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Many journeys, but going nowhere


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“Gamana” – in English “Journey” – must be one of the most overused words on our political platforms, TV talk shows or even literature. ‘We will not stop our “journey”! Anyone can join our “journey”! Let us keep going on this “journey”! There is a distinct potency in the usage of the word, irresistible, powerful, all-conquering, the “people” are on the move.

Being a reference to a political, social or cultural progression, the “journey” of the political lingo is necessarily vague in definition. A journey from Colombo to Kandy has a definitiveness easily understood. We know the starting point and the destination. The distance is measurable, and depending on the mode of conveyance the time taken could be calculated approximately; the nightmare traffic on this road, the mandatory tea break at Thirst-aid, accounted for.

There are other journeys which for us Sri Lankans have far more immediate meaning today. We journey to the Middle East as immigrant workers assured of a reasonable salary, a real income sufficient to build a house for the family, educate the children. Some journey even further, their destination a developed country, maybe USA,UK or even Australia, now proud with the precious family reunion visa secure on the Sri Lankan passport , to join a family member who did the trip a decade back, then as a refugee with no visa.

A younger group, obviously funded by their relatively richer parents, takes the same journey, but for education, for study courses and opportunities that do not exist in their country, perhaps even a career thereafter in the large metropolitan society.

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JVP’s journey

But these are not the journeys that sizzling political orators like Wimal Weerawansa invoke. Here the journey is larger than life, journeyed by thousands, and, as the orators make out, purposeful, guided skillfully, led firmly. Neither the starting point nor the destination is clear: described only in obscure words; liberation, equality, independence, only leading to more questions. Nevertheless, the journey engages our imagination. A happy ending is anticipated. So we will “journey” on.

In his previous ‘avatar’, Wimal Weerawansa was a leading member of the JVP and therefore presumably a Marxist with a sound grasp of its essential, sophisticated intellectual thrust. This party’s journey began in the rural South from where its leadership generally hailed. Many of its original leaders were disgruntled members of the small Communist party (China wing) of the old warhorse Shanmugathasan.

The era when conscious transformation of history and the evolution to a classless society were talked of as realistic possibilities now appears closed. Despite all its idealism and the many sacrifices of that journey, the JVP has moved on to the parliamentary arena, becoming more or less a watchdog of political probity, a valuable contribution to serious politics nevertheless. But Weerawansa is not taking that journey.

 

 

Northern journey

Almost in tandem we saw another journey, this time in the north of the country in the form of what eventually developed into terrorist groups. Here again many, young and old, joined a journey, with no control over the driver.

Its leadership soon became an all-consuming monster; where a broader view and mature political skills could have achieved much, yet they opted for violent methods which led to horrendous loss of life and destruction, a fire that eventually consumed the leadership of the movement as well.

 

 

Far too many starting points

It may be said that for us as a nation 1948 was a beginning. If the progress of the journey needs assessment, nearby Asian countries – starting out from far weaker positions, such as Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia – provide embarrassing comparisons. Whether it is per capita productivity, personal income, services available, general social standards to political 14-INleadership, ours is an unimpressive story of too little too late.

Perhaps there are far too many staring points for us. Journeys within journeys, 1956, 1970, 1972, 1977, 1978, 1994 , 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015… the list is long, each free to decide on a point which suits his mindset and temperament. There is no clarity as to whether all these journeys go in one direction or are moving on different trajectories; contradictory, at loggerheads.

There is little comparing and contrasting in the Sri Lankan eye. One may travel the world but see only what one wants to see. There is an unassailable quality of mind, having grasped a reality through a certain eye, wants no further stimulation.

 

 

"It may be said that for us as a nation 1948 was a beginning. If the progress of the journey needs assessment, nearby Asian countries – starting out from far weaker positions, such as Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia – provide embarrassing comparisons. Whether it is per capita productivity, personal income, services available, general social standards to political leadership, ours is an unimpressive story of too little too late. Perhaps there are far too many staring points for us. Journeys within journeys, 1956, 1970, 1972, 1977, 1978, 1994 , 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015… the list is long, each free to decide on a point which suits his mindset and temperament. There is no clarity as to whether all these journeys go in one direction or are moving on different trajectories; contradictory, at loggerheads"

 

 

Leaders of journeys

By all accounts, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the Leader of the 1956 ‘journey,’ was a good orator. But that won’t do, he is the best ‘speaker’ in Asia. Dr. N.M. Perera was undoubtedly an intelligent man, but again that is not good enough – he has “golden’ brains. The economic as well as social consequences of their tenures in office are highly contentious.

J.R. Jayewardene was not only extremely savvy but like a grandmaster of chess was able to read many moves ahead. But the fact was that having obtained an unprecedented electoral endorsement in 1977, in six short years, by 1983, the country was spiraling out of control towards the gravest crisis in modern Sri Lanka.

The various leaders who lead these journeys have qualities spoken about with awe; extremely intelligent, saintly, honest, patriotic, a heart that bleeds for the underprivileged being some of the repeatedly spoken of personal attributes.

 

 

Inclination towards the hyperbole

This hype, the inclination towards the hyperbole, goes even to our problems. A company may collapse and stakeholders lose a few million rupees. But unless the loss is given in billions of dollars there is a sense of dissatisfaction, a let-down. When it comes to corruption charges, often the alleged commission is larger than the cost of the project!

While the LTTE was active it was an agonising problem for this country. But unless it was described as the most ferocious and brutal terrorist group in the whole wide world, it surely is not a problem big enough!

From the viewpoint of the outsider, the South Asian is hardly the martial type. Maybe they possess certain mathematical skills which make them useful employees in the computer industry; their economic situation may take millions on a journey from the Sub-Continent to the booming Middle-East where they have proved to be good workers, but ferocious fighters?

The beat of life in the sweltering Indian Sub-Continent is contemplative, sedentary and even passive. We can picture them working sedately on their small rice paddies or fishing on a calm sea on tiny boats, but holding the fort under murderous fire? Historically there are hardly any military triumphs over other racial types.

The invasions came from the North and West of the Indian sub-continent, not the other way around. Whatever few military victories recorded are over the same racial category. If they had to fight the LTTE, for example, would the Chinese Army have considered them the world’s most fearsome foe? Would they have looked as ferocious to the US soldiers?

 

 

Another journey?

Not so long ago we also had the world’s best Army Commander. This self-promotion and unilateral declarations of pre-eminence go down even to the playing field, at least here with an arguable case: the world’s best spinners and stroke makers arriving on the local cricketing scene quite regularly.

Clearly these things are relative and the journeys of the others very different.

Did we begin a journey on 8 January? And are we going to begin another on 17 August? Or is this all just hot air, large crowds, big talk, but small deeds?

(The writer is an Attorney-at-Law and a freelance writer.)

LRA’s rating abuse stopped

What a relief, sir. Has the SEC and the Central Bank prevented a local bank and finance company collapse by cancelling or blacklisting the license of the Lanka Rating Agency headed by accountant Preeti Jayawardena?14-IN-2

Jayawardena was a member of the previous Central Bank Governor’s harem and a member of Cabraal’s CHOGM junket to St Kitts – an extravaganza, a silly schoolboy-type “adventure” at the country’s expense, which had no relevance to monetary policy and which failed.

By the way who was on the Monetary Board then? Importers of milk and exporters of T-shirts?  Now there are umpteen activists about bonds. They have all become James Bonds, but were mice in the drains with no voice then.

Where were the Chandra Jayaratnes then? Now let us see Chandra J’s fellow member in the chartered profession, LRA’s Preeti Jayewardene’s preposterous behaviour.

Anil Fernando

 


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