By Emil van der Poorten –
The contents of the middle pages – reputed for balanced commentary – of an English-language Sunday newspaper contrasted very starkly with a piece on the travails of those who were inundated by flood-waters in many parts of the country on the very next page. Both pieces were authored by respected journalists who have a reputation for accuracy and objectivity, eschewing bombast.
The centre pages contained a description of the sniveling to and fro-ing of political “brokers” in the current coalition trying to hold together an agglomeration of discredited politicians who have displayed a penchant for doing little other than promoting their own well-being.
The work of one Wickremesinghe confidante in particular in running back and forth trying to put out this fire here and that fire there, can only provide amusement to someone with a penchant for gallows humour. The fact that Kabir Hashim – one of the few UNPers who has hitherto displayed at least a smidgen of principle – ended up with the short end of the stick in the matter of departments under his Ministry being taken away and delivered as some sort of peace offering to another high-profile Minister affected by the shuffle did not surprise me. Mr. Hashim stands to lose several pivotal departments in his Ministry to a man whose connections to the head honcho of the previous regime came to the fore again when our wannabe-potentate was the first (and only?) prominent politician to commiserate with the high-profile Cabinet Minister rumoured to be in line for what amounted to a demotion of sorts. The scurrying back and forth of Hashim (the biter who got bit!) and Malik Samarawickrama has to be viewed against the backdrop of a nation reeling under the devastation of a flood of historic proportions. It epitomizes the “Nero fiddling while Rome burns” predilections of this government. Worse yet, it provides proof, if proof be needed, that we are governed by a group of self-seeking and unprincipled individuals to whom personal aggrandizement takes precedence over attending to a national calamity.
How else can the conduct of our ruling politicians be described against the backdrop of current events?
The other column in the same newspaper provides a harrowing picture of what is happening in some of the areas devastated by floods and landslides.
It is cause for some amusement (again invoking gallows humour!) that some of the key players, or those who should have been, were out of the country and displayed no great urgency in the matter of returning to their devastated home turf. That our Prime Minister should be in the Excited States of Amnesia accessing private medical opinions not available to the rest of us, the great unwashed of this country, epitomizes the status quo in Sri Lanka. It did provoke a wry grin in one who, not so long ago, underwent the travails of treatment in a Teaching Hospital in this country, putting him at death’s door for almost a week because a consultant chose to “outsource” a procedure to a less experienced doctor who proceeded to make a “non-surgical procedure” into a life-threatening situation!
Let me, at this point, disassociate myself from any suggestion that I am one of the lynch mob howling for the blood of Anura Priyadarshana Yapa. To do so would be to simply find a (very eligible) scapegoat for the sins of an entire government (and its predecessors). No, that would be only too simple and would beg the real issue: a government (and opposition) totally lacking in principle, morality and ethics. I will not hesitate to repeat, ad nauseam if necessary, the need to bring those three elements into this discussion once again because, without their practice no democratic government can fulfill what those who elected it expect of them.
This is not some theory advanced by some Einstein of governance. It is a simple fact that a liberal democracy can only exist and serve those within its jurisdiction if the rule of law prevails. Not a law only for some poor drunk brawling with his neighbor but for any man or woman so much as contemplating dipping into the public purse to meet private needs, or, rather, private “wants.” That principle must be practiced without any equivocation because it is the only way in which we will be able to survive as a civilized society. A tall mountain to climb? Perhaps so, but do we have any other choice?