By Vishwamithra1984 –
“When one with honeyed words but evil mind persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.” ~ Euripides, Orestes
The depths into which our politics has collapsed and its unending passage through successive administrations is sometimes bizarre and more often winding and deceptive. Taken in the framework of the previous regime, the passage seems to have trekked along exceptionally unpleasant peaks and valleys; the wild ride the ‘owners’ of that regime had through one after another of the members of the previous ‘First Family’ being summoned and jailed (later released on bail, of course) is a spectacle that no country in this world has had the misfortune to witness and experience. Whatever the shades of these allegations are, whether of white-collar variety or even criminal, the parade itself is spectacular. But where is the beef? Good governance is not only bringing the culprits before the law, it is encumbered upon the those who make allegations, state organizations or private citizens, not only to associate such allegations with evidence-supported indictments but to do so with utmost alacrity so that justice is not only done but it appears to be done with no delay. The challenge before those who are charged with conducting the investigations and producing some concrete results cannot be understated.
In the event of unnecessary and unusual delays, political heads would not be able to withstand the ire of a nation whose pivotal election cry was not only the establishment of good governance, but bringing the guilty before the throes of justice. In a frenzy of a parade of the accused marching to and from the investigating chambers, the people expected the machinery of justice to turn speedily and commit those who were accused of many malpractices and corrupt deeds to the political guillotine. That is to anticipate the events.
Now the restlessness on the part of those who seek vengeance instead of justice is observed in many corners of the Colombo cocktail circuits. The very players of the game who benefited immensely from their previous masters are among the most vociferous and crying for speedy action. Shame and barefaced disingenuousness on their part has contributed in no less degree to the dishonorable and dishonest state this country has collapsed into. The same guys and gals are seen today crowding the same corridors and wining and dining in the same five-star hotel banquets, hosting a different set of gullible politicos who now control the locks of the government coffers.
Politics has taken an irrevocable turn and twist into politricks! The dreams and expectations of hundreds of thousands of ordinary folks are being crushed; their path towards legitimate and aboveboard affluence is being blocked; their avenues for better tomorrows are paved with many obstacles and the whole journey of the lower strata of economic well-being has imploded and efforts of the dreamers have turned out to be non-starters.
Relative peace in the North could be a harbinger of long-lasting harmony between the two communities who were at the throat of each other for the last several decades. The overwhelming victory gained by the Security forces was perceived as a victory for the Sinhalese against Tamils. Wild displays of triumphalism by the Sinhalese living in the South cemented that perception and any criticism of that triumphalism was viewed as unpatriotic and traitorous. The crucial role played by the Sinhalese-Buddhist-led groups such as Bodu Bala Sena and Ravana Balaya provided fuel to this fiery sentiment of Sinhalese superiority over Tamils. But in the twenty first century, political dynamics has assumed much more diverse scope, scale and space.
The birth of the Tamil Diaspora as a viable, politically sophisticated and adequately articulate entity and its belligerent stance against the leaders of the previous regime when they left the safe shores of the Island (Mahinda Rajapaksa himself), in the international arena and subjecting our then President to ridicule and humiliation in London, showed another novel aspect of this intriguing and different phenomenon that has invaded the politics of the 21st century. In the politics of that reality, the Rajapaksa regime failed miserably. The exposé of such humiliation in the international arena prompted the Rajapaksas to react from the fringes instead of the Center. It is only those political junkies who read these political columns on a daily or weekly basis would filter the good from the bad, the reasonable from the unreasonable. Their perception of intriguing events and realities are immersed in their own pre-conceived philosophies and theories. As the writer has repeatedly affirmed that those who don’t look at the obvious invariably miss the woods for the trees and these ‘junkies’ tend to dwell among the trees far too long for them to perceive the forest as a whole.
The average Pathmasiri and Nadaraja are not so sophisticated to pay courtesy to the shades and shadows. Instead they look at the painting as a whole and pass their judgment in a flash. Although such judgments so reached are distinctively short-lived, the impressions and branding that are created in their subconscious minds would tend to linger on much longer than the initial judgments. Pathmasiri and Nadaraja are too busy making ends meet; their daily chores do not include the luxuries of political analysis; their daily struggle to put food on the table takes precedence over everything else. Their attention span, inherently due to lack of education and professional training, not to understate their preoccupation in keeping a family intact and adequately fed , is palpably short.
Taken as a whole, Tamils and Sinhalese have been driven to the fringes by their respective radical clusters. Tamils may accuse that their Sinhalese brethren are well protected by what they call a ‘tribal’ army of Sinhalese. One might also argue that there have been instances where the Sri Lankan security forces did exceed the limits usually laid down by ‘rules of engagement‘, a military parlance used and overused in the West. Yet our Sinhalese rulers played the game of politricks well enough to contain such exceptional circumstances within ‘inconsequential’ realm. Nevertheless, what Sri Lankan Tamils refuse or fail to recognize is that there won’t come another time and space which lends itself to fulfill their legitimate demands other than via the present regime.
On the one hand is the United National Party (UNP) and its leader Ranil Wickremasinghe whose political leanings are bent towards western liberalism and political correctness. On the other is the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and its leader President Sirisena whose political history is steeped in a more fundamentalist, nationalistic (sometimes bordering on chauvinism) approach towards local Tamils. Yet President Sirisena has already displayed an incredible sense of balance and justice when it comes to the ‘Tamil Question‘. In fact the writer was privy to a statement made by Rajavarothayam Sampanthan at a State function early in the new administration. The current leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Leader of the Opposition stated that President Maithripala Sirisena is ‘an honest man and he could be trusted by the Tamils’. That is indeed a very rare couple of sentences cascading from a Tamil leader about his Sinhalese counterpart. And everything that President Sirisena has uttered and done since then has only augmented the notion of that trust between the two respective leaders. No barrier should be allowed to be erected between them. When a genuinely constructive political intercourse between the two communities is required in order to advance the cause of peaceful co-existence, the Government must be unmerciful in dealing with any unsavory propaganda unleashed by those so-called custodians of the Land, the Race and the Faith.
Defiance in the face of great odds is a great trait of great leaders. If President Sirisena can convince the Tamil leadership that full and comprehensive implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment would fulfill their demands; if he can persuade a fiercely nationalistic Sinhalese majority that accommodation is a sign of strength and not a weakness as vocalized by the extreme elements of the Sinhalese majority, a mutually acceptable position may be accomplished. Both sides have to come together. While the Tamils, at least for the foreseeable future, have to settle for the full and comprehensive implementation of the 13th Amendment, the Sinhalese majority must concede that the full and comprehensive implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment would not do any damage to the sovereignty of the country and nor would it cause any injury to their misplaced pride in history.
The late John F Kennedy described politics as a ‘noble adventure, an adventure in which one joins hands with the masses for the service of man’. That is undiluted, unadulterated politics. Not that the Kennedys didn’t play politricks in their heyday. But playing politricks with a nation’s wellbeing and her people’s vulnerable mindset is an unforgivable sin. Kennedy also once wrote the following words in a letter to a Navy friend: “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today”.
That conscientious objector among us Sri Lankans should feel no shame when he objects to mindless conflict.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org