London ‘Haamus’ Reject Lankan ‘Yakko’ Advice
Who are they to tell us about British politics and international affairs, seems to be the line of thinking.
Whoever the Sri Lankan advisors to the government were – Rosy Senanayake being the spokesperson to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe himself – had made an elementary mistake about the attitude of our Londoners to advice offered to them by natives of Lanka on anything, leave alone British politics.
‘Who are these Yakkos who can’t even get a visa to Britain to tell us which way to vote on Brexit?’ seems to be the stance. It must be said that this attitude of Sri Lankan expatriates, migrants or workers is global whether they are resident in New York, London, Timbucktoo or Papua New Guinea. They know better than their countrymen trying to get out or the frogs in the well who think they know all and don’t want to get out.
We are not for a moment contesting that their feeling of superiority over those back at home is correct or not. But we think that those who sent the Two Wise Men, affable Harsha De Silva and Uva’s shining star Harin Fernando with Rosy had misjudged the thinking of Sri Lankans abroad.
Of course it is a universally accepted fact that advice is the cheapest commodity available in the global market. Advice packaged with some goodies is always more acceptable than just plain advice.
Being a pious atheist we are not familiar with Biblical stories but our research says that the Three Wise Men visiting Jesus bore gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Harsha, Harin and Rosy could not have carried gold or those of a similar kind as the Three Wise Men did. But at least they could have offered something like state appointments in foreign countries which would have sufficed.
Another error of judgment on the part of those who decided to send our Two Wise Men and Wise Woman to London to canvass Sri Lankans there to vote against Britain leaving the European Union was that they had forgotten or ignored the most influential groups of Sri Lankans in Britain, the Tamil expatriates, who are said to be holding both Conservative and Labour Parties to ransom by cleverly distributing themselves in electorates where wafer thin majorities could decide on a party winning or losing a seat. They, particularly during the period of the Rajapaksa regime, swayed ruling parties to adopt hostile attitudes towards Sri Lankan government and support their cause.
Of course it could be argued that these groups may have attempted to throw out from Britain our Two Wise Men and Wise Woman – a form of Brexit of a different kind – as they attempted to do to our former President Rajapaksa.
All in the Family
A very significant political move made in recent times has been the proposal made by veteran SLFPer John Seneviratne to have Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the second leader of the SLFP. The proposed status and powers vested in the ‘second leader’ have not been spelled out. Political speculation is that with big brother Mahinda being debarred from contesting presidency by the 19th Amendment, he will seek to lead the party at the next parliamentary election while brother Gotabhaya can seek election to be president.
Gotabhaya however is not known to have sought membership of the SLFP and has not been engaged in politics although he was deeply mired in politics as Defence Secretary to his brother as well as being Secretary to Urban Development.
This begs the question whether this 65-year-old party is bereft of any leader within for it to seek leadership of one who has been out of the party and this was the issue raised by SLFP member Wijithamuni Soysa at a late night talk show. There are quite competent members within its ranks to lead the party such as the present leader Maithripala Sirisena. Wijithamuni Soysa said Gotabhaya was responsible for defeat of the SLFP by his actions such as being associated with the Beruwala riots that antagonized the entire Muslim community.
Sirisena, a longstanding member of the party, had been its general secretary for long years but had not been in the running for leadership with Mahinda Rajapaksa at the helm. But he broke away and defeated the former incumbent in two elections – presidential and parliamentary – to be the leader of the party and the president of Sri Lanka.Even if the leadership of the party is limited to the Rajapaksa family there will be other likely aspirants: two ‘crown princes’ Namal and Yoshitha as well as other big uncles, Chamal and Basil. There are possibilities of dynastic quarrels if family rule is established, it is speculated.
Criticism of dynastic succession by the Rajapaksas would bring out the typical political reflex action in Sri Lankan politics: What did you do in your time?
Certainly it is true. The UNP was correctly called the Uncle Nephew Party – in Sinhala Unnge Nayange Pakshaya from its inception. The SLFP went on from husband to wife and then to daughter with brother Anura claiming to be the rightful heir. MEP has gone from father to son and the LSSP, uncle to nephew.
We could look to our neighbouring South Asian countries too. India had the Nehru Dynasty – Father, daughter, grandson, daughter-in-law and now the great grandson leading the Indian Congress. Pakistan had father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Benazir’s husband Asif Zardari and now son of Benazir, Bilawal waiting on the wings while Bangladesh had the Founder of the country Sheik Mujibur Rahman, who was assassinated, succeeded by daughter Sheik Hassina.Sheik Hassina has sons, one of whom is called Mr. Ten Per Cent while her rival is Khaleda Zia, whose husband General Zia Ur Rahman seized power in a coup in which Mujibur was killed. Khaleda Zia’s sons too are in politics, one of whom was convicted for money laundering and fled the country.
Those defending the continuation of the Rajapaksa dynasty can cite these countries of South Asia that have been ruled by dynasties for long years as justification for family rule.They should also wonder why South Asia is the poorest region of the world where over one billion people are living in squalor while the elite 5 to 10 per cent of ruling classes are enjoying regal splendours.