By Emil van der Poorten -
I have in past columns referred to the predilection of our New Sri Lankan Monarchy (NSLM) to circle the wagons and shoot wildly in every direction in order, not only to repulse its “enemies” but also to sow confusion among those who look askance at its monumental corruption and incompetence. Unwittingly they have also sown a measure of confusion among their own supporters who are hard put to defend the behavior of those who provide them with their daily champagne and caviar.
However, by and large, the strategy has worked in the short term. After all, how else would one explain the docility of a Sri Lanka voter who seems not to notice any of the transgressions of their government and the monumental thefts from the public purse that it has mounted and continues to mount?
However, this kind of disorganized, chaotic and confused conduct ultimately comes home to roost and even if it is later rather than sooner, it WILL happen. The unfortunate part, though, is that the victims of that fall from grace will be the populace because the thieves, cheats and charlatans will already have stashed away their loot in some off-shore haven designed specifically to cater to such as them. The history of those elsewhere who embezzled billions and then bolted from their countries when the day of their judgement seemed imminent only to be lassoed later, makes entertaining reading. However such tales do not appear to register with our own bandits, because of their illiteracy or their arrogance or both. They continue to act in a monumentally corrupt manner and walk away unscathed every time some particularly horrendous misdemeanor forces our current custodians of law and order to take even token action. A small minority of my acquaintances has suggested that some of these miscreants would resort to the (Tiger) kamikaze pill in the event that they ever got caught and were headed for some place where their just desserts would be administered. I would suggest that this would be most unlikely for a number of reasons.
While all of this is great from the perpetrators’ perspective, there is no gainsaying the inevitable effect of this irrational conduct of “governance” such as it is in Sri Lanka.
Also, the results of previous irrational and abusive responses to any individuals or organizations having the temerity to be critical of anything done in this country are coming home to roost.
The NSLM once appointed a Commission of Inquiry to examine certain specific allegations of horrendous human rights violations inclusive of the execution-style slaying of workers in a French aid agency. Our NSLM also set up The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) to provide advice on the conduct of that inquiry to what was colloquially referred to as the Udalagama Commission. However, no sooner did the IIGEP begin questioning the conduct of the inquiry and, specifically, the conduct of a lawyer acting on behalf of the government, than it was relegated to a role of total irrelevance, leading to all of its members resigning. The Commission never completed its appointed tasks, but it did produce a report which has not seen the light of day since being handed over to the head of the NSLM.
More than footnotes to the Udalagama Commission are two other interesting facts.
Along the way, the Sri Lanka government, utilizing its shotgun, Old West tactic has abused all the three major human rights agencies (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group), individuals such as Noam Chomsky, and Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, not to mention several lesser lights such as Arundhathi Roy, Noam Chomsky, Gordon Weiss etc., accusing them of being in the pay of the Tigers or, at the very least, dupes of that outfit.
The other prong of the NSLM’s strategy was the appointment of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) with terms of reference that were so limited that every one of the human rights agencies refused to give it credibility by their participation. (Of course, we had several of our local “Tut-tut brigade” making presentations before it for reasons best known to them) Despite an “international community,” after some initial game-playing, jumping on the LLRC bandwagon in order to “engage” (read as “appease”) the Sri Lanka government, our geniuses couldn’t just take their good luck and run with it. No, they had to posture in an effort to prove their Sinhala Chauvinist credentials and shore up support from that quarter in the country’s vote bank. First they heralded the LLRC report as the greatest thing since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and then proceeded to back away from any of its recommendations of substance, seeking to appoint yet more committees and commissions to discuss it. The Tamil National Alliance, in an effort either to show its bona fides in the matter of engaging a racist government in its search for national reconciliation or to show it up for what it was, joined the charade, only to find that it could not succeed on either count because of the blatant cynicism of the NSLM’s behavior.
TheSri Lankagovernment, thanks to the efforts of no one but itself had found that it had painted itself into a corner whose confines were continuing to shrink.
Whether in an effort to provide the NSLM with an escape route or with more noble motives, the US and India moved a resolution at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, asking/requiring that the NSLM follow through on the recommendations of its own LLRC.
The response of the Sri Lankagovernment was typical: it came out with all guns blazing in a manner that would have put to shame the protagonists in the range wars of the Old West! And in a cause that was predetermined to be a losing one to boot! Talk about stupidity! This was less than sophomoric behaviour. It was more like a kindergarten sulk that said “I’m not going to do what I said I would because you are asking me to do precisely that!” However, there is another explanation for this stance: the government had no intention of doing anything its own Commission recommended because the LLRC was meant to be nothing but a means of consuming time while the NSLM continued on its pre-determined path of “infrastructure development” with the Chinese doling out high-interest loans while rubbing their hands in glee over the prospect of financial and military hegemony over what was going to be one of their String of Pearls which, unlike those in Pakistan or Myanmar, would end up being owned by them!
There is obviously a down side to shot-gunning all and sundry who are seen as not being prepared to march in lock-step with the only dictatorship in the world wearing sandals and satakayas in lieu of jackboots. The NSLM is in the process of painting the Miracle of Asia into a corner. Add to this the fact that there is no guarantee that our supposed allies –China, Russia and Iran – are going to be able to be able to extend some kind of lifeline that can pull us out of financial quicksands of our own creation forever and ever. I would submit that we could be in for some interesting times because we have forced the International Community to take some action in the face of our obduracy in the matter of dealing with a serious human rights deficit in this country. All of this could have been avoided if our geniuses had displayed some commonsense and principle in their conduct. However, those commodities appear to be as rare as snowflakes in July in the Sahara!