By Emil van der Poorten –
While the media – electronic and print – is saturated with predictions and prognostications ranging from the attempted-erudite (read Dayan Jayatilleka) to the pompously ghost written (Mahinda Rajapaksa in the words of G. L Pieris), those of us in the hinterland of this now-turbulent land have, seemingly, to “grin and bear.”
Yes, there seems to be a singular and deliberate neglect of what the people of this country, outside the self-appointed elites, think about all of this and, more important, the practical implications, on a day-to-day basis for them.
The prices of food, if not soaring is increasing in a manner that puts essential nutrition in very serious jeopardy for every man, woman and child in this country. The Rajapaksa “government” has, with much fanfare, reduced the price of petrol by five rupees. View that in the context of what a Sri Lankan rupee is worth in relation to a US$ and my calculator comes up with 0.005 US! This is a simple mathematical fact! Place this great boon to the Sri Lankan travelling public in the context of the fact that petroleum-producing jurisdictions are curtailing production in significant fashion in order to shore up prices of crude going through the floor, the largest city in the second-biggest country in the world is experiencing its lowest gasoline (prices) in its history and this insult to the intelligence of any sane person is evident.
While that is plain insult to the Sri Lankan citizenry’s intelligence, the marshaling of the youth from the deep south of this country in order to take extra-Parliamentary action to negate the rulings of the highest court in the land is sinister in the extreme.
The sixty-four million rupee question now is: will a country that has as many personnel under arms as the largest country in the world – Russia – choose a Sri Lankan version of Duterte-ism in the name of “stability” or are the roots of parliamentary democracy deep enough to resist that impulse?
A most disturbing, photographically-documented, recent event in that respect is the formal obeisance paid by the head of the Sri Lanka Police, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), no less, to a man who has never, now or during the previous Rajapaksa Regime, been the head of the Police Service. I refer here to the ex-Secretary of Defence. Obeisance paid to the eminence grise of the Sri Lankan political firmament speaks particularly loudly of a particular mindset. The simple term that describes conduct of this kind is “political toadyism” and to the ego of someone who might well end up as the Duterte of Sri Lanka, to boot.
The armed forces of this country, numbering half a million personnel, and the police in particular who have responsibility for the application of the law on a day to day basis to every citizen of this country will soon, if they have not already, be faced with a very tough question: are they going to uphold the letter and the spirit of the law or are they going to bend the vassal knee to orders that are patently illegal? The excuse of “My boss gave me the order,” is totally indefensible. There is an international body of statute and practice that conclusively states that an illegal order from a superior officer cannot and must not be followed. This is not some airy fairy concept concocted by some ivory-tower philosopher. It is an absolute international law, reinforced by the Nuremburg trials and, more recently, the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.
The way things have gone in this country recently and given our predilection for using uniformed authority to deal with civil issues, particularly during such conflicts as that at Rathupaswala where unarmed demonstrators were chased down and killed by uniformed members of the security officers, some even in places of worship, we certainly have some horrific precedents in our recent past. The fact that the polluters of people’s drinking water not only got off scot-free but are now lauded as the captains of industry capable of delivering an economic miracle to this country says it all in practice, much louder than those who espouse a line claiming that Chambers of Commerce are the last best hope for Sri Lanka and its people!
Is this a very desperate challenge for our land that can only be met by firm and unequivocal steps? Yes. One that can and must move every man, woman and child to resist the forces of repression: the thugs without any other gainful employment who are being fuelled by free buth packets and arrakku baageys, not to mention joy rides to the locations at which they can create mayhem for the residents.
If force must be met with force and there is no other choice, so be it.
A parallel initiative MUST be a cleansing of the ranks of the Yahapalanaya regime. People like the one-time Minister of Law and Order, who, in the broad daylight of public view deliberately soft-pedalled some of the worst racketeering of the Rajapaksa Regime and now has the audacity to say he did so on the President’s direction, needs not only to be turfed but action to punish him for dereliction of duty leading to public loss must be pursued. As for a one-time Minister of all things Buddhist (and Advanced Education?) who has jumped a non-existent fence to join those he has always toadied to, causing huge losses to the national treasury by blocking appropriate investigation of the Avante Garde/floating armoury case, every legal avenue must be explored to ensure that he pays the price that the law decrees in such circumstances.
One would need more than a single volume to list those pretending to be on “the side of the angels” while, in fact, selling out this nation and all of us, lock, stock and barrel for their personal gain. Those ranks would include those who had (recorded) chats with multiple-passport holders – “nangi”s to them – while playing at being on the side of those exercising the rule of law!
No nation deserves the kinds of politicians and their hangers-on that have been visited upon us. Going on the belief that, “While there’s life there’s hope,” every single Sri Lankan needs to revert to that much-quoted expostulation of a movie actor of years gone by and say, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”