12 February 2019

Who should take the last shot?

It happens in close games. You make a shot just as time is running out and you can either tie, sending the game to overtime, or you can win the game for your team. Buzzer beaters, that’s what they are called in basketball. 

This is about buzzer beaters. The thinking is solely that of my friend and fellow hoops fan, Tony Courseault. He was commenting on a Toronto Raptors game a few weeks ago. The Raptors had made a fierce comeback with a minute and 10 seconds left, to shave an 11 point deficit to a deuce. AND they had the last possession. 

Here’s Tony’s commentary:

‘And what did they do? They give it to Kawhi Leonard and had everybody else clear out. The worst single effing basketball play in the history of all sports.  Kawhi had almost nothing to do with the comeback, and yet the team and the coaching strategy just gave him the keys for the last gratuitous, hero shot.  An unnecessary 3-point attempt.  No passing On that last possession. No movement with the other players. Nothing.  All of a sudden I don’t like the raptors anymore.’

For the record the Raptors are in second place in the Eastern Conference of the NBA, just 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks.

Tony started off his comment with a broadside: ‘Tonight’s rockets raptors game illustrates perfectly how Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have destroyed basketball.’ He would explain, subsequently, but by way of counterpoint, consider this comment a day or two later:

‘Did you see the end of that Boston Golden State game last night? It was a two point game and the Celtics have a ball with five seconds left but The ball moved and found the open man… Marcus Morris. Had a great look but just missed. Happens. At that point I realized the Celtics were back and they will beat the Raptors.  They fired an excellent coach and got his back up. Toronto deserves what they get.’

Back to Kobe and Michael.

‘I went to a huge playoff game years ago with some friends. The Lakers were up 3 - 1 against Steve Nash in the Phoenix Suns. This was after Shaq or before Gasol, the Lakers were the seventh seed and the Suns were the second seed. TREMENDOUS upset in the making.  The Lakers had Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum as their centers. Not all-stars. But the game plan was to go inside out. Phil Jackson emphasized this to his team by having them watch the movie, The Inside Man, by Denzel Washington

‘So this was game six and the series was at 3 to 2.  The inside out game was working to perfection… Until this game.  All of a sudden, Kobe completely abandons a game plan and just started shooting wildly. He scored 50 points. The Lakers lost in overtime. Kobe was not criticized. But the last possession illustrated just how egregious Kobe’s decision making was. 

‘With 18 seconds left, Kobe has the ball, languorously dribbling the ball and time away at near half court.  Just standing and dribbling. Again, the game is tied and any score wins the series in what would have surely not only been one of the nba’s biggest upsets, but Kobe and Phil’s sweetest victory.  7 seconds, 6...5...4...3...2...Kobe wants to shoot a 3 pointer over his defender but by now they’ve doubled and he’s forced to jack up a wild, fall away 3 that doesn’t even touch the rim.  Ideally, with 18 seconds left, I would’ve liked to have seen the ball move around naturally. But, let’s say that Kobe wanted to be the hero. He should have driven to the basket for a two pointer that he can make over anybody, or all the way to the basket and get the certain whistle and foul shots to ice the game and series. 

Nothing like seeing that in real life and just how bad he read the defense or ignored the best set of options. He did it the first five games, so he knew how to do it and was willing earlier. After that series, Kobe kind of lost me. Even after winning two more titles.’

And he had this to say about Jordan:

‘The difference with Jordan was, quite frankly, he made more of those shots and his teams won. But like the Golden state warriors and their prolific three point shooting, it’s the talent that transcends conventional playing. It’s not recommended for others. But everybody from California to China is playing this way now. So when you try to play like the Warriors, or Michael Jordan, without the same ability, It results in you being dominated over and over and over again like groundhogs day. If the bad boy Detroit Pistons try to do fast break like the streaking Los Angeles Lakers, they would not have had a chance. But they played graded out basketball and toppled Magic Johnson and the mighty Lakers.’

It’s easy to say stuff from the sideline and after the game, this we must remember. On the other hand, professional basketball players are supposed to be just that. Professional. God-like status on account of achievements allow players to get away with what could be called brain-fade. True, it’s a split-second decision at times, but in the instances referred to above, there was enough time to play with. 

Had Kawhi had made the shot, all this would have been forgotten by most, except the likes of Tony Courseault who is a true student of the game. Even a made shot doesn’t justify the kind of play that Kawhi, his coach and the Raptors had scripted. 

It’s a simple truth that’s often forgotten. Greatness is one thing, but even the greats have to play second fiddle in certain situations. There are periods, perhaps lasting a quarter or even just a few minutes, when other players come to the party, when the superstars take a back seat. If going with what works makes sense, Kawhi should not have had the ball in the dying seconds of that game. Neither should Kobe have indulged in grandstanding. It cost the Raptors a game and the Lakers a series, respectively. That’s a huge price to pay.  


11 February 2019

The National (sic) Government

The Government was planning to increase the size of the cabinet by claiming it was forming  a ‘national government’. The 19th Amendment, following mandate sought and given, expressly states that the cabinet would be limited to a maximum of 30 ministers. The 19th Amendment, in contravention of mandate sought, includes wording that permits an enlargement subject to the caveat of there being ‘a national government’ in which case Parliament decides the size of cabinet. 

Assurances were made in Parliament at the time by the then Minister of Justice Wijedasa Rajapaksha regarding the definition of ‘a national government,’ i.e. a government made of the parties or independent groups represented in Parliament having the largest and second largest numbers. This position was reaffirmed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. However, when the bill was passed very late that night, the definition had been altered. Only Sarath Weerasekara objected and the Amendment was passed. Those who voted were possibly misled, but those who authored and approved the text (and this has to include Wickremesinghe and Jayampathy Wickramaratne and possibly M.A. Sumanthiran of the TNA), clearly knew what they were doing.

At the time, part of the SLFP was in the Government and the rest of that party were in Opposition. This strange arrangement was replayed after the general election in 2015. Perhaps because the SLFP was the party that had the second largest number of MPs, the ‘national government’ idea still held some credibility. When the majority of the SLFP left the government, however, that credibility was lost. The Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya, proceeded to divest himself of credibility by refusing to recognize the Joint Opposition as a separate political entity, citing the technicality of the JO MPs having contested under the SLFP banner. 

With the final fracture of the arrangement with the SLFP and of course it’s leader President Maithripala Sirisena, UNP tried to take the technicality-route in claiming it could form a national government. Interestingly and not surprisingly it was the UNP’s apparently designated constitutional-tinker, Wickremaratne who first floated the red herring. He claimed, unabashedly and shamelessly, ‘since the SLMC is with the UNP, we can still form a national government.’  Wickremaratne is a lawyer and he obvious cites only those points that favor his client (the UNP and himself in this instance).

Obviously, then, the amendment of caveats regarding cabinet size was deliberate and was akin to an umbrella kept handy in anticipation of a political rainy day. But then again, the SLMC, except for one individual, contested WITH the UNP led coailtion. And even if we take the SLMC to be a separate political entity that’s absolutely independent of the UNP-led coalition, the UNP, by even considering UNP+1 definition of ‘national’ betrays utter idiocy, not to mention making a complete mockery of all rhetoric bemoaning the bloated cabinets of previous regimes!

Then again, the shameless are often bold and tend to overestimate strength. Then again, the foolish will not see realities that hit them between the eyes (e.g. the UNP’s popularity plummet at the local government elections a year ago). So they tried a fast one. 

They tried to get standing orders suspended to circumvent stipulated procedures, hoping this would give them some kind of edge in getting the national government motion passed. Unfortunately, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, who himself suspended his neutrality AND standing orders a few weeks ago, refused to accede on this occasion.

The UNP has a long history of itching to sell national assets (e.g. fanatical privatization) , subvert national interest in favor of (imagined) political profit, sloth or cowardice (Indo-Lanka Accord) and an unholy readiness to genuflect before foreign powers, especially the West (UNHRC resolutions). The word ‘national’ sits right in the middle of the party’s name, but it doesn’t belong to the UNP’s ideological heart but rather some rear-end body part.  

The term ‘national GOVERNMENT’ was doomed considering a) the long history of enmity between the UNP and the SLFP, and b) the nature of the respective party leaders. It was a deformed child and was ailing from birth. It’s dead now. The attempt to resurrect it has nothing to do with national interest and everything to do with the desperation of the UNP in reduced and disarrayed circumstances.  

Should we be surprised, though? The short answer is ‘no’. History casts long shadows. The SLFP and the UNP have long histories. Sirisena and Wickremesinghe have long histories. The observant voter can read the relevant shadows. 

Those who expected miracles or let’s say teeny-weeny miracles from the Sirisena Presidency and the yahapalana governement were and are (at best) naive. However, many of them who were willing to ignore Sirisena’s vangu (or, un-yahapalanish acts) as long as he was seen as the UNP’s man (yes, not even as someone who was in a coalition WITH the UNP), are now at him, hammer and tongs. They are dead silent about attempted constitutional tinkering of the UNP. 

Funded-voices, born-again democrats and candlelight ladies who came out of the woodworks in late October last year have gone silent. When the UNP pulls a UPFA or Wickremesinghe pulls a Rajapaksa, they play ‘I am sleeping’.  You can’t wake up those who pretend-sleep.  

Perhaps it’s a good thing. The UNP’s antics has effectively silenced these hypocrites. That however is just a small consolation for people have to be deluded to vote not only for the UNP, but the SLFP, SLPP, JVP, SLMC and the TNA. 

Time for a new political-think, perhaps? Time for a truly NATIONAL ‘National Government,’ then, and one that is not tarnished by the kind of constitutional hanky-panky that the likes of Wickremesinghe and Wickramaratne indulged and indulge in, perhaps?

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

10 February 2019

Tea stains on the conscience

Pubudu Jayagoda, Education Secretary of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), recommended on Facebook that parliamentarians be paid at the rate of Rs 700 per day and be denied ‘wages’ on days they do not attend Parliament. Whether parliamentarians should be paid an allowance is of course a moot point and it is certainly ridiculous to give them pensions, but Jayagoda’s suggestion puts certain things in perspective.

The reference is of course to the paltry daily wages offered to those who work as laborers in tea estates. The demand, as is now almost common knowledge, is that the daily wage be upped to Rs 1000 from Rs 700. It is reported that the subject minister, companies and unions had agreed to a Rs 100 increase. The agreement however has been rejected by certain sections of the workers, for what is given by the right hand has been taken away by the left, metaphorically speaking. 

The battle then, is not yet over. This is why Jayagoda’s suggestion is important. 

The official minimum monthly wage is Rs 10,000. Those who earn less than Rs 15,000 a month are considered poor as per the poverty line determined by those who are said to know such things; i.e. the cost of living, real incomes etc. Thus, assuming a 20 day work month, those who earn less than Rs 750 a day are poor while those on the minimum wage earn approximately Rs 500 a day. This means that plantation labor is among those at the bottom of the pile, although their detractors might say ‘they are better off than others’. Some may invoke the dispossession of the Kandyan Peasantry and the draconian Waste Lands Act. ‘There’s injustice everywhere, what’s so special about these folks?’ some might query.  

Well, the short answer to that kind of logic is this: unless you are not taking up all the causes out there, you do not have the moral authority to question pick-and-choose. People do what they can, when they can or rather when there’s nothing else they can do. And, to be fair, those who have taken up the cause of estate workers have been consistent in the struggle for justice on the matter of exploitation.

But let’s play with Jayagoda’s suggestion. We could design a role-play for purposes of producing some empathy. Something on the following lines:

How about spending an entire work day (i.e. the average hours that a regular worker spends) picking tea leaves? No shoes. No long lunch or tea breaks, and strictly adhering to rules regarding expected volumes. There will definitely be leeches and perhaps reptiles too. You may have to hear abuse from whoever is supervising your work. One thing more about tea breaks — you are not going to get export quality tea and nothing like what’s served in the upmarket coffee shops in Colombo, you’ll just get dust-tea, just as the laborers do. 

You’ll get Rs 1,400 for your efforts. Yes, double the amount paid to tea pluckers. Wait, let’s raise it. How about Rs 2,800 a day? That’s four times what they get. 

Let’s have the minister, the deputy minister, all CEOs of plantation companies and while we are at it, shareholders as well all categories of employees above the ‘rank’ of a tea-plucker, doing what the tea-pluckers do day in and day out, around the year. Any takers?

That kind of scenario can be scripted for all kinds of situations. You can use your imagination. 

We are talking tea though. Years ago, the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who spent some time in Sri Lanka as a diplomat, was inspired to write by a tea box.  Here are some of the lines:

Exquisite tin box,
oh how you remind me 
of the swell of other seas,
the roar of monsoons over Asia
when countries rock like ships
at the hands of the wind
and Ceylon scatters its scents
like a head of storm-tossed hair.

Box of tea,
like my own heart
you arrived bearing stories, thrills 
eyes that held fabulous petals in their gaze
and also yes,
that lost scent of tea, jasmine and reams,
that scent of wandering spring.

Neruda may not have been acquainted with full the history of the island. He may not have had a good enough grasp of the political economy of tea. If he did he may have recognized in that quaint tin box the drudgery and sweat extracted and transformed into profit. 

කුරුඳුවත්තේ බංගලාවේ සඳලුතලේ හැන්දෑවක 
මෝට්සාට්ගේ වාදනයක් පියානොවකින් වයනා 
පුසුඹ ගහන ලමිස්සියේ...
බමවා ඔය රතැඟිලි තුඩු 
හීන්සැරෙන් ඔබ වයන්නේ 
තාත්තගේ තේ වත්තේ 
දල්ලට යටවූ දහඩිය 
සාඩම්බර බංගලාව දෝලාවල් බැංකු කාසි 
දල්ලට යටවූ දහඩිය 

Essentially, ‘Fragrant young girl who plays a piece of music by Mozart one evening in a balcony at a bungalow in Cinnamon Gardena…what you produce with those elegant fingers is the sweat hidden under the leaves in your father’s tea estate…..the proud mansion, palanquins (metaphor, obviously for grand vehicles), money and banks, nothing but the sweat hidden under the leaves….’

That’s Karl Marx’s Labour Theory of Value right there. 

Where do the workers go when the unions negotiate the terms of exploitation with bosses whose business is exploitation and politicians who are either bosses in their own right or represent them? 

There are songs we will never get to hear. There are beads of sweat that congeal into gold but which those who sweat never get to see. The true meaning of minimum wage is that which is given to ensure that the particular employee’s social self is reproduced, enabling continued expending of labour (for the continued exploitation of the same). Throw in subsidized education and health and even then this social reproduction is not obtained. There’s declining ‘self,’ that’s what we are seeing. It is not sustainable. It must erupt.  The powers in the power equation know it well but it would hit home hard and fast if they took Jayagoda’s cue. 

Meanwhile, have a cup of tea, ladies and gentlemen. How does it taste, I wonder.

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


photo: ft.lk

Gallibbo is a conjunction. Two Sinhala words: Gal (stone or rock) + Ibbo (the plural of tortoise). In common parlance the term ‘gal-ibba’ refers to someone who is thick skinned or insensitive. There’s a perception that consuming the meat of the gal-ibba (a species found in and close to inland water bodies) makes muscles so hard that it makes it difficult to inject — the needles are said to break. 

Anyway, that’s just an aside. 

Technically speaking, although we pronounce it that way, when writing the term in Sinhala, the ‘gal’ and the ‘ibba’ (or ‘ibbo’) are kept separate. Together, then, ‘gallibba’ would be a dvithva roopa sandhiya; ’sandhi’ referring to a junction, intersection or a conjunction and the term describing a particular way of coupling.  

Here we are not sandhifying ‘gal’ and ‘ibba’ but ‘gal’; we are combining ‘gal’ and ‘libba’ (‘sandhi’ meaning junction or intersection or conjunction). ‘Libba’ is a new term that has entered the Singlish lexicon in social media and refers to ‘liberals’. So the relevant grammatical term, in Sinhala, would be upamaa visheshana poorvapada samaasaya, essentially a coupling of two words with distinct meanings to create a third with a completely different meaning. In this instance the first word being an adjective and a simile.

In the sense we use ‘Gallibbo’ however, given the meaning of common usage, the term can be said to have an additional layer of meaning: a liberal who is intransigent. Oxymoronic, yes, but then again we live in times where the truth is revealed less by design than by accident. Indeed, that exactly is the point. People and things are not what they appear to be; there’s gap between theory and practice, between ‘say’ and ‘do’.  

It’s applicable to most ‘sayers’ who fall short on the doing — from the extreme left to the extreme right, nationalists to separatists, religious fundamentalists to fundamentalist secularists and so on. Nationalists, for example, whose nationalism has nothing to say about the wanton destruction and plunder of natural resources, the exploitation of the citizens and the fact that ‘nation’ and in particular THIS nation is or should be fundamentally inclusive, also betray a similar gap between theory and practice; their definitional preferences are flawed, incomplete and in the long run detrimental to their cause or rather the sliver of the overall nationalist project, let’s say.

Gallibbo, however, are the ones who are in the spotlight. The funny thing is, it’s not that they weren’t around before. Somehow they went under the radar, some of them anyway. The Galibbo, that is. It’s almost like they are wearing a touch-me-not cloak — self-righteous, pompous, know-all-ish and condescending. They are all for freedom, all for secularism, all for devolution of power, all for a suspension of ‘morality’, all for LGBTQI rights, media rights, minority rights, human rights etc., etc. In fact they might be confused with anarchists, but then again they are also defenders of ‘Rule of Law’ never mind the fact that laws, as Lenin pertinently observed, are the will of the ruling class. Indeed they can also be mistaken for Marxists and not only because some Galibbo are essentially Marxists who have found comfy clothing, But shhh….Gallibbo are quiet when it comes to capitalism, the overarching creator of inequality and suspender of freedoms in the relevant political economy. 

A few months ago there was quite a stir when some young people dropped their pants, got someone to take pictures of their bare bottoms and posted on Facebook. It was at Pidurangala. Naturally, some Buddhists were upset. Naturally our Gallibbo came to the defense of the bare-bottomed boys. Some pointed out to all kinds of un-Buddhist like practices by Buddhists, so claimed, by way of defending the butt-boys. Indeed, such Gallibbo (and there were ‘Buddhists’ among them) quoted chapter and verse from the Buddhist canon to defend the positions they took — not that they demonstrated any of the fundamental tenets of Buddhism (metta, muditha, karuna and upekkha) nor adhered to the tenets of their particular religious faith. The boys were Buddhists. They were arrested almost immediately.

Gallibbo are high on religious freedom and in particular about religious tolerance. Not in this case though. Indeed, the sensitivities of Buddhists were brushed aside, because (hold your breath!) ‘Buddhists are supposed to practice equanimity anyway!’ 

Anyway, just the other day, some undergraduates from the Eastern University (all non-Buddhists) climbed the ruins of a stupa in Kiralagala, Horowpathana, got pictures taken of them as though they’ve reached the top of Mt Everest, and posted them on Facebook. The Gallibbo fraternity went quiet, except for a few brave people who pointed out that it was just a pile of bricks (correct) and that they could be used to build houses. It took several days for the boys to be arrested; they were not Buddhists, remember. Gallibos, who are high on religious tolerance, couldn’t see the intolerance here.   

Gallibbo have a habit of touting secularism, but if you ask them three questions, they go silent: a) Could you take everything into account, compare religious freedoms enjoyed by non-Buddhists in Sri Lanka with those of people who do not belong to the faith of the majority in other countries and tell us if we are better, worse or the same? b) Have you ever thought about the number of non-Christian religious holidays in secular countries you take as examples? c) Have you calculated the number of religious holidays for Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Hindus in Sri Lanka (13, 54, 16  plus special privileges in the event of spousal death and divorce, and 3, respectively. They talk of equality before the law, but balk at one law for all; they wouldn’t touch the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act or the Thesavalamai Law. 

They talk good governance, true representation, transparency and accountability but say nothing of a set of unelected people (mostly NGO activists or tag-alongs) repeatedly throwing out an elected President’s recommendations with respect to Court of Appeal positions. 

Here’s another lovely Gallibba argument: ‘There are no Sinhalese in the pure sense of the word. If you checked their DNA, you’ll probably find traces of other races. They can be differentiated in so many ways.’ And yet they talk of a ‘Tamil Community’ and other communities as though they have DNA-integrity. Sinhalese are asked to be ‘Sri Lankans’ AND are asked to accept that Tamils and Muslims have inalienable claims based on identity. They will say ‘Mahawamsa’ is a racist tract, refuse to take it apart in any scholarly manner, and treat Eelamist myth-making as impeccable historiography.  

They might point to the number of Tamil words that have been incorporated into the Sinhala language, but will say nothing of the percentage of such words in the overall lexicon. For example, the Sinhala Dictionary is still not complete, it’s so vast. The section containing words beginning with ‘ka’ and words beginning with ‘ki’ is more voluminous that the Random House Dictionary.

Galibbo. A sociological treatise waiting to be written. I’m scratching the surface here. But, speaking of scratching, scratch a Gallibba and you’ll get someone who has some kind of grouse against Sinhalese and Buddhists. Wait. You can’t really do that. They have that ‘gal’ element about them, a thick skin to use the English term. A steadfast refusal to be honest and consistent. Honesty and consistency would strip them of the liberal garb they cover their moral poverty with. 

Gallibbo: an interesting species, all things considered.

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

07 February 2019

The ‘Honorable’ Speaker and the Spirit of Democracy

The United National Party (UNP) has informed Speaker Karu Jayasuriya of the party’s intention to move a resolution on forming a ‘National Government’. The UNP has in doing so identified a UNP-Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) coalition as satisfying constitutional conditions for such an eventuality. The SLMC has just one member in Parliament, Seyed Ali Zahir Moulana, the others having contested under elephant symbol at the 2015 general election. 

Two words. Hilarious and preposterous. Oh! There are another couple of words: expected and scandalous. 

Let’s walk through the process. When the 19th Amendment was tabled in Parliament, the authors (who did a lot of hanky-panky after the Supreme Court determined that sections were unconstitutional) they ensured (yes, it was deliberate) that ‘national government’ would be ill-defined. 

On April 28, 2015, MP Chandrasiri Gajadheera demanded a definition and the then Minister of Justice, WIjedasa Rajapakshe responded thus:  for a determination of the ‘national government’, then Minister of Justice Rajapakshe responded: “When the recognised political party or the independent group obtaining the highest and the recognised political party or the independent group obtaining the second highest number of seats in Parliament agrees to form a Government.” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe affirmed this position when others raised the question. 

Indeed, this is how the text of the draft read (with respect to the size of the cabinet): Article 46 (3) a ‘National Government’ as ;“If at the conclusion of the General Election held immediately after the coming into force of this Article, the recognised political party or the independent group obtaining the highest and the recognised political party or the independent group obtaining the second highest number of seats in Parliament agrees to form a Government of national unity, then, notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1), the number of ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers and the number of Ministers outside of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Deputy Ministers, may be increased up to forty-five and fifty-five, respectively.

However, late that night, when the bill was passed (while most the MPs were probably half-asleep), the constitutional ‘experts’ involved, Jayampathy Wickramaratne certainly and possibly M.A. Sumanthiran of the TNA, the wording had been amended in favor of vagueness and making for multiple interpretations. The ‘second highest number of seats’ section had been replaced by ‘other parties or independent groups represented in Parliament.’  

The subterfuge even escaped Asanga Welikala of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) who edited a collection of essays on the 19th Amendment. Well, we are being generous here, for Welikala has scholarly credentials and one assumes that when compiling such a text basic homework would be done!   

So we have the four words: hilarious, preposterous, expected and scandalous. Hilarious because there’s nothing ‘national’ about the UNP and because the UNP plus a single SLMC MP is an insult to the word ‘national’ when there’s the SLFP, the SLPP, JVP and TNA making up more than 50% of the parliament. Preposterous because it goes against the grain of all sentiments associated with ‘good governance’ and is antithetical to pre-election rhetoric of the UNP regarding cabinet size, doing things differently, being decent etc. Expected because the UNP has a long history of letting political expediency wreck national interest in such matters, dating back to J.R. Jayewardene’s constitutional tinkering starting with the 1978 constitution, through all amendments until the 17th including the unconstitutional and treacherous 13th. Scandalous because the Speaker hasn’t as of now thrown the motion out.

The Speaker. Karu Jayasuriya. He didn’t cover himself in glory during the recent ‘constitutional crisis’ except of course in the eyes of the UNP and it’s support cast of funded-voices, candlelight-ladies and born-again democrats. A simple comparison on the motions against Ranil Wickremesinghe (April 2018) and Mahinda Rajapaksa (October-November 2018) in terms of adherence to procedural norms, time frame and of course how the vote was counted would put all doubts to rest. 

Now Karu Jayasuriya, ‘the democrat,’ has a decent enough history, especially compared to the vast majority of parliamentarians past and present. And yet, apart from the ungainly and partisan conduct mentioned above, he was also complicit in another piece of constitutional skullduggery engineered by the UNP, that which related to the Provincial Councils. The UNP, was loud about legislation to ensure better female representation but quietly slipped in a bunch of procedural obstructions to make it hard to hold provincial council elections. Karu Jayasuriya chose to ignore objections raised at the time.

The non-holding of long overdue PC elections is another matter about which the ‘democracy-loving’ self-appointed civil society watchdogs are quiet about. Indeed, even the devolution-mad ‘democrats’ including that arch word-twister M.A. Sumanthiran don’t seem upset that these bodies are non-functional. In effect they’ve cast a damning vote against constitutional amendments that seek to wreck the unitary nature of the state. 

That’s an aside, by the way.

What we have is, let us reiterate, a hilarious, preposterous, scandalous and nevertheless expected attempt at constitutional tinkering on the part of the UNP. What it does to ‘the spirit of democracy’ is something that should upset the more democratic elements in the UNP, for example, Eran Wickramaratne and, well, that’s about the only name that comes up! 

Karu can do a ‘Recent Karu’ and let Kiriella’s motion hold. He could do an ‘Old Karu’ and ensure that the flicker of that thing called the spirit of democracy prevail. If he does the former, there’s bound to be objection from within parliament and it would be interesting to see how the TNA and JVP respond. There would be litigation and we can have a new season of courtroom teledrama.

The Speaker is a seasoned politician. A year ago I would have been convinced that he would not allow this kind of nonsense. Now I am not sure. Who knows, though, maybe he will surprise one and all once again! 


06 February 2019

The 'done thing' is rarely done

Adam Gilchrist walked in the 2003 World Cup semi-final
but 'walking' is not the only 'done thing' that's rarely done
When batsmen nick and and are caught behind, typically they wait for the umpire's decision. When it's just a shave, the decision is not easy. Some batsmen walk. In other words, they know they've nicked it, they know they are out and they walk. That's so rare that such batsmen receive a lot of praise for it's a 'done thing' that's strangely rarely done.

In the Royal-Thomian encounter of 1976, the entire Royal team appealed for a 'caught-behind' down the leg side. The umpire immediately raised his finger to the disbelief of the batsman, the late Lalith Ratnayake. A collective write-up by the Thomian teams from 1975-1977 describes the incident thus:

'The batsman appeared clearly shocked, as the ball had only grazed his shirt on the way to the wicket keeper. He instinctively shook his head and made his way back to the pavilion with his head down like a true sportsman. His reaction was enough for the Royal captain, Saldin, to think twice. Had the batsman been any of the 10 other Thomians in the team, Saldin would probably not have even considered doing what he did. After a quick "conference" with his teammates he requested the umpires to call the batsman back. Saldin and all his team mates were certain that the batsman concerned would never have reacted the way he did if he was in fact out.' 

Another 'done thing' that's rarely done. Let it be noted that in that 97th annual Big Match between the schools, STC had Royal on the ropes. Let it also be noted that this was long before we got the Decision Review System and Hot-Spot. 

Now cricket is supposed to be a gentlemen’s game. Golf enthusiasts might say that their’s is the gentlemen’s game. Rugger enthusiasts will quip, as they often have, ‘cricket is a gentlemen’s game played by rowdies, rugger is a rowdies’ game played by gentlemen.’  

Who is a gentleman though, and what of ladies? A radical priest by the name of John Ball, who travelled the length of England in the late 14th Century, stirring up the peasant class in a revolt against their feudal landowners and who was incarcerated and possibly excommunicated for his efforts, asked the question thus: ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?’

It is pretty arbitrary and a self-label rather than the product of general agreement. It is no coincidence and there’s nothing innocent about the fact that we are conditioned to believe that those who are wealthy, are ‘polished in their ways’ and are well dressed can do no wrong. 

And yet, the greatest crimes against humanity have been commissioned or perpetrated by the so called gentlemen and ladies of this world. They get away with it more often than not, simply because they are products of and also produce a system of privilege where they are the principal beneficiaries. 

Nevertheless, we often here people exclaim (at times shaking their heads to emphasize), ‘that’s not done!’ They say ‘bad show.’ They also say ‘not something one expects from a gentleman (or a lady as the case may be)’.  

The truth is that those in privileged positions in structure of power can and do indulge in hanky-panky. They do the ‘not done’ things. Their foibles and even crimes go unseen for a certain kind of dress, a certain kind of bearing and certain trappings help make their wrongdoing invisible or else, simply, go uncensured. 

A certain ‘lady’ who waves her so-called aristocratic lineage and has made condescension a trademark in her uttering recently responded to a comment on Facebook in this way: ‘I heard you were a school teacher. If so I pity your students. I have read the asinine comments you make on social media, dear headless lady. Don’t you think it’s best you remain silent and be thought a fool than open it (she probably meant ‘mouth’ here) and remove all doubt?’

The ‘lady’ has a point. One says something and in saying one describes oneself. Who has been more caustic here? Who comments are more asinine?  Some might say that the author of the above comment has clearly described herself and in fact has painted herself in a manner far more grotesque than the person she’s dishing out advice to, whereas her cheering squad might insist  that she did ‘the done thing.’  

It is easy to get lost in the relativism of it all and descend to a point where ‘anything goes.’ The problem is that this world is already toxic and doesn’t need additional poisons. 

We just can’t stop people who wish to be nasty. There are ways around the relevant laws which make for decent social intercourse. It is hard to legislate against a determined and caustic mind. 

When someone tweets something that is clearly unwholesome and can (and has!) cause(d) a rift among cricketers, there’s very little one can do to repair the damage.  The important thing to remember is that you have to find a way of insulating yourself from such distractions. That could be the ‘done thing’ relevant to the circumstances. ‘Let the dogs bark the caravan moves on,’ one can tell oneself. following the old Arabic proverb which finds resonance in many languages. 

In other words, ladies and gentlemen, a lady or a gentleman is recognized less by the particular curriculum vitae but what’s said and done. That’s where we encounter ‘the done thing’ that is of value. That’s where we discover ladies and gentlemen and where uncivilized rogues reveal themselves.   In other words the more important ‘done thing’ gets done, and true ladies and gentlemen begin to stand out in a multitude made of the sophomoric.