Rohit throws weight behind out-of-form Kohli
Cricket’s craze with keepers who can bat  
Topley snaps six in England’s series-levelling win over India at Lord’s
Sri Lanka will move up in rankings with series win over Pakistan
Sajith wants Nilani to gain maximum for future success  
OrionStellar Data Center awarded ISO 27001 Information Security Management System certification
Silk Cooperation declares open state-of-the-art Vegan manufacturing facility
Emirates SkyCargo takes delivery of new freighter to ramp up capacity and frequencies
Kanrich Finance Ratnapura branch relocates to new premises
Dilmah’s MJF Centre East Opens Cashew Processing Centre for Smallholders
Published
on
By
Gamini Fonseka
(Continued from last week)
After my return from London, I continued my audit work during this time especially on the plantations side. I had the privilege of auditing John Keell Thompson White Limited and many other companies such as Julius and Creasy which was then headed by the legendary Mr. Naidoo, and Volanka Limited, a Swiss company headed by another great Swiss man called Mr. Chanson. I became a partner in my firm on October 1, 1972 succeeding my one-time hero BAR Weerasinghe of cricketing fame. I was then considered a very young man holding partnership of that great firm called Turquand Young. After marriage, we moved to my in-laws home at No. 8, De Fonseka Place, Colombo 5.
The great Dr. Colvin R de Silva who had Marxists ideas was a brilliant man in the cabinet of Mrs. B. He was then Minister of Constitutional Affairs and Plantation Industries. The entire Parliament was converted into a Constituent Assembly and he brought a new Constitution that changed the name of our Island to Sri Lanka. Perhaps this was a mistake as Ceylon tea was world famous and tea was the main foreign exchange earner of the Island. It however gave the Sri Lankans a national identity. The Governor General who represented the Queen of England was replaced by a home-grown President in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
In early 1973, a baby girl was born to us and we considered her a gem of an addition to our family. It was a very joyful event in my life and the parents from my side and my wife’s were overjoyed with the new arrival. How I got my land at De Fonseka Place, near my in-law’s home where we lived, was a remarkable coincidence. My wife did not like me building a house at Longdon Place as I planned, telling me that this was somewhat away from her parents’ home. Though she was most reluctant, I managed to persuade her and got an architect to design a house for us when a strange coincidence occurred.
The Colombo Brokers Association, runnig the share market then, met in our Board Room as we were their Secretaries. Mr. Errol de Fonseka, who lived in a mansion in De Fonseka Place, was a Share Director at Forbes and Walker Limited. He was mortally scared that his property in Colombo would be acquired by Mrs. B’s Government, he told me, “Gamini, I have blocked out the place I live in and if you know of any prospective buyer, please let me know.” I told Errol to hold on to the blocking plan and give me 24 hours to decide whether I wanted a block myself.
I came home and gave my wife the news. “Don’t hesitate. Grab the opportunity,” she said. I told Errol the next morning, when he as usual came for the Colombo Share Market meeting that I will take one plot for myself and another for my sister-in-law who was then in Zambia with her husband. He fixed a price of Rs. 60,000 for my block of 16 perches and reduced Rs. 2,000/- off the second block which was the same size but located in a corner of the property.
I funded the entire purchase of my block with my wife’s dowry and my father-in-law paid for the next block. It was a unique deed which the legendary Bertie Amarasekare of Julius and Creasy conveyanced for us. This was because a property at De Fonseka Place was purchased by a Fonseka and sold by a De Fonseka with the deed executed by another Fonseka, my father who became a lawyer on his retirement from Public Service.
In my many overseas travels I found this a great advantage as the immigration officers used to always wave me through noticing my name was the same as the street where I lived!
In late 1974 things became very difficult in Sri Lanka. My senior partner advised me to go to our London office once more, this time as a manager, as I was then a partner in my local firm. He arranged all the necessary formalities and told me to save foreign exchange to fund a course at Cranfield School of Business Studies while I was in the UK. Before my departure, I did my CIMA exams in Sri Lanka, parts one to four and to my surprise came first in the world in the part three Finance and Accounting paper. I was placed third in the world on the overall part three examination. This was a pleasant surprise as I took only a few days leave from work to study for my parts three and four.
I then sat for my final Examination of CIMA in November ’74 and proceeded to London with the objective of accumulating funds for Cranfield. On Christmas day 1964, I departed on Kuwait Airways to London while my wife and daughter left for Lusaka to join her sister whose husband was then working in Zambia. We were departing within about half an hour of each other to different parts of the globe.
I went to London and was greeted by my sister and brother-in-law who had gone earlier to Exeter to do his PhD. They greeted me with open arms and we drove back to Exeter via Bristol. On January 1, I was due to start work at my London office which was by then called Turquands Barton Mayhew(TBM) at Tavistock Square. My sister and brother-in-law dropped me at my office in London. By then I had arranged with a colleague from the days I served articles to stay in their home at South Wimbledon.
I learned from the Ceylon News to which my friend subscribed that there was an era of political uncertainty in Sri Lanka. While I was in London I learned that Mrs. B had introduced the infamous takeover of foreign-owned plantations in Sri Lanka, the top export earner for the country. Once again it killed the entrepreneurship skills of the major community. A Labour government under Harold Wilson was in power at that time in the United Kingdom. They gave a loan to Sri Lanka to compensate the sterling companies taken over by the Government. With the enforcement of the G.O.B.U Act, they took over many business undertakings mainly foreign owned such as Ceylon Oxygen, BCC, Colombo Gas and Water Company and Colombo Commercial Company. Lake House was also acquired by the government which said it wanted to broadbase the owning company.

Mrs. B later realized her folly, sacked her Marxists allies and went for an election in 1977. Earlier she had created two Plantations Conglomerates namely JEDB and SLSPC to handle the Plantations that were taken over under Land Reform Law. India watched the implementation of the Land Reform Law in Sri Lanka with a hawk eye and realized that it would be a folly to go the Sri Lankan way and instead encouraged their big companies to venture overseas and acquire plantation companies operating in India.
I think this was a very wise move by India as Tata which had many businesses took over the tea plantations in Assam. Thereafter, they acquired Tetley Tea Company worldwide with the strong Tetley brand name. Recently, they were a strong bidder for the tea operation of Uni Levers ultimately losing the battle to a Venture Capital company in US. Uni Lever Tea business consisted of the famous Brooke Bond and Lipton tea operations worldwide.
I returned to the Island driving a Volkswagen Saloon Car overland from London to Colombo. We visited 11 countries on this trip to India starting from France, driving through Switzerland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Having completed this journey in 30 days we had to still mark time for six weeks in India to catch the ferry from Rameswaram to Talaimannar Pier and then to our home at De Fonseka Place.
This was an experience of a lifetime as we passed through many countries and had many new adventures. During our six weeks in India waiting for the ferry, we toured the length and breadth of that country and arrived in Colombo on January 17, 1977.
The outcome of the General Election of 1977 was a decisive moment in the history of Sri Lanka. In June 1977, a UNP Government under the leadership of JRJ swept into power with a five sixths majority in parliament and changed the destiny of Sri Lanka. Unfortunately JRJ used the ‘Cow and Calf’ election symbol of the Congress Party in India in his campaign saying that “like in India, the cow and the calf will lose here to,” drawing a parallel between Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Sanjay and Mrs. B and Anura. This antagonized Mrs. Gandhi and I think was a fatal mistake made by JRJ resulting in us losing Mrs. Gandhi’s and India’s goodwill.
In 1977, another event took place in my life which was the advent of another baby girl to our family whom we consider a diamond. JR had a top class Cabinet with Prime Minister Premadasa and Ministers such as Gamini Dissanayake, Ronnie de Mel and Lalith Athulathmudali whom I came to know personally being world class.
JRJ opened up the economy and floated the Sri Lankan Rupee which was pegged at Rs. 13 to the Pound Sterling and Rs. 07 to the US Dollar. He implemented the huge Mahaweli Development Program drawing assistance from abroad thanks to his International stature. It was no easy task to accelerate the 30-year Mahaweli Program within a six-year time frame. There were many dams that had to be built such as Victoria, Rantembe and Kotmale and thereafter do the downstream development which stretched to areas such as Manampitiya and relocate so many families in the Mahaweli areas.
He had to find the money for these dams which cost an enormous amount. By the goodwill he commanded and shrewd strategy he was able to win the hearts and minds of the British people who gifted us the Victoria Dam as an outright grant to Sri Lanka. The Randenigala Dam was built with Canadian help on a soft loan. Kotmale was built with Swedish assistance, again with concessionary interest. Simultaneously, JRJ bought television to Sri Lanka with Japanese help. Many other projects at that time such as Jayewardenapura Hospital and the new Parliamentary Complex were outright gifts from Japan.
The Japanese never forgot JRJ’s memorable speech in San Francisco after the end of the World War Two. His unforgettable quotation from the Buddha that ” hatred will never cease by hatred but by love” opposing reparation demands against Japan. This paid off many years later under his presidency with Japan helping us to modernize the Katunayake International Airport at very low interest credit spread over 40 years which we could easily pay back with returns from the project itself.
Another speech he made at the time he was entertained by then-president of United States, Ronald Regan also brought in very valuable American assistance to Sri Lanka by way of investments in the free trade zones and USAID in Sri Lanka. I was fortunate to spend professional time with government agencies during this period as I was involved in many management consultancy assignments in 1970’s and 80’s.
Unfortunately two tragic occurrences in 1983, the disappearance of Upali Wijewardene (JRJ’s nephew married to Mrs. B’s niece) and the racial riots between Sinhalese and Tamils caused irreparable damage to the Sri Lankan economy. Thereafter, there was political struggle in 1983/84 when JRJ retired and there was a competition between Premadasa, Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake who were equally capable to run for president. Mr. Premadasa became the candidate and won the presidency but did not survive his full term being brutally assassinated by an LTTE attack. A week earlier, Lalith Athulathmudali who survived two previous attacks was also assassinated. Six months later, Gamini Dissanayake was also a victim of a bomb. My hero Ronnie de Mel retired from politics after presenting many successful budgets in Parliament.
During this time President Premadasa spearheaded many privatization exercises. On behalf of Ernst and Young (EY) I was involved in these exercises which meant that I had to go to the general treasury almost on a daily basis. I got involved in many activities where EY won the contracts such as introducing tariffs for the Water Board, establishing the Housing Development Finance Corporation on the lines similar to India, venture capital studies in Sri Lanka and introducing the venture capital industry and many more assignments both in the public and private sectors.
I was exhausted by the 1990’s and after assisting the legendary Mr. NU Jayawardene, many of whose companies I was involved in, the last being the establishment of the Sampath Bank, I retired from the partnership of Ernst and Young on September 30, 1991. Thereafter, I was appointed the Chairman and Chief Executive of Walker Sons and Company Limited from October 1, 1991 which positioned I held till June 2007 when I retired completely having sold the majority shares at Walkers to a Malaysia based Infrastructure Company.
I had completely retired from all walks of public life as by the time I reached 60 completing many milestones in my life. There were so many political upheavals in Sri Lanka during this period which remain unresolved as we approach the 75th year of Independence on February 4, 2023.
I often think of singer Sunil Perera’s famous words saying, “When I was born, Sri Lanka was a third-world country and when I am ready to die we are still a third-world country.” However I am optimistic that Sri Lanka will come out of all these troubles and this thrice blessed Island will never go down in history as a failed nation.
(I thanks my grandaughter, Nimansa Weerasena for typing this for me. My email contact is fonsekag@gmail.com)




Travels with the Prime Minister
GR has vacated office and Ranil’s Appointment is Unconstitutional

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *






Published
on
By
By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil
President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada
Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum
chandij@sympatico.ca

… Continuing from last week’s column: ‘Judo Fighting in India’.

When I travelled to India as a member of the National Judo Team of Sri Lanka in 1982, I enjoyed different experiences of train travel and fun interactions in Madras, Sonipat, Ghaziabad and Delhi. After the main tournament in Ghaziabad, the 10-member first-ever national Judo team of Sri Lanka, assumed that the fighting portion of the trip was over. We were happily planning to spend a few days sightseeing in Delhi and its suburbs before returning home.
Brief Connections with Taj and Oberoi
In 1982, the largest hotel in Sri Lanka was managed by an Indian company – Oberoi. Taj hotels owned by India’s largest conglomerate – Tata Group, was building a five-star hotel in Colombo. After the Judo tournament in Ghaziabad, I planned to visit the famous Taj Palace Hotel and The Oberoi in New Delhi, as well as the Oberoi School of Hotel Management. Unfortunately, due to a last-minute change in the team’s travel plans, I did not get an opportunity to see these Iconic hotels managed by the two best-known Indian hotel companies.
In later years, I worked for both of these Indian hotel companies. From 1983 to 1985, I worked part-time at two Taj properties in London – Baily’s Hotel and Bombay Brasserie, which was ranked as the best Indian restaurant in the UK when it was opened in 1982. It paved the way for Indian and Bombay cuisine in London.
In 1989, I was recruited for the post of Food & Beverage Manager of the Hotel Babylon Oberoi in Iraq. In that position, I did my second trip to India. I managed 10 food and beverage outlets in the heart of Baghdad. My team of Indian managers and chefs also opened and operated an Indian restaurant. Most of my team of restaurant managers were graduates of the Oberoi School of Hotel Management. My experiences in India during the Judo trip in 1982, provided me with a good understanding of the Indian culture, which was beneficial to me when I worked for Taj and Oberoi.
Additional Fights and Fun in Hyderabad
Soon after the tournament in Ghaziabad, the Judo Association of Hyderabad invited us to a special Judo meet in their regional, army headquarters. When our team manager asked, “How many hours will it take for us to travel from Delhi to Hyderabad?”, the Indian judoka who was initiating the additional meet said, “It is very close… only 26 hours, by train!”. After a quick chat among our team, we decided to accept the invitation to go to Hyderabad to compete and explore.
We were disappointed to hear from an angry looking railway cashier at a train station in Delhi that the next train to Hyderabad was full. Our new Indian friend from Hyderabad told Upali, “No problem. Let me speak with this angry cashier and resolve this issue, amicably.” After a brief chat he had with the cashier, he returned with 11 train tickets with confirmed seat numbers. We were surprised and happy. “How did you do it? Upali asked. “Just a small bribe of 15 rupees, only!” our friend said. When we were getting into our compartment in the train, that cashier, now with a big smile said, “Enjoy your trip!”

The train ride was in many aspects similar to our previous marathon train ride of 52 hours from Madras to New Delhi. We passed some beautiful, lush mountainous locations, in between mostly hot and dry areas. Hyderabad is a unique city. It is the capital and the largest city of the Indian state of Telangana, as well as, the capital of Andhra Pradesh. It occupies a large area on the Deccan Plateau along the banks of the Musi River, in the upper part of South India.
Much of Hyderabad is situated on hilly terrain around artificial lakes. Hyderabad is the sixth most populous city in India. In 1982 it had a population of over three million (in 2022 grown to over ten million). We were accommodated in an army camp in Hyderabad. They organized a good Judo meet. Due to injuries, our team manager, Upali Sahabandu decided to compete in the team category. He fought hard in a prolong bout, and our hosts were impressed. During the awards ceremony Upali was given a special award for his fighting spirit! We all lined up to receive our medals, which followed with a ceremony of tea service with excellent team from nearby estates.
We also loved the food in Hyderabad. From the time Hyderabad was conquered by the Mughals in the 1630s, Mughlai culinary traditions blended with the local traditions to create a unique Hyderabadi cuisine. This included Biriyani dishes highly popular in Sri Lanka. The day after the Judo meet, when we went on a sightseeing tour, we took part in another type of ceremony. It was a saree buying ceremony in the city. Some members of our team wanted to buy sarees for their mothers, sisters, and wives. While Upali and a few in the team showed some expertise about sarees, most of us were bored with shopping.
Tiruchirappalli, our last stop in India
After another long (over 21 hour) train ride we reached our last station – Tiruchirappalli (also called Trichy), which is an ancient city in India’s southern Tamil Nadu State. It was a relatively smaller city with a population of 600,000 in 1982 (doubled by the year 2022). It is known for the sacred Hindu sites, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple with intricately carved gopurams (towering gateways) and the Jambukeswarar-Akilandeswari Temple, dedicated to the God Shiva.
In Trichy, we visited a few historic sites. The most impressive was Tiruchirappalli Rockfort, which towers over the city centre. It is a historic fortification and temple complex built on an ancient rock. The name ‘Rockfort’ comes from frequent, military fortification built there over the centuries by the Indian kings, and later by the British Colonisers. The oldest structure in the fort is an ancient cave temple.
After a quick flight from Trichy to Colombo, we arrived at the Katunayake International Airport to receive a hero’s welcome with garlands. As the first-ever tournament tour in another country by the national Judo team of Sri Lanka, those two weeks in 1982, that we spent in India, were truly memorable.
Members of the first National Judo Team, 40 years later
Recently, I checked where they are now and was saddened to discover that three members of Sri Lanka national Judo team in 1982 have passed away. I am happy to note that four of the team are still very much active in the sport of Judo. Four of the team also served the Sri Lanka Judo Association as the President.
= Upali Sahabandu (Team Manager) – 5th Dan Black Belt. Passed away during active service as a Deputy Inspector General of Sri Lanka Police.
= Kithsiri De Zoysa (Captain) – Now a 4th Dan Black Belt. President of the Jujitsu Federation Lanka. A leading referee for different martial art sports.
= Raja Fernando – Now a 6th Dan Red and White Belt, and the highest-ranking Sri Lankan Judoka. Instructs Judo in Sweden.
= Hemakumar Jinadasa – Now a 5th Dan Black Belt, and the highest-ranking Judoka in Sri Lanka. Instructs Judo at Colombo YMCA and many other Judo clubs.
= W. K. Godwin – Now a 4th Dan Black Belt. Retired an Assistant Superintendent of Police, but continues as the Head Judo Coach of the Sri Lanka Police Force.
= Gamini Nanayakkara – 5th Dan Black Belt. Passed away during active service as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Sri Lankan Army.
= Gamini Rupasinghe – Now a 3rd Dan Black Belt. Lives in Australia.
= K. Navarathnam – Now a 3rd Dan Black Belt.
= D. H. Ranjith – Now a 2nd Dan Black Belt.
= M. F. M. Izamudeen – Now a 2nd Dan Black Belt.
= T. B. Koswatte – 1st Dan Black Belt. Passed away.
= Chandana Jayawardena – Retired from Judo in 1983 as a 1st Kyu Brown Belt, to focus on his global career in hospitality.

More Success on the Judo Mat
When I returned to Sri Lanka, I focused on passing Judo grade tests. Usually, Judokas faced one promotion test at a time. In my case, as I had a long lapse of ten years since the last grade promotion test, I was allowed to face three grading tests on one day in 1983. Having represented Sri Lanka was an advantage. I was awarded the brown belt first Kyu. Based on the syllabus prepared by Kodokan in Japan, a first kyu Judoka should have mastered 45 different aspects such as hand throws, hip throws, foot throws, holds, locks and chokes. The most difficult part was to remember Japanese terms for all 45 items (covered in five grade promotion tests).
My aim after that was to face the grading test for first dan black belt, as soon as possible. Due to my moving to the UK in 1983, for graduate studies in international hotel management, I placed that goal on a back burner. Unfortunately, I failed to find time to face anymore Judo grading tests. In the late 1980, when I worked in Colombo for three years as the Director of Food & Beverage of a five-star Le Meridien hotel, I was able to find time only for an occasional practice session at the Colombo YMCA.
My Final Judo Fight in 1993
One of the songs I wrote in 1993 with an Indian Bangaram tune – ‘Fitness Fever’ became very popular. I was able to arrange twenty top western musicians of Sri Lanka to sing this song. It topped The Island pop charts for three weeks. Encouraged with the success of the song, I decided to direct a music video for it, which was filmed at the Ramada Renaissance hotel in Colombo. I included a Judo fighting scene in this video. I was one of the fighters for several takes of the Judo fighting scene. That was my last Judo fight.
I didn’t have any more Judo fights after that. However, I practised Karate for a short period of time in the mid-1990s in Jamaica. My aim then was to motivate my elder son, Marlon, who commenced Karate when he was ten years old. I was so proud of Marlon when he earned his Karate Black Belt in Sri Lanka when he was only 15 years old.
A Tribute to the Pioneers of Judo in Ceylon/Sri Lanka
To conclude my series of three articles on Judo, I wish to pay tribute to a few pioneers of Judo, a sport that was introduced to Ceylon around 1953. A well-known Ceylonese palaeontologist, zoologist, educator and artist, Paulus Edward Pieris Deraniyagala became the founding President of the Amateur Judo Association of Ceylon in 1953. He held that position for 19 years. Having studied in three of the best universities in the world (Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard) he became the Director of the National Museum of Ceylon. He was passionate about Judo.
Until the mid-1960s, there was no formal grading system for Judo in Ceylon. When I commenced Judo in 1970, in addition to P. E. P. Deraniyagala, there were three other leaders of the sport in Ceylon. They were, Lincoln Wijesinghe – the first Ceylonese to earn a Judo Black belt from Kodokan in Japan, Master Malcolm Atapattu – YMCA Judo Instructor and Master M. N. Tennakoon – YMBA Judo Instructor. Due to their commitment for Judo and hard work, Kodokan in Japan, chose Ceylon as a destination with a good potential for the sport.

These pioneers, with the help from young Judokas such as Peter Dharmaratne, Nihal Gooneratne and Asoka Jayawardana, developed strategies in promoting Judo in schools and carnivals. Japanese Judo teachers who were stationed in Sri Lanka – Sensei Yoda and Sensei Sato, helped by setting a high standard for Judo in Sri Lanka.Leadership of the Amateur Judo Association of Ceylon (re-named as the Sri Lanka Judo Association in 1974) during the first 50+ years was provided by nine Judokas with diverse backgrounds, including a zoologist, a chief justice, two senior police officers, a senior army officer and a hotelier.
I was fortunate to be included as a member of the national Judo team of Sri Lanka in 1982. At that time, there were only about 150 Judokas in the country belonging to just eight Judo clubs. Those clubs were, Colombo YMBA, Colombo YMCA, Dehiwela YMBA, Dehiwela YMCA Gampola Judo Club, Army, Navy and Police. In that context, the growth of Judo in Sri Lanka during the last four decades has been phenomenal.

Today there are around 15,000 Judokas (one third of this in the Army) in around 70 Judo clubs in Sri Lanka. Today, there are around 300 Kodokan black belts and another 70 locally graded, black belts in Sri Lanka. Growth by 100 times within 40 years, is indeed a great success story for any sport. I am proud of my former Judo colleagues, for their amazing commitment and their love for this sport. Well done!
Published
on
By
by Kumar David
Thus, we may all “Chortle in our joy” on July 13 or 20 if everything goes as promised. The first step in the Sri Lankan Colour Revolution seems to have inched forward like a golden dream but I will remain on guard till both Gotabaya (GR) and Wickremesinghe (RW) have been seen off. The worst tricks are not beyond the former, the latter is untrustworthy and hungry for the presidency. If all goes well after July 20 new phases open but there are still no guarantees. The Arab Spring was followed by the Cairo Winter because an intransigent Muslim Brotherhood attempted to impose Islam on the whole nation.
There are four stages into which the social-political-economic catastrophe can be factored. An Emergency Room (ER) period followed by a very short-term VST phase of about a month, thereafter a short-term (ST) phase up to elections and thereafter a medium five to ten-year (MT) recovery period. In any case ST and MT are about whistling in the dark if we get through ER and VST. I have emphasised many times in my column that unless the fuel crisis is resolved quickly there will be havoc. The country is already in virtual lockdown and violence will erupt first at petrol stations and then everywhere as strikes, boycotts and mass opposition grows. Other media commentators, probably due limited technical savvy did not get the point for a long time but are now waking up; fuel is the lifeblood of a modern economy – transport, production, jobs, education, exports, electricity – without it life and the economy grind to a halt.
What RW and his imbeciles ignored was that without fuel social and economic life is paralysed, a virtual lockdown. He was and is angling to hang on for another year or more, that was his game all along. The anger in the petrol queues has reached boiling point, civilians and the military clash, police officers are alleged to fill up their tanks and sell on the side, hundreds of thousands of three-wheeler chaps are in black-market business. If 200,000 metric tons (MT) of fuel do not arrive within a week there will be civil commotion. People already ask “What’s the point of our revolution? Nothing has changed”.
Assuming that we get past ER (that is up to about now, and fuel arrives before rioting breaks out), the next say month leading to formation of some form of all-party government and the finalisation of the IMF protocol is the VST or very short-term phase. The statement made by the visiting IMF team was significant and unprecedented. It remarked that overcoming corruption was basic. Everybody knows what that means; GR must go! It is not that he is the most corrupt of the Clan, that dishonour goes to BR, MR and Namal R, it is that his presence as head of state sets markers which make it impossible to root out the extreme dishonesty that has made Lankas’s body septic. It is being said that when Gota goes the IMF and other lenders will feel reassured about corruption and short-term foreign funding may be made available; good if this expectation comes true.
Ranil (RW) being pushed out should be a matter of little relevance. He has served his purpose in conducting the initial rounds of negotiations with the IMF visiting teams (thank you) and is now dispensable. He was never the font and source of state-power, Gota was. GR was needed by and therefore supported by the government parliamentary group members to retain their perks and privileges. Public support for this most hated of all Sri Lankan regimes (President, parliamentary group and PM) stands at about 15% according to polling agencies. The back scratching of the two principal actors, their body language and public perception was that this was not a Gota-led Ranil administered game, it had evolved into a Gotabaya-Wickremesinghe regime. The people were right therefore in advancing their ‘Gota Go!’ demand to the next stage of a ‘Gota and Ranil both Go!’ Ranil is a low life-form and clings to a Prime Ministership, that he has done nothing to earn, in the hope that he may be able to wangle his way to the presidency. He must be forced out as soon as possible. I hope at least 113 MPs have already written to the Speaker stating that they have no confidence in him and that he is no longer PM, meaning he has suffered a de fact vote of no-confidence.
It is unsafe to allow Ranil to be President even for a day; it must be prevented even if rules have to be bent. He could have resigned and ended the uncertainty but that he did not is ominous. It must be deemed that President and PM perished simultaneously in an earthquake and now Parliament in consultation with party leaders must make simultaneous appointments. Such a turn was unforeseen in the constitution and the response has to be equally bold and unconventional. This is what the people demand unanimously and the courts will have no choice but to go along.
Gota-Ranil are finished and a caretaker government to plan an election comes next after a 30-day period when the Speaker functions as temporary president (unless Ranil’s’ shenanigans bear fruit). But there will still be skirmishes. Resurgence of Aragalaya, trade union agitation, joint opposition marches and mobilisation, rejection of the treacherous 22A Constitutional Amendment, student revolts and confrontation with the security establishment are potential flash points. Right now (mid-July) is the starting period of new turmoil since the interim government has no clue how to address the fuel shortage.
The opposition, or joint opposition of the pre-election phase will have little more to offer the pending IMF protocol which will impose significant belt tightening, fiscal drip line and a tough debt restructuring regimen. The opposition can demurr but has no option but swallow some of it. A continuing deficit-budget is madness, printing money will drive inflation to hyperinflation, declining production will reduce exports. A dual currency system is on its way since imports can no longer be financed by diving ever deeper into the hell-hole of dollar debts. These realities will confront any government (all-party, multi-party, or mad hatter’s tea-party) which has the misfortune to take office from now till the election. Having given thought to all possibilities I am of view that the JVP should participate in this all-party government with the SJB, TNA, SLFP, the nine-party gang and a rump of pro-SLPP MPs, to run the show till elections.
This brings us to the prospects facing the next elected government. I concede that this line of thought makes two assumptions. It assumes that the turmoil I spoke of two paras ago does not end in social instability, chaos and anarchy. If that were to occur all bets are off the table. The second assumption is that a deal can be struck between actors in government and opposition to pass a resolution by simple majority calling for dissolution of parliament and fresh elections. If parliament is to be dissolved within
two and a half years of August 2020, this is the only way it can be done legitimately. Both assumptions are fraught. If the first is falsified it’s a bloody mess, if the second assumption is falsified the next president marches on till mid-2025. If both these dangers are averted then we have to consider the five-year programme of the next elected government. You have your draft programme and I have mine. Sajith, Anura Kumara and the SLPP each have their own. I wish to put down mine.
I believe that medium- and long-term economic strategies for Sri Lanka should be double track: (a) a strong state-led interventionist strategy, and (b) market forces to guide effective and efficient decision making in investment and production and to encourage entrepreneurship. Sound contradictory? No! Let me explain with the leading example we are familiar with, best summarised in the most interesting book that I have read this year: “The Other Side of Globalisation” by SR (a.k.a. Sriyan) de Silva published by the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon.
The portion of the book that I am making use of is a discussion of the much-publicised East Asian Economic Miracle. The countries in this group are Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand. Japan the leading ‘goose’ flew away much ahead. The point is that East Asia did NOT follow the then-IMF neo-liberal prescription (the IMF is better now). These countries did not exclude the state from economic policy, quite the contrary the state played a key role in picking winners and losers and in choosing emergent sectors and industries. The state did not leave it to market forces to set the menu initially; only gradually was a freer role opened to the market. The approach was a grand success. An opposite example is the ghastly failure of Yeltsin’s Russia where powerful Western business interests, the US Government and Treasury and neo-con and neo-liberal intellectuals made all the crucial decisions ending in the corrupt, oligarchic power structure that runs Russia today.
I take pause to distinguish between neo-conservative (neo-con) and neo-liberal. Neo-con is a political ideology of global American leadership, it seeks to remould the world in an American image, believes in the primacy of American military power and is aggressively anti-communist (Soviet Bloc) and now devoted to containing China. Although East Asia rejected the then-IMF neo-liberal economic strategy it did line up with an American-led political ideology. The purpose of this digression is to strengthen my case for a strong state-led economic growth strategy side by side with market rationality. This dichotomous approach is indeed possible; it worked splendidly in East Asia, loyalty to American political leadership notwithstanding.
Published
on
By
by Anura Gunasekera
I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused- Graham Greene in the Quiet American.Surveying the wreckage of the nation in the moment of the departure of its President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the above simple sentence is seen as a fitting epitaph for the most disastrous custodianship of this country. It would be equally fitting if the words are inscribed one day on his tombstone, wherever that may lie.
Sri Lanka today is a country in which nothing of importance functions normally; public and private transport are, literally, at a standstill; schools are closed; offices, banks, hotels, eating houses – from the top end to the bottom – shops large and small, have become dysfunctional along with many major government hospitals. Life-saving drugs are off the market and what is available is so expensive that they are out of the reach of the average earner. The majority of single entrepreneurs who, together, probably contribute as much or more to the national economy than all the large corporates, have been bankrupted. There is both the scarcity and ungovernable price increase of staple food items. The daily wage-income earner has become indigent. Farmers are unable to cultivate their land and fishermen are unable to go to sea. Export production is declining daily and the Gross Domestic Product is shrinking visibly.
In total, the above was a tragedy waiting to occur but, unarguably, Gotabaya, with his irrationality, obduracy, ignorance of the ways of governance and an inborn witlessness, catalyzed a gradual process and caused the sudden implosion of both the society and economy. Sri Lanka today is a totally failed state, hopelessly indebted to both friendly and unfriendly lenders and in the grip of anarchy. Systems have failed and the mobs rule. Political analysts and other pundits may clothe the situation in romantically attractive analogies – the storming of the Bastille, the French student uprising of 1968, the more recent Arab Spring and other such events elsewhere – but the reality is that there is a total systems breakdown, and the erosion of legitimate rule. It is close to becoming terminally ungovernable unless the lawmakers, immediately, within the next few hours, formulate strategies for systems and governance correction.
GR, when the end seemed nigh, got for himself a short-lived, temporary reprieve by appointing RW as prime minister. Welcomed by some as the redeemer, from the time of his appointment he has done little more than make a series of predictions, each more dire than the other. The irony of a man, rejected by electors, being reincarnated as the saviour of the nation in its darkest hour, is also a reflection of the desperation of Sri Lanka, and the inability, or reluctance, of our parliamentarians, to set aside parochial and individual interests and, instead, to arrive at a consensus based on national need.
At a time when the country had come to a standstill, with millions baying for his blood, GR decided to appear in Parliament. The outcome was that for the first time in history, a leader of our country was drummed out of the House to the accompaniment of hoots and jeers from a combined opposition. Minutes before his precipitate departure he was seen, quite relaxed and exchanging pleasantries with his PM, despite the agony of the citizens on the streets outside. Not long after the PM’s personal residence was torched by protesters. Later he made a televised statement, informing the nation of the damage to his only residence, the destruction of statuary, artifacts, paintings and books, all of great personal and intrinsic value.
As the owner of a library, accumulated lovingly over six decades, I can empathize, unreservedly, with his sense of loss. There can be no condoning of violence and arson, though they are inevitable features of civic unrest the world over. But, regrettably, the insensitivity of the man is such that he does not understand that he was projecting the image of a rich, entitled man, bemoaning the loss of expensive personal belongings, before a nation which has lost all hope and in full view of citizens who have been deprived of both the means and the right to live, by an incompetent, corrupt regime. When a dozen people die in fuel queues, a pregnant mother gives birth after waiting in line for days for a passport, and parents are unable to feed hungry children, a rich man’s loss of personal goods does not warrant a public lament; it is especially imprudent when the man concerned is a much disliked and repeatedly-rejected politician.
The protesters- “Aragalists” in general- are gearing up for what seems to be the final phase of the struggle, their unchanged aim being a complete dismantling of the existing system and the creation of a new, utopian model of governance. Not being a historian I am open to correction but, as far as I am aware, there is no such parallel in recent history which has also stood the test of time. Finally, though they claim to be non-political, in a struggle for control of a society or a nation, there is no such creature as a non-political movement. Any crusade which aims to change the socio-political environment will not succeed without a clear political thrust.
Another question which asks itself is whether the “Aragalaya” has a defined leadership, with whom elected political leaders can engage in meaningful discussion, in order to obtain greater clarity regarding their objectives and, where possible and practical, the integration of such objectives in to future governance. Whilst several political parties have expressed solidarity with the movement, and the more radical claim to represent its interests, it is clear that they do not control its actions. If such parties do insist on their championship of the protest, they must also accept joint responsibility for all the acts of destruction of both public and private property committed by the protestors.

Despite the disorder and disruption that the “Aragalaya” and its sister movements have created, it has stopped a fascist regime in its tracks, and relieved the country of leaders who have not only outlived their usefulness, but also become despised for a variety of reasons. To that extent the “Aragalaya” has achieved a historically significant objective. It is a movement of young men and women who have literally put their lives at risk, and possibly lost regular livelihoods in the process as well, in articulating and giving life to a nation-wide wish. They have liberated a new cultural and political consciousness, for the present invested with morality, inclusiveness and a great honesty of purpose; and long may that last.
As this is being written there is confirmation of GR’s flight from the country and of Ranil Wickremesinghe being sworn in as Acting President, accompanied by television footage of total mayhem in many locations in Colombo; Rupavahini, the State TV channel, has been taken over by protesters and broadcasts have ceased, whilst the defences around the Prime Minister’s office are about to be breached by thousands of protesters. Emergency has been declared and a curfew imposed in the western province. It is a convulsion of a nation in its death throes.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, despite the total illegitimacy of his position as Prime Minister and the country-wide demand for his resignation, has gone one step further and accepted the position of Acting President. With Gota gone he has provided the protest movement with a single focal point for renewed struggle and intensified protest. It is a constitutionally valid step for RW but what is the validity of an action which clearly flies in face of the need and call of the citizen? Does the constitution supersede the cry of the citizens? Given the nature and intensity of the island-wide agitation, which commenced with the farmers’ protest against the inorganic fertilizer ban, thereafter developing in to the “Galle Face Aragalaya” and its subsequent expansion, no formal referendum is necessary to gauge public opinion as to its preferences for government. Leaving aside constitutional and legal arguments as to what is possible – or not possible – within the constitution, what is the validity of a constitution which can override the irresistible wish, and the wrath, of the people? What is happening in Parliament is no longer relevant to the tragic reality of a nation in agony.
What is the possible future scenario? Has Gota actually resigned or is his flight a temporary dislocation, till RW evolves a new strategy to save the Rajapaksa bacon once again? Does Wickremesinghe continue as president for the rest of the existing term? As acting president will he appoint a man of his choice to the vacant post of prime minister, overriding the wish of the parliament, following the process which catapulted him from obscurity, to the position of prime minister, in a matter of hours? With RW as acting president and an individual of his choice as prime minister, will it be possible to form a government representative of all parties? Will there be an early general election, so that protesters and ordinary people can exercise their preference through the ballot?
In the immediate aftermath of the announcement of Wickremesinghe’s appointment, the statements made by Sajith Premadasa, Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Maithripala Sirisena, confirm beyond doubt that the parties that they represent are completely opposed to RW. What the nation desperately needs from its lawmakers is not conflict in parliament but consensus. The divisive RW is not going to achieve that. His latest move is certain to escalate the ongoing agitation to a level, which may result in a militarized retaliation against unarmed protesters. His first act as acting president of Sri Lanka, the declaration of an island-wide emergency and a curfew in the Western province may be the preliminaries to a fascist regime to rival that of the deposed president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Consensus on Speaker as Acting Prez, Ranil’s move to succeed GR rejected
Change of govt. unconstitutional but reality has to be accepted – MS
Gota goes, plunging country into chaos
SJB declares Sajith’s candidature; SLPP dissidents to field Dullas
Gota going, going …
Enormity of greed
Act wisely or perish
Nod given for use of lethal force

source

Shop Sephari