Colombo Telegraph

It’s Not “Airy-Fairy” Stuff, Stupid

By Emil van der Poorten –

Emil van der Poorten

To complete what would have been a title inviting editorial censure it would have been completed thus “….- there are practical implication to not adhering to a code of morality, ethics and principles in governance.” Now, that should provide an appropriate jumping-off point for what follows!

In case any reader of what I have written has any doubt, let me say, one more time, that the effective conduct of the state requires that it be done within the lines of ethical, moral and principled conduct.

Nothing less.

It is not just a question of the greater good of the greater number, it is a simple question of the rules within which the business of government needs to be conducted.

The damage that the manner in which governance of this country is conducted has caused untold misery to millions of our countrymen. This is bad enough, but when you factor in the disruption caused in terms of the day-to-day conduct of the country’s affairs and the impact of that state of affairs on every Banda and Jayanthi in this country in the matter of their day to day existence, the cost becomes truly immeasurable.

Take the most recent high-profile sexual assault at a location in the south of Sri Lanka that appears to have a well-deserved reputation for such acts perpetrated against those who are expected to deliver the goods in the matter of Sri Lanka’s economic re-birth – tourists.

What really makes that kind of garbage unbelievable is the fact that, during the reign of the Rajapaksa mafia, one of their major acolytes raped a European woman and proceeded to shoot dead her partner for having the temerity to intervene on her behalf. The unbelievable efforts at a cover-up on the part of the powers that were in order to protect the criminal involved because he was a part of their local political machinery is a matter of record. That even the intervention, half-hearted though it might have been, of the British government didn’t succeed in ensuring that justice was done because the local mafia played the old game of stymieing and delaying the process interminably. Justice delayed was justice denied as the old chestnut had it.

Now, this whiter than white bunch (no pun intended) that rule our lives, makes a half-hearted effort to ensure that justice is done subsequent to an incident at Mirissa. The functionary with authority in that particular area, sought to get to the root of the problem by weeding out the illegal, unlicensed and unauthorized hooch joints that were very well known as the dens of iniquity from which the violent hoodlums operated.

One English-language newspaper carried a major story to the effect that the women who were sexually assaulted “were asking for it” because they sought to pick up (exotic) local sexual partners. This generalization is one that has been used for years by those who justified rapes on the grounds that the victims were wearing short skirts and/or blouses displaying an unacceptable level of cleavage has, a long time ago (in less enlightened jurisdictions than one where religiosity reigns supreme), been consigned to the garbage dump to which they belong.  Blaming the victim for provoking the crime is longer “on” even in this land of galloping self-righteousness.

What really took the cake, though was the fact that the President of Sri Lanka intervened to overrule the Minister of Tourism, a senior bureaucrat of whose Ministry was seeking to remove the hooch-joints where the problems were being brewed.  The response of the Minister of Tourism, typical of senior Cabinet members without jello for backbones was that he could do nothing since it was a diktat “from above” and he had no authority to overrule it. There are people much younger than me who remember when a Minister faced with such a thing would have done the honourable thing and RESIGNED. Not this ambulatory tent posing as a senior member of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Cabinet! Not in the least bit surprising, but still totally unacceptable.

More than a footnote to this story was the report that a member of cabinet was recorded on the premises where the crime occurred, among other things, dancing the night away, and that he was responsible for influencing the President of this land that loudly proclaims its adherence to all that is good in the practice of Buddhism, to stop a perfectly legitimate and urgently-required action from proceeding.

Apart from maintaining the dignity of this nation in the matter of governance, the action cannot but have a devastating effect on a country seeking to have tourism pull it away from the brink of financial disaster. 

How crass and stupid can you get when the Head of State intervenes to prevent the removal of the nests from which the tourist-raping vipers emerge?

There is also a report of video footage of the member of Cabinet who intervened on behalf of those operating illegal hooch dens, tripping the light fantastic (and doing goodness knows what else) on the same premises on the same night that the crime occurred. I expect that this had no connection to the reversal of a very urgent action by a responsible senior government servant!

Ah, but then, this is a President who intervened when Mangala Samaraweera sought to bring Sri Lankan women into the 20th Century, admittedly at least a hundred years behind, by permitting them to purchase alcoholic beverages that their male counterparts had always been able to do!

Backward enough for you? Take a deep breath because the most recent news is that it is on the watch of the same President who intervened to stop women from buying booze that his daughter was issued a licence to sell alcoholic beverages!

Whatever the head of state and his minions do is not going to shake the foundations of the civilized world.  However, the results of their recent determinations, at the most simplistic level, cannot advance the reputation of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination.  And don’t give me that b.s. about only “white”” Europeans being sensitive to the dangers of sexual assault in a foreign clime. Chinese and Indian women don’t welcome the attention of sexual predators any more than their “white” sisters from other parts of the world.

Are we, as a nation which never seems to tire of talking about its pristine civilization, so stupid that we do not realize what impact this kind of “governance” will have on the financial well-being of this nation, one increasingly dependent on the goodwill of those likely to visit it? Is there no one in this self-righteous Yahapalanaya government that realizes that there has to be a return to considerations of ethics, principles and morality of some description if the very (economic) survival of this country is to be assured?

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