By Lankamithra –
“Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were heading for shore.” — Ray Bradbury
It is the natural tendency of the human mind to search for and cling on to one single cause for the occurrence of an event. Whether the event is a groundbreaking and historic one or a very superficial one, all events have not happened in isolation. The surrounding circumstances and events that happened prior to them have an unequivocal bearing on all events, whether they were man-made or natural. The first thinker and philosopher to teach this phenomenon was Buddha who taught us the irreversible chain of cause and effect (Karma) in his unique sermon of Patichcha Samuppadaya.
Since then all historians, when trying to interpret and chronicle the assemblage of events that have preceded us, have customarily attempted to identify and catalogue the crucial and critical ones that have, in combination with each other, produced major changes of course in man’s journey through the millennia. It is even more difficult to identify the critical events or sub-events when writing about contemporary history. For instance, most writers and speakers point to the 1956 Bandaranaike-led Sinhala only revolution as the root cause for the emergence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and other Tamil militant organizations around which a majority of non-elite Tamils in the North congregated. The Bandaranaike policies may have had a major impact on the rise of the Tamil militancy but that is not the only significant cause that influenced them.
Starting with the distressing turn of events that led to the departure of Sir Ponnambalam Arunachal, who was the first President of the Ceylon National Congress, due to being let down by the then Sinhala Leadership in the country that included, among others, Sir D B Jayatilleke and D S Senanayake, is no second to any other significant events that followed over the last century. Introduction of a Parliamentary Bill to disenfranchise the Estate Tamils from the electoral register was one of them. Painting the Sinhalese letter ‘Shree’ on all public transport vehicles, the riots that followed and the ruthless and uncivilized manner in which the Sinhalese civilians engaged in a willing enterprise of intimidation, torture and murder of Tamil civilians residing in the so-called Sinhalese area was another. The uniformed security forces of the government turning away from those riots and allowing the orgy of inhuman behavior of the Sinhalese rioters was yet another. The legislations and regulations that were introduced by governments headed by the successors to the Bandaranaike-led Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was another. The psychological impact on the Tamil youth the district quota system and ‘Standardization’ on the university entrance process had on was not lesser important to any of the preceding occurrences.
On the one hand, it is easy to point the finger at the Bandaranaike-led Sinhala only revolution alone. Certainly it had a distinctive bearing on the events that followed; however, it was not the only reason nor was it the first one either. Yet, after the fires of war have burnt down, after the military forces have retreated to the camps, the fake dawn of peace has convoluted the hearts and minds of most people. Absence of military entanglements is not peace. Nevertheless, such an illusion helps one, on the hand, the general masses, to get on with their daily chores without fear of being victims of a surprise suicide bomb attacks, and on the other, those who dwell in the upper echelons of society and academics and pundits begin to interpret and reinterpret this fake peace as a lasting condition that followed a military conflict- one has ‘won’ and the other has ‘lost’.
This is the backdrop which generated a combination of psychological conditions among decision makers to produce the 13th Amendment. This is the backdrop against which a Tamil Diaspora has assumed more-than-legitimate prominence in the current equation of Tamil-Sinhala relations. This is the backdrop that killed the leading Tamil thinkers and actors such as Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran and others. This the backdrop which gave birth to Prabhakaran Mahattaya, Kittu, Pottu Amman and other ruthless killers and above all, this is the backdrop that produced Mahinda Rajapaksa and his ruling cabal. After J R Jayewardene, it was Mahinda Rajapaksa who had the greatest opportunity and the necessary tools and means to introduce novel political structures, ideological discipline, societal goals and national priorities into a war-torn land. Mahinda squandered it. Instead, he indulged in a process that was both injurious to himself and greatly harmful the Sri Lankan nation.
Mahinda’s garb had too many patches. Maybe it took two full tenures for the voting public to see these shadowy, discernible only-to-the-probing eye of the discriminating beholder, patches and holes in the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ apparel. His avaricious abuse of national wealth and his immediate family’s limitless ravenousness for wealth, comforts and wants exceeded the vilest kinds. Mahinda’s sins are manifold and diverse. Over the last ten years he and he alone is responsible for creating a culture of corruption that has created a brand new generation of bureaucrats that is equally or even more corrupt. Mahinda’s ‘corruption-revolution’ generated among unsuspecting and gullible masses, that corruption and bribery is the norm and not the exception. It is tragic.
And it is against this backdrop, Maithripala Sirisena, Ranil Wickremesinghe with the United National Party (UNP), Sampanthan and his Tamil National Alliance and Rauff Hakim and his Muslim Congress campaigned, backed by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and snatched power from Mahinda and his corrupt cabal. After Sirisena’s victory at the Presidential Elections, two mutually exclusive phenomena clashed, or maybe, combined to work together, but not for the good of the voters who ousted Rajapaksa. On the one hand, the UNP came to power after rotting away in the Opposition benches for twenty long years which entailed a starvation from power and its alluring benefits. On the other hand, the SLFP and Mahinda lost power after twenty years in control and access to national wealth. One, the UNP wanted this opportunity to entrench themselves in the corrupt system of the last twenty years, The other, the SLFP, after having easy access to power and national wealth could not afford to be away from it, solely because when one gets used to luxuries in life it is almost impossible to adjust to a new condition of being without such luxuries and extravagances. The current status of the country is facing this unusual social spectacle and either party does not seem to be conceding.
Hindustan Time reported last Tuesday that “the Indian Supreme Court sent V K Sasikala to jail for four years for corruption, a verdict that hastened the 61-year-old politician’s hopes of becoming the State Chief Minister. The court also barred the former video cassettes saleswoman from holding public office or contesting elections for 10 years after holding her guilty of amassing wealth disproportionate to her known income. She was also fined Rs100 million. The verdict came on a 21-year-old case that also involved Sasikala’s mentor and Chief Minister Jayalalitha whose death in December last year sparked a power tussle in the state”.
Sri Lankan voters expect results like this. A decisive action against those who are alleged to have committed corrupt practices while in power. Nevertheless, they have to realize that even in India, though unbelievably corrupt in State politics, but sanctified with an impeccable justice system, took 21 long years to reach a verdict of guilty on one of today’s most corrupt politicians. I do not want to hold a brief for any one of the current government leaders for not sending any member of the Rajapaksa regime alleged to have committed corrupt practices to jail. But it is only in the interest of both, the government and the public, that hastening of the legal proceedings would greatly help. People have a very short memory. Once the system is corrupt, once the bureaucracy is dishonest, once the police is found to be ineffective, the people taking corruption for granted and as the existing norm, any attempt at a lasting resolution to the issue becomes impossible.
Man’s pursuit of justice is not absolute. His perception of justice changes with the circumstances he finds himself in. His journey towards a just and fair system ends if no solution is visible on the horizon. When he sees no gleaming, he starts pursuing hazy shadows that wear a phony-garb of honesty and purity. Then phony patriotism, as displayed by Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family of corruption-mongers, assumes validity and legitimacy. That is why Maithripala s Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot relax. Sri Lanka’s problems are not singles. They are indeed sixes and sevens. The government leaders have to bat more aggressively before they get bowled out.
The writer is available at firstname.lastname@example.org