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Not for Him, But for Us

Kade Yaama is an idiomatic expression that is now added to popular Sinhala parlance. It literally means ‘going to the market on behalf of someone or action taken to please someone’. It also can mean to be uncritically following another’s way. I recently heard a few well-known and respected Sinhala music, theatre and film personalities say “Api katawath kade giyeth ne, yanneth ne.

Api kade yanne ape rata wenuwen vitharai” This was on telecasts of election rallies, where they rallied in support of the incumbent President and it means “We have never before spoken and will not speak up for anyone at anyone’s instigation, but will only do it in support of our Motherland”.

Once victims

Never before have I seen such wide spectrum of personalities, some of whom I personally know and believe are very independent in their thinking, take on the role of speaking on behalf of a single political leader. The last, I remember of a somewhat similar instance is the support a section of the artistic community had for Late President Premadasa and the various good deeds he performed for the benefit of this otherwise neglected ‘elite’ of our society. The Tower Hall Foundation, special housing schemes and old-age support program were among them.

Hearts and minds

President Mahinda Rajapaksa being greeted by artistes. Courtesy: ANCL Library photos

What I witness today is seen as an even more significant movement by the artistic community, ignited not merely by deeds performed on their behalf but through a genuine concern for our Motherland, its indigenous cultural values and her future well-being. Today, there is genuine effort to provide State-sponsorship for the development of artistic creativity, which was glaringly absent during some earlier regimes of governance. More so, there is an understanding and appreciation by the leadership of the power of the arts in nation building, especially in bringing hearts and minds of various communities together.

In focusing on the support of the artistic community, I am here not referring to the campaign on TV unleashed by Tarunayata Hetak (A tomorrow for youth) where a cross-section of popular idols and personalities, also call on us citizens, under that program banner, to vote for a leader with proven experience and capability to ensure a better future for the country, without specific reference to any individual candidate.

What I refer to are voluntary deeds of artists and creative personalities, who were known for their independent stances, now venturing to speak directly to the hearts and minds of the people at election rallies in support of President Rajapaksa.

We also see several of those who on earlier occasions had supported political parties in the opposing alliance, now campaigning for the incumbent President as well.

Much in touch

Creative people and the intelligentsia of a nation are usually known to be elite groups in society that stretch their critical faculties most. They are also much in touch with society at large and strongly feel its pulse. We have seen how plays such as Hunuwataye Kathawa (an adaptation by

Henry Jayasena of Betolt Brecht’s ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’); Apata Puthe Magak Nathe (Son, we have no way out) of Sugathapala de Silva; Eka Adipathy (Him the Dictator) of Dharmasiri Bandaranayake; and films such as Gamini Fonseka’s Koti Valigaya; Dharmasena Pathiraja’s Soldadu Unnahe; Prasanna Vithanage’s Pura Handa Kaluwara, Sunil Ariyaratne’s Sarungale and other works on the national question and song lyrics calling for social justice, the Master Premasiri Kemadasa/Nanda Malini symphonic presentation of Sathyaye Geethaya (Song of Truth), Jayantha Chandrasiri’s Guerrilla Marketing, G.K. Hatthotuwegama’s Street Theatre group plays and many other land mark presentations in several other forms of art, had brought out artistically analytical and immensely creative presentations of burning issues, in the past.

Tightrope walking

I got thinking as to why, these mature and thinking change-agents among our creative community are not convinced by moves calling for a ‘change’, with corruption and nepotism as the central theme?

Were they, if at all doubting the validity of these claims, where both sides seem to accuse each other, some with evidence and others without to substantiate them? Were they, like most of us, of the thought that rumours we hear are stating the obvious, for there has been corruption in governance during all regimes in Sri Lanka since the 1980s, which has grown like a potent cancer that needs to be removed altogether? Are they like most, not directly attributing it to the incumbent President who with years of service in politics has not been accused of such acts before?

Are they of the belief that he had his hands full, performing an act of political tightrope walking during his first term, while also maintaining focus on fighting a difficult war? Do they hold the view that the President, with proven management prowess he displayed in overcoming the challenge of defeating the LTTE, has what it takes to also take on a change process, to set in place a regime of good governance during the second term he is seeking?

Do they have faith in the clarion call he is making for sustainable and equitable development for the future of our country, in a new unified environment of governance, where all Sri Lankans will be able to live with dignity and honour?

Cut and paste

We all know that there is so much to be desired about our structures and people in governance. It also extends to the non-partisan nature and quality of vigilance exercised by our civil society as well.

In the most recent communique issued as a policy statement, by the main opposing camp, American President Obama’s election campaign theme of a year ago of ‘Change we can believe in’ has been cut and pasted as the title, translated verbatim as ‘Visvansaneeya Venasak’.

Although, most of the youth and the creative community in the USA did support President Obama in this campaign and the campaign theme was relevant to what was happening in the US at the time, we need to pay greater attention to the contextual differences we have in the two situations, before we can talk of ‘Change we can believe in’.

Our call now

What is the change that is called for, that we as Sri Lankans have not seen happen this far? Is it that we have not seen an end to a near 30 years of a reign of terror, where people of a single nation could not live as brothers and sisters in unity with dignity?

Is it because, there is an attempt at developing a sustainable economy with special focus on affected and neglected regions, so we could not be entirely dependent on global market fluctuations? Is it because there is a revival of an inclusive nationalism with a sense of pride in being Sri Lankan, starkly in contrast to indulging blindly in negative pursuits of the lumpen elements of the dominant global culture?

Have we not as a nation, had enough in long and short spells of instability and mayhem? For almost 30 years, we lived in constant fear, under LTTE’s reign of terror.

Young lives with promising futures were lost in misguided rebellion at different times in our recent history. We have seen our leaders and members of the media slain in vain. The challenge before us now, as right thinking citizens, is to rally together to rebuild our nation with the Rule of Law prevailing at all times.

A leader with proven skills and experience is making a call on us, to give him a mandate just to do that. He does not claim he is perfect or all has been well in the past. From most of what he says and does, like the artistic community we also feel, that he means well.

It is up to us now to determine if we heed that call or get back again to an era of uncertainty, instability and insecurity.

We must indeed do the right thing, not for him, but for us and for the future of our nation.

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