Discovery of retrospective wisdom
Posted on May 12th, 2018

By Narada Courtesy Ceylon Today

There is a parable that has a message for President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe. The two have an unenviable task – matching dismal performance with exaggerated promise. The parable offers a glimmer of light to the two leaders presently groping in the darkness of demonstrated failure.

A grandfather tells his grandchild: There is a battle between two wolves inside all of us humans. One is evil; he is arrogance, ego, lies and despair. The other is good; he is peace, compassion, truth and hope. This battle is inside us all.”
The grandchild asks: Which wolf wins?” The grandfather replies: The one you feed.” The length of the litany of scandals, broken promises, reversal of policy has trapped this government in a state of abysmal self-doubt. That is my take home on the President’s Policy Statement.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has one great attribute – his ability to ignore his failures. President Sirisena is in possession of a greater attribute – his simple belief often misplaced, that it is not too late to put things right.
Most mistakenly we greeted the election of a new President on 8 January 2015 as a bright reawakening of our collective soul. Apparently, that is not what it seemed to be then or what it has become.

The policy statement by the President at the ceremonial sitting of Parliament last week told us in no uncertain terms that we are in deep slumber in a dark night of our collective soul.

The policy statement by the President was anything but his predicament is the predicament of the UNP-SLFP coalition. The achievements are not noticeable. The failures are glaringly obvious. Their errors are pathetic. Worst of them all, their infantile politics is disgustingly distressing.

An objective assessment of the policy statement of President Sirisena can arrive only at one conclusion. Flat out failure proffered in profound platitudes.
The policy statement failed. It failed to hide, shroud or rationalize failure, which is what politicians are good at and insist on doing.

The President and the Prime Minister are two oddballs different by type, identical in purpose. Their idea of ‘REFORMS’ – the primary purpose for which they were chosen, seems to be remarkably alike, parallel and interchangeable.

Their reforms are focused more on the party and less on the people. The two have agreed to introduce reforms while not conceding their political ambitions or their respective prerogatives in competitive party politics.
The problem with this government is simple. It is compared with the government it replaced. That government did not permit dissent on the streets. This government does.

It is all about perception. The government claims that the predecessor regime has left a mountain of debt. It says that structural changes are necessary to repay the debt and deliver prosperity. All that is well and good. The people do not trust this government. The people are sceptical of the promises made. Worse, they are contemptuous of and question the integrity of the premises on which those promises are based.
The Bond Business crippled the gladiator and toppled the chariot of reforms. This government convinced a majority of electors that they could trust then with the responsibility of governing better than the one it replaced.

What happened? Three months into governance, people discovered the dishonesty of the Prime Minister’s attempt to cover up the Bond scandal with the ‘PANAYANA’ joke of the Pitipana committee. Leaders distrusted cannot lead. They cannot unify and mobilize people to implement policy.

The Prime Minister’s economic policies to date have been driven by his advisers and consultants. The involvement of the parliamentary group of the governing party has been marginal. A leader distrusted by the party ranks is now clinging on through the party machine.

The people are treated to many versions of the truth. Baseless claims such as millions of jobs, Volkswagen assembly plants, and economic upturns round the corner have turned out to be false. Repudiating false claims has placed an undeserved halo on the heads of equally duplicitous opposition politicians. Lying by distortion is a part of conventional party politics.

The Prime Minister does not distort. He affirms hypothetical claims as true and forgets to provide supportive evidence. His current seniority as having entered Parliament in 1977, at the genesis of the Executive Presidency, lifts him to a height that spares him the trouble of deciphering his own riddle.
The robustness of a democracy depends on the ability of leaders to muster popular support for their policies. That calls for trust in those leaders.
The trust of constituents is the political leader’s only asset. Squandering it diminishes the leader’s capacity to lead.

The World of
Mr. Ajith Perera

‘Ajith Perera urges President not to delay’ was the caption of a news report that appeared in this paper last week.
When a State Minister calls the Head of the Government to expedite action at a public forum, it can mean many things. The President needs to be reminded. The President is not mindful of the urgency of the issue. The President is lukewarm on the matter. Such conjecture cannot be avoided in this climate of open debate, accountability and transparency.
Mr. Ajith Perera has said, The Government is alleged to be not punishing criminals and is delaying Court cases. The delay in the judicial procedures has benefited the criminals and wrongdoers.”

In the context of mutual accusations and recriminations of not punishing wrongdoers and soft-pedlling of investigations, Mr. Perera’s public appeal acquires some significant political nuances, shades and subtleties.  The people are confused. They do not know when and where partisan animosity ends, and true process of justice begins.
We live in times of great confusion. The barriers that separate those in governance and those who wish to govern are of such strength and resilience that it has bifurcated society. Both sides are wedded to worldviews that are irretrievably incompatible. Mutual toleration has disappeared.

Mr. Ajith Perera inhabits this world. Then there is another world. That world is the world of bonhomie where the bosses agree to disagree and keep Mr. Perera and his type from gaining Cabinet rank.

People who mean something

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes
almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives
of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo,
with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck
to move things forward,
who do what has to be done,
again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields
to harvest
and work in a row and pass
the bags along,
who are not parlor generals
and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands,
crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies,
clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn,
are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

– Marge Piercy

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