all towns are one, all men our kin.
|Trans State Nation
Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
Sixty Years to Flop and Disintegrate
9 February 2008
Quite a few of the essays and commentaries by the Colombo pundits that I had read in the recent days on the 60 years of Sri Lankan independence seems to be filled with self-serving banality and politically correct homilies. A typical example is the following excerpt from the Feb.4th editorial of the Colombo Daily Mirror, under the caption �Forging Unity is the Need of the Hour�.
Just make a note that specifics have been diligently omitted in this passage. �Why� the failure persists has been deftly left out, other than that usual suspect �lack of unity among different communities�. Mention is also made to �indigenous leaders�.
Let one be clear on this issue alone. All the so-called indigenous political leaders who held the top dog rank for the past 60 years had been Sinhalese. Not a single Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and Veddah had served as either the prime minister or the president.
For the first 30 years (1948-77), there were six prime ministers, namely Don Stephen Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake, John Lionel Kotelawala, Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, W. Dahanayake and Sirimavo Bandaranaike.
Then for the second 30 years (1978-2007), there had been five Presidents namely Junius R. Jayewardene, R. Premadasa, D.B. Wijetunga, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapakse.
Isn�t it true that these eleven top dogs (all pious born-Sinhalese Buddhists, baptized-Sinhalese Buddhists and converted-Sinhalese Buddhists) were the chief culprits for the current pathetic state of Sri Lanka? Even among these eleven, the two who had short tenures (Dahanayake and Wijetunga, the accidental top dogs due to assassinations of their predecessors, and who were not elected for the top dog rank) can be reasonably excused for their marginal contributions in policy making. But the rest nine deserve condemnation.
Bradman Weerakoon (the Sinhalese bureaucrat who has the distinction to serve all the ruling top dogs, except the current one), in a companion retrospective piece entitled, �Challenges at 60� [Colombo Daily Mirror, Feb.4, 2008], amiably attempts to cover the butts of the Lords and Ladies he served.
Weerakoon states that, as an 18 year-old youth, he was there at the Independence Day celebration when chronologically the fourth top dog, Solomon Dias Bandaranaike � then the Leader of the House (nominally 2nd in rank in the power totem pole) � pronounced that � �Our political freedom, we have just received�, he said, �will remain a mere theoretical concept unless it quickens into a life which brings us - Freedom from ignorance, Freedom from disease, Freedom from want, and Freedom from fear� �. According to Weerakoon�s evaluation, after 60 years, the score sheet reads as follows:
I, for one, would infer that Weerakoon�s score sheet � especially on the first two themes � fail stand up to objective scrutiny. He had merely adjusted his calibration scales. I�d state that even all the 11 ruling top dogs of the island and their coterie were/are not at all free from ignorance. They were also not immune from the endemic disease of ethnic bias.
More than 75 years ago, Bertrand Russell contributed a delightful mini-essay under the caption �On Modern Uncertainty�. What he sarcastically traced as the world�s history is perfectly applicable to independent Ceylon (Sri Lanka) history as well. He categorized the historical periods into four stages, and noted that currently we are in the fourth stage. I reproduce the relevant excerpt of this essay, to explain why the paradise island came to flop and disintegrate. To quote Bertrand Russell,
In another essay entitled, �As Others See Us�, Bertrand Russell also anticipated the intellectual deficits of political leaders who happen to thrive in Sri Lanka. To quote,
Though Sinhalese pride themselves naively as practitioners of democracy, the prevailing Sri Lankan version is a perverted form of democracy. Blood links are pathologically prominent among the nine top dogs who ruined the Sri Lankan state. One family line (Senanayakes) consisted of father-son-uncle-cousin.The other family line (Bandaranaikes) consisted of husband-wife-daughter. Of course, both lines were cross-linked by marriages of convenience.
And this contributed its share immensely to elevation of snobbery into an art form. One of the ranking exponents of this art form is Anura Bandaranaike (the son and brother of three top dogs), who seems to have lost his footing in the power pedestal � but still harboring the ambition of being crowned as the top dog. Again, Bertrand Russell had anticipated how a state can be ruined by snobbery. To quote,
So, if Sri Lanka has to welcome a bright future than what it has experienced for the past 60 years, then Bertrand Russell�s thoughts (anticipated when Ceylon was a British colony) has to be taken seriously. Three would suffice for a good beginning. Prevent stupid politicians from gaining power to rule. Eliminate snobbery. Give intrinsic merit a chance. I can assure that, I won�t see this happen in my life time.