Letters to the Editor
9th January 2000
Just two days after the Presidential Elections, newspapers carried the following headlines, "Chandrika invites Ranil to join her" and it quoted the President's speech at the swearing-in ceremony at Temple Trees in which she has stated, "I stretch out my hand to you to join the government".
She has by doing so acknowledged the expressions of 42% of the voters who voted for the UNP candidate. She has also realised the need for ending confrontational politics, which has been the bane of the party system of politics in Sri Lanka.
If the UNP should take the hand of friendship extended by the leader of the PA, then one of the two wars in this country could be ended and there is every chance of ending the other war too.
Those of us who lived during World War II and others who have read history will remember how Winston Churchill the Prime Minister of England, who was the leader of the Conservative Party invited Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour Party to form a National Government to conduct the war against Germany.
This enabled them to end the war. The moral behind this is, in times of national crisis, the country should take pride of place.
In Sri Lanka there has been a crisis for over a decade and yet the rulers have been plagued by party politics and at every election and thereafter, the same pattern has gone on, to the detriment of the people, the economy, the ruination of the country, the 15,000 odd soldiers who have died on one side, the large numbers who have died on the other side, innocent civilians who have been caught in the crossfire, the thousands who have been maimed, others who have been starved and equal numbers who are destitute and large numbers of children who have been made orphans and others who are in refugee camps unable to attend school.
I believe the whole country will look forward to the reply of the UNP to the President's offer.
All peace loving Sri Lankans will welcome the President extending her hand of friendship to the UNP leader and this move will be the first step towards forming a National Government. It is important to remember that a National Government has to be one of consensus and there is no room for confrontation or harsh words and ridicule.
Sincere and serious promoters of a National Government have realised the utter futility of party politics and have advocated consensual governance.
A National Government should comprise about 20-25 cabinet ministers, consisting of the most capable educated men who are outstanding in their own fields.
It is significant that many Tamil areas have given Ranil a majority vote. May be he would be the ideal person to negotiate with the Tamils to bring about the much desired reconciliation in Sri Lanka. He should, however, be given the appropriate portfolio in keeping with the vote bank he has obtained and the President would do well to await his response before proceeding to reshuffle her Cabinet.
Since President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has extended her hand of friendship to the Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe towards nation building, why not offer him the post of Vice-President, so that the entire populace is properly represented at the highest level.
If one analyses the results of the last election, Chandrika has got the backing of about 40% of the voters and Ranil has got 35% and the rest 15%. This means that 60% of the people are supporting the opposition and not the government, which in turn shows that the ruling party has only a minority.
I am confident that many will agree that at the end of the day what we want is a prosperous and peaceful Sri Lanka. The bane of Sri Lankan politics is that nobody grooms a worthy deputy.
It was the brainchild of the late A.C.S. Hameed to select the cabinet from all parties, thus enabling representation from all levels. Can anybody claim that members in the governing party are the most competent and intelligent for any task and that opposition members lack proper direction? No! There may be instances where the opposition has better, more educated and capable personnel.
Let there be the day when we will have a PA President, UNP Vice-President, JVP Prime Minister and ministers and deputy ministers from all national parties.
This can be achieved only by the incumbent President who by the grace and mercy of Almighty God was saved to bring salvation to this beloved bleeding nation of ours. We pray that the dawn of the new millennium will also be the dawn of refined genuine political thinking towards a prosperous and peaceful Sri Lanka.
M. Roshan Razak
There is a lot of talk and speculation of a National Government in this country. Would some expert on Political Science please explain what this "national government" hopes to achieve and the mechanics of its operation?
Is it to push through projects that are beneficial to the people of this country? Will it mean the amalgamation of the two main political parties in this country, the SLFP and the UNP, thus avoiding the perennial problem both in Sri Lanka and India of weak governments being dominated by minority groups with vested interests?
Would the two main political parties amalgamate leaving a hotchpotch of political nonentities to form a weak opposition, or in fact no opposition at all? Would this not create a veritable dictatorship in this country? Would it not pave the way for a coup or for some terrorist group, presently in "sheep's clothing", to take over?
I am personally not aware of any democratic country, where there is no real opposition. Like in the British Parliament, why cannot the SLFP and the UNP respectively, when in the opposition, support in Parliament the government proposals that are for the benefit of this country? They do not have to go scrounging for ministerial posts to do so.
Would this not prevent opportunistic renegades crossing over purely for personal power and gain?
I hope the UNP does not "hit the panic button" just because the published election results show Chandrika Kumaratunga as the winner. Let us think back to 1994 when there was the deafening sound of firecrackers after her victory, while this year there was a deafening silence after the election results. Is this not significant of the real feelings of the majority of the people of this country who abhor deceit and violence?
Let the UNP compare the voting patterns in 1994 and in 1999. One sees a definite upward swing for the UNP in the entire island.
The recent Presidential Election was a contest between two individuals. There was plenty of character assassination, mud slinging, distortion of the truth and downright lies uttered about Ranil Wickremesinghe. But to the credit of Mr. Wickremesinghe, he behaved like a gentleman. General elections are bound to follow. The "Thalagoyas, Kabaragoyas, Gerandiyas (both professionally qualified and otherwise), vote riggers and vote stuffers, and underworld killers and thugs" must be already girding their loins in preparation.
Let the UNP ignore temporary setbacks and seeing the emerging trends prepare in each and every electorate to contest the General Elections as a truly democratic party comprising all ethnic groups and creeds in this country. Let the UNP remain a democratic party and resort to actively defending democracy in this country.
A Worried Citizen
Just a few days before December 21, I was appalled to see in the newspapers two lists, one "green" the other "blue", carrying the names of prominent and not so prominent so-called academics ("so-called" is used deliberately by me after that particular reading) publicly proclaiming the candidate of their choice. For a long time now, most of us have been aware of the low level to which standards have dropped in all spheres of life in this once proud land of ours. We blamed politicians for this plummet. But as I have in a previous letter pointed out, politicians are nourished and encouraged by henchmen and women among administrators, professionals and so-called academics. When academics have to advertise their political preferences (I am not for one moment suggesting that academics should refrain from influencing the political process) in the press, then we have dropped to the lowest depths.
What was the objective of these learned worthies? Were they trying to influence the Sri Lankan voter? Do they think Citizen Perera and Mrs Perera are imbeciles without minds of their own? Do they really think that our good citizen would peruse these lists, blue or green, and tell himself: "I didn't know how to decide between these two equally undesirable candidates, but now I can decide. Here is Professor A backing candidate A. After all Professor A is a learned man, an honourable man, an academic. So, I will cast my vote for A." Come, come. How naive can you get?
It is impossible to believe that these so-called academics could be that stupid. Then,the only conclusion, an ugly one, that can be arrived at is that it is another instance of the sycophancy displayed over the last so many years (during green regimes and blue regimes alike) by some members of our higher seats of learning. Surely, collecting signatures of approval of this or that candidate, in a list carrying the name of the Head of an Academic Institution can only mean that it could easily lead to decisions on academic matters being made on considerations other than academic! Study leave, fellowships, Scholarships, appointments, the filling of chairs, all these could be viewed through tinted glasses - blue or green as the case may be.
In fact one of the best examples of an academic plunge or the plunge of an academic, in recent times, was seen when a dyed in green wool academic (sorry! I mean so-called) who had enjoyed the fruits of highest office, and wielded absolute power in academic circles while grazing in green pastures, and allegedly always ruled in favour of the green academics, suddenly took a deep dive into blue waters. So it makes no difference as to who wins. The Pings and the Pongs are at their favourite game of sycophancy, and mediocracy (which sustains itself through sycophancy) remains enthroned, while meritocracy is left to perish in our land or go elsewhere, where they can pursue their profession while retaining their self respect.
Surely these so-called academics, green and blue alike, could have really merited the term true academic, if they had joined hands and made a joint declaration protesting vehemently about the dreadful state of Lanka. They could have said, "We the strong supporters of both the opposition party and the government party join together in condemning unreservedly all forms of election malpractices and in particular pre-election, per-election and post-election violence. We stoutly condemn the interference of gun-toting politicians and their gun-toting sons and gun-toting supporters with the ordinary voter, the election officials and police officers. We demand that our fellow supporters ensure that at last we have a free and fair election; and let the better man or woman win. It would not have been necessary to solicit signatures."
But no! That is not to be! Albert Camus, in the Fall, makes Jean Batiste Clemence, former lawyer turned Judge-penitent say, "And this is most rare. I never deigned to flatter any journalist, to get him on my side, or any civil servant or minister of state whose friendship may be helpful to me." Yes, rarer still in present day Sri Lanka. What we see, instead, is academics genuflecting and offering hosannahs at either green or blue shrines. Often, at both!
Whither Academia? Whither Sri Lanka?
Dr. Mark Amerasinghe
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