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THE IMPOTENCE OF ABSOLUTE POWER

For a government vested with enormous powers and no real obstacles ahead – at least domestically – the performance of the Rajapaksa administration, to say the least, has been pathetic. The unchecked constitutional powers vested in President Rajapaksa could be compared to that of a near totalitarian ruler and to give it a shine of democracy, he has in parliament his group with his coalition partners having over a two thirds majority which constitutional experts say has the potential of making a man into women and vice-versa.
Yet, it is unfortunate for the country that the government is tripping itself up and even shooting itself in the foot.
Take the Advanced Level Examination fiasco. Undoubtedly mistakes have been made in the results issued. Students and their parents would not have protested had the results released been correct. The numbers requesting re-correction have almost doubled the number in the previous year, despite the costs involved in re-correction.
Such fiascos did not happen in those balmy days when the Education Ministry was run from the former British Army barracks down  Malay street.
No doubt with the increase in population, the demands made on the ministry have been tremendous  and the bureaucrats have not hesitated in providing themselves with the required manpower and computers to meet the challenge. Yet a horrendous mistake has been made.
Mistakes are made in the best of places quite often but now the task before the government is to ensure that they do not recur. The initial step should be to realise that the mistake is technical and related to examinations and is a subject for experts in the field and not for politicians of all varieties – not even ministers. A panel of acknowledged experts in the field should be appointed with the assurance of protection from political and other forms of interference to determine what went wrong. The report should be presented within a time frame to the president himself and not to ministers concerned who have been not only involved in the decision making but also thereafter mired themselves in the controversy.
Sterile, nonsensical arguments have ensued in the media even after a special committee was appointed to investigate the issue and the problem remains wide open. Speedy justice should be afforded to victimised students and by no means should their progress be delayed.
The universities have once again become not places of light, liberty and learning. The undergraduates are in a furious mood demonstrating and screaming on various issues. The mood of the undergraduates needs attention and calls for dousing down of anger by both the government and campus authorities but that does not seen to be possible with the government and university teachers locking horns.
Some military strategists with a cock-eyed view of higher education and boot licking university dons have taken decisions which clearly have upset the tranquility and equilibrium required for a campus.
The originator of the idea of compulsory military training for new entrants to universities by military and police officers remains unknown. It appears to be resented by most new entrants who did not request for any such training. It could be argued that the new entrants being direct products of schools will have an open mind on the issue but these entrants are not children but mature young men and women, legally adults, who resent anything being made compulsory. Thus this virus of resentment is implanted into the young adult minds even before entry into campuses and would no doubt be fertilised by campus activists who resent ‘militarisation’ of campuses.
Another factor that has fired the anger of undergrads has been the introduction of personnel from security firms to keep watch over students. It is well known that these security personnel are mostly ex- servicemen whose thinking and way of life differ vastly from undergrads. Whatever the arguments that are made for the recruitment of these ex-military personnel into campuses, to expect them to exist in peace with undergrads on campuses is like assuming the peaceful co-existence of fire and dynamite.
A stupidity practised in recent times by our politicians is to refer to undergrads as ‘daruwo’ – a term used to describe children or kindergarten children. To refer to the cream of our young intelligentsia as kids is a gross insult that would infuriate them. In the times of Sir Ivor Jennings and even Sir Nicholas Attygalle, undergrads had the prefix of Mr. or Miss before their name. Perhaps in these times when our political worthies do not even have their GCE A’Levels or some even their GCE O’Levels, it would be a boost to their egos to address undergrads as ‘daruwo’.
The daily turmoil reported from the campuses is due to such irritants which could be avoided if campuses are left to academics and the students.
An equally grave and hideous blunder committed has been the political interference in cricket. Politics is said to be the reason why we have fallen from the pinnacle to rock bottom. Cricket is the only endeavour in which this country reached global eminence – World Champs.
The once roaring lions have now become squeaking mice in international cricket.
Mahela Jayewardene on Thursday in haltering sentences hinted at the reason for the downfall of the game: political interference. He did not say it in exact words but said it indirectly when asked at a press conference whether there was any truth in the statement of former Sri Lanka Cricket coach Trevor Bayliss that Jayawardena and Sangakkara resigned due to outside pressure. He said, ‘Pressure can be anything…Yes, invariably in Sri Lanka there was a lot of pressure. There was outside pressure and a lot of other pressures’.
Jayawardena in vague  terms said many things he could not have expressed directly as the captain of Sri Lankan Cricket. Kumar Sangakkara did the same in the Colin Cowdrey Memorial lecture he made at Lords. These gentlemen can be excused for not talking directly: they speak only with their bats.
Let the cricketing public realise that the self-appointed guardians of cricket who have not gone beyond  rubber ball games in their back gardens are guilty of treason when they destroyed the only national asset we had for which we  could claim world leadership.

8 Comments for “THE IMPOTENCE OF ABSOLUTE POWER”

  1. There is no doubt that Sri Lanka is today ruled by one family called “Rajapakses & Co”. Their way of conducting business in unchecked. The family control almost the entire country. Rajapakses & Co is supported by thugs and lot of “yes” men. There is no law and order. The Police, Army & Navy are solely working for the family. There is no check on “Rajapalses&co”. The opposition parties are so week. They are fighting among themselves. This is very good for “Rajapakses”. We are going to be ruled by this company for a very long period of time. As long as they are in power there will be no law & order. This is our fate. Those who are with the company are only interested in making money for themselves. People like Weerawansa, Champika, Mervyn and Sajin are only interested in making quick money, thanks to rajapakses cleverness. It is advisable to shut your mouth and live for the next 30 years or more under this family rule. Think Zimbawe and we are not any different from that country. Think Sadam Hussein’s Iraq and we are not different from that country. Disappearence, kidnapping and killing will continue as long as this lot is in power. God help our country. Long live “Rajapakses & Co”.

  2. P.L.J.B.Palipana

    Thanks! The EDITORIAL.

  3. The Rajapaksas’ want to have a finger in every pie. From SL cricket to SL rugby, the story remains the same. O tempora, o mores.

  4. Mevan

    You are talking about rubber ball cricket but I am sure most these beggars in parliament may have never touched a ball rubber or leather. They simply do not know the phrase ” Its not cricket”. If they knew and believed it they would not be engaging in all the crooked activities that PA politicians are famous for.

  5. Johnathan

    I could not agree more. Most politicians even those in the West who have enjoyed a 5 star education, have for the most part never run so much as a whelk stall in their entire lives but purport to be experienced enough to run a counry and many have numerous A levels and several degree’s too unlike some i could mention !!!!!

  6. Panduka

    Very well said, Leader, and it certainly behoves the public to take serious note of.

    Ruling by cowtowing the public into submission, and not simply cowtowing by threats, but by real fear of death, as is amply implied in the other piece titled ‘Silenced media,’ in a country that has had such rich sources of civilization in its history, and access to education in its early evolutionary stages into a modern democracy, is a pathetic tale of decline of its level of humanity.

    That the focus here is on education and higher education, and the crises in these sectors, arealso telling. One can only hope that this opens the minds and eyes of the government that all is not right in the land of Lanka, and all was not automatically right because a terrorist outfit was vanquished with the use of enormous and costly firepower and personnel.

    If the underlying causes of that 30 year phase of military conflict and extravagance remain unassuaged, and if the victorious mindset amongst officialdom still perpetrates those very alienating actions, then, too many would have died in vain, not to mention those of broken limb and heart, on every side.

    Crises in the education sector are good reflections of where a polity stands. If these warning signs are not heeded well and wholesomely, and reparation and expansion is unplanned for those sectors of the economy that these undergraduates would in due time seek entry into, then the government would really fail in its purpose of being. One can wish that good sense will prevail and the government open its mind and eyes to the relaity.

    The title is telling also because ‘absolute’ power is a misnomer, both because in this very instance it is said to be impotent, and also because the fundamental natural law says that all things are transient. This era, this regime will surely pass, and until it does, in fact, it only keeps being conditioned, day by day, by all that is around it. And, all such conditioning factors, and the conditioned states are also transient…

    Choosing to be conditioned by that which is wholesome is a choice, and a wise one, which also is, however, conditioned by past propensities…

    Where this power began in 2005, is a muddy picture of a sitting Premier who had negotiated a ceasefire, and who was biding the right time to do something, because the LTTE had by then shown its intransigence and violations of the CFA were rife, but patience and wisdom ran out on all other sides that pandered to emotion…The muddy picture also had it that there was another pact made by those aspiring to power to forcefully prevent the majority in the N-East from voting, possibly for that sitting Premier…

    So, the advent to this absolute power is sullied in that muddy picture of a not too distant past. When it is possible to work it out from there, the law of causation comes full circle, in the fullness of time, as they say…

    May the students who have suffered at the hands of incompetence and systems glitches from higher up, and those worthy undergrads remain wise and receive wise counsel to be patient…for now, keep your minds open, more open than usual…

  7. Ma-Rout-Ti

    “Such fiascos did not happen in those balmy days when the Education Ministry was run from the former British Army barracks down Malay street.”

    The writers memory is clearly a short one (or perhaps the ignorance and arrogance of youth can be blamed for this “I know it all” piece).

    Under the SLFP’s in the 70′s the OL and AL were done away with completely and replaced with two other examinations. Which left two or three years of students in limbo because it was not really a recognised qualification. Then the OL and AL were re-introduced in a diluted form, to be followed by the famed ‘London’ counter parts, and various other flavours of OL and AL

    Now we have a myriad qualifications that a student can opt for. Either at state expense or by following the private route

    University education in Sri Lanka has ALWAYS been more of a hotbed of radical politics than institutions of learning – mostly because it’s free. The radical louts abuse their free education privileges by defacing the buildings, going on strike, protesting at one thing or another and slowing the progress of the rest of the students as well. Free university education should be withdrawn completely and we should follow the Western models – who everyone here loves, right ?

    • Panduka

      Ma-Rout-Ti: Thank you for your comments.

      In fairness, I think the editor’s comments about the time that the Examinations Dept was administered from their premises at Malay St, refers to 1) that they did not witness the high percentage of applications being made for recorrections; and 2) applications for recorrection in those days under reference were to do with genuine cases where students, their teachers and/or parents felt that the markers had not been fair or accurate, and not to do with the administration side of the dept which processed results!

      Further, there was a time when the old GCE (OL) and (AL), post SSC and HSC time, were seen to be on a par with the London OLs and ALs. It was the myopic experimentations post 1970, under the Sirimavo RDB government with Badiuddin Mahmud as Minister, [which were taking the initial political messing with our national education system that was started in 1960, further], that introduced the sub-standard NCGE and HNCE that you allude to.

      By the time the reversal was made to the OL and AL systems following 1977, and whatever has happened thereafter, the dilution of the standards that Lanka had at an international level, had already taken its toll, both, in terms of English, and the rest of the curriculum.

      This is what has necessitated the plethora of schemes that you mention, that exist today.

      As to your comment about tertiary education and its free availability, let’s not even dream of opening a pandora’s box, but stick to what can be done. The editor has appropriately referred to how the wisdom, courtesy and tact of personages like the late Sir Ivor Jennings and Sir Nicholas Attygalle enabled them to administer the University of Ceylon then, as academic institutions that were recognised internationally, and the implication of this article is on the decline of both, general education, and wisdom of later day and present day politicos that have contributed to the erosion of that academic environment.

      Let us stop for a moment and ask ourselves, why from about the latter half of the 1960s, the magnificent Universities have indeed become hotbeds of radical politics that you mention. Is it truly a question of fee-levying, or is it simply a reflection of, and a reaction to, the nature and changes in our socio-political ethos. If the changes between 1956 and 1965 opened up nationalistic expectations beyond reason and the global reality, undergrads and their politcal mentors obviously started seeing how myopic those changes were, and how our system could not sustain either the standards of academia without English, nor the economy sustain employment of those academics after graduation.

      These tensions and realities have only exacerbated over the decades with each national election having promised redress without really being prepared to address the fundamentally underlying issues. Patchwork, and hardline responses in the face of dissent, as in everything else where politics is present, have been the tools used in the name of ‘managing’ the universities and their occupants’ reasonable frustrations.

      Standardisation, district basis, etc, etc., were the names used to bring equity to an unequitable situation! Fees could have been part of a more enlightened approach, were it introduced at the start or progressively, as a Higher Ed loan, which citizens could pay the State back, over time, once they are employed. E.g., comparable schemes of entering into bonds to serve the State for a prescribed period of time in the case of medicos, existed then, and may be, even now.

      The crux of this article is about the erosion of standards of absolutely all institutions, including sports, where politics, which assumes a unique definition in Lanka, has dared to interfere. And the expansion of egos of politicos, local and national, and the proportion of violence and lawlessness that they would, and could, resort to, in the face of any dissent to their lawful or unlawful pursuits, has progressively increased over the decades, which is now so large, and nearly unmanageable, [refer post 2009 'war,' through Christmas eve events from Tangalle, 'landgrabbing,' to the contents of the present article], is phenomenal!

      What of the issues facing educated youth and their reasonable frustrations at 1) not being in a better position at finding good jobs after qualifying, 2) knowing that the quality and level of their qualification is suspect when compared to other graduates, and 3) that the lack of English comprehension and communicability keeps them deficient in a considerable part of the social skills that need complement their educational attainments? These, sadly, but truly, remain secondary, to politicos being preoccupied with retaining ‘power!’

      A comparatively miniscule of the population, commanding the financially large or crucial parts of commerce and industry, keep their affairs going with the products of both local universities, and those of the myriad other sources that you mention. But for how long this fiasco can go on, without another calamity/uprising is the crucial question that must bother each thinking person of Lanka.

      How politicos of the blue and red varieties, or the green variety, chose to treat dissent and reasonable expression of these frustrations, in the 1971, 1987-1990, 1981 to 2009, times of socio-political turbulence has only hardened our spirits, and blinded our visions and compassion, beyond the wholesome range of truth and reasonableness, the range that is expected from every civilised, moral, ethical, educated, or democratic being.

      If the times of the old Malay Street Examinations Dept and our OLs and ALs were complemented with governance that planned our economies equitably, and economic opportunities of every region, equitably, and this went on unabated, in the spirit and energy with which Premier DS Senanayake carried on irrigation works, and Premier Dudley Senanayake carried on the Grow More Food campaigns, undistracted by political egoism, Lanka would certainly be a different place.

      From where we are, let us be glad that this type of exposure is being made by the Leader and any other part of the Free Press, and what is left of it, Ma Rout Ti. Thank you.

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