By Emil van der Poorten –
What follows is NOT written tongue-in-cheek but are musings generated by the state of public discourse, such as it is, in Sri Lanka, in the English medium at least.
My rather tattered version of Chambers English Dictionary describes hypocrisy as “feigning to be better than one is, or to be what one is not” among a plethora of definitions too many to enumerate here.
What provoked this piece is the fact that we seem, in Sri Lanka, to have reached a point of cynicism in our “national view” that does not so much as even pay lip service to all that is supposedly good and worthwhile in the world at large and, particularly, in the manner of our interaction with our fellow human beings.
Our political culture as expressed by those provided ample publicity by a servile media doesn’t even pretend to paying lip service to considerations of ethics, morality and any kind of principle.
Interestingly, it has been my personal experience (like that of Robert Knox, I believe) that it is only the “sons of the soil” who even remember what the precepts of civilization preached throughout history are. Yes, our goviyas appear to be the least sullied by the epidemic of cynicism and downright criminality wherever possible that seems to have overtaken what is too-often touted as the last bastion of Theravada Buddhism, leave alone a land where all the major religious faiths have substantial followings.
While democratic capitalism is essentially cruel and uncivilized in its pure form, it has evolved over the years into a system that, as Winston Churchill put it, “ …….is the worst form of government except for all the rest.”
Even Donald Trump who is perhaps without equal in the matter of political (and personal) venality, pretends, from time to time, to subscribe to those attributes that civilization has accepted as being in the larger interests of the governance of mankind.
The rampant nonsense that passes for public discourse in Sri Lanka media appears to be bought and paid for, often literally, by politicians and their hangers-on.
If there is a villain of the piece in recent Sri Lankan history it is “Yankee Dick” Jayewardene and I say this as someone who, with a young family, became political refugees from the only land they could call home, thanks to Sirima Bandaranaike and Hector Kobbekaduwa. That said, there was a significant core of UNP supporters who always viewed J. R. Jayewardene and his ambitions and political philosophy with suspicion.
1977 provided him with an unbelievable opportunity of setting in place a “dog-eat-dog,” “devil-take-the-hindmost” brand of capitalism sans the leavening of principle, ethics, morality or anything resembling those philosophical concepts.
Many friends who lived through the years of J.R.’s hegemony who had welcomed his ascent in the first place, lived to rue the day they began working for him.
The moral musings of Dr. N. M. Perera and Dr. Colvin R de Silva, even when considered logical by many, were disregarded by a voting population who had “had it up to here” with the “family socialism” of Sirima Bandaranaike and her clan to which the alleged Trotskyists and Stalinists had contributed until their falling out occurred.
While I could only observe the performance of JRJ from the other side of the world, literally, you didn’t have to be any kind of political pundit to anticipate where his brand of democratic capitalism would ultimately take the country. No matter how seemingly irrational and badly-timed the second Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the insurrection of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) might have seemed, those responses were inevitable given JR’s prior politico/philosophical history.
That Premadasa, warts and all, was the most representative of the broad Sri Lankan population is something that cannot be denied in the cold light of day. Ruthless, he might have been, but the overall thrust of his governance was egalitarian. I am still bemused by the jubilation that resulted at the time of his assassination by a suicide bomber. I happened to have been in Sri Lanka on one of my infrequent visits during the 30+ years I spent in Canada and distinctly remember the huge number of firecrackers that were lit in jubilation on that May Day!
The majority of rural folk who are my primary associates since my return and were old enough to remember R. Premadasa’s political career, now often express chagrin at any happiness or satisfaction they might have expressed at the time of the man’s murder!
The irony of the current situation is that, unlike during what proved to be Premadasa’s final term, where there was an expectation of morality, ethics and principle in governance, the vast majority of our population appears to have fatalistically accepted the status quo as inevitable and irreversible. If at all, they seek to leverage whatever position they might hold in society to obtain financial benefits and, if they don’t see themselves as being in such a position, accept their lot in life as “fate.”
The reaction to the increasingly brutal governance of Mahinda Rajapaksa that led to Sirisena’s Presidency seems to have dissipated completely and, in all honesty, this was to be expected given the wholesale betrayal of the population and the monumental self-aggrandizement that has occurred in the years after 2015. The extent of this disillusionment is only too evident to anyone viewing the Sri Lankan political scene no matter how superficially.
The one light at the end of this particular tunnel is one that was evident at the tail end of the Rajapaksa years: the voices in print of the so-called, “weaker sex:” women journalists who have not been silenced at this time of as great peril as the previous one against which they railed.
Another glimmer of good news is that there are a few people of political experience and, most important, of moral integrity who have begun to display interest in leading this nation, Nagananda Kodituwakku being one.
Sirisena and his cronies have proven to be worse than the contents of the Trojan Horse of ancient times. This country has to be rid of him and his minions and the sooner the better.