By Emil van der Poorten –
The Federation of University Teachers’ Association held what was, by all accounts, a very successful rally which not only attracted a very large crowd but also brought about a demonstrated commitment to joint protest and action from a broad spectrum of organized labour which was without recent precedent. Typically, the police (I am sure, NOT on the direction of our democracy-practicing government!) placed several physical and prohibitionary barriers before those seeking to march in solidarity and gather at Hyde Park, inclusive of a ban on the use of loudspeakers after 6 p.m., to little effect by the sounds of it.
While the daily reporting of horrendous crimes continues apace, we have our minister of national safety, or whatever designation he now has added to his other titles, claiming that Sri Lanka is one of the safest places in the world in which to live. One has no excuse for misunderstanding such an opinion when it emanates from behind a heavily armed security contingent which gets mobile every time their boss climbs into his bullet-proof car and whizzes off to the Colombo Stock Exchange or similar places of upper class activity.
I was witness to a truly remarkable display of good sportsmanship and just plain decency on Saturday the 25th at the Kandy Sports Club vs Upcountry Lions rugby match at Nawalapitiya. Completely unrehearsed, members of both teams shook hands and, in some instances, embraced each other at the conclusion of the game. A far cry from rugby games featuring our allegedly highly-disciplined services XVs when assault rifles are, literally, brought into play and spectators by the dozen hospitalized for having the temerity to support the “wrong” (civilian) team! Maybe the fact that neither of these up-country teams contains Royalty has something to do with this! However, all of the above has nothing to do with my prediction gone wrong that the Up-Country Lions would “throw” their game against the Navy the week before. That didn’t happen not because the attempt was not made but because it did not succeed!
After the headline in The Sunday Leader that the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission was forced out of office by no less a person than the President of this country, one need hardly join the (now redundant) dots in the matter of the monumental financial scandals that beset this country. Apropos of the acceleration of the financial rape and plunder that blankets Sri Lanka, it seems that not only are the rats preparing to abandon the sinking ship but they are laying-by enough to meet the exigencies of any rainy years that the fates might hold in store for them! The downside of this, of course, is the fact that the rest of us are going to be left on something that will more closely resemble a sieve than a sea-worthy vessel, making navigation through the stormy seas ahead an even greater challenge! Also, it seems that, for whatever reason, the connections between the various players are becoming more visible by the day with no Sherlock Holmes’ skills being required to identify who they are or where they fit into the scheme of things. Of course, web comments provide some interesting sidelines to all of this, inclusive of an obviously well-orchestrated attempt to beatify a gentleman called Dilith Jayaweera who, I am told is a sophisticated and suave “nice guy.” All of this will, ultimately, come out in the wash I suppose, one a little different to the laundering that provoked the brouhaha in the first place.
And then there was a newspaper headline that proclaimed that a “Five-Star Brothel” had been raided. This brought to mind the obvious question: who makes these judgements and on what basis are “stars” apportioned in such circumstances? Are they done, as in the hotel trade where star-apportionment, like kissing, goes by favour leading to some hotels rated as 5-Star getting hugely adverse comments on various web-sites such as Travel Advisor or are there some other criteria that are applied? Do we have senior politicians (who make judgements on everything these days) cast ballots based on their own expert knowledge of the subject and, if so, are they allowed to print their own ballot papers as they are wont to do at the more common “democratic” elections held in this country? Is the elections Commissioner (EC) required to issue his self-righteous edicts which amount to nothing before the ballots are cast and then bewail his fate once ballot papers are found in locations other than ballot boxes once the election is over? Are the results conveyed to a VVIP first who then sends down selected tidbits to the EC as the mood takes him? Is it necessary to conduct Customer Satisfaction Surveys in a matter of this nature, particularly if we are soliciting the opinions of the afore-mentioned senior politicians? I really need some Presidential Commission or Government-appointed “expert” to satisfy my curiosity in these matters.
And then there has been the continuing soap opera (tele-drama in Sri Lankan terminology) with regard to several fuel-contamination scandals, with even the largest shark in Sri Lankan business waters claiming to have been duped and treated as a “puppet!” What things some people say under what they see as adverse circumstances is the commonest response I have heard from the “great unwashed public!” Given the fact that he was not the favourite human of the “Big Man,” the choice of this businessman to head up a Petroleum Corporation in crisis was always a matter for conjecture. However, when one views this hiring and firing in the context of the massive confusion that has been created, there is more than a minimal element of planning to it. In fact, there is a certain a logic to it. Isn’t it yet another instance of circling the wagons and firing wildly in every direction, maximizing everyone’s disorientation in the hope that it will create a situation in which the facts will be obscured and the thieves more easily make their escape?
I once asked the question, not entirely rhetorically, as to what one does with those whom the gods have driven mad pending their ultimate destruction.. The answer might be emerging right now: be entertained until all of us go down in one flaming fireball in the ultimate bad joke!