Lessons for Putin and other leaders: Economic and social inequalities  lead to revolutions The Sunday Times deserves readers’ gratitude for its Editorial and two other articles about the Russian Revolution. Contrary to efforts by Russia’s leaders to vilify the Russian Revolution as a German funded coup, and that Lenin was a traitor (as portrayed in the [...]


Letters to the Editor


Lessons for Putin and other leaders: Economic and social inequalities  lead to revolutions

The Sunday Times deserves readers’ gratitude for its Editorial and two other articles about the Russian Revolution.

Contrary to efforts by Russia’s leaders to vilify the Russian Revolution as a German funded coup, and that Lenin was a traitor (as portrayed in the 2004 Russian documentary “Who Paid Lenin: Secret of the Century”, Lenin and other revolutionary leaders risked their lives to emancipate millions of poor Russian peasants and workers who were undergoing gross injustices under the Czars’ brutal feudal system.

The Russian Revolution was in the making for many decades. The fact that Emperor Alexander II who emancipated the serfs in 1861 and instituted liberal reforms was assassinated in 1881 by a radical revolutionary – proves my point.

Lenin self-exiled in Europe (England, Germany and Switzerland) because he feared for his life – as he was previously arrested and exiled to Siberia. It is no secret that he received funding from Europe’s labour organisations, trade unions and wealthy individuals who sympathised with the plight of the Russian proletariat to enable Lenin to publish and distribute his revolutionary ideas in Russia.

It is for these same reasons (poverty, suffering and injustices) that many revolutions took place across Europe in the 19th century. Since then, hundreds of revolutions all over the world have overthrown repressive regimes.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin endeavors to rewrite Russian history and create a mystified narrative linking the Romanov Empire, the USSR and modern Russia – disparaging the October revolution, the Civil War, and Stalin’s purges that killed several million people. It was a mixed bag of good and evil.

Historical events of this magnitude should not be politicised to advance personal agendas – especially at times when the Russians are divided and unhappy about current politics.

In 1991, we witnessed the demise of the Soviet Union that was similar to the fall of an empire in modern history. Putin later described it as “the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

Later, in an effort to erase the communist past, Leningrad became St Petersburg, Sverdlovsk became Yekaterinburg, the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka (KGB), was toppled, and the Orthodox church canonised the last tsar and his family in 2000, and recently Russia unveiled a statue of Nicholas II who was despised by its people – to name a few. Did these improve the lives of Russians?

In 2011 and 2012, there were mass protests against Putin’s return to the presidency for a third term. Recently, hundreds of thousands in major cities participated in anti-corruption protests against Putin and oligarchs in power shouting “they are thieves, put them in jail”.

This reminds me of the failed revolts such as our own 1971 and 1989 JVP insurrections, the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, the 2011 “Occupy Wall Street” protests by millions of Americans in over 600 communities in the USA, and hundreds of such revolts around the world where the people revealed their frustrations and demanded their fair share in a world where the rich have been getting richer and the poor poorer reducing the poor people’s quality of life.

These insurrections epitomise the social and economic inequalities, and how actions of the plutocracy benefit only the wealthy, undermine democracy, and destabilise society.

A recent Oxfam report revealed that the richest 1% now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined. It said “Instead of an economy that works for the prosperity of all, for future generations, and for the planet, we have instead created an economy for the 1%.”

It is the same in Russia, U.S. and all over the world. Last year, the U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said that “It is not moral, it is not acceptable, and it is not sustainable that the top one-tenth of 1 percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.” Sri Lanka is no exception.

Therein lies the never-ending inequalities and injustices that cause mass protests and revolutions.

Putin who has restored Russia’s economy, military power, and prestige from the chaotic times he took over from Yeltsin should learn from history, and strive to raise the country to the superpower status of the former Soviet Union.

Somar Wijayadasa  New York

SAITM: Be objective  without emotional and political overtones

Several retired consultants have joined the fray, contributing to the SAITM controversy. I refrained from adding another voice to the uproar, until now.

I was amazed to find that there is a Medical Faculty Students Parents’ Association, fiercely protective of the rights of their progeny (accepting the profound effect this prolonged break–over nine months now—will have on their children’s education) in addition to the SAITM Students Parents Association.

The latest pronouncement of the MFSPA is that they will go on a hunger strike (now called off), until the Government gives up the idea of a private medical college.

Certainly, the students in the State Medical Faculties get in after facing a fiercely competitive examination, complicated further by the Z score. But why should the medical profession be limited to the graduates from State Universities only?

Should others, frustrated by  failure of an unpredictable exam, and a questionable system of university admission, be deprived of an alternative pathway, merely because the majority come from a privileged segment of society?

For several years now it is an accepted fact that many of our Doctors qualify in Universities spread across the globe (our neighbours in South Asia have no objection to private Medical Colleges), and enter the medical services after passing the Act 16 exam. In addition, there are several private degree awarding institutions in Sri Lanka, many affiliated to foreign universities which award degrees in a wide range of disciplines, including Law, Architecture, IT, Engineering.

I can see no objection in adding a private medical school to that list.

Admittedly, there were many flaws where SAITM is concerned. That is, an uncertain affiliation to a Russian University; the absence of a proper clinical training; and the fact that many of the staff members are post-retirees, or those  working for a limited period whilst on  Sabbatical.

When these defects are rectified by the new management which purportedly will run it as a non-profit making institute, there is no reason why it cannot function as a Private Medical  College.

It is high time that the problem is reviewed objectively, without political and emotional overtones.

 Dr. P. Amerasinghe  Via email

Why not a few clauses for a better Parliament in new Constitution?

The new Constitution in the making has become the hot topic of discussion in the country.  No draft has appeared yet in the media.  Those who appear to have had inside information have begun to loudly speculate whether the state would be Federal or Unitary; or whether Buddhism will continue to retain the status it enjoys under the exiting Constitution.

The Constitution making process, although not the ideal cannot be rejected or condemned.  The whole house is a constituent assembly and procedures have been set in place for detailed discussion of specific areas such as Fundamental  Rights, Judiciary , Law and Order, Public Finance, Religion  etc.The focusing of attention on the above mentioned subjects presumably has been initiated by the Constituent Assembly that comprises members of Parliament.  However, they appear to have wittingly or unwittingly left a glaring lacuna that I consider a serious omission.

I am no Constitutional expert. But merely as an ordinary citizen I am intrigued by the fact that our Constitutional pundits and politicians have not thought of or recommended constitutional guarantees to maintain the efficiency, competence and quality of the three branches of the country’s administration, the Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive. Of these three, unquestionably the Legislature that consists of the representatives of the people that makes the laws and addresses all matters of national importance merits attention.

To achieve the ideal of ‘best administered’, it is imperative that the rulers of the country consist at least some of the best of the men and women of the country.  Leave alone the best, if some of the good and better people fill the seats of this august assembly parliamentary behaviour and language will be better, absenteeism will be less, and debates will be constructive, livelier and interesting.  Most importantly, Acts of Parliament refined and flawless.

Specified academic qualifications and a background of untainted behaviour, should be sine qua non for aspiring MPs.  Declarations covering the above as well as assets should be Constitutionally mandatory enabling citizens to challenge the veracity of such declarations in Courts.

Unless this can be achieved by introducing relevant clauses into the Constitution, the country’s problems will keep on multiplying and Sri Lanka’s march of folly will continue to gather momentum!

Edward Gunawardena  Via email


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