By Vishwamithra –
“It shouldn’t take extreme courage and a willingness to go to prison for decades or even life to blow the whistle on bad government acts done in secret. But it does. And that is an immense problem for democracy, one that all journalists should be united in fighting.” ~ Glenn Greenwald
Thirty seven (38) Ministers of State have just been appointed. They included, among others, the latest to be sworn in as State Minister of Ports and Aviation, the convicted killer in Ratnapura district- Premalal Jayasekara. Amongst the Cabinet of Ministers are included the usual suspects, ranging from Nimal Siripala de Silva to Prsanna Ranatunga, the alleged bribe takers. They would enjoy the same perks as they used to during the corrupt Rajapaksa-regimes. Ranil Wickremesinghe has not shown any departure from the crooked and immoral conduct of his predecessors. When the main battle cry was for a fundamental change in the system in which all our post-independent political leaders were rooted, a mere substitution with the same old personalities and further entrenchment in the same old muddy and murky Sri Lankan politics has become the order of the day.
Ranil Wickremesinghe has once again shown how not to govern a country and how not to do politics. No wonder he had been defeated time after time in the local electoral politics. This recurrent habit of almost all our political leaders that they could be assured of comfort only within their own cocoons surrounded by their own cohorts has cost the country dearly. Such pitiful conduct of our leaders may have reinforced their own safety, their own grandeur and their own inheritance, but the fate and destination of a country at large and her people in particular is left entirely in the hands of some crooked politicians elected to seats of power at election after election.
Against such a tragic backdrop and insufferably tortuous context, analysis of the prevailing conditions is not as hard as one would expect. Nonetheless, the question of succession, the question of the smooth process of power-change remains as bothersome as ever for all citizenry. Sacrifices made by her soldiers as well as ordinary men and women during the thirty-year war with Tamil militants should not be forgotten; at the same time, the unspoken atrocities committed by some of our soldiers on orders of their military commanders against innocent Tamil people, if proven guilty, should not go unpunished.
All the ill-effects of majoritarian rule are being felt, experienced and suffered, not by those leaders who decree orders but by the ordinary man and woman who day in and day out sweat and bleed, to use a much hacked cliché, to put food on the table. For Ranil Wickremesinghe and his ill-prepared men who crowd the corridors of power at present, these realities are not existent. For them, whether they hail from the Pohottuwa group or that graveyard of politics called the United National Party (UNP), the current situation is another opportunity for merry-making stage of self-enrichment.
The Aragalaya that developed into an almost frenzy-style uprising during the period between April/2022 to June/2022 failed in that, fleeing of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa from the seat of Presidency is no victory. The system-change that the youth of today demanded and dreamed about is not anywhere near now; in fact, it seems to have receded beyond one’s horizon of visibility. Inclusion of youth representing the middleclass and upper middleclass amongst the Aragalakaruwos was an indication that their demands were merely limited to the availability of petrol, diesel and cooking gas. For them the concept of system change is as alien as torrential rain to a thirsty and parched earth.
The youth led by the Inter University Student Federation (IUSF), especially the educated young men and women and the activist groups of arts and literature whose vocal powers are recognizably more powerful than others are being subjected to unceasing harassment and state-led intimidation. These are not good signs of good governance. Alibaba Ranil Wickremesinghe has decided to unleash some powers he never experienced in his failed leadership in the olden days.
On the other hand, Alibaba Ranil, as shown in his latest appointments of the Cabinet and State Ministers, has surrounded himself with the same old thieves and rogues who don’t deserve even a class- monitorship when they were in school, if they ever attended any educational institutions. Such is the brutal fate of our country today. It’s a henhouse run by a cabal of cunning and deranged foxes. Salivating with greed and potentiality of premature climax, these charlatans have come together again, now under different but fundamentally constituted in the same mindset; they do not seem to understand the nuanced flow of political currents. Nor do they make any attempt at engineering a new path for the troubled present of the country and would invariably lead to a dangerous and ominous future which they know they would not live to experience.
Making the country’s woes their pliable tool and hiding behind a fake screen of international threat, our current set of rulers is willingly taking their subject people for an immense ride. At the end of this run, what awaits the arrivals is as vague and imprecise as the morning mist that evaporates with the slightest of sunshine.
What the people would never ever forgive them is their total lack of empathy. They, the current cabal of rulers and their cacophonic policy declarations, would eventually lead us all into an abyss of political and economic catastrophe; if it has not already happened, it’s certainly emerging in the not-so-distant skyline.
What an ordinary and mediocre ruler does in the circumstances of impending doom, as has been written and displayed in the pages of history, is to gather a set of closest friends and relatives whose vested interests are akin to the ruler’s, and listen, if he or she chooses to listen at all, to them and them alone. Those who surround the leader at moments of crisis too would find themselves in the same shoes, so to speak. Their primary purpose is to safeguard and protect and advance, even at the cost of the country, their vested interests. The people’s wellbeing and their wishes, their dreams and their ambitions are all submerged in this moment and a new set of aims, purposes and ambitions will emerge: the narrow and parochial ambitions of the leader and his friends and relatives. It is indeed a tragic reality of the so-called ‘spirit of man’.
In that cruel context, Ali Baba Ranil and his 40+ rogues are no different. This is the time for those who dream about a system change or a new reality, a reality that is related more to the wellbeing of the majority and social justice, to act decisively. It could be extremely unrealistic to envision such a dreamy beginning; a more acceptable actuality.
Elie Wiesel, Romanian-born American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate and prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, says thus: “there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Therefore, we Sri Lankans must realize that, in the grueling circumstances of economic hardship and social injustice, protest and demonstration of our collective anger and rage against injustice, corruption and nepotism is not a privilege in the hands of the so-called middleclass and the upper middleclass but an essential tool in the paws of the proletariat, the working men and women whose struggle is one unending function in the architecture of social justice. The irony of that architecture is not predesigned style or nuanced lines of fine art and craft, but a developing and ever renewing design; an upending machine whose turning will stop only when the whole un-designed patterns are in place at the right time and right place.
Such inscrutable intentions will not manifest themselves in mediocre men; nor would they materialize in incurious minds of the ordinary. Richness of mind and abundance of creativity is not the exclusive right of the materially rich and superficially glorious, it is the cutting and pressing plier in the rough and coarse hands of the working man, whether they are ordinary men and women, commonplace craftsman, plumber, mason or a three-wheel driver or an educated engineer, a doctor or an accountant.
A streaming mass of people marching more towards a mythical dream-like purpose than tangible goals and aims must be more ready to identify the lines between myth and reality. Those leaders, from whichever layer of society they emerge, should make it a point to apply more realistic and tangible methods of finishing a struggle; an end-oriented journey instead of a leaderless, rudderless boat meandering on unsettling waters of social upheaval.
Abstract as well as realistic goals must be set and ruthlessly pursued with realistic timelines and rigorous discipline. Are we ready for such a campaign of social change? Frugal living for the majority of Sri Lankans and austerity as was evident during the Sirimavo Bandaranaike-era, will begin dominating the living conditions and turn every household into a battle zone for survival; whilst such conditions would make upper-class living more adventurous, the average men and women would find their conditions worsen on a daily basis and even end up in sporadic suicides and rampant looting of the rich. Yet, Alibaba Ranil and his 40+ rogues will rejoice in the misery of the public and that is a real calamity.
*The writer can be contacted at email@example.com