By Emil van der Poorten –
Recent news reports about the performance of this government, collectively and its separate elements up to and including the Chief Executive, makes one shake one’s head in puzzlement. That puzzlement does NOT stem from the disorientation that might come from having spent better than three decades in an “orthodox” democratic country before returning to the Miracle of Asia.
You have a man, Thilak Karunaratne, who speaks to the fact that he was arm-twisted into accepting the Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission making statements that simply accuse the very Chief Executive whom he considers (considered?) a trustworthy friend pushing him out of a regulatory role where he was expected to “clean house”. His crime? Trying to do just that!
You have a politician on the stump in the recent provincial election campaign exhorting his supporters to “be not afraid” because they will be saved from the consequences of committing capital crimes if those crimes are committed in the promotion of the ruling party’s interests.
You have Mervin Silva threatening to interfere with the rituals of a Hindu temple, rituals that are considered sacrosanct by adherents of that religion. With no admonition, contradiction or even attempt at defusing such inflammatory rhetoric from On High. Does anyone remember the mosque attack in Dambulla and the eerie similarity of response from the forces of law and order?
You have haphazard actions by the Elections Commissioner, pecking away at inconsequentialities in a rotten-to-the-core bunch of Provincial Election campaigns. Given, by his own admission, the (again) monumental contravention of every election law still on the statute books, why is it seemingly inconceivable that this man should have, at least threatened to cancel the polls or their results and compel a government which was brazenly contravening every election law on the books to go back to square one in the process? Wasn’t this the only threat that was likely to get the attention of those concerned for even one fleeting moment?
Ah! But no, serving the rulers of the Miracle of Asia must take precedence over every principle of decency mustn’t it?
For those who keep appealing to the deity or deities for justice and the rule of law to return to this country, I have news: divine intervention in matters of this nature is rather a waste of time when one considers its track record. Just in case, let me also remind you that, since time immemorial, recourse to slitting white roosters’ throats, dashing coconuts, looking heavenward while screaming imprecations has had little or no effect on those against whom such efforts are directed unless of course by some happy coincidence misfortune befell those visiting hell on earth to the citizenry at that time!
The reality is that Citizens Banda and Somawathie are on their own. Only they can do something to fix the hell into which they are being ushered while all kinds of circuses are being promoted to obscure the ugly facts of life and the direction in which those facts are driving Sri Lankan life.
Do not expect the more thoughtful of your more well-to-do and secure citizens to have a massive outbreak of pangs of conscience and mount a campaign to relieve your misery. They are too damned busy feathering their own nests or safeguarding what they already have and are too petrified by the prospect of losing even that to ever run the risk of doing anything to jeopardize their relationship with the powers-that-be.
For those of more militant mind-set, might I remind you that martyrdom does not come with a “morning after” component. If you are done in, you are done for and, unless you are masochistic enough to be satisfied with the outside chance of being a footnote to early 21st Century Sri Lankan history, that’s not a fate to be contemplated.
Oh! But how about the “international community” and its humanitarian impulses? Recent history, even to those not given to reading and contemplating it, should speak for itself. We’ve had the international “Tut-tut” Brigades quite regularly utter their platitudes about the need for democratic practices, the rule of law and all those wonderful things that are taken for granted in their own countries. However, it seems that when there is the prospect of a new round of neocolonial exploitation our potential saviours suddenly discover the virtues of “engagement,” aka collaboration, with dictators of any kind, as long as they are ready to indulge the propensity for profit that those self-same saviours might want to exercise. Neville Chamberlain and Marshall Petain might be the most vilified of European politicians in recent Western history but their philosophical progeny seem always to be just around the corner! Consider and contrast what one of our American “saviours’” has had to say in cables dug up by Wikileaks with his recent “engagement” strategies vis-à-vis our government. Apart from philosophical contradictions, it proves that Mr. Robert O. Blake’s hypocrisy truly has no limits. And don’t forget that his views are representative of US foreign policy with regard to Sri Lanka.
We are on our own folks and the ultimate irony is that the only real light illuminating the end of this particular tunnel is really being shone by those who seek to envelop all of us in darkness: the current Sri Lankan regime.
Contradictory? Perhaps, but read on.
I don’t subscribe to the theory, increasingly put forward by those who claim an authoritative knowledge of recent South Asian history, that what happened within and to the Royal Family of Nepal will be repeated here. While there is certainly a logic to the expectation that the path of untrammeled corruption and venality will lead to internal conflict, disintegration and chaos I don’t think that is the most likely denouement to our current predicament.
A more erudite journalist than I recently pointed out Sri Lanka’s increasing dependence on the Peoples Republicof China (PRC). There could be a very serious downside to that cosying up to a country that singularly lacks anything resembling principle in the conduct of its affairs, foreign or local. The PRC has been worse than the worst capitalist bandit in its absolute commitment to achieving its own narrow economic objectives irrespective of any other considerations. Because this has coincided with the development of so-called infrastructure (harbours in their String of Pearls to protect their oil supply routes) or cultivation of vast extents of African land (to meet their food production needs), in the recipient nations, those nations have been only too ready to accept such largesse, particularly since it has helped to cover up their own monumental corruption. This was also predicated on a belief, some would say “wishful thinking,” that China would continue to be immune to any international financial downturn, something that is currently being debunked, with even the manipulated Chinese growth figures proving a cause for major concern all over the world.
Also, at the end of the day, there is a price to be paid for historic violence and cruelty. In fact a journalist known for her depth of historical and political knowledge detailed this in a recent piece on the removal of immunity from criminal prosecution of dictators. Those individuals who believe that they can indulge in financial rape and pillage and worse and walk away unscathed certainly aren’t reading history as it unfolds. If they did they’d know that members of the Argentine junta who were responsible for the word “disappeared” assuming a new meaning are being brought to justice despite their having been accorded complete legal immunity not so long ago. The same is true of Guatemala where, famously, a head of Amnesty International said they couldn’t launch one of their letter-writing campaigns on behalf of Prisoners of Conscience because the Guatemalan government took no prisoners!
Those who are making history of the most violent and unpalatable kind need to know that they are not going to be immune to the future fall-out from that very history! If that reality dawns on those running white vans, stealing artifacts from our National Museum, robbing the national treasury, doling out our financial lifeblood to kith and kin, perhaps it will give them pause. Or are they too ignorant to even see that obvious writing on the wall?