The ‘Reason’ vs. ‘Faith’ and Idealism vs. Pragmatism
Posted on September 23rd, 2010

Geethanjana Kudaligamage

Rajapakse, regional politics, “Eurocentric Developmentalism” and the western hegemony (Part 15-A)

Man has responsibility, not power (Native American proverb, Tuscarora tribe)

 “ƒ”¹…”Faith’ is very often associated with religion, but politics on the other hand associated with “ƒ”¹…”strategy’. Since the religion is not dealing with strategy based on reason, it relied on “ƒ”¹…”faith’ based on “ƒ”¹…”belief’. But in contrary, politics is said to be taken shape strictly by strategies based on “ƒ”¹…”Reason.’ Although religion doesn’t deal with “ƒ”¹…”strategy’, the peculiar thing about politics, on the other hand is that it comfortably deals with both the “ƒ”¹…”strategy’ and the “ƒ”¹…”faith’. However at times even “ƒ”¹…”Faith’ becomes the necessary strategy perfectly reasoning it in particular political circumstances.

 In contemporary societies, although religion always has been colluding with political activity, politics rarely have become a religious activity. But it doesn’t mean that it cannot become one. Which means politics with its irrational nature, easily can become a near religious activity in many ways. Sri Lanka is the example. Is that a error from the part of the masses? No; because as I said elsewhere, when our democracy being hijacked by a fourth dimension of external elements disrupting its natural function, people tend to abandon these democratic institutions and tend to rely on individuals. We cannot blame the public for their embracing individuals in place of institutions; because they have replaced “ƒ”¹…”Reason’ in favor of the “ƒ”¹…”Faith’ as an unconventional political strategy to counter another political aberration in our system.

 For the masses of Sri Lanka, decentralization of power through institutions has created a complex web of power apparatus in which they had lost the traces of their “ƒ”¹…”sovereignty’ beyond retrievable. What they saw was a gymnasium full of players colluding with each other and with external powers. In this climate of circus, it seemed they wanted to see the spectacle little clearer than it appeared. Since the political “ƒ”¹…”way forward’ prescribed by experts were eventually leading them to a political abyss, rightly or wrongly they have desired to go backward centralizing power. Now the spectacle is clearer. They only have one man to deal with. That is president Rajapaksa.  

 You know, hope demands believers, and believers always created by faith. They know pretty well that politics is definitely not a religious affair to deal with “ƒ”¹…”Faith’. But at the moment, when they have been cornered to the wall, there is only one option left for Sri Lankan to rely on; that is their “ƒ”¹…”Faith’. However their embracing faith as their strategy has demonstrated some form of rationality within the current political climate in Sri Lanka.

 I think that is the complex situation in Sri Lankan polity now. When the “ƒ”¹…”reason’ doesn’t help man to comprehend many things around him, man can go only either violent or religious. Since Sri Lankans had gone through enough violence, now it seems they are willing to go “ƒ”¹…”religious’. People rely on “ƒ”¹…”faith’ on individuals, because they have lost their “ƒ”¹…”faith’ in institutions, and their “ƒ”¹…”Reason’.

 Why we have lost our faith on institutions is the core question of any debate or argument of our freedom. Due to the betrayal of the “ƒ”¹…”reason’, rightly or wrongly, our political culture has gone religious based on belief and faith. They have discarded all inter mediate hands between the ruler and the ruled. The reason why we do not trust institutions anymore is because we saw how world’s greatest institutions collapsing and rotting from their very roots being unable to take the violent onslaught of the global capital. The best example is the UNO, which is becoming irrelevant to its mandate and its founding purpose. Do I need to give any more examples to prove why we do not trust institutions in this contemporary culture of commodityfication of everything including honesty, righteousness and morality? In the third world everything is for sale including our Intelligentsia’s concerns of our freedom. Isn’t this loss of credibility that provides us the exact location where we have lost our faith on institutions?

 The missing point in the debate of 18th amendment

My question is pretty simple. “How can one lose something if the same never had such a thing to lose?” Someone tells me that I have lost my democratic freedom.  In turn I ask how I can lose it when I never had such a thing called “ƒ”¹…”democratic freedom’ to begin with.

 To bring an “ƒ”¹…”old metaphor’ used by Dr. Nalin De Silva some time back with a slight change of it, this debate of 18th amendment is like debating over a loss of horns of a rabbit. A goat says rabbit had lost its horns. But rabbit declares that it never had one to lose. But apparently determined goat says again, “ƒ”¹…”no, you had horns and they were red, green and blue and were twisted into the right and the left.’ Then only rabbit realizes that all this hue and cry is about the horns of the “ƒ”¹…”goat’ presenting as if they were rabbit horns. This revealed that somebody has lost something of his/her own but at the same time showcasing me as the victims of the lost. Realizing the game rabbit says, “ƒ”¹…”all right, you call your horns as the “ƒ”¹…”freedom and rights’ of yours, then how come it threatened my very freedom and existence’ all the way through post colonial Sri Lanka? I born without horns, you also lost yours now, aren’t we equal now for the first time my friend?

In Sri Lanka, there were two variations of freedom; one for the colonial ruling class of Colombo and the other for the rest of the unprivileged nation. The Colombian ruling class had a type of freedom exceeding known democratic limits; the rest of the country had a quasi freedom that was always contingent to give way for the Colombian freedom, which means Colombian freedom was always superior to that of the quasi freedom of the rest. Colombo ruling class enjoyed the exclusive right for calling shots; rest of the country’s freedom was only devised to bow down to it. “Colombata Kiri Gamata Kakiri” was the innocent slogan threatened Colombian freedom twice causing Colombians to resolve the issue through barbequing about a hundred thousand lives of youth in the village level. Although many other complex issues involved, the other threat came from the north in the form of separatism. 

All political assassinations and coups and conspiracies including barbequing the youth of the south, were one extreme end of the Colombian freedom. The other extreme end is its “ƒ”¹…”after taste.’ From Bandaranayake assassination and 1962 coup de etat up until the mass murder of 1989, none of these events have been taken into proper investigation. Was that a mistake, or was that a part of the design? That was the power of the democratic freedom Colombians enjoyed with the help of all rotten institutions, but the rest of the masses were deprived of. If Rajapaksa regime wants to make it appear that they have all powers now; then it is just a continuation of the Colombian legacy of power play coming from opposite direction. If anyone says that JR Jayawardane never displayed his power nakedly, then late Dr. Sarachchandra will give a big laughter from his other end.     

In face of so many election defeats, Colombian constitutional mafia seems to have become furious. After trying every trick and gimmick against the native, now suddenly Colombians have began to chant independent commissions in order to establish a political culture of check and balances of political power. But in reality, this notion of check and balances has become another myth in most modern democracies. Although millions of masses came into streets, in Britain, this check and balances could do nothing to prevent Tony Blair sending British troops to Iraq misguiding entire British public. Same thing happened in the USA. American historian and author Howard Zinn ridicules this notion of check and balances in American politics.

But bringing these examples I do not want to imply that checks and balances shouldn’t be there to keep political power in check. What I really want to say is that when systems rotten, the institutions of check and balance also get rotten. In a model of governance with a system of checks and balances, the state is divided into branches; each with separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility so that no one branch has more power than the other branches. In word form, it is so impressive to think of. But in practical world, under current state of affairs spoiled by externally manipulated “ƒ”¹…”lure of bribes, and sweetheart deals’ hardly can believe these institutions can maintain their declared independence.

In order to go into such a ideal model of democracy, Sri Lankan system needs an overhaul, a reformation and a revival. This must be beginning with nothing short of decolonization of the nation first. The path to our freedom is lying in a difficult terrain of decolonization and deNGOization of the nation to preserve the natural function of our democracy, and then installing all necessary institutions. Do Colombians and their freedom lovers ready to chant the slogan of “Decolonize, and deNGOize the nation first”?

Yes JRJ’s constitution is anti-democratic   

If we deny the fact that JRJ constitution deprived of democracy and the freedom to ordinary citizens of entire native population, then we become dishonest crooks. We cannot be dishonest to say that it was not; therefore whatever the circumstance, we will say that JRJ’s constitution is authoritarian. Yes it is authoritarian and that is the exact reason, why ordinary citizens, not the super citizens of Colombo, think that Sri Lanka must remain under this executive presidency for some time. Yes of course it is totalitarian, but there are times that nations take risks. To people of Sri Lanka, this is such time. And I personally believe that if anybody asks president Rajapaksa if the JRJ constitution is authoritarian or not, he also might say that it is.

But I think, this JRJ constitution is the allegorical cage I have described later in this article, that bird found its refuge. So the cage became a necessity due to the presence of that big fat snake waiting to eat the bird. That is the reason why we cannot destroy the cage of JRJ constitution. Therefore, right now, the big snake is the real culprit that has denied our freedom, because continual presence of the snake by the gate deprives our chances of demolishing this cage of executive presidency.

Rabbit gains horns

The true reasons behind 18th amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka are much complicated than it appear. Above all, the undercurrents of the guiding forces of the issue have never been articulated in public domain as well. The main political complexity in Sri Lankan political landscape right now is concentrated in the struggle of two parties; one is trying to consolidate its newly gained power through constitutional means and the other also trying to regain its lost power reinstating its grip through constitutional means. One side represents the native forces and the others are represented by the age old colonial remnants traditionally maintained their grip in national politics through its colonial structures.  

The requisite of 1978 constitution was a historical necessity for the Colombian ruling class after experiencing two decisive defeats in 1956 and 1970. The chilling experience of 1956 alarmed them of the impending catastrophe of their minority rule. Although they assassinated Bandaranayaka and went scot-free of the crime due to their hidden hand in the system that manipulating the muscle of unwritten colonial constitution virtually controlling the system in parallel to the written one, however they had to remedy this threat that was about to demise their power base in near future. 1978 constitution is the offspring of this lust of power of the Colombians.

 But unexpectedly this marginalizing constitutional device, which was meant to marginalize the native, suddenly has fallen into the lap of the very native that it marginalized. After the victory of 2005 election, the native has begun to view executive power as if they have it in their hand. At least they know that power shifted from Colombian hand to the “ƒ”¹…”Other’ Lanka. Now it is not Colombo calling shots, but peripheral Lanka. 

 What can Colombians do to regain their lost power now? They have two options. One is to fight for the abolition of the constitution and secondly, castrating the constitutional device of executive power through other constitutional maneuverings such as 17th amendment. However first option have become futile exercise due to late realization of the native about the fact that Colombians have lost their grip under non-Colombian Rajapaksa, and for that reason they opposed to abolish the presidency identifying their sovereignty with the executive power. Then in this situation the only option left for Colombians is the castration; because they knew if the 17th amendment was brought into effect, however they will be able to reinstate their dominance through the independant institutions of the 17th amendment.

 But18th amendment has shattered that hope as well. The hope of the Colombian of manipulating political power of the center through the provisions of 17th amendment, irrespective of whatever the political party holding power in the administration has been lost.

    Yes it’s also true that JRJ constitution is a product of uncreative and paranoid culture of Colombians, who are paranoid of natives. Colombian culture never trusted the native and therefore needed to keep them in marginality. In addition to the existing colonial socio-political and economic structure, 1978 constitution enforced an additional authoritarian rule upon the native masses. However the center of power always was under Colombians. Because written one was not the only constitution that was exerting power across the nation, the unwritten constitution of colonial structure was the actual law of the land. These complex apparatus of written and unwritten constitutions of the nation ensured the prevalence of the interests of the Colombian privilege class at the expense of natives who were marginalized from participation in political decision making.

The calculation of Colombian political class was entirely based on the block vote of the UNP in the electorate that was in favor of their party UNP. If SLFP happened to form a government in any chance, still Colombians knew that SLFP could only form a coalition government, so the Colombian had their manipulative devices allover the system in place to control the political process. This single fact assured Colombian constitutional mafia to take measures to use the advantage of the numbers for the long lasting consolidation of their minority political power among the majority natives. And in turn, this vote base considered as the bedrock of the power base of the UNP and therefore of the Colombians. The UNP as the political party of the Colombian minority class, invested heavily on this power base in the electorate to maintain their constitutional grip over the masses thinking that these advantageous proportions will never allow to change the political landscape of Sri Lanka for another century, due to the impossibility of any party to obtain two third majority in the parliament.

The trap they created against natives has been boomeranged now. Thanks to Prabhakaran, this calculation has been proved wrong. This change of demography in the party politics that was weakening Colombian minority dominance in Sri Lanka by Prabhakaran’s actions in the north is the exact reason why Colombians desperately needed a truce with Prabhakaran at any cost. Unexpectedly the trap they created by the old fox JRJ, the shrewder of the shrewdest of the Colombian class, has fallen into the hands of the natives; this time via Rajapaksa. Now the political map of Sri Lanka turned upside down positioning Hambantota on the top and Kankasanthuraya in the bottom. Thus the table has turned other way around. The natives who voted for Rajapaksa identified themselves with the executive power for the first time in the history. Although the executive power is in a single hand, they still think that the power is in the hands of the natives. They do not wish to let lose their grip, especially when at a time this powerful “ƒ”¹…”fourth dimension’ is manipulating national politics.

Although he had used some well-known derogatory terms to describe the event, Wickramabahu Karunaratne had identified something close to the trajectory of power rearrangement in post 18th amendment. He said, “What is going on is the constitutional consolidation of the regime based on Sinhala chauvinism.”  He had labeled the “ƒ”¹…”will to power’ of the native as consolidation of “Sinhala chauvinism.” Not only accuracy in criticism, but also mis-labeling becomes a well-tested political strategy of the day. If “ƒ”¹…”confusing frog to a serpent and the serpent to a frog’ is not a part of political strategy, then we hardly can find any strategy in current leftist politics in Sri Lanka. According to this same strategy in the west, Obama becomes a communist and Bush becomes a savior of democracy.

Sri Lankan polity polarizes

In 2005, Sri Lankan polity was polarized clearly into two camps. One was worked very hard to push the western agenda through Ranil Wickramasingha and the native camp struggled to push local agenda through their candidate Rajapaksa. We liked it or not, historical pattern of rallying and regrouping occurred again and again in this election. The historically marginalized masses rallied around anti-western national camp and its agenda. Majority of masses voted for Rajapaksa hoping to realize their policies against anti-national policies of the opposition and they ended victoriously. President Rajapaksa personally has accepted this fact by acknowledging that he won just by the votes of the masses in the south.

 Under such context, native masses who envisioned a local agenda over the nation were naturally identified themselves with president Rajapaksa. I must stress the fact here that it was Rajapaksa who led a defeatist corrupt political machinery of president CBK into the victory over terrorism. Therefore the trust of the people was invested not on a political party with 11 years of despicable rule, but entirely on an individual. People do not trust the corrupt political machinery of CBK which still digging river beds and cheating poor peasants in the village level. How can one justify the plight of farmers in north central province even after they had produced their own minister responsible of the cabinet portfolio that could fix burning issues of paddy farmers, but had miserably neglected the task and failed at least to transform paddy farmers into rice farmers removing if not, at least containing the blood sucking middle man? Shame on him.

Therefore due to many reasons, including the one I mentioned, people have decided to strengthen the man they trust. History must reveal if they have made a mistake by relying on him, but their hope and faith prevail.

(Will be continued to part B tomorrow)

One Response to “The ‘Reason’ vs. ‘Faith’ and Idealism vs. Pragmatism”

  1. jana Says:

    lets not kid ourself their is no governance in sri lanka under this government. Under the present regime nepotism and fovouratism has created a public service that is ineffective and inefficient. Its only purpose is to borrow and embezzle the wealth of the country. The ruling class must take responsibility and be accountable to this mayhem. Winning the war and selling the country is not what the people wanted when they voted in the Presidential election.

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