Each time at the dawn of a new year our rulers enact a ritual farce. They address the nation and tell the people of their great achievements in the previous year or two and what they hope to achieve in the days ahead. These messages are replete with pious platitudes on good governance – a [...]


Hail our petty potentates, hail our misled people


Each time at the dawn of a new year our rulers enact a ritual farce. They address the nation and tell the people of their great achievements in the previous year or two and what they hope to achieve in the days ahead. These messages are replete with pious platitudes on good governance – a more recent addition to the cornucopia of bogus politics – and what the future holds for the populace.

The people know what the future holds. What worries them is the chap or chaps holding it and how reliable and honest they are. For the rulers and the dubious money-bags behind them whose shady deals and tender touch (if this first pun in the early days of the New Year is pardoned) rake in the shekels and help replenish party coffers, the people are like the appendix. They are an unnecessary appendage whose only usefulness is to cast the vote for the ‘correct’ party at the ‘correct’ time.

So a skeptical citizenry, disturbed by the noisy revelry of Colombo’s upper crust and thuggish political brats the previous night and awakened by the fake promises announced at the crack of dawn, stuffed up the crack and went back to sleep.
Or the people burdened by unbearable taxes and suffering from pecuniary anxieties pray to the multiple deities and hope those who consider themselves demi-gods end up in the bin for kitchen waste so conveniently arranged for by Minister Faizser Musthapha under the new rubbish disposal dispensation where some of those questionable politicos could be dumped along with the kitchen refuse.

Unable to stay away from reading the ritualistic rubbish which makes good fictional reading at the start of another year, I delved into the messages faithfully circulated by the Sirisena presidency that intruded into my mobile phone without even the courtesy of a by-your-leave and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe whose tendency to exclude the embarrassing was definitely embarrassing for one who insists the media should give both or all sides of a story. Obviously politicians are exempt from such inconveniences as telling the whole truth.

So we read of the glorious days that lie ahead in 2017 and years to come. At least that is what we are told. Who are we to contradict those who believe they have been endowed with such Socratic wisdom that they can do without the opinions of more knowledgeable persons intellectually outshining the so-called advisers now long past their shelf-life whose cunning has helped them worm their way back into cushioned seats in key ministries. Dorchester Hotel weddings for their progeny must surely cost a packet. Any public servant who can afford that certainly deserves a seat at the high table.

Anyway as the glorious promises of a new future are unrolled like a modern version of some holy writ, the hurrah-brigades of our political saviours, playing the role of Wagnerian spear-carriers, cheer the leaders on. They hope the coming days will bring more benefits to fatten their already swollen bellies and ever-multiplying bank balances hardly mentioned in declarations of assets that lie unread and gathering dust somewhere.

Just to acquaint myself with what the marvellous achievements have been in the last two years since I have been rather out of touch in recent days with the miracles performed and the rosy future that lies ahead for this nation, I read with growing interest – not to mention trepidation – what the leaders of Sri Lanka had to tell the people and the world. What they did tell might have earned a clap or two from Aesop while the substance seemed only fractionally less unctuous than that ritually aired by the administration’s shining lights and less bright ones (if you catch what I mean) who have acquired the politicians capacity for obfuscation.

President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe: At the dawn of the new year rulers tell of their great achievements in the previous year or two.

President Sirisena appeared to be dipped in sobriety when he said that it is imperative we overcome the challenges ahead of us. But like many half-truths what he did not say is that some of the challenges that need to be overcome have been created by this same government which seems to have ditched good governance for personal and party imperatives and to safeguard cronies and ‘heroes’ from the law which those vying for power in pre-election times promised to uphold.
While President Sirisena manages to squeeze himself out of political difficulties with broad statements, the Prime Minister like a good technocrat tries to set out what he suggests are the manifold achievements of his unity government and what else is in store. Those better acquainted with the sporting world might say that in doing so he is like a football goalie that makes an acrobatic leap only to let the ball between his hands and into the net.

One needs to quote the Wickremesinghe message at some length because it is he who wishes to set out what he calls ‘achievements’ of the government while emulating the heroic Nelson when it comes to other embarrassing issues that still reverberate in political and legal circles. The Prime Minister said that during the past two years the government has “achieved many milestones.” It seemed like a genuine typographical error to me. I thought it should have actually read ‘millstones’. I have since been assured that it was no typographical mistake though most would agree that millstones would be the more appropriate word seeing how conveniently the preachers of yahapalanaya abandoned promises and burdened the people to save their own skins.

Mr. Wickremesinghe says that much needs to be done “in our pursuit of being a fully-fledged democracy.” Indeed. But the way this government seems to pursue its goal, it is scant wonder democracy is running away from its pursuers.
Funny the way such seemingly committed yahapalanites try to create a fully-fledged democracy. The UNP faction of yahapalanaya appears to believe that creating a special structure that drastically undermines the status and responsibilities of other ministers and ministries, grab the powers vested in provincial council constitutionally established and making the minister in charge of this new superior creation immune from the law if he claims to have acted in good faith (and pray who does not?) it is hardly the way to install a “fully-fledged democracy.”

Rather it robs the people and institutions of their rights and responsibilities by creating cardboard Caesars who delude themselves that they are born to rule. Critics of the Development Bill through which it is hoped to create this powerful minister have labelled him “super-minister”. Whether it is one such creature or two is not the point. It is a blatant attempt to aggrandize power in the hands of a very few at the expense of democratic dialogue and discussion and literally eliminating the sovereign people from the democratic process. Little is more corrosive of democracy than impunity.

It is strange that those who promise a “fully-fledged democracy” are a fistful of oligarchs acting with cabalistic calculation to deprive the people and the majority of the elected representatives of the power and responsibilities vested in them.
It is understandable that deputy ministers Eran Wickremaratne, Ajith Perera et al stand by this bill that seeks to erode the power of the people and concentrate it in the hands of one or two individuals. After all they can hardly deviate from the calculated moves of their leader to elevate himself and his schoolmate to super-power status which is the very anathema of good democratic practice.

While Wickremaratne seems to defend it on the basis that such changes are necessary to hasten development, Ajith Perera naively argues that there is no mention of a super minister in the proposed bill. Such an argument might not even convince a junior magistrate though he might convince an uneducated client or some deluded party politico from the backwoods. Perhaps Wickremaratne, Ajith Perera et al could tell the people where parliamentary accountability and public accountability lie when the elevated ministers install themselves in office? Is it not interesting that the two ministers who are likely to be thus elevated at current showing are Wickremesinghe and Malik Samarawickrama two buddies from the school that has supplied labour to fill yahapalanaya posts from the Central Bank to SriLankan Airlines. Alas the man who headed the Central Bank and one who headed the airline have both come a miserable cropper.

Wickremesinghe boasts that the government has succeeded in transforming the perceptions of the international community regarding Sri Lanka enabling the country to build strategic relations with other countries. Strange that such positive change in perception has produced bucket-loads of western rhetoric and hardly a thimbleful of financial assistance and investment that Sri Lanka needs to meet her fiscal needs.

Just the other day the heads of this government laid a foundation stone for a car manufacturing plant which will create some 20,000 jobs, it was said. Though the name of the German car manufacturer Volkswagen was mentioned in this connection, the German embassy here denies any knowledge of Volkswagen involvement. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Harsha de Silva also stepped into clear the air saying no mention of Volkswagen was made at the ceremony of Volkswagen. But a widely read website reported on January 3 that Wickremesinghe had mentioned the agreement Volkswagen had signed with the BOI to establish an assembly plant and that it will be set up in a 30-acre block of land in Kuliyapitiya.

Now all that is very, very confusing so much like the confusion that reigns in this government’s activities and budget proposals that seem to change with the weather. So much for the improved perceptions despite which the yahapalanites who tried to humiliate China during the election campaign days and later stalled some Chinese projects, have gone back to Beijing on bended-knee, the country that helped Sri Lanka during those difficult war years when it really-needed friends.
This column does not have enough space for a recital of all the achievements that the Prime Minister has failed to list. Still one cannot end without at least a brief mention of two, leave alone cronyism and nepotism the government promised to dispense with including posting friends and relatives as heads of diplomatic missions.

Somehow the treasury bond affair seems to have escaped the Prime Minister’s attention. Surely this should not have been for it was indeed an achievement that would be recorded in the annals of this country as a calculated attempt at major financial skullduggery. Also both the President and the Prime Minister failed to mention another remarkable achievement which is in fact a national record not easily surpassed. Along with the ever-airborne Mangala Samaraweera now preparing for a trip to the UK which will give him an opportunity to take a look at the state of a Gunnesbury Road house, the two who are said to be running the country have paid more foreign visits in the last two years than any two leaders since independence.

At times they have visited the same country twice or even three times. As for Samaraweera, his poojas to western mediocrities in the way of mid-career diplomats and supposed-imaging building trips seem endless, therefore countless.
Together the magnificent three have accumulated sufficient air miles to get a free round-trip to the moon though that might be a lunar-tic thing to do with so many achievements still to come. It is said that history repeats itself as farce. This is farce trying to replace itself as history.

One of the institutions that would be called upon to yield its power and responsibilities is the Board of Investment. How many times has the BOI been restructured and reshaped and has been presented as a one-stop shop.

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