Time for Plain Talk and Ordinary Wisdom
By Sarath de Alwis (Colombo Telegraph)
This is the time for plain talk and ordinary wisdom. On the last day of the year I was relieved to see my son, the apple of my eye, recovering from a serious bout of Dengue fever discharged from hospital after several days spent in intensive care. Before that his daughter, my youngest granddaughter went through the same agony with another member of the same household. Their adjoining land is a neglected breeding ground for mosquitoes and much more. The land belongs to the Sri Lanka land Reclamation and Development Corporation. A friend told me that if Gotabaya was still around, such disgusting health hazards would not blight the heart of Colombo.
To my horror I discovered that the land that was about to be developed by its rightful owner was forcibly acquired by the former Czar of urban renewal. So there in hangs another deal of Gamunu incarnate.
After a visit to my convalescing off spring, I boarded a Tuk Tuk to return home. The Tuk Tuk driver came out with a gem. ‘Ara Miniha Parawal Haduwa. Mey Yakku Eewaye Yanawata Dada Gahanawa.’ That man built the roads. These devils are levying fines for using them.
Indeed with a new year in the horizon, it is time for plain talk.
What constitutes good governance? An exaggerated insistence on the need to change the system? A contrived pretense of good governance? No. A desire to change is not reform. Stirring things up or incessant criticism is not good governance. Arriving at a constructive vision is essential for both reforms and good governance.
People demand a government minus a privileged governing class. They are repelled by hegemonic leadership. They scorn duplicitous leadership. In the past two years we have witnessed hegemonic tendencies of the Prime Minister and listened to duplicitous policy pronouncement by the president.
What both have failed to perceive, register and discern is that they are judged differently from Mahinda Rajapaksa the president who won the war, and therefore was entitled to more than a trace of hegemonic conduct.
As the leader loved by the Maha Sangha and therefore the favorite of the gods, Mahinda’s duplicity is holy writ. He still enjoys the trust of his followers, whatever the percentage. The rest who voted for change in 2015 want to know the rules. Above all they want the new leaders to care when rules are bent or broken.
The political class of this benighted land is yet to come to terms with the digital century. They are still frozen in the pre electronic age. The President ridicules the internet. The Prime Minister ignores the internet. Their main adversary Mahinda Rajapaksa is oblivious to the internet.
May be, brother Gotabaya plans to intimidate the internet when he comes to power. It is no longer a question of if and when. It is simply a question of when. History tells us that crisis and mismanagement produce villainous go getters.
Digital media has altered social and political spheres. The Internet and mobile devices have removed limits of time and space. The ‘polity’ has a ‘shared horizon of social progress.
The digital century has altered the concept of governance. Even making dissidents disappear will not help the prospective contender for the Presidency to arrest progress in information delivery.
In this context ‘Governance’ is well defined. Decision making is the result of a process of permanent negotiation among all stake holders. Anything less is not governance but pure, simple chaos.
There lurks a greater danger. Who are the stake holders? The President, the Prime Minister, the Former President and the new heir apparent former Defense Secretary take turns in calling on the two Monasteries who claim title to a 2500 year old convention of providing counsel to past kings and present day rulers .
Dark clouds of clerical fascism are indicative of a gathering storm. Both these institutions came in to existence in the Kandyan period in 1753 under the patronage of a King of Kandy anxious to restore a decadent monkish order with assistance from Siam and logistics provided by the Dutch.
From the time of their inception they have remained in the hands of a few family dynasties confined to a few villages in the central province and the Matale district. More than scholarship and intellect, the emphasis has been on the Govigama caste pedigree and kinship to a select coterie.
Lest the pious and the devout are offended or aggrieved, the sardonic synopsis of their genesis is prompted by a firm conviction that the nation is held to ransom by a force that resists progress and modernity- the story of human civilization. It is a necessary reminder in the light of current counsel offered by the Maha Nayaka theros on the judiciary, devolution and other weighty matters. It is all the more urgent because our Minister of Justice ‘The Maha Pragngnaya’ [The Great Intellectual] has turned an accommodating acolyte.
Clerical fascism rests on the inviolability and inevitability of a privileged people of a defined destiny to whom preserving past grandeur real and imagined supersedes the demands of human progress. To them, the nation’s obligation is to their creed. In order to reach that state of purity [servility] the nation has to be cleansed. Even the sciences if inconvenient to their grip on society need to be purified from foreign influences. To them the ‘State’ is a political instrument of ‘faith’. To be precise, they alone can interpret the faith and dictate its practice. Some are modern enough to cut a birthday cake. Let us hope they will catch up with blowing candles.
Under Mahinda Rajapaksa the ‘faith’ was in the hands of a resolute leader. He was able to contain, curb and cajole the influence of the Buddhist clerics. The Malwatte Mahanayake thero was persuaded to abandon a conclave to express disapproval of the arrest of then general Sarath Fonseka by threatening to set up an alternative power center in the Malwatte chapter. The War Winning President was the favorite of the gods and his persuasive powers were limitless. Venerable Maduluwawe Sobhitha thero put off a protest march when an Army Truck inadvertently knocked the rear of his vehicle. The individual monks were persuaded by means foul or fair because the vast majority of their kind preferred the war hero to the two mavericks.
History is the final arbitrator of revolutions and reforms. Their consequences determine what they turn out to be- genuine or fake. On 8th January 2015 there was a change in the presidency. The predatory family and a parasitic oligarchy was replaced by a party dominated plutocracy hell bent on dividing the spoils of governance. The legislative enactments have not brought about changes radical enough to be noticed, let alone felt. A new set of people are in the seats of power. A select band of supporters have been rewarded. Maithri is preaching. Ranil is practicing governance. Ravi is keeping books. Sagala is policing. Malik is promising. Wijeyadasa is tilting the scales. S.B. Dissanayake makes a tasteless giggle. Sarath Amunugama who, alone has the brains to see the big picture of the digital century frowns. Or is it a detached smirk? A happy new year to you all.