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MS and the Managed Spectacle

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Thursday, 1 September 2016 00:10



WHEN TROUBLES COME – an under-siege chief executive is fast discovering that the singular joy of being the Democratic-Republican project’s cherished common candidate is easily undermined by dint of being the Joint Opposition’s common enemy for target practice



President Maithripala Sirisena is the cynosure these days. Like the joker Trump on a State-side stage, he has evidently been identified as the King of Diamonds, the jewel in the Sri Lankan ruling coalition’s crown, to heartily club to death for the sake of the off-stage King of Spades. 

The Joint Opposition’s runaway train, fuelled by Rajapaksa-injected turbo-revenge, is bearing down on him like an unscheduled express at virtually every parliamentary and propagandistic opportunity. Clearly, enemy action! 

The UNP’s local-government machinery won’t allow him, their erstwhile running mate, the idyll of wandering lonely as a cloud. But rather, casts a long shadow over this out-of-left-corner once and future presidential hopeful’s presidential prospects and posterity-eying ambitions. Theoretically happenstance; but perhaps the parties of the third part are practising for the eventuality? 

The allegations of personal corruption are whispering over seven seas (well, one.) and down the corridors of time. An unwelcome voice from the past that threatens to throw an alleged spanner in the actual works. Timing, or coincidence? 

To add insult to injury, there was more slippage under the executive’s wheels as the executive’s website came in for undue and unwarranted attention by an albeit youthful, allegedly exam-testy, cyber terrorist.



When troubles come, they come not single spies, but in battalions. “I must be doing something right,” that worthy is probably saying to himself. (The Prez, not the cyber terra.) Or, perhaps alternately, “What have I done to deserve this?” There are several possibilities, as regards a rational response. None of which will guarantee our incumbent chief executive any nirvana-like deep sleep. With miles to go! And many promises still to keep! But I digress.Untitled-2

Despite his best intentions and his better nature – maybe because of them… – MS has become a magnet for JO MPs’ metallic attacks and immodestly pontificating media attention. So distressing has been these series of paroxysms that his apologists have felt obliged to threaten to gag allegiants and vow to muzzle the Fourth Estate inimical to the Democratic-Republican cause. (Often, occupants of high political office change chairs and characters; but the character of low political culture remains abysmally the same… It’s The Bush Doctrine in blatantly antidemocratic guise: “If you aren’t with us, you’re against us for sure”… – ’Twas ever thus… And more’s the pity… A cardinal opportunity for paradigmatic change in local political mores is slipping away… While politicos of all stripes continue to play the game… Closing ranks to protect their own – and flay all opposition.) 

Maybe the social media wisdom that to discover who rules over one, one must identify who can’t be criticised with impunity has more than some relevance to the vituperative warnings issued by all the President’s men? 

Be that as it may, or maybe because things are as they are (nauseating, no?) and behind them there is nothing substantial, the rumour mills have worked overtime and the analytical engines ground out slow theologies to account for the incidence of MS in the unforgiving crucible of public and expert opinion.

NAÏVE: There is no truth or justification for any of these rumours. Shame! 

NEEDY: It is all part of a conspiracy to alienate the President from the Prime Minister. We must realise this, and do what we can and must to stop it.

NORMAL: Par for the course in island politics. Politicos of all ilk and exaltedness are fair game for insult as much as for injury.

NATURAL: Only a matter of time before the exaltedness of even politicos of this executive ilk was challenged, cornered, compromised, by political foes and perhaps even erstwhile political friends. No such thing as a permanent period of grace for even vaunted political messiahs. 

NECESSARY: The gloves came off because the gloves had to come off. The object of the affections of the nation-state, country, coalition, party, was beginning to believe in his own propaganda about statesmanship etc.

NAUGHTY: The UNP dropped him in it, first, with their CBSL imbroglio and VAT fiasco. Next, they will drop him per se, and anent presidential saga will continue to seek the highest office on their own.

NASTY: There was no need for enemy action. A political messiah with ambitions of statesmanship vis-à-vis posterity, but with feet of clay to boot, is his own worst enemy. Sooner or later his actions – past and present – will out him. Ambition for posterity’s praise must be made of far sterner stuff.

As one might discern from the gamut of responses above, the spectrum of public and expert thinking on the matter, as culled from one’s favourite media as much as one’s familiar mother-in-law, reflects a kaleidoscope of opinion ranging from silly to strategic to subversive.



A President under attack may well be the least of the Republic’s worries. An uneasy sense that national wellbeing on many fronts is in the charge of party hacks who discharge their professional duties not in the national but partisan and even personal interests pervades too many spheres for civil society to lie quiescent. The recent revelation that the Government is throwing good money after bad, much in the manner of much criticised former regimes, to do basic embassy work Stateside – as much as the involved Government mandarin’s response to exposés by conventionally conservative media houses (who have for one reason or another opted to take a chance to out irregular unjustifiable decisions) – makes media and mandarin-watchers uneasy indeed. That the mandarin in question is not only very close to the powers that be, and that he has chosen to respond in a manner (tone and content) more akin to the tenor and timbre of the powers that once were, makes me among others feel quite queasy and think all the more questioningly about “Good Governance’s” mores and manners.

Another tack taken by another newspaper group’s editorialists mirrors (no pun intended) my own misgivings about the island’s (he said pointedly) realpolitik-driven machinations. While a veritable “Who’s Who” of alleged criminals from the upper echelon of the previous regime come – and go back – through the revolving doors of the FCID, not even a faint sniff of tenacious investigation is directed towards the incumbent administration’s fans, favourites, mandarins, and field marshals; some of whom were once under a vestige of suspicion for crimes worse than grand larceny. If, in general, one’s friends – old, new-found, or convenient for the future – escape the gimlet eye of one’s present bloodhounds, the state’s much needed fiscal and fiduciary sleuths – because their alleged or real crimes are not financial, one feels justified in questioning the integrity of Good Government’s grandest assertions. These are the good guys, bless their souls! So one remains perplexed as to why the worst of the previous regimes criminal and capital human-rights offenders – say, for instance, the one who shall not be named under a more egregious regime – still remain at large; unindicted for war crimes in a milieu where Transitional Justice is the mantra to save our nation’s skin and salvage our people’s reputation.

So the best lack all conviction.



 Au contraire it can’t escape our attention that the worst continue to be full of passionate intensity. A day doesn’t go by when some demagogic has-been or other despicable rabble-rouser from yesteryear stirs the pot, calling the kettle black, labelling liberals set on Transitional Justice as ‘shameless traitors’ to the nationalist cause and naming democratic-republicans keen on neoconservative internationalism as ‘treacherous sellers-out’ of the nation’s silver. (The democratic-republicans themselves don’t go so far – yet. When cornered and questioned, they resort to politer appellations such ‘parties with vested interests’ and ‘rogue media with a hidden agenda’; or, in the case of the Government mandarin who employed US lobbyists to plead our case State-side, ‘saboteurs’.) 

It also appears that not every cloud has a silver lining, and that not even the threat of investigation by the dread FCID and arraignment by the courts can curtail the steady stream of anti-Government invective and innuendo that the U. la Gammanpilas and W. le Weerawansas of the world still spew out. Irony is that closer inspection of many if not most of the allegations made against the present administration are bound to reveal that the origins of the rot and rottenness alleged can be traced to a genesis under the regime immediately past…

On one hand (OOH), U la G, W le W, & Co. allege that the Government is mismanaging the economy (“VAT’s up?” they squeak in mousy delight). On the other hand (OTOH), they and their erstwhile cohorts conveniently forget decades of draining state coffers of precious shekels through profligate spending, borrowing at exorbitant interest rates from the East, and lining one’s personal pockets with national treasure. OOH, they crow about the incumbents’ lack of infrastructure projects to benchmark growth, development, progress. OTOH, they are at a loss to explain what we could now do with white elephants such as Mattala and SriLankan. OOH, they carp and cavil about the inadvisability of proceeding with the Port City under any other name given the terms and conditions imposed and the shortcuts taken to get it off the ground. OTOH, in an irony lost on them, through disingenuousness or dumbness it is not clear, they have forgotten how sovereign airspace over their own original project could well have reverted to another rising power.

It is not the JO and their cronies alone who are culpable of playing politics with present trends and possible future developments. Govt. too, like others before it, has become – and needs to be – adept at staving off closer scrutiny of its provenance and its performance.

On the one hand (OTOH), a grotty Rajapaksa cabinet crammed full with less-than-honourable MPs. On the other (OTO), a genuinely Republican one not much different in calibre in some egregious cases. OTOH, family favourites galore in plum posts. OTO, personal preferences ruling the roost in maintaining a loyalist, royalist, status quo. OTOH, greed and agenda-driven realpolitik – with thuggery to keep dissidents in line. OTO, personal ambition-driving realpolitik – sans thuggery, but censorship threats enough.

In such a milieu, the media’s attention on our under-siege President must be a welcome miasma-inducing distraction to divert democracy-watchers away from what really and truly ails the republic.

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