Sri Lanka – and its wizards of (K)-OZ meaning CHAOS.
Posted on July 27th, 2019

Mario Perera, Kadawata

With presidential elections round the corner and increasingly drawing the attention of all, there is a question the country must answer. Where are we after seventy years of Independence? Where are we after seventy years of democracy and universal suffrage: voting rights for all, men and women?

The three major upheavals since Independence in the method of governance of the country relate to SWRD, to JRJ, and to MaRa. One was focused inward, while the other was outward-oriented. That last was SELF-centered. The first was aimed at ‘bringing the top layers of society to the bottom’ and, theoretically at least paving the way for the bottom rung to reach the top. Therein lay the great expectancy of the masses. The first purpose was an apparent success. The second, however, was not.

The inward politics pushed the theory of ‘apey aanduwa’, even going to the extent of a pretentious control of the judicial system with the ‘apey usawiya’ catchword. The three branches of government: legislature, executive and judiciary were ‘apparently’ amalgamated within the ‘pancha maha balavegaya’ – the Sangha (Clergy), Veda (Physicians), Guru (Teachers), Govi (Farmers) and Kamkaru (Workers). But the concept ultimately was a flop.

When SWRD died, murdered by members of the first of the above-mentioned groups, power was taken back from the people, first by parliament, and then, by family rule. The widow of SWRD, the world’s first prime minister consolidated power in her hands, aided by members of the family: the Bandaranayake-Ratwatte clans. What her husband conceived as ‘apey aanduwa’ now blatantly became ‘magey pauley aanduwa’. Her period of office witnessed the first youth insurrection by the JVP, of poor village youth into whom so much hope had been infused but who remained bereft of resources and of a future worth aspiring to.

What the movement preconized was ultimately the communist model. It will be remembered that Sirima’s two major foreign trips were to China and Russia where she decried the politics of the ‘rapacious West’. What the two Bandaranayakes wanted to put in place was an economic structure in which all liberal professions would function under the total control of the State. But the State went bankrupt and was unable to deliver, this in spite of its stringent, even cruel measures to practice what it had preached. Those found in violation of the draconian exchange control laws, with those even very advanced in age, were bound to their hospital. beds in chains.

Those who were able to flee the country did so even reaching India in padda boats. These are deeds that bring to our minds the plight of present-day migrants trying to reach the USA. The inward movement went so backward, that the population was compelled to subsist on ala, batala and magngnocca during the final years of that rule. That system crashed.  

And so the idea of pulling the top to the bottom met with resistance. This was amply symbolized in an encounter that took place between Mr.Themis who was a postal peon and gained election to parliament on the ‘bottom to top’ policy of the Bandaranayakes. He once met Sir John Kotelawela in the corridors or the Parliamentary complex and addressed Kotelawela with the words: Hello John. That inflamed every hair on the body of the laird of Kandawala. What Themis next got was a thundering slap with the words: to fellows like you I am always SIR JOHN. Indeed the Bandaranayake policies did change society in many ways. ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ appellations lost their place. They were replaced by ‘uncle’, ‘aunty’ and similar.

The Bandaranayake government under Sirima took anti-British steps that helped to darken the horizons making the demonic LTTE specter to pop up. She had the British naval bases of Colombo and Trinco closed. That was also the wish of India. By doing away with that protective shield on the high seas, Sirima left the ocean open for LTTE personnel to enter the North. The LTTE had India’s help to the extent of having LTTE training camps in spite of the closely fostered relationship between Sirima and Indira. It was during the Sirima regime that Alfred Duraiappa, the SLFP mayor of Jaffna was gunned down by Prabhakaran himself which was the first open act of war by the LTTE.

In addition to shoving the British aside, Sirima’s government also set aside the British Privy council, Sri Lanka’s final court of appeal, from our judicial system. This was the first and predominant step of placing our judicial system on the slope of descent towards the degradation it presently finds itself in.

But prior to the LTTE bursting on the scene, it was the JVP revolt that broke loose. The poor, down-trodden village youth, even university students of the same breed without any foreseeable future, staged a coup, which, with support of India and even the European countries and the USA which Sirima had distanced herself from was crushed. Tens of thousands of such youth, including young monks, were brutally killed.

Mrs. B’s party was wiped out of power, being reduced to just eight seats with the lady herself having to face severe legal consequences for misdeeds.

The man who defeated her was literally voted into power by ‘hungry stomachs’.  One of his first acts was to constitutionalize dictatorship. Surely he would have been inspired by Sirima’s family rule which was dictatorial all but in the name. With JRJ government did not become a family business because JRJ had no progeny with political ambitions. And so it became a ‘one-man show’.

He turned the Sirima economic policies inside out. JRJ turned the economy completely outward. The new trademark was a ‘free economy’. For a time all went well. The markets were flooded with goods and goodies. But there was a price to pay: subservience to the ‘International Community’ which primarily meant the USA and the European Community.

Then there was the ever-lurking danger gathering more and more strength, on the horizon. It took the form of the demon that was the LTTE. That demon was worshipped by all Tamil parties, including the Tamil Catholic clergy who even gave leadership to the war drums without a word of protest by their peers,

The outward trend led to abject servility to foreign powers, including India. And here JRJ was to learn a bitter lesson. He was called ‘yanky dicky’ and counted heavily on the USA. But Sri Lanka was not that close to the USA for pretentions of a personal relationship. He also fell out of favour with Indira who was promoting the LTTE. With the Indians under Rajiv hell-bent on invading our Island, JRJ could not count on the USA to stop it. The USA was more aligned with India than with Sri Lanka. JRJ felt compelled to bow his head to Indian dictates.

That was the time of the infamous Indian invasion of Jaffna by air and sea and the promulgation of the nefarious 13th Amendment. Making the Indian invasion as its war cry, the JVP exploded in yet another armed insurrection crushed under Premadasa rule. But the JVP had given a lead to the Tamil rebels. And so began the Ealam war in earnest.

After years of war ups and downs, with the situation drawing more and more foreign attention all to the detriment of Sri Lanka, began the Rajapakse era. After much hesitance and goaded on by the Sangha, very reminiscent of the Duttu Gemunu era, Raja finally trod the warpath.  Aided by very favourable international circumstances, especially the 9/11 in the USA, and the Bombay terrorist attacks by Pakistanis, all leading to the international banning of the LTTE heralded by George Bush, Raja won the war.

The country was in a state of euphoria. Epitomizing it all, Raja returning to the country from a trip abroad, knelt before the eyes of the nation and kissed the ground of Mother Lanka. He recapped the new reality with a resonating address to parliament. The song that expressed the gratitude of the nation went on the waves through the lips of a comely maiden. She was shown, her hands turned upwards as if invoking god almighty himself, and crying out in song: Ayubowewa Maha Rajaneni.

Everything seemed to have good forebodings. But the trend of dictatorship by family rule introduced by Mrs. B and incorporated into the constitution by JRJ as a one-man show reached its apex point under the Rajapakse family rule. His family rule became unashamedly blatant and overt. His family members were so numerous that he did not have enough posts to satisfy their ambitions for wealth and power. He had knelt in the gesture of adoration to kiss the feet of Mother Lanka. But what Raja kissed on that historical day was not the feet of Mother Lanka, but his own image in the mirror of himself. It was only an act of narcissism and nothing more.

Nothing else could satisfy Raja now but the title MahaRaja. The culmination of that trend was the impending law that was the 18th amendment before which his entire followership bowed its head. He was the king. That kingship was for life, for himself and his progeny. The authoritarianism of the Raja family rules visibly derived from the Sinhala monarchy. That right he wanted to write into the constitution with the 18th amendment. Furthermore, the King could do no wrong, And so MahaRaja and especially his brother Gotabhaya engaged in excesses unprecedented in every sense.

But these excesses were too much for the nation to accept. All this was combined with mysterious deaths and disappearances, and drastic manipulations of the judiciary leading to the shameless ouster of a chief justice who had refused to comply led to Raja’s fall. And so Raja fell. Indeed great was his fall. First, he had counted on the dubious foresight of a soothsayer. Finally, he was stabbed in the back by a Brutus of his entourage. This was an act of betrayal unlike one ever seen before in a democratic country. Sira, Raja’s Brutus committed that immoral act on the prodding and invitation mainly of one also aspiring to rulership. He betrayed his boss at the immoral instigation of his boss’s rival: Ranil.

For Ranil the co-conspirator, Sira was intended to be a figurehead. Sira, to show his goodwill, promised before the Dalada Haamuduruwo that he would be a one-term president, a transitional president who would undertake the castration of his presidential powers, yielding them to the parliament of which the overlordship would ultimately be exercised by his co-conspirator the Prime Minister – Ranil.

Once ascended to the throne seat, the promises, even those to the Dalada Vahanse, were knowingly and willfully thrown overboard. The 19th amendment made a mockery of power renouncement, and that was it. From then on the President felt relegated to the back seat while the Prime Minister exercised authority with a bunch of his friends who were old school mates. Ranil was exercising dictatorial rule. The new club was not family (Ranil does not, like JRJ have a political progeny, indeed no progeny at all), it was a friends’ club or still better a Royal College club. Sira was forced to look on powerless even as the bond scam took place in broad daylight before his very eyes. His admonitions to his Prime Minister fell on deaf ears.

President Sira could stand that no longer. With the complicity of his former boss whom he had earlier betrayed, and his followers especially the brothers, he tried to cut the feet from under Ranil. He appointed his former boss the Prime Minister at an evening party whether with hoppers or not. The latter, the previous boss was a total accomplice to the second immoral act of betrayal of Sira. The next morning Ranil was informed and told to vacate Temple Trees. But Ranil stayed on provoking a constitutional crisis.

For long months the country had practically no government. The matter dragged on and on. The country had become a rudderless ship. Those with pretentions of power did not care a damn for the country: be it Sira, Ranil or Raja. The ship of Lanka had been cut from its moorings and was adrift. The country had two prime ministers holding fast to empty seats, with no cabinet, no ministers, only nominal ones bereft of power. It was a country in a state of total chaos, the concern of no one, certainly not of its elected representatives.

And so the Supreme Court had to intervene. Sira was proved wrong. He had betrayed both, his erstwhile master and his erstwhile benefactor. Most especially he had betrayed the sacrosanct constitution of the country several times at that. As for the erstwhile master and the erstwhile benefactor, they were both privy to his immoral and illegal conduct. They both, with full knowledge and full intention accepted the backstabbing of the one and the other. Yet as the traditional and pithy Sinhala saying goes: they had no qualms in slipping the venomous serpent inside their underwear.

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It is a country with such a recent history that is once again at the crossroads. For whom are we going to vote? For the wizards of K-OZ on both sides of the aisle of parliament? Must we put immoral backstabbers and their equally immoral accomplices in the highest seat of power? Are we determined to go along in the same vehicles as of the past: the inward bound, the outward bound or the nowhere bound, passively led by donors and creditors with the country put out for lease or better like woman sold into prostitution? Or are we willing to try out the third force? The identification of this third force is within the reach of the Sinhala-Buddhist mind. It is that force that built the foundation on which our history, civilization, and culture rests, and has prospered for two thousand six hundred years. It is for that force together with its adepts to sort out the modalities of the leadership of the Sinhala-Buddhist nation. Indeed what is at stake is the very existence of the Sinhala-Buddhist nation.

One thing is certain, this country has nothing whatsoever to lose by rejecting Sira, Ranil and Mara and their respective bands of marauders. A glance at their histories will show that they are not worth their salts. Now for what use is salt that has lost its savor except to be thrown out into the garbage bin and confined to the fire?

If this is not done soon, we will already hear the raban girls heralding the next presidential election results with their song: Udapalagaththath wattakka, bima palagaththatha wattakka, udapalagaththath bimapalagaththath punchi punch gedi wattakka.

Under the present system, Sri Lanka will always remain the land of the Wizards of K-OZ.

Mario Perera, Kadawata

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