By Emil van der Poorten –
When last I looked in my rather moth-eaten dictionary the word “outlandish” had, beside it, “adj. looking or sounding very strange.”
While it is the word that comes to mind most readily when one views the goings-on in the Debacle of Asia, in the context of Sri Lankan “reality” is much of what we see on a day-to-day basis “strange?” After all, as someone once said, “Everything is relative, though one sometimes wishes that one’s extended family wasn’t!”
Where in any nation wearing the garments of democracy would you have the daughter of a man riddled with bullets, gangland-style, expressing an interest in running under the banner of the party in which one of his alleged murderers continues to be a leading light, with patronage from the very top? Of course, one has, again, to place this behaviour in the context of the widow of the murdered one (the young wannabe candidate’s mother) accepting a post of “Advisor” to the man who heads the party in which the alleged killer is a Minister.
Of course, another dictionary entry also presents itself as alternative terminology for this kind of behaviour: it is “bizarre,” the legend besides which reads “adj.odd, strange.” “Outlandish” though seems to be the better alternative because it suggests “bizarre” carried to its extreme!
Adding to this little tidbit in the news is that of the ongoing saga of the Prime Minister who did/did not have responsibility/accountability in the matter of one of his major minions issuing a “release” of some sort that enabled a huge quantity of heroin to pass out of our (at least for now) primary port without hindrance of any sort.
That bit of “theatre of the absurd” if one is particularly given to black humour was somewhat enhanced by the shrinkage of the product of the poppy that was experienced very soon after it was taken into custody. If memory serves me right, the material seized shrank by something like 100 Kgs. I know Sri Lanka is sometimes referred to as the “Miracle of Asia” but isn’t this feat pushing the bounds of credulity somewhat, particularly when it is followed by a cockamamie “explanation” that some of the product was contaminated and, therefore, “removed” from the presumably “good” part of the shipment? I do not pretend to any particular expertise in the matter of narcotics, but short of some very sophisticated methods being applied, the existence of which no one I have spoken with is aware of, how was this “separation” accomplished And what happened to the 100 kilograms plus which was “separated?”
Then there is the recent furor in the department responsible for producing census and statistics in this country, where it has been alleged by a senior member of said entity that information has been “massaged.” This (inevitably?) led to the standard denial of the allegation and the (inevitable?), premature end of the whistle-blower’s career. Would anyone care to explore the hypocrisy of these people in their pillorying of the Excited States of Amnesia when it has persecuted those who’ve revealed the extent of US surveillance of nations friendly with it? Butter wouldn’t have melted in those very mouths when they were broadcasting their disgust at the duplicity and undemocratic behaviour of the US and its allies in the matter of Assange et al.
A very interesting fact in the context of upward movement of growth statistics is the fact, exposed by Kusal Perera, a veteran journalist and an always perceptive commentator, that the simple manner in which this was accomplished was by “revising” the population figures downward from the year of comparison to the year being reported. “Population down, growth rate up.”. As our Sheerluck Holmes’ would have expressed it to their sidekicks, “Elementary my dear Whats-up!” Even my abysmal arithmetical skills can grasp this kind of “massaging” which, in other democratic jurisdictions, would be described for what is was – fabrication and fraud, not the more genteel “massaging!” But then this kind of thing has become SOP, “Standard Operating Procedure,” in the “Shape” culture which seems to have permeated every element of existence in this land and where anything goes as long as it emerges from the correct quarter!
Just as I draw this contribution to a close a news item (replete with photo) appears in an English daily newspaper, of a UNP member of the Southern Provincial Council, Krishantha Pushpakumara, receiving an SLFP membership certificate from the President of the country. Nothing unusual in this you think? Think again, this is the one office-holding UNP politician to be shot during the now famous/infamous skirmish in Matara between Ranil Wickremesinghe loyalists and those opposed to their “marching in protest against Ranil”. The one person recorded (on video) as firing a pistol during the melee was a gentleman called Herman Gunaratne who is a close friend of the President’s Defence Secretary brother and, in fact, presided over a re-launch of “Gota’s War” not so long ago. Pushpakumara was supposedly a Ranil Wickremesinghe loyalist vehemently opposing the march of Mr. Gunaratne’s son, Maithri, and his buddies in an effort to pressure Ranil W. to resign. He is shot and soon after recovering from his gunshot injuries leaves the UNP to join the SLFP. This ranks up there with the story of a newspaper which shall remain nameless apologizing to the Defence Secretary for the fact that he had abused their erstwhile Editor!
Given the scale of the outlandish events described above I shall try to take readers through something akin to a journalistic decompression chamber before I leave them for another week. The story which I hope will achieve your re-entry into the realm of sanity, if any such thing exists in this country, is that of a woman police constable, the wife of a more senior police officer, the officer-in-charge of a quite large police station, being taken into custody in connection with her alleged participation in a very large drug ring. I know that if one juxtaposes this story against the seizure of 300 kilograms of heroin (now reduced by a hundred kilograms) it is “very small potatoes,” indeed. However, I am only trying to bring you down to earth, so to speak, with an incident that is run of the mill and not usually worthy of headlines in the media, a story that those of us in rural Sri Lanka can comprehend more easily given the scale of our own lives. I hope I succeed because it seems the scale of corruption and the outlandish conduct that accompanies it seems beyond the comprehension of my rural neighbours.