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Military Officer Cadets- A Nation’s Promise of the future

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Major General Nanda Mallawaarachchi VSV’s article in the Sunday Island and Sunday Times of April 25, 2021 respectively titled ‘Being blooded into the Ceylon Army in 1971’and ‘The making of a soldier’ would certainly have brought back pleasant memories to army officers of their days at Diyatalawa while training as officer cadets.

A retired officer of the Armoured Corps residing in Canada puts it across very well in a letter “Good read … about what was normal, and common to all intakes. The analysis and mention of individuals and places also brings back fond and nostalgic memories of training days at Diyatalawa ……. Loyalty to intake mates is good”.

The Major General may be forgiven for not mentioning the landmark of Diyatalawa, Fox Hill and its environs, including a hill jocularly known as ‘R… kellage passa paththa’ where quite a lot of training is done, the White Gate at the top of the dominating steep hill from the polo grounds where senior cadet’s test junior cadet’s fitness and interaction with the SLAF cadets.

Diyatalawa is also the only Garrison town in SL, something even the Directorate of Legal Services at Army HQ appears to have forgotten to the delight of dozens of unchecked illegal squatters. Leaving out the demonstration platoon from the Gemunu Watch may also be excused as they may have added to the cadets’ tales of excruciating woe on tactical exercises like Frozen Trout on the Horton Plains.

The mission of SLMA Diyatalawa, called the Officer Cadet School when Maj Gen Mallawaarachchi was there, is to educate, train and inspire officer cadets to be good military leaders and good citizens.

However in what appears to be a misconception of the mission, possibly due excessive zeal and popular exaggeration, the writer has made a few avoidable declarations. The first is considerable and dramatic. It fuels myths. It states that the Chief Instructor Captain, (not Major as given – later Major General) Sena de Sylva SLLI in his opening address said ‘We will break you and remake you in such a manner that nobody… will be able to break you again”.

This cannot be. Is it due to a severe memory lapse and a mistake, 50 years on? At a time when Geneva is giving SL no respite, this description could be added manna for SL’s detractors to be made by no less than a Major General that the Army ‘breaks’ even its officer cadets. It could also cause considerable negative concerns to parents, teachers and future aspirants as well as the public that holds the Army in considerable esteem and to former instructors. Major de Sylva, a Sandhurst alumnus from Trinity College, now living in the USA, actually said the training would be ‘very hard’.

The article misinterprets the objectives of the SLMA. As the above retired SL officer in Canada expands with passion “there was nothing to be broken. Inherent characteristics, talents, qualities and capabilities were enhanced and corrected while new ones were added through training, leadership examples of instructors and later seniors in one’s regiment. It includes transparency, respect for law and order, common decency, upholding the highest ideals of human behaviour, not by someone in authority but as a normal human being.” Military training is certainly very hard, robust, grueling, and very tough and extremely challenging as surely it must be. However it is not intended to ‘break’ inductees, especially future leaders.

The aim at SLMA Diyatalawa is to produce an officer who is morally, mentally and physically able to lead soldiers. The motto of the Military Academy Diyatalawa is ‘Serve to Lead’. It means officers must first serve their men in order to lead them. The officer trains them in the field, looks after them when in barracks, plays with them, goes out on adventure training with them, helps solve their personal problems and generally builds up confidence and trust. It is said a good young officer will know his men better than their own parents. This is what makes a soldier risk his life in obeying his officer in battle as he knows the officer would have done the same to save his. Would the charter of Diyatalawa be compromised by ‘breaking’ them first?

Such methods may possibly be attempted in a penitentiary or by sadistic ‘seniors’ (IUSF members with complexes) on ‘freshers’ at Universities in SL, with pitiful consequences including sadly, suicides.

The idea at Diyatalawa is to encourage imaginative and flexible and predictable leadership that is sensitive, honest, develops group spirit, camaraderie and a sense of fun as seen in the article. There will be pride, friendship forged by shared suffering, military knowledge, basic skills, discipline and finally a willingness to risk their lives for their comrades, regiment and country. They should be quick witted, hardy, well educated, approachable and have the trust and esteem of their soldiers, being responsible for lives not only livelihoods.

The article for some strange reason also states that cadets were paid Rs 460 in 1971.This is quite curious as even subalterns (second lieutenants) starting pay was Rs 275 then and a captain was paid Rs 525. Cadets who went to Sandhurst in the 1950/60s were paid a soldier’s salary. It was Rs 60. No one was shy to say so.

The article goes on about doing night sentry duties in ‘fox holes’ at Diyatalawa when the 1971 JVP insurgency began. Fox holes are tubular and uncomfortable. Foxes may know! This is an American term for the wholly inadequate preparations they used to make to protect themselves from enemy fire. It was a shade better than their alternative ‘shell scrapes’. They found the bitter truth of this in the Korean War. That term and concept was not in use at Diyatalawa. Surely what was meant were fire trenches? They provide protection for two from enemy small arms fire and substantially from artillery fire. What is not known was why NCOs like Reeves (later Regimental Sergeant Major of the First Field Engineers and now living in Canada) were allowed to slip into the trenches ‘at night to catch anyone sleeping and punish them’. Corporals were never allowed to punish cadets anyhow. Why Reeves was not shot is the real question!

Whatever these asides are, the real finale to these experiences will be when the former Officer Cadet Gotabaya Rajapakse of Intake 4 takes the salute as the Commander in Chief (C in C) at the next commissioning parade at Diyatalawa. He will remember that day, 50 years back, when he too was among those who paraded on the same grounds at a similar but smaller parade to salute the C in C’s representative.

The many battles he fought against the terrorists and his comrades both soldiers and officers who died and were wounded, will flash across his mind. He will humbly recall the leadership promise fulfilled when he as Defence Secretary was a part of the triumvirate that headed the armed forces which ended the 30-year conflict bringing total peace to SL.

Retired and serving officers, parents of the cadets and the public watching the parade live and on TV and the cadets on parade will bring to mind an officer cadet who then became an elected president without being a politician and came back to Diyatalawa as the C in C to take the salute.

Thankfully he was not broken but challenged, encouraged, set examples inspired and made. Emulation is highly unlikely but the mountain was climbed right up to the top. What an achievement. What an Academy! What an unforgettable and unique moment it will be.

 

A former officer cadet/instructor



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Biden-Harris administration unveils strategy for global vaccine sharing

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Announces allocation plan for first 25 million doses to be shared globally

As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic at home and work to end the pandemic worldwide, President Biden has promised that the United States will be an arsenal of vaccines for the world. To do that, the Administration will pursue several additional measures beyond our robust funding for COVAX: Donating from the U.S. vaccine supply to the world and encouraging other nations to do the same, working with U.S. manufacturers to increase vaccine production for the rest of the world, and helping more countries expand their own capacity to produce vaccines including through support for global supply chains.

This vaccine strategy is a vital component of our overall global strategy to lead the world in the fight to defeat COVID-19, including emergency public health assistance and aid to stop the spread and building global public health capacity and readiness to beat not just this pandemic, but the next one.

 Today, the Administration announced its framework for sharing at least 80 million U.S. vaccine doses globally by the end of June and the plan for the first 25 million doses.  

 

Specifically, the Administration announced that:  

 The United States will share vaccines in service of ending the pandemic globally. Today, the Administration announced its framework for sharing these 80 million U.S. vaccine doses worldwide. Specifically, the United States will:

 Share 75% of these vaccines through COVAX. The United States will share at least three-quarters of its donated doses through COVAX, supplying U.S. doses to countries in need. This will maximize the number of vaccines available equitably for the greatest number of countries and for those most at-risk within countries.  For doses shared through COVAX, the United States will prioritize Latin America and the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa, in coordination with the African Union.    

Share 25% for immediate needs and to help with surges around the world. The United States has received requests for vaccines from countries all over the world.  The U.S. will share up to one-quarter of its donated doses directly with countries in need, those experiencing surges, immediate neighbors, and other countries that have requested immediate U.S. assistance. Specifically, we will:

Set the stage for increased global coverage.  The allocation of this first tranche of donated doses reflects the desire of the United States to respond to all regions and lay the ground for increased supply and access throughout the world. 

Prepare for surges and prioritize healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations based on public health data and acknowledged best practice. We will share with countries in urgent need, with a priority on vaccinating frontline workers. The United States will not use its vaccines to secure favors from other countries.  The U.S. will work with partners who are both ready and in need.  And, our donations will prioritize countries with vaccine readiness plans that prioritize individuals at highest risk of severe disease and those working to help care for them, like health care workers. 

Help countries in need and our neighbors. The United States will share vaccines in our region and across our borders. We first made doses available to our closest neighbors – Canada and Mexico.  Our dose sharing approach prioritizes Latin American and the Caribbean on a per capita basis.  

The U.S. announced the proposed allocation plan for the first 25 Million doses. Based on the framework above and pending legal and regulatory approvals, the United States plans to send our first tranche of 25 million doses:

Nearly 19 million will be shared through COVAX, with the following allocations:

Approximately 6 million for South and Central America to the following countries: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, as well as the Dominican Republic.

Approximately 7 million for Asia to the following countries:  India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands. 

Approximately 5 million for Africa to be shared with countries that will be selected in coordination with the African Union.  

Approximately 6 million will be targeted toward regional priorities and partner recipients, including Mexico, Canada, and the Republic of Korea, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as for United Nations frontline workers.  

The sharing of millions of U.S. vaccines with other countries signals a major commitment by the U.S. government.  Just like in the United States, we will move as expeditiously as possible, while abiding by U.S. and host country regulatory and legal requirements, to facilitate the safe and secure transport of vaccines across international borders.  This will take time, but the President has directed the Administration to use all the levers of the U.S. government to protect individuals from this virus as quickly as possible.  The specific vaccines and amounts will be determined and shared as the Administration works through the logistical, regulatory and other parameters particular to each region and country.

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Reflecting on Ranil

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After 20 years of frequent defeats and occasional triumphs, Ranil Wickremesinghe became Prime Minister without winning a single presidential or parliamentary election to merit that post. He had tried a proxy candidate once before, to no avail; Sarath Fonseka wasn’t going to return anytime soon. In Maithripala Sirisena he faced a more reliable ally: someone who could lead the government, literally, to the Opposition. The occasion was historic: half a century after Dudley Senanayake’s UNP connived in the defection of key MPs from the SLFP, including C. P. de Silva and Mahanama Samaraweera, Maithripala Sirisena, the secretary of the SLFP, a man who could have become the next President were it not for the nepotism that ruled the day, broke with the most popular SLFP government and SLFP President Sri Lanka had in years.

This was a tricky election. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s popularity had ebbed, but not completely. His popularity in the south stood strong and held firm. The north and east hardly seemed to matter to him, though he made conciliatory gestures that ended up being rebuffed or rejected. Against such a backdrop, the UNP could not afford an organic candidate, given the disastrous policies it had stuck to during the last stages of the war. It had to contest as part of a common front. The question as to who would lead that front, though, remained unresolved.

Interestingly enough Sirisena was not a first choice. Having notified the UNP of his impending defection, he suggested that Karu Jayasuriya take up the candidacy, leaving him with the task of canvassing the rural vote: a Karu-Ranil alliance underwritten by the SLFP. How did the UNP respond? We know from an article written by a group of UNPers two months before the 2019 election that Wickremesinghe did not take to the idea; he preferred a proxy.

Wickremesinghe’s strategy was simple: win the election, become Prime Minister, and oversee a gradual abolition or retrenchment of the Executive Presidency. In this he had the backing of not just the liberal and left-liberal intelligentsia, but also a section of the (Buddhist) clergy as well as disgruntled sections of the SLFP. The clock ticked in his favour: barely two years after the worst bout of protests against his party leadership, he had returned to the spotlight. The pressures of a presidential election soon relegated to the background the fighting that had defined the party since 2010. It was a pincer move: Sirisena would win the presidency, and he would become the President’s deputy, quieting party dissidents while building up the party profile.

As usual the liberal and left-liberal intelligentsia, famous for its myopic idealisation of the values it holds dear, failed to see the time-bomb ticking away. Very few commentators acknowledged or noticed the fatal contradiction between winning a presidency through a proxy candidate and prevaricating on crucial internal party matters. Dayan Jayatilleka was one of the few: in one of the first pieces he wrote after elaborating on his stance against Sirisena’s candidacy, he bluntly asked why anyone would vote for a candidate who would relinquish his powers to an unelected Prime Minister after becoming President. The essay is one of the few prophetic pieces penned by a political commentator here, and as always, the weight of liberal optimism held against it. Five years later, with deteriorating relations between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe culminating in that famous 52-day government, I’d like to think Dr Dayan had the last laugh.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, celebrated for so long by many liberal commentators as their last great hope, lost his halo after April 2019. It would be unfair to take him to task over this; it is not he, but those who drew that halo over him, who need to have their perceptions of reality examined. I can’t think of a single interview where he confirmed this opinion of him, still less a despatch or press conference where he displayed his liberal convictions. Unlike Mangala Samaraweera, who as a Groundviews piece penned by “Some Colombo Liberals” puts it has “spoken up for/paid lip service to the liberal view”, Wickremesinghe’s predilections have been less concrete. This makes him hard to define, though defining him should be the least of our concerns.

Today he stands as “the last representative of the old elite”, as Asanga Welikala pointed out in a tweet: a distinction he shares with Chandrika Kumaratunga. Like Mahinda Rajapaksa, he’s one of a kind, in a class by himself, a cut above the rest – and the last of his pedigree.

One can regret or celebrate this. I choose to reflect on it. If politics is the art of the possible, as he once cautioned his cousin, Rajiva Wijesinha, it is a transient art, an art that goes beyond the lives of personalities and the ideas they champion. Wickremesinghe’s ideas, of course, remain inscrutable and hard to square, because, as Michael Kelly argued in a rather unflattering piece on Bill Clinton during the latter’s term as US President, the man who holds them seems to exist for the moment. To say his politics falls within the right or centre-right, to say he’s a neoliberal, to criticise the capitulations of the State he inadvertently engineered vis-à-vis his engagements with the LTTE, to call him Chamberlainesque (as Dr Dayan repeatedly, and probably justifiably, does), is perhaps to miss the point. He is all these things; he is also none of these things. He is a liberal who’s also illiberal, a conservative who’s also not conservative.

If I bring up the analogy of Baudelaire’s Devil, who managed to convince the world he didn’t exist, frequently, it’s because it applies to many of our political representatives. It certainly applies to Ranil: for a quarter-century, indeed well more than a quarter-century, he got liberals to believe he was one of them. That Groundviews article is so interesting not because it reads like a confession, an attempt at absolution by some of those liberals who realised how wrong they were about him, but because it is patently, deliciously, utterly insincere: it reads like an attempt at absolving him while ticking the liberals off for believing him to be what they idealised about him. Even that anonymous 2019 anti-Ranil tract abounds in hypocrisy: while criticising him for fostering an illiberal culture in the party, it praises him for fostering a liberal culture in the country. The Colombo Liberals of the Groundviews piece don’t give him that much leeway: after all, as they remind us, Wickremesinghe “set fire to a liberal constitution.”

He also led his party through its most disastrous period. As Dayan Jayatilleka has observed correctly, Sri Lanka’s democracy deficit had two faces: the Government’s and the Opposition’s. The UNP’s decision to abstain from the vote on the 18th Amendment rather than oppose it in 2010, in that sense, showed that its leadership preferred to maintain its status quo to changing the government’s status quo, if changing the latter threatened the continuation of the former. The ramifications of this were very clear: any reform of the government could come only with a proper reform of the Opposition. In other words, as Dr Dayan put it, one could hope to change the Rajapaksa raj only if one tried to change the Ranil raj.

Liberals and left-liberals failed to appreciate this pertinent point. That is how 2015 led to 2019: not because Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Joint Opposition derailed the government, but because those who batted for the UNP neglected to resolve its internal crisis before engaging in regime change. Those who viewed the latter in isolation from the former, who thought that the former was less important, didn’t realise the one had to follow from the other.

Perhaps their failure to comprehend this shows their myopia; that may well explain why those who criticise the SJB over its failures – failures that, to be sure, it has in plenty – did not seem to bother themselves much when Wickremesinghe’s faction tightened its grip in the party, going as far as to beat up those who challenged it. That may also explain why the likes of Victor Ivan can conjecture whether Maithripala Sirisena’s candidacy was a ploy by a faction in the UNP to oust Wickremesinghe, without asking why anyone would have wanted to oust a man who had held the party leadership for so long, and against so many, in the first place.

Perhaps it’s pointless pondering these niceties. Perhaps it’s pointless excoriating the man at the centre of them all. In any case, it doesn’t matter. In the popular imagination, Wickremesinghe remains our most intelligent politician today: “the best President Sri Lanka never had”, perhaps the most liberal of them, though liberals who celebrated him once disavow him now.

One of my favourite Westerns, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, has a reporter telling the hero that he will print the legend “when the legend becomes fact.” Myth tends to survive fact: that is how political personalities survive even their deaths. In Ranil’s case, the myth hasn’t just become the fact; it’s outlasted the fact. The most enigmatic politician we’ve had in recent times is set to return to parliament in June. What sort of man we will see, of course, is debatable. Yet even without his liberal halo, he remains a liberal myth: perhaps the biggest and most enduring political myth we’ve swallowed since J. R. Jayewardene’s Dharmishta Samajaya.

 

The writer can be reached at udakdev@gmail.com

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Options for the opposition: The JVP

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That Mahinda Rajapaksa is one of the more pragmatic political strategists the country has had is a point even his critics acknowledge. This has nothing to do with his nationalism, but rather how he channels, hones in on, and exudes it. I can’t think of a single politician, including his brothers, who can tap into populist sentiments the way he can; that, of course, is less a tribute to his personal charisma than it is an indictment on his opponents.

Once upon a happier time, Mahinda’s populist appeal enabled him and his party to forge alliances (no matter how temporary) across the political divide, and spearhead not one, but three, of the most effective political campaigns from the recent past: the 2010 presidential, the 2018 local government, and the 2019 presidential elections. But one swallow does not a summer make, nor a summer last: in all the 72 years we have been through, we’ve seen just one Mahinda. To quote a friend of mine, there’ll never be another.

How the man came to “appropriate” nationalism is intriguing. If you remember what went for politics in this country before 2005, you’ll realise how parties and personalities celebrated by left-liberals now earned the nationalist and chauvinist labels because of their association with him then. It’s hard to believe the JVP went through such a phase, but it did; not a day went by without the intelligentsia accusing it of chauvinism: the same intelligentsia hailing it today as a viable, progressive opposition against the government.

One can hardly blame them for shifting gears on these outfits. Mahinda Rajapaksa became the first mainstream politician in a decade and a half to “nationalise” nationalism, outbidding his partners in that domain: the JVP first, the JHU second. Having allied with them initially, only to break with them later on, Rajapaksa monopolised the ideology which brought him to power, depriving these former allies of any popular mass appeal.

Politics acutely reflects the ironies of history. If commentators tend to view Anura Kumara Dissanayake, or even Patali Champika Ranawaka, as the ideal oppositional candidate against the present administration, the most liberal of liberals and the most leftist of leftists may have to forget that these two once stood on the same stage as Mahinda, speaking his language, his rhetoric. Simply put, there would have been no Mahinda, or even Gotabaya, as we know them now, without the JVP-JHU conjuncture.

For all intents and purposes, these bigwigs have changed. In 2010 Champika Ranawaka called the UNP a pack of imperialist wolves: live, on TV. When was the last time Ranawaka called his opponents imperialists, let alone imperialist wolves? The JVP still indulges in such rhetoric, but not as frequently as it used to: the temptations of a middle-class and left-liberal crowd, the milieu it targets, woos, and flirts with now, have seemingly made them forget the class struggle, the fight against neoliberalism; this is the same “revolutionary” party, after all, that critiques the Communist Party of China for its “centralised single party administration”, yet sent, in 2017, a congratulatory missive to that party’s 19th National Congress, in which it acknowledged “the progress of the people” and hailed “Comrade Xi Jinping” for taking steps to establish a “moderately prosperous society in an all-round way.”

The contradiction the JVP faces today therefore is between the working class ideology which brought it to power and the middle-class ideology which dominates it at present. This divide owes considerably to its entry into the democratic mainstream after the second insurrection: it had to face the convulsions of parliamentary politics. Once it abandoned Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brand of populist nationalism, it hence had to look for other allies.

The JHU faced a similar dilemma when it joined the yahapalana government in 2015. But it managed to resolve that by committing suicide: the moment Champika Ranawaka formed the “43 Senankaya”, canvassing support from a broad electorate (which still centres on a Sinhala speaking intelligentsia), he let go of the old ideology. The JVP has so far not opted for such a strategy, even after rebranding itself as the NPP: hence its relative decline.

The roots of its crisis go deep. Having abandoned the rural base on which it once stood, the JVP is now targeting a more urban petty bourgeoisie: student activists, government university lecturers, popular Sinhala artists, and a section of the NGO-cracy dependent on donor capital, yet also on a Sinhala audience. This activist petty bourgeoisie tilts between a left-liberal and a centre-right position: it will either stick to the JVP, or defect to the UNP, the latter which, for that crowd, appears more progressive than any Rajapaksa-led outfit. The JVP’s dilemma is that while a great many from this petty bourgeoisie will stick by it through thick and thin, a great many others will choose the second option and abandon it.

To put that in perspective, come election time, the JVP gets the likes, shares, and comments on social media that it wants, going as far as to attract massive crowds at Galle Face Green. Yet all those likes, shares, comments, and crowds dissipate at the polling booth: the middle-class voter, on whom the JVP vis-à-vis its new strategy stakes all its fortunes, gives into his or her petty bourgeois tendencies and votes for centre-right parties. In other words, the JVP courts a UNP-SJB crowd, almost wins their support, and fails to convert them.

My contention here is that insofar as these ruptures prevail between the UNP or SJB and the JVP or NPP, a UNP/SJB vote will not convert into a JVP/NPP vote. The latter will be cast by an idealistic youth electorate, but it’s futile to think that middle-class teenagers and activists, spouting the virtues of a third political force and berating mainstream parties, can decide on who, or what, will hold power. For the most, then – and we must be practical here – the only way out of its conundrum for the JVP is to join a broad anti-regime alliance, inclusive of the SJB (and the UNP), as it did in 2010 and did not in 2015 and 2019.

Of course, in opting for a strategy so patently at odds with its urban and rural working class roots, the JVP will attract accusations of betrayal. Such accusations are justified; the move, if made at all, will betray the opportunistic shifts it has been engaged in since its entry into the democratic mainstream, first with Chandrika Kumaratunga, then with Mahinda Rajapaka, and now with every and any force opposed to Rajapaksa.

Now the JVP’s dilemma is that while it can afford to accommodate these shifts in private, it cannot confess to them in public. To do so would be to grant legitimacy to its immediate rival, the Frontline Socialist Party, and at the same time dabble in a vague and amorphous petty bourgeois ideology which may, or may not, win them support at the cost of its working class and rural base. In other words, while partnering up with the centre-right may be a viable strategy for the JVP, it will not be a winning strategy. In the short term it will gain traction; in the long, it can only end up as a button on a neoliberal outfit.

Anura Kumara Dissanayake has succeeded today in turning the JVP into a confused muddle of a left-liberal outfit, unable to propound a coherent ideology, to say or do anything without borrowing the rhetoric of centre-right and neoliberal parties – disconnected from the working class, a shade Sinophobic – yet attempting, somehow, somehow, to stand apart.

To belabour the point is not to belittle the party: in Harini Amarasuriya, for instance, the JVP appointed the most eloquent National List MP it has seen in years, and Dissanayake, though still exorcising the same Rajapaksist demons he has been expelling since 2007 – a strategy which got them down from six seats in 2015 to three in 2020 – has shifted to more practical tactics, transforming the party into a more proactive outfit than what it was in 2018. No party can, or will, remain in stasis, a point Left outfits elsewhere have conceded as well. To argue the JVP should not shift to a different position thus is to deny it any agency.

Yet this does not contradict my main argument, which is that the JVP is playing to a gallery that won’t convert to its ideology, whatever its ideology may be, and that in doing so it has neglected its core base, shifting from the Arbeiterklasse to the Mittelklasse. “I like them,” a friend of mine virulently opposed to the current regime told me the other day. “But they’re building castles in the air.” The last time I checked, this friend, a typical scion of the middle-class, had shifted from Ranil Wickremesinghe to Sajith Premadasa to Champika Ranawaka. As far as his milieu is concerned, the JVP has become Baudelaire’s devil, having convinced the country, indeed the world, that it does not exist, and that it no longer matters.

The writer can be reached at

udakdev1@gmail.com

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