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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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SJB alleges Prez under SLPP pressure to give up power to dissolve Parliament

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Nalin Bandara Jayamaha yesterday alleged that President Ranil Wickremesinghe was under tremendous pressure from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to give up power to dissolve Parliament, two and a half years after the parliamentary election.

Kurunegala District MP Jayamaha said that the SLPP wanted the provision, pertaining to dissolution of Parliament in the 19A, included in the 22nd Amendment, at the committee stage.

In terms of the 19th Amendment enacted in 2015, the President couldn’t dissolve Parliament until the completion of four and a half years of the term of a government. The last parliamentary poll was conducted in August 2020.

Having overwhelmingly voted for UNP leader Wickremesinghe at the Presidential contest on July 20 to complete the remainder of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term, the SLPP was now seeking full control, lawmaker Bandara asserted.

The SJB official, however, acknowledged that their party, too, had been divided on the issue, with those who backed Dullas Alahapperuma, at the Presidential contest, opposing the move.

Wickremesinghe received 133 votes. Of the 145 SLPP votes, except for its rebel group, the rest voted for Wickremesinghe.

Responding to another question, the former UNPer said that some interested parties thwarted SLPP founder Basil Rajapaksa from leaving the country, soon after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa abandoned the President’s House. That appeared to have backfired, MP Bandara said, alleging Basil Rajapaksa seemed to be running the show.

Asked whether more members of the SJB would soon switch their allegiance to President Wickremesinghe, MP Bandara said that he couldn’t predict what the individual members were likely to do. However, the SJB, the second largest group in Parliament wouldn’t join the government, MP Bandara said.

Of the 54 elected and appointed SJB members, so far two – Manusha Nanayakkara and Harin Fernando – have accepted ministerial portfolios. SJB National List MP Diana Gamage, earlier pledged her support to the SLPP.

Lawmaker Bandara said that the SLPP seemed to be quite confident of regaining full political authority, regardless of the recent setbacks suffered. The former Law and Order Deputy Minister said that the SLPP was bent on pursuing its strategy, though the President, elected by the party, fled the country.

The SJB MP said that the move to create an environment, conducive for crossovers for the personal benefit of lawmakers, should be condemned. The provisions, pertaining to the appointment of the Cabinet-of-Ministers, under the proposed 22 Amendment, in case the party with the largest block of seats reached a consensus with other parties, were meant to appoint a jumbo sized Cabinet, the MP said. The SJB official questioned the rationale in giving Parliament the authority to decide on the number of Cabinet ministers and non-Cabinet members, in case of a National Government.

Lawmaker Bandara said that President Wickremesinghe and the SLPP were yet to come up with tangible action plan to address political or economic issues. The MP warned, what he called the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government, that the public here, and the international community, couldn’t be deceived by calling itself a National Government.

The SJB spokesperson said that they wouldn’t contribute, or facilitate, the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa ploy by accepting ministerial portfolios. “We won’t legitimize the government project. How can the SLPP still be acceptable, after the public rejected Gotabaya Rajapaksa, elected by them,” MP Bandara said, adding the SLPP seemed to have conveniently forgotten that the public rejected the ministers, along with their highly overrated President.

The outspoken MP said that it would be a grave mistake, on the SLPP’s part, if its leadership believed the unprecedented crisis, caused by them, could be resolved by getting rid of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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22 A: Karu J, too, makes some suggestions

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Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice, Karu Jayasuriya, said that fears expressed by members of Parliament, and others, over the provisions, pertaining to the appointment of Cabinet of Ministers, were not unfounded.

The former Speaker said that he was also concerned about allegations that the proposed 22 A could be abused and exploited to appoint a jumbo Cabinet.

Jayasuriya suggested that political parties, represented in Parliament, and other interested parties should address whatever concerns raised as regards the 22 Amendment.

The yahapalana Speaker said that the success of the whole process would depend on the readiness of all those involved in the new constitution making endeavor to address issues at hand. The accusation that a particular provision (47 [4]) could be used to violate the restriction of cabinet ministers to 30 and no-cabinet members to 40 couldn’t be ignored, Jayasuriya said.

Jayasuriya said that those who represented the parliament should inquire into criticism over the Speaker receiving an opportunity to nominate three civil society members to the 10-member Constitutional Council in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. The former Gampaha District MP recalled that in terms of the 19 Amendment, the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader used to nominate the civil society members. Jayasuriya said that whatever knotty issues could be tackled at the committee stage (SF)

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“Govt workers, too, were involved in fuel hoarding”

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It had become obvious that some government workers, too, were involved in hoarding fuel and selling it in the black market, D.V Shantha Silva, joint Secretary the Sri Lanka Petroleum Private Tanker Owners’ Association (SLPPTOA) said yesterday, addressing the media.

He said that the introduction of the national fuel pass system is successful and the majority of fuel stations followed the system.

“Some gas stations still try to manipulate the system but it won’t be easy,” he said.

There is no congestion in gas stations and SLPPTOA members are happy with the process, he said.

“However, there is a drop in orders from gas stations. In the last few months, before the QR system, one tanker load was only enough for a few hours. But now gas stations pump fuel for days with one shipment,” he said.

Silva said that many people tried to blame three-wheeler drivers for hoarding fuel. However, there were other actors involved in the racket, among them were government officials.

“Before the QR system we saw a large number of people at gas stations each morning accessing fuel using various passes. Now that doesn’t happen and there is no congestion,” he said. (RK)

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