Colombo Telegraph

Can Things Ever Get Worse? 

By Upatissa Pethiyagoda

Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

As a promotional gimmick, airlines reward their good customers, with the status of “Frequent Flyer”, entitling them to various facilities like airport lounges, automatic up-grades etc. With their economies for truth, and an insatiable appetite for being airborne, some of our representatives should lobby for the title of “Frequent Liar”.

Our generation may seem to be out of step, having been taught about discipline, honesty and truthfulness. There were things that simply were not done. Lying was one and disloyalty to your fellows was also “not the done thing.” Are we an extinct species or at least, an endangered one? The ease and unconcern with any rectitude or fairness and the protection afforded by unworthy immunity, is astonishing. An ‘earlier’ PM (they cannot be called “retired”, because they never do) declared, with undisguised glee, that Party Manifestos are not meant to be true, but merely devised to win votes of the gullible. That is a rare but depressing truth from a politician.

Let us remember two incidents (from the decadent West). John Profumo whose glittering prospects, were wrecked by a disclosure of a dalliance with a lady of easy virtue, who was simultaneously servicing a Russian Diplomat – and thus constituted a security risk. He initially denied, but was later led to confess. He resigned in disgrace – not on narrow moral grounds, but because he lied to the House of Commons. The Harley Street Doctor who turned out to be the pimp, if I remember right, committed suicide. Profumo (perhaps as penance) buried himself in social work.

President Bill Clinton (an Oxford Wrangler) and brilliant man, tried to obfuscate with hair-splitting legalistic jargon, bitter truths. He faced almost certain impeachment. Here too, the issue was not about his peccadillos (from which one suspects that this is a contagion that afflicts many politicians), were of trivial concern. The offence was willful lying. How do we measure up? 

In the run up to the last Presidential Elections the most preposterous claims were made. Where pray are the golden horses, many Presidential Palaces, Lamborginis for crown princes, Hundredweights of gold surrendered by (or stolen) from terrified ladies of Jaffna, the lavishly appointed underground bunkers beneath Queens House, the golden swords found inside Temple Trees, the Billions of public money allegedly squirrelled away in foreign accounts. One of today’s lily white Ministers, even blandished files in which he said he had all the evidence which he will expose “at the right time”, as will the defense of our Armed Forces, wrongly accused of War Crimes by the UNHCR. Billions of Dollars to buy luxury hotels in Dubai which would be confiscated and adequate to wipe off all our debts, ownerless luxury houses in Malwana, London, Hanguranketha etc. etc. etc. This is just a sampling to show the state of our country’s finances. The “Yahapalanaya” (a cynical presumption) champions have done equally well. The (James) Bond Scam, unsolved murders of Lasantha Wickremetunge, Waseem Thajudeen and Prageeth Ekneligoda, one guy even had the brass to come up with the novel statement that he and his wife have 400,000,000/= in their Bank Accounts and therefore, will not need to rob (will Inland Revenue follow this up?) etc. etc. etc. These far exceed the evidence necessary to damn the whole of our Political structures. Small wonder that more Bullet Proof vehicles and heavily enhanced security details have to protect our humble, honest and stellar politicos. Even more startling are the matters unearthed by Mr Nagananda Kodituwakku about the Duty Free import of luxury cars (including one for the MP for Polonnaruwa). One recalls the alleged imports, by the State, of top of the range, opulent “Jaguars”. What was their destination and destiny.

I do not think it improper to recognize these, as they are not news to those who adequately surf the Internet. Actually it is a civic duty to expose these commonly whispered gossip, if nothing else, to allow the slandered a fair chance for rebuff. One cannot, of course take all that is presented on the social media as gospel, but some things do smell bad. But the reckless waste and pilferage from the poorest and gravely neglected sectors of our country, have to be exposed. There are the disadvantaged, voiceless rural society that need help, and are normally known to be timid and docile, who are showing menacing signs of revolt, and  that the plastered-over boil may soon burst. Have they no right to have water, roads, bridges etc. that we have learnt to take for granted? This is simply not right. Let a healthy and fair debate permit us to lance this carbuncle.

That politicians (and especially the MP’s) who have so completely debased themselves, draw only cynical disgust (that easily drowns the prefix “Honourable”) will show in forthcoming elections. I have written on several occasions (to The Island and to Colombo Telegraph) Should anyone be interested, they may address me at when I will dig up some of the relevant ones on this theme.

Significantly, one sees that Ukraine has elected as their President, a stand-up comedian, who did not hold a single meeting, professed innocence of any knowledge of politics, and by implication, would allow competent administrators to do the best for their country. Nothing new, our irreverent wit declared, we have never been short of clowns!. When told that Mr Modi had won the recent Indian election, again noted, “nothing new, we have had several Modis in our time!” 

Then there was the President of a South American country, who chose to continue to live in his wood hut on his farm, getting around in his battered old Volkswagen Beetle, often accompanied by his pet pooch!

In  contrast, a Video clip showed the incident when a bunch of enraged civilians (in Ukraine?) waylaid one of their business suit-wearing and over bearing “Leaders”(President or Minister?) and heaved him (and his briefcase) into a rubbish bin and held him down, until several loads of garbage was bucketed on top of him. This is not to be emulated, because we have enough of real garbage, for it to have become a huge problem.

Interestingly, it can be noted that most of our political successes (from the voters’ point of view) were individuals who have, in their own right, excelled in something (Professions or Sports). The poorest (but not in wealth) performers are those who could not claim an exceptional past, beyond “experience” in politics. To such, politics is a flexible bonanza. They have never had it so good.  

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