Search for the Lankan Lula | Daily News

Search for the Lankan Lula

President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva waves to supporters alongside his wife Rosangela da Silva, Vice President Geraldo Alckmin and his wife Maria Lucia Ribeiro Alckmin after the Presidential inauguration ceremony at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil on Sunday.
President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva waves to supporters alongside his wife Rosangela da Silva, Vice President Geraldo Alckmin and his wife Maria Lucia Ribeiro Alckmin after the Presidential inauguration ceremony at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, B

When Brazil’s newly elected President Lula Da Silva cried delivering his address to the people after his inauguration this week, nobody questioned his sincerity. This is rare. If a politician did that here and cried about starving people, very probably he would have been play-acting.

So why is Lula different? It’s because he had the political chops to prove that he cares. He delivered. He lifted some 30 million Brazilians from poverty in his first two terms.

If anyone cries here on behalf of the people he couldn’t have been a person ‘who delivered the goods’, because nobody did. Lula is an experienced politician but he made a moving reference to people carrying cardboard signs reading ‘help me’ at traffic lights. He said it’s a national embarrassment.

Of course there are genuinely destitute people in Brazil even though by contrast a lot of the folk who beg at traffic lights in this country are doing so at the behest of beggar mudalalis. But that’s a different story.

Lula da Silva is a politician who can make things happen, but yet he won narrowly despite the fact that his opponent was a right-winger who had reduced the economy to a shambles.

This fact makes it abundantly clear that people do vote against their interests. But, in contrast to Brazil, would people vote in this country with any sense of conviction anymore?


It’s hard to say after last year and the events that led to the worst economic crisis we ever faced as a nation. But the Head of the IMF says there is no light at the end of the tunnel for most developing countries, not just Sri Lanka.

The warning is that there would be a recession in China and the US in 2023, signaling a very tough time for the rest of the world. Sri Lankans however are nonplussed.

They went through practically everything last year, so they think there are no new perils they will have to face. They have been through the wringer, so what’s new that holds so much menace?

We shall see in the coming twelve months. But back to Brazil. Today there is a president in that country who is an avowed leftist whose interests are coterminous with those of the most enlightened policymakers so-called of the Western world.

On the environmental issue, Lula is on the same page as most Western leaders. But he has the added responsibility of saving the Amazon rainforests from destruction.

On issues of racial equality and recognition of the rights of the indigenous people of Brazil, Lula is extremely enlightened. He secured the services of a garbage collector to present him with the presidential sash because the ex-president, who is by tradition expected to do the job, refused to do it and fled into exile instead.

On the aforesaid issues too he is on the same page with the enlightened leaders of the West so-called, but his commitment is of a different sort and it’s from a leftist point of view.

This writer’s point is that it is more than reasonably clear that Lula as he is known simply in Brazil - just by that one name - is on the side of all the underprivileged.

Some of the politicians of Western nations that are of course enlightened considering the substance of their platforms and positions on issues such as racial equality, are not necessarily on the side of all the underprivileged.


Take Rishi Sunak the British Premier for example. He is not exactly sympathetic to all those people who end up in boats trying to get to the UK from various countries in different continents. That’s of course his Government’s policy, but overall it’s not one that wins him any points when it comes to issues of human rights etc.

But Lula is a politician whose lived experience, quite in contrast to Sunak’s, has been poverty. He was a shoeshine boy once, growing up in an extremely underprivileged area that was notorious for poverty, guns and crime, but it’s the background that made him the politician he is, having empathy for the people of his country that underwent immense suffering during the rule of his immediate predecessor.

In this country people wouldn’t quite be sold on the sincerity of a politician who cries when people go hungry, but then again there is nobody who has been able to carry it off even at the level of play-acting. Nobody has tried. Politicians here have so far not had their heart in the job to the extent that Lula does in Brazil.

In that context the fact that he is able to run for a third term is fortuitous. Imagine if there were term-limits of two as in Sri Lanka, and he would have not been able to mount his third bid to become president - a very successful one.

It’s probably an instance that proves that laws in various countries have to be written in the context of the political culture of each nation. We never had a Lula but we did have presidents who didn’t seem quite suited for a third-term and it’s clear as night is from day why we have term limits and they don’t in Brazil.

It has to be remembered that President Lula has never lost a Presidential Election after he was elected to power. It’s because he was that good. He was not in power for some time, but that is due to the fact that he did not run for office or was prevented from running for office due to Opposition machinations. It was not due to term-limits.


It’s unlikely that he would ever be defeated in a presidential contest. Why would he be when he is able to lift people out of poverty and deliver for the poor he literally cries about?

Brazil though a massive country is no Singapore, even though with a relatively large economy due to its size. As a result Lula’s problems are ten times the problems of a Sri Lankan President’s.

A Brazilian President has to fight poverty on a very large scale and that entails issues such as hunger, and the absence of the very basics such as housing and running water. On top of this he has to fight crime and a political culture that is rife with corruption and nepotism etc., and a myriad other social calamities such as murder, and drugs.

That’s Sri Lanka on a much broader canvas, because Brazil’s population is huge - at 214 million.

So he is no Lee Kwan Yew. He cannot be. But how did a politician of his sort emerge? Lula wanted to avoid politics too, but he was goaded into sticking around by Fidel Castro who told him you have no choice and chided Lula for opting to quit.

Lula and politicians of his sort are folk with commitment because those who want to avoid politics, obviously, are not those who need to make something out of being a politician. He wanted to get out of the dirty-game but stuck on because he saw no other way but to serve his people, so he could live with a conscience.

It’s not a Lee Kwan Yew that we need but a Lula in our midst, but each country has its own destiny and ours has had politicians for the most part in the classic mould - those who are not committed to the degree that Lula is to public service.

Despite the fact that he lifted millions out of poverty in his previous two terms, he had a torrid time even though he didn’t have to face term limits. It can be said that the Opposition did everything possible to ensure that he does not run, including bringing about corruption charges on very flimsy grounds. It’s a recipe for a politician to get easily disillusioned, but instead he was emboldened and nobody in Brazil or anywhere else says that Lula is in politics as otherwise he would have to face the law. Not even his worst detractors say that because the man’s commitment, sincerity and dedication is so obvious. That’s a rare breed of politician Brazil is lucky to have, and so far we are not.



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