Colombo Telegraph

Joining The Stampede?

By Emil van der Poorten –

Emil van der Poorten

I will make no bones about the fact that I do have a “take” on the recent Uva Provincial Election and some of what emerged during it and the slime that is already seeping out after it.

People like Professor Kumar David have sounded the clarion call to begin the process of driving out of power the most violent and corrupt government in the history of this country, pre- and post-independence. And the place where the first signs of resistance emerged is certainly fascinating. Remember the Uva Rebellion of yore?  The difference, though, is in the sequence of events: that Uva Rebellion was followed by unprecedented violence and suppression of dissent.  This one has been provoked by exactly that pattern of conduct by the rulers of what they have proclaimed to be the Miracle of Asia.

One doesn’t have to be a crystal-ball-gazer or have access to the services of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s soothsayer who dwells in a several-stories-high mini-palace on the Southern coastline to anticipate what the reaction is going to be from those who suspect that their imperial edifices might be at risk from the rising tide of discontent.

Many of us grew up being told the home-truth of how dangerous cornered rodents could be. Look no further because that would be an apt simile for what will unfold in Sri Lanka. No rodent, however, had at his command one of the largest armed forces in the world whose loyalty, and let’s be realistic here, has proven to be available to He-Who-Pays even a devalued Sri Lankan rupee salary to a buck private which exceeds what an University graduate might earn after years of burning the midnight oil.

The Rathupaswala and Free Trade Zone shootings of absolutely unarmed civilians are simply coldly-calculated warnings to anyone suffering under the delusion that that the Armed Forces would display something resembling conscience and mutiny against those giving them orders to kill people from the same rural background and from the same class as themselves.

The recent edict that any establishment offering shelter to Sri Lankan guests must provide comprehensive information about those visitors to the local police (for onward transmission to our made-in-Lanka Gestapo) is not simply bizarre.  (There’s that word again!) On one hand, it is calculated to frighten those affluent elements of a middle class who are the beneficiaries of the robber-baron style of government on which they are already over-indulging themselves, such over-indulgence including availing themselves of boutique-hotel hostelries which they wouldn’t be able to afford without the patronage of the Rajapaksa Regime. On the other, it is calculated to give anyone housing “locals” the jitters and make them that much more likely to squeal on any guests who might display “suspicious” behavior.  This could well extend to blood relations who could be putting themselves at risk by being in some “wrong place” or being perceived as “enemies of the state” no sooner their personal information is made available to those seeking to emulate the Third Reich.  I cannot but wonder, also, whether some members of the upper echelons of this government who have begun operating facilities who would fit the description of the recent fiat are required to provide information about their Sri Lankan guests to the local police station or whether, in typical Rajapaksa Regime-fashion, they are exempted from such requirements and can use such immunity as part of their advertising package to attract affluent Sri Lankan guests who might be interested in booking rooms by the hour! Who knows what motivation drives a government that is led by the uncultured and uneducated and has as its foot-soldiers common criminals and drug dealers to whom human life is a very cheap commodity.

One thing’s for sure though: those seen as “enemies of the state” are in serious jeopardy and I’d suggest that they do not subscribe to the unrealistic belief that the Rajapaksa Regime is going to view the Uva result as a warning shot across their bows, requiring a mending of their ways and a more civilized approach to what passes for “governance” in Sri Lanka.

Far from it. The surest way to predict the future conduct of people is to look at their past behaviour and, in circumstances such of those we face in Sri Lanka such an evaluation hardly needs the application of genius-level analysis.  Accordingly, those deemed to be “enemies” would be well advised to take whatever precautions might be available to protect themselves from everything up to and including “termination with extreme prejudice” as that old CIA expression had it.

However, what is also essential is that, particularly those seen as enemies of the Rajapaksa  Regime do not retreat into some metaphorical or literal cave but continue to speak power to truth.  There are many writers who, literally, put their lives on the line to take a surgeon’s scalpel to the body politic, to cut open the decaying entity that passes for government in this country, exposing the corruption within.  This simple exploration has been necessitated by the fact that completely removing the malignancy and affecting a cure has been made impossible. Even continuing that “investigative surgery” will continue to be dangerous, perhaps more so after the Rajapaksa’s Debacle of Uva. However, it can and must be pursued relentlessly despite the fact that the media available for any kind of dissent has shrunk to almost invisible proportions and even the (English-language) bastion of self-censorship has one of its few surviving dissenters under very serious personal threat, threat that appears to exceed that which drove him off the main pages of the Wijeya newspapers some years ago when armed forces personnel laid siege to his home, among other things.

As impossible as an additional task might seem in these circumstances, there is one that is as essential. Those toadies and sycophants without whose active support the atrocities of years past could not have been perpetrated must be exposed so that, when the final denouement arrives, they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law for their criminality. They must not be permitted to scurry into some burrow, out of public view, until the storm of retribution passes only to emerge and lend their skills to generating more corruption within another regime.  The recent demise of one of the slickest of “fixers” who was the sophisticated face of the problem that faces Sri Lanka in the matter of corrupt practice completely exposed many of the mealy-mouthed “champions of democracy” in our midst.  This late “fixer’s” skills in applying the “apey miniha” principle in dealing with totally unacceptable conduct were extolled by people who many of my generation thought “knew better.”  In the name of expressing admiration for the concept of “bending the rules,” they sought to justify his shielding of those patently guilty of unethical, unprincipled and dishonest behavior, blanketing it all with the term “well-intentioned.”  These reams of praise for someone who had given a “respectable” face to promoting himself, his friends and his family at the expense of decency and justice in this country said it all about the “tut-tut brigades” who self-righteously pronounce on all that they deem to be honourable and decent.  You don’t have to scratch too hard to discover the reason: the “fixer” had “bent” the rules for the person now singing his praises!  Apropos of these humbugs, all I can say is who the hell needs enemies if one counts these among one’s friends!

But I digress. Those of us who’ve viewed political reality in this country for at least the past decade, don’t need to be told who the pandankarayas and supplicants have been, are and will continue to be, given the opportunity.  Some of them after being “looked after” have become “apey minissu” in generation after generation! We need to ensure that, because they have been an active part of the criminal horde that has victimized this country’s population, they are listed for justice when the time arrives. To do otherwise is to sentence this nation to a repetition of a recent history that no nation should have had to endure. Prosecute all the pandankarayas who have raped and pillaged this country.  You will find many of the same names repeating themselves if you list them by regime, beginning with the Presidency of William Gopallawa.  Some of these currently serve in the highest echelons of government or as diplomutts, pouring “commissions” into their overseas bank accounts from the Seychelles to Switzerland.

This is an instance when the journey of rats leaving the sinking ship must be left to drown, with, perhaps, an assist from those occupying any lifeboats in the vicinity. To do less would be to subscribe to a 21st Century repetition of the political equivalent of the bubonic plague.

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