By Emil van der Poorten –
One of the interesting things about contributing to the print media these days is the prospect of fielding responses to one’s contentions on web editions of the newspapers in which those contributions appear. And recently, having on more than one occasion tried to make out a case for dislodging the most violent and corrupt government in the history of Sri Lanka by peaceful means, I have fielded a significant amount of flak for being totally unrealistic.
Most of the responses in this vein have, up front, stated the ugly reality of the status quo as the rationale for their throwing my suggestions for peaceful change into the garbage can of journalism.
More than one critic of my scribbling has made out a very cogent case for not following a policy of peaceful protest and disobedience by stating the obvious: the Rajapaksa Regime and its attendant sycophancy has provided clear and irrefutable evidence of its readiness to assault those seen as its “enemies” both physically and verbally. The examples of those who were gunned down while protesting against the efforts of the government to appropriate the savings of workers by a spurious “pension scheme” and the fate that befell a fisherman who protested against the increase in boat fuel prices were provided as irrefutable evidence of the futility of democratically-orthodox protests against the brazenly unprincipled and violent behavior of the current government.
In conversation, my friends have been even harsher in their opinions of what they view as my “pie in the sky” beliefs about peaceful protests being capable of removing a government that has displayed no let up in its need to control everyone and everything on the face of this island.
My response has been much of a kind as that which I advanced in defence of Ranil Wickremesinghe as leader of the United National Party and the opposition. It is Hobson’s Choice we are faced with in both cases, because in neither case does there appear to be a viable alternative.
Though I have retreated from my defence of what seems increasingly like a lifetime-leader of the Uncle Nephew Party, I am not about to do the same about the need for peaceful opposition to the Rajapaksa junta because Hobson’s Choice still appears to prevail where that proposition is concerned.
If you don’t adopt peaceful measures to display opposition to the Rajapaksa Regime and all it stands for, what is the alternative? Don’t tell me that a government surrounded by a band of murderous thugs whose legal defence they consistently and constantly give evidence of being prepared to ensure to the point of their not being taken to task for any offence, the capital one of murder included?
On the most practical level, isn’t it not only unrealistic but suicidal to try to meet violence with violence when you do not have as much as a fraction of the means of practicing that violence at your disposal? I know the armed-forces-in-waiting in such places as Australia marched and paraded with broomsticks in lieu of guns in preparation for invasion by Hirohito’s Japanese. But they did have the prospect of an array of weapons on land, sea and air which were superior to anything the Japanese possessed (from the British and Americans). That weaponry and everything that went with it did materialize and the rest, as they say, is history. I would submit that the current opposition to the Rajapaksa juggernaut does not have that prospect now or in the immediate future.
I know there are those who dream in technicolour that the fate that overtook this government’s bosom buddy, the late Muammar Ghaddafi and his family, awaits the family that have absolute power in this country. That will continue to be a dream in technicolour because the “Western democracies” are not about to gallop over to Sri Lanka on their white steeds to save democracy and slay the family of dragons ruling that bastion of 2500 years of Sinhala Buddhist civilization. Sorry, folks, those guys are a part of the problem that afflicts us and not even close to being a part of the solution. They are on the same wavelength as the Rajapaksa Horde, they share the same “values” and let’s not kid ourselves on that score. I know there are people of decency and principle, particularly in the international human rights organizations, who will raise their voices in condemnation of what is happening here, but they do not have the capacity to enforce a “no fly zone” over Sri Lanka or to enforce a debilitating embargo on a government that has given up even the pretense of practicing democracy. Remember, these are governments that are apologists for the brutality in Bahrein, the huge corruption and criminality of Karzai in Afghanistan and …. The list could go on and on. They will only display any symptoms of real opposition to the government of Sri Lanka if they or their minions in the business community and their class allies are threatened. And if you’d take a good hard look, you’d be hard put to identify even one instance where Sri Lanka’s financial elites or their Western associates have been, in any way, threatened financially or otherwise.
What cannot be denied, however, is the fact that the monumental corruption afflicting every aspect of life in Sri Lanka will, by its very weight, bring this entire nation to its knees. All the high-interest loans from China will then prove inadequate as a life-saver to this bloated mess of venality. What is likely then is a collapse of everything around us, every vestige of what has been referred to in the most grandiose of overstatements as “governance.” That there will then be change, is an absolute certainty. However, the nature of that change is anyone’s guess. We could emerge from such a holocaust cleansed by its fire. On the other hand we could end up as an Asian Haiti with the disadvantage of having more than one “Baby Doc!”