By Kumar David –
Reading Shakespeare, I am certain he was familiar with Hegel and Marx; what dialectical perfection. This suggestion was first made by Terry Eagleton in 1986, but not being a scientist he could not provide a rational explanation for this weird happening. As a died-in-the-wool scientist, I have solved the problem. Time travel! If only you could move at a speed greater than the universal constant, the speed of light (c), you can travel backwards in time.Eureka!
Sri Lankais the greatest scientific nation on earth because not only I, but 117 Members of Parliament have solved the same problem. Detractors say they signed a blank sheet first, the 14 charges were written above their names afterwards; the faithful reply that this was not the case. How solve this conundrum? Simple, if the 117 travelled at a speed greater than c, they could have signed before the drafting, and the drafting done before the signing! Imagine a nation where 118 (don’t leave me out) have busted Einstein and mastered time travel; we are the greatest scientific nation on earth!
Shift gear and my time machine will propel you into the future, to after the regime has fallen; after its going, and it’s gone. This journey a few years into time-future, flowing as it must out of time-past, encounters a fork in the track. A linesman, more international than local, will pull a lever to a faster higher track or a slower lower one. The bovine lethargy of the Lankan petty bourgeoisie makes it likely that it is the international community that will be the linesman who chooses the quick road to hell, or leave it be on the slow road to perdition. Coriolanus swore at the Roman plebeian mob and cursed its complicity, complacency and corruption, even as the barbarians were beating down the gates. He minced not his words as he savaged the citizens thus:
“What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues,
That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
Make yourselves scabs?
. . . What would you have, you curs?
Where (one) should find you lions, finds you hares
Where foxes, geese . . .
. . . . . Your virtue is,
To make him worthy whose offence (convicted) him,
And curse the justice that did it. (He) who (wins) greatness
Deserves your hate; and your affections are
A sick man’s appetite, who desires most that
Which would increase his evil.”
(Coriolanus, Act. I, Sc.1. In brackets are substitutions to suit modern readers)
Were we to put Coriolanus on the Hyde Park platform, his scorn for the indolent citizens of Lanka would not be any less florid!
Though patience with the Lankan government has run out in the West and Delhi, and despite the latter being deeply compromised in human rights abuses during the war, what is holding both back from flipping the lever of the train-to-doom onto the fast track, is the absence of a credible alternative government, whether of liberal-democratic or leftist hue. But I do not wish to overplay the foreign argument; indeed it is the local scenario that is decisive in the final analysis in any country, external influence can only add or subtract. In the case of Lanka though, export and import trade, finance and banking, and the accoutrements of material and cultural life are so West-dependent that any tightening of this lifeline will drive the regime to instant crisis. No Chinese sampans will sail in, laden with silks, treasure and ceramic urinals, to make good the loss.
In any case, what’s in it for Delhi and the West? Why should they soil their hands in one more trouble spot with so much else on their plates? Nobody and no country gets involved in the affairs of another except for its own benefit; so despise the Rajapakse brotherhood they may, but why involve themselves our affairs? To seek out the motive that may bring the West, and especially Delhi, to engage in our affairs, we have to park my time machine and come to the present.
Observe Syria, observe Libya less than a year ago, and there lies the answer why many countries, and especially the surrounding region, have so much at stake. It is dangerous, not only for a nation, but for the region and the world at large, to allow a dictatorship to consolidate its hold. About 40,000 have died in Syria since the uprising began; it may drag on for weeks more, taking more lives. The cities have been reduced to rubble. The UN estimates that by January the number of cross-border refugees will exceed 750,000 and the internally displaced persons already number about two million. Assad must be dragged out and hanged from a lamp-post – even the Russians have now given the green light as it’s cheaper than giving him political asylum – but just look at the cost already! And remember, the region, and the world at large, will have no option but to foot the reconstruction bill. If a dictator is nipped in the bud it is vastly less disruptive and less expensive. Hence the outside world has a stake in preventing would-be dictators from setting up shop.
Don’t forget the main task
Rajapakse has snared himself in a right royal snafu with his wilful game of judge-hunting. The farce has kicked up so much dust and heat in recent weeks, hogged headlines and taken over conversations, that we have briefly lost sight of a more important fundamental task; getting rid of the Executive Presidential system altogether. Sure it will warrant hosannas if the brotherhood can be sent packing, the sooner the better, but that will be a pyrrhic victory if another power hungry autocrat or flatfooted imbecile installs himself instead.
Through all the din and fireworks in Kotte and Aluthkade, Lanka must not relax its focus; the target is not the president, it is the presidency. I remain convinced that the most advantageous strategy in this respect is a Single-Issue presidential challenge to abolish the Executive Presidency (EP). The chaos and cock-up that President and government parliamentary group have saddled themselves with is manna from the heavens in the campaign to convince public opinion that the EP should be taken to the small room and flushed down with Harpic. Let me close by repeating, like a cracked record as I have often done in this column, that the opposition (social and political) must unite determinedly for this essential minimum programme. The dust on the impeachment issue will settle, one way or the other, but this big assignment will not go away until it is done.