23 October, 2017

Rural Perspectives: The Disappearance Of The Very Concepts Of Accountability And Responsibility

By Emil van der Poorten –

Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

A reader would certainly be justified in asking what is particularly “rural” about the title of this column.

Let me try to explain, even if the preamble proves a tad tedious!

The recent kerfuffle over the accountability/responsibility of the Prime Minister, D. M. Jayaratne, in the matter of one of his immediate minions being directly involved in the smuggling of heroin in truly historic proportions, brings a couple of things to public attention (again!)

The first of these is the prevailing “shape” culture that enables anyone to do anything they please as long as they don’t displease any member of the Rajapaksa family. Does one have to quote chapter and verse with regard to the obscenities parading as decisions by an oligarchy parading as a “socialist, democratic goverment” in this country or would simply referring to the most recent event under cover of this very larger-than-life heroin bust suffice?  That event was the dropping of charges of a capital crime against Cabinet Minister Punchinilame.  In any country with pretensions to being a democracy with media uncontrolled by the government, this event would have provoked screaming front page headlines.  Not in Sri Lanka, I’m afraid where it appeared tucked away in a corner of a web edition of one English language newspaper!

But, as significant as the timing of the Punchinilame exoneration was, the shenanigans around the heroin bust exposed the complete disappearance of the very concepts of accountability and responsibility in so-called “democratic governance” in The Debacle of Asia!  In any country with even pretensions to democratic practice, the fact that a senior functionary in the office of the Prime Minister had issued instructions for a waiver of duty and immunity from inspection of a shipment of almost half a metric tonne of heroin would not simply have made the headlines of all the media but would have resulted in not only the immediate resignation of said Prime Minister but a criminal investigation of his conduct and that of all those responsible for this train of events.

Instead, what we have had is a bunch of apologists, inclusive of Opposition spokespersons muttering soothing platitudes about how totally unlikely it was that said Prime Minister would be within a million miles of any such wrong-doing!

To describe this as “theatre of the absurd” would be understating the case quite dramatically except that the current state of affairs is further “absurdized” by the contention that any comment about all of this is “Sub Judice” by virtue of this whole sorry mess being potentially the subject of some sort of judicial investigation!  As the those less given to polite expression would ask, “Where the hell does all of this lead?”

I don’t know “Where the hell it all of it leads,” but I see that all of it certainly should lead to a realization, even at this late date, that these cornerstones of democratic practice have disappeared from the public discourse practiced in Sri Lanka.

While this code of conduct is described in quite dramatic terms by the punditocracy serving the middle-class intelligentsia of urban Sri Lanka where all the real decisions are made and the course of this country is set, its impact on the great unwashed of rural Sri Lanka is nothing short of devastating given their total lack of input into what is happening, leave alone even the tiniest bit of influence, in our Land Like No Other.

Already, no one in authority or in a decision-making position in our neck of the woods seems to accept responsibility or accountability for anything even vaguely resembling a shortcoming, leave alone admit to a major screw-up in the provision of service to those of us living in the boondocks.

Stage one is a lame excuse.  If it is a power outage – and there are several each day where I live requiring that one carries a flashlight/torch in one’s pocket after sunset to stave off the perils of being stranded in some part of the house or garden in unexpected pitch blackness.  The conversation proceeds as follows:  Initially, one can’t get through to the “complaints desk” because the phone rings “busy” because it has been taken off the hook.  Then, when one finally gets through by dint of exceptional persistence, your report is met with incredulity!  “That is not possible.”  If you are able to surmount that initial hurdle, you are asked for your address, name, rank and serial number and then informed that inclement weather is the cause of this interruption if there is even a light drizzle.  Interestingly, we look down upon two CEB jurisdictions from where we live and, consistently, when this happens, that serving us is in total darkness and the adjacent one seems to have every light in every house switched on (and operating!)  If one continues complaining, the sequence of explanations (lies, really) slides into the realm of events completely outside the control of the Ceylon Electricity Board.  If one goes up the ladder of authority the next day, during “working” hours,  the chances are that the head honcho is “away” somewhere and his cellphone number cannot be released to one of those their institution claims to serve.  If the second-in-command can be corralled at this point, he/she slides very soon into the response that the boss is not available and the person answering the phone, even though the second-in-command, cannot accept responsibility for whatever’s gone wrong. If one has the temerity to insist that the complaint is not directed, personally, at the person being spoken to but about the institution and the (lack of) service it is (supposed to be) providing, the response invariably is that “I have been here only a day/week/month/year and therefore cannot accept any responsibility for this failure.”  The business of passing the buck to a departed or deceased predecessor is SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) in this and every other government office, with only the details varying.  Should one be surprised at what rural Sri Lankans endure in this regard when that standard of evasion of responsibility and accountability is set by the highest in the land who are paid immeasurably more in cash and kind?

When the ambulatory cadaver that has been passing as our Prime Minister for the last little while refuses to accept responsibility for the highest and most important functionaries under his command who are there only because they were his “chosen,” should it be any surprise that the lower ranks of government “servants” selected to their positions at the whim (or worse) of some two-bit local politician follow the example set by their “betters?”

The one example I have quoted in the matter of electrical supply barely breaks the surface of this sea of incompetence and I would need something as extensive as the Oxford English Dictionary or the Bible to document a small selection of what we put up with out here.  The implications of this kind of disarray are nothing less than massive and it is transparently evident that rural Sri Lankans bear the brunt of it to a significantly greater extent than their generic “Colombian” brethren living in urban Sri Lanka.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    0

    How many ministers and MPs are their that should really have been resigned from politics because their actions were questionable. but, they are politicians until they die inside the parliament. Their children and their wives, and grand children are all politicians, diplomats and corporation – chairmen/women.

    • 2
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      Jim, there was a time in our glorious past when we learned HONOUR in our schools and applied it in life, work and business. Alas, those days are gone and we now have the thick-skinned brigade who have no shame and will carry on in their own sycophantic and self-serving way – if the head is rotten what can you expect from the rest of the body.

  • 0
    1

    losing power is not such a big deal . /this was exceedingly common in the past much much more common than today when I was working there . having a good relationship with the telecom and CEB people was the key to get fast response .

    But this time I went back there were almost no power disruptions and the telecom has become an excellent organization . (their response times were withing a few hours to a day ) If you think these isssues dont exist in the developed world you are living in a dream world ,

    • 0
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      Yes, Bur haven’t you noticed the agenda of the writer is not constructive but subversive.

      • 3
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        The man is chronicling everyday life in our miracle of Asia and all you can bleat from your faecal ordure is that he has a ‘subversive’ agenda. Bollocks!

    • 2
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      Abhaya:
      As usual you have significant difficulty in recognizing simple fact. Perhaps, with someone of your skill/intelligence the power supply jurisdictions you served then were even worse off than they are today.
      However, suffice it to say that I lived in this country for a period extending well into my adult life and I have NEVER encountered up to a dozen power outages A DAY then!
      As for my better than three decades away from this country in suddah-land, I don’t think I encountered as many power outages in that entire period as we do in one week in the land that your patrons rule.

      Poo watcher:
      Since when did simple description of day to day reality become “subversive” or is that a cornerstone of the “white van law enforcement” that your masters practice?

      • 0
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        Emil@,
        These shenanigans just ignore anything to this date, even if the rascals would have abducted their lovely ones. Guys like Abaya would even put their family ones at Rajapakshe´s disposal – but for not good reasons. I read somewhere, he was overwelmed just by looking at the road developement projects in the home land, finally having got back to the country after 8years. HIs kind of mind sets are easily manipulative and (alas, the majority of the nation) voted rascals in to power. Today, entire society is in a mess even if they claim to have run physical developement projects across the country. But all these they have been doing while eroding all moral and ethical values. Today nihilism is not that far from their administration. They even killed innocent stray dogs for no reasons – dogs (not just few, but 300 dogs) are the most loyal animals to humans.

      • 0
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        Emil

        you would have been just plain lucky . I have lived in 3 different countries other than Sri Lanka and the only country there was no powerfailure was in Singapore . in both Australia and the US we have had power failures and it is next to impossible to get responses when or why these failures occur and when they will be restored . part of the reason is overhead power distribution in these countries compared to strictly urban Singapore where all the lines are underground which is susceptible to interruptions . With that said I compare CEB to the Sri Lanka Telecom which in my day of working there were similar in terms on interruptions . The CEB is still govt run and the Telecom is run by NTT ? now . there is a marked improvement of the many varied services provided bt SLT compared to CEB . and I think a lot of these breakdowns will soon end if CEB is also privatized and held to the same standard of service private companies do .

        • 0
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          “|”compared to strictly urban Singapore where all ….”|”

          Abe the Amude,

          So you travelled like the stereotype tourist looking at the sky like Getafix.

          LKW planned Singapore for professionals and `security of utilities` was of prime concern so they have generators even when they carry out maintenance works.

          Most countries in the EU too don’t have outage of electricity but private mushroom cell phone companies do. Private means maximum profits.

          Public in SL means `a percentage here and the rest are guaranteed.

          ╭∩╮(◣_◢) ╭∩╮

          “You know ?! You are the reason why I have a middle finger !”

      • 0
        1

        Why did you leave your exemplary “Sudda Land” to live in semi darkness, when your friends and followers sell the family jewellery to board even leaky boats to live there and are happy calling themselves refugees.

    • 0
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      …. losing power is not such a big deal…..this will be true if your life saving machine is not plugged in. Only the other day, an official complained to me about blood that had to be thrown away from the blood bank because of a power breakdown. People like Abhaya come down every now and then, for a few weeks, and are amazed at what they find. Of course, things got better since Abhaya left (our gain was their loss!). Fact of life is that essential services in this country are subject to a town/district lottery, where you are OK if you live in an area where a big honcho has his palatial residence.

      • 0
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        buy a generator and some kerosene :)

        • 1
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          Abhaya:
          Why do you insist on wasting our time with incoherent “arguments” and then falling back on an admonition to buy a generator and kerosene?
          I am sure that those living under your repressive paymasters can drop by the neighbourhood “kadey” and pick up a generator anytime they want to deal with a dozen power outages a day. And don’t give us that unbelievable crap about “suddah lands” having a dozen power outages ON AVERAGE a day! We didn’t attend the same school of moronic mental masturbation that you did, buddy!
          As for the “privatized” SLT which is, in fact government controlled, you should check on how it and its competitors continue NOT to provide the service they claim to do, inclusive of internet speeds that only exist in their advertising and for which they are NOT prosecuted by the government whose every order they obey, particularly in the area of blacking out any information that is not supportive of the government. But then, you wouldn’t want to spoil your argument with facts, would you?

          • 0
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            hey buddy
            does it matter if you have 12 power outages a day or you lost power for the whole 24 hours. and dont be a total dumb idiot . The ISPs in other countries also cannot guarantee the speeds that advertise and not just SLT . your rose colored view of the sudda land does not exist . it it did you probably will be still there .

            As for colombo telegraph being banned in SL it was total and utter nonsense , I was able to access and post on it without using a proxy .

  • 2
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    Shape! shape! shape man, shape! this is a the philosophy of governance in Sri Lanka. It grew up in royal college and in ananda and nalanda and st.thomas college and its prep schools. But it started I believe in the villages as their stance in the face of colonial rule. Now the villagers have taken over the country and brought their ‘shape’ philosophy with them. The biggest shape is of course the DJ but he may soon be overtaken by the Nonis.

    • 0
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      Shape! shape! shape man, shape! this is a the philosophy of governance in Sri Lanka…. It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know; and the HIGHER the person you know, the BETTER your life will be in this miracle of Asia. I am afraid this is not going to change anytime soon, so start sucking up. O’o, nearly forgot, Nonis; our flavour of 2013. Our latest weapon in the battle against the evil empire. What does his stars hold for 2014?

      • 1
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        Spring Koha:
        Couldn’t resist this when you mentioned our Oxbridge-accented High Commissioner to the Court of St. James: Are you old enough to remember the old school joke about the reversal of “P. Nonis?”

        • 0
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          Well, as for age, suffice to say that I was smart enough to just about avoid being a target for the war time ‘visitors’ from Nippon. I encountered the Nonis-Mendis clan in a business capacity, but I cannot recall the ‘P.Nonis’ joke. But you have now activated my long dormant schoolboy imagination, and possibilities run riot, but pray put me out of my misery.

  • 4
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    Dear Emil,
    Please do not waste your time getting in to a ‘comment battle’ with people like Abhaya. Lot of these people are commenting because its their day job – the Rajpal Abeynayake type of people.
    I’d kindly ask you to spend your time writing more articles like this and more importantly, perhaps, convincing the rural people of the need to bring about a change in the way Sri Lanka is governed.
    Sam

    • 0
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      I agree with you every word you added above. These loose canons are incapble of seeing the truth as it is. Pompous galleries, big airports, tarring roads for their earns, they the rulers feel – have done a lot to the nation. But who would raise the question – the struggle of living of the poor becoming worst day to another in ths country today ? That then stand on the way of the educated fraction of the nation. Latter is the fate of those who have been waiting to see a change in the way sl ´s governed.

  • 0
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    sure its my day job . I dont even live in the country moron let alone have any connection to the rulers . Its a pity a lot of these morons who write in this thread went to my own alma mater . but it does not surprise me with their haughty we know every thing attitude . They just come from rich families not from the poor people who raised their stock every generation like us , never got a proper education other than the English language . and live because of their parents money .

    The Village idiots are more intelligent than these English speaking fools , That is why they keep voting for what is good for them.

    • 0
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      Oi,les misérables most dictators that the world has seen are village jackals – The Hans Hannibal the cannibal,

      Saddam the gasbum,

      Hitler the `aaaariyaaan`,

      Kadaffi the Bedobum

      Rajapasse cannibal off bestiality.

    • 1
      0

      …’I don’t even live in the country’….. Abhaya, that says it all! Well I hope you didn’t leave this country for some trivial reason. So, now you play the part of a long-distance ‘kuththu karaya’, depending on your second-hand knowledge of what’s going on in our motherland, and unable to accept that those ‘rich’ ‘English only educated’ fellows are writing so eloquently on our current condition. Listen dear boy, we will play our part in making this a land like no other for you and people like you to visit and marvel at from time to time; you make life easier for yourself; get rid of those pesky bees in your bonnet, stick to matters that affect your neck of the woods and relax – enjoy the joys of being a guest worker wherever you are. Have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious New Year in your adopted land, and don’t have pangs of regret when you realise that you are missing the sensual spring call of the Koha in the coming weeks.

      • 0
        0

        Well koha

        I left because I could make more money overseas than in a war affected country that nobody wanted to invest in . As for your ilk making it a better country I have my doubts . half the battle has been won without a single contribution from you . lol

        Either way have a happy new year . I wont miss the koha but I will see a real spring soon . :)

        • 0
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          Hey kallathoni Abe Spring time you would find the butterflies from south africa settling on samalana kanda- the yetti foot print.

          • 0
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            Yeti footprint is more understandable that worshiping a massive lingam no you pot head ?

            • 0
              0

              That’s for your khyber pass kallathoni bihari bandito. remember how Gadaffi tasted it!! (^O^)

      • 0
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        “|”Listen dear boy, we will play our part in making this a land like no other “|”

        Generally folk learn from mistakes but Lankans dont want to and lie to themselves.

        If Lanka had not kept close to the Sun God Guu dynasty and spun history of 2500 years about bestiality beginning to be covered by the same guu Iran may be their wouldn’t have been VP the sun god.
        Darius 1 was worse than Brutus.

        Good luck the world is always beautiful and there is always better tropical climates.

  • 1
    0

    You said, many of them have gone to the same alma mater, but the difference has been you have eaten loads of punnaku instead of learing to distinguish good and bad. Else, I dont think any one with a brain the size of a mustard would work as ruler´s apologists. Wait and see how UNHRC sessions ahead would work for us in March.

  • 2
    0

    Sam & Sama:
    Don’t worry about the energy expended on kicking these guys’ butts. It takes little effort to deal with these morons, otherwise I wouldn’t bother.
    The unfortunate part, though, is that they are so stupid that most of the time they can’t comprehend what’s going on around them!

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