrous JRJ’s decision was as you can see Mr. Wickremasinghe as the living example himself. He was never a decent public speaker. His body language while he does public speaking especially in the local language, Sinhala is so terrible and he becomes a bigger comedian than Mr. Bean the world famous comedy character performed by the British actor Rowan Atkinson. Moreover, Mr. Wickremasinghe never understood the heart or the pulse of the people in the country. Maybe at least some of his moves were meant to be productive to the country but the way he communicated those to the masses wasn’t convincing at all. It was easy for the opposition to make mincemeat of him of anything he put forward for the country due to this weakness of him. He was easily made the traitor of the country even when he tried his best to be the patriot. I don’t want to go any further describing this poor man, the biggest failure in Sri Lankan politics anymore.
Instead, I will come to the root cause of the current issue of the sudden political destabilization. Let’s recap how the incumbent president, Mr. Maithripala Sirisena was brought to the wrong side of the presidential elections in 2015 as the common presidential candidate by the UNP-led coalition. They say politics make strange bedfellows but this queer union of Mr. Sirisena and the UNP-led coalition made the former in totally uncharted waters. It was apparent that the money, energy and the huge election campaign masterminded, funded and carried out by proxy actors locally was actually was done with the generous help of India, USA and some of the powerful countries in the unholy NATO camp that made the former Gramasewaka (village headman,) the president of Sri Lanka, something nobody expected to happen even in wildest dream before January, 2015. As expected, once elected, the president became a big joke, maybe a little less jocular than Mr. Wickremasinghe, his Prime Minister. Okay, let’s leave it at that.
The ex-president, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Machiavellian politician he was cracked up to be, cracked himself a few weeks ago by idiotically masterminding a constitutional coup that made himself the Prime Minister with the support of a minority group of unreliable MPs in the parliament by putting the country in the doldrums. He should have waited till the current parliament completed its mandate given by the voters. If it continued its full run, in one and half years’ time that was left to it, it would have crumbled from its inside. But Mr. Rajapaksa was so power-hungry that he joined Mr. Sirisena, the former’s arch enemy who betrayed Rajapaksa big time and robbed his apparently inevitable chance of being elected as the President of Sri Lanka for a record and a historical third time. The two unlikely pair joined hands after what looked like a constitutional gimmick that paved way for the President to appoint Mr. Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister of the nation while there was an incumbent PM who was already in office. This shouldn’t have happened under ANY circumstance. Mr. Rajapaksa should have weighed the pros and cons of the situation. But you cannot expect that type of logical reasoning from an experienced politician who trusted his “official soothsayer” than an opinion poll or two to test the waters and called a presidential election two years before the stipulated time and ended up losing his presidency two years shy of the allocated period.
By then, the incumbent Prime Minister Mr. Wickremasinghe was already immensely unpopular and the best thing to do should have been letting him stay in power for the rest of his office and wait till he faces the General Election which was already swaying to the Rajapaska’s newly created party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), which was already the main contender and the fresh thing in the menu. But what megalomaniac Rajapaska did was something totally unacceptable ethically, politically and strategically. Mr. Wickremasinghe was at the receiving end as he messed up big time right from the beginning of his office and the UNP would have faced a humiliating defeat at the general election with dodgy Treasury Bond scam, corruption, inefficiency, ever-increasing inflation, monthly increase of price of fuel and the heavy tax burden on the public to sway even his traditional vote base to Rajapaksa’s camp, even though it would have been only an agony of choice for the voters to elect someone from both the mainstream parties. But Rajapaksa would have had an upper hand in defeating UNP-led collation even without the support of the president Sirisena and his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP.)
But everybody knows how power-hungry the Rajapaksa clan is. They are not the only megalomaniac clan in Sri Lankan politics. Think of Senanayake, Bandaranaike, Premadasa clans too. This is part and parcel of the politics in the subcontinent and you can’t help it. But this time Rajapaksa did the worst gamble in his entire political life and he got the already unpopular PM out of his office and made himself the Prime Minister. The process was seen as something done by the president but we know what happens behind the curtains in the corridors of power in Sri Lanka.
So what has Rajapaksa got at the end? The good-for-nothing Wickremasinghe has become the “Mandela of Sri Lanka” now. Mr. Wickamesinghe didn’t have to waste 27 years in a prison to become Mandela. Only thing he had to do was continuing his idiotic governing style but both Sirisena and Rajapaksa “Mandelaized” the born-loser Wickremasinghe. Now he has got the sympathy of his traditional vote base which was drifting towards the Rajapaskas. Furthermore, Wickeremasinghe has become the doll of the Western powers and the Western media now and is the zero-turned-hero without much ado.
So, what have Sirisena and Rajapaska got on their plates? Going down the drain to the political dungeons of Sri Lanka? The chances are that even if you win this political standoff and survive the constitutional crisis, you will still be the at the receiving end of the public at large. Local and international media and the rest of the world will ensure you have a hard time and you will have to fight a Do-or-Die battle to cling on to power.
One might justify the former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) taking some of the Ministries from the then Prime Minister Wickramasinghe’s government in 2004 that ultimately led to an early dissolution of the parliament which brought CBK’s United People’s Freedom Alliance coalition get back the power in the House. At that time, the country was at a crucial crossroad with the unpopular peace deal brokered by the Norwegians and signed between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which was condemned by the majority of the country. Everybody thought that the country would be split into two which would create an inevitable border war. There was no sympathy towards the then Wickremasinghe government as the sympathy of the public was with the CBK government. But at this time, there was no such immediate threats to the National Security of the nation. Even the so-called federal solution which was being demanded by the mainstream Tamil party, the Tamil national Alliance (TNA) was not to become a reality. The two main reasons the Wickremasinghe government had not to provide a federal solution was that it did not have enough time left to go for that even if they wanted and the second reason was that the country was not ready for it. Mr. Wickremasinghe being in power for 3 years of wasn’t able to convince the people, especially the majority Sinhalese, that federal solution was a viable solution to the long standing standoff between the majority and minority ethnic groups of the country. But as a result of this unethical and undemocratic overthrow of the Wickremasinghe government helped getting it the sympathy of the TNA and the rest of the minority parties as well making Mr. Wickremasinghe a lot more powerful than the Prime Ministerial powers he enjoyed and continue to enjoy to date being the de facto Prime Minister despite Rajapaksa is the official, yet, they say, the unconstitutional Prime Minister.
I am not a political analyst but I have lived 46 years in this Island and this is what I feel about this unnecessary quagmire the country is plunged into with this power struggle. Even if the Sirisena-Rajapaksa camp is to successfully survive the constitutional crisis, all what we can expect is the country would be thrown into a quicksand from the present quagmire and the public would be the ones who suffer. Everybody knows Lord Acton’s famous statement, Power corrupts and extreme power corrupts extremely. So, my compatriots, live with it.
Does e-ticketing in Sri Lanka serve its purpose? In the first picture you see a regular paper ticket issued for train commuters by the Sri Lanka Railway Department (more commonly known as Sri Lanka Railways (SLR)), which is littler than a credit card. in the next picture you see a printed version of an e-ticket the same department issues at the counter once you show the e-ticket details that is sent to the commuter’s mobile phone by the said department. It is bigger than an A5 paper!!! The very purpose behind the e-ticket system is to reduce the paperwork and make the ticketing process faster and more efficient. Not to mention the ease for both the department and the commuter. There shouldn’t be any paper work at all since there should be a way that the department can confirm the authenticity at the railway station itself with using technology. If they still insist on the papers, shouldn’t the e-ticket be reduced at least to the size of a credit card?
(Also see the image below and read the paragraph below it.)
Above is the screenshot of the Train Schedule published online by the same department in its website. Here it says the Intercity Express train (number 4022) has first, second and the third-class tickets. But this is false information misleading the unsuspecting commuter. There is no 2nd or 3rd class compartments in this train. I checked and double checked with the department a short while ago. See how a tourist feels once they trust the department website and go to the station with the false information.
As far as I know, it is the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), the apex government body for ICT-related developments, that spent huge amounts of monies granted by the World Bank and the South Korean government for creating, maintaining and updating these government institutions’ websites. But it looks like that money was wasted than invested.
ICTA was a well-planned institution established by the then U. N. P. government which came to power in 2002 for a very short period. It had a vision, goals and a well-thought-out plan which was designed by the professionals and experts in the field. Unfortunately, once SLFP-lead coalition government came into power in 2005, things changed. When Mahinda Rajapaksa became the Prime Minster and took the ICTA under his office, things went worse and once he became the President of Sri Lanka and took the ICTA under the President’s Office, things even deteriorated. President Rajapaksa changed the original master plan designed by the experts and started interfering into the ICTA’s domain. He ensured the race, religion and the allegiance to the ruling party are the criteria to the staff selection, funds disbursement and what not? Professional staff members were replaced with the ruling party’s henchmen (and henchwomen for that matter.) The utter waste and the lethargy became the norms at the ICTA to stay. The ICTA was formed with a young CEO in the capacity of Mr. Manju Hattotuwa with the right qualifications and an open mind towards the constant changes in the field of ICT. But, the ruling party installed a very old, cunning and vile carnivorous dinosaur whose knowledge in the field in question was obsolete as a result of old age and utter incompetence, as the Chairman of the so-called apex government body for ICT-related developments. Earlier it was the CEO of the agency who ran the agency productively and the post of the Chairperson was more of a formality if not ceremonial. But the obsolete dinosaur first got Manju out of the ICTA and changed the agency from a private sector-model efficient organization to a lethargic government department. (Not to mention the couple of buffoons installed as CEOs of the agency from time to time who came nowhere close to Manju in terms of public relations, efficiency and productivity.) So, when the dinosaur died of old age, the position of the Chairperson went to a lady who new anything but ICT. The dinosaur reduced the ICTA to rubble but this ignorant lady ensured the rubble became dust.
The SLR website is only one tiny example when it comes to incompetence. Almost 99% of the other government institutions’ websites are equally obsolete and hardly serve the very purpose of launching them at the expense of the taxpayer. Those websites are also obsolete with eons-old information, email accounts that are not checked, contact numbers that don’t exist anymore and links that don’t work from the very day of creating those websites. Most of the responsible officials in the said institutes use Yahoo! Email IDs let alone Gmail IDs if not for the email IDs with domain names of the institutions! Furthermore, you have to call those officials and tell them that an email has been sent and it is high time they checked them. That is “e-Sri Lanka” or “Digital Sri Lanka” for you and your tax rupees are at work!!!
At least now the agency is chaired by a non-corrupt, efficient and experienced futuristic visionary in the capacity of Professor Rohan Samarajiva who won’t be fooled by flattering or sycophancy. So, Sir, it is your time to make things right at the ICTA if it is not too late as yet.
In August, 2016 I finished a 5-day-long motorcycle journey with Meer Ali, the first volunteer for Horizon Lanka from India. This was the longest sojourn I embarked on a bike so far. It was high fun riding the bike through all those cities, towns and villages with Meer Ali, my friend from India. We took turns while riding and after the long ride with Benjamin Pages from France who was an excellent rider, Meer was the next one to win my admiration for safe riding. It was very comfortable to be at the pillion of the bike when his turn came. I have never been comfortable like with Ben and Meer so far in the pillion of a bike.
We took the following routes.
Day 2 – From Naula to Nuwara Eliya via Katugasthota bypassing Kandy (129 km)
Day 3 – From Nuwara Eliya to Tissamaharama via Bandarawela, Ella, Wellawaya, Thanamalvila. (143)
Day 4 – From Tissamaharama to Yala National Park and back and to Thissamaharama. Then to Mount Lavinia through Hambanthota, Matara and Galle. (310 Km) – The longest distance I rode by bike within a single day.
Day 5 – From Mount Lavinia to Mahawilachchiya via Colombo, Ja Ela, Minuwangoda, Narammala, Kobeygane, Padeniya, Thambuththegama and Anuradhapura (263 km)
Total is 962 km within 5 days. It cost Meer only 2500 (LKR) worth petrol for the bike for the whole distance. It was close to 20 liters of petrol. Still half of the last 500 LKR remained in the tank after we returned home. This is a good advertisement for my Bajaj Pulsar 150.
Thanks to the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, all the main roads are completely renovated wherever we went. I think almost all roads are like this everywhere in Sri Lanka. Hope the Maithripala government also continue the good work of Mr. Rajapaksa and renovate the remaining by roads.
We never had any life-threatening moments while riding a distance close to 1000 km. Well, except for the scary moment when Meer lost the balance when he went over a pot hole which we traveled in Kobeygane – away from the main road to see a sick child. But Meer took the bike back in control before we fell and I don’t think it was his fault. Meer is an excellent, fast and mindful rider. In fact, if one has ridden a motorbike in a country like India where drivers’ discipline is hardly heard of, one can ride a bike even in Mars too.
I was surprised about the cleanliness of all the cities, towns and villages during this epic ride. I didn’t see much difference in the places of the developed world and in Sri Lanka. Drivers were also fairly disciplined despite the cliché of bad Sri Lankan drivers. Only problem was that some buses and trucks never dimmed the headlights when they saw we were coming from the front.
During all these 5 days my friend Meer had to tolerate my singing of Hindi, Sinhala, Tamil and English songs while riding. According to my son Abhilash, my voice is too deep that it comes close only to Fred Flintstone, supposed to be the world’s second worst voice. (Well, the worst voice is supposed to be Cacofonix. Meer must have been surprised of the huge number of Hindi songs I sang. I remember more than 500 song lyrics since my elder brother Nayanasena bought us a high-quality Akai cassette recorder in 1980s. With my deep voice, the only singer I can come anywhere close to must be Kishore Kumar. But I can never compare myself with the legend.