Tuesday, January 17, 2006

JVP Pol Pots challenge Ranil for a debate

The JVP has issued a press release challenging Ranil for a debate.

What a laugh.

The idiots are in power. It now time to deliver on the fairy tales that they promised the stupid voters of this country.

Being unable to deliver, they seek to score debating points (something they are good at) and pin the blame on the problems on people who have not held power since 2003.

News story at:

Sri Lanka achieve's NBR status

Successive government worthies on this sunny isle have at various times, sometimes entirely unprovoked, claimed to have set our country on the path to NIC (newly industrialised country) status. We reliably learn that we have now achieved NBR status which, we are assured, is on the road to NIC status.

In honour of this great achievement Sri Lanka's National Flower, the Blue Water Lily (Nymphaea stellata) known locally as the 'Nil Manel' is to be changed to the Plantain Flower (kehel Mala) .

NBR status is New Banana Republic

This must not be (heaven forbid) confused with 'Banana republic; (or Bananaland or for that matter trousers made by some idiotic American company) which is a pejorative term for describing a country with a non-democratic or unstable government, especially where there is widespread political corruption and strong foreign influence. It is most often applied to small countries in Central America or the Caribbean.

Sri Lanka is in the Indian Ocean and, thanks to the JVP, quite safe from such evil foreign influences that plague the mid Atlantic.

The original 'banana republic' was Honduras, where the United Fruit and Standard Fruit companies dominated the country's key banana export sector and support sectors such as railways. The United Fruit Company was nicknamed 'The Octopus', for its willingness to involve itself in politics, sometimes violently. For example, in 1910 the company hired a gang of armed toughs from New Orleans to install a new president when the incumbent failed to grant the company tax breaks. The newly installed Honduran president waived the company's taxes for the next 25 years. The company's dominance in Honduras, as well as other Central American countries like Guatemala, led Pablo Neruda to write a poem titled La United Fruit Co. in Spanish.

In Sri Lanka, thanks to state policies, the evil English and Scotch Tea companies were driven out, thereby preventing the calamity that occurred in Honduras and leaving its place the glorious JEDB and SLSPC.

In modern usage the term has come to be used to describe a generally unstable or "backward" dictatorial regime, especially one where elections are often fraudulent and corruption is rife.

In Sri Lanka we have elections at the drop of a hat, (or sari potta as the case may be) so democracy must be working well.

The foreign influence may well be more political (for example through corruption in the elite, or military support for a dictator) than economic dominance of key sectors. The term no longer implies that the foreign influence is a corporation; it could well be a foreign government, in which case the relationship can resemble a colonial one.

In Sri Lanka, as everyone who reads the state press knows, there is no corruption, especially of politicians and their cronies.

By extension, the word is occasionally applied to governments where a strong leader hands out appointments, advantages, etc. to friends and supporters, without much consideration for the law.

Again, transparency, the rule of law and good governance are the order of the day, The Chief Justice says so and who are we to disagree?

In literature, San Theodoros and Nuevo Rico are fictional South American banana republics in the world of Tintin that display all the stereotypes one might expect of such countries. For instance, San Theodoros is constantly limping from revolution to revolution (often fuelled by outside agents); and when Tintin first lands in San Theodoros, he immediately gets bestowed the rank of colonel in the army, leading to a protest of one of the many other colonels, because there are only ten corporals in the army. One of the main contenders, General Tapioca, is supported by some outside power based on Stalin's USSR; the other one, General Alcazar, is supported by the "United Banana Co.".

Joseph Conrad's 1904 novel Nostromo is set in Costaguana, another fictional South American banana republic, which is also heavily prone to revolution. Much political power is held by a foreign mining company.

But then, literature is literature. There is no possibility that life will imitate art....

Sri Lanka's new leader

After a hard fought election, the new leader assumed power about two months ago. The new leader, who sets the agenda and takes all decisions in non other than V. Prabhakaran. All the others, including Mahinda Rajapakse (MR) form little more than the supporting cast.

The nation is in a state of complete confusion as attempts to familiarise himself with the levers of power. Prabhakaran, in the meantime, has stolen the agenda. It he who now sets the agenda and takes the decisions, all everybody else is doing is reacting. And reacting very slowly at that.

It is difficult not to pity Mahinda's position. Lumbered with an unweildy and fractious coalition, the grim political realties now seem to be puncturing his utopian idealism. The man seems quite horrified, nay, petrified by what he sees. He seems frozen solid with shock and unable to do anything. According to the Sunday Observer he is seeking a southern consensus-which is expected to arrive in three months. Given the number of delegates (5 per party from the SLFP,JVP,JHU,UNP and several other minor parties) which by my last count was around 45-60 it will be a miracle if they can agree on anything within three months.

Unfortunately, while political reality seems to be dawning very slowly, economic reality is yet to bite.

Ludwig von Mises, an Austrian economist of the early 20th century, nicely sums up Mahinda's illusion: “It may sometimes be expedient for a man to heat the stove with his furniture. But he should not delude himself by believing that he has discovered a wonderful new method of heating his premises.”

I have said elsewhere that Sri lanka is headed the way of a Banana Republic. I used to think it might take 20 years to arrive at that destination. Now we seem to be getting on the fast track.