“Action cures fear. Indecision, postponement, on the other hand, fertilize fear.’’
~David Joseph Schwartz
When a ship is drifting without being steered and manned by an able and professional Captain, it is bound to go astray; its survival in stormy seas is doubtful and its crew, the rest of servicemen and passengers are in danger of losing their very lives and the temporary ‘gala’ they enjoyed have disappeared into the mist of the ashen and all-consuming waves that seem to have enveloped the ship. It’s not a good story to tell your young ones.
The current administration assumed office in 2015, President in January, Prime Minister and the Cabinet in August. A whole lot of water has gushed under the proverbial bridge since then. The President’s departure from the norm and his maniacal conduct since then has turned the country upside down. The effects of this behaviour on the part of our Chief Executive has brought to light some serious deficiencies a holder of such a pivotal and fundamental office of power should not possess. He has proven to be just another politician: indecisive, self-centred and bordering on being dishonest. An extremely bad report card for any individual to carry. Yet the people seem to have come to terms with such disagreeable circumstances. What other option do they have?
The President has let down the side totally and that letdown has generated a chain of circumstances and effects that are unquestionably injurious to the socio-economic-political fabric of our very living; our very core of moralities, ethics and scruples which set us apart from the immoral, unethical and dishonest was being challenged; twenty five years of power and glory as Minister and President and then assuming the non-existent role of ‘lone arbiter of constitutional affairs of the country’ has plunged the nation into a status of laughable proportions.
If such a person is given charge of navigating the national voyage on unpredictable and ferocious seas, the ship is bound to get, not only drenched in uncontrollable waves of water, it would certainly be heading into the unknown depths of anarchy and chaos. That is what happens to a country when it is being led by an uneducated and untutored mind. Our country was more than once led by men and women of uneducated and untutored minds; each time it happened, she showed symptomatic reflections of a nation which was not so keen on the nuanced aspects of democratically sophisticated polity.
The arbitrary election of the ‘common man’ has decimated the dignity and honour of such a position and Maithripala Sirisena is a personification of a man who should not be President of the country
With the dawn of the ‘common man-politics’ in 1956, the notion of the ‘common man’ was taken literally; its rhetorical insinuations were ignored and the ‘commoner’ became one who had not had any formal education, judicious capabilities of the averagely-educated and discerning abilities of a human being under trying circumstances. Our current President reflects all these adverse qualities of the human being. Being able to be elected or as ranked high on the scale of the modern notion of ‘electability’, does not automatically qualify a person as a capable government leader. Leading a nation requires not only the skills of electability, it demands the person of an aura of dignity, an immense capacity to bear the burdens of decision-making ability under the most trying conditions and duress. The arbitrary election of the ‘common man’ has decimated the dignity and honour of such a position and Maithripala Sirisena is a personification of a man who should not be President of the country.
If the President is of such qualities, one would expect his chief mate, Prime minister to be of some value to the office of government-handlers. Unfortunately, it is of least significance to the people of the country. In addition to being at the bottom of the ladder of electability, PM Ranil Wickremesinghe has proven to be dangerously oblivious to the looming dangers of ethnic violence, societal discord and political chaos.
For Sirisena and his Party, (SLFP/UPFA) to be in power for an unbroken period of twenty five years, there is one prerequisite that has to befulfilled- the UNP has to be out of power for the same period. That indeed has been more than sufficient for its leader to be branded a ‘loser’. Our Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot help but wear that shameful badge wherever he goes. One major component of the shame goes to some of his close lieutenants too. Holding ‘pandam’ (singing praise) to the leader without being constructively critical in matters of national and Party affairs does not only reflect collective subservience on the part of the subordinates, it also reflects a conspiratorial blocking of openness and transparency.
Ever since assuming office of Premiership, Ranil has been drifting towards a lackadaisical form of governance. His selection of the Cabinet is below average. Trust in the younger members of Parliament was totally absent. For instance, when DS Senanayake selected his first Cabinet in Independent Ceylon, he selected the youngest members, Dudley, his own son and JR Jayewardene as Minsters of Agriculture and Ministry of Finance respectively. The most important portfolios were given to the youngest members. Then again in 1977, when JR assumed office as Prime Minister, he too appointed young Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali as Minster of Irrigation, Power and Highways and Minister of Trade and Shipping respectively. All these young ones, Dudley, JR, Gamini and Lalith went right to the top. That not only shed light on the abilities and drive of those who were promoted as Ministers but more so on the vision and foresight of the leaders, DS and JR.
It is, they say, not ‘cricket’ to compare Ranil with DS and JR. But the historical examples so set by his predecessors cannot be disregarded as not-so-important. On the contrary, they are crucial in one’s understanding of office one holds at any given time in history. Ranil has proven to be a very poor student of history.
Engineered in the midst of this background, release of Gnanasara from prison by a ‘decree’ of President Sirisena now seems to be an outcome of a carefully strategized ‘politricks’. This is playing into the cruel and blood-soaked hands of ISIS-backed Islam fundamentalists in Sri Lanka.Gnanasara’s reputation and his appeal to average Sinhalese Buddhists is indeed blood-curdling. An alleged ruffian clad in the saffron robe, Gnanasara is now engaged in the same pastime he is so used to, and the political advantage that a crueller politician could draw Gnanasara’s pseudo patriotic postures is limitless. Unfortunately, Ratana Thera, elected on the UNP-ticket to parliament and the other megaphone of pseudo-patriotism, has fallen victim to the Gnanasara brand of patriotism which is bordering on outright racialism and tribalism which are more easily embraced by a great majority of Sinhalese Buddhists in the country.
Legend says that when Prince Gamini (Dutu Gamunu before he became King Dutu Gamunu), as an extreme expression of dissatisfaction of his father Kávan Tissa’s appeasing attitude towards the Northern Tamil King Elara, was once found to be cuddled up in his bed by his mother Vihara Maha Devi, asked as to why he was so cuddled up, Prince Gamini replied: ‘Mother, on the North are Tamil pariahs and on the South is the violent Indian Ocean, how can I stretch my limbs and sleep?’ To telegraph our history from second Century B.C. to present day: On one bank is Gnanasara and his marauding ‘un-Buddhist’ gangs and on the other are ISIS-backed Islam fundamentalists. What can the poor people who are in the middle can do? They are being led by two leaders, President Sirisena and PM Wickremasinghe, who have chosen to play politics instead of practising patriotic governance. Self-centred politicking has cost us dearly in the past and it’s being repeated today.
Gnanasara is now in the limelight, again. It is dangerous; Gnanasara’s appeal has its own inherent magic to draw into itself the attention of many an unthinking devotee; it has its own intrinsic enchantment to galvanize a placid populace into an army of riotous and unruly thugs. The government is in the middle and seems to be totally helpless and impotent. How can we stretch our limbs and relax? Indecision is our enemy number one.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org