Mangala’s Sophistry
Posted on May 19th, 2018

By Palitha M Senanayake

Joining the debate in Parliament against the recent Motion of No Confidence against the Prime Minister, Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, the Minister of finance and Media attempted to portray the current Prime Minister, as the most erudite political personality that held sway over the island’s politics during the last two decades.  Citing examples from the past, he mentioned that while he was with the current PM’s political bete noire, the former President Chandrika Kumaranethunge, he commenced all the SLFP political campaigns by pasting posters proclaiming that ‘Ranil Can’t’. This, he said was a strategy designed to imbibe in the minds of the public that Ranil W is not a capable leader because in the Minister’s own conviction he knew Ranil to be the most threatening influence Chandrika K was facing.  The Minister came out with the same argument at a recent press conference when the media wanted to know who the 2020 Presidential candidate of the UNP would be. The message Mangala S was trying to convey was, that Ranil W is the most capable man and it was an act of sophistry on the part of Mangala that made him portray Ranil as ‘incapable’ when he was in the opposite political camp!

When recalling Mangala Samaraweera’s utterances during his political career, we know that he has always made serious proclamations and then, have subsequently acted quite to the contrary of those proclamations.  As examples, we could cite what he said about his current ministerial colleague, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka, when he was with the previous regime.  No sooner Sarath Fonseka was appointed to the post of Army Commander Mangala was on record stating that SF was not even suitable for the post of Commander in the Salvation Army.  Judging by how he now eulogizes Sarath Fonseka and during the Presidential campaign he conducted for SF in 2010,  we take it that it is the same ‘strategy’ applicable there as well; Mangala had been slighting SF back in 2006 because he knew that SF was capable of living up to the expectations of the Army Commander at the time.

These statements however, should not be construed as ‘sophistry’ because sophistry is the use of clever arguments to convince that something is true when in fact it is not so. Thus, there is no clever argument in the case of Minister Mangala’s utterances and therefore those statements that he had made are, but downright degradations of a person’s n character or capability to gain a political advantage. In other words, these statements are, but plain political lies.

However, what matters here is not this act of uttering a lie but rather the impunity with which that lie is publicly admitted by the same person who uttered the lie as if it is a special talent that he is endowed with.  What is even worse is that it is now becoming an accepted trend among politicians to lie and also to act in breach of the policies the voters expected them to standby.  The public too has often adopted a very dismissive attitude towards these treacherous acts of politicians saying, Oh that is politics” or  all the politicians are the same” etc.

If Minister Samaraweera now admits that he lied to the public back in 1995, then the issue is, with what credibility should the public treat the statements he is making now? Thus, when he states that former President Mahinda Rajapakse has amassed a fortune worth of US $ 17 billion during his 9-year rule, could we be sure that it is not another flagrant lie that he will retract in a few years?  Judging by his admission of this perfidy, the public could well expect Miniter Samaraweera to come out with a statement in a few years hence, maintaining that, former President Mahinda Rajapakse is the ‘cleanest’ politician ever to govern Sri Lanka and it is because he wanted Maithreepala to win that he lied in 2015”.  Does Mr Samaraweera think that the voting public in this country are damn fools because they continue to vote the like of him to power?

This perfidious trend these politicians are trying to establish is a dangerous trend that could lead to political treachery and instability, making a mockery of the representative democracy in the end.  In the writer’s opinion the politicians are elected by the people by deposing their trust on the statements and pledges they make and they should act in keeping with the mandate they receive from the people. They are the legislators and they should formulate legislation to take the country forward in keeping with the aspirations of their voters. Thus, honesty and principled action should be their rule with dishonesty and political opportunism being the exemption.  Yet, what would be the situation if the exemption becomes the rule and the rules are observed only in the exemption?

Ranjith Siyabalapiptiya’s team canvassed every house in our electorate during the August 2015  election and convinced the voters that Ranil W and his UNP had perpetrated questionable dealings at the Central bank and therefore should be voted against.  We did exactly as he said,  but after having got elected on our anti- Ranil vote, Siyambalapitiya today is a staunch Ranil supporter and voted even against the No- faith motion that alleged Ranil W of involvement in the Central Bank bond scam.

Another political dictum that some politicians today are trying to promote is that, ‘ There are no permanent friends or foes in politics! This may be because the present day politicians have no principles and their only concern is power and that make them ‘opportunist’ and ‘time servers’.  Thus, they get together to form governments to share power embracing even policies and persons their voters would not want them to associate with. The fact however is that politics is not about friendship with fellow politicians, or being in power all the time, but being accountable to your voters and in representing their wishes and aspirations. Mangala can fool some people all the time and all the people some time, but certainly not all the people all the time.

One Response to “Mangala’s Sophistry”

  1. Daya Says:

    Agree absolutely. We should not allows ourselves to get as cynical as the politicians.

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