16 August 2019

Questionnaire for Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Dear Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, what do you have to say about the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunga (never mind that Ranil Wickremesinghe said Sarath Fonseka was involved)? What do you have to say about white vans? Ekneligoda? Thajudeen? And how about the mausoleum built for your late parents?

If these are the questions you were waiting for me to ask, sorry.  These are legit questions, I’ve asked them, noted contexts and the not-so squeaky clean histories of the interrogators and so on. This is not about regurgitating the questions that Colombots, Kolombians, Rented Voices, Born Again Democrats, Candle Light Ladies put to the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate. 

Simply, I have little patience for those who refuse to see that for every Lasantha they weep copious tears over there were ten thousand Lasanthas shot dead in cold blood or burnt alive during the time the United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) were quarreling over the size of their respective ‘manhoods’. For every Thajudeen, ten thousand Thajudeens killed during that time. For every Ekneligoda, ten thousand Ekneligodas disappeared. For every white van, hundreds of vehicles of all kinds carrying vigilante groups striking fear into every household. 

Those gentlemen are still around and are now calling the shots in their respective parties. When justice is called for selectively, it’s politics. UNP politics in this instance. 

But why put questions to ‘Gota’ only? Is it only he that is answerable? Well, as of today he’s the only candidate to be nominated by one of the main parties. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) looks to be ducking this one. The JVP is to announce a candidate in a few day. 

There are of course groups that are talking of putting forward someone not tainted by party politics, a professional, someone with integrity and standing. There’s Nagananda Kodituwakku and Rohan Pallewatte. The National People’s Movement claims their announcement is imminent. As opposed to the UNP and the SLFP, these groups have plans, policies and vision. The UNP and SLFP, for all the rhetoric, manifestos and grand plans, have not just floundered but have lost all credibility over the past five years. 

Then there’s the issue of ‘the likely winner’. If we consider voting patters, the worth of recent history (as opposed to what happened earlier), key issues including the scandalous incompetence and criminal negligence that paved the way for the Easter Sunday attacks, fears and insecurities, what was said and not said, done and left undone or ignored altogether, the configuration of coalitions in 2015 and their current realities etc., Gota is way ahead, for now, we have to acknowledge.  

If the history of personalities and parties matter, then it would be silly to talk about anyone from any of the main political parties. If such things mattered, then Maithripala Sirisena would not be president today. We don’t live in an ideal world. There are evils and lesser evils, there is the reality of a tendency to vote governments out rather than vote governments in. We don’t have pure politicians, parties and certainly not voters. So if anyone wants to be different and protect sense of integrity, then the logical choice would be to strengthen one way or another candidates or groups outside the political mainstream.  

That’s long term. Arduous. Important and even imperative.  In the immediate, which also counts, there’s Gota and we have to put to him the questions which anyone who has presidential ambitions could and should answer. 

Here goes.

What does Gota have to say about UNHRC Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by a spineless, confused government utterly at sea when it comes to the national interest and implications for national security? What’s his take on the dominant model of development which brought prosperity to the prosperous largely through plunder and installing a system whose sustainability necessitates wars, mass killings and destruction of the natural world to the point where the future of the planet itself is under threat? Is he aware that those countries which advocate and impose systems that are supposed to bring about the good life but in reality sustains inequities and impoverishes are now abandoning all of it in favor of ‘happiness’ where measurements are not heavy on materialistic considerations?  Does Gota know that after a few centuries of pursuing profit, they’re now, essentially, echoing the observation of the Buddha, santhutti paramang dhanang (there is no greater wealth than contentment)? 

What does he have to say about toxin-free agriculture? Does he have a plan, a time table? How about renewable energy? Does he have a plan, a timetable? Will he protect Wilpattu or in the name of ‘communal harmony’ look away? Does he have a policy about illicit felling in other protected areas?

Does Gota believe that national security is only about protecting borders and eliminating the threat of terrorism? Is that the limit of his vision on national sovereignty? Will he, like the Yahapalanists and the regime his brother Mahinda led, sacrifice such things for short-term economic benefits? What of SOFA, ACSA and the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact? Does he understand that the identity of oppressor is less relevant than the condition of oppression?  

Law and order. Nepotism. Corruption. Politics of patronage. What’s his take on the alcohol and tobacco mafia (as or more pernicious than the drug mafia)?

Rhetoric is easy. Cost-free. Manifestos are cheap. Politicians are made of promises (if you doubt this, check out Sajith Premadasa’s recent speeches!). Gota is not exactly an ‘outsider’ although he’s never contested an election or held office in a political party. He can be, but that’s left to be seen. 

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is yet to be elected. It is quite possible that he will be the next president, the way things stand. This is why he can ignore all these questions. He would do well, however, to respond and make his responses the basis of thrust of his campaign speeches.  

Better still, his political opponents can do the same. Steal a bit of thunder. Steal a march. Make the voter think twice. Make Gota and the SLPP wary. As opposed to regurgitating invective that’s selective and therefore, frankly, boring.   


ගෝටට හනිකට එන්න කියාපිය, මේවට උත්තර දෙන්න කියාපිය

ගෝටට හනිකට එන්න කියාපිය, මේවට උත්තර දෙන්න කියාපිය

ගෝටාට විතරක් ද එන්න කියන්නේ? එයා විතරද උත්තර දෙන්න ඕන? ඔය කියන්නේ සුදු වෑන්, ලසන්ත, තාජුදීන්, එක්නැළිගොඩ ගැනද? වෙන අහන්න දේවල් නැද්ද? හෝව් පුතා, හෝව් පුතා, පොඩ්ඩක් ඉන්න. තාම කතාව පටන් ගත්තේවත් නැහැනේ.

අපි කතා කරන්නේ මීලග ජනාධිපති ගැනද නැත්තම් වැඩ පිළිවෙල ගැනද? ඒ දෙකම ගැන ද? මේකයි කතාව. දැනට ප්‍රධාන පක්ෂ අතරින් අපේක්ෂකයෙක් ඉදිරිපත් කරලා තියෙන්නේ පොදුජන පෙරමුණ විතරයි. ඒ නිසා ඉදිරිපත් කළ කෙනා ජනාධිපති වීම අනිවාර්ය නැහැ. ඒ වුනාට 2010 සහ 2015 ජනාධිපතිවරණ ප්‍රතිඵල සලකන කොට, ඊට අදාළ ඡන්දදායකන්ගේ හැසිරීම් රටාව සලකන කොට, විශේෂයෙන්ම පහුගිය අවුරුදු 5 තුළ ආණ්ඩුව කරපු නොකරපු කියපු නොකියපු දේවල් සලකන කොට ගෝටා දිනන එක ගැන කතා කරන්න ඕන නෑ. යතාර්ථවාදී නම්. දැනට තියෙන තත්ත්වය එහෙමයි. වෙනස් වෙන්න පුළුවන් ඒත් වෙනස් වෙයි කියල හිතන්න අමාරුයි. 

හරිම සරලයි. 2015 දී රාජපක්ෂවරුන් පරාජය කළ යුතුයි කියල බහුතර ජනතාවක් තීන්දු කරද්දී දිනවන්න පුළුවන් අපේක්ෂකයා තෝරන එක විතරයි අවශ්‍ය වුනේ. ඉතින් මෛත්‍රිපාල සිරිසේන ව තෝර ගත්තා. එයා එක්ක හිටගත්තා අය හොරුද, තක්කඩියෝ ද, අදක්ෂයෝද, මිනීමරුවෝ ද, මහා පරිමාණ මනුස්ස ඝාතන වලට වග කිවයුතුද වගේ දේවල් ඒ තීරණයට අදාළ කර ගත්තේ නෑ.  වඩා විශාල අනතුර මෙයයි කියල හිතලා ඒ අනතුර මග හරවන්නේ කොහොමද කියන ප්‍රශ්නයට උත්තරයක් හෙව්වා. උත්තරය මෛත්‍රී. මෛත්‍රී ජනාධිපති වුනා. සරලයි. 

මේ පාරත් එහෙමමයි. යහපාලකයින්ට 'යහ' තේරෙන්නෙත් නෑ පාලනයත් බෑ. හොරකමට, වංචාවට, දූෂණයට, ඥාති සංග්‍රහයට, නාස්තියට තිත තියනවා කිව්වට ඒ හැමදෙයක්ම යහපාලකයෝ කෙරුවා. තිත තිබ්බේ සංවර්ධනයට විතරයි කියල කියන්නත් පුළුවන්. ඒ මදිවට රට අස්ථාවර කෙරුවා, රටේ ස්වෛරීයභාවය විදේශ බලවේග වලට පාවලා දුන්නා, ත්‍රස්ත බිය ප්‍රතිනිර්මාණය කෙරුවා. රට කරවන ආණ්ඩුවක් නැති තත්වයට කටයුතු සම්පාදනය කෙරුවා. ව්‍යවස්ථා සංශෝධනය කියල විගඩමක් කෙරුවා. කොටින්ම මෛත්‍රී බලයට එන්න රාජපක්ෂවරුන්ගේ අකටයුතුකම් ප්‍රධාන වශයෙන් බලපෑවා නම්, නැවත රාජපක්ෂවරුන් බලයට ගේන්න යහපාලකවරුන් දිවා රෑ නොබලා මහන්සි වුනා කියලයි කියන්න වෙන්නේ.

එජාපයටත්, ශ්‍රීලංනිපයටත් වැඩ පිළිවෙලක් නැති වුනත්, ජවිපෙ ඉදිරිපත් කරන වැඩපිළිවෙලවල් වලට එයාලගේ භාවිතය පටහැනි නිසාත්, වෙනම ස්වාධීන කණ්ඩායම් ගැන උනන්දුවක් නැතිවා නෙවෙයි. සද්භාවයෙන්, අවංකව, ඍජුව කරයුතු කරන වෘත්තිකයින්ගෙන් වගේම ඩොලර් යූරෝ හොයන සිවිල් සමාජ පරපෝෂිතයින් වෙනුවට සැබෑ සිවිල් සමාජ ක්‍රියාධරයින් ඉදිරිපත් කරන ඕනෑම ප්‍රතිපත්ති ප්‍රකාශයක් අගය කරන්න ඕන. ඒ සංවිධාන, ඒ ඒ ක්‍රියාකාරිත්වයන් පෝෂණය කරන්නත් ඕන. ප්‍රධාන දේශපාලන පක්ෂවලින් (ජවිපෙ ඇතුළුව) දශක ගණන් බැට කාපු ජනතාවට තිරසාර සහනයක් නිර්මාණය කරන්නේ ඒ වගේ අය කියල මට විශ්වාසයි.

කෙසේ වෙතත්, පවතින මැතිවරණ ක්‍රමය තුළ, පවතින දේශපාලන සංස්කෘතිය තුළ, මහා පෙරළියක් කරන්න ඒ කාටවත් බැරි බවත් පිළිගන්න ඕන.  ඒකයි ගෝටාට එන්න කියන්නේ. ඒකයි සියලු අපේක්ෂකයින්ට යොමු කරන්න ඕන ප්‍රශ්න ගෝටාගෙන් අහන්න වෙන්නේ.
එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ මානව හිමිකම් කවුන්සිලයේ යහපාලකයින්ගේ ඕනෑකමට නැත්තම් දීනකමට පිංසිද්ධ වෙන්න සම්මත කරගත්ත 30/1 ගිවිසුම ගැන ගෝටා මොනවාද කියන්නේ? යුද්ධය, දූෂණය, සමූල ඝාතන ඇතුළු ව්‍යසනයන් අනිවාර්ය අතුරුඵල හැටියට වළඳන්න සිද්දකරවන අධිපති සංවර්ධන මාදිලිය ගැන ගෝටා මොනවාද කියන්නේ? නවීනත්වයේ සුරංගනා කතා කියද්දී ඔය කියන න්‍යායන් අපට පොවන අතරේම ඒ ඒ රටවල ඒවා කඩිනමින් බැහැර කරන දේශීය ප්‍රතිපත්ති හදා ගෙන යන බව ගෝටා දන්නවද? අවසානේ එයාලගේ සියලු ආර්ථික සමාජීය පාරිසරික දේශපාලන න්‍යායන් 'සන්තුට්ටි පරමං ධනං' කියන එකට ලඝු කරලා තියෙන බව ගෝටා දන්නවාද?

වසවිස නැති ගොවිතැනක්, සංවර්ධනයක්, ගෝටාට අවශ්‍යද? ඒ සඳහා වැඩපිළිවෙලක්, කාලසටහනක් ගෝටාට තියෙනවද? පුනර්ජනනීය බලශක්තිය ගැන ගෝටාට අදහසක් තියෙනවද? වැඩපිළිවෙලක් කාල සටහනක් තියෙනවද? ආහාර සුරක්ෂිතභාවය, නිසි පෝෂණය ගැන මොනවාද ගෝටා කියන්නේ?

එතකොට ගෝටා 'එක රටක් එක නීතියක්' කියන අදහසට එකඟද? ආගම නැත්තම් ජාතිය පදනම් කරගත් නීති ගැන ගෝටා මොනවාද කියන්නේ? මුස්ලිම් විවාහ සහ දික්කසාද පනත ගැන මොනවාද කියන්නේ?

ස්වෛරීයභාවය ගෝටා තේරුම් ගන්නේ කොහොමද? දේශ සීමා ආරක්ෂා කරලා, ත්‍රස්තවාදය නැති රටක් හැදුවහම ප්‍රමාණවත්ද? ඇමරිකාව නැත්තම් චීනය නැත්තම් ඉන්දියාව සමග රටේ ස්වෛරීයභාවයට හානිකර වෙළද හෝ යුධමය හෝ වෙනත් ගිවිසුම් වලට ගෝටා යන්න සූදානම් ද? පරණ පව් කෙසේ වෙතත් අලුතින් පව් නොකරන්න ගෝටා ප්‍රතිඥා දෙනවද? ඥාති සංග්‍රහය, ගජමිතුරු ගනුදෙනු, මත්ද්‍රව්‍ය ජාවාරම, දුම්කොළ ජාවාරම යනාදියට එරෙහි වෙනවද? විල්පත්තුවේ වගේම වෙනත් වනාන්තර වල ගස් කපන එක නවත්තනවද? නැද්ද? බැරිද? 

තවත් ඒ වගේ ප්‍රශ්න ගොඩාක් අහන්න තියෙනවා. මෙතනින් පටන්ගමු. මාතෘකාව රළු වැඩිනම්, මෙහෙම කියන්නම්: 'ගෝඨාභයට එන්න කියන්න, මේවට උත්තර දීලම ඉන්න කියන්න.'

'අරුණ' පුවත්පතට ලියූ වෙනත් ලිපි 

ජනපති සිහින: විහිළුසහගත සහ සීරියස්


09 August 2019

So it is Gota and also-rans?

Image, courtesy Daily Mirror

Politics is about the clash of ideas, debates and discussions about policy, the turning of notions into ideas, ideas into ideologies and laying it all before the people for decision.  Elections are won and lost based on the strength or otherwise of competing programs. 

Alright. Let’s get real now.  This is Sri Lanka. The year is 2019. Let’s ask a simple question: when last did ideology count? Politicians are not stupid and neither are people. Rational choices are made but ideological preferences rarely figure in calculations.  It’s mostly about ousting incumbents; ideas and ideology, programs and policy, and other such lovely notions simply don’t have any currency in today’s political theater. There is talk, however, of a Leader. Yes, upper case. 
An effective leader. A strong leader. 

Now a leader of any pretension would also be effective, would also be strong. The obvious implication of this search is that right now Sri Lanka is effectively ‘leaderless’. In other words, those who have been running the country since January 2015 are ineffective and weak.  

And so we have people surveying the political firmament for personalities who would fit the bill. Naturally, given the political system Sri Lanka has, the focus tends to be on possible candidates from the major parties; the United National Party (UNP), the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the last only on account of the fact that its leader, the beleaguered Maithripala Sirisena is the incumbent president.  

So we have the UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, always a contender even though he balked in 2010 (convinced probably of a routing) and in 2015 (perhaps unsure of victory but believing that the defector Sirisena would have a better chance against Mahinda Rajapaksa). The last four years have clearly set to rest any illusions that even the ardent loyalists may have entertained about his credentials as a capable, effective and honest politician. This is probably why many senior UNPers are looking at different options, in particular Sajith Premadasa. 

The ‘Ranil or Sajith?’ question has revealed deep divisions in the UNP with both camps digging in for a protracted battle. There seems to be absolute certainty among the majority of UNPers that Ranil has no chance against Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the probable candidate of the SLPP, or anyone else from the SLPP for that matter. Sajith has to get past Ranil who, by virtue of the party constitution, has and will continue to call the shots. Going by track record it is unlikely that Ranil will agree to any proposal that could lead to his ouster as party leader, regardless of its impact on the outcome of the election.  

In any event, it appears that the ‘issue’ for those entertaining presidential ambitions in the UNP is party leadership and not the presidency — not for now at least. The struggle is more about positioning oneself for a bid at a subsequent election.  

With respect to probable victor, it’s almost as though Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is a shoo-in.  Even those who are not at all keen on a Rajapaksa becoming President have grudgingly acknowledged this. One regular columnist, for example, has said that ‘Gota’ has achieved iconic status amongst sections of the population.

Why a ‘strong leader’ though? The answer could be the attribution of all the ills of Sri Lanka to the absence of such a leader. That might be an extreme position to take, but then again this regime, led by Ranil Wickremesinghe (UNP) and Maithripal Sirisena (SLFP) have demonstrated incompetence, indecision and incoherence over and above an absolute lack of political will to deliver on election promises. Good governance was what was promised. There’s no governance and there’s very little ‘good’ in what’s been done.  There's every reason to conclude that the default-option scenario would be played out. That, one notes, was what brought Maithripala Sirisena to power.  Sirisena’s history and the UNP’s history were known and weren’t exactly talked about as though the relevant individuals embodied shining examples of statesmanship. 

Even if all this is perception and can be dismissed as subjective, one cannot wish away the results of the February 2018 local government elections, which in the very least point to a massive vote of no confidence on the regime. The regime hasn’t done anything remarkable since then to change this view. Indeed, the utter incompetence that facilitated the Easter Sunday attacks, compounded by subversion of the intelligence units, absolute demoralization of the security forces and unpardonable compromising of sovereignty in Geneva could only be expected to further erode voter confidence.  

Voting patterns tell a story too. The coalition that supported Sirisena in 2015 is gone. Sirisena might still support a UNP candidate or he could be the compromise candidate if the Ranil and Sajith factions cannot work out their differences.  The problem is that Sirisena is a tired and unmarketable brand. The SLFP won barely 15% of the votes in February 2018. It is unlikely that he will retain even the barest of support he got from the seniors in the party should he and the UNP try a 2015-repeat.  The Catholic vote was the UNP’s to lose. They’ve lost a lot after the Easter Sunday attack. The Muslim parties may remain with the UNP, but at the risk of alienating other communities. The main Tamil parties supported the UNP’s candidate of choice but the percentages are likely to change. Such an erosion could also be crucial.  It could be worse if the TNA or any other Tamil party chooses to field a candidate.  

Rajapaksa lost several hundred thousand votes in 2015 (compared to 2010) in the Western Province. The SLPP recovered much of these traditionally SLFP-leaning voters as evidenced by the February 2018 results.  

There is also the possibility of a third party candidate. The JVP could decide to contest. The National People’s Movement (NPM) with or without the support of that party and the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP). Nagananda Kodituwakku, Rohan Pallewatte and others have expressed plans to contest. Separately or together, it is unlikely that this segment could obtain significant numbers. The JVP, for example, even under the most favorable conditions could hardly garner more than 5% of the vote. In any event, it is probable that they’ll attract those who voted for Sirisena rather than those who voted for the SLPP last year. Unfortunate, I feel, but then again, we are not talking ideology or program here. 

So we have a very likely possibility of a Gotabhaya Rajapaksa presidency.  Whether this is to be applauded or not, whether he is likely to deliver or not, whether the alleged ‘strength’ would translate into ‘iron fist’ are most certainly matters that warrant discussion. Such discussion is important but it is not typical for deep-ideology to play a significant role in decisions come election time.  We are talking strictly about ‘winnability’.  If prediction is the name of the game, then right now, it is certainly Gota, if as expected he is officially nominated as the candidate of the SLPP.  It’s Gota by a stretch, really. Whether we like it or not. As things stand right now. 

malindasenevi@gmail.com. www.malindawords.blogspot.com  

08 August 2019

භික්ෂුව සහ දේශපාලන භාවිතය

භික්ෂුවට දේශපාලනය අකැපයි කියල සමහරු තර්ක කරනවා. මහණ දම් පුරලා සත්‍යාවබෝධය හරහා නිවන ලඟා කර ගන්න එක මිස ලෞකික දේවල් වල නියැලෙන එක හොඳ නැහැ කියල තර්ක කරනවා. භික්ෂුන් විවිධයි. අරමුණු විවිධයි. විනය ගැන කියවීම් විවිධයි. කොහොම වුනත් බෞද්ධයින්ගේ බෝධිසත්ව ගුණ හොයන අය අබෞද්ධයින්ගෙන් ඒ ඒ ධර්ම වල කියැවෙන, ඉල්ලන, අණ කරන භාවිතයන් බලාපොරොත්තු වෙන්නෙත් නැහැ ගිහි-පූජක දෙපාර්ශයේ කවුරු හරි ඒ ඒ විනය පද්ධති වලට පටහැනිව කටයුතු කරද්දී දොස් කියන්නෙත් නෑ. ඒකත් දේශපාලනිකයි.  කොහොමත් සිංහලකමත්, බෞද්ධකමත්, සිංහල බෞද්ධකමත් පටලව ගන්න ලේසියි. ඒ නිසා පටලවගන්නවා, ඇතැම් විට දේශපාලනිකව එහෙම කරන එක වාසිසහගත නිසා.

ඒ දිග සංවාදය ගැන මගේ උනන්දුවක් නැහැ. කැප-අකැප කාරනා ඒවා අදාළ කර ගන්න අය සාකච්ඡා කරයි. භික්ෂුවක් දේශපාලනයේ යෙදීම ගැන මට ගැටලුවක් නැහැ. ඒ නිසා මට අදාළ වෙන්නේ භික්ෂුවක් දේශපාලනයේ යෙදෙනවානම් සිවුරට, ශාසනයට, සමස්ථ සිංහල බෞද්ධ ප්‍රජාවට හානියක් නොවන ලෙස කටයුතු කිරීම පමණයි.

ඒ නිසා, අවසරයි හාමුදුරුවනේ....!

දේශපාලනයේ 'මොහොත' වැදගත්. සමහර අවස්තාවලදී ඉක්මනින් ක්‍රියාත්මක විය යුතුයි. පිලිගන්නවා. නමුත් කාලය අප හිතනවාට වඩා දිගයි.  දේශපාලන ක්‍රියාවලියේ හැරුම් ලක්ෂයන් විරලයි. 'මොහොත' හඳුනා ගැනීමේදී වැරදි එමටයි.  හරි මොහොත මගහැරින එක දේශපාලනිකව පාඩුයි. ඇත්ත. ඒත් හදිස්සියේ 'මොහොත' හඳුනා ගන්න හැමෝටම බැහැ අපේ හාමුදුරුවනේ. ඒ සඳහා දැනුම, අත්දැකීම් තියෙන්න අවශ්‍යයි.

මේවා බෞද්ධයින්ට නැත්තම් භික්ෂුන්ට පමණක් සුවිශේෂ නෑ. දේශපාලනයේ යෙදෙන කාටත් පොදු දේවල්. එහෙම වුනත් භික්ෂුව දේශපාලනයේ යෙදෙනවා නම් මට තේරෙන විදිහට වඩාත් ප්‍රයෝගික විධික්‍රමය වන්නේ බෞද්ධ දර්ශනය මත පදනම් වූ උපක්‍රම තෝරාගැනීමයි.  වෙන විදිහකට කියනවා නම්, බෞද්ධ දේශපාලනික භාවිතයක් අනුගමනය කරන්න අවශ්‍යයි.

මේවා බෞද්ධ භික්ෂුන් වහන්සේලා, දේශපාලනයේ යෙදෙන හිමිවරුන් ඇතුළුව, මට වඩා දන්නවා ඇති. කෙසේ වෙතත්, දන්නා තරමින් කරුණු කිහිපයක් ඉදිරිපත් කරන්න අවසරයි හාමුදුරුවනේ.

මගේ එකම ගුරු වන තිලෝගුරු විවිධාකාරයෙන් 'භාවිතය' විස්තර කල සේක.  උන්වහන්සේ මෛත්‍රිය ගැන කරුණු පැහැදිලි කල සේක. ඒ හා සමානව ප්‍රඥාව ගැනද වදාළ සේක.  භික්ෂුවට සංයමයක් තිබීම වැදගත් යැයි වදාළ සේක. සතර බ්‍රහ්ම විහරණ ද භාවිතය ගැන වැදගත්ම කරුණු කියවෙනවා. අට ලෝ දහම ගැනත් ජීවිතයේ උච්ඡාවචන හමුවේ උපේක්ෂාසහගත් වීම සාධනීය බවත් ඔබ වහන්සේලා දන්නවා.

මේ හැම දෙයකටම කලින් ප්‍රශ්නය නැතහොත් 'මෝහත' කියවීමට වඩාත්ම උපකාරී වෙන්නේ කාලාම සුත්‍රයෙන් උගන්වන දේ කියලයි මට හිතෙන්නේ. ඒ කියන්නේ අපි කුමන හෝ කාරණයකදී කටයුතු කරන්නේ කෙසේද කියල හිතන්න කලින් කාරණය නිරාකරණය කරන්න ඕන. හදිස්සිය කියන්නේ නිවැරදි කියවීම ට එරෙහි වන සාධකයක්. නිවැරදි කියවීමෙන් භාවිතය අවුල් වෙන්න පුළුවන්. අවුල් භාවිතයන් සාධනීය ප්‍රතිඵල උත්පාදනය කරනවා අඩුයි.  

උදාහරණ හරහා මේ කියන දේ පැහැදිලි කරන්න අමාරු නැහැ. ඒ වුනාට බෞද්ධ වේවා නොවේවා, භික්ෂුවක් වේවා නොවේවා, බෞද්ධ පොත පත හරහා හෝ වෙන යම් ආකාරයකින් ඉහත කරුණු තේරුම් ගත්තා හෝ නොගත්තා, යම් කෙනෙක් හෝ සංවිධානයක් හෝ ප්‍රජාවක් ඒ ආකාරයට කටයුතු කරන්නේ නම් ප්‍රතිඵල සාධනීය වීමේ සම්භාවිතාවය ඊට අනුරූපව ඉහල යන බව මට විශ්වාසයි.

ප්‍රඥාවට බුද්ධියට ඉඩ දී ආවේගය පසෙක දමන්නේ නම්, සිත කය වචනය මනා සංයමයකින් භාවිතා කරන්නේ නම්, කොටින්ම බුදුන් යෝජනා කල ජීවිත භාවිතය පදනම්ව කටයුතු කරන්නේ නම්, දේශපාලන භාවිතය ද වඩා සාර්ථකයි කියලයි මට හිතෙන්නේ අපේ හාමුදුරුවනේ.  වැඩ අවුල් වීමේ සම්භාවිතාවය අඩු වෙයි. දහමට පරිභාහිර භාවිතයන් අසාර්ථකත්වයට සහ පරාජයට පාර කපනවා කියල මට හිතෙන්නේ බුදුන් මේ සියලු දේවල් ගැන ඔබවහන්සේලාට වඩා නිරවුල් සිතින් කරුණු පැහැදිලි කරලා තියෙන නිසයි.

මේවා ගැනත් හිතොවොත් හොඳයි අපේ හාමුදුරුවනේ.  

02 August 2019

ටෙප්ලිස් නෝනාගේ හදිස්සිය ඉඟි කරන දේශපාලනයේ හෙට දින

කාලා යන්නයි ඇවිත් ඉන්නේ මචෝ 
ඇමරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදයේ තානාපති අලෙයිනා ටෙප්ලිස් මහත්මිය කලබල වී ඇත. එතුමිය ජනපති මෛත්‍රිපාල සිරිසේන, අතිගරු, වෙත ලිපියක් යවමින් ඉල්ලා සිටින්නේ මිලෙන්නියම් චැලේන්ජ් කෝපරේෂන් කම්පක්ට් ගිවිසුමට කැබිනට් අනුමැතිය ලබා ගැනීමට මෙදිහත් වන ලෙසයි.

ගිවිසුම හොඳයි ලු. විනිවිදභාවයෙන් අඩුවක් නැතිලු.  සකස් කර ඇත්තේ විශේෂයෙන්ම ශ්‍රී ලංකාවට සෞභාග්‍යය උදා කිරීමට ලු. නොකියා කියන්නේ ජනපතිතුමාට මේ කිසිවක් අවබෝධ නොවුණු බවයි.

කියන තරම් විනිවිදභාවයක් තිබේ නම් මේ ගිවිසුම් තුන පිළිබඳව සාකච්ඡා පදනම් වන කෙටුම්පත් ජනතාව හමුවට නොගෙනෙන්නේ ඇයි? ගිවිසුමට විරුද්ධ අය ගිවිසුම් කියවා නැති බව සඳහන් කරමින් ඔවුනට බැන වදින ආණ්ඩු පක්ෂයේ ඇමතිවරු ගිවිසුම් කියවා තිබේද? නොඑසේ නම් ගිවිසුම් 'හොඳයි' කියන්නේ කෙසේද?

මේ තත්ත්වය හමුවේ ගිවිසුම් ගැන සිතිය යුත්තේ එජාපය සහ ඇමරිකාව යන පාර්ශව දෙකේ ඉතිහාසය සලකා බැලීමෙනි. බලයේ සිටින විට හොර ගිවිසුම් වලට ප්‍රසිද්ධ පක්ෂකයි එජාපය. බොහෝ විට කැබිනට් ඇමතිවරුන්ට  පවා ඇතැම් කෙටුම්පත් කියවීමට අවස්ථාවක් නොදී ඒවා අත්සන් කර ඇත. ඇමරිකාව යනු සිය ආයුධ සහ මුදල් බලය මෙහෙයවා ලොව පුරා යුද්ධ නිර්මාණය කරන, සම්පත් මංකොල්ලකන, රටවල් විනාශ කරන, ඒ සියලු දේ හරහා වෙළඳපොළවල් නිර්මාණය කොට ආරක්ෂා කරන රටකි. ඇමරිකාවේ ආදරය යනු මේ කාරණා වලින් කියවෙන කෑදරකමයි.    

ටෙප්ලිස් මැතිනිය හදිස්සියේ ජනපතිගේ අනවබෝධය ගැන කම්පා වී ඔහුව අන්ධකාරයෙන් ආලෝකයට, ස්වප්නයෙන් යතාර්තයට, අසත්‍යයෙන් සත්‍යයට ගෙනෙන්න වෙර දරන්නේ ඇයි? මෙය අප කල්පනා කල යුතු වේ.

රටවල් වෙන රටවල් වලට ආදරේ නැත. රටවල් අතර ගනුදෙනු සිදිවන්නේ ඒ ඒ රටෙහි ආර්ථික, දේශපාලන සහ උපායික උවමනාවන් සාක්ෂාත් කර ගැනීමට යි. කෙසේ වෙතත් ඇමරිකාවේ ආදරය මානව හිමිකම් කවුන්සිලයේ 30/1 සම්මුතිය හරහා ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ස්වෛරීයභාවයටත් ආත්ම ගරුත්වයටත් කල හානියෙන් මොනවට පැහැදිලි වී ඇත. ඒ කාරණයට යහපාලන ආණ්ඩුව ස්වකැමැත්තෙන් සම්මාදම් වූ බව ද සඳහන් කල යුතුයි. වෙන රටවල් වල ඒජන්තයින් ලෙස කටයුතු කරන ඇමතිවරු සිටින බවත්, වෙන රටවල් හමුවේ නිවටකම් පෑමට සූදානම් රජයන් තිබෙන බවත් අමතක නොකළ යුතුයි.

ඉතින් මෙලෙස, මේ තරම් හිතේ අමාරුවක් ඇතිව, මේ තරම් කලබලයකින් ශ්‍රී ලංකාව කෙරෙහි ඇති ආදරය ප්‍රකාශ කරන්න ඇයට සිතුනේ ඇයි?

මීට දින කිහිපයකට පෙර අගමැති රනිල් වික්‍රමසිංහ මැතිතුමා නීතීඥ සංගමයේ සභාපති ඇතුළු පිරිසක් හමුවී කියා සිටියී ඇමරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදය සමග කිසිම ගිවිසුමක් (සෝෆා සහ ඇක්සා ගිවිසුම්) මේ වසර තුල අත්සන් නොකරන බවයි. එනම් අත්සන් කරනවා නම් එය සිදුවන්නේ 2020 ජනවාරි 1දාට පසුවයි.  තව මාස පහයි. ටෙප්ලිස් මැතිනියට එතෙක් ඉවසන්න බැරි ඇයි? ඇයත් ඇමරිකාවත් ශ්‍රී ලංකාවට ඒ තරම්ම ආදරේ ද?

ආදරේ නැත. දේශපාලන චලනය ගැන යම් බියක් සැකයක් ඇතැයි අනුමාන කල හැක. මන්ද ජනවාරි 1 දා වනවිට ඇමරිකාවට ගැති, ඇමරිකාවේ අනසකට අවනත වීමට සෑදී පැහැදී සිටින යහපාලන ආණ්ඩුව බලයේ සිටියි ද නැතිද යන්න පිළිබඳව අවදානමක් ඇයට දැනුනා විය හැක.  ඉදිරි ජනාධිපතිවරණයේ ප්‍රතිඵලය පිලිබඳ ඉඟියකි ඇය නොපවසා පවසා සිටින්නේ.

ජනවාරි 1 දා වන විට යහපාලකයින් පරාජය වී තිබුනත් එය අස්වැසිල්ලක් මිස ජයග්‍රහණයක් නොවන බවද මතක තබා ගත යුතුයි.  ඒ වන විට බලයේ සිටින පාර්ශවයන් යහපාලකයින් තරම්ම දීන නොවනු යැයි සිතිය නොහැක. හැත්තෑ වසරක දේශපාලන ඉතිහාසයෙන් ඉගෙන ගත යුතු පාඩම එය වේ.

මීට වසර 25කට පෙර ඇමරිකාවේ තානාපති තුමිය තෙරෙසිටා ශාෆර් මහත්මිය කියා සිටියේ 'තොපලාගේ ආහාර සුරක්ෂිතභාවය පිහිටා ඇත්තේ උතුරු ඇමරිකාවේ තිරිඟු යායන් වලයි' කියාය. ලංකාව කෙරෙහි ඇයට තිබුණු ආදරයක් නැත. ඇමරිකාවේ උවමනාවන් වෙනුවෙන් ම ඇය පෙනී සිටියාය. එහි වරදක් නැත. වරද ඇත්තේ ඇමරිකාවේ උවමනාවන් වලට ඇමරිකාවේ උවමනාවටම ලංකාවේ අවශ්‍යතාවයන් පාවා දීමයි. ටෙප්ලිස් මැතිනිය බිය වී ඇත්තේ ඇයට ඇයගේ රාජකාරිය කර ගැනීමට බැරි වෙතැයි සිතා ය. එනම් දේශපාලන විපර්යාසයක් ඇති වේ යැයි ඇය සිතන්නීය. නිගමනය කල හැක්කේ එය වේ.

01 August 2019

A political reading of the US Ambassador's angst

Not out of love for Sri Lanka, let us be clear on that!

The US Ambassador, Ms Aliana Teplitz is agitated. The lady is in a hurry. She has written to President Maithripala Sirisena seeking his intervention to ensure cabinet approves the proposed Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact agreement between the two countries. 

Well, we know that the MCC is just one of three agreements currently under discussion. There’s the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the Acquisition and the Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA). More on all these later. For now, let’s talk about Aliana’s missive.

Aliana has stated that the US is committed to an open and transparent partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka. She has alluded to her country’s investments in Sri Lanka. She’s talked about various benefits. 

Now is she assuming that there’s no one in the President’s office capable of reading the draft agreements that’s being discussed behind closed doors?  That’s not transparency on the part of the Government, but then again that’s not something she needs to worry about. 

The question is one of urgency. Why is Aliana in such a hurry? What’s agitating her so much that she has to write such a heartbreaking plea to the President?  

The answer to these questions may be found in the recent assurance given by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. He said that none of these agreements will be signed this year.  

Well, that means, technically, they could be signed in 2020. Why can’t Aliana wait? What’s this great hurry-love for Sri Lanka? Surely, a few months of delay won’t wreck the ‘development’ she is marketing? After all it’s not as though we can go further down the tube courtesy Yahapalalana incompetence, theft and rank idiocy! So why can’t she wait? Here’s a probable answer. 

Aliana could be worried that come 2020 the yahapalana lot would be out of power. Ranil Wickremesinghe, a known receiver of US dictum (who, to his credit, hasn’t gone ga-ga as yet over these agreements), might no longer be the premier. Mangala Samaraweera, whose genuflection before the West is legendary, in such an eventuality would be out of the decision-making equation as well. Maybe it’s not ‘could’ but really ‘most certainly would’ in terms of electoral outcome.  

So, ladies and gentlemen, it’s not about love. No country loves another; countries take care of interests and if other countries are arm-twisted or fooled into playing the idiot all the better. In this instance, one player (the USA) has the arsenal to destroy the world several times over and the bucks to buy agreement (declining, sure, but still with considerable purchasing capacity) while the other (Sri Lanka) is not only economically weak but is burdened by a mindless, clueless regime whose signature attribute is a slave-mentality when it comes to the West.   

It is not that a different government would be, well, ‘different’ but these are ‘friends’ and it is also easier to do business (or extract edge) with friends as opposed to the possibility of having to deal with a regime made of people you’ve spent a lot of bucks to oust not too long ago. Interesting, in the context, is the fact that Aliana had also paid a courtesy call to Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa. We don’t know what they talked about, but it won’t be out of order to presume that the lady is covering bases, hedging bets.  

Forget Aliana, she’s doing her job. How about the Government? It is supposed to take care of the people’s interest. Some ministers have rubbished those who have raised objections to these agreements saying ‘no such agreement has been signed’ and asking ‘if you haven’t seen the documents, how can you oppose it?’ Valid points. On the other hand, why can’t the Government release the draft agreement or the US proposal(s)? Why be so opaque about it? 

In the absence of transparency we have to assess these things in terms of track records. The history of the USA need no repetition; a rogue state if ever there was one. The history of the UNP, the principal mover with regard to these agreements, is not exactly celebratory. Deceit, secrecy and sycophancy are typical markers of agreements signed by UNP-led regimes, the most recent being UNHRC Resolution 30/1. That was Mangala’s baby and therefore it is laughable when he says ‘I stand by the agreements and take full responsibility’. Easy words. Cheap words. Especially when you don’t have to deal with the consequences of downright chicanery and treachery.  

Government spokespersons have dismissed opposition to the SOFA and ACSA saying they were agreements that are being ‘renewed’. This is a blatant lie. As P.K. Balachandran has pointed out it’s not a matter of changing the date on which agreements expire. THEY ARE NEW DOCUMENTS. In the case of ACSA, it’s an 83-page text with more than 50 appendices. Moreover it is open-ended, with no time limit apart from a provision for ending it with either party giving 180 days’ notice. A lot can happen in a single day; a lot more in 180!  

SOFA is a nice acronym. Sounds comfy. Is it, though? What’s in the small print? Where’s the document? Why is this good-governance government so scared to make public the draft that’s being discussed? It’s the same with the MMC. We need the details. Why is the government is cagey?

We are not a happy nation, when it comes to representation. We are not a happy nation when we look at the people who makes decisions that could have disastrous outcomes for ourselves and our children. This government is not making us happy on most counts and that’s probably why Aliana is so agitated. She’s scared, perhaps, just as her yahapalana friends are, about political outcomes that are distasteful and which could sink or at least make it that much harder to stuff agreements such as SOFA, ACSA and MMC down the country’s proverbial throat. 

malindasenevi@gmail.com. www.malindawords.blogspot.com

31 July 2019

ජනපති සිහින: විහිළුසහගත සහ සීරියස්

විහිළු සපයන්නේ මෙයාල විතරක්ම නොවේ 

ජනතාවට බය අය මැතිවරණ පවත්වන්න කැමති නෑ.  මැතිවරණ වලට ඉදිරිපත් වෙන්නත් බයයි.  කෙසේ වෙතත් පමා වෙලා හරි මැතිවරණ පවත්වන්න සිද්ධ වෙනවා. එතකොට ජනමතය විමසෙනවා. ජනප්‍රියත්වයේ ප්‍රමාණය තීන්දු වෙනවා. ඒක තමයි 2018 පෙබරවාරි 10 දා සිද්ධ වුනේ. 

ඉදිරියටත් එහෙමයි. බලය බෙදීමෙන් ජාතික සමගිය උදා කරන්න පුළුවන් කියල විකාර දොඩන අයවත් මේ වෙනකොට පළාත් සභා මැතිවරණ ගැන නිහඬයි. ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදය දිවිහිමියෙන් ආරක්ෂා කරනවා කියල බෙරිහන් දුන්න අය මැතිවරණ කල් දැමීම ගැන නිහඬයි. 

ඒ කියන්නේ ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදයත් මැතිවරණත් අදාළ වෙන්නේ මේවා තම තමන්ගේ දේශපාලන කැමැත්ත අකමැත්ත අනුවයි. නීතිය හා සාමය, අධිකරණයේ ස්වාධීනත්වය, මානව හිමිකම්, සහජීවනය, ස්වෛරීයභාවය, ස්වාධිපත්‍යය, පරමාධිපත්‍යය වගේ දේවල් ගැනත් කියන්න තියෙන්නේ එච්චරයි.   

දේශපාලනය ගැන උදේ හවා උනන්දු වන අය දේශපාලනිකවත් මතවාදී වශයෙනුත් ඒ තරම්ම දුප්පත්. ජනතාව ඊට වඩා පොහොසත්. අඩුම තරමින් තීරණාත්මක අවස්ථා වල විකල්ප කිරල මැනලා, සාපේක්ෂ වාසිය සලකා බලලා දේශපාලන තීන්දු ගන්න ජනතාව දන්නවා. ලැබෙන්නේ අර්ධ විසඳුම් බව ජනතාව නොදන්නවා නොවේ. ලබෙනවා වගේම අහිමි වෙන බවත් ජනතාව නොදන්නවා නොවේ. ඒ වුනාට දන්න යකාට නැත්තම් බාල තක්කඩියාට නැත්තම් තමන්ට මොනයම්හෝ වාසියක් දෙනු ඇතැයි සිතන කෙනාට ඡන්දය දෙනවා. යුගයේ අවශ්‍යතාවය, පොදු අරමුණු, රජ ජාතිය වෙනුවෙන් වගේ කතා කියනවා තමයි. ඒවත් යම් ප්‍රමාණයකට බලපානවා වෙන්නත් පුළුවන්. නොවෙන්නත් පුළුවන්. කොහොම වුනත් ජනතාව බොහෝ දේශපාලන විචාරකයින්ට වඩා ඉදිරියෙන් කියලයි දැනෙන්නේ.  

එහෙම නෙවෙයි කියලා හිතමු. ඒ කියන්නේ ජනතාව මෝඩයි. දේශපාලනය නිතර නිතර කතා කරන අයටත් වඩා මෝඩයි. එහෙම හිතමු. එහෙම හිතුවත් ජනාධිපති සිහින දකින සමහර අය ජනතා කැමැත්ත දිනාගන්න හිතාගෙන කියන කරන දේවල් විහිලුයි.  

කලක තරුණයින්ට චුවින්ගම් බ්‍රේස්ලට් දෙන්න පොරොන්දු වුන  රනිල් වික්‍රමසිංහට දැන් ගමට-ජිම් දෙනවා කියනවා. සජිත් ප්‍රේමදාස පාසැල් ළමුන්ට සපත්තු කුට්ටම් දෙනවා කියනවා. මේව විහිළු. මේ අය විහිළුකාරයෝ.  ඒ අතින් පොහොට්ටුවේ අපේක්ෂකයා කියල හිතාගන්න පුළුවන් වන ගොටාභය රාජපක්ෂ ටිකක් දියුණුයි. වියත්මග, එලිය වගේ සංවිධාන හරහා උත්සහ කරලා තියෙන්නේ වෘත්තිකයින්ගේ දැනුම සහ අත්දැකීම් එකතු කරලා ප්‍රතිපත්ති හදන්න. ඒකේ සීරියස් ගතියක් තියෙනෙව. නාගානන්ද කොඩිතුවක්කු අලුත් ව්‍යවස්ථාවක් ඉදිරිපත් කරලා තියෙනවා. ඒකෙත් සීරියස් ගතියක් තියෙනවා. ඇතැම් වෘත්තිකයින්, සිවිල් ක්‍රියාධරයින් සහ සමාජ-දේශපාලන සංවිධාන ජාතික ජනතා ව්‍යාපාරය නමින් එකතු වී සකස් කරලා තියෙන වැඩපිළිවෙලත් ඒ වගේ. සීරියස්. රොහාන් පල්ලෙවත්තටත් වැඩපිළිවෙලක් තියෙනවා. මේවා සාධනීය ප්‍රවණතා. මැතිවරණ අවසන් වෙනකොට අමතක කරන මැතිවරණ ප්‍රකාශනවලට වඩා වටිනවා. ඒවා වටා ජනතාව පෙළගැසුනත් නැතත්, හොඳ වැඩ.    

මැතිවරණය ලං වෙද්දී ආර්ථික ප්‍රතිපත්ති ගැන කතා කරයි. සෞඛ්‍යය, අධ්‍යාපනය, කෘෂිකර්මය වගේ විෂයන් ගැන කතා කරයි. ජාතික සමගිය, නීතිය හා සාමය, සංහිඳියාව වගේ දේවල් සඳහන් වෙයි. යහපාලනය ගැන කතා නොකෙරුවත් වගවීම, විනිවිදභාවය, ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදය වගේ දේවල් ගැන මොනයම් හෝ දෙයක් කියවයි. ඒත් හැමෝටම අමතක වුන දේවල් තියෙනවා. 

නිකසල රටක් ගැන කතා කෙරුවත් කසල ප්‍රශ්නයට විසඳුමක් ඉදිරිපත් වෙලා නෑ. තිරසාර සංවර්ධනය ගැන කතා කෙරුවත් වැඩපිළිවෙලක් නෑ. ආහාර සුරක්ෂිතභාවය, පෝෂණය ගැන කතා කෙරුවත් කාබනික ගොවිතැන ගැන නිහඬයි. දේශීය වී වර්ග ප්‍රචලිත කිරීම ගැන නිහඬයි. ජාතිකත්වය ගැන කතා කෙරුවත් ජාතික න්‍යායපත්‍රය විදේශිකයින් විසින් සකස් කරන එක ගැන නිහඬයි. මානව හිමිකම් කවුන්සිලයේදී යහපාලන ආණ්ඩුව 30/1 කෙටුම්පතට සම-අත්සන් තැබීමෙන් නැතිකරගත්ත නිදහස, ස්වෛරීයත්වය ගැන නිහඬයි.  

මේවා ගැන රනිල් මොනවාද කියන්නේ? සජිත්, චම්පික, කරු ඇතුළු එජාපය ප්‍රධාන යහපාලන සන්ධානය මොනවාද කියන්නේ? ගෝටා මොනවාද කියන්නේ? නාගානන්ද, පල්ලෙවත්ත, ජාතික ජනතා ව්‍යාපාරය මොනවාද කියන්නේ? එයාල ඇත්තටම සීරියස් ද නැද්ද කියල හිතාගන්න පුළුවන් වෙන්නේ මේවා පිළිබඳවත් කතා කෙරුවොත් විතරයි. 

26 July 2019

The ‘National Question’ in a lumpenized nation

Ideological battles are often marked by a deliberate misnaming of things. One could argue that perspective prompts different kinds of definitions, labels and elaboration, of course, but these choices are not always innocent. Some are used so often that they become entities which allow anyone to read them any which way they like. Sometimes, over-use and even the affirmation through word and deed of the polar opposite, not only robs meaning from words, names, terms and such but turn them into grotesque, humorous and ridiculous descriptives. Yahapalanaya, for instance.  

We are talking here about an older term which has been dormant for a while for reasons we shall come to presently: the national question.  

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe used it a couple of days ago while addressing the 125th anniversary celebrations of the Kandarodai Vidyalaya in Chunnakam, Jaffna. He pledged that he would do his utmost to find a political solution to the national question within the next two years.  Where he will be, politically, come July 2021, is of course a question in and of itself, but then again, attempt at anything, political solution or otherwise, to any question national, international or non-national, is not necessarily dependent on location. What’s interesting is the use of the term and the term itself. 

‘The National Question’ has been a proxy for the so-called ‘Ethnic Conflict’ (also definable as ‘The Separatist Problem’ or ‘The Eelam Project’). In ideological battles, such term-choices are a given, one observes. ‘The National Question’ could also be something that speaks to issues of identity and belonging, especially after Independence. 

Wickremesinghe, for example, observing in the same speech that the English cricket team included players of different national origins, opined that ‘the time has come for everyone to think of Sri Lankans as [citizens of] a single nation.’  One assumes he’s implying that people should stop thinking of themselves as Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers etc., or as belonging to different religious communities or, even as they do so they ought to see ‘Sri Lanka’ and ‘Sri Lankan.’ One need not be one (e.g. Tamil or Sinhala) or the other (Sri Lankan), this too needs to be said. Also, the entire ‘question’ should not be (as it is) reduced to something that derives from a simple and simplistic description on lines such as ‘one ethnicity one vote’ or ‘one religion one vote’. That’s essentially deploying the principle of equality to erase percentages, history and heritage. One observes that many such ‘One Sri Lanka’ advocates are conspicuously silent on such important matters. 

That said, we do have a problem of ‘belonging’. Wickremesinghe implies that the likes of Eoin Morgan and Jofra Archer feel they are truly ‘English’. He may be correct. The question for us is, do Tamils and Muslims, Christians and Burghers feel similarly ‘belonged’? For that matter, do Sinhalese feel ‘belonged’? Do the majority feel they are ‘belonged’ in some form or the other that matters to them, individually and/or collectively? Do we feel properly represented? Who really owns this country? 

If ‘national’ relates to or is characteristic of ‘nation’ or something common to a whole nation, what then is ‘nation’ for people living on this island? You could get many responses here, many of them valid in terms of substantive-weight and indeed, for reasons of political efficacy, appearing even more valid by selectivity, i.e. the play of exaggeration and understatement. 

This is not an exercise is defining to any degree of ‘finality’. However, Wickremesinghe has opened the doors to debate. In the very least, we can use the common sense definitions of ‘nation’ and ‘national’ to raise some questions. Here goes. 

How ‘national’ was Resolution 30/1 of the UNHRC co-sponsored by the Yahapalana Government, considering that it essentially crippled the security apparatus (long, longed for by the movers and shakers of the regime and in particular the then Minister of Foreign Affairs)? How ‘national’ indeed when it includes clauses that make for non-nationals to decide how things are done or not done in Sri Lanka? What’s ‘national’ about policies that clearly compromise sovereignty, wrecks food security and causes ecological destruction? What’s ‘national’ about processes that impoverish vast sections of the citizenry? What kind of ‘nation’ do we have when in the name of religious freedom, certain religious communities teach, affirm and execute tenets that are not only intolerant but make for terrorism? 

What is this ‘nation’ where politics is reduced to a consideration of which party/coalition or candidate gets to sell bits and pieces or entire swathes on account of idiocy, lack of faith in the people, kickbacks or any combination of these plus a lot of other things that make ‘belonging’ and ‘ownership’ meaningless? For the record, let’s mention the following: the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the Ceasefire Agreement, various deals related to ports and airports, the SOFA and ACSA, Millennium Corporation deal. 

What’s this nation where corrupt, incompetent and clearly traitorous ministers, with the tacit support of their respective bosses, sign agreements that are detrimental to the national interest, whichever way one wants to defined ‘national’ here? What kind of nation is this where we have agreements with other countries that the cabinet, parliament and the general public don’t get to see?  Does ‘nation’ make sense when the state subsidizes capital interests while insulting, humiliating and dispossessing the majority of the people? What kind of ‘nation’ is this where poisoning the soil and the people are cornerstones of agricultural policy? What is this nation which has paid representatives who keep their mouth shut in other countries and in multilateral forums where resolutions are proposed to vilify the nation and her people and/or seek to legitimate narratives that are patently false? Where’s the ‘national’ in that kind of sloth, incompetence and idiocy? 

Marxists talk of a bourgeoisie and a proletariat that does not comprehend their respective class interests. They talk of a lumpen proletariat and could also talk of a lumpen bourgeoisie. We do have, one might add, lumpen nationalism/nationalists, lumpen ‘intellectuals’, lumpen ‘civil society,’ and lumpen ‘professionals’. Put together, a lumpen citizenry and a lumpen nation, one might conclude.

‘Lumpen,’ ladies and gentlemen, refers to that which relates to dispossession and uprooting, i..e cut off (typically) from the economic and social class with which a particular collective might normally be identified. We do not have a sense of ‘nation’ and ‘national’ or rather our ‘leaders’ and ‘representatives’ do not. There’s dispossession. There’s uprooting. If we are a nation, we are a lumpen articulation of one. If there’s dispossession, then re-possession is the order of the day. If there’s uprooting, then re-rooting or a search for rootedness is called for. Such an exercise cannot be expected from the major political parties or their allies. We cannot expect it from the mainstream contenders for the prize (yes!) of the presidency. We might as well look elsewhere.

[First published in the Daily Mirror on July 18, 2019]

Foreign policy and the doctrine of ‘conceding walkovers’

Sri Lanka has a severe human resources problem. That’s stating the obvious. Forget bad planning, the absence of an occupational classification, assessment of needs and charting of future requirements in terms of a reasonable view of how things economic and social would unfold; we lost several hundred thousand people over the last 30 years and even if just 1% of the number warranted the tag ‘talented’ it is a massive loss. Had ‘they’ been around, in a country of 22 million, it might have made the difference.

Ok, that’s preamble. Let’s get to specifics. In a country where there’s a severe human resource issue, it is natural that this be reflected in most if not all sectors. The foreign service is no exception. That said, it must be recognized that much of the good work done by our diplomats and indeed the various missions abroad go unrecognized. They don’t brag. They hardly issue media statements. And, anyway, that which has to be done ‘quietly’ does not make for noise. 

Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to berate the diplomats for not getting this or that done or for causing irreparable (harsh word, that) harm by what they do. The larger picture, the constraints, the contexts etc., are ignored. These include political buffoonery, let us not forget. 

There are, however, inexplicable tendencies which need to be flagged. Consider the 41st Sessions of the UNHRC underway in Geneva as I write. Sri Lanka is not on the hot seat, for now, having obtained an extension on delivery with respect to Resolution 30/1. Sri Lanka, however, and like most other nations, is not ‘excused’ from proceedings. 

As a member state, there are issues that we need to address, even if they don’t directly involve Sri Lanka. Representatives of many member states do engage, perhaps in the spirit of the collective endeavor to create conditions for a better human family and also because any determination anywhere can be cited in moves to obtain similar determinations elsewhere. What wrecks the Philippines in 2019 could very well bring down Sierra Leone in 2021. No one can take on all issues and indeed that could amount to spreading oneself thin. Limited resources mean that one has to pick the battles. Showing solidarity can cost, we know this. In a world of multiple inequities, a case can be made for sober pragmatism. 

On the other hand, it would be strange indeed if the representatives of Sierra Leone opted to remain silent when that country is vilified. Well, that holds true for Sri Lanka too. 

One cannot fault the Sri Lanka mission in Geneva for not attending all events organized to level unfair and highly tendentious charges. Side events of such sessions are vent-outlets for the most part. So too are ‘interventions’ by NGOs sandwiched between debates on important matters. The UNHRC probably place little value on 90 second rant-rave presentations. Still, we cannot ignore the fact that such invective does get heard by representatives of member states. This is why, there is a response-opportunity. Representatives typically respond to charges leveled at their countries and in some instances defend friendly nations. Not Sri Lanka, or at least, not Sri Lanka at this particular session of the UNHRC.  

In time slots allocated to various pro-Eelam and/or anti Sri Lankan groups, speaker after speaker uttered absolute falsehoods about Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan mission had nothing to say by way of response. In fact, in at least two of these sessions the mission was not represented by a diplomat. Perhaps they were busy with off-the-limelight work, but any random person listening to the anti Sri Lankan submissions cannot be faulted if he/she went away thinking Sri Lanka is one hell of a country. Literally. 

When a Sri Lankan took issue with the Ambassador of a European country for the position taken, the Ambassador was taken aback and had responded ‘I didn’t know all this’. He had heard one side of the story and didn’t know there were other and more compelling narratives with much better substantiation. 

The only attempt to put the record straight came from a Sri Lankans who used the time slots given to NGOs. J Tenny Fernando, Senaka Rajapakse and Hiru Makewitage representing the Executive Committee of the Global Sri Lanka Forum and several speakers from another organization based in Zurich  made pertinent points which included clarification on absurd claims made by the separatist lobby and also urged the Council to consider the fact that its ill-advised interventions in Sri Lanka with the happy and wide-eyed support of the current regime created conditions for the Easter Sunday attack. A drop in the ocean, no doubt, but a drop sadly made significant by the absolute silence of those who get paid to represent the country’s interests in such forums. 

That’s Geneva. Let’s take Canada.  Now it is no secret that Canada has been almost like the headquarters for the LTTE and its proxy outfits.  For reasons of justifying immigration and as a means of continuing covert criminal activity, such groups have continued to be vociferous. They engage in relentless lobbying of politicians, leveraging a significant vote-bank. 

And so we have politicians such as Patrick Brown, the Mayor of Brampton, talking about ‘the horror of the Tamil genocide. He has pledged to pass a municipal motion declaring ‘crimes against the Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka constitute a genocide’ and declare May 18th as ‘Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day.  The good Mr Brown probably doesn’t known the meaning of the word ‘genocide’. He obviously doesn’t know anything about Sri Lanka, the terrorism of the LTTE and how they held several hundred thousand Tamil civilians hostage.  

He is not alone. Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a proclamation declaring May 18 ‘Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day’. Scarborough-Rouge Park MPP Vijay Thanigasalam recently introduced Bill 104, an Act to Proclaim Tamil Genocide Education Week during the seven days each year ending on May 18. 

We could go on. We could cross the Atlantic and talk about similar happenings in the UK. We cannot fault ignorant politicians in such countries for idiocy. We cannot fault criminal groups in these countries for the uttering of falsehoods and tossing around of wild claims and exaggeration. The issue here can be captured in a single question: ‘What have our diplomatic missions done?’

The truth is, sadly, ‘very little’. Well, THAT could be an exaggeration. In Toronto, they’ve done nothing to counter moves such as the ones mentioned above. What is stopping them? Is it lack of resources? Well, one is required to do one’s best, and if ‘nothing’ amounts to ‘best’ there’s something seriously wrong. Is it that their hands have been tied and their mouths gagged by the Foreign Ministry? That’s possible or even probable, given that this government has on many occasions acted in ways diametrically opposed to the national interest, showing incompetence, servility and sloth of unprecedented proportions.  

When claims go uncontested they become things that can be said in the ‘goes without saying’ manner. That’s not slippage, it’s conceding a fabricated narrative. 

When those paid to do their job are sleeping on things, indignant and patriotic Sri Lankans living in these countries have had to counter the lies. The missions probably do other work that’s useful, so we should not call for their closure.  We should not forget, however, that there have been very proactive missions and diplomats who worked tirelessly to set the record straight.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, anyway, cannot be left off the hook. The regime too.  In the absence of counterpoint the Eelamist narrative is becoming the default story in international forums and in countries like Canada and the UK. Not only is this a travesty of justice, it is an insult on all peace-loving Sri Lankans. 

[First published in the Daily Mirror on July 13, 2019]

25 July 2019

Dr Shafi Sahabdeen and the proportionality of communalism

I want Dr. Seigu Shihabdeen Mohamed Shafi cleared of all charges leveled against him with respect to unethical and unwarranted sterilization. I want him cleared because I want to believe that our medical profession made of impeccably honorable and competent people. I want to believe that those who graduate from state universities in Sri Lanka learn the relevant skills and show absolute fidelity to professional ethics. I want him cleared because it would help dial down the lunacy among a certain section of the population to see a terrorist in every Muslim.  

Here’s the caveat: IF HE IS INNOCENT.  Here’s another caveat: HE HAS TO BE PRESUMED INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.  Over and above all this, I concur with Prof Hemantha Senanayake, Head, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, who insists that the absence of impartial, speedy and transparent investigation could have a negative impact not only on Sri Lanka’s achievements in maternal care and health but create a situation where people would be afraid to have babies delivered in hospital. 

Let me flag the key words here: impartial, speedy and transparent. I would assume that ‘comprehensive’ is a given.  

The lengthy submissions by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) have been taken as proof positive, irrefutable, absolute and final that Dr Shafi had not blocked the fallopian tubes of mothers on whom he had performed Caesarian surgery, amassed wealth in an illegal manner or maintained links with a terrorist organization.  Having thus concluded, those who are convinced of his innocence have turned their fire on the accusers.  Some have raised the bogey of a massive conspiracy involving women who lodged complaints, even claiming that they have been paid by some ‘somebody’. 

They are forgetting some important facts. First, the investigation is not yet concluded. Secondly, there is nothing to say that CID investigations are always comprehensive and above board. Indeed, in this case, certain salient matters seem to have been ignored. 

On the issue of investigating complaints, CID claims that 468 women (of the 615 who had complained regarding Dr Shafi) had developed complications, but of the 147 complaints investigated, only 13 women were produced before ‘an experts committee’. Two cases, apparently, need to be further investigated while 11 have been deemed ‘false’. In other words, there are 321 cases yet to be investigated and there are questions about two that have already been investigated.  
There are allegations regarding Dr Shafi’s behavior when operating on Sinhala women. There is very personal and emotional elements associated with issues of childbirth and related medical examination. Do these indicate guilt? Not necessarily. 

Dr Shafi’s wife, M.N.F. Imara, herself a physician has pointed out that her husband worked under the supervision of a Consultant. She has, echoing expert views, said that other medical professionals are present in operating theaters. In other words, if he did wrong, then the relevant consultant(s) and others were complicit. However, those who work in such hospitals claim that situations for wrongdoing do arise. It is alleged that consultants often delegate authority to house officers such as Dr Shafi, who, by the way, is not an obstetrician or gynecologist. There is talk of consultants doing so because they engage in private practice elsewhere and therefore could only implicate themselves by revealing all. That, however, needs to be investigated. It does not imply guilt.  

It is certainly disturbing, though, that the CID thought fit not to take into account all relevant statements by the hospital authorities. It is strange also that the CID has not thought fit to do a simple exercise in statistics. The following questions could very well elicit answers that either exonerate Dr Shafi or indicate very strange happenings, short of course of unwarranted, unethical and perverse sterilization: a) How many Caesarean Sections did Dr Shafi perform? b) How many such operations did doctors in similar positions perform during the same period of time? c) What is the ‘ethnic’ breakdown of the patients? d) What is the ‘ethnic’ breakdown of women whose first child was thus delivered and who did not conceive thereafter, in the case of Dr Shafi and in the case of other such doctors? 

It cannot be impossible to find out how many of the 3,479 Sinhalese mothers, 860 Muslim mothers and 33 Tamil mothers did not have children after Dr Shafi operated on them. Of course it could be ‘choice’ but numbers will tell a story, one way or another. We need to know.

I want to know these things. Dr Imara has said that her children are undergoing mental trauma, ‘as they are unable to attend school, due to the threatening situation.” They should not suffer such trauma, but they will until this case is closed and Dr Shafi’s innocent is established.  

Given the circumstances, which of course we need not elaborate but which include the fear, anxiety, doubt and suspicion generated by the Easter Sunday attacks by a group affirming the Islam faith as per their reading of the same, any glaring omissions in the investigation can only make matters worse. The political affiliations of Dr Shafi, the alleged intervention of Rishard Bathiudeen in Dr Shafi’s appointments following electoral defeat, the Health Minister’s tendentious statements with respect to the need for investigation etc., clearly describe a cloud. This cloud needs to be cleared. One way or another. 

There’s another reason that I need to know such things and it is not directly related to the controversy regarding Dr Shafi. Disturbing as it is to extrapolate the actions of a single individual (regardless of overall context) to paint negatively an entire community, even more troubling is the fact that it is not the preserve of a single community. 

A Facebook post claimed the following: 457 houses, 198 business establishments and 70 vehicles belonging to Muslims were destroyed in 36 hours in Kuliyapitiya, Nikaweratiya, Bingiriya, Panduwasnuwara, Wariyapola, Chilaw and Minuwangoda. That’s a large number. The unknown author may have been liberal in the use of the word ‘destroyed’ and in the numbers tossed out, but let us assume he was not. My contention is that even if it was one house or business premises or vehicle that was damaged (not destroyed) on account of the religious identity of owner, it is disturbing. There is, despite all this, the problem of selectivity. Yes, we have to talk ‘comprehensive’ now. 

It’s as though the Easter Sunday attacks did not take place, that some 300 people weren’t killed and 500 were not wounded, churches and hotels weren’t damaged, and yes, extremism so violent that the ‘faith’ factor overrides any ‘provocation’ did not, does not and will not exist on this island! Instead we have ‘gullible or vindictive racist Sinhala women’ enacting an anti-Muslim drama. We have Sinhala Buddhist hordes creating a bogey of unethical sterilization. We have other such ‘extremist’ elements in paintings that have no room for, for example, the almost 200 children who lost a parent on Easter Sunday. 

Well, we do get the large-print disclaimer ‘terrorism/terrorists have no religion’. True, in a sense, but who’s actually buying that and why should anyone buy that, simply because in another sense, it is rank silly and a disavowal of a serious problem that has created an existentialist anxiety among people belonging to communities that the terrorists were clearly at odds with. This is the other problem: there’s lunacy among a certain section of the population to see all Sinhala Buddhists as intolerant extremists and the one and only villainous collective of the sad, tragic and terrible piece that Sri Lanka has become.  

A swift, comprehensive, independent and transparent investigation would go a long way in sorting out these issue because the truth does that, sooner or later.  Anything less than that will not help. What we have though is cherry-picking by those who want to find Dr Shafi innocent and by those who want to find him guilty.  In the case of the first, we have too much ‘politician’ in the investigation and in relation to the latter, a marked reluctance to assume innocence until guilt is proven. We need a Presidential Commission at this point to keep communalism and extremism at bay and of course to ensure that things are not blown out of proportion.

[First published in the Daily Mirror on July 4, 2019]

අනතුර, ආරක්ෂාව සහ පුරවැසි වගකීම