By Basil Fernando –
A senior civil servant who has spent most of his working life on matters relating to the control of financing and also dealing with corruption has written to the Speaker of the Parliament and others holding important positions in the financial sector to grant him the permission to commit suicide as he had been prevented from carrying out his obligations to the nation. He believes that being a public servant carries obligations to the nation. This nation has provided him with opportunities for education training in this country and abroad and now he is prevented from paying his debt to his country by discharging his official duties due to the rule of corruption and other matters.
Some may wish to dismiss it as some kind of triviality. However, the statement this senior civil servant has made carries a profound message to anyone who still has a sense of a social conscience and an idea of moral obligation that a citizen as well as a public servant owes to his nation. To this senior public servant, the nation still exists. For many others, the nation called Sri Lanka may exist only in name but that a real political and social entity called Sri Lanka does not any longer exist in their minds.
That is perhaps what this civil servant is pointing to. The sense of the nation and the obligations that civil servants have to their nation is now a dead idea. So, we have the living dead. The living dead means that this person has already committed suicide in their mind and in terms of their social conscience though they may be physically alive.
It is not only this civil servant who has pointed out to this inner death that has spread into the Sri Lankan public life. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith himself has publicly stated that the conscience of this nation is dead or that it does not exist.
The lamentations heard from ordinary citizens in all walks of life and on all matters of public interest are shocking. All the things that people hear from all around the country everyday clearly illustrates that even those who have tried to understand what is happening in the country simply cannot fathom the extent to which things have degenerated and gone down. This kind of tragedy is beyond the capacity of human reason and the imagination to grasp.
However, what is more disturbing is that from all indications, things that are to come will be even more of a catastrophic nature than what we are seeing and hearing every day.
The problem of great tragedies is that there is a natural instinct in people to wish that it will go away soon and that then the things will get better. Perhaps this instinct to imagine better times to come may be a result of the survival instinct or a psychological defense mechanism. Yet, a rewarding life which has been made by these senior civil servants should be a pricking on everyone to open their eyes and see the slow suicide of the nation. Unless the people and particularly the public servants wake up and resist the pressures which are poured down on them to resist from doing their duties which they owe to the people, then even such warnings will not produce a desired result.
However, the letter by this civil servant is a superb example of a whistleblower’s task. A whistleblower points out a tragedy that is taking place and a tragedy that is likely to get worse. Whether Sri Lankan people will listen to whistleblowers or not, is hard to guess. If they don’t, it will be the people themselves who will have to pay the price.