By Austin Fernando –
There were large numbers of animals. Some wearing black coats, some in milk-white national costumes– like parliamentarians. Some were wearing wigs worn by the black-coated gentry, when honored for President’s counseling. There were university academics, artists, journalists etc. Some were the suspected representatives of ‘western imperialists’ or Tiger or NGO outfits, allegedly craving for dollars. There were the pious lot wearing saffron robes, white long gowns, fezzes covering their heads, and some with foreheads applied with holy ash.
This cannot be a real life situation because there were not many security personnel, water cannons, tear-gas canisters, even though heavyweights were congregated. Probably, animals do not need them, as they behave better.
Especially the venue being the Lipton Circus was such a surprise, I rolled down to the floor from my mat! Falling from a mat is painless unlike falling from tall beds, excited by whimsically alleged and suspected ‘Arab Springs’ or when threatened with losing high judicial or other office; and, responsively worshipping the Temple of the Tooth or Kelaniya Bodhiya to accrue blessings. The former had touched every syllable of Holy Truth disseminated by Lord Buddha and the latter if worshipped once would erase all sins committed in life. No wonder everyone visit these places, some in quick intermissions. Why? Because they sin so rapidly! If worshippers are holy, why bother for extraneous blessings?
Though I was woken in the middle of the night, immediately I rushed to search George Orwell’s Animal Farm, as I remembered of a similar congregation in it, just before Mr. Jones’s Manor Farm Rebellion, after which the animals forcibly acquired it. Are we to expect an ‘Arab Spring’ type rebellion from Lipton Circus congregation, as some speculated? Nonsense, mine was only a dream!
Equality in Animal Farm
In Animal Farm I quickly found some relevant comparables.
The first quote I noted was:
“The animals had assumed as a matter of course that these (i.e. apples, grass) would be shared out equally; one day, however, the order went forth that all the windfalls were to be collected and brought to the harness-room for the use of the pigs.”
Did not these compare with the lost aspirations of people, who voted for a ‘පොදු ජන යුගයක්’ ‘a common man’s era’ or ‘ධර්මිෂ්ට සමාජයක්’ for ‘a pious society’, or a ‘සුබ අනාගතයක්’, for an ‘auspicious future’? Under all these attempts didn’t the rich become richer forgetting equality and the poor further impoverished? Didn’t the political leaderships, except a few, try to perpetuate the dynasty, at all political levels- especially lower and middle? Did not they use the Parliament and Executive and even allegedly engage the Judiciary aiming perpetuation?
Even in the Opposition, rumblings are heard of perpetuation of leadership, which could be interpreted while discussing Animal Farm, pointing what Napoleon did by creating “a new decoration, the Order of the Green Banner, which he had conferred upon himself”, of course with out a time limit of six years!
Murmuring in Animal Farm
The second quote:
“At this some of the other animals murmured, but it was no use. All the pigs were in full agreement on this point, even Snowball and Napoleon.”
Did not this remind the murmurs of the Opposition everyday? Did not Snowball (somewhat comparable with Sarath Fonseka) in Animal Farm create murmurs in others? Did not Left politicians living on the bonuses of the King murmur on impeachment? Is not the UNP murmur of “supremacy of the Parliament” similar sounding? Having voted after grumbling on the 18th Amendment, will the Marxists vote to impeach the incumbent Chief Justice? Are not they similar to those government parliamentarians who ask for a ‘step-backwards’ solution or stealthily criticize the hierarchy for the ‘impeachment mess’?
At times, is not the President tolerant of the grumblers, like Napoleon in Animal Farm? Similarly, is not the UNP leadership tolerant of the murmuring dissidents, (including the Deputy Leader!), that numbered 350 plus at the Convention- 2012?
Orwell said: “Squealer was sent to make the necessary explanations to the others.” Brilliant speaker Squealer was a small fat pig with “very round cheeks, twinkling eyes, nimble movements and a shrill voice,” Orwell described. Don’t we find similar ‘Squealers’ whenever we tune any television channel- especially the state owned? So, this is the opportune moment to find comparables due to the impeachment.
The local Squealers have fine arguments like in the Animal Farm. For instance, according to a Squealer, the responsibility for what had been performed as a Committee Member of an inquiring unit winds up when the inquiry is completed and reported. Perhaps, he has forgotten the extreme injustice caused to the well respected grand lady Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike who was stripped of her civic rights for seven years after she left the premiership, by the ‘cunning Machiavellian manipulator JR Jayewardene,’ as identified those days! I wonder why Madam Bandaranaike’s lawyers did not argue on the grounds taken by current Squealer and save her from punishment.
Don’t we find ‘Squealers’ ranging from ministers probably expecting ‘upgrading’, ex-ministers, parliamentarians, lawyers just rewarded with honors for counseling the President and those wishing to be in the next list of honours, retired judicial officers (do not know for what!), some clergy, NGO representatives, academics etc, though not matching Orwell’s physical description of Squealer?
Don’t we find similar anti-government ‘Squealers’ on websites? Are we satisfied that the latter has only the declared objective, i.e. independence of the Judiciary or do they extend purpose to an alleged regime change, like in Egypt? Or is it the behaviour in their “strategic business plan” for future financial and professional gains, if the government fails in impeaching? Of course, in fairness to some pro-judiciary fighters I am certain that they are very genuinely interested in the Rule of Law.
The pro-government ‘Squealers’ utter exactly the same words as Orwell’s Squealer:
“Comrades!” he cried. “You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these changes is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well being of a pig. We pigs are brain-workers. The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples. Do you know what will happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! Surely, comrades’ cried Squealer almost pleadingly, skipping from side to side and whisking his tail, ‘Surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?”
As Orwell said ‘the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offence on many people…’ but I hope the Sri Lankan ruling class of all hues will tolerate me, as I only follow Orwell’s satire. Orwell focused qualities of Russian politicking; but I consider it as universal.
Look at the past and present. Every government has had Squealer’s rhetoric. For example, take the war, cessation of hostilities, privatization, opening of private universities, and impeachment of the Chief Justice. All these are ‘for the people, for their good; not for ‘selfishness or for privilege,’ they say. War was a humanitarian operation; privatization was aimed with a human face when regimes changed; impeachment is for the good of the people as a corrupt judiciary is undesired. Due to the latter being timely important, let us focus on the impeachment.
Impeachment is a constitutionally facilitated power and privilege of the Legislature; and, never meant for revenge, some say. It is unlike the impeachment against Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon, where President JR Jayewardene intended revenge, some currently add to show piety! Even in the present context, I believe that if the Chief Justice has erred she has to be taken to task, stripped off of her position, if erring justifies such. No qualms. Punishment should follow the wrong done proportionately- of course based on a due process, argues pro-judiciary spokespersons. This applies universally, irrespective of person’s status whether he is a judge, minister, public officer, policemean or soldier, diplomat, siblings of powerful persons in society and politics etc. To this extent anyone should agree with genuine Squealers.
All this while, animals in the Farm went by the way, and Orwell said: “Boxer ….voiced the general feeling by saying “If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right” and “then on he adopted the maxim “Napoleon is always right.” Even a law professor has recently told how correctly the government has acted. Simply it was saying that “Our Leader is right and we are right; believe me, we are on the correct track.” When the Supreme Courts contradicts it, the credibility will be affected, irrespective of the professorship. When it is told to the diplomats the loss of credibility is at the international level Of course, the ordinary public has no option than to believe these prophetic declarations, and agree with such Squealers, like brat pigs in the Animal Farm.
Undermining the Presidency
Recently the President has publicly said that he didn’t like impeaching. Hence, we believe that 117 parliamentarians have blatantly defied boss’s thinking or misunderstood him, had indulged in villainy and even sinfully subjected him to international embarrassment. Some like Snowball and suspected sneaks in the Animal Farm were either disowned or punished or officially disposed off, some with life. These lessons are not to be forgotten. These parliamentarians are lucky that they are not in the Animal Farm and had not been even treated in the way the animals who “were dismayed by the announcement” of “Snowball’s expulsion” were silenced by “the dogs sitting round Napoleon” letting out “deep, menacing growls!”
The President’s stance has been orchestrated by several pro-government ‘Squealers’ who reiterate what the leadership probably wants publicized. What could one do rather than to believe it, like the animals believing Napoleon in the Animal Farm who “leave their work and march round the precincts of the farm in military formation, with the pigs leading, then the horses, then the cows, then the sheep and then the poultry” with a banner marked ”Long Live Comrade Napoleon.?” Is not this happening in Sri Lanka too, with Ministers on the roads and some creating sensational statements on judiciary destabilizing the country? Is not it the same undermining of Presidency when opposing groups rally on roads, which would certainly provoke the Executive?
The hidden danger is that these parliamentarians may unknowingly create disaster by stealthily taking another constitutionally acceptable step, which the Master would abhor. How do we know whether the congregation of animals at Lipton Circus -though in a dream- had such ulterior motive like the pigs had, to chase Mr. Jones from Manor Farm? Is not this an existential but invisible threat to Presidency, for which precedence has been caused by parliamentarians some years back? When an exactly similar situation arose, observers said that neither the “Lawrencian” cops nor the “NIB-wallahas” (Intelligence cadres) knew of it, until the fez wearing Big Wig in the House by the Diyawanna received the signed Ola! I cannot remember of a comparable in the Animal Farm.
Tentatively the Battle is over!
The Legislature has the unfettered power of management and organization of the country, which cannot be challenged by anyone, the Legislature says. Judiciary responding immediately says that no external interventions are cared for in its functioning! Who is right? We, the formal ‘old school’, probably due to unwarranted formality, believing in three solid towering pillars of the Constitution – Legislature, Executive and Judiciary- are baffled like the men from the adjoining farms who faced surprise attacks from animals at the Battle of the Cowshed in Animal Farm.
I am happy as the battle is over (tentatively as it appears in today’s news clips) in the court rooms with a Supreme Court decision declared today, third of January 2013, via the Court of Appeal. This I predicted exactly in an article, which was published only in Ravaya last week end. As I expected, two other Sinhalese news papers sent it to the editor’s waste paper basket! It would not have been as a disrespect to me as the writer, I believed, but because the media had to probably behave like Squealer, as Orwell wrote, pleading, “skipping from side to side and whisking” their tails!.
By now the government has failed to gain legal recognition for the Parliamentary Select Committee to find a judge guilty. If predictions of pro-government Squealers made before the judicial decision are considered in comparison with Animal Farm terms, the Western Diaspora manipulators supported by the local traitors and the terrorists will bring back the Jones- the imperialists, terrorists, anti progressive forces etc. It would be similar to the battle in the Animal Farm where Foxwood, Pinchfield and Jones from outside marched to Animal Farm to recapture the Manor Farm. The government also will react the way the animals in the Farm did when raided, i.e. kicking, stubbing, and throwing and any other means to win the battle. The Battle of the Cow Shed sheds light on fierce rage that could follow.
In Animal Farm, the sixth Commandment “No animal shall kill any other animal” was respected, but was violated later when sneaking was revealed and one killed in battle. I only pray that would not happen consequential to the current impasse. I do not either wish to hear a repetition of JR Jayewardene’s Kalu Lucky pranks against Supreme Court or Appeal Court Judges who were involved in the court cases. Similarly, media has revealed that there are threats to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee, which is an anti-democratization process, which should not be permitted.
In the Animal Farm the pigs who ruled it initially had seven Commandments. The seventh was “All animals are equal”. Towards the end the satire the original six commandments have disappeared and the seventh changed to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” In all political manifestos of any government, all peoples are equal, but in power all change stances to the latter, making the sky the limit for exhibiting power and authority. Don’t some actions, aspirations and utterances by some ‘unequals among equals’ reflect such haughtiness? Will they behave in a worse manner since legal recognition is rejected? Unfortunately at present it appears so.
All this while, animals in the Farm went by the way as Orwell described: “Boxer ….voiced the general feeling by saying “If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right” and “then on he adopted the maxim “Napoleon is always right.” This has happened in Sri Lanka exactly in the same way, especially due to a commendable war victory after nearly 30 years of conflict. The public had no option other than to accept these rhetoric declarations, and agree with Squealers, like brat pigs in the Animal Farm. Even the impeachment is always connected to match these stances.
Extremely educated persons have stated even with foreign diplomats that the right impeachment process had been followed. Really, the Supreme Court judgment given today will show the diplomats that the judiciary decides without favor or prejudice towards the government and as such some critics of the government who were highlighting suspicion of the independence of the judiciary, especially in relation to minorities as reflected in Geneva may be silenced for short of proof.
But if the application of rulings is not followed by the government, it will rejuvenate pessimism and criticisms in the international fora, and may even create the demand for other optional solutions, which may not be to the liking of Sri Lankan government.
Animal Farm ends with animals and humans who were at each others throats “uniting” and clearing misunderstandings, misgivings, mistrust and being appreciative of the other and Mr.Pilkington toasting the Animal Farm. Of course, this could be the best if happens in Sri Lankain the present context. Will this happen after the latest court ruling? As I have said in a previous Sinhala article, can both parties shed their undesirable pride and respect the Rule of Law?
However, I may caution that Orwell in his Preface written for the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm has said that his intention was not for reconciliation between the pigs and humans, and that he did not personally believe that such good relations would last long and it happening will be unfortunate. It appears that Orwell may be right in a different context, as bringing the conflicting groups was as difficult like pigs walking on hind legs, as happened in Animal Farm. I as a person who loves democracy and Rule of Law pray that Orwell be wrong. Failing to reconcile would be extremely dangerous.
As formal thinkers I believe that only the adherence to constitutional interpretations can settle issues here. The critics should understand the loss of face of the government for if it to meekly bow down, although it had been a self-creation of the government. Self pride should not stand on way to reconciliation.
The judiciary and proponents of keeping alive the stature of judicial governance like Justice CG Weeramantry or former Secretary Generals of Parliament like Sam Wijesinha and Nihal Seneviratne and the Bar Association and Judges Organizations should step in to find amicable and amiable solutions, along with retired Supreme Court Judges, rather than to permit collapse of the Judiciary’s relationships with the other two pillars of the Constitution. I believe that change of appropriate laws will be a must and in doing so obtaining international standardized legal assistance may be very useful. All three pillars must be mindful that it is not victory in one battle which matters, but how victory in war could be brought about for long term sustainable peace in Constitution related governance..
Who knows whether the Legislature and the Executive agree with Court’s rulings? In my Ravaya article I explained several issues of engaging in court actions. If the Executive and Legislature wish to snub Judiciary or respond on the contrary, such can ultimately lead to serious problems and consequences, which the anti-government forces call ‘anarchy’, which if happens will not be considered as reasonable or acceptable.
Abandoning constitutional requirements
Some incidents in Animal Farm have comparables that could be projected to our present context. When Napoleon, the pigs’ Leader decided that the animals’ lead song “Beasts of England“which was their anthem be given up, Orwell says: “It is no longer needed, comrade,” said Squealer stiffly. “Beasts of England” was the song of the Rebellion. But the Rebellion is now completed. The execution of the traitors this afternoon was the final act. The enemy both external and internal has been defeated. In “Beasts of England” we expressed our longing for a better society in days to come. But that society has now been established. Clearly this song has no longer any purpose.”
If one intently listens to many pro-government spokesperson this message also could be heard. For instance, appointment of a new Chief Justice while the impeachment is ongoing was one such proposition made by some. Some times the language is indirect but this was indirectly demanding abandoning the Constitution.
‘Beasts ofEngland’ was followed by another poem in the Animal Farm. It went as follows:
Friend of the fatherless!
Fountain of happiness!
Lord of the swill-bucket! Oh, how my soul is on
Fire when I gaze at thy
Calm and commanding I,
Like the sun in the sky,
Thou art the giver of
All that thy creatures love,
Full belly twice a day, clean straw to roll upon;
Every beast great or small
Sleeps at peace in his stall,
Thou watchest over all,
Had I a sucking-pig,
Eerie he had grown as big
Even as a pint bottle or as a rolling-pin
He should have learned to be
Faithful and true to thee
Yes, his first squeak should be
Will the Supreme Court’s constitutional interpretations become the end of “Beasts of England” in a curtain-fall scenario of elimination of external and internal enemies and the poem personifying Napoleon be operationally replicated in Sri Lanka?
Read the poem again and reflect whether you have heard eulogies like these sung locally by various persons? For example, small children, young lady and men singers, eulogies by politicians, priests etc. If “Yes,” project what would happen if such eulogy replaces the ‘Beasts of England,” as happened in Animal Farm? Will other projected merits in these hosannas sung to a God force authorities to overlook constitutional merit, reinforced by court rulings? Or, will self realization of avoiding suspected and predicted ‘anarchy’, which will be the responsibility of all parties, emerge? It has to because this country is not the kingdom only of the Executive or Legislature or Judiciary. It belongs to the PEOPLE and they should get the best deal through an integrated operation.
Some quack may be quick to say as a short cut “Why not a referendum, in that case, to gauge the peoples’ wishes?” As a person who has read Election Commissioner Chandrananda Silva’s Referendum 1982 Report, I may say “No, we do not want it just because it is in the Constitution. Any government in power will use its resources like what Jayewardene Regime did, and now with enhanced technological development (e.g. cellular telephones, Geographical Positioning Systems, T 56, and AK 47 etc) it will be worse.” People like us who worked with Chandrananda de Silva during the Referendum know what a dastardly operation it was.
Another suggestion is made to prorogue the Parliament, which is abhorred by government ranks according to the media. If it is done, also the Divineguma Bill will be affected, some grudge. Since it is been taken up for debate and vote on the eighth of January, cannot proroguing take place immediately after the Speaker signing the Bill? Will it mark a “step backward” as proposed by Senior Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka? Will not the next few days give sufficient time to reconsider the stances of both parties and for mediators to step in to a comprehensive dialogue? Whatever action is taken saner counsel should prevail.
I keep my fingers crossed to hear the outcome. You may do the same.
By way of passing is an invitation: “George Orwell, from wherever you are, please visit us. You will have material for another political satire- though a rather dangerous one!
*Austin Fernando- Former Secretary to the Ministry of Defence