An Editorial of Substance -Sunday Times Editorial- Democracy-ta Jayawewa!
Posted on January 14th, 2015

Sunday Times Editorial

It was democracy that was the ultimate winner at Thursday’s Presidential election. Sri Lanka’s somewhat questionable recent record on elections was put back on track and for that, much of the credit must go to the Elections Commissioner, all those men and women who showed what the Public Service of this country is capable of and to the Tri-Services and the Police.

The outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa was dignified in defeat as were the new President Maithripala Sirisena and the new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe magnanimous in victory. Many were the fears that President Rajapaksa, should he lose, would have to be carried away from President’s House kicking and screaming. There was talk of a constitutional coup or a military-backed ‘stay-put’ plan, but there was none of that, eventually. His initiative to telephone Mr. Wickremesinghe early on Friday morning to work out a smooth transition was in the highest traditions of any democracy worthy of its name. It was five-star stuff if not for the death of a young man in Kahawatta in an election-related incident.

Now President Rajapaksa must be afforded the courtesies accorded to an ex-President. He must be provided an official bungalow in Colombo. He must be invited for the Pope’s visit etc., etc. even if he stays in active politics. Mr. Wickremesinghe paid a handsome tribute to him for ending the virtual civil war in this country. When the history of this country comes to be written, President Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabaya will, no doubt, have their names written in gold for doing what they did on that front. Poojacha poojaneeyanan (honour those who deserve honour). The two brothers can take solace that the same fate of winning a war and losing an election befell an icon of world history — Sir Winston Churchill.

It was President J.R. Jayewardene, the architect of the Executive Presidency in Sri Lanka who said that a candidate needs the support of the minorities to win the Presidency. The elections in 2005 and 2010 were the only exceptions to this truism and for different reasons. In 2005, the minority Tamils in the North were prevented from voting and Mr. Rajapaksa won by default, and in 2010 he won on the wave of a popular war victory.

That it was the minority vote that pushed the new President over the victory bar is patently clear. Mr. Sirisena won 12 districts to Mr. Rajapaksa’s 10, and Mr. Rajapaksa won 90 electorates to Mr. Sirisena’s 70, but the margins of Mr. Rajapaksa’s victories were so narrow and the heavy polling in the minorities populated North, East and the central highlands proved the incumbent’s undoing. The new President, Maithripala Sirisena, is another ‘log cabin to White House’ example. Cutting his political teeth in the Communist Party, and once unfairly incarcerated for political work, he rose from the ranks of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to the general-secretaryship. He must now carry no grudges or chips on his shoulder.

It would be best for President Sirisena to learn the lessons from his predecessor’s downfall. Mr. Rajapaksa was also a humble politician in 2005 when he assumed the presidency after serving as prime minister for a brief period. As the years went on and he grew into that exalted office, new friends with ulterior motives surrounded him, and insulated him from reality. Like what happened to President R. Premadasa, the old guard of the party was isolated as authoritarianism crept in. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is the famous warning of Lord Acton.

Mr. Rajapaksa allowed those feigning loyalty to him to get away with ‘blue murder’. Drug smuggling was ignored; Ethanol” became a by-word associated with his government; there was ‘monkeying’ with the higher judiciary; the Stock Exchange earned the nickname ‘The Launderette’; tenders were awarded to cronies under the counter without proper bids; mega projects became mega deals with mega kickbacks; the Foreign Service was made a Family Service; Ministry Secretaries, the Police and every aspect of public administration were politicised. The list goes on. The Rajapaksa model was to bribe their way to the votes. But for every 100 ‘gifts’ they gave with public funds, they made 500 enemies. As a humble postman in the Kurunegala district told an election survey team from this newspaper, I’m still riding a pedal cycle while others got motorcycles. I’m voting for the Hansaya”.

Kissing babies did not go the distance when milk food prices were increased to raise funds for a Treasury going broke with colossal wastage, reeking corruption and rampant mismanagement of the economy. Misdeeds were covered up to protect the miscreants. Reports by Parliamentary Committees like COPE and the Auditor General highlighting financial deficiencies in government were relegated to gather dust at the President’s Office. In foreign policy, inefficiency reigned supreme and a time-tested Non-Aligned policy was abandoned, needlessly antagonising the West, as the country leaned too heavily on Chinese largesse.

There is much for the new dispensation to undo and much to do. A course-correction is urgently needed for the country. The intentions of the new coalition leaders seem to be right, but theory and practice are poles apart. There is the possibility of a National Government of Unity devoid of petty partisan parochial politics. There is a need to have fixed dates for elections, not based on the whims of one man and his astrologer. A seven-year term for a president who was already nine years in office was off-putting for many, to put it mildly.

There is a likelihood that we will go back to the pre-political party, pre-Independence era when the State Council had Executive Committees as Oversight Committees for Agriculture, Industry, Commerce and the like. But there is also a need for a strong Opposition, both externally and internally to pinpoint the drawbacks of a government. The role of the media is paramount in this nation-building exercise and that role must be duly honoured by the new administration. A Right to Information Law is high priority.

The Rajapaksa Government has now been deposed by People Power for a Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government — not to breed a new set of rascals to replace the old ones or to bring back the old rogues from the woodwork. Some of them were already seen partying with the new leaders on Friday night. And those who diddled the public purse during the Rajapaksa regime must be brought to book as a deterrent to those harbouring ideas.

This great honour that has been bestowed on the new leaders by the people, even if by a small margin, should not to be a case of merely changing pillows. What is needed and indeed looked forward to by the people, is an honest approach and the will to seize this opportunity to cure the headaches that plague this nation. They will need to realise that with hope comes expectations and disappointment, from a demanding electorate.

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/150111/editorial/democracy-ta-jayawewa-130423.html

What went wrong is presented in an exemplary summary by the Sunday Times Editor, as extracted from above:

 ….It would be best for President Sirisena to learn the lessons from his predecessor’s downfall. Mr. Rajapaksa was also a humble politician in 2005 when he assumed the presidency after serving as prime minister for a brief period. As the years went on and he grew into that exalted office, new friends with ulterior motives surrounded him, and insulated him from reality. Like what happened to President R. Premadasa, the old guard of the party was isolated as authoritarianism crept in. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is the famous warning of Lord Acton.

 Mr. Rajapaksa allowed those feigning loyalty to him to get away with ‘blue murder’. Drug smuggling was ignored; Ethanol” became a by-word associated with his government; there was ‘monkeying’ with the higher judiciary; the Stock Exchange earned the nickname ‘The Launderette’; tenders were awarded to cronies under the counter without proper bids; mega projects became mega deals with mega kickbacks; the Foreign Service was made a Family Service; Ministry Secretaries, the Police and every aspect of public administration were politicised. The list goes on. The Rajapaksa model was to bribe their way to the votes. But for every 100 ‘gifts’ they gave with public funds, they made 500 enemies. As a humble postman in the Kurunegala district told an election survey team from this newspaper, I’m still riding a pedal cycle while others got motorcycles. I’m voting for the Hansaya”.

 Kissing babies did not go the distance when milk food prices were increased to raise funds for a Treasury going broke with colossal wastage, reeking corruption and rampant mismanagement of the economy. Misdeeds were covered up to protect the miscreants. Reports by Parliamentary Committees like COPE and the Auditor General highlighting financial deficiencies in government were relegated to gather dust at the President’s Office. In foreign policy, inefficiency reigned supreme and a time-tested Non-Aligned policy was abandoned, needlessly antagonising the West, as the country leaned too heavily on Chinese largesse….”

8 Responses to “An Editorial of Substance -Sunday Times Editorial- Democracy-ta Jayawewa!”

  1. Christie Says:

    What bull dust. 1927 Mohandas Karamchand Gangdhi came to island and invited by Indians and planted the Karl Marx. Then India got SWRD in 1951 and JR another Indian behind the scene. 2005 India got Mahinda but he did not suck to India. 2010 India got Sarath Fonseka and failed. 2015…
    Read Indian news papers, nth State or Estate of India. Jai Hind

  2. Leela Says:

    What would the Finance Minister, Ravi Karunanayake do on 29 January 2015?

    Present his mini-budget to Parliament or appear at the High Court Colombo as fixed by the judge on Novemebr 14, 2014 to face the $3 million fraud and the exchange control charges against him.

    If there is a iota of respect for ‘yahapalanaya’ budget date should have been any day but Jan 29th.

  3. Nimal Says:

    What a sad state of affairs in our humble country. We the hard working tax payers and humble people are very much disillusioned by the politicians.
    Looks like the pre 1815 area. Forgive me for thing differently from most of you.
    My kin being married to the descendants of the people who signed the convention.
    My BIL is one Ehalapola,a pompous idiot and a dishonest rouge and the last decade of my sister lived in Kandy without him as he squandered the money of innocent poor promising jobs abroad. He had a partner who was the kin pin of the scheme that my idiotic BIL tagged along with. His partner became a politican,murdered voters and spend remand time and rest is history,whih I don’t like to elaborate.
    Ehalapola seems to have moved out of the country to places like Batavia and enjoyed or noticed the advance system of government of the colonials, their high standards, like appreciate in UK.He so appreciated the lifestyle of the western people, must have had good and honourable intentions for the people of the country where we were ruled by tyrants. His present house in Kandy is a perfect replica of houses of the administrators in Batavia, now Indonesia.
    His house was slightly modified in the front with the UK’s Union Jack, expressing his appreciation for the new rulers.
    Rulers reciprocated by cleaning up Kandy.They erased the bad history of the past that brought so much misery to the humble people of the island. First they filled up the Bogambara lake where Ehlapola’s wife and children were gruesomely killed.They filled threat lake made the present lake.
    Then they sanctified the Maligawa creatinting the first Perahara for the humble people of Kandy in 1828 where there was opposition for this even by the very chieftains that signed the convention because they couldn’t bear to see the people enjoying.British brought in a garrison of 1800 Malay troopers to protect the first perahara and the humble people. You could see the house of Ehalapola(a painting) where the Malay troopers were stationed to protect perhaps the people and Ehalapola, because of the deposed king’s benefactors and chieftains who didn’t like emerging culture of freedom in the country.
    Bye the way the person who engineered the transition was John Doyle who loved our country,first lived in the South where he made a close friendship with the poetess Gagaman Nona.Doyle spoke good Sinhalese and despised the drividan rulers that subjugated the innocent Sinhalese

  4. mjaya Says:

    True MR and the people around him were corrupt. He also didn’t do things good for the country using the 2/3 majority. He could have easily got rid of 13A which would have secured his next victory. Patriots went on and on about the benefits of getting rid of the 13A but to no avail.

    A few years ago we had the “unwinnable war” mantra. Now it is the “minorities have to be satisfied for presidential victory” mantra. Minorities who want their way are not citizens of Sri Lanka. If you want self rule just get out of this country and go back to where you came from.

  5. Nimal Says:

    Sorry for the un edited article above presented in a hurry
    What a sad state of affairs in our humble country. We the hard working tax payers and humble people are very much disillusioned by the politicians.
    Looks like the pre 1815 area. Forgive me for thinking differently from most of you.
    My kin being married to the descendants of the people who signed the convention.
    My BIL is one Ehalapola,a pompous idiot and a dishonest rouge and the last decade of my sister life in Kandy she lived without him as he squandered the money of innocent poor promising jobs abroad. He had a partner who was the kingpin of the scheme that my idiotic BIL tagged along with. His partner became a politican,murdered voters and spend time in remand and rest is history,which I don’t like to elaborate.
    Ehalapola seems to have moved out of the country to places like Batavia and enjoyed or noticed the advance system of government of the colonials, their high standards, like I appreciate the same in UK.He so appreciated the lifestyle of the western people, must have had good and honorable intentions for the people of the country where we were ruled by tyrants. His present house in Kandy is a perfect replica of houses of the administrators in Batavia, now Indonesia.
    His house was slightly modified in the front with the UK’s Union Jack, expressing his appreciation for the new rulers.
    Rulers reciprocated by cleaning up Kandy.They erased the bad history of the past that brought so much misery to the humble people of the island. First they filled up the Bogambara lake where Ehlapola’s wife and children were gruesomely killed.They filled that lake and made the present lake.
    Then they sanctified the Maligawa creatinting the first Perahara for the humble people of Kandy in 1828 where there was opposition for this event by the very chieftains that signed the convention because they couldn’t bear to see the people enjoying life. British brought in a garrison of 1800 Malay troopers to protect the first perahara and the humble people. You could see the house of Ehalapola(a painting) in the internet if possible, where the Malay troopers were stationed to protect the people and Ehalapola, because of the deposed king’s benefactors and chieftains who didn’t like emerging culture of freedom in the country wanted to disrupt it.
    Bye the way the person who engineered the transition was John Doyle who loved our country,first lived in the South where he made a close friendship with the poetess Gagaman Nona.Doyle spoke good Sinhalese and despised the dravidan rulers that subjugated the innocent Sinhalese.
    He engineered the convention in 1815 but few of our power hungry leaders didn’t want any freedom or powers to the people, resulting in the incident in 1818.
    Doyle died in 1824,Brownrigg was deposed because his wife was philandering and he was on the bottle most of the time disgracing the British.
    He was succeeded by Manning who carried out the good work of Doyle by getting the Malay Troopers from Batavia to protect the ceremony and the participants, who are the people.
    He too sanctified the Maligawa(which I regret) by bringing the relic of Lord Buddha and installed that at Maligawa and the first perahara was celebrated in 1828.
    Patriots must go to Maligawa now and make note of this history where this event’s painting is there to see. Must go before our conniving leaders erase it. Already where the British who had given their lives for us, buried next to the Maligawa was to be demolished if not for the intervention of educated Buddhist leaders and the incumbent of the Malwatha temple who is a true Buddhist.
    Our Kandyan leaders were agitating to oust the British but people like the new found infrastructure where everyone was equal under the law,unlike now some are more equal than the others.
    1948 was another turning point of our history where these power hungry past chieftans tried to agitate to grab the power and the humble people were on the side of the British,for obvious reasons and agitators had to move out of the Kandyan areas to look for a rebel leader,one Fernando from Moratuwa,just like our Mervins and Dumindas was known as Puran A.
    I would like the readers to read the book written by the honest and the eminent Buddhist Dr Nihal Karunaratna.He gives some insight to our recent history where he wrote the Drividan leaders so neglected our history and country where Polonaruwa was discovered after 300 years,when the Colonials ruled.
    Prior to 1815 we were so separated from one local ruler to another the first visitors from Colombo to Kandy had to go to Trincomalee and came by foot taking weeks to get to Kandy to see the king. Go and see the painting of him, like in the Kandy Museum where he was so arrogant the people had to wear a face mask in front of him where he looked down upon the people he ruled where ones breath was offensive to him.
    UK and perhaps France started the revolution against the ruling tyrants that included the catholic Vatican,where the change against this was started by Henry the eight where he murdered the catholic cardinal and that was just the beginning to end the taboo created by the Vatican.
    Thereafter respective leaders broke down the barriers and installed the first parliament in UK.When they traded in countries beyond UK,some did terrible things to the natives where they practiced the same vile practices of their past ousted leaders but there were enlighten people like Manning,Doyle,Havlock and many more who shared and benefited from the freedom of their own dark days. Whatever benefit their people they enjoyed was given to us as well.
    They made roads ,hospitals,very important schools for Budhists,Christians,Hindus and muslims.All the talk about divide and rule was concocted by a few privileged leaders who had their education in Oxford and Cambridge.Agree, we must run our own countries and the colonials departed as partners not as enimies.During their rule they united our country.It must have been good for the people to name their precious children like CHARLES,SOLOMAN,FREDRICK,JOHN,PERERA,SILVA ete,etc.
    I could remember their time,born in the premises of the present Mirihana police station where we had the best of times,where that police station,perhaps like the others in the country was a happy place where all events of the year where the young people were entertained along with the parents and the public to celebrate many events where the suddas constantly did sudden checks to make sure everything was done properly to the satisfaction of the local people.

  6. aloy Says:

    Nimal, Thank you for your narative.

  7. Nimal Says:

    Aloy
    Unless we accept the standards of the progressives counties we will be a doomed state. Way the country is governed for the best must be similar to UK,as a good example. Where the politicians are erect and accountable and the average person is equally responsible and demand high standards.
    Sadly our people in SL is as bad as their leaders because over the years people’s standards have come down, very well exploited by the crooked politicians.
    What is happening countries like SL,India will horrify the people in the developed countries. I feel disgusted coming to SL after living so long in UK where the standards in SL is so bad in every aspect. Truly shameful and to talk about our history and culture in a glorious manner is laughable.

  8. Ananda-USA Says:

    Forgive me for offering a contrary opinion, but the Sunday Times has always been critical of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the UPFA government.

    Why should we accept the Sunday Times as a paragon of truth and political virtue now?

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