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Freedom of speech matter: Bearing no malice is better! Harin, Ranjan and the President

18 January 2021 12:27 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In mid 1970s, Anura Bandaranaike, only son of two Prime Ministers was in twenties and was an immature young upstart spoiled by his aristocratic upbringing. He chose to scoff at veteran deputy leader of UNP, who was born and happened to reside in Keselwatte, the city’s bazaar inhabited mostly by impoverished people, by calling him “Kehelwatte levariya koluwa.” The mature politician did not react to the young man’s unpleasant remark. In 1977, JR Jayewardene formed a UNP government following a historic 5/6 victory. Ranasinghe Premadasa was then the undisputed choice for plum position of PM, who in his inaugural speech spat venom at his man, who was seated with Sirimanvo Bandaranaike in the depleted opposition, “Anura Bandaranaike, mama Kehelwatte Levariya Koluwa misak walawwaka ipaduna avajathaka kumarayek nemei.”


Dudley Senanayake, the four times PM of Sri Lanka was the Leader of opposition following defeat at 1970. PM Sirimavo who faced one of the worst economic setbacks in early 1970s, decided to encourage everyone to grow vegetables in home gardens and initiated the project by uprooting flowers in pots at state offices and replacing them with chilies. She did not spare the Horogolla gardens, but set an example by even growing various types and varieties of vegetables and fruits for the by-passers to witness and admire. The ex-PM, Dudley, the most well-mannered, decent and cultured bachelor politician could not guard his tongue during a speech in Parliament, when he ironically deviated from the topic to comment on widowed PM’s Attanagalle vege-plots, and said, “I saw the Prime Minister too has grown Brinjals in her Horagolla garden.”  The gracious lady remained non-committal.
Lady Health ministers, have often faced deeply embarrassing moments in political arena. Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike once observed at a function in the health ministry that his fair minister always carried ‘Buddha..Ra..ja guli’ in her bag. It was speculated that she closely associated Buddharakkita, the high priest of Kelaniya [later first accused in Assassination case]. Minister ignored the contemptuous remark but the monk, leader of racist 
Bhikku Peramuna, which played a crucial role in mobilizing support for Bandaranaike, and had even financed his campaign, had other ideas. 

" A leader should stay focused on tackling conflicts and challengers head on!  If he finds it difficult to take up criticism, he loses momentum and his authority weakens; making him incapable of arriving at right decisions"

Philip Gunawardene, Cabinet minister in Bandaranaike government, at 1958 Mayday rally warned PM for having Sydney de Soyza as a senior DIG, saying, “Eya visvasa nethi bhayanake minihek….” He elaborated his statement with valid arguments.  Sydney, the brother of Finance Minister Stanley, filed against defamation. In the course of reading the verdict of acquittal, the learned judge commented, “…it’s the minister’s rightful duty to warn his PM” and went on to praise Philip’s demonstration of truthfulness and frankness in the process of cross-examination.
When newspapers published by an unbiased print media group made critical comments on Premadasa administration in the midst of several accusations of alleged abductions and journalists being murdered or missing, RP felt he was being unfairly targeted by the group. He wrongly surmised that it was the owner of the press who directed and guided the editorial and decided to give the man a bit of his mind at a state function. He named the reputed entrepreneur and said in a threatening tone, “…., umba denaganin me Premadasa…”  The civilized press lord ignored the threat and berating.


President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga headed the cabinet for three and a half years under difficult circumstances when she lost the majority in Parliament to Ranil Wickremesinghe from 2001 to 2004. At cabinet meetings Rajitha, and Ravi Karunanayake, used every opportunity to ridicule and provoke her; in fact Ravi had once even accused her of having secret camera/audio equipment concealed in her hand bag that she brought to the cabinet. She gracefully faced their jibes and taunts without playing into their hands until it exceeded the limits of tolerance. She however, let off her furry on poor Senior lawyer K. N. Chocksy PC, the UNP’s Minister of Finance who suffered a birth facial deformity making speech slightly embarrassing, by mimicking him in public in the most appalling manner. The gentleman politician ignored the gesture though the electronic media went to town with the video clip.  

Harin, Ranjan and the President

Ranjan Ramanayaka, the popular film idol and politician with an unblemished record for his honesty and sincerity had a meeting with then PM Ranil Wickremesinghe at Temple Trees on August 21, 2017, and speaking to the media soon afterwards he made a remark that the Judges issued biased judgments and that they are corrupt.  The charismatic silver idol that topped the list at two general elections held within five years unwittingly became a ‘cat’s-paw’ and obliged the leadership to influence law enforcers and judicial officers [as his tapes later confirmed], to be spit out like a wad of bubble gum, when he lost his way.  


Harin Fernando too, like Ranjan, is a man with an undisputed integrity, and a bright future. The clever organizer who initiated the herculean task of shaking one of the most powerful regimes while working from his Uva base, ironically exposed his short sighted immaturity and lack of wisdom, by summoning a media briefing to announce his advance knowledge of April 21 disaster and how he took adequate precautions to save himself; forgetting his bounden duty to pass on the information as a cabinet minister. He should leave behind any adverse effects haunting him arising from the trauma of ‘Easter tragedy’ and stop looking for scapegoats for his lapse that may have fortified a chance to prevent the enormous destruction on that fateful morning.

"Harin Fernando too, like Ranjan, is a man with an undisputed integrity, and a bright future, ironically exposed his short sighted immaturity and lack of wisdom, by summoning a media briefing to announce his advance knowledge of April 21 disaster"

For some time now young turks of the SJB had been casting circuitous or sneering comments on President expecting the former military stalwart to flare-up and blurt out. He, who had hitherto discerningly refrained from getting disturbed or retaliating, finally succumbed to Harin, who was successful in the task. The President did commit exactly what his opponents fancied and gave them the benefit in the same manner that the Field Marshal who was on neck-and-neck with MR during 2010 Presidential stakes, disgraced an ex-Army subordinate by repeatedly calling him ‘Kalavedda’ that cost the military man a huge slice of favourable vote.


 In an apparent attempt to compare Harin to a terrorist leader, the President made a distressing comment when he stated that he was prepared to play either role? A leader should stay focused on tackling conflicts and challengers head on!  If he finds it difficult to take up criticism, he loses momentum and his authority weakens; making him incapable of arriving at right decisions or beginning to make poor ones. The opponents will always attempt to ridicule him—they say it’s part of democratic process.  He requires being cautious of being influenced by the old-school thinkers, ultra-nationalists and racists including some clergy.  True, when it’s a personal assault, these comments hurt. Some are malicious just for the sake of being malicious. But, if responses are fueled by rage, and tend to be emotionally triggered, they will lead to irrational speech. 
Let saner counsel prevail!

Author can be contacted on -  kksperera1@gmail.com

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