By Emil van der Poorten –
While the title of this column might seem strange for one with pretensions of representing opinions from rural Sri Lanka, I couldn’t think of a title more apt than the one I am using for the simple reason that the tired old North American expression speaks more than eloquently to our being sick and tired of the murder and mayhem that is being visited upon all in this country, save a ruling elite and their hangers-on, some with continuing pretensions to represent “civil society.”
While we haven’t been directly affected (yet!) by events such as those in Aluthgama and Beruwala, the people I speak with around here, almost without exception village folk, have had their fill of the rampant violence in our country and believe that it is just a matter of time before this kind of lawlessness accelerates from its current levels in our own neighbourhoods. For those living in the rarefied atmosphere of Colombo 7 or intoxicated by the carbon monoxide of “performance cars” in night races we have a simple admonition: please don’t assume that those of us who traverse unpaved footpaths do so because we are stupid and without any sense of decency or intelligence!
The racist violence unleashed on the Muslim minorities of Aluthgama, Beruwala (and goodness knows where else by the time this piece sees print) are, unfortunately not without precedent in this self-styled land of the Triple Gem. Even more unfortunately, one may be justified in falling back on another old North American chestnut to predict the immediate future, that being “You ain’t seen nothing yet, buddy.”
Enough of the endless stream of contradictory statements from members of this government with the simple intention of covering every base and providing, among the plethora of lies and half truths, the one that best fits the need of the hour of a politically and morally bankrupt government.
Enough of such superficial communications as Twitter to “engage” the public and claim that some Twit (or several of them) shares the official opinion on some issue and that, therefore, a politically and morally bankrupt government is practicing “populist governance!”
Enough of a government controlling assault-weapon- armed troops only too ready to shoot people demanding clean water and resisting attempts to rob their Provident Fund savings, but refusing to deploy one of the largest armed forces in Asia in the protection of unarmed civilians whose only crime was belonging to the “wrong” community and the “wrong” religion.
Enough of a vacuum in leadership when the President is in Bolivia (!) presumably imparting the secrets of democratic governance, and the man who is, to all intents and purposes, primus inter pares in the matter of running the day-to-day affairs of this country, maintaining a deafening silence while people are shot down in cold blood for the crime of being “the other.”
Enough of a Muslim “leadership” that has proved, if proof be needed, that they are little but supplicants at the Rajapaksa table of goodies where they are only too willing to serve themselves but will do nothing to prevent their less favoured kin from starving to death in the matter of justice and the very right to live.
Enough of the mealy-mouthed, self-appointed members of the Forums, “intellectual elites” who do little but provide a cover of “freedom of expression” to a government that has proven its contempt for everything democratic and decent in governance.
Enough of “Commissions of Inquiry” and their reports that NEVER see the light of day once they have been sucked into the vortex of a Presidential Palace or some similar edifice.
Enough of Parliamentary debates which are little but a travesty of democratic practice but, instead, transport thuggery and brutishness to a different time and place. They simply prove that some elements of homo sapiens have not progressed since the loin cloth, the shaggy locks and gnarled club in one hand and a captive woman held by her hair in the other, notwithstanding their satakayas of varying hue and the virginal white of their primary garments.
Enough of religious dignitaries of every stripe imaginable, who do little but debase themselves and their flocks by making every excuse under the sun for not condemning behaviour which is not only beyond the religious pale but simply uncivilized and criminal by any standard, finding one excuse or another to paper over the horror that is Sri Lanka today.
We need to reject, out of hand, every attempt to divert our attention from the destruction of decency and democracy.
We need to reject, unequivocally, the elevation of controversies over night races to a point where they are seen as infinitely more important than the killing of people. We need to force the pet-poodle media of this country to stop its active participation in building the biggest of smokescreens, between their readers and the Sri Lankan reality.
We need to force a return to the basic laws of the land, to a code of justice where people are prosecuted for breaking the law, not just political opponents persecuted for offering a differing opinion.
We need to end a regime of “Apey Minissu” being immune from prosecution for everything up to and including capital crimes not being subject to so much as the mildest of verbal rebukes even after their guilt is proven beyond dispute.
We need to identify and castigate those who, in the most insidious manner, continue to prop up a regime that is destroying this nation and its people, and will have soon succeeded in taking it back to the Dark Ages. They are just as guilty of what is being done to this country as those actually performing the perfidious deeds.
Even if the seeming indifference to the murderous mayhem today is driven by an abject fear of death and disappearance, we have no choice but to resist because, as Niemoller predicted, our turn will surely come if it hasn’t already.
We need change. We need democratic change. We need dramatic change. And we need all of it NOW!