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Does Lanka need a vaccine against insanity?

Rethinking about Sri Lankan democracy, we wondered what can be done about it and after some deep thought concluded: This country needs a vaccine not only for Covid 19. We need a vaccine against National Insanity.

by Gamini Weerakoon

Thinking about prospects for the forthcoming parliamentary elections, our minds went back to two of our favourite quotations. Even though the men who made these pronouncements were far removed from Sri Lankan politics and to apply the thinking of the two great minds to our politics in its present state may seem somewhat facetious, their thinking constitutes plain common sense.



The first quote is: ‘While there is life, there is hope’ by Stephen Hawking, the famed scientist who contributed much to new concepts of the universe, matter and time. At the age of 21, he was struck down by a motor neurone disease and doctors didn’t give him even a few years to live for him to complete his doctorate at the Cambridge University. He survived to the age of 76!

The second quote is: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’. This gem of wisdom is attributed to the legendary Albert Einstein.

The second quote, we consider being relevant to our elections because many experienced political observers who had gone through the lists of candidates say that from all major parties, almost 75 percent of candidates who were there in the last parliament and even those before it are on the electoral lists. These politicians who have failed miserably in serving Lanka to expectations has been steadily going down the Gadarene Slope — or ‘pallang’ as we say in our own lingo. Thus, Einsteinian wisdom tells us that to expect better results by returning the same set of jokers to parliament is ‘Insane’!

Stephen Hawking’s quote leaves it all to hope that lies eternal in the human breast — perhaps a miracle. In a land where movements of the stars, ghosts — Yakkas and even Grease Yakkas — are taken quite seriously, anything is possible.

With the kick-off of the election campaign, there are plenty of red herrings drawn across news pages and TV screens such as the MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) agreement, Cricket Match Fixing, Covid 19 Pandemic, Narcotic Detections and the like but the main issue that have decided all elections since 1956 remains the same: Relations of the majority — the Sinhala Buddhists — with minorities.

All major political parties in the fray as usual have declared that they are not espousing racial or religious issues and are posing off as paragons of multiracialism and multi-religion amity but the undertones of their political campaigns resonate with racism and religious hatred that find fertile grounds in economically and socially handicapped communities though being in the majority.

Sajith Premadasa who swept the minority Tamil and Muslim predominant Northern and Eastern provinces at the last presidential election is being accused by Pohottuwa party leader Mahinda Rajapaksa of succumbing to racism for allegedly accepting the Constitutional proposals of UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe and agreeing to expand the provisions of the 13th Amendment for further devolution of power from the centre to provinces. But Rajapaksa had at one stage himself proposed expanding powers of the 13th Amendment to something which he called ‘Thirteen Plus’ but done nothing about it thereafter. In his visit to India in February this year, Narendra Modi called upon Rajapaksa to implement the 13th Amendment to meet the aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils. What Rajapaksa said about it is not known.

Sajith Premadasa is still groggy like a boxer after sparring following his continuing sparring bouts at Sri Kotha and his stance is not known. Mahinda Rajapaksa with visions of a prolonged stay in office speaks of a Sri Lanka of the post-Independence period with D.S. Senanayake, G.G. Ponnambalam and Razik Fareed in the same government. Does he want to reinvent the wheel and erase the political history of 72 years? But he has as his Praetorian Guard Weerawansa and Gammanpila known for pledges to defend ‘Sinhale’ and not look after the minority interests.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa having won the presidential election comfortably has declared: We must always respect the aspirations of the majority of the people of the country. It is only then that the sovereignty of the people will be safeguarded. Minority community leaders have not yet replied to this, for obvious reasons.

Finally, what matters is how the people will vote. In the second decade of the 21st Century, the global tendency appears to be the ‘herd instinct’– voting for their leader and their party (the herd), come what may. The United States, Britain, India, Russia, China and Turkey are examples. In the US, Donald Trump is not directly calling for a White Supremacist America but his pronouncements go mostly against Blacks (African-Americans), Latinos, Mexicans, new Asian migrants and other minorities. The interests of the majority community promoted by their leaders and supported by the majority community are also evident in many other countries: Brexit Britain, China with President for life Xi Jinping, Russia with Vladimir Putin till 2036, India with Narendra Modi and Hindutva.

Has the concept of democracy changed from the one we learnt a long time ago: Government of the People, by the People for the People? Is democracy, as H.L. Menecken, one of the most influential American writers of the early 20th Century, described, a form of worship of jackals by jackasses?

It is worth noting that quite early in the 20th Century Menecken predicted the emergence of a Donald Trump. He wrote: ‘On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of this land (America) will reach their heart’s desire at last when White House will be adorned by a downright moron.’

Readers will recall that Donald Trump was called a moron recently by his former Foreign Secretary Rex Tillerson. He called Trump a moron with an F word before it.

Rethinking about Sri Lankan democracy, we wondered what can be done about it and after some deep thought concluded: This country needs a vaccine not only for Covid 19. We need a vaccine against National Insanity.

(Gamini Weerakoon is a former editor of The Sunday Island, The Island and Consulting Editor of the Sunday Leader)

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