Opinion: A silver lining in pitch darkness – Victor Ivan’s take on Mangala’s surprising decision
ECONOMYNEXT – The decision reached by Mangala Samaraweera, who is considered a colourful, controversial, daring and creative figure in the old or traditional political landscape of Sri Lanka – which is currently on the verge of decay and death – to abandon the course of traditional politics and choose an alternative path can be seen as a silver lining in the prevalent pitch darkness. I have just had a narrow escape from a serious heart attack, and despite being in a difficult situation at the moment, I felt it was my duty to express my sincere sentiments on Mangala’s change and the new path he has chosen, at least in the form of a brief note.
Mangala had several rounds of discussions with me before he chose this new path. He was aware that I was an activist of the Punarudaya movement, an exclusive social movement, when he had discussions with me. We both had long standing acquaintances, and there were occasions when we had even entered into heated arguments in public debates on various issues of public importance. For a long time, we did not associate each other closely. It can be said to have resumed only during the latter part of the previous government.
Mangala invited me to deliver the keynote address at the launch of his biography. He gave me the freedom to choose my own topic. I decided to talk about Sri Lanka’s crisis. I pointed out that Sri Lanka that shone bright among Asian countries at the time of Independence was dragged down to its current predicament by successive ruling parties that came to assume power since then. My speech can be considered a rigorous polemic against the two main political parties that have ruled the country since independence.
I stated that the political parties of Sri Lanka do not have a realistic solution to the crisis facing the country and as a result the total collapse of socio-political order and the economy of the country is inevitable. The speech I delivered at this function which was attended by a large number of UNP leaders and supporters of Mangala from the Matara district cannot be considered propagandist one for that party’s presidential election campaign. However, my speech did not anger Mangala. Delivering the vote of thanks, Mangala admitted that not only the two main political parties that ruled the Sri Lanka alternately, but he himself is responsible for the plight of the country, for which he expressed his regret.
Following the defeat of the presidential election and the handing over of nominations for parliamentary elections, he convened a meeting of a small group of select individuals to further discuss Sri Lanka’s crisis. The issue was discussed in detail. There were two prominent economic experts among those who were present at this discussion. Two Central Committee members of the Punarudaya Movement also participated in two rounds of discussions held in this regard with me. All participants shared the view that the crisis in Sri Lanka has gone too far and beyond anyone’s control with the eventual collapse of the socio-political order and the economy of the country being inevitable.
The next discussion was on what we, and Mangala especially, could and should do to save the country from this unfortunate situation. Everyone agreed that we should launch a strong public movement with an advanced vision capable of achieving the structural reforms needed for building the country. The role of Mangala in this endeavour was also discussed. I was strongly of the view that Mangala should withdraw himself from the hackneyed old path of politics and even from contesting the upcoming parliamentary election, and rigorously contribute to the new journey he has set upon. Some of the participants were of the view that he could pursue the new path without leaving the course of old politics altogether. But Mangala was not in agreement. His firm conviction was that he should move away from the old culture of politics which is rotten almost beyond redemption and commit himself to the cause of building a new mass political movement aimed at saving the country. Everyone who attended the discussion reached the consensus that they possess the ability to stand up for the cause of the new movement with self confidence as the object of it is free the country of parochial and conspiratorial schemes aimed at seizing power.
Sri Lanka, as a country, is now at a critical political juncture. The old-fashioned political parties which are corrupt do not realistically have the ability to offer a lasting solution to this crisis.
The extensive crisis Sri Lanka is currently facing can be overcome constructively, only by a true public movement which has a secular, pluralistic and democratic vision and is committed to build the Sri Lankan nation disregarding the recognition accorded to parochial and discriminatory divisions based on ethnicity, castes, and religions, and dedicated to bequeath equal rights and human dignity for all those who treat Sri Lanka as their motherland, and introduce structural reformations aimed at abolishing corruption, inefficiency and bureaucracy which have overwhelmed the Sri Lanka state and its institutional system, and recreating a new Sri Lanka state where the rule of law reigns supreme. Mangala has joined such a political program of historical significance. All those having a sense of duty to the country are welcome to join the Punarudaya Movement and become its co-partners. (Colombo/Jun19/2020)
Originally published on Victor Ivan’s Facebook. Republished with permission, with some light copy editing.