By Emil van der Poorten –
As someone on the cusp of the proverbial eighth decade of my life, let me say, at the very outset, that even discussing the sentiments expressed in the title of this piece in the abstract would have been beyond the farthest reaches of my imagination until now.
However, what I have seen over the years since my return to Sri Lanka after better than thirty years, has, as in the words of the old chestnut, “given me pause.”
With two siblings who lived all their lives as revolutionaries and died in penury, even though celebrated by a variety of people from more walks of life that I am ever likely to encounter, I have had my diet of “world revolution,” “the need to destroy capitalism and the capitalist class“ etc. etc.
However, when I see the manner in which the basic living standards of people in rural Sri Lanka haveregressed, as epitomized by three of four skinny nurses trying to reach something suspended on a clothes line of sorts and failing for lack of reach until a colleague, just five feet tall (as she herself proudly proclaimed), reach what had eluded their grasp, one begins to realize how small so many of our compatriots now are. In contrast, I recall how much bigger and taller were Canadians entirely of Sri Lankan origin who grew up in that North American country after being born in Sri Lanka. The reason for this contrast can be put in two words: good nutrition.
I am not going to labour this point and, if you doubt what I have just said, check with your closest authority, particularly in the matter of birth weight stats.
Bad enough? Consider the allied issues of deprivation of anything approaching adequate medical and educational services and the circle is complete and that circle, I’d seriously submit, is not far behind genocide in its final implications.
There has never seemed any doubt that genocide is the most serious of capital offences and deserving of the most serious of responses.
What then of those responsible for the premature deaths and debilitation of large segments of our population? I am deliberately excluding the poorer elements of the so-called minority communities from this discussion so that its dimensions may be measured without the distraction of the howling of the racist hordes in their usual efforts to distract attention by involving, on their side, those most susceptible to the siren call allegation of colonial “divide and rule” governance being the root cause of this state of affairs.
Behaviour that has contributed to the veritable starvation of the larger part of our population from adequate nutrition, education and health care, particularly in combination, cannot but be considered a capital crime and deserving of capital punishment.
I am not about to trot out some simplistic solution a la Romania where the Ceaucescu’s were tried, convicted and executed, literally, on a sidewalk in Bucharest. No, I am suggesting the application of due process of law as we know it and the application of the death sentence which, incidentally, is still on our statute books in case any reader has forgotten the fact.
Surely, if a person can be sentenced to death for taking a single life, the mass deaths that have resulted from the unmitigated greed of a select few is deserving of that few being removed from any future possibility of their continuing their evil ways?
I have recently experienced, at first hand, what goes on in one of our premier public hospitals. Once the cobwebs of individual incompetence and lack of feeling are swept away, what is left is the very ugly reality of resources that should be available to our people being utilized for a select minority to enjoy what used to be euphemistically called “the better things of life.”
Look at the conditions in our hospitals and then take a walk past the parking spaces of the senior surgeons and physicians where you will see vehicles of which Wall Street moguls would be proud. I will never tire of reminding people of the fact that when I lived in the capital of what was called the “land of the blue-eyed sheiks,” the oil, gas and oilsands capital of North America, it would take me more than a year before my tally of true luxury cars would reach a count even close to the numbers of similar automobiles I’d encounter in a return journey from Galagedera in Tumpane to either of the adjacent provincial capitals, Kandy or Kurunegala!
Is it not an extremely poor reflection on our civilization that those who walk away after knowingly contributing to this state of affairs without anything resembling “let or hindrance” continue to live in a society that appears to encourage more and more of the same without so much as mention of what they deserve as punishment?
We are not simply talking about people “caught up in a system” with little opportunity to effect the change that will bring anything resembling justice to that system. We are talking here about those deliberately engaging in the crassest of self-aggrandizement at the expense of a large number of our kith and kin.
The reason why I suggest that capital punishment is the only logical response to such a status quo is because they are not babes in the wood sinking in the sands of time. Those enjoying the fruits of monumental corruption and death and destruction of the “less fortunate” damned well know what they are doing and why.
Governments that maintain armed forces the equivalent of Russia’s army don’t do so through some kind of unimaginable naivety. They do so with the full knowledge that they are going to need those huge numbers under arms, with training in the use of sophisticated assault weapons and other ordnance in order to ensure that such corrupt governance continues to be imposed even when the larger part of the citizenry wake up to the reality and decides that it cannot be endured any longer. In fact, they are going to need the mercenaries even more when the “great unwashed” wake up to what they are being subjected to.
What can be done in the here and now?
We can, at least, jog the memories of those who know there is a better way of conducting our affairs. That even if the great leveling off of society cannot be affected immediately, the process can begin and must.
A beginning would be to bring crimes against society into the ambit of punishment for individual capital crimes. That is a first step and one that needs to be taken NOW.