Jul 31

The word “traitor” in English does not sound quite so vicious as the word “desadrohi” in Sinhala, though both words mean very much the same thing. It would not be far wrong to say that the latter term was used only occasionally in public discourse in Sri Lanka until MP Wimal Weerawansa made it rather popular in recent years. Some others from whom we expect nothing better are now increasingly employing this offensive word, so much so that its excessive use has now probably blunted the sharpness of the pain felt by those who are accused of treason for the most trivial or even legitimate acts or omissions. Nevertheless, it was with great surprise that we came across a recent press report that read: “… none other than Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, who said that those who violate the Constitution, irrespective of what profession they practiced, were ‘traitors’”.

We remember the Prime Minister telling one of his live audiences some years ago that the public of Sri Lanka know that politicians lie on election platforms and in party manifestos, and that the public does not really expect them to keep to their promises. We see no cause to disagree with his assessment of the mendacity of politicians. This time, however, he has gone much further. As almost any responsible citizen knows, the oath of office taken by MPs, state employees and the President requires them to uphold and safeguard the Constitution. A sizeable number of citizens would also know that the 13th and 17th Amendments, with their many real and alleged flaws, are integral parts of Sri Lankas Constitution. They would also know that the present government has blatantly and shamelessly violated both these Amendments for years without making any effort to either modify them or remove them altogether by constitutionally permitted means. It is especially worthy of recall that the 17th Amendment was passed unanimously by Parliament in 2001, which means that the majority of those in the present government gave their individual votes at that time in favour of this Amendment but are now brazenly cooperating in its violation. Hence, we are forced to conclude that what the Prime Minister said a few days ago decisively accuses all the members of his government of being traitors.

Having earlier identified politicians as liars for making promises which they had no intention of honouring, it is logical to deduce that, if we are to take the PM’s recent observation also into account, at face value, he is implying, inter alia, that all his colleagues are lying traitors. That being what the general public would understand to be his position, they would undoubtedly wish to know what he intends to do about this vexatious situation.

Good Governance requires that persons in authority, particularly senior Ministers, should consider matters more carefully than they do at present before they make pronouncements that would tend to reduce the value of what they say. In this connection, the amiable Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva has also got us wondering why he finds it necessary, off and on, to offer us advice which is highly questionable. He has recently been criticised for his alleged observation that the avoidance of low-cut dresses and high hemlines by women would help significantly to control dengue. For example, what about our farmers in their “amudes”? In any case, by drawing attention away from the more recognised causes of dengue multiplication, his comments would tend to give the public the feeling that dealing with this disease cannot be so serious a problem, considering that merely raising the necklines and lowering the hemlines of women is going to make a useful impact in the eradication of dengue.

Minister de Silva has also criticised the Z-score method of selecting students for university admission. To the best of our knowledge, this method was developed over a period of years by highly qualified and experienced academics to minimize discrimination of various types which had caused a great deal of heartache in the past. Minister de Silva now wants to include marks for sports and other accomplishments in the Z-score evaluation. Why only sports? What about beauty or body-building competitions? What about successful performances in “Superstar” shows? Military or social service? In reverse, why not have a Z-score system for selecting our national cricket team, giving credit not only for bowling, batting and fielding but also for good academic performance? Being wary of politicians, we are tempted to wonder whether this kind-hearted Minister’s foray into another Ministers territory has been occasioned by his wish to help some educationally backward students in his electorate who are more successful in the sports arena?

In another incident, a few days ago, Minister de Silva was seen on TV, in an election platform address, stating that the people of Uva should vote for Mr Shashindra Rajapakse because he is the son of the President’s brother. The Minister said that the President is likely to vote money more generously for the development of Uva if this nephew were to win. Is this not a serious aspersion cast against the President? Are we to believe that the President would treat Uva less favorably if this close relative were not elected? Are we also to understand that the Budget presented by the President, in his capacity of Finance Minister, is prone to being affected by considerations such as these? Does the President really want his Ministers accusing him of allocating state funds in this irregular manner?

The Citizens Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) is of the firm view that senior members of the government should give a little more careful consideration to what they say as good governance requires that government policies should be expressed clearly and consistently so that citizens may make meaningful decisions in the light of such policies. With the strange messages we are getting, we are in a quandary. If, on the other hand, we have misunderstood or misinterpreted the words of our illustrious Ministers, we shall be happy to help put the record straight.

Dr A.C.Visvalingam


Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance