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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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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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