By Emil van der Poorten –
The recent reading of a piece on Venezuela, beginning with the emergence of Hugo Chavez and the truly desperate straits that nation is in today under the rule of Nicholas Maduro and his supporters, brought distinct discomfort to anyone observing the Sri Lankan scene.
While Hugo Chavez, despite his attempts to perform an unsuccessful military coup when he belonged to the Venezuelan armed forces, landing in jail for his pains, does not have a clearly identifiable counterpart in Sri Lanka, what he sought to achieve was very similar to what various leaders of “left” inclination seek to achieve here – broad democratization of immediately post-imperial domination resulting in wealth-accumulation for themselves and their friends.
In the case of Venezuela, as was the case in the vast majority of Central and South American states, it was brutal, violent military dictatorships that prevailed. While, in the Americas, it was mailed fist despotism and violent responses to anything resembling resistance, in Sri Lanka’s case and in most of what was previously the British Empire, it was a lot more subtle. The local comprador bourgeoisie was used to continue economic control. For instance, every pound of tea made in Ceylon went through the auctions of Mincing Lane in London, no exceptions. When one particularly garrulous Prime Minister of what was then Ceylon made the (obvious) proclamation about how totally unjust this was, Mincing Lane “taught Ceylon lesson.” It closed the tea auctions to product from this country for as long as it took for the “lesson” to sink in.
Sri Lanka, over the years, has successfully navigated the shoals of imperial and post-imperial domination. However, the unholy, but not untypical combination of monumental ego and an equivalent lack of historical knowledge and intellectual acumen have led us to the brink of another calamity if Mahinda Rajapaksa succeeds in his quest to return to the power of life and death over Sri Lankans. Like the Rasputins around Czar Nicholas’ court, we have the G. L. Peiris’ and Dayan Jayatillekas hanging around the table in quest of the crumbs from it, with little risk of having their behinds being kicked if that exercise fails to deliver the expected returns.
Without doubt, this is a deadly scenario made worse by a spineless government seemingly ever ready to go along with what appears to be their “Plan B” which is a co-existence with the Rajapaksa horde if they are supplanted. After all, half a loaf is better than nothing at all! If proof be needed of the reality of that scenario, the financial success of many of the so-called leading lights of the current UNP during the time that Mahinda and Co. ruled the roost only need to be viewed.
The upper echelons of the business community, with a miniscule fraction that have displayed anything like principle, will continue on their merry way. After all, they have had no consequences to face for their virtually criminal activity under the protection of the Rajapaksas despite the much-vaunted “regime change.” They continue to make even greater profits at a time of national calamity, particularly those in credit-providing and financial enterprises. Want an example? The man controlling a chemical plant that contaminated the drinking water of neighbouring villages, NEVER had to answer for the fact that the armed forces killed unarmed protesters and uninvolved bystanders after chasing some of them into places of worship. In fact, he has been lionized by other businessmen, some members of the general public and government circles for his success in enhancing the profitability of his business enterprises that were built on that most “respectable” of businesses – the casino trade!
The precipitous decline of this country is leading to a Venezuela-type denouement, with “the rich getting richer and the poor getting babies,” if their malnutrition permits conception, that is!
When are people in The Miracle of Asia going to display their much-vaunted sophisticated civilization and wake up to the reality facing them? That reality is that all of those making hypocritical pronouncements from both sides of the House are all birds of a feather and need to be plucked and left to the fate that they have earned.
We need “regime change” and NOT one that replaces one corrupt horde with another, shouting about their “opponents” for public consumption and addressing them as “nangi” in private telephone conversations!
If such a palliative is what it is going to take, give them all pensions of some description but tar and feather them in such a manner that they will never, even given their rhino hides, have the temerity to re-enter the public arena.
I was once horrified to see a documentary in which was depicted the, seemingly arbitrary, process employed by those who took arrested Nicolae Ceaucescu and his wife at the time of the Rumanian dictator’s downfall, conducted a trial at which the niceties of the Old Bailey were not very evident, returned a verdict of guilty and then proceeded to execute the couple by firing squad. It was horrific because of the matter-of-fact manner in which the process was conducted. But, having observed what has been unfolding in this country despite its history of many years of democratic practice, one cannot but pause in passing judgement on the arbitrariness of the process that took place on the streets of Bucharest.