By Malinda Seneviratne –
The word is used, well, liberally. ‘Liberal’ can be and is used to describe an economic system which takes the ‘market’ as ‘god’, all-loving, all-compassionate, perfect and so on. Then there are people who take the word as a proxy for ‘free’ and ‘freedom,’ as in there are no rules, no bosses, no one with a cane ready to whip your bottom if you do step out of line. Well, no lines either!
In Sri Lanka, though, liberals or rather those who call themselves liberals are a bit different. They do worship markets, they don’t give two hoots about convention and indeed disparage anything that is even remotely associated with convention: norms, values, culture and heritage for example. Well, Sajith Premadasa seems to have ripped off the liberal facade.
These liberals ranted and raved against corruption and misrule. Sajith Premadasa, Deputy Leader of the UNP (no less!) knows all about his party’s role in the Central Bank bond scam. He’s ok with it. The liberals are ok with it too.
SAJIN, MERVIN AND RAJAPAKSA LACKEYS
They used to rant and rave against the likes of Sajin Vaas Gunawardena and Mervin Silva, as many who support Sajith have ranted and raved. Well, Sajith has embraced them, given them party-organizer posts and is quite snug (and smug!) having them share his political stage. They are good boys now. The liberals are ok with all this.
PATALI CHAMPIKA RANAWAKA AND SINHALA-BUDDHIST INTOLERANCE
They used to rant and rave against Patali Champika Ranawaka. He was called names: Sinhala Buddhist racist, chauvinist, extremist, war-monger for example. Well, Champika has been promised the prime ministership in the event Sajith wins. Patali is a good boy now. The liberals are ok with him.
Liberals would decry anyone who said things that could be called ‘nationalistic’ or ‘patriotic’. ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,’ they quoted. Again and again. Well, look who is the chest-beating, feet-stomping patriot now! Why, it’s Sajith Premadasa. Liberals who were spouting anti-nationalist rhetoric are ok with it now.
Liberals, for a long time, took issue with anyone who talked of the ‘ranaviruvo’ (war-heroes). They made caustic comments about human rights violators not being heroes. They picked up and re-chanted Chandragupta Thenuwara’s contention that the ‘ranaviru gaaya’ (fascination with war heroes) should be buried once and for all. Then, suddenly, Sajith Premadasa beat his chest and said, essentially, that he himself suffers from and is proud about his ranaviru gaaya! The liberals are ok with all this.
When President Maithripala Sirisena announced that he would implement the death penalty, liberals cried out in horror. How brutal, how nasty, how uncivilized, how yucky! That’s how they responded. Well then, Sajith Premadasa says he will not hesitate to execute people involved in terrorist activities. This means, by the way, that had he been President at the time the LTTE was defeated, he would have executed some 15,000 LTTE cadres who were either captured or had surrendered to the security forces. The liberals are not saying ‘chee, chee’ now. They are ok with it.
Liberals like to think of themself as champions of rationality and science. Not for them the hocus-pocus of religion (well, they are ok with god-related religions, but that’s another story), palm-reading, crystal-gazing, superstition or astrology. Well then, Kabir Hashim takes out an astrological supplement in the ‘Lankadeepa’ for some Rs 2.3 million. He gets some unheard of astrologers (probably paid them too) and fills it with wild predictions of Sajith winning. The liberals are ok with it.
For decades liberals with even a basic knowledge of economics ranted and raved against the welfare state. They were silent of course about the state subsidizing capital and capital interests, but were livid about handouts and other subsidies. Well then, Sajith Premadasa comes out to play Santa Clause or rather promising to play Santa, saying he will give this, that and the other. No talk of where he’s going to find the bucks. Nothing of the fact that it will be the people who will have to pay for all this. The liberals are ok with it.
Liberals love animals. Especially elephants. They are ok with eating dead animals (chicken, cattle, pigs, fish, crab, prawns, sprats, goats etc). They are ok with dog-shows and horse-races. Now then, Sajith Premadasa wants to sign a declaration on animal welfare and animal rights. He goes for this in a carriage driven by ponies. Liberals are fine with this.
Liberals love trees. They are all for conservation. Protection of protected areas and so on. Well then, Sajith Premadasa stands proudly, arm in arm, with those who have engaged in the wanton destruction of forests. Liberals are ok with this.
The liberals are ok with the following: welfarism, hocus-pocus, capital punishment, ranavirugaaya, scoundrels scampering to their proverbial last refuge, animal cruelty, deforestation, racism, extremism, crooks and theft.
Liberals. Is that an accurate description? Sajith Premadasa has demonstrated that it’s way off the mark. He has stripped them down to their skins. And lo and behold! We find rank conservatives who really don’t believe any of these lovely notions they swear by and claim to champion. Party loyalists. Nothing more.
Sajith Premadasa knows. Champika Ranawaka must know too. Sajith is not exactly endowed with an intellect that’s anywhere close to Champika’s. Ask Champika about liberals, liberalism and what’s under those masks. Ask him if they are bunch of humbugs. He will smile in that sly way he does and change subject with a snide comment. Read it as ‘yes’.