By Vishnuguptha –
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” – Albert Einstein
Surrounded by the grandeur of loot, corruption, nepotism and lies, this government, it seems, could be starved to death only by the austerity of truth. One stark example of that truth was shown most glaringly in the recently concluded elections for the Western and Southern provinces. The monolith that has been withstanding many storms and tempests seems to be eventually showing mild signs of vulnerability. The Emperor’s clothes are beginning to fall.
The ultra-nationalist cloak that has been concealing the true nature of a corrupt regime may be showing real cracks but the peeling off is being done not by the main antagonist, United National Party (UNP). It’s being executed, not so much with military precision- no pun intended- by an ex-General and a leader of another political party, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which was once armed to the teeth to massacre innocent members of the public.
The people are showing increasing disenchantment with the old; the ‘Grand Old Party’ aka United National Party does look not just old but proving to be ‘ancient’. Fresh ideas, fresh faces and fresh avenues are all blocked; a beginning of certain decay was most unceremoniously launched with the advent of its present leader to the helm in the wake of the assassination of Gamini Dissanayake. So much has been written and talked about regarding the ineptness of the current leader and his latest maneuverings to build a wall around himself in order to insulate and fortify himself and thus it’s rather redundant to berate Ranil Wickremesinghe anymore. Both his Party, the UNP and himself are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Securing a mere 25% of the electoral vote when the other two Parties, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and Democratic Party have collectively matched it in the recently concluded Provincial Council elections has more or less reinforced the argument that when political parties do not adapt themselves to changing circumstances and realities, they go into definite decay.
The art of political attacks on opponents has been refined but instead of sculpturing a more sophisticated craft, it has ended up in the hands of our ruling clique and the way they handle this modern-day craft reminds one more of ‘a mad monkey with a razor in its hands’ than a fine craftsman stroking a chisel. Abuse of state-controlled media outlets to manufacture lies and propagate them via some popular personalities whose political allegiances in the past had been with the UNP government and naked bribery and ‘santosams’ offered to coerce these personalities are just the tip of a giant iceberg that’s floating underneath the surface of a corrupt regime.
Putting Goebbels’ theories into practice with ease, these media professionals have coated a lie with so much of sugary glaze that when one hears or sees it, one finds it extremely hard to differentiate between truth and falsehood. Repeating these lies many times over and over, these mechanics of political innuendos, gossip and fabrications have attained a supreme and unequal echelon in the annals of political mudslinging and ‘creative dishonesty’. For instance, Professor G L Peiris, the Minister of External Affairs of the current regime is trying to sell a lemon as a brand new Cadillac. Distorting the voting pattern at the recently concluded sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva last March, Minister Peiris is trying to portray the discomfiting defeat suffered by Sri Lanka as a victory. This is the same man who spared no breath or sigh about selling the then infamous Ceasefire Agreement (CSA) of Ranil Wickremesinghe in the early years of this Century while serving as a Minister in the UNP Government. Over the last few years this Rhodes Scholar of a Minister has developed such a thick skin and immunity to scorn and shame that he has become a living monument to the observable decay in socio-cultural ethos of Sri Lanka.
On the other hand they have unleashed various Balakayas on a rampage. While these Balakayas are practicing lawlessness openly, no action whatsoever is being initiated or even proposed by those who are in power or close to power. Each and every Minister, except perhaps one who hails from the Badulla district and for whatever reason one does not want to speculate at this time, is dead scared of these Balakayas. The very physical presence of the person who is brandishing harshest of words, sometimes bordering on downright obscenity and filth but garbed in a saffron robe so that he is openly identified as a Buddhist Monk and ostensibly preaching and spreading the sublime Teachings of Thathagatha Buddha, may have had a frightening effect on these politicians. It is even sadder to note that, instead of distancing oneself from these untruths and the organizations that spread these untruths among a gullible public, Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), one of the pivotal partners in the current coalition Government is in fact the other side of the same coin. If the Balakayas are the ones in robes, the JHU is the one in layman’s attire.
The reconciliation process has come to a halt. Not because of the UNHRC resolution; on the contrary, the UNHRC resolutions happened because there was no meaningful reconciliation process seriously undertaken or enthusiastically implemented by the present regime. It’s a lie that the UNHRC has impeded the progress of the reconciliation process. Holding elections in the Northern Province is no be-all and end-all on this process. After having promised literally heaven and earth to the Northern voters on the eve of that election, the Government-backed Party and its candidates got clobbered and the Tamil voters delivered the Northern Province to the Tamil National Alliance lock, stock and barrel.
Yet the sharpening of racial hatred and ethnic divisions has been already done; by the time the Northern Province elections approached, these divisions and hatred-filled local Sinhala populace was a fait accompli. Once again, thanks mainly to the relentless propaganda campaign run most effectively by the State-controlled media outlets, the defeat of the Government-backed party in the North was portrayed as a victory for the Government’s ostensible and not so much ‘anti-Tamil’ but ‘pro-Sinhala’ stance. That is another lie carefully crafted and tested in the murky waters of Sri Lankan politics. And the Government has come on top of it.
All of them, the Government bigwigs and their cohorts are sitting atop a heap of lies; they feed on lies and they thrive on them. The most tragic aspect of this lamentable saga is the utter indifference and apathy shown by the Opposition and its glaring deficiency in ability and skill to manage such a volatile political reality and turn it to their favor. Skilled political craftsmanship and timely intervention into the flow of events shown by the UNP ‘greats’ of yesteryear are all history. That itself is part of the problem confronted by the Sri Lankan body politic today.
Yet it is the considered opinion of the writer that repeating the truth is as important and decisive in the course of political propaganda as repeating a lie. However to do that, one must have access to facts and figures, analysis and intellectual discourse and above all, a desire to pursue power as a political goal. In the absence of these elements, it’s quite futile even to have a conversation with them. Austerity of truth is a powerful weapon. The war that one wages with truth as the main offensive weapon is essentially non-violent and utterly disarming. Austerity of truth can starve this regime to emaciation and a skeleton. But one must have the desire and ability to do it.
*Writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org