Revolt From The Temple
By Gamini Weerakoon
Mar 30, 2010
A fundamental reason for the decline in political standards and democratic values since the ’60s has been the ability of political parties that win large majorities to bamboozle the people to think that they and their political principles are infallible and that is the only way to a political nirvana. We have had the so called Bandaranaike Principles drilled into people day and night in the media for almost three decades, so much so that a significant proportion of people came to accept them as infallible till the people themselves realised that this manthram was a hoax and threw out the Bandaranaikes.

Chandrika very wisely did not follow that line but Premadasa was in the process of indoctrinating the people with his formulae when Pirapaharan blew him up. Now we have the Mahinda Chinthanaya blown not only from all the state trumpets but even privately owned media institutions for obvious reasons, morning, noon and night. Mahinda Chinthanaya is sacrosanct and any disagreements from it is nothing but treason!

An extremely significant post presidential event was the clarion call by the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, Ven. Tibbotuwawe Sri Sidhartha Sumangala Thero, challenging the government in the midst of the glowing warmth of the victory, on the arrest of General Sarath Fonseka and also the condemnation of the government in the failure to protect journalists. He made comments on protection of journalists when the case of journalist Eknaligoda who disappeared mysteriously the day before the presidential election was presented to him.

‘What’s the use of advising politicians who come to us for our blessings when they do not follow our advice?’ The Mahanayake is reported to have said and condemned the arrest of Gen. Fonseka. He had summoned a Sangha Convention to discuss the establishment of democracy and good governance but had been threatened by a group of monks who are alleged to have said that even bombs exploding in the Dalada Maligawa was a possibility. It is reported in the face of such despicable thuggery the Sangha Convention has been postponed. The group of monks had also threatened to pull out some 500 temples in the South (Ruhuna) from the Malwatte Chapter.

This defiance in the defence of democracy and good governance by the Mahanayake of Malwatte is indeed a quantum jump in politics of this country. In recent times the Sangha has been docile and complied with the policies and decisions made by ruling parties without a murmur. The Sangha, have been advisors to the monarchs of this country and the practice of politicians and key bureaucrats calling upon the Mahanayakes is supposed to be the continuation of that tradition. Today, however, the practice appears to be that the Sangha are followers of politicians whose misdemeanours are all too well known to the public.

Our public institutions that are supposed to be pillars propping up the state have deteriorated so much that the state and society are visibly crumbling. Let’s hope the Maha Sangha that have awoken to the situation, save democracy and help to re-establish law and order. They should not succumb to threats even if they come from their own order.

Let the spirit of Wariyapola Sri Sumangala, the monk who brought down the British flag when it was hoisted at the Dalada Maligawa premises after the conquest of the Kandyan Kingdom prevail.

Kangaroo trial by media
To be charged with specific offences before a court of law and tried according to the prevailing laws of the land can be described as a true dispensation of justice. To be incarcerated with no specific charges being made but instead suffer the spread of various scandalous rumours against the person being held, and this by the state owned media, is a travesty of justice; an ordeal.

Journalists of the state owned media and even some on the private sector are no doubt inspired by the crumbs that fall off the high table. And this is done to a man who eight months ago they hailed as a ‘war hero’, ‘one of the greatest soldiers of Lanka’, the ‘best commander in the world’ etc. Even more tragic is that this man is contesting the parliamentary election just a little more than a month ahead and is unable to counter these malicious allegations from his ‘luxury’ prison. The profession of journalism demands justice and fair play. What is being dispensed is kangaroo justice by the hired hacks of the media.

We are not friends or fans of General Fonseka. We have not even met him. But shouldn’t a man for whom four million people voted to be president of this country have something said on his behalf?

The police with remarkable alacrity discovered Rs 75 million worth of currency notes in a bank vault of Gen. Fonseka’s son-in-law’s mother, Ashoka Tillakaratne. Had they been as efficient as that in finding Lasantha Wickrematunge’s killers or how journalists disappeared into thin air, they would deserve compliments all round. Nonetheless, Gen. Fonseka and his family have to explain how this colossal sum came to be deposited.

Ashoka Tillakaratne, is reported to have told the police that this was money sent from abroad to Gen. Fonseka for his re-election expenses. No lawyer would advise Fonseka to make an explanation on the origin of this money unless formal charges are made.

When Fonseka announced his candidature, the talk in political circles was that he lacked funds for a presidential election campaign. It was also said that the UNP was broke having fought and lost eight provincial elections and could not help Fonseka whom they were backing. The paucity of funds was evident at the start of the campaign but as the campaign picked up there appeared to be some infusion of funds as evident from the posters and newspaper advertisements on his behalf. But this was nowhere near the Rajapaksa propaganda juggernaut that rolled on with obvious inputs from state institutions as well as private sources.

This issue raises questions about the rules governing campaign contributions. Unlike in the United States there don’t appear to be any such rules or limitations to contributions.

The situation would be worse in the parliamentary elections where MPs are elected on a district basis and the preferential system of voting is in operation. All this makes it obvious that the entire system of elections and the laws governing it have to be re-done. A lone elections commissioner like our inimitable Dayananda Dissanayake with his small coterie of staff, unable even to enforce the poster laws have to be replaced by an independent Elections Commission backed by a professional staff. The call for declaration of assets is simply insufficient.

Contributions to party elections have always been hush-hush. The main reason for the nationalisation of bus companies by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was the backing of bus company owners ( bus mudalalies) to the UNP. Later businessmen and racketeers played a ‘win or place’ game — backing both sides ensuring favours from which ever party that wins.

In an islandwide presidential election a tremendous amount of funds would be required and this situation demands legislation that would control contributions. If there are no checks made on contributions elected governments would be at the entire mercy of contributors. How he conducts the April election with the same laws and staff that conducted the controversial January presidential election will be watched very closely.

Stand by the Elephant
Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision not to give up the traditional party symbol of the Elephant may in the short term be unwise but would be of long term benefit for the party as well as the country. This country needs a strong UNP either in government or in the opposition. Dilution of the party with fissiparous revolutionary parties such as the JVP would have been suicidal. While Gen. Fonseka may be obliged to the JVP for their commitment and help at the last election, he should realise that the JVP with its estimated five percent islandwide support cannot ever be a winner. His prospects with the UNP would be far better.

Courtesy: Sunday Leader