A new ‘Do Not Attempt’ approach to nation-building and other non-starters

Friday, 2 March 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A recent announcement from the retiring editor of a citizen-journalism forum had us reaching for our French dick. It said, “Plus ca change.” The rest should have read, “Plus c’est la meme chose.” What it meant to say is that ‘the more things change they remain the same’. Maybe more accurately it may have done better to intimate that the more some things change, the more they stay the same. 

In the case of the ground-breaking cj-f it was an obvious reference to the DNA of the organisation being passed on in an attempt to reassure the readership that the critical engagement expected of it, which had been its imprimatur, would continue. There would be no new editorial culture, simply more of the same… the good stuff – the right stuff.

If something is to change, it may need an infusion of new blood or semen. While the view from the ground (pun intended) will probably remain its old salutary self, we can name a few other cultures which seem to desperately require a DNA update. For all their trumpeting, there is still an elephant in the room… and it is making the sea-green incorruptible ethos it upheld on the campaign trail green at the gill. 

That a new political culture cannot be effected by simply circulating the usual suspects around cabinet posts has not occurred to the blasé ideologues whose jungle telegraph is still wildly semaphoring mixed signals about campaign financing, staying put in situ, reaching for the crown through constitutional faits accomplis. No one is reaching for their French dicks. 

The end (some call it a resolution, but a better term may well be dissolution) of the constitutional crisis – or power play – triggered by the signals sent to the powers that be by the LG poll has meant a consolidation of the old political culture. But that is perhaps only to be expected in a political establishment that is truly colour-blind à la the continuing ethic of coalition politics. And since not even constitutional amendments to date guarantee ambitious single parties their day – or five years – in the sun, yet, the polity are vouchsafed continuity of the three-ring circus. We owe the legislature to our myopic folly; note that justice is blind and often dumb; but beg the executive to take responsibility for its own peccadilloes. 

With that said, we cannot continue to accept the adjustments and amendments that the players in the upper echelons of governance make in the disturbing wake of an ostensible electoral setback. The writing on the wall has been interpreted to mean that the powers that be have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. There is little justification in heads rolling and the headless corpse playing musical chairs with itself. We want a fresh batch of DNA! the promisers to keep their promises! that a fresh approach to keeping our elected representatives accountable to us be mooted and implemented by more than merely the new/old editors of Groundviews! 

As to how we will effect this sea-change, well, one column before a welcome weekend won’t suffice. Be that as it may, the pressure at hand is not for the voter (we’ve done our duty, even if some us seemingly hankering for a return of the ‘ancien regime’ have exercised our franchise rather absurdly from a conservative cosmopolitan point of view). The acid tests are for our governors. Take it as you see it below: 

The Acid Tests

(Do Not Attempt any of the questions to which you know the answers. I urge you to think about it first. You know very well that any attempt to appear clever/sincere/reasonable/efficient/la-di-da will be rejected by the voter and result in you losing your deposit.) 


A “cabinet is the principal group of persons charged with mismanaging a country”. Is this true for you too, or are you willing and able to prove otherwise? Why should we put up time and again with your pious platitudes about a new political culture? When it is evident to all and sundry but the dullest voter that you do not mean a word of what you say? (If you feel hot and bothered, how about a fact-finding mission to cooler climes? We recommend Siberia. Do not attempt to flee the country, Interpol could get you – and let you go.) 

B. Short Answers

I.Anti-Corruption Drive: was it only an election gimmick by the head of state to leverage his electorate and expand his empire to include disaffected members of his split party? (At one time wasn’t anti-corruption the property of the opposition? So who will guard the guards now that it’s clear no one is a paragon of probity?)

II.Bond Scam: now that the pre-poll manoeuvring is over, will this go the way of all flesh – towards the kitchen (cabinet), or will there be an actual prosecution of all the parties found guilty? (Bonus points for incorporating the moral dimension in your answer by demanding the head on a platter of the masterminds behind it all.) 

C. Multiple Choice Questions (DNA – ‘Do Not Attempt’ if you think the right answer is DNA – ‘D. Not Any’ of the above) 

1.Appear to be the only winner at the polls when you’re actually the biggest loser, by:

a.Acting confidently, when actually you’re like a lion with its tail between its legs 

b.Being brash about all your boys supporting you against your ostensible ouster

c.Calling everyone in sight a traitor to the cause, when you’re the Jonah

2.Buy time to feather your nest until the next voter-deceiving instalment, by:

a.Appointing the villains of the piece as your aides de camp 

b.Bullying your political bed-mates into bargaining their advantages away by braggadocio 

c.Creating a chauvinistic spectacle on the periphery that shows up your nationalistic DNA

d.Doing Nothing Atrocious (DNA), as you’ve always done, and managed to get away with it because your party cohorts lack ‘testicular fortitude’ – don’t translate that last part 

3.Create an atmosphere in which the people forget their perennial pressing concerns, by:

a.Attracting the ire of some marginalised demographic by denying them their rights 

b.Building a nation as if it was a castle in the air or a sand-dune by the sea (cf. CIFC) 

c.Creating a riot on the streets or a ruckus in parliament, while you continue your own racket 

4.Fill In The Blanks 

I.I can be president after all, because I had nothing to do with that troublesome editor’s murder in broad daylight – and also in those days I was ___ (all-powerful/actively involved/always right/as naïve and innocent of any crime as I am now) 

II.PM means ___ (Prime Minister/Principal Machiavelli/Permanently Mandated/Prematurely Manumitted/Parliamentary Menace). Note… it does not mean ‘Past My-prime’ or ‘Please Move-on’.

III.The chief responsibility of a head of state is to ___ (Rule/Rue the day I left my leader in the lurch/Respect the unequivocal signal received from the latter’s supporters/Ruin everything for everybody with my miserable patriarchy)

IV.Need of the nation now more than ever is ___ (Honesty/Integrity/Free Wi-Fi)


1.A poll is a poll is a poll. (T/F)

2.If it is ‘only’ an LG poll, feel free to forget what the foolish voter feels. (T/F) 

3.The cabinet is a closet made of hard wood. (T/F). Try this, then… The cabinet is a closet made of soft wood. (F/T).

4.That (see above) was below the belt. (T/F)

5.My mandate must be still intact because nobody (at least those whom I asked nicely) wants me to step down (even this time). (T/T) 

One more thing

It would be funny if it wasn’t darkly tragic. To add insult to injury, the powers that be are now pretending that the slap in the face was a pat on the back. It may well be that the overarching national mandate given on a short lease in 2015 is still valid. It does not mean the devious and duplicitous game of musical chairs has gulled savvier electorates such as Groundviews readers and contributors (I’m taking its editors for granted) into swallowing cabinet reshuffles as an appetiser to the smorgasbord of a new political culture. 

Oh one last thing. To crown the so-called victor at the local government poll with a chauvinistic laurel, some literally inflamed political opportunists appear to have cottoned on to the idea of setting ethnically volatile townships ablaze. If you’re doing your notorious Hamlet act and muttering To Be Or Not To Be under your breath, it’s clear that the correct answer is To Be. So be, go, do, put out the fire that nationalistic arsonists are attempting again. Be quick, the beast is slouching towards Ampara, Battaramulla, Colombo, to be born again. 

[A senior journalist, the writer is Editor-at-large of LMD. His DNA is (characteristically for suspicious old democratic-republicans) a twin helix of hybridity: part idealistic, part cynical, and fully fed up.]