By Malinda Seneviratne –
Those who are tagged ‘World Leaders’ are those who have two things: money and power. Those who have intellect and have contributed to the alleviation of disease or have made life easier are called scientists. Those who hone sensitivities are called artists. World leaders call the shots. The others are peripheral to history or rather historiography,
We live in times where world leaders preach democracy, peace and justice. We live in times where these same benefactors of humankind and prophets of decency and civilization are also guilty of unimaginable crimes against humanity. George W Bush is a war criminal, it has now been acknowledged. Tony Blair has not been named and shamed. David Cameron too. Barack Obama who bailed out robber barons who caused a global financial meltdown and who incarcerated the victims who cried ‘foul’, the same man who Rev. Jesse Jackson called a war criminal (‘Those who own the drones are war criminals,’ Geneva, March 2012), was given the Nobel Prize for Peace in a way akin to someone being named ‘Man of the Match’ before the toss.
We got the ‘Houla Massacre’ in Syria, courtesy a media industry that went to town at end-point and scarcely murmured about all that went before, not to mention its scandalous myopia and shy-making when the authors of war criminality have addresses in Washington DC, London, Paris etc. It’s all about ousting unfriendly regimes and getting the world to cheer war criminals re-christened as benefactors of oppressed peoples. If you want to know the script, go to Page 14 of this newspaper.
It is all about R2P or ‘Responsibility to Protect’, the 21st Century name for ‘White Man’s Burden’. And the ‘protectors’ can, if they so wish, bypass the worst butchers and swoop down on relatively benign polities. Has happened, is happening and will probably happen again. And the ‘protectors’ can always count on help from within, for no country on earth has a population that cheers its leaders en masss.
Now there have been times when helplessness prods people to call for help, but help-calling in general although done in the name of ‘the people’ are essentially exercises in power-capture. In general, it is best that people deal with the horrors that rule them, sometimes even elected by them, by themselves. Even the strongest of regimes have weaknesses. No one is invincible.
This however is not about regime change but about resisting interference. Strong states resist better, naturally. Strong governments are more resilient than weak ones.
There are all kinds of ‘strong states’. They need not be ‘democracies’. Military juntas, monarchies, totalitarian systems and theocracies have proved to be as strong as certain democracies. And there’s nothing to say that one type less popular than another, unless of course you happen to be an uncritical consumer of drivel dished out by Washington-friendly media.
But is Sri Lanka under threat? All countries are and those (like Sri Lanka) which are reluctant to follow Washington-scripted policies are particularly vulnerable; and a threat is often more potent than its execution, Ksawery Tartakower, the Polish chess grandmaster noted more than a century ago . We must also add the arm-twisting neighbor India into the equation, the machinations in Geneva and the veiled and open threats issued against Sri Lanka to get the full picture of intent.
What does the domestic picture look like? Bleak. We have a constitution that is made to make dictators. We have institutional flaws that no one is interested in correcting while those pointing out error have themselves benefitted from the same when in power or else have so aided and abetted spoilers (like the LTTE) to be taken seriously by the masses. There is corruption. There is power-abuse. Checks and balances are woefully inadequate. We can be thankful for the more-than-a-small-mercy of not having to deal with terrorism, but that won’t erase away the abiding anomalies, systemic flaws and the truth that citizen is not insulated by arrogant and thieving politician.
All these, in light of what one may call the ‘Houla Doctrine’, are eminently exploitable by external forces who may appear to be regime-haters but in reality have no love for people or nation (unless as exploitable labour, ‘plunderable’ resources or convenient bases for military purposes).
Two things need to be done. First of all, we must be aware of the possibilities, the avenues that the interferer may take and the allies they may depend on. Secondly, we must become stronger as a nation.
The first is easy. The second, tough. Strong government is not the same as strong nation. A strong nation is one that can make a government that is strong, effective and just. And this, in spite of a flawed constitution, bribe-taking politicians and officials, a pathetic opposition, easily purchasable academics and media personnel, and racketeers masquerading as civil society activists.
On thing is certain. We are not Bahrain. We are not Saudi Arabia. We won’t be granted favours. Neither are we Syria. Yet. And that ‘yet’ is something that can be taken out of the sentence without too much difficulty.