Disce Aut Discede Warning from Polonnaruwa Royal to Cinnamon Gardens or was it the Other way Around?

The Latin phrase Learn or Depart is used as the motto of many educational institutions and schools around the globe, the first to exploit it being King’s School, Rochester, the second-oldest school in the world, established in 604 AD.  

The Royal College, Colombo in Sri Lanka also uses the motto. The author and the date that the motto was adopted are unknown. Royalists in Colombo believed that the first mention of the adoption of the motto by their school was in the Colombo Academy days and during the tenure of Todd 1871–1878 who persistently warned his students that they should learn or depart.  

President Sirisena on Sunday re-appointed as PM the same man he dismissed fifty days ago, ending a power crisis that paralised the nation.  

It threw Sri Lanka into an unprecedented constitutional calamity, Ranil was sworn in at a closed-door ritual in the president’s office. The 69-year-old Royalist from Cinnamon gardens had declined to step aside since being discarded and replaced by strongman Rajapaksa – creating a situation with two men claiming the one powerful post but with no functioning government.Claiming that his dismissal was illegal, as observed by Parliament [strangely, not challenged in court] which voted against Rajapaksa six times, twice during disorderly sessions that exploded into MPs engaging in butter knives, Chillie powder ‘free for all’ and with chairs flying over the well followed by brawls.  Sirisena who refused to bow to demands as the nation drifted, declaring he would never re-appoint Wickremesinghe and ridiculing his former collaborator in November 2014 ‘conspiracy’ as their association imploded.  

Cinnamon Gardens was Kuumbi kele

Colombo served as a seaport for trade between Asia and the West as far back as the 5th century, while Arab traders settled near the port in the 8th century and, in early 16th, the Portuguese arrived, for the Dutch to take over in the mid-17th century, who grew cinnamon in the area now known as Cinnamon Gardens.  

However, the abandoned Cinnamon estate during British rule, the present posh residential area of the elite became ‘Kuumbi kele’ infested with snakes.  

The British turned the town to a city and it was proclaimed the capital of Ceylon in 1815. Since then the aristocracy who occupied Northern territories of the city bordering the southern banks of Kelani gradually moved to Colpetty (Kollupitiya) and Cinnamon Gardens.  

Not acquired with an aristocratic or elite background like most of the political leaders of past and present, Gamaralalage Maithripala Sirisena had been modest enough to openly declare his past proving his unwavering personality.  

King Vijayabahu I, who conquered Chola invaders in the 11th century, re-united the country and made Polonnaruwa the capital of the Royal Kingdom of Polonnaruwa.  Being the son of a peasant from Salpiti-korale who moved to Polonnaruwa under the visionary leader, DS Senanayake’s colonization of agricultural land scheme became the sole saviour for the United National Party which did not possess a courageous leader who could face the invincible might of Rajapaksa’s autocratic regime. The five-time Prime Minister [appointed in 1993 to a vacant position; in 2001 securing 109 seats, highest in an election; in 2015 Jan. appointed with only 42 seats, the first blunder by Maithri; again in 2015 Aug. winning highest 106 seats at an election; 2018 re-appointed following second blunder by Maithri]  

Ranil Wickremesinghe never achieved that crucial winning margin like JR, Dudley, Sirimavo, Premadasa, Chandrika, and Mahinda did. The bitterness between the two was highlighted on Sunday when Sirisena rebuked Ranil and his Royalist friends at length after the swearing-in.  

After the cold reception, which Maithri undemocratically closed to the media, the reinstated PM thanked parliamentarians and those who “campaigned to re-establish democracy”.  “The first priority is to restore normality, as work we initiated had been brought to a standstill,” he said in a brief address, before going to a mass rally next day that overflowed the Galle Face Green.  

Mahausadha Pandit in Ummagga Jataka  

In days gone by, a king named Vedeha was in power in Mithila. Even, as far back as many aeons ago, the Royal Court of the monarch had four stupid ‘pandits’ a foursome named Senaka, Pukkusa, Kavinda, and Devinda, who gave him advice in matters of ‘Good Governance’, worldly, and spiritual, a practice continued to this day. The foursome had enjoyed the best of benefits in giving all types of D-ropes to the King until the arrival of Mahausadha Pandit, son of a peasant, and Bosat, meaning Buddha in one of his previous births according to Ummagga Jataka. This amazing piece of creative writing by ancient chroniclers of Pansiya panas jataka states how the foursome used the contemptuous remark ‘Goviya-puthu’ in reference to Mahausadha; which reminds one of the famous social media’s contemptuous reference to Maithripala Sirisena by using a diminutive nickname ‘Gamarala’, who acted King Vedeha a few weeks ago.  

The young Turks in the UNP who are impatient for change must realize the damage caused to the grand old party by the Royal’s tie-coat group leader and his wheeler-dealing faction who committed the blunder of compelling Maithri to appoint Mahendran as governor to the Central Bank, before expressing all sorts of offensive and discourteous suggestions proposing their saviour a fateful end like Gaddafi’s of Libya. Sirisena -as reported in Daily Mirror [17/12]- stated he decided to re-appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as the PM only because he treasured parliamentary traditions though he still remained firm in his position that Wickremesinghe should not be given the post again even if all 225 MPs wanted him.  

“Yet, I respect parliamentary traditions. I see this as upholding the moral character of a democracy,…nobody can dictate to the President to appoint anyone as the Prime Minister. Even the judiciary cannot do it. It is at the sole discretion of the Executive President.” He stated, but he was silent on his other assertion, “I will never remain in this position if RW becomes the PM” Sirisena conveniently left it out in his lengthy, somewhat confessionary statement.  

The bitterness between the two was highlighted on Sunday when Sirisena rebuked Ranil and his Royalist friends at length after the swearing-in. 

Maithri had no choice but…,  

But the truth is that he had no choice. Was it an attempt to cover up. He can take action against the PM if he is encouraging corruption; people don’t expect to listen to excuses. He is the president of this country, head of the government, a capacity Ranil attempted to unscrupulously transfer to himself if not for SC’s rejection. Maithri has the powers and authority over the cabinet; he must behave like a right-thinking strong leader, not an opportunist. We reproduce two pieces of advice given by Mahausadha to King Vedeha---  

“My lord ! when the married pair privately enjoys their love they say to each other, ‘ You do not love me in the least; you love somebody else; When they thus speak falsely, and charge each other falsely, their mutual love increases.” A love-hate relationship as in a triangle of ‘a President and two PMs’?  

The executive presidential system the JVP and many other parties believe do not suit a country like Sri Lanka, which enjoys a lively democracy under a Westminister form of government prior to 1978. The Executive Presidential system bestows unlimited power to one individual who could misuse this power, in putting the nation into jeopardy. There seems to be a consensus among all on the question of pruning down the enormous power the constitution gives the Executive President. This does not mean the constitution is in crisis, but, constitutional managers, the politicians have made it appear as if it is in crisis. Before 19 A the constitution enabled the Executive President to prorogue parliament after 12 months of its existence. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga during 2001- 2004 UNP government invoked the constitution to prorogue parliament while a no-confidence motion had been handed over to the speaker of parliament. The move not unconstitutional, but was undemocratic and could be interpreted as an abuse of power.  

It should be understood that the enactment of laws constitutional or otherwise is not to be confused with the rule of law and that having a constitution is not as easy as making it work. Over the past four decades, since the initiation of the open economic and constitutional reforms in 1978 for the current Constitution, enacted in 1978, the disparity between clauses, articles, words and deeds is even greater for a simple reason.  

In Conclusion; is there a Way Out?  

Civilians…, It is time to join hands irrespective of race, colour, language and religion. We must get together, work together, speak and work together and write together.   Go to the people in villages, expose the ‘criminal’ elements in politics, expose the lies of these criminals and those who support them, expose the danger of authoritarianism, train them to say no to politics, no to racism, no to divisions; bring back rule of the law, power back to people.  

Revolutionise the political system, liberate the nation for the future generations; agitate for reforms, not by the thieves of Diyawanna, but by a council led by professionals, intellectuals and non-political civilian movements.  

The writer can be contacted at [email protected]  

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