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Moving to Monkocracy in Lanka

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Many supporters of Rajapaksa governance have begun to turn away from this family leadership in national governance.

Amidst the hugely rising cost of living – or will it soon be the cost of dying – there is also the issue of One Country, One Law that is pushing the political swing.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has returned home from Glasgow, Scotland, where he told the world about his great new thinking on governance in Sri Lanka.

He told world leaders at COP26 that Sri Lanka recently “restricted the imports of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and weedicides due to public health concerns, water contamination, soil degradation, and biodiversity impacts; and that although opposed by entrenched lobbies, this has created opportunities for innovation and investment into organic agriculture that will be healthier and more sustainable in future.”

He certainly did not tell the world about the crisis that farmers, consumers, householders, small traders and businessmen, and workers face in the country. There was a total presidential silence on what exactly the country is facing due to his restriction of imports of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides, and other non-democratic moves of his Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour or Saubhagye Dekma.

One Country, One Law thinking, which was certainly the traditional political thinking in Sri Lanka, has now moved to a totally new concept – having nothing to do with one country or one law. President’s strongest supporters – among those writing to the media too, are displaying major confusion, as well as an unlikely confrontation with the Rajapaksa politics of today.

The showcase of this Gotabaya thinking is the appointment of Galabodaaththe Gnanasara Thera to work out the legal thinking and structure of One Country, One Law. The questions that arise in the minds of most people, including many Gotabaya backers at whatever cost, is how this person, although draped in a yellow robe of sanctity, honour and respect, could be even considered suitable for such a position, and where such leadership will take the country and people.

What even Gnanasara Thera’s strong supporters, in his calls for Sinhala – Buddhist unity, have been forced to admit what they call his berserk behaviour that landed him in prison for contempt of court, the threat in court premises to the wife of ‘missing’ journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, and also his association with the clashes between Buddhists and Muslms in Beruwala and Aluthgama in the South. His recent verbal attacks on Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and Catholics on calls for more serious probes, and punishing those who planned and directed the Easter Sunday carnage, also brought him to the spotlight in recent months.

None of this was seen by President Gotabaya or any of his politically leading brothers, Mahinda, Basil, Chamal, in appointing him to this immensely powerful leadership, in framing the base of what would be the New Rajapaksa Constitution for the Motherland of Sri Lanka.

The rise of Sinhala – Buddhism and its merging dominance in Rajapaksa governance is shown again in the appointment of the new Chancellor of the University of Colombo. This is certainly a masterstroke of the current Rajapaksa Governance. This Chief Incumbent of the Abhayarama Temple at Narahenpita, Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, who worked very strongly to have Gotabaya elected as president, and certainly helped him obtain 6 lakhs of votes, has been very critical of the government in recent months.

This leader of a large trade union of nurses in the country, and strongly supported their trade unions actions, that brought pain to hospital patients, in the current Covid pandemic, too, (little to do with “karunava’), has said he wants the current president to stop being a ‘Nandasena Rajapaksa’ and be the Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whom the people voted for.

With the continuing stretch of the Teachers-Principals trade union action, Murutthettuwe Ananda Thera has certainly seen the true emergence of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. A record of the history of the Chancellor of the University of Colombo, will certainly show his suitability or qualification for this much respected position. Under colonial rule and as a Dominion after independence, the Chancellors were the Governors of Sri Lanka. Once it became a Republic the Chancellors were President William Gopallawa, great surgeon Dr. P. R. Anthonis and Msgr. Oswald Gomis, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Colombo.

The fact that the students of the University of Colombo have objected to this appointment certainly does not matter. Who are students, who also march in protests against elected governments, including Rajapaksa governance, to make such objections? What matters is the presence of a yellow robed person, receiving the traditional respect to the robe. Who will stop the university awarding him a degree on Knowledge and Understanding or even the Dhamma, in the months to come.

We are certainly moving in a new trend in governance. It is time we thought of forgetting the One Country, one Law concept. Let’s move on to My Country, My Law. That is where every monkey business will be played with Rajavasala Victory.

We are certainly moving away from concepts and principles of Democracy, and moving to the Monkocracy of Sinhala – Buddhist power. It is time to chant Saadhu, Saadhu and break more coconuts at the nearest devale of a Hindu deity.



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Opinion

Building trust, a better investment

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The government has allowed private companies to import chemical fertilisers. The farmers had been holding many a street protest against the government’s blatantly unwise policy of shifting to organic farming overnight, but to no avail. The Minister concerned and others repeatedly said that they would not change the government’s decision as it had been made for the good of all the people. The farmers had no problem with organic farming but insisted that the transition had to be phased out to avoid serious adverse effects. But no! The government never relented and tried to show that the street protests were instigated by interested parties including chemical fertiliser companies, to make the government unpopular. The government insisted that chemical fertilisers have caused many ailments including the dreaded kidney disease and turned a deaf ear to the farmers’ grievances.

However, hot on the heels of Mr. Modi’s U-turn last week, the Minister has changed track and tells us that the government, being one which is always ‘sensitive to people’s concerns’, has decided to make chemical fertilizers available through private imports, but would not import them on its own or change its policy of going fully organic. Questioned by journalists, another ruling party spokesperson quipped that the government’s decision came about neither due to the Indian PM’s ‘example’ nor in response to the loud protests. It is a result of the discussions held within the party, he assured.

However, it is unfortunate that the government had to wait for more than seven months to be ‘sensitive to peoples’ concerns’. If the ruling party members had only taken a few minutes to watch TV news headlines, they would have proved their ‘sensitivity’ months earlier, not waiting for Mr. Modi to steal a march on them, so to speak. To any reasonable person, the government obviously has responded to the rampant protests that were actually the climax of a prolonged process, which began with pleading, explaining their predicament, reasoning, chest thumping, expressing disbelief, which gradually culminated in loud protests, burning of effigies and threatening to come to Colombo in numbers. Surely, Mr. Modi didn’t make it any easier for the government to justify its ‘sensitivity’ to farmers’ grievances!

Thus, to any reasonable person, the government had actually responded to the unbridled anger of the helpless farmers, not to their grievances. What’s more, looking at how the government had handled the previous issues of a controversial nature, it is hard to recall any instance where it promptly responded to people’s concerns; it was always a case of responding to people vehemently protesting as a last resort- be it the Port City issue, Eastern Terminal, Teachers’ salary or Yugadanavi Power Plant issue, not to mention the pathetic state of innocent villagers being perpetually traumatized by wild elephant attacks often taking their lives wantonly. In each of these cases, the government, wittingly or unwittingly, seemed to regard the voices of concern, not as appeals worthy of serious attention, but as attempts at disruption or politically motivated interventions. This, surely, does not augur well for the government or support its claim to ‘sensitivity’ as regards people’s concerns.

The government’s decision to compromise on its strict chemical fertiliser ban, which has come soon after Mr. Modi’s reversal of sorts, allows room for the discerning public to make obvious inferences, despite the government’s claim about its decision not being influenced by that of the Indian PM. In fact, the government reps have nothing to gain by pretending to blush when journalists suggest that they perhaps took a leaf from their neighbour. Even at this juncture, people’s representatives seem reluctant to prefer sincerity to affectation; hence the government’s growing aloofness, which is causing a “severe trust deficit”- to borrow a pithy phrase from The Island editorial of November 19.

As the representatives of the public, what any government needs to foster are sincerity and empathy. It is this tacit bond between the people and the government, which will consolidate trust in the long term. Being the party that holds power, the onus is on the rulers to secure people’s faith. Instead, every party that has come to power since Independence has always helped the Opposition to make a five yearly ‘ritual cleansing’ in the eyes of the people. So, the wheel turns.

Susantha Hewa

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Opinion

Don’t harass whistle-blower

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Thushan Gunawardena, who alerted the authorities and the media to a serious fraud taking at Sathosa should not be harassed by the Police as it is clear that he has no political motives and has acted in the public interest.

The Cabinet minister concerned is attempting to show a conspiracy against him when he has failed to prevent such frauds at Sathosa and let it continue as there were benefits flowing to him in addition to his being able to employ family members and manipulate the system for personal profit.

It is patently clear that he is trying to take the investigation in a different direction and prevent changes that would clean up the mess that is contributing to the massive losses at Sathosa.

Mahinda Gunasekera

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Opinion

Stanley (Sam) Samarasinghe

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A TRIBUTE TO A PATRIOT

Even with the prior knowledge that the end was near, when the news of the passing away of Sam on the 23rd of November 2021 was conveyed to me, it was difficult to bear. Though living the better part of his adult life in the United States, to those with whom he had regular contact and dialogue, he was ever present. He succumbed to an illness that he bore with courage and fortitude for several years. In that time his enthusiasm to live his life to the full did not diminish. Except family and close friends none had even the slightest inkling that he was battling an invasive enemy within.

I have described Sam as a Patriot, if its definition is “one that loves his country and zealously maintains its interests”, then it fits him well, as he did that in full measure.

Having schooled in Kandy at Dharmarajah College, Sam completed a special degree in economics at the Peradeniya University where his father worked. Having being accepted by both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, he turned to his mentor, Professor H. A. de S. Gunasekera, who had advised him to take Cambridge. He went there with his wife Vidyamali, whom he had met at Peradeniya and obtained his Ph.D. in Economics. They both returned to Peradeniya and Sam became a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics. He taught there until 1989, when he left for the United States with his wife and two sons, Mevan and Ranmal. He was appointed Professor of the Development Studies Programme at the USAID, a position he held for many years in Washington. But what is remarkable, is that he continued his abiding interest in the many facets of Sri Lankan life, especially in education and politics and of course, Kandy. He returned to Sri Lanka at least twice a year. While others would spend such breaks as a let up from work, Sam vigorously involved himself in many spheres of activity.

Along with Prof. Kingsley de Silva, he created the only intellectual hub outside of the Peradeniya University in Kandy at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES). As Director, he secured funding for many academic projects that the Centre did. Sam was instrumental in the ICES buying its own place and then constructing a tarred road leading to the Center. The way he set about it will give the reader an idea of the man Sam was. The road served at least 12 houses. He arranged a meeting of all the householders and sold them a deal that none could refuse. Each household was asked to pay proportionately to the distance from the main Peradeniya Road to their house. At the end of the exercise. Sam refunded the excess in that same proportion!!

Sam was an academic, researching and writing extensively, sometimes collaborating with other academics such as Prof. Kingsley de Silva and Prof. G.H. (Gerry) Peiris. On several occasions, he brought out his post graduate students from the Tulane University, New Orleans (where he was Visiting Professor of Economics) to Sri Lanka and to Kandy, arranged field trips and had them interact with academics and professionals.

His particular interest in Kandy made him do a study of its traffic congestion and organised a public seminar with other experts on the subject. As the President of the Senkadagala Lions Club, Sam obtained funding for many of its projects. In fact, Sam had a penchant for writing up project proposals, an expertise he ungrudgingly shared with anyone who asked for it. He started a monthly local newspaper in 1994, the “Kandy News”, becoming its Chief Editor and its main sponsor. The last issue was a special supplement done in the run-up to the Kandy Municipal Council election in 2018.

When the tsunami stuck the country in 2004, Sam was the lead Consultant of a World Vision programme designed to make a qualitative assessment of tsunami and non-tsunami villages from Kalutara in the Western Province to Kilinochchi in the Northern Province. A task he successfully completed with his team under the aegis of the ICES.

He was an advocate for cooperation and harmony among the races. His involvement in the post tsunami work in Jaffna and Trincomalee with the Lions Club is proof of that, as much as it was when he asked the guests to the nuptial reception of his son Mevan, not to give presents but to contribute towards the project initiated by Mevan and himself in giving school books and equipment to the Tamil Primary School at the Gomorra Estate in Panwila.

My own association with Sam goes back to the time I ran for office as Mayor in 1997. He threw his weight behind me helping out in ways too numerous to mention. That friendship grew and grew and it embraced my family as well. He would ask me to criticise his writing especially on politics. He was a stickler for accuracy and uncompromising on facts. His opinions were rational, practical and unbiased. A bubbly personality, he was always a believer that there are better times ahead. His enthusiasm was infectious. His criticism of events and people were never personal. There is much to take from the life and times of Sam Samarasinghe.

We share his loss with his wife, the two boys of whom he was justly very proud of and his siblings whose welfare he always had. The country is poorer for his passing.

May he find peace in Nibbana!

Harindra Dunuwille

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