Awards of Prairie Roses and Leafy Spurge
Posted on August 30th, 2015

By Shelton A. Gunaratne

MOORHEAD, MN–Jack Zaleski, the editorial page editor of my hometown newspaper, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, the flagship of Forum Communications, uses his Monday editorial to give Prairie Roses and Leafy Spurge awards to deserving people, places and institutions in the news.

Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) is a nuisance weed imported to America from Europe. It is rampant in the Red River Valley where I live.

Prairie rose (Rosa arkansana) is an ornamental plant. It is the state flower of Iowa and North Dakota.

I think it is a capital idea to give these awards to individuals, places and institutions in tropical Sri Lanka because I know that many Lankans are likely to appreciate imported awards more than the local. Moreover, I am unlikely to run out of these awards because of their abundance in the prairies.

Here’s my initial list of awards:

PRAIRIE ROSES: To Tony Blair, former Labor prime minister of Britain, for delivering his well thought-out Lakshman Kadirgamar Memorial Lecture last week in Colombo. Despite all the flack he received from his critics for being George W. Bush’s poodle in the notorious Iraq misadventure, he passed on to his eminent audience seven principles of successful reconciliation that the Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities ought to follow: (1) continued absence of conflict, (2) a fair negotiation framework, (3) diversity encompassing unity, (4) recognizing reconciliation of economic development, (5) education for all, (6) maintaining dialogue, and (7) examining the past to ascertain the truth but not for future retribution.   He asserted that the last principle would be the most difficult to carry through.

Blair said he picked these principles from his quarter century of experience with resolving the conflicts in Northern Ireland and the Middle East.   All political parties in Sri Lanka should pay attention to these principles because they are in tune with the truth of the Middle Path (magga). The current government should consider these principles within the framework of the source links (nidanas) that lead to conflict as explained in the Mahānidāna Sutta–craving, pursuit, gain, decision-making, desire, attachment, possessiveness, stinginess, and safeguarding.

Critics must concede Blair’s wisdom (panna) despite his defilements, just like any other human being’s.

LEAFY SPURGE: To political commentators and journalists who acted as propagandists for political parties or candidates during the presidential and parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka this year, particularly Dayan Jayatilleka, H.L.D. Mahindapala, and C.A. Chandraprema.

Jayatilleka, a prolific propagandist for former president Mahinda Rajapakse during this year’s elections, blamed the political analysts who speculated a UNP parliamentary victory thus (Lankaweb, 9 July 2015):

These pseudo-intellectuals and commentators forgot the single most important factor in politics: the masses of people; the vast multitude. The masses have carried Mahinda [Rajapakse] back to the center stage of politics. What a comeback it has been, in just six months!”

Jayatilleka, a professed political scientist, repeated the following logic to justify his prediction on the 17 August election:

Ranil [Wickremasinghe] has been beaten twice by center-left SLFP candidates: CBK [Kumaratunga] in 1999 and Mahinda in 2005. Put differently, every time Ranil faced center-left SLFP personalities he lost, and whenever the UNP fielded him against such personalities, the UNP lost and the SLFP won. He is unlikely to be third time lucky.”

Had Jayatilleka shed his ego and grasped the Four Noble Truths, he could have assessed the outcome of the elections meaningfully as a mindful journalist.

Now, after this miserably failed political prediction, will anybody care to read Jayatilleka’s book Long War, Cold Peace: Conflict and Crisis in Sri Lanka”?

I implore Jayatilleka to share   this Leafy Spurge with at least two other political propagandists, Mahindapala and Chandraprema both of whom rooted for Rajapakse by blatantly ignoring Buddhist phenomenology and sound syllogistic reasoning. I hesitate to call them journalists because they wrote one-sided political commentaries oblivious to all the gaffes of the leader and the party they favored.

I know Mahindapala quite well. He and I were colleagues at Lake House in the early 1960s. He has enormous writing skills. However, in my view, he has ceased to be a credible journalist.

Chandraprema, a columnist for The Island, is the author of the book Gota’s War: The Crushing of Tamil Tiger Terrorism in Sri Lanka.” His weekly column on politics consistently predicted a Rajapakse victory. Will readers trust his book, now?

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