By Vishwamithra1984 –
“When good people in any country cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil men prevail.” ~Pearl S. Buck
The western sky is illuminated by the last gleaming of twilight. Along the shores, those who trekked miles to wet their fatigued feet with the salty waters of the Indian Ocean are having their final pleasure, thinking of the tales that they would one day tell their grandchildren how they spent a Sunday evening before retiring to their humble abodes, take time to stare a last peep at the distant horizon which is becoming increasingly hazy and faint. Before the darkening skies turn into night, before the endless space above becomes crowded with billions of millions of stars, serenading a full moon, men, women and children who make this earth worthy of its salt, hesitatingly bid adieu to another day under the sun- scorching and unmerciful yet an unrelenting giver of light.
With the dusk turning into night, Colombo, the commercial hub of this splendid land, comes to terms with the decreasing traffic under the neon lights of a carefree city, struggling to awake to a brand new night. The irksome honking of horns of the moving traffic disturbs the calmness that usually awaits the tired and weary. The indiscipline of the three-wheeler drivers drives a more careful motor trafficker crazy and more often than not, to road-rage, while making the pedestrians run for their life. The rampant traffic behavior displayed on Colombo roads explains why Sri Lanka is still going through adolescence of nationhood, bullies controlling the tempo and the helpless willingly showing their subservience to the powerful and mighty. A sad and repetitive saga of a nation pretending to be grown up while crawling its ways into adulthood.
The vendors who engaged in their usual vending along the Gale Face Green from dawn to dusk are gathering their paraphernalia to ready themselves to meet their loved ones whose eager waiting for the breadwinner’s weary trek back home, for any delay would naturally spell another delayed partaking of dinner. The gram vendor whose meager earnings could hardly feed a family of three is packing up his wherewithal to head back home while counting day’s earnings. He has to set apart some part of the day’s collection to warm himself at the illicit liquor seller’s boutique located close to his shack of a home. After a hard day’s work, almost all the time on his feet under an unmerciful sun at the Galle Face Green, how could anyone blame him for his meager indulgence? Yet priorities of each human being are being measured not in universal terms. Passing judgment on the gram seller is easy, but empathizing with his hard and unkind livelihood is another matter altogether.
In this cruel set up, people turn to politicians for not only their salvation, they also see them as an easy target of anger and blame. A people who have been schooled in a faculty of thought that taught and preached dependence on state-provided amenities from free rice to subsidized bus fares to free school books for children, cannot be expected to learn self-dependence and free thinking on the lines of a sophisticated free-market society. After being mere subjects of three colonial powers, Portuguese, Dutch and British for nearly half a millennium, the people of Sri Lanka still cannot come to terms with unshackled way of living. Democracy in the current way shape and form may be only about three centuries old; the scientific revolution that began unfolding its sweeping changes in everyday life of man in electricity to modern day automated banking and internet-related information dissemination may have influenced the average man and woman in a most fundamental way, yet the inner content of that scientific revolution did not seem to have penetrated the their minds. Clinging on to the outer manifestations of the fast-advancing scientific discoveries does not satisfy the historical need of a more fundamental discovery of a societal evolution into a more vibrant, enlightened and perfect one. When the outer manifestations of innate discoveries are mistakenly identified as the real, the delusionary fog clouds the path that man chooses to travel. Its elementary components get buried in the sands of wishful thinking and a gloomy comfort zone beckons him to a lethargic way of life.
The tragedy that seems to have befallen the country is precisely the conflict between the outer coverings of modern technological advancement and the inner wisdom that gave birth to such technological findings. The politician, whether they be of the Rajapaksa genre or otherwise, is acutely attuned to these infirmities of the voting masses. In a very real sense, political minds, UNP, SLFP or JVP, are the most alert and exploitative elements in Sri Lankan society. Their brutal exploitations, especially during an election time, cross all boundaries of decency, honor and truthfulness. Instead of choosing the most qualified candidate or candidates, the voter is forced to choose a least destructive of a given number of candidates.
Rajapaksas’ exploits of a vulnerable people whose sensitivities were calibrated to the myths and glories of a ‘super Sinhala nation’, were well in display immediately in the wake of the cessation of the Tamil-Sinhala conflict. The year 2009 is a landmark year in our history. Not only did it stamp its significance as the year in which a 30-year ethnic war came to a decisive conclusion, it also signified the year in which the winning party of the conflict decided to exploit the beneficial results of the war to enrich and empower itself beyond any reasonable confines. The greed and ravenous indulgences shown with no measure of shame by the Rajapaksas and their cohorts in government circles literally painted the town in whatever the color they chose. Any resistance to their harsh exploitations were portrayed as unpatriotic and ‘unSinhalese’. A susceptible people accepted these exploits as justifiable rewards for a ruling clan that won the war.
But later, the orgy of celebrations reached unforgiving levels of vengeance, shame and cruelty. Incarceration of a real war-hero, General Sarath Fonseka, the Commander of the Army that led his loyal soldiers to a hard and decisive victory did not speak well for a ruling clan who themselves were busy ascribing the victory exclusively to themselves and their own kith and kin. The avarice that overcame all restrictions of reasonableness and justification made its unholy mark when the then Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayke was removed in a matter of days in a most dubiously conducted investigation by a ‘Select Committee’ in parliament. The very principles of man’s sovereignty was violated and a helpless Opposition was seen wallowing in its own saliva of impotence. A carefully crafted political operation that was meant to crush the freewill of a people began taking its roots in the mindset of the ruling clan of the Rajapaksas and their cronies in a more dangerous manner. It expanded the scope and horizons of their power beyond any imaginary confines.
The first indications of mass dissatisfaction of the ruling clan’s exploits manifested themselves in the Uva Provincial Council elections. A hitherto lethargic and slumbering Opposition launched a more coordinated and craftily advertised political campaign, the United National Party led by a new firebrand Harin Fernando in Uva gained power in the province sending unmistakable signals to the Rajapaksas. Yet they thought that it was an aberration.
The defection of Maithripala Sirisena, their Minister of Health and the General Secretary of their party, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) sealed the deal for a unified opposition to the ruling cabal which for some known and unknown reasons called for a Presidential Elections ahead of time. They say that astrology played a pivotal role in the decision to call for the Presidential Elections. But to their utter dismay, the power of extra-celestial elements worked against the wishes of this wholly dishonorable and dishonest ruling clan.
Now the question is whether those who replaced them are any better. The nagging nature of this brutal reality is haunting each and every one who voted to oust the Rajapaksas from power. Transformation from a family-run outfit of a government to a people-oriented government based on the basic principle of the rule of law could be slow and might even look like incompetent. That is the price of good governance. When the people at large, a collective and not as separate individuals, realize the validity of good governance, then our own society might stand a chance of full recovery form the dependency-oriented mindset.
The Galle Face-gram vendor who is heading for his home after hard day’s selling with a bundle of dreams of making a more gainful tomorrow might bump into more obstacles on his way. His forlorn trudge towards a better day will indeed be utterly lonesome and sometimes even more dangerous. Yet he needs to carry on, for those who depend on his meager income may not be limited to his immediate family. He is truly a microcosm of his surroundings.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org