Sunday, March 22, 2015

Worst President: JR Jayawardana or Mahinda Rajapakse ?

Worst President: JR Jayawardana or Mahinda Rajapakse ?
Sereno Anukkranayagam Barr-Kumarakulasinghe
North Western Province, Sri Lanka

For those who cant be bothered to read long political stuff a two line sound byte.
Junius Richard Jayawardana (JR):  Creator of the 83 anti-Tamil riots, resulting in virulently anti-Sri Lanka diaspora segment.  Builder of a megalomaniacal Capital and Parliament in Sri Jayawardanapura.  Author of the all powerful executive Presidency and first and only President that was NOT ELECTED.
Percy Mahendra Rajapakse (MR).  The facilitator of the end of a ruinous 30 year civil war and unprecedented infra-structure including highways and roads (think Eisenhower highway in the US inspired Hitler’s Autobahn in Germany: Eisenhower gained an appreciation of the Reichsautobahn system” For those who like connections, Eisenhower is pure German name meaning hewer/worker of iron).

I getting a little tired of all the hype of Mahinda Rajapakse (MR) being the worst and most autocratic President of this country. Everyone else has conveniently forgotten JR Jayawardena (JR) the architect of the 1978 Executive Presidency and the creator of the Diaspora. 

The all-powerful Executive President who could overrule Parliament was created to ensure that the elite UNP could always be in power. Until then the UNP had always consistently got over 50% of the popular even though they lost seats in the Westminster style Parliamentary Elections. .  JR’s actions resulted in a period of “two civil wars, both featuring unprecedented levels of violence and brutality”. In comparison MR saw the end of a civil war and unprecedented peace and prosperity.

JR  was never elected never elected President. JR amended the constitution and made the presidency an executive post with sweeping, almost dictatorial powers. Made provisions to automatically make the incumbent prime minister,  himself, President.
Then held a referendum to cancel the 1983 parliamentary elections, and allow the 1977 parliament to continue until 1989.

Disclosure: I am a part Tamil Sri Lankan. One who did not even bother getting a green card after living and working for 22 years in the US (Student Visa and 3 H1B Visas). Free University education in Sri Lanka.  I am eternally grateful for that free Uni after seeing the crippling debt my fellow grad students in the US had taken to get a basic degree.  I live in a remote village and rarely come to Colombo

Italics are quotes, questions statements by other sources.
1983 Riots and Tamil Diaspora (JR’s gift that keeps giving).
While you portray the July 1983 riots as the worst in the modern history of SL you have not attempted to explain how it was ignited. You go on to say it was state sponsored. If it was, was there any reason for them to unleash this until a deadly ambush on the 23rd of July 1983 by the LTTE, that killed 13 Sri Lanka Army soldiers? Still there are many unanswered questions. Was the LTTE so naive not to expect a Sinhalese backlash of this nature on Tamils living in the south? Was the killing of 13 soldiers done knowing such a backlash will bring disrepute to the Sinhalese gov.?
Thats exactly the problem. The LTTE set up a trap wanting a backlash in the South. JR obliged and jumped in head first doing many no no's.
a) The LTTE attacked an Army contingent a legitimate target, i.e. armed Terrorist versus an Armed Army contingent. JR on the other hand unleashed terror and mayhem thru his goons (Cyril Mathew) on civilians (including women and children) who had no connection to the LTTE. Civilians are a no no, and no wonder Sri Lanka became a pariah state for many years.
b) JR allowed the rioting to go on for 3 days before he declared emergency and got the Army to stop the rioting. To make matters worse JR made the statement to the Daily Telegraph," Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy.

There is no question it was state sponsored. The thugs who came to our lane were not the local ones* who mainly lived behind the Dehiwala Zoo. The thugs came with a list and they didnt even stop at a single Sinhalese house. They came to our house and it was the "singhe" surname ending and my sisters and mothers fluent Sinhalese and light skin that spared us. My sisters and mother (all very small made and light skinned) were at the gate. My father was inside the house. All the other Tamil and including a Colombo Chetty family houses were burned.

*an aside: The local big thug, think his name was Kalu Mahathaya was chopped to pieces on Dehiwala Bridge by his brothers son in 1973 during Mrs B's reign. For his funeral procession to Mt Lavinia Cemetery there was a police guard and flowers were dropped on the Galle road by helicopter, courtesy the Sri Lanka Air Force

Sri Lanka is still paying the price for JR's stupidity/racism or whatever you want to call it. 1983 created the diaspora that is still funding and agitating overseas to punish Sri Lanka. It wont end till those who were say 20 years in 83 become 70 years old. That means 2030 or so.  Much like Miami where anti Fidel Castro politics was the defining theme. This was because Castro confiscated all property of those who (read rich Cubans) left the country in 1960 during the revolution. Now that 20 year olds who left in 1960 are in their 70's the anti-Castro thinking is no longer defining politics of Miami.

The sad part is that Tamils residing in Colombo/Kandy and attacked in 1983 were very Westernized, quite a large proportion of who were Protestant Christian. They were probably a UNP constituency that would have been anti LTTE.  Most of them left the country and did quite well professionally. Some of them are virulently anti Sri Lanka and want to see it reduced to a beggar nation

Example Arjunan Sivanathan, who I think is an old Thomian, Economics Ph.D and one time Credit Derivatives and Sovereign Bonds Trader at Barclays Capital and Societe Generale. That means he made around at least a base USD 500,000/year and that is without commissions and bonuses. Arjunan has called for "a regime of punitive economic sanctions" while writing seemingly unbiased articles about the bad state of Sri Lankan economy (you can read about it here).

Credit where credit is due: JR out foxed Rajiv Gandhi and got him to use the Indian arm to fight the LTTE. So essentially JR set in play actions that would result in the LTTE assassinating Rajiv Gandhi.

Corruption has been always present in Sri Lankan govts. One issue that must be noted, the economy was smaller so corruption in rupees and cents was much lower though percentage wise might have been the same over time. Corruption at that time was literally chicken feed and there was a controversy about chicken feed and Felix Dias Bandaranayake during Mrs B's time in the 70's.
JR has to be granted, no corruption charges could be pointed out at him. However, the biggest govt project at that time was the Mahaveli Project and its common knowledge about the level of corruption associated with the project. The biggest project during say 1990 to 2009 was the war. So does anyone say that there was no corruption with Army Navy purchases during that time.
To me monetary corruption is a distant thing which does not affect my day to day quality of life. I guess you can say it affects future generation. So too would have another 30 years of war and worse horribly affect day to day quality of life.

The take (sound bite)
From 1983 to 2009 Corruption and commission were from destruction i.e. from the war.
From 2005 to 2014 Corruption and commissions were from construction. 
i.e. Mattala etc.
Take you pick of poison. Personally I prefer the latter.

Law and Order
JR put in the Prevention for Terrorism act. It did precious little to actually combat the LTTE menace. Out in the North and East it just drove more into the LTTE fold, or made them emigrate to provide more to cause and coffers of the LTTE.
In the south extra judicial killings against purported JVPers, more in reality anti govt or private grudges were the norm. People have forgotten the necklacing, where a tire was put round suspected JVPer and set on fire. My nephew and  drinking buddy Carmen Liyanage was burned in Ahangama. He was no JVPer, just get drunk and talk shout junk. Another friend was Weerawansa who was in Kelaniya Uni and schooling in Lumbini Vidyalaya, Thimbirigasyaya. , Thin, tall and articulate but soft spoken, Weerawansa was a staunch JVPer. Weerawansa (when I out of country thought Vimal was the same) has disappeared from the face of earth.

You could not travel around the country (I was in the country till 1988), if you had a Tamil name (I have a very Tamil middle name) you were harassed at every check point.  Being born in the South and being able to speak fluent Sinhalese got me out of many scrapes.

Even at lesser level we can keep our windows and doors open because there are almost no drug addicts (kudu karayas) ready to steal the smallest thing.

My mother and father were traditionally UNP ers except for once my mother voted for Mrs Bandaranayake. Woman support. My mother and sisters still support Mahinda Rajapakse because of the peace he brought to the country. And we dont have even a remote connection to the Rajapakse corridors. They too remember the 83 riots. 

What of MR's stoking of new inter-religious tensions? Against the Muslims and Christians.

One thing to keep in mind is that no government (including current Yaha Palanya) will ever order the arrest of a Buddhist priest. Buddhist priests maybe critical of the actions of another Priest. However, if any priest is arrested (other than say for murder or other crimes) they will close ranks and turn against the government.

All that can be said is that the BBS actions against Muslims have been condoned or a blind eye turned. The biggest was the Aluthgama/Dharga Town incident and in no way or manner can it be compared to the state sanctioned 83 riots.

The Christian attacks have been against Evangelical Christian churches. BBS has only marginally been involved in these. I personally know of two.
a) Attack on Evangelical Christian Church and Pastor in Negombo Talahena/Dungalpitiya. That was done by led by the Catholic Priest and the local Catholic Church who were seeing a steady erosion of their congregation to the Evangelical Church. Rupees and Cents. When your congregation goes elsewhere less donations and tithes.

b) The attack on the Hikkaduwa Church that was televised. The pastor of that church is my cousin. This has been an ongoing battle with a local Buddhist priest of a small temple nearby. (The big prosperous temples have no issues with Evangelicals because its not their congregation that jumps ship). The church/pastor had filed charges against the priest for an attack around 2004. As it became evident the Buddhist priest was losing the case he attacked the church (was televised) to destroy evidence.

So at least these two incidents cant be laid on Mahinda Rajapaskes lap. If fact MR has quietly blocked the anti conversion Bills that have been tabled often in Parliment.

Meglomania (Sri Jayawardenapura or Nelum Pokuna)
JRJ changed the capital from Colombo to Sri Jayawardenapura.  What more should be said.  

Racism and Language .
All government employees hired after 2012 have to pass the Sinhala and Tamil O/L equivalency test. That is a Sinhalese has to pass Tamil and a Tamil has to pass Sinhala. Can that be called the Policy of a racist President.

Western Opinion
Quotes and picture from a NY times opinion piece by Ryan Goodman
But the country must make sure that members of the ousted regime do not return to power and that the new government can secure its authority. The United States - and only the United States - can do something to help make that happen.
That's why marginalizing Mr. Rajapaksa (Gotabaya) now is important.

Gotabaya must be doing something right to incur the wrath of likes of Ryan Goodman. Does anyone think the likes of Ryan Goodman have the interests of Sri Lanka. First it was Christianity that the West used justify invasions into Africa and Asia. Then it was Democracy. The newest religion is Human rights.
Make what you want of the Picture. The US riding the Sri Lankan Lion to fight Gotabaya.

On the ethnic question, Jayewardene's legacy is bitterly divisive. When he took office, ethnic tensions were present but the country as a whole was at peace. By the end of his tenure, Sri Lanka was facing not one but two civil wars, both featuring unprecedented levels of violence and brutality.
Jayewardene moved to crack down on the growing activity of Tamil militant groups. He passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1979, giving police sweeping powers of arrest and detention. This only escalated the ethnic tensions. Jayewardene claimed he needed overwhelming power to deal with the militants. He had likely SLFP presidential nominee Sirimavo Bandaranaike stripped of her civic rights and barred from running for office for six years, based her decision in 1976 to extend the life of parliament. This ensured that the SLFP would be unable to field a strong candidate against him in the 1982 election, leaving his path to victory clear. This election was held under the 3rd amendment to the constitution which empowered the president to hold a Presidential Election anytime after the expiration of 4 years of his first term.


  1. Comparison should be not with JR but with SWRD who started the whole mess.

    1. The start of the problem was JR who was running around in 1944 with a Sinhala use in Govt.

      SWRD one upped it by saying Sinhala (and Tamil) in 24 hours.
      Later agreed to Tamil to be recognized as the language of a "National Minority" in the country and would be an "Official Language" for administrative purpose in the North & Eastern Provinces

      JR blocked the equal use of Tamil.

      In 1935, the Lanka Samasamaja Party was formed with a fundamental objective to introduce the use of Sinhala and Tamil in the lower courts, police stations and government sector. Thus emerged the movement for adopting Swabasha (or Own Language) prior to independence, leading to the decision that English would be gradually be replaced as the official language by both the Sinhalese & Tamils.

      However in 1944, J.R. Jayawardena proposed that "Sinhala" be made the official language in a reasonable time. But his proposal was amended and it was recommended that both Sihala & Tamil languages be made the official languages for medium of instruction in schools, public service exams and legislative proceedings. At this time , S.W.R.D Bandaranayaka reportedly remarked "I have no personal objection to
      both languages being made official languages of Ceylon, nor do I see any particular harm or danger or real difficulty from this"

      On July 25, 1957 the Bandaranayaka - Chelvanayan compromise agreement to the language issue was signed. According to the settlement, Tamil was to be recognized as the language of a "National Minority" in the country and would be an "Official Language" for administrative purpose in the North & Eastern Provinces.

      J.R Jayawardena led a march from Colombo to Kandy to protest against the agreement, but was stopped at Gampaha by S.D Bandaranayaka. Prime Minister, S.W.R.D. Bandaranayaka was compelled to abrogate the
      compromise agreement with Chelvanayakan in 1958.

      So another bad for JR

  2. Can i translate and publish this in my blog?

  3. No problem, I was hoping someone would do it