By Emil van der Poorten –
With all the posturing that goes on in this (and other countries as well), one begins to wonder whether the movements of resistance are hamstrung by two factors: their very middle-class composition and their abject cowardice at so much as the suggestion of physical violence of any kind.
Sometime ago, I wrote a piece to the pre-Asanga Seneviratne Sunday Leader which spoke to the fact that the only journalists with intellectual and ethical “cojones” were women. Nothing seems to have changed over those years and while the likes of “Forums” of one description or another continue to “tut-tut” their way across the printed pages of English-language journals which are only too ready to use such puffery in order to maintain the absolute fraud that is “media freedom” in Sri Lanka, cojones seem confined to those who are biologically not supposed to have them. Typically, since I wrote that piece several of these women have been pushed off the pages of the English media and are able only to find publication in foreign journals and/or web publications. The fact that a media controlled by the launderers of government behavior has contributed to this state of affairs is hardly surprising and the only thing more obscene would have been the recognized (by the public) and cherished (by the government) narcotics barons moving to “front and centre” positions in the print trade. Ah, well, give them time because, as they say, all good things come to those who wait!
Reverting to the title of this piece, what is evident to anyone with even a tiny bit of intelligence and observational skill is the fact that these women and a (very) few men are, literally, risking their lives in their efforts to “tell it like it is.” There has been speculation that Mel Gunasekera might have met her most untimely death because she was mistaken for another high-profile critic of the government bearing the same last name. Stranger things have been known to happen so something like this should hardly be cause for surprise!
But, in a land where the drug baron and the contract killer are the crème de la crème of society and where persuasion’s last journey is conducted in a white van, it does take a modicum of physical bravery to go on record in criticism of the most corrupt and violent government in the history of Sri Lanka.
But if you grew up with anything resembling a social conscience, what alternative is there for anyone writing for public consumption but to place the facts on the record? What alternative is there for ANYONE, whether or not they have any developed communication skills or not, but to speak out against what is patently wrong and unjust? That seeming hordes of the English-educated, middle classes who attended those schools which, imperialist overtones and all, did preach morality and ethics that were supposed to sustain a liberal democratic society have either buckled under or been bought over in a number of ways, doesn’t reduce the reality facing us in Sri Lanka: the need to return to a just and ethical and principled style of governance. For those who’ll indulge in the verbal diarrhea that goes “Aiyo, men, can’t fight against such a powerful enemy, no?” I’ll say one thing: you are not only going to spend the rest of your lives on your knees but you’ll have reduced your progeny to permanent genuflection by the time it would otherwise have been their turn to run this country. Needless to say, leave alone “run” this country, they are going to be abject slaves in the service of the thugs, money-launderers, dope-dealers and illicit hooch producers and their progeny who will continue to be recognized as kings of a dung-heap at the periphery of which your sons and daughters will be scratching to survive. Good governance, the rule of law and similar concepts are not simply airy-fairy concepts that should be debated and discussed by those living in the ivory towers of privilege. They are essentials for a daily life of dignity and decency. As simple as that, dear reader!
I don’t recall which of the Sirima Bandaranaike-era was responsible for it it but it was one of his rare lapses into truth and accuracy, when he said, “You can’t make omelets without breaking eggs!”
And if that sounds like a call to Sri Lankans of conscience to speak out in defence of decency and democracy even if there are risks attached to such an enterprise, that’s what it’s meant to be. I used the acronym before and I’ll end with it – TINA – There is no alternative!