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Dodgy Politics of ‘Viyathuns’

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“The Island” on Saturday (8 August) has carried a report, captioned “A sizable Viyathmaga group enters Parliament”. The content of this report should be assessed against the slogan – electing “educated” people to the Parliament, gaining currency in the recent past mainly due to the deterioration in parliamentary standards and decorum.

Under British colonialism, in 1910, it was claimed that in the Legislative Council “the low country Sinhalese, the Kandyans and Tamil peasantry are represented in the Legislative Council by native members, selected from the educated classes of these races.” But, in actual practice, British Government Agents, of the Western and Central Provinces, were nominated as the “real representatives” of the peasantry, under the pretext that the “best part of their lives has been spent in Ceylon”. Under McCullum reforms, in 1910, an “Educated Ceylonese Constituency “was declared possessing stipulated professional, income or educational qualifications for voters not registered in the European and Burgher electorates.

Have we not elected “educated” people to the legislature – to the State Council and, thereafter, to the Parliament – since we gained adult suffrage in 1931, the year we began the real electoral process? Nobody can deny that since 1931, to date, we have elected QCs, PCs, a host of lawyers of different kinds, doctors, chartered accountants, engineers, academics, including a few vice-chancellors, and other professionals, to represent the people. Many of those had held very important portfolios. Similarly, many of those were responsible for our ongoing economic, political, socio-cultural problems and disasters, as well as the blunders made in the international arena. Elaboration is not needed that it was the “educated” representatives who were behind the divisive politics, on communal lines, in Sri Lanka. One of the most eminent Vellala Mathematicians, who disliked Ivor Jennings being appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ceylon, who later became an MP, was in the forefront of preventing the depressed castes of Jaffna entering the Maviddapuram Kovil, the in mid-sixties.

Is appointing more “Viyathuns” to the Parliament the solution to our economic, political and socio-cultural problems? Before answering this question one must have a clear definition of the Sinhala term “Viyatha” and its plural “Viyathun”. Here we do not intend to give its many-faceted meanings, found in classical Sinhala literature, because it is a very cumbersome exercise. There are many references to “Viyathun” and “Viyath Sabha” in classical Sinhala literature. One such reference is “Viyath Na” or “Viyath Nayaka”, signifying the Teacher of the King. This term was unashamedly used by one of our Viyathuns as one of his recent election slogans! A grave error made by many in the present context is to use the term “Viyathun” to describe professionals and technocrats, which is absolutely wrong. Another misconception is using the term “Viyathun” to denote our so-called intellectuals. Chairman Mao, in his writings, had defined clearly the class characteristics of intellectuals.

Soon after the November Presidential Elections, writing to a Sinhala weekly, I have stated that one of the biggest challenges of the new President is striking a balance between the technocrats and the seasoned politicians, headed by MR, working at grass-root level; in other words establishing a close relationship between the technocrats, who are clad in three-piece suits, and the seasoned politicians who wear cloth and banyan. The success of the future governance will depend, basically, on the success of this close affinity.

We should not forget that in the recently concluded General Elections, the Viyathuns reaped the harvests in the fields asweddumised by the grass-root level politicians, who toiled day and night, for many years, who worked against all tremendous odds, braving stormy weather and physical harm. We identify these two groups as sowers (ploughmen) and reapers. The reapers also had the benefit of the “wave” which we have observed in the 1956, 1970 and 1977 General Elections. According to popular lore, in 1977, fielding even a “polpittha” was enough to win a parliamentary seat. Riding on the waves is an easy task, rather than clearing wayside roadblocks and obstacles. The sowers were equipped with unparalleled organising ability.

Viyathuns may have produced results in their chosen fields and careers. It is not a guarantee they will succeed and stand out in a different field, under different circumstances. Only in business you convert challenges into opportunities. In politics, challenges take one to the brink of disaster.

During the recently concluded Parliamentary elections, we observed “Viyathuns” resorting to the same ugly tactics, used by seasoned politicians, when they entered the “manape” fray. We heard self-centered, egoistic slogans and saw third-grade celluloid-hero type videos. We also witnessed open conflicts, and even use of strong arm tactics, by the sowers and reapers. It was evident that to win, any “Viyatha” had to come down to the level of a grass-root level politician. Financially, materially and in terms of the number of “catchers’ around them, they were not poor. They matched or, in most cases, overwhelmed their senior cousins in advertising. It was rumoured that some obtained millions for their election campaigns. As true “Viyathuns” they should disclose their funding sources, setting an example, inculcating a new political culture.

Making loud noises, without any substance, at public gatherings, like “beating a palm frond with gravel” (“thal aththata boralu gahanawa”) is not a quality of a “Viyatha’. We saw many “Viyathuns” occupying the centre stage and later decamping, accepting high posts and becoming ideologues of the opposing camp. So, we have to be very careful when we deal with “Viyathuns” who are very liberal in their thinking, who do not have any sound political ideology, euro-centric in art and cultural values like any other politician in opposing camps, and who do not provide space to art and culture in their political agendas.

SENA THORADENIYA

 

 



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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