By Emil van der Poorten –
The horrendous butchering of Nihal Perera, the manager of Noori Estate in Deraniyagala, has even left the major apologists of the current regime at a loss for words with which to distance those who look after their well-being from the direct results of a reign of terror without precedent. Anyone simply trying to fulfill the obligations of management of resources honestly and without recourse to take-the-law-into-our-own-hands conduct with the aid of thugs and murderers is, obviously, at great risk of paying the ultimate price.
This killing has even shaken up the English-speaking middle class of Sri Lanka which has been only too willing to forgive the disappearance of the rule of law because their exercise paths have been paved and they are able to indulge their weight-reduction needs in greater comfort. However, given the fact that future performance can be most accurately predicted by viewing previous history the killers will walk free after a “respectable” period of time has elapsed and with or without a show trial. After all one has the example of the other high profile murder of Khuram Shaikh and the gang-rape of his Russian girl friend who was packed off home direct from what used to be the Apollo Hospital, without the investigative procedures usual in such circumstances and whose offer to waive anonymity traditional in such circumstances and return to give a deposition to the Sri Lankan authorities has not been accepted up to date.
As someone who once Chaired a district in the Planters Association of Ceylon (PA) and was, as well, a member of the Ceylon Planters’ Society (CPS) at a time that I was engaged in that profession, I think I am able to bring some perspective to something like Nihal Perera’s murder despite the passage of time (and the efforts of government apologists to shut me up!)
As a planter, I worked with and under those who held political beliefs directly at variance with mine. I had, for close to a decade, a sibling of Mrs. Bandaranaike as my “boss” at The Public Trustee Department, the Chief Accountant of which was one of the heads of the Bauddha Jathika Balavegaya and with both of whom I enjoyed an excellent personal and professional relationship. Dr. Colvin R. De Silva was the first Minister of Plantations to address an Annual General Meeting of the Kurunegala District Planters’ Association on my invitation, extended despite some opposition from colleagues who saw him as “the enemy!”
If I appear to be spending an inordinate amount of time on my own “credentials” it is because I hope thereby to stifle some of the more asinine criticism of anything that doesn’t constitute a hosanna to our current regime, born of ignorance and prejudice. I hope my readers will forgive the seeming long-windedness in the circumstances!
The bone I have to pick is with the two organizations in which I once held membership, the Ceylon Planters’ Society and the Planters’ Association of Ceylon.
While, like every democratically-organized association of professionals, neither of them displayed monolithic unanimity of opinion at all times and I often enough disagreed with their “official” line, nobody could accuse them of toeing the line merely to be seen as supplicants to or allies of the government, refusing to criticize when criticism was merited or act when action was demanded.
How the mighty appear to have fallen!
Recently, the Sunday Island of July 28th reported that these two organizations, together with the Tea Exporters Association (TEA) and the Ceylon Estates’ Staffs Union had changed their minds about what they considered appropriate action subsequent to Mr. Perera’s murder, after they’d met with Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary of Defence with command responsibility for and authority over the Sri Lanka police whose conduct in this whole sorry episode constitutes, at a very minimum, nothing less than an unbelievable dereliction of duty.
The simple facts of the preceding paragraph speak more eloquently than any attempt I can make at extensive analysis or judgement. However, suffice it to say that I am truly ashamed of two organizations which I thought had retained at least a vestige of self-respect and pride from their past but which, instead, have more than bent the vassal knee to bare-knuckled power
If organizations, claiming to represent professionals who have, arguably, contributed more to Sri Lanka’s economy over the past couple of hundred years than any other, cannot, at least, demonstrate appropriate displeasure about an event of this magnitude and bell the cat responsible for this state of affairs, they hardly deserve to claim to represent the people who, very obviously, are trying to do very difficult work under trying and, literally, murderously dangerous conditions. This is simply capitulation of the most abhorrent kind.
This would be beyond belief in any democratic country and it certainly would NEVER have washed in the “dark days” of immediately post-colonial Sri Lanka, or “Ceylon” as it was then.
However, the “mandarins” of one of Sri Lanka’s oldest and proudest professions which has contributed immensely to this nation’s economic survival have, very obviously, chosen a different path, a significantly more comfortable one than the alternative of standing up for what is decent and right with at least a token show of displeasure. They have refused to bell a cat that stood right before them!