Hyde Park Rally is Part of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Intimidatory Tactics to Cowe the Judiciary Into Submission
By Dr.Sujata Gamage
Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka writes that the joint Opposition crowd that gathered at Hyde Park on 17 March represents leftists, anti-imperialists and progressives in the Right vs. Left, Reactionary vs. Progressive and Pro-imperialist vs. Patriotic anti-imperialist divides. The crowd certainly was a formidable one but not the kind to which he alludes.
Those who converged at Hyde Park represent the pyramid of patronage that the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa cultivated so skilfully during his decade in power. The top of the pyramid may have cost the taxpayers billions of rupees in kickbacks and other ill-gotten wealth, and the cost of the trickle-down effect to the bottom of the pyramid could amount to hundreds of thousands of rupees per person but were sufficient to buy loyalty.
These troops provide ‘street power’ for the Joint Opposition. They have much to lose with the continuation of the present Government.
Having spent a long time in the Opposition, the UNP does not have its pyramid of patronage. If the present UNP-led Government was to continue for two terms or even complete its current term under the present circumstances it will be necessary to have built its own alternative pyramid of patronage. The silent majority from both sides will have to pay for the up-keep of these pyramids, no matter whose pyramids they are.
To avoid this ugly cycle of patronage-driven activism, this Government will need an economic El Nino of the kind that will bring foreign investment and put cash in the pockets of the people. Right now the economic weather is not looking good and the Yahapalanaya Government does not have the street crowd – a crowd hungry enough or threatened enough to take to the streets.
That is exactly the dilemma of the present Government. The Yahapalanaya activists are not street activists. They are armchair activists. Yahapalanaya benefits do not flow into every nook and corner of society the way Horapalana kickbacks do. On top of that, Horapalana has taken ownership of the populist Jathika Chinthana ideology while Yahapalanaya is struggling to find an ideology that goes beyond the basic goodie-goodie, no personal benefits to me school of thought or a falsely uplifting one like the Jathika Chinthanaya. At this point, the UNP Government looks like a refuge for dim-witted Old Boys and crumbling old Walauwas.
Dr. Jayatilleka is right in pointing out that the UNP Government needs a change in its profile. It needs people who can do a better job selling Yahapalanaya to the public.
The university is a classic example of the toxicity of the Horapalana-Jathika Chinthana combination or axis. The Jathika Chinthana ideology, boosted by war victories, gave an opportunity to mediocre academics to hide their mediocrity through Jathika Chinthana rhetoric.
Not being able to communicate in English, the lingua franca of the global scholar community, their weakness was paraded as a sign of ‘localism’ or anti-imperialism. A late but ardent convert to Jathika Chinthana, who stills reigns as a head of a national institute under the Yahapalanaya Government, was once heard to remark that having a thesis returned for its bad writing by the external examiner from England was a put-down.
Saner counsel prevailed during an earlier time. During the height of my own national consciousness in the late seventies, I went from one senior professor to another wanting to do my doctorate in Sri Lanka. My argument was that it would be more relevant for our development. Luckily for me, they were all humble enough to strongly advise me to go abroad. They advised me to go learn from others better than us, get exposure to a larger community of scholars, come back and then we can work together.
Contrast this with the behaviour of academics of more recent times who have led many young people astray by convincing them to do poor quality PhDs locally, when these students could have done better for themselves and the country by doing their PhDs abroad.
Such scoundrels are still in power inside universities because they have populated academic departments with loyalists through fraudulent recruitment and promotion practices in the past. These same faculty members also have allowed fringe student groups to run amok at universities, finding it easier to give into their demands than to do their duty and bring discipline to the university as a whole and solace to the silent majority.
Horapalana-Jathika Chinthana axis in Government
Sometime ago, I went to my local Divisional Secretariat office to get the paperwork for an electricity connection to a new place of residence. The fact that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) requires an inordinate amount of paperwork to provide a service for which I pay is a subject for another day, but in that particular instance several of us were expected to wait patiently while the staff was busy with Wesak decorations for the office. One of those waiting was an owner of a hole-in-the-wall operation repairing phones. He could ill-afford to wait. He was there at the expense of his daily earnings. The Compassionate One, had He lived, would not have been pleased with the injustice meted out in His name.
Callousness towards the public and small-time entrepreneurs in particular is only the tip of the Horapalana iceberg in the Government. Taking their cue from higher-ups, petty officials extracted whatever they could wherever they had the discretion to provide their signatures for approval. Sadly, some of this extortion continues to date.
Horapalana leaders have to be prosecuted
After more than one year in power we are yet to see any big fish behind bars. The wheels of justice work slowly, but for the sake of its own survival, this Government has to speed up the process to bring culprits to justice to stop them from parading about as anti-imperialist, progressive leftists or under other seemingly people-friendly labels.
Signs of awakening at universities
Recent action by the faculty at the University of Kelaniya offers a ray of hope. Good academics who have kept silent are coming to the fore not with slogans but by quietly doing their duty as teachers. Two senior professors at the University of Kelaniya, having seen one of their students fainting on the road while being harassed by senior students, rushed to the aid of the student.
About 20 senior students, allegedly belonging to the Peratugami Party, had encircled the two professors and told them it was not their business and got them to leave under threats of violence.
The administration had wanted to bring in the police but the professors acted with restraint to consult with the faculty union. The union had decided to let the senior students know that such behaviour was not appropriate by making an announcement to the effect and refraining from all academic services to these students until they gave an indication of proper behaviour in the future.
Things are apparently back to normal. What we need is more of these good teachers to dare to be themselves and do their duty. Hitherto faculty could not do their duty due to Horapalana henchmen among them. Unfortunately, some of these characters are still there, some even thriving. The solutions that can be implemented from outside are limited. ‘Anti-rag’ faculty students from inside the system have to lead the change.
Linking Yahapalanaya to local sensibilities
Dr. Jayatilleka says that the Yahapalanaya Government does not have the capability to relate its policies to local sensibilities. His prediction is, “If anything is likelier than any other, it is that the present UNP Government will be defeated at the next national-level election unless it changes its profile by changing its leadership.
However, unlike in 1988 it has no front-ranking organically UNP nationalist figure within its ranks. This lends itself to an outcome similar to 1956 and 1970, rather than to a last-minute comeback under a new leadership as in 1988.” It is up to the UNP to surprise these kinds of naysayers by changing the profile of the party and successfully taking the message of Yahapalanaya to the people and demonstrating that our people cannot be led through Jathika Chinthana rhetoric back towards Horapalana forms of government.