By Basil Fernando –
The interview of the Defense Secretary Mr. Gotabaya Rajapakse with the editor of the Sunday Leader on the airlifting of a dog deserves comment not because of anything surprising contained in the interview. Its importance lies in its banality. It reveals something that has come to be quite common and ordinary in the day-to-day experience in Sri Lanka.
Threats about killings, killing by the people, reference to journalists as “shit eating pigs”, use of dirty words (kunuharapa) and the statement that he does not care about the courts, are all too common things people have all got used to. It all reveals what has come be today’s political culture in the country.
About the threats about killing, how often and how many people has faced such threats? That people will be avengers! The ‘people’ is euphemism for underground elements and of the state agents working under cover. Thus, ‘people’ attacked the JVP rally and killed two persons. Later, the ‘people’ turned out to be Mr. Julampittiye Amare and his associates. The ‘people’ killed Mr. Lasantha Wicramathunge, the ‘people’ attacked Mr. Baratha Laksman Premachandra, the ‘people’ went inquiring where about of the FUTA President. This list could be a very long. Every one having a dissenting view and everyone participating in protests have learned to expect that ‘people’ will come in search of them. When they sleep they are likely to see nightmares about the ‘people’ coming for their blood.
The fear of white vans and fear of those who come chasing on motorcycles, are all modern day versions of ‘billas’. Taking precautions to avoid such billas has become a day-to-day pre-occupation. Those who live with such fears are not only journalists, but also people who live in high places. In a recent meeting where the speaker spoke about white vans, a high court judge present at the meeting told the speaker, “we are also afraid of such things”.
As for Kunuharupa, who really expects any polite conversations with authorities anymore? Only way to avoid such words been hurled at oneself, is to retire to private life and not to bother about public affairs. What is disappearing really is the idea of citizenship. The respect owed to the citizen, comes from the democratic notion of the citizen and the state. Who expect such kind of respect any more?
Not caring about courts is nothing surprising either. Onetime a minister was sent to jail for two years for saying a similar thing for contempt of court. Today, even a constable dares to defy the court and not execute warrants issued by it, if the person avoiding arrest enjoys political patronage.
Nothing need to be said about journalist been referred to as pigs. So much has already been heard about the flight of journalists, for anyone to be shocked by such insults hurled at them. Journalists in Sri Lanka need to wear a special dress on which such attacks will not leave a trace. Anyway those who govern seem to think they are ruling over pigs.
This is Sri Lanka’s political culture in the 21 century.