Thursday, December 19, 2019

The arrest of Champika – all part of the master plan to rid the country of winnable opposition leaders! Here is a clear winning strategy out of it


It is no secret that the Rajapakse (there are no other words to describe the present rule) Government was “coca hoop” when the candidature of Sajith Premadasa was announced to pit against Gotabaya Rakapakse, as the result immediately became a foregone conclusion, on the day of the announcement itself.

It is therefore mischievous for some of the sore losers to blame the defeat on Ranil Wickremesinghe, who neither helped nor hindered, and worse, the announcement that SP would drop RW if he won, lost him  even more votes, among the die-hard RW fans, than he might have. I predicted at the time upon announcement that he would lose by 1M votes, but the rest is due to his own narcissist personality disorder, that was painfully obvious and cringe worthy at the campaign trail. 

Needless to say Sajith Premadasa should have simply resigned, and left the country for an extended sabbatical, just to save his own mental state, that must have got a shock, from which he has obviously not yet recovered, and unlikely to do so in time to revive the UNP to face the General Elections in May of 2020.

Suffice to say, he has done the opposite, sulked, was absent for too long, and is now seen arriving at constituencies of his ardent supporting MPs to meet and greet, too late and frankly, not in a fit state to infuse the faithful with the needed morale boost at this time. The sooner he is ditched and forgotten, as one who lost too badly to find any solace in an improbably comeback, the better, for the fortunes of the UNP at the impending General Elections.

So what next? Well, the only challenger to SP was Patalie Champika Ranawaka, an engineering graduate I believe from Moratuwa University, by training, and much admired by not just the intellectuals, but also by the Buddhist Clergy, as he has emerged as a rising star coming from the Hela Urumaya, which he ditched to hang his hat with the UNP.

The easiest way to promote him is to arrest him on trumped up charges, which is exactly what the Rajapakses just did. They know a stint in jail, albeit even one night is sufficient to increase his brand among the party faithful, and if one looks at social media within minutes of his arrest, there was simply no doubt about that.

He is probably grinning to himself at the midnight grace of luck that was bestowed a few hours ago. So if SP falls flat on his own sword, it is Ranawake’s to wrest and raise the flag. The Rajapakses want him as the opposition front man leading the election, as he is considered to be beatable as there is a large dossier of dirt on him, primarily relating to his private life of the past, and this will no doubt be brought up at the appropriate time to destroy any chance he has of taking up the baton from SP. He is not a squeaky clean politician as most people think he is, and it is clear that those with skeletons are whom the Rajapakses want to have as the opposition candidates to challenge him. They can destroy them.

I just hope the UNP don’t fall for this oldest trick in the book, played by so many players that history buffs like Ranil Wickremesinghe only know too well. He is watching this tragicomedy unfold, and thinking to himself, what now! what next!

As we all know, RW would have preferred to have the OLD Karu Jayasuriya contest the Presidential Election, as the margin of defeat would not have been as great as it was. However the young turks of the party like Marikkar, Wickremeratne, Ajith Perera, Harin Fernando, Ajith Mannapperuma, Harshana Rajakaruna and Harsha de Silva would not hear of it!

Now the Rajapakses completely emboldened by the massive victory are, as history has also shown, are making mistake after mistake, due to that tragic flaw called over confidence and swollen brain syndrome!

There is sufficient grounds to show even the die-hard Rajapakse fan, that the mis steps are mindboggling, considering the General Election is only a few months away and instead of trying to consolidate power to ensure a two thirds majority in parliament, are on the verge of giving the game away if the opposition is able to run a campaign of honesty and keep on message/point, to what the people need.

It is no secret that the Die Hards voted in the Rajapakses due to the fear of the country being sold out to Tamils and Muslims, the traditional fear of Sinhala Buddhists egged on by a reactionary Clergy, who want to safeguard their privileged position, increasingly under threat by a globalized electorate of educated youth who know that religion does not matter, and only opportunity to leverage their ability and knowledge to better themselves is all that matters in life.

While this motivated many to vote for them, it has not taken a month to blow this canard asunder, when the price of basic commodities have skyrocketed within weeks after the election. The immediately implemented tax cuts have not helped the pockets of the electorate, as few if any products have had price reductions, with many businesses keeping the benefits to themselves, due to crony capitalist monopolies they run. This means that the shift is going to be a reduction of government revenue, but an increase in the crony capitalist share of that reduction, with perhaps less than half being passed down to the public at large.

Come May, in time for the election, if there was a proper campaign by the opposition to show that the people have been lied to, the UNP have a chance of leading a coalition back into power, under a GR Presidency, however unlikely that may seem right now. It is perfectly do able if there is a winning strategy.

The fact that the Opposition is so divided, and not under the able management of a good leader, is the only factor preventing them from winning this election. The rate of Rajapakse missteps is increasing daily, and the next step is likely to be the Parliament not being recalled, till after the elections in May. If that happens it will be simply dictatorial rule by the Head of State. This is going to affect the existing cabal of supporters increasingly feeling isolated and without any control or influence in being able to help their constituents who voted for them. Already steps (quite rightly so) have been put in place to have capable people run organizations and fill vacancies, shutting them off to party supporters who may have hoped for some crumbs to fall their way.

All in all, the time is ripe to be a member of the opposition and, to FIND a good, honest leader to back, one who does not have delusions of Grandeur like Premadasa or Ranawake, and can take the Country, NOT THE PARTY forward. Being a party animal has always been why Sri Lanka is a failed state, and GR has tried to extricate himself from that Moniker, but cannot do so due to the way the brothers play their game. It is the moment for the UNP to find a national leader.

One with charisma, selfless leadership, speaking on point and not by character assassination, who can win the premiership, and this person can be someone no one knows just yet, but can be the catalyst for change the country really needs.

I know more than anyone RW is looking for that person, who ideally would be young, but could also be a woman, who can inspire confidence in anyone they come across, by presence even before he or she opens his mouth.

So please don’t fall for the Rajapakse trap, of putting either SP or CR into the fray, but instead put someone who can challenge the status quo and triumph as the new kid on the block, much in the same way that GR won the Presidency not being tainted by politics.

Don’t we ever learn? The one lesson we should have taken from the GR victory is that public don’t care for career politicians, and instead want someone who they can believe in to carry out promises. GR has already proved to carry out half of his promises and the other half have been mere figments meant to fool.

I know the stars are lining for an even bigger revolution in SL politics in May 2020, but no one has been able to see through the chaff to be clear on this likelihood. The only missing piece of the chess board is the most important one, namely the KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR who comes on the white horse!

Monday, December 16, 2019

There is a first time for everything! My first convocation was only yesterday

To put it all in perspective, I had to wait over 60 years on this fair earth to attend my first convocation yesterday, though it was not mine, it was nevertheless a chance to absorb the moment when over 1200 students were awarded their doctorates, masters, baccalaureate and associate degrees at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

So what about my own? It was June 1978, when I completed my degree, for a Bachelor of Science Degree with Honors in Economics & Accounting (double major) from the University of Bristol. As soon as my exams and classes were over, I flew back to Sri Lanka to work as an Audit Trainee, unpaid of course.

I did not have the funds to stay long enough to attend the degree awarding ceremony at the Convocation in Bristol, to collect my degree and wear the robe of a graduate and have my photo taken and framed at home, for all who come to see, as is common now. My degree certificate was sent in the mail to me.

Those reading this will find that very odd, as people in Sri Lanka (or so it seems to me) will do almost anything to have this big day recorded in history, most of whom have their parents attend, and have a photographer on hand, and in today’s world have FB also record it for friends and family to join in and congratulate.

My parents were also not in a position to fly out for the ceremony either, unlike many well to do parents today, and so I don’t have a picture of myself in my graduating robe and mortarboard to show off to any one! Fortunately, I don’t have children, who in today’s context will question why that was so.

I suppose that touch of modesty, where the importance was in achieving your goal, and not in having the record of the achievement in the form of a photograph, came from my upbringing too, where in our house there was never a photo of either of my parents at their graduation, nor have I ever asked them if they attended their convocations. My Dad got his degree in India from Madras Christian College, and my mother got her degree from the Colombo University, to which she cycled each day for classes from her home, not too far away.

I note all this in order that the reader appreciates that it is never too late to attend a convocation, even if it of others, where I don’t know anyone who received the degree. Thanks to a Professor of the University, with whom I am staying, that I had the opportunity of attending, so that I will briefly opine on my impression of the occasion. Even upon receiving my Chartered Accountants Qualification from the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) I never attended a ceremony conferring this qualification unlike now in Sri Lanka.

So let me opine on my visit today, at the University’s First National Bank Arena where it was held. It is a massive arena within the University, where the Red Wolves, the University Basketball Team play their home game and has seating on three sides of the rectangle. I am told it is normal procedure in all Colleges in the USA, so this description is for those who would like to know, and are curious.

This University like I believe most in the USA, hosts convocations three times in the year, this being the smallest, done in one morning session, while the Summer one has the largest number graduating and so is split into two sessions on the same day, so that half the faculties are done in the morning session and the other half in the afternoon.

There is no limit on the guests attending, and no passes are checked, but there is a security check for all entering the Arena including faculty, as standard practice.

The car park is well organized by the campus police and security to ensure smooth arrivals. On the appointed time, 10am the faculty stream in to take their seats nearest to the podium and there are 300+ tenured positions. Then the VC and Deans enter the podium with the VC acting as the MC also. The students in the colors of their faculties come in to take their places and are permitted an element of individuality, including varied mortar boards with their own special designs if they so wish.

After the speeches are over and the valedictorian’s speech on behalf of the graduating class is given, then the degree ceremony proper starts. The VC specifically encouraged the visitors to cheer their graduate when their names are called, and you can imagine that some bring many members of their families and shout loudest when their name is called. I noticed that as there were many African Americans receiving their degrees, and the loudest cheers came from their family members who were there to support their big day.

Everyone’s name was called, and each shook hands with their faculty head the VC, and had a photo taken with the VC and a separate photo in their regalis, once they descended the podium. Each graduate had a card with is name, type of degree and if it was Magna, Summa or Cum Laude, so that card is given to the person announcing their name, so it NEVER caused a confusion in names when the graduate is announced.

The PhD holders were the first to be awarded and they bend down to have their sponsor, their tutor of the dissertation who was on hand to put the cloak over their heads when their names are mentioned. Most PhD were for Education and Philosophy as Teachers aspire to Doctorates to further enhance their status, and have the time during their vacation breaks to study for higher degrees. It shows that teaching (Public Schools) is held in high regard in the USA.

I noticed another aspect where those in wheelchairs had a special place for them to watch the proceedings, showing the emphasis both on access to disabled, but also the facilities provided for them. I also noticed that all stairs in the Arena have rails in the flights of stairs to hold onto, so people who need assistance can hold onto, and I with crutches was able to climb without further assistance. I salute the USA for steps taken to accommodate the differently abled in all aspects of life.

People were very casually dressed in attending this convocation in line with the very informal dress code of people in the USA, the same attire they would wear to a ball game, or going shopping I guess! One thing that I felt was bad was that many people (about half of those attending) left before the formalities were over, which in total took only 2 hours from the 10am start to the noon finish, which was incredible, considering all the students names were mentioned, and they were greeted individually by the VC.

All students are automatically enrolled in the Alumni Association upon graduation and their first year dues are paid by the University. The Commencement Brochure/Booklet given free to all who attend is very detailed explaining all the process and what the various colors of the graduates are, and you identify their status.

After the event, all the students were invited to attend a reception with the faculty and the VC along with their parents, though very few availed themselves of this.

I noticed that there were many foreign students graduating too.

In Conclusion

The business of education in the USA and it is definitely a business second only to Healthcare, is efficiently run, with the obtaining of qualifications, enabling people to have the minimum certification for entry into most employment. All students have to pay for their education with only a few obtaining full scholarships. The amount of assistance varies depending if they are in state or out of state students, and Overseas Students generally pay the most.

There are hundreds of private and public colleges all over the USA, and Federal Assistance has fallen, meaning states and private sources are needed to take up this shortfall in education, and it seems that there are increasing donations and funding for this amongst alumni and philanthropic bodies, and trusts.

Arkansas State University whose main campus is in Jonesboro and they have two subsidiary campuses, have 14,000 students and 1,500 faculty. So it is the largest employer in the city of Jonesboro.