The Sunday Leader

The Demagogue And The Mahanayake

by Gamini Weerakoon

Demagogues are as old as democracy. They are described as politicians who seek support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than using rational arguments.

Often we have used in these columns a definition by American journalist H. L. Menecken: A demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.


Demagogues and Idiots

Our preference for the second definition is particularly because of the reference to the audience – the people. Demagogues and demagoguery cannot survive without ignorant persons or its stupid supporters. From Greece, the birth place of democracy – about 3000 years ago – democracy has spread to all places and with it demagogues too proliferated. Right now in the mightiest democracy on earth, where two candidates are running for presidency, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, is being called a demagogue not only in the United States but also in most countries which call themselves democracies. We will refrain from discussing Donald Trump in this column today and instead consider our own variety.

MP Wimal Weerawansa meeting Thibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Maha Nayaka Thero


Lankan Demagoguery

Sri Lanka, despite its claims to be a leading Asian democracy, having successfully changed governments by the ballot at many democratically held elections, has had its quota of demagogues during its 68-year post- Independence period.

Right now this country is witnessing a period of demagoguery which would have been run out of town had the electorate not been as complacent after a 30-year war, followed by presidential and parliamentary elections.

Two issues on which some demagogues are attempting to set the country aflame are the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ECTA) between India and Sri Lanka and the new constitution that is being drafted.

Indeed these are two very important issues. The ECTA and the proposed new constitution for Sri Lanka should be of concern to politicians and the general public but the hard fact is that they are still being formulated and are in the blueprint stage.

To arouse the masses to a state of frenzy on impending racist and religious crises stemming from a constitution not even drafted is demagoguery of the highest order.


Constitutional conspiracies

Last week the Leader of  the National Freedom Front Wimal Weerawansa, who tends to dream of imaginary international conspiracies being hatched against Sri Lanka on a regular basis – probably under his bed – attempted to kick off a vicious campaign against the proposed new Constitution of Sri Lanka.

Like most politicians and officials sincere and law abiding as well as those insincere Machiavellian, Weerawansa sought audience with the Thibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Maha Nayaka Thero with his entourage of political supporters, TV cameramen, reporters and the like, to kick-off the campaign against the proposed new constitution that is still being drafted. Reports said that he had warned the highest ranking Buddhist prelate in the country about the impending disaster that this new constitution would bring upon the country -racial divisions and endangering Buddhism. Probably Weerawansa wanted the prelate’s backing for his campaign.

The well informed Mahanayake was not as gullible as some political activists. Reports said that he had pointed out that both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had assured him that the new constitution would pose no such dangers to the country or Buddhism and that both the President and Prime Minister, he held in high esteem.

A crestfallen Weerawansa was seen walking out. What he would do next to save Sri Lanka and Buddhism is to be eagerly awaited.

Both the ECTA and the new constitution have not been formulated and certainly are not official. It defies reason how the ECTA or new constitution – not yet been finalized and approved – could be condemned as potential disasters, particularly when the president and prime minister, who are key figures in drawing up the agreements, are denying such possibilities.

Demagogues usually end up being condemned for the buffoonery and baboonery which is entertaining but it can cost the people and the country very much.

Even professionals are going bonkers in this regard, particularly with regard to the ECTA – the trade agreement with India which is still being negotiated.



Whether these objectors are doing so on the advice of their astrologers, it is hard to say, except that they have not learnt much from the debacles suffered by their heroic leader. However honourable their motives are, as they claim, there is a common objective among these political and professional demagogues: They want the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to be destroyed and their fallen hero Mahinda Rajapaksa re-enthroned.

Re-enthroning Rajapaksa would not be possible unless a new constitution is enacted which has as its preamble: ‘Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa would be declared the president of Sri Lanka by hook or by crook’.

Is this the reasoning behind the fanatical efforts to stall a new constitution and resurrect a defeated president constitutionally debarred from holding the office of presidency?

Contemporary history has many demagogues who had convinced the idiotic masses of their destiny, divine qualities but brought untold miseries on their people. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Marcos and Saddam Hussein, Gadaffy and the Assads – father and son – are outstanding examples. A common feature among all these fallen idols was that no attempt was made to resurrect them. Sri Lanka is an exception.


3 Comments for “The Demagogue And The Mahanayake”

  1. yana

    Finally this loud mouthed idiot has been put in his place.

  2. Sangaralingham

    Politicians religious leaders must be on their guard against critical comment with religion race language culture which in pleural instil society cannot let any individuals can’t manipulate without creating disharmony disequilibrium with opportunistic lurking all over to take advantage of but intellects and social critics must on guard against recreating social days equilibrium as because few are taking advantage of not for the country but for their benefit.

  3. tomsam

    This rascal is masking his travails with forgery of birth certificate, shady real eatate deals etc, by playing the race card.
    The time is prime for him and the dirty pakses to be shackled and paraded down Galle road!

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