By Emil van der Poorten –
To complete the title of this column, let me add “is it also the land where suspension of disbelief is absolute?”
The journalists, in the English media at least, have been uttering platitudes that would justify their inclusion in one of the “Forums” of self-righteousness that seem to be so accepted in middle-class Colombo, Sri Lanka where the word “hypocrisy” appears to have disappeared from the Oxford English dictionary.
What has provoked my outburst? All the discussion and debate, if I might debase those two words in applying them to what has transpired recently in Sri Lanka: the Nonis/Vass Gunawardena brawl and His Excellency, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s, most recent audience with the Pope. The former event leading up to the latter and to be followed by the arrival of Pope Francis.
The behaviour of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church in giving its blessings to the most corrupt and violent government in Sri Lanka’s history is viewed as something of an aberration and deserving of investigation to arrive at the “real truth.”
“Stuff and nonsense” would be the appropriate response that any right-thinking person with even a smattering of historical knowledge would bring to this arrant rubbish.
To begin with, the Vatican has a documented history of friendship with and support of the most corrupt regimes in the history of the world and for those whose knowledge of world history does not go farther back than the 20th century, may I suggest checking out the conduct of Pope Pius XII vis-a-vis a man called Adolf Schicklegruber, better known as Adolf Hitler, in the conduct of his mass murder of Jews and others designated by him as undeserving of continuing existence on the face of this earth?
The newest Pope, if one is to believe the mealy-mouthed “journalists” of the world, is well on his way to canonization for, among other things, having a prosecution launched against one Vatican-based senior cleric for sexual crimes and choosing to live in accommodation more modest than that which his predecessors chose. Along the way, he has uttered what would be defined as simple platitudes if they emanated from “ordinary” folk. These were in the matters of family planning and the rights of gay people to be accepted as human beings.
What has been buried under this torrent of rhetoric preparing the world for this man’s elevation to sainthood even before his passing is the fact that, during probably the single worst chapter in Argentina’s history – the time of the “desaparecidos” – when, among other atrocities, the infant children of the tortured and murdered were “adopted” by those responsible for the torture and death of their parents– this man, a very senior cleric in that large South American country, did nothing, never so much as raised his voice in protest while more than 6,000 people were “disappeared.” Oh! I should qualify that: he did use his influence on behalf of a small handful from “influential” families. While there is a great deal of information about this saintly man’s conduct, perhaps the following link, one of many, might be worthy of pursuit
Hardly a Bishop Romero, I’d say.
As for the head of the local Roman Catholic church – Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith – his supine behaviour towards the current regime even when churches of his own denomination were being defiled and destroyed hardly needs elaboration. However, I cannot resist the temptation of referring to some recent media comments that Vass Gunawardena’s assault on High Commissioner (to the Court of St. James) Nonis might have some negative fall-out because the latter’s family has significant “Cardinal connections.” What a bunch of what comes out of the south end of a bull proceeding north! VG, Nonis, Ranjith and much of the hierarchies of several other religious denominations in this country are the last entities that can, by any stretch, be considered as standing between the Rajapaksa Project and its absolute control of this country. These organizations have, historically, been camp followers of those wielding power and it takes little more than the threat of withdrawal of a petrol allowance for their Mercedes’ to have them abandon any pretence to principle and bring them to heel.
Then to add to that particular media comedy, we have the fact that one of the participants in the New York Slap-and-Kick is a part of the delegation that accompanies our ruling monarch to the Vatican, though we are assured that he is not going to actually have an audience with His Holiness, Pope Francis.
But just in case, Mohan Pieris, our current Chief Justice, was photographed in the Vatican, in the company of our Excellency, his (Roman Catholic) spouse and Pope Francis himself. Given the black comedy that is unfolding in Sri Lanka and those places associated with its rulers, it might well be that the missing piece in this photograph is the sublime visage of the Punch and Kick Street Fighter, the afore-mentioned Vass Gunawardena. There would certainly have been a certain poetic balance if he could have completed this august group, keeping all these paragons of virtue company. That is, assuming that the afore-mentioned Mr. Nonis, one of the only two known tea-peddling senior diplomats in Sri Lanka’s history, was unavailable to grace the occasion himself because he was nursing too-serious damage to his person to be there.
As I check the web editions of the Sri Lankan newspapers to the accompaniment of the “speaker system” of a neighbouring temple whose timer sets off its religious message at 4:00 a.m, I am greeted by a lengthy media release from John Amaratunga, a senior UNP functionary whose logic appears to be that, since the UNP’s founding principles were of religious harmony, that party must join the government in extending the warmest welcome possible to His Holiness, the Pope when he arrives here. Mr Amaratunga denies that such an invitation is driven by manipulative political intent tied to a forthcoming Presidential election! Skewed logic? Hardly, coming from this Presidential lapdog, on the Mahinda Rajapaksa payroll through the provision of periodic expenses-paid trips to distant climes to conduct personal business! Invoking “a pox on both their houses” hardly seems benediction enough for our two primary political coalitions in these circumstances.
If one is able to maintain something resembling a (wry) sense of humour in this misbegotten land, readers of the local press are certainly not short of amusement if they know where to look!