25 November, 2020

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Are We There Yet?

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

The question that constitutes the title of this piece owes its origins to children who are on some exciting journey with their parents and can’t wait to reach the promised destination.

In this instance the “destination” is one of anarchy and the total destruction of democracy as it has developed over, at least, the “last 2500 years of Sinhala Buddhist civilization” which is the context within which all that is good should be viewed as far as those ‘calling the shots’ in Sri Lanka are concerned.

Our modest “Home stay” operation had an European family as guests and what made them different was the fact that the husband/father was a career diplomat who had served in Africa.

He regaled us with humourous (if you didn’t have to live there) stories of law enforcement, if that is the word given to what occurs in some of the East African countries. I hope that by recounting one anecdote at least I don’t provide our local traffic cops with another means of collecting “palm oil.”

He told us how the police in Kenya were known to rent out their uniforms on week-ends to friends on civvy street who could employ them as the accoutrements of choice in the collection of bribes. After all, can you extort money from a member of the public anywhere without being appropriately uniformed? He also gave us a fascinating description of the brutal occupation and destruction of life and property in a large shopping mall in that country. Apparently the government has a crack unit specifically trained to deal with such incidents. Unfortunately, however the plane required to bring them in and which was maintained specifically for that purpose was unavailable. Why? Because a high-ranking officer was using it for his own personal purposes! The end result of that particular calamity was a shoot-out between the army and police for control of the mall – there having been only four (that’s right 4) original terrorists who had been dispatched quickly enough. The battle for control of the retail hub ended up in its total destruction, save for what the (uniformed) looters were able to spirit away. I don’t recall who “won” that particular skirmish but I was informed that it resulted in the total destruction of Kenya’s largest shopping mall.

In the adjacent Tanganyika, the corruption is alleged to be far worse than in Kenya but is kept under wraps by a government that very successfully quashes any sign of exposure of government venality very quickly indeed.

What provoked these thoughts was the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta, the head of the Kenyan state, had recently proclaimed that Kenya had given up the fight to rid itself of corruption because, basically, it was an impossible task given how deeply embedded corruption was in the modern Kenyan culture. The manner in which this statement was reported in the international media suggested that it wasn’t a random outburst brought about by any particularly dramatic event but one born of a series that had constituted a cultural change in the manner in which Kenya chose to govern itself. At least that was the choice of those in the seats of power, because it was rather unlikely that the average Kenyan would opt for something that would take the bread off the table of his family. But where “power comes out of the barrel of a gun” as Mao so aptly put it, Joe Citizen, doesn’t have too many choices.

The “Unuth ekai, munuth ekai” (“six of one and half a dozen of the other”) conditions prevailing in Sri Lanka suggest that we are well on the way down a similar slippery slope.

In a strange twist to the attribute in question, in the so-called “western democracies,” the hypocrisy that is alive and well in the matter of public pronouncements by those running those nations gives one some hope. Why? Because such hypocrisy is a clear indication of the acceptance of public morality, honesty and similar virtues in the conduct of democratic governance as it was once known to exist in theory if not practice!

The convulsion that occurred on January 8th of last year was a clear indication that a majority of our citizenry believed that “good governance” could be our reality; at least a start could be made in that journey. The tragedy is that that is not happening.

I would like to hope that we have enough people of integrity, ready to stand up to be counted even at considerable risk to themselves, who will keep the pressure on the present bunch not to slide into the mire of wholesale theft of what belongs to the nation as did the “movers and shakers” of the previous regime.

What is of immediate urgency, is that those with a primary responsibility for “justice” are not the most inappropriate on the government side of the house to fulfill such obligations. To have a Minister in charge of justice proclaiming that it will be over his dead body that any “harm” befalls any member of a particular family against whom the body of circumstantial evidence of theft of public resources is reaching Himalayan proportions, is beyond acceptable.

It gets worse!

When the world is assuming the characteristics of a tinder box in the matter of racial, ethnic and religious demonization, this same individual issues what can accurately be described as an incendiary statement that thirty-odd prominent Muslim families have contributed their progeny to ISIS or some similarly murderous terrorist group. The specificity of the statement clearly gave it the potential to provoke all kinds of mayhem in a country that, not so long ago, saw the invasion of a mosque in one of Sri Lanka’s largest Muslim towns. The result of that particular “adventure” was the killing of worshippers and the destruction of homes of people who had nothing to do with anything resembling a militant Islamic organization. The crime for which they were punished? Being Muslims.

There is no excuse for keeping individuals such as this on the benches of a government claiming to represent religious tolerance and a healing of the very deep wounds of a long drawn-out ethnic conflict.

The excuse for tolerating such as these, often on the front benches, is that they are needed to raise their hands in support of a government dedicated to ethnic harmony and all the great and wonderful characteristics of a democratic state. Pray tell how giving jackals control of the chicken coop is going to improve the future of the poultry? In closing, I expect that I should apologise to those who think that sheep and wolves might be a more appropriate analogy than chickens and jackals. The reason is that I’ve tried to stay close to home, as it were, and wolves have an image of dignity that the humans I am seeking to describe lack completely.

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  • 5
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    Emil van der Poorten

    RE:Are We There Yet?

    Thanks for the write-up. Slowly getting there.

    “He told us how the police in Kenya were known to rent out their uniforms on week-ends to friends on civvy street who could employ them as the accoutrements of choice in the collection of bribes.”

    “The “Unuth ekai, munuth ekai” (“six of one and half a dozen of the other”) conditions prevailing in Sri Lanka suggest that we are well on the way down a similar slippery slope.”

    Looks like the current President understands this, and he has earned new Titles.

    • 9
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      First of all let me greet you for the christmas and the holidays.

      I found the article superb. I could not agree with you more.

      Emil, it is shame, if anyone of the buddhists had guts to stand against and file a case against that mad monk and his acts on that day.
      We the buddhists talk big about everything if it came from minorities, but not even that Nagananda the fearless lawyer had come forward to do so. I am out of the country, if I can do it even today, It is my right to do so – it was absolutly no acceptable the manner Mad monk from Batticalo to react that way betraying entire buddhists in the country.

      Is there anything so harmful behind all these people not to have reacted against the man ?

  • 5
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    Beautiful…

  • 0
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  • 8
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    Emil,

    This so-called ‘ Justice’ Minister has absolved Mangalaramaya Sumanaratne of all his crimes, because there was no police complaint lodged against him, not withstanding the fact that the police were witnesses and victims of his violence in speech and muscle power. It was all recorded in several video clips. This ‘Minister’ also accused Tamil public servants of various discriminatory acts, after his conclave with the thug. The Tamil Grama Seveka who was a victim of Sumanarathne’s verbal abuse, in police presence, was the epitome of a true Buddhist, compared to the yellow robed thug.

    Do Maithri and Ranil have the moral fiber to sack this Minister?

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 6
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      He came to power promising to serve justice.

      But to this day,he has done the highest harm dissappointing us all.

      That Gramasevaka behaved himself like a gentle sorta of monk on that while Sumanrathana was akin to a man who just came out of psychiatric wards.
      Why not us the buddhists can still file a case against that MONK ?
      If it is what they need, we the buddhists living out of country should have the right to do via embassies right ?

    • 6
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      That loss in case WR after being sacked is larger than just ignore the issue. So latter seems to have been chosen by CURRENT DUO.Mahinda Rajaakshe et al has reached – Managalaramaya wadakaya seeking fishing in muddy waters. We the people have no real informaton of the updates. Media mafia is doing the job in favour of Rajapakshe thugs for fund grabs.

      Likewise, arrest Sumanarathne mad monk can create unexpected harm than ignore the issue -PUNNAKKU EATING FOLKS WILL SUPPORT ANY HARMS BEING CARREID OUT BY WEARING A SANGAYA UNIFORM. So the state focues on avoiding any form of blood baths.

      Both issues are serious and that is why we the outsiders feel, we are betrayed.

      Wijedasa Rajaakshe has close links with former Rajaakshe family. That he proved not once -but several dozenes of times sofar. Sarath Fonseka the man with all bluntness proved it, now stay mum since he has to respect and protect UNP party unity.

  • 1
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    Are we there yet?

    The last lap[or Hurdles?] is on the horizon!.

  • 5
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    Rule of law and Kenya have parted ways long ago:

    The has been happening in Sri Lanka for nearly seven decades: There is no hope of any reversing this situation. It can only get worse with the “leaders” we have.

    The society is corrupt morally and otherwise. What kind of leadership can you expect from such a society?

    It is a miracle that millions of Sri Lankans are getting on with life as they do in Kenya.

    Nay, it is Darwin’s theory of evolution at work: survival of the fittest in a corrupt society, the fittest being the ingenuously corrupt ones.

  • 4
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    Sirisena trundled along last year, with a heavy baggage, but still maintaining a sense of trustworthiness, which kept the civil society, that brought him to power holding its breath, that soon he will turn the corner and it will be all clean and white as his drapes!
    Alas, came his war hero speech and it was all bared for the country and the whole world to see!
    Here comes another Sinhala Chauvinist from the same stables as the previous one.
    What Ranil is doing in the middle of this, looking so busy, is a puzzle for any student of politics!
    Chandrika of course had gone hiding!
    Poor Ven Sorbitha Thero took his last breath.
    Prof Sarath Wijesooriya had been served with a writ.
    Now it’s all down the hill until 2020 while Gota gets ready with his forty men!

  • 5
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    So, Sri Lanka continues as the land of impunity where mass murderers and wrong-doers foam free without punishment or remorse.

  • 3
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    Emil: your reference to those incidents of Law and Order in Kenya can be viewed in Sri Lanka perspective this way. (1) We have a Minister of Justice and Buddhist Affairs who says (you too mentioned) that it is on my dead body the family of a previous regime will be subjected to Law & Order. (2) We have a Minister of Law and Order who telephones the IGP (the Head of the Police Force) and directly interferes in a matter of a person summoned to record a statement by another Law Enforcement Agency. (3) We have a IGP who publicly assures a “SIR” that the man summoned will not be arrested. (4) We have a Prime Minister who receives a Head of a Armed Force with a report on his own doings of “Thuggery” to disperse a crowd at a labour unrest and giving a “photo opportunity” and praise him for a “Splendid” job done. (5) We have a Prime Minister who has in his company a person accused of a “Biggest Bond Scam” by a properly constituted Parliament Overseeing Arm to advise on economic affairs and go Globe trotting. (6) We have a President who says no person in the Armed Forces or those High Profiled persons be taken to task on their misdoings, without first notifying him. (7) We have a President and a Prime Minister who hate Social Media and all other Media critical of their activities and publicly announcing that legislation would be brought to “Muzzle” them. (8) We have a Attorney General’s Office that withdraw cases from the courts due to “Technical Errors”. (9) We have Ministers who are fast a sleep while the county’s Budget is read out. (10) We have popularly elected and nominated (back door) Members in Parliament who import luxury vehicles on “Duty Free” permits and “SELL” those through public advertisement and amass a wealth of profits.

    Apart from above there are very many things that your associate from Kenya can pick from us and possibly sell to that Government Authorities so that they too can do things in better “STYLE”.

    • 4
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      Wijedasa Rajapakshe will loose next time in his elections.
      His is becoming a threat to all by today.
      Actually, supporting those NAZI men being flanked that way, sending the message across the country, entire folks that supported this govt to come and solve theproblems have been betrayed, as no changed to Real jarapakshes.
      WE NEVER EXPECTED WIJEDASA TO TREAT US THIS WAY: WE ARE SPEECHLESS; HELPLESS; OUR WUT/FURIOUSNESS WILL HAVE TO EXPRESS IN PROTEST BEING CLOESE TO PROF: WIJESOORIYA NEXT:

      • 2
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        I wonder how he would answer the questions raised by people in terms of serving justice today.
        At the time his predecessor stayed as if he was clay eaten crocodiles while all bbs and other forces vandalized the country, all then opposition and anyone with a bird brain questioned why.

        Today we have reached the same levels under GOOD governance.
        How come ?

  • 3
    0

    Great piece Emil. Merry Christmas to you and season’s greetings to everyone else.
    “Are We There Yet”? Yes we will get to heaven shortly because we are already serving our term in HELL. The good Lord may forgive us all irrespective of faith or ideology because He will not punish us twice to be doomed to hell. After all, what we all are undergoing here in “HELL-A-DIVA” is our Karma – A legacy of a 2500 years of Sinhala Buddhist culture as you quoted.

  • 2
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    Nice essay. SL is not far away from Kenya. SL might overtake. WR and the thero’s deserve to be in psychiatric wards. MS and RW has no morals. But pretend as if they do. Good comments.

  • 2
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    EvdP

    Compliments of the season to you, and to all your readers.

    Most of the comments have covered well the state of play in Mother Lanka.

    As I remember, the slippery slope of our political chicanery goes back perhaps to the election of one M S Themis.

    Apropos our present woe, that where evil scoundrels in saffron robes scour the land for opportunities to create mischief, suffice to say that NO politician in his right mind will come out and criticise them.

    The only time a Buddhist monk really fell foul of the law was when one Talduwa Somarama carelessly pulled the trigger on the scion of Horagolla one sunny September morning in 1959. There again, the gunslinger has always been described as ‘a man wearing yellow robes’.

    Don’t expect much to change, Gota, Tha Enforcer, is already marshalling his forces in preparation for the day for when our current ‘league of gentlemen’ make one slip too many.

  • 1
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    It is very strange that I seem to have many Keniyan officials as my clients where they are invited by the British Government for various seminars where all aspect of good governance is inculcated.
    These delegates do accept what Emil had written.
    Because of a fair amount of White people settled in that country after seeing their disciplined life in Kenya, they want the same for their own African Kenyans.
    We invited one of them who is a regular to our business to the Christmas lunch where several others from other countries were present. This particular Kenyan gent born a Muslim had embraced Christianity since he is not feeling comfortable with his old faith and he too regret the daily corruption that occurs from the street level to the higher places and the cops are as Emil had written. He and his officials are disappointed with the way countries are run in Africa at present. After he and other officials visiting UK so often appreciate the high standards in every aspect enjoyed in UK and they want the same in Africa. They want the Western world to help them to go after their crooked leaders who loot their countries and stash it in the West.One other guest from that area is appalled by the power greedy President of Congo wants to cling on to power at any cost. His predecessor President Morbutu stashed over 32 Billion Dollars in Switzerland which he never lived long enough to enjoy.Sevaral who read the article agrees with Emil.
    They want our help to fight the menace corruption beyond their own boarders.

  • 2
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    Nice one, Emil.

    Referring to the majority of us as “chickens” is appropriate, but give the Jackals a break, our cunning and crooked politicos are far to base to be compared to any of those in the animal kingdom!

  • 0
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    Just a correction- there is no Tanganika now. The country is now called Tanzania

    • 0
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      Leonvet:
      You are right! My apologies for the careless slip.

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