Thursday 10 September 2020


Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

10 September  2020





Not Machiavellianism; Chanakyanism says Mahavamsa

[Article 9 of the Constitution says ‘the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place’. One cannot help wondering why no constitutional recognition has been given to the ism that the State, governments and political leaders actually give the foremost place, albeit unofficially—Machiavellianism, or a cynical tendency to advance one’s own interests by manipulating others.] Island Editorial headed ‘Machiavellianism’. This was preceded by report headed ‘Sabry asks MPs to abhor Machiavelli type behaviour’, published by the Island on 31 August.

I heard about Machiavelli when Phil Dulhunty – an Accounts Assistant at the University of NSW  – said to me that mine was Machiavelli approach. I Phil learnt accounting from me and I learnt about Machiavelli from Phil and registered Machiavelli as the European parallel of Chanakya. Phil went on to explain through ‘The Prince’. As per Wikipedia:

[Machiavelli endorsed immoral behavior, such as the use of deception and the murder of enemies, as he thought that made a leader effective and thus more viable to survive in politics]

It is interesting that the Island editorial is published at the time Mr Premalal Jayasekera, who has been sentenced to death by the Judiciary, was sworn in as MP. As per my understanding he was found guilty of killing a political opponent. As per my knowledge ‘ The Prince’ was dedicated to Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici – then the ruler of Florence – whose illegitimate son became the Duke of the Republic of Florence after his father’s death. 

Is the Republic of Sri Lanka the parallel of 16th century  Republic of Florence in the minds of some intellectuals?

The Buddhist parallel of Machiavelli is Chanakya:

[The legend of Chanakya and Chandragupta is detailed in the Pali-language Buddhist chronicles of Sri Lanka. It is not mentioned in Dipavamsa, the oldest of these chronicles. The earliest Buddhist source to mention the legend is Mahavamsa, which is generally dated between 5th and 6th centuries CE. Vamsatthappakasini (also known as Mahvamsa Tika), a commentary on Mahavamsa, provides some more details about the legend. Its author is unknown, and it is dated variously from 6th century CE to 13th century CE.  Some other texts provide additional details about the legend; for example, the Maha-Bodhi-Vamsa and the Atthakatha give the names of the nine Nanda kings said to have preceded Chandragupta.] Wikipedia

Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne who is understood to have been the main architect of the 19th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution has also highlighted that the proposed article 70(1) would be the Sword of Damocles over Parliament :


[Under 20A, the Sword of Damocles, in the nature of Article 70(1), will hang over Parliament. The President can dissolve Parliament at any time, even if the Prime Minister (PM) commands a comfortable majority in Parliament—that is what President Kumaratunga did in 2004. The only fetter on the power of dissolution is that if the previous Parliament had been dissolved before completing its five-year term, the President can dissolve the new Parliament only after one year. If the previous Parliament had completed its full term, the President can, under proposed Article 70(1), dissolve the new Parliament even one day after it holds its first meeting.] Colombo Telegraph article ‘20A Erodes People’s Sovereignty – Requires Approval At A Referendum’

Not many Sri Lankans of my age or junior would understand the significance of this sword. It is about the hidden threats that a king faces which  a citizen is often ignorant about and hence desires to be king:

[King Dionysius, who had made many enemies during his reign, arranged that a sword should hang above the throne, held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse's tail to evoke the sense of what it is like to be king: Though having much fortune, always having to watch in fear and anxiety against dangers that might try to overtake him. Damocles finally begged the king that he be allowed to depart because he no longer wanted to be so fortunate, realizing that with great fortune and power comes also great danger]


Article 70(1) as per the 19th Amendment states as follows:

70. (1) [The President may by Proclamation, summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament: Provided that the President shall not dissolve Parliament until the expiration of a period of not less than four years and six months from the date appointed for its first meeting, unless Parliament requests the President to do so by a resolution passed by not less than two-thirds of the whole number of Members (including those not present), voting in its favour .]

The proposed article 70 (1) would read as follows:

[1) The President may, from time to time, by Proclamation summon, prorogue and dissolve

Parliament: Provided that –

(a)   subject to the provisions of sub-paragraph (d), when a General Election has been held consequent upon a dissolution of Parliament by the President, the President shall not thereafter dissolve Parliament until the expiration of a period of one year from the date of such General Election, unless Parliament by resolution requests the president to dissolve Parliament.


(c ) …….

(d) where the President has not dissolved Parliament consequent upon the rejection by

Parliament of the Appropriation Bill, the President shall dissolve Parliament if Parliament rejects the next Appropriation Bill.]


To my mind, the 19th Amendment facilitates the citizen to stabilize her/his relationship with the government and its administrators over longer term than does the 20th Amendment. This would tempt the citizen to ‘think’ of becoming President / King even while being ignorant of the challenges faced by the President / King. It is the future version of ‘living off the past’. This risk prevails in the President who is more like a citizen than an experienced king – as was the case with Mr Maithripala Sirisena. Whether the current President is also so ignorant – is yet to be known. In the current government,  one who has the experience is Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Chanakya’s Arthashastra written long before the birth of Christ  is presented as follows:

[More recent scholarship has disagreed with the characterization of Arthashastra as "Machiavellianism". In Machiavelli's The Prince, the king and his coterie are single-mindedly aimed at preserving the monarch's power for its own sake, states Paul Brians for example, but in the Arthashastra, the king is required "to benefit and protect his citizens, including the peasants". Chanakya asserts in Arthashastra that, "the ultimate source of the prosperity of the kingdom is its security and prosperity of its people", a view never mentioned in Machiavelli's text. The text advocates "land reform", states Brians, where land is taken from landowners and farmers who own land but do not grow anything for a long time, and given to poorer farmers who want to grow crops but do not own any land] Wikipedia

The above confirms that both pundits – Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne as well as Dr Ali Sabri are more concerned with making the king of their choice rather than developing the pathway for  the People to be facilitated by the king. Both have Machiavelli as their mentor. Both have blinded themselves to Article 9 which requires the King to follow Buddha Sasana – which in the case of Sri Lanka is Mahavamsa and it includes  the legend of Chanakya who was mentor of Maurya Dynasty that Emperor Ashoka belonged to.

Mr Wigneswaran – another leader groomed by law -  for his part showed dependence on the past status of Tamils in Sri Lanka. None of them went into virtual reality to Experience life as it was then. They do not qualify to make laws. Together they seem to have invoked Premalal Jayasekera to become Royalty through the Machiavellian  pathway. When we go into the past – the present dies. Thus the Prince was born.

Recently I was directed by a Tamil Diaspora leader to an interview with a displaced family now living in Vanni. - The young Tamil mother in Vanni said that she had studied upto A.Levels (Australian HSC) and yet could not find a job nor work the Northern Administration where there was high level of favouritism. The organizer – said ‘educate your children for that would always  help them in life!’ This confirmed that he did not really listen to the mother who was lamenting she did not have a job despite her education. If she did not have those qualifications she is more likely to  have connected to the needs of her environment. This lack of connection is a common problem with migrants who rely on their past qualifications and fail to connect to the minds of their seniors in their new environment, who often would be less qualified than they. Mr Wigneswaran is such an example – as are lawyers who are driven by winning rather than upholding the truth of one who believes in law.

All of them are cheating the People.

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