With the passing away of the year 2012, I wish to invite the attention of the readers to a fresh concept.
Although I may call it fresh, it is not all that ‘fresh’ and the format that I am presenting below has been in use over and over again by various news media groups, especially in the Western Democracies where free expression of ideas, opinions and views are taken for granted.
A set of categories is spelt out and in the writer’s view, the winner in each category is named from many nominations the writer himself has submitted.Each category will have at least two nominations, from amongst which I would make my own choice. Please do understand that this is my personal choice. You, the reader, have every right to disagree with me, not only with the final choice but even the nominations. There lies the interest in this format. You, the readers are most welcome to make your own comments and propose your own nominations and final choices (I would rather use the word ‘choice’ than ‘winner’, for there are no winners and losers, only choices). Nominations could be made from any and all fields of expertise and profession, political, social, academic, the arts, cultural, economic and so forth. The Nominee can be a person, an event, a group of persons, a group of events or even an idea or a concept.
Instead of presenting all the categories at the very outset, I chose to mention each category in the order of my presentation and go down the line. I most earnestly request the readers to do the same. However, what you choose to do is entirely your business.
1• Biggest winner:
1.1 Mahinda Rajapaksa
1.2 General Sarath Fonseka
1.3 Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA)
1.4 Tamil Diaspora
1.5 K. Kanag-Ishwaran
‘Biggest winner’: Kang-Ishwaran President’s Counsel K. Kanag- Ishwaran who argued the case for the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court is undoubtedly the ‘Biggest Winner’ in the year 2012. Although the verdict was delivered on 3 January, 2013, Kanag-Ishwaran made his most lucid and convincing arguments before the Supreme Court in the waning days of 2012. ‘Ish’, as he is fondly addressed by his friends, hails from a very distinguished family in Jaffna. His father, K. Kanaganayagam was the first President of the UNP organization in Jaffna in the 1940s and was appointed to the Senate by the late D. S. Senanayake, the First Prime Minister of Ceylon in 1948. Kanag-Ishwaran is one of the most senior President’s Counsels today.
2• Biggest loser:
2.1 UNP Reformists
2.2 Ranil Wickremesinghe
2.3 G. L. Peiris
‘Biggest loser’: UNP Reformists After launching a valiant campaign to oust and replace Ranil Wickremesinghe from leadership of the Party, the UNP Reformists Group fell flat on its face at the Annual Convention held on 1 December, 2012 at Sirikotha. Instead of getting ousted, Ranil managed to get his period of office of leadership of the Party extended to six years, thereby bringing the reform-process to a complete halt. The gravity of this event cannot be overstated in that, with the extension of Ranil’s term as the leader of the UNP, the gradual erosion of the voter-base of the UNP assumed speedier proportions spelling sure death of the Party as a viable alternative to the current party in power. The consequences accrued to the country at large are immense in the defeat of the Reformists’ Group. The vacuum that was created by the absence of a charismatic leader in the Grand Old Part would certainly have grave repercussions for the country.
3• Best politician:
3.1 Mahinda Rajapaksa
3.2 Basil Rajapaksa
3.3 General Sarath Fonseka
‘Best politician’: Basil Rajapaksa When President Rajapaksa was battered all over in 2012, one politician who played his cards well and intelligently was his younger brother, Basil Rajapaksa, the Minister of Economic Affairs. Basil seems to be managing his affairs so wisely and craftily and whenever a crisis emerges, he seems to emerge as the go-to guy. His name and reputation remained untarnished throughout the crisis-ridden year. Whether it was the Impeachment Motion against the Chief Justice or the Foreign Ministry debacles or the crises in the Education and Higher Education sectors, he emerged as the problem-solver.
4• Worst politician:
4.1 Ranil Wickremesinghe
4.2 General Sarath Fonseka
4.3 G. L. Peiris
‘Worst politician’: Ranil Wickramasinghe Taken in terms of the damage that was caused to the country’s democratic institutions and governance, the ‘lasting power’ of Ranil Wickremesinghe proved to be the downfall of the UNP in particular and helped spread a contagious sense of apathy in the country in general. Ranil’s ‘strong point’ has become the country weak point. In fact, the long-term damage to the country caused by Ranil being at the helm of the ‘alternate power’ is immeasurable.
5• Most defining politicalmoment:
5.1 Impeachment Motion against the Chief Justice
5.2 UNHRC Meeting in Geneva
5.3 Release of General Sarath Fonseka
‘Most defining political moment’: Impeachment against the Chief Justice Impeachment Motion brought against the Chief Justice essentially defined the present regime in a very nasty and negative way. It was so because it was engineered subsequent to an adverse judgment rendered by the Supreme Court with regard to the infamous Divi Neguma Bill. The regime looked upon this decision by the highest court in the land as a ‘point of no return’. The haste with which they tried to rush the passage of the Bill, ultimately paved the way for the legal quagmire that the government is enmeshed in today and exposed once again, the UPFA’s gross inadequacies in the art of governance. The chain of other related and unrelated events that followed the initiation of the Impeachment Motion is clearly the winner in this category.
6• Most boring
6.1 Ranil Wickremesinghe
6.2 Chamal Rajapaksa
‘Most boring’: Chamal Rajapaksa Although Ranil Wickremesinghe could be classified as a very boring conversationalist and a dull politician, Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa could be the most boring Speaker that this country ever produced.
7• Most charismatic
7.1 Mahinda Rajapaksa
7.2 Karu Jayasuriya
7.3 General Sarath Fonseka
‘Most Charismatic’: Mahinda Rajapaksa Despite being attacked by the media, both International and local, President Rajapaksa remains the most charismatic leader that this country produced after the last set of UNP leaders, J. R. Jayewardene,
R. Premadasa, Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali. Although his charisma seems to be waning in the last couple of months, he has no equal in the modern theatre of politics today.
8• Worst lie
8.1 Miracle of Asia
8.2 ‘We gave CJ a very fair hearing’-PSC Chairman, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa
8.3 ‘Impeachment Motion against the CJ is an International Conspiracy’
‘Worst lie’: Miracle of Asia
The Miracle of Asia slogan seems to be dying as an attractive political catch-phrase. The electronic media, especially the internet websites and email chain letters have combined to condemn the ‘Miracle of Asia’ to a status of an oversimplified lie.
Loss making airlines, bizarre policies adopted by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and Ceylon Electricity Board and the blundering education sector have all pooled to make the miracle look more like a mirage than anything else. Denying the obvious has been the order of the day, from top to bottom. Corruption, nepotism and incompetence have ruled the day and been presented as the norm of governance.
10• Sorry to see you go
10.1 Ravi Shankar
10.2 Loss of Karu Jayasuriya to Ranil Wickramasinghe for UNP leadership
‘Sorry to see you go’: Ravi Shankar Although not a Sri Lankan, Ravi Shankar had been the ‘Ambassador of Human Culture’ not only representing Asia but the whole world. If one had to choose a unique cultural figure who revolutionized not only music, then it was he who transformed the ‘Sitar’ into a much sought-after musical instrument by western virtuosos.
11• Person of the year
11.1 Visharada W. D. Amaradeva
11.2 Chief Justice- Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake
11.3 General Sarath Fonseka
11.4 Kumar Sangakkara
‘Person of the Year’: Visharada Amaradeva. Visharada Pundit Amaradeva completed 85 years on earth in 2012 and continues to be among us mortals. This mortal human being possesses an immortal voice that has sung some haunted melodies over a period of 60 to 70 years and in his presence, other politicians, administrators, business executives and artists fade into insignificance.
My ‘Person of the Year’ is Pundit Amaradeva.
12. Political Stardom:
1.1 M.A. Sumanthiran
1.2 Maithree Gunaratne/Shiral
1.3 Namal Rajapaksa
‘Political Stardom’: Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran.
TNA parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran is the winner of this category as he showed great potential, first as an extraordinary parliamentary speaker and debater and then as a major player in the TNA hierarchy. The potential he has shown in the field of politics is remarkable in that no other sitting parliamentarian has shown the depth of knowledge of the subject he speaks about, the rich diction that he uses to articulate his ideas and thoughts and his masterful delivery.
However, both Maithree Gunaratne and Shiral Lakthilaka of the UNP ‘Reformists’ Group’ deserve honourable mention. Maithree and Shiral achieved limelight while being Provincial Councillors, outshining all other UNP parliamentarians.
13. Political Oblivion:
13.1 Change in UNP leadership
13.2 Left-wing politicians
13.3 Ratnasiri Wickramanayake
After being in occupation of the high office of Prime Minister, Ratnasiri has been kicked upstairs as Senior Minister without any subjects cover and no permanent staff. From being invited to almost all religious and social functions as ‘Chief Guest’, his position has been relegated to an ‘almost-ran’ position. His quick and unexpected journey into political oblivion is being punctuated by statements and speeches slightly critical about selected government policies and stances. However, there is wide speculation that he might get another stint as PM given the deteriorating health condition of the current Prime Minister, D. M. Jayaratne.
14. Best Political Theatre
14.1 R. Premadasa
14.2 UNP May Day Rally in Jaffna
14.3 FUTA Marches and Demonstrations
Best Political Theatre: R. Premadasa Commemoration Rally
2012 May Day, in fact, had two unique events: One in the Capital of Colombo and the other in the Jaffna Peninsula in the North. The UNP Leader took a very bold decision to hold their May Day celebrations in Jaffna in association with the Tamil National Alliance. It was a bold one in that, at a time when the national feeling is very much coloured by anti-Tamil sentiments, the leading Opposition Party holding its May Day rally in the Tamil country would sound as politically suicidal yet the UNP went ahead and had the rally. Unfortunately for the Jaffna meeting, the other event that was organized by the UNP Reformists’ Group had a much more positive tinge and a touch of nostalgia and managed to muster a huge crowd to their R. Premadasa Commemoration ceremony in Colombo. It was estimated that more than 20,000 people from all over the country traversed to Colombo, not only to pay tribute to a late leader but also as an expression of defiance of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the UNP leader. Both in terms of the size of the crowds and the organizational skills that were displayed, would undoubtedly qualify the Premadasa Commemoration event as the best political theatre in 2012.
15. Worst Political Theatre:
15.1 UNP May Day Rally in Jaffna
15.2 UNP Convention in December
15.3 Anti-CJ demonstrations by UPFA lawyers
Worst Political Theatre: UNP Convention in December
The UNP convention held in December at the Party Headquarters takes the prize. Held under government protection, it was a farce of a Party Convention, hardly qualifying to be one of a democratic political party. Attendance was by invitation only. An open and free political entity at one time, the United National Party seems to have contracted the current infection of dictatorial texture of the governing circles. Denying its own free-thinking party members a voice and producing a spectacle of an extension in office of six more years for its Leader, is definitely the winner in this category of worst political theatre.
16. Biggest Government Waste:
16.1 Deyata Kirula – 2012
16.2 Motor Car Races in Colombo
Biggest Government Waste: Deyata Kirula – 2012
Held in the heartland of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura, in the midst of one of the worst droughts experienced in the country in decades, Deyata Kirula programme certainly qualifies for the winner in the category of ‘Biggest Government Waste.’ A cheap imitation of the last UNP government’s ‘Gam Udawa’ festival, Deyata Kirula features quite prominently among meaningless wastes of government expenditure, ostensibly organized to portray the ‘development’ work undertaken by the government. However, it falls far short of either Gam Udawa or Mahapola exhibitions organized by the UNP regime during its hay-day, in that the massive development programmes, initiated by the then UNP Government, are totally absent at the present time.
17. Boldest Political Tactic:
17.1 UNP May Day in Jaffna
17.2 SLMC going it alone in the
Eastern Provincial Council
17.3 Stand-off by outgoing Chief Minister of the NCP against his own Leader
Boldest Political Tactic: SLMC going alone in the Eastern Provincial Council Elections
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress deciding to go alone and contesting the Eastern Provincial Council elections as a separate political entity is undoubtedly the boldest political tactic employed by any political party in 2012. They not only succeeded in their efforts but they also managed to indirectly ensure that a Muslim secured the post of Chief Minister in the Province against their rivals led by Pillaiyan, the displaced Chief Minister.
The year 2013 looks to be even more promising in political adventure. Impeachment of the Chief Justice has reached a point of no-return, so to speak. The government’s response to the latest Supreme Court decision would signify its course of political journey. All indications are that the rulers would follow the same short-sighted approach they have been adopting in the art and science of governance. Whatever happens, our collective wish ought to be that saner and more sober minds do prevail at the end.