29 November, 2020

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The Futility Of words: Now Only Actions Matter

By Kumar David

Prof Kumar David

As someone who writes regular political columns it is apparent that there comes a point beyond which words serve only a limited purpose and could even become a flight from action. This is where we have arrived in Rajapakse Lanka. Words are of use, hereafter, if their purpose is exhortation to action. Words hoping to awaken probity and sense, or an appeal to reason aimed at dishonourable leaders, doltish ministers, and supine self-seeking parliamentarians, are a desecration of time.

The purpose of words must be to awaken the just wrath of the people, to rouse them to practical actions against tyranny. It is not that the kangaroo-court proceedings against the CJ are an eye opener in themselves, the outcome was entirely foreseen; nor is it that the CJ embodies all that is worthy in our society; no it is that certain events mark the crossing of a redline on the other side of which lies the end game. The self-immolation of a vegetable vendor in Tunisia was a small incident, but it released tectonic stresses that had built up in the Arab world for decades. So too the shameful conduct of our politicians in recent days has made all society recoil in sock and disgust.

Let me give you a sample; there were six responses (at the time I read it) to a piece last week on “Prefab Impeachment” by Tisaranee Gunasekara. I have edited all for length, not content, and reproduced them. Bear with me but it is important to see how people are reacting, unanimously. I have reproduced the two names which appear not to be pseudonyms.

Quote 1: “Why does Sri Lanka have rulers of this nature at the helm? Is it because we deserve them? Fiddling and smacking their lips waiting for their chance to do the same as the Rajapaksas.

Quote 2: I do not think one member in this Parliament deserves a single of our votes ever again. These are selfish, self-serving, greedy, stupid individuals who have hoodwinked all of us. Did any of these people’s representatives come out to join the public to protest? Not one even opened their mouths. The opposition is waiting for the imbecile Ranil to die?

The final injunction is: “If the public fails, there is no point in blaming this one and that one”.

Quote 3: Almost all of our parliamentarians (government and opposition) are insincere, selfish, greedy unsympathetic hypocrites. We have seen how eleven clowns joined the media blitz in full make-up dressed in white. However, the way CJ resisted seems genuine and heroic. The seven clowns in office scored a point to earn more perks. The four clowns scored a point to dreaming the same in a government run by them. These are not visionaries worth running a legislature.

Quote 4: I curse the idiots of my country who elected these scumbags to Lanka’s Parliament. (Ben Hurling)

Quote 5: The transposition of parliament into a kangaroo-court that carries out a cruel and farcical inquisition violating every tenet of natural justice represents the ultimate degradation of the great ideal of a legislative branch of government that is supposed to represent the people. MPs must be the servants of the people; they have become masters; feared rather than loved; despised rather than respected. Nowhere else in the world do you see such bumptious arrogance, conceit, vanity and indifference of the elected towards electors. In this situation whether society can transpose to a tyranny by parliament is a fair question! (ANI Ekanayaka)

Quote 6: I believe the Rajapaksas, in trying to impeach the CJ, have impeached themselves. Now it is up to the public to give the verdict to the Rajapaksas they deserve. If the public fails, there is no point in blaming this one and that one.

What’s the gist of it?

These uninhibited commentators have said what I would have liked to say, and done it better than I could.  However, let us vet these remarks carefully to ferret out a certain developing shift in public attitudes.  Observe first, before we attempt to deconstruct or ferret out core thoughts behind the remarks, that despite their apparent anger and the strength of language, they are not wild, random or hitting-out without a systematic line of rational thought behind them. Whether you agree or not with the comments themselves, they carry a clear political message which we can easily distil out. And my point is that this is a message which is gaining wider acceptance in recent months.

OK, so what are the core thoughts? First, the assumption that the regime is evil is taken for granted, there is no need to keep repeating it; second, the quotes manifest that the public mood is turning hostile not only to government parliamentarians, but to the opposition as well. Third, and perhaps most significant, the whole system is cursed, there is a loss of confidence that anything can be salvaged by playing within the rules, when the regime itself deserves to be impeached, and parliament is in the hands of degraded scumbags whose only motive is to feather their own nests. There is a collapse of confidence in the very system that is supposed to enshrine and protect democracy.

I do not for a moment give this a nihilistic reading. I do not read it as a: Damn democracy; let’s go back to the primitivism of 1971, or 1989-91, or the nihilism of Prabaharan era politics, type of message. I read it differently, the constructive message that I see is: Let us not confine ourselves to actions where the Rajapakses can dupe us endlessly, run rings around common decency and truth, and “transpose tyranny” into our midst. The final injunction is: “If the public fails, there is no point in blaming this one and that one”. This can only mean one thing, greater mobilisation, in democratic chambers and forums, the press and publications, and protests, slogans and demonstrations. And electoral mobilisation too, of course, but not confined to that only.

I believe that if the people of Lanka can show half the gumption that the people of Egypt are showing today, we would not be facing this terrible predicament. I do not want to be misunderstood; I do not here take a stand about whether the opposition should participate in negotiations on the basis of the current draft Egyptian constitution, or reject it outright; nor am I unaware of the acute danger of anarchy and breakdown  if street conflict in Egypt goes on much longer. My sole point is that people are forcefully intervening in critical national issues in Egypt, but not in Lanka. This is why I said the third point, the implied call for mass intervention, democratic but forceful, using a wide range of tools, the most important. This is the best way to short-circuit these “bumptious, arrogant, conceited, and vain, hypocrites”. Nor will we need to “wait till some imbecile dies!”

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Latest comments

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    Prof David,

    I hope the people will heed your call and mobilise in order to depose this dictator before it is too late.

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    Words must be followed by action. At the moment people in Syria are sacrificing 100 lives a day for freedom and democracy. People in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt have made that sacrifice and are poised to reap the benefits. After years of dictatorship they have said enough is enough.

    We in Sri Lanka received independence on a platter thanks to the sacrifices of the Indian freedom movement. But what comes free is not valued and we have managed to turn independence into majoritism and now dictatorship.

    Now the task is bring back freedom and democracy to this country. End the era of white vans, abductions, nepotism and political skullduggery.

  • 0
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    While I fully agree that the 3 core thoughts that the author talks about is gaining more and more currency among the people, there is one more core thought, without which nothing will change.

    That is “we are people have to take the responsibility for repeatedly electing these rogues to lead us and being silent in the face of all the skullduggery of those we elect”. The reason why this is important is that people still blame the politicians and the system, and are not willing to take responsibility for the fact that it is the people themselves who elect the politicians to maintain (or fine tune, to their liking of course) the “system”.

  • 0
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    Whatever had happen to that project ‘Ven. Sobhitha’ my dear old professor?

  • 0
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    Prof will you be here to lead the protest. WOrking class needs a middle class leader. That is what you used to say. Common men need a Academic to lead them That is what I would like to say. But one problem, If you lead thay may say that you are a TIGER

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    Answer for Quote 1: So, you don’t have faith in any Sri Lankan. Don’t tell me that you had discarded that project Sobhitha so quickly?
    Answer for Quote 2: Do you really want ‘the imbecile Ranil to die’ eh. But you didn’t say who you wanted to be appointed in his place. Last time it was SF, this time the CJ?
    Answer for Quote 3: If Sri Lanka MPs are clowns, send your NGOs and ‘black coats’ to Tahrir square, Libya ,Syria and etc to learn its visionary functions and elect them as MPs if they return.
    Answer for Quote 4: Don’t allow ‘uneducated’ to elect scumbags; beg your queen of England to appoint them among the ‘educated’ as they had done in their hay day.
    Answer for Quote 5: You want inquisition! Get Joseph Ratzinger to appoint inquisitors like his predecessor did at the Council of Lérida in 1237.
    Answer for Quote 6: You can hallucinate and flip flop between the accuser and the accused but before you blame ‘the public’, my dear old professor, you should be aware of who ‘the public’ is?

    Last, no writer who praises act of that ‘vegetable vendor in Tunisia’ has guts to emulate him. They are all cowards. If not, one of them should self-immolate first and set an example for others to follow. Nay, David and co. want some ‘uneducated’ idiot to do it for his ilk to write eloquent praise of admirations.

  • 0
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    Thirty years of war brought ample misery to we Lankans whether Sinhala or Tamil. The next thirty years(already 3 years gone) appears to be more frightning for all now that a president can govern as much as he wishes and the incumbant could go on for that time or replaced by the same royal blood!

  • 0
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    SIMPLY, WHO WILL BELL THE CAT ?
    The regime has set its agenda and there is no democratic way out. It
    has all the commission funds (1.2 to 1.8 Billion USD) to throw about to
    go on and on. The Regime has taken the finer points in dictatorial rule
    from Mynmmar, N.Korea etc. and the gist of arm-chair commentators will
    boil done to nothig.
    To start with, will the Opposition in Parliament boycott the sessions
    next pending amendments to Standing Orders re Impeachment?

  • 0
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    You are a member of the public. Why don’t you immolate yourself? We will follow you.

  • 0
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    The Prof. writes to entertain in his logical style which are far from practicality.Majority of the members in the House are veterans repeatedly
    chosen as the suitable ones.There are professors,academics,intellectuals,
    lawyers and Trade=unionists,chosen in a democratic way.The chosen Opposition is checking. If you want say something ,say about the Public.
    Do not disturb the elected who doing ‘your work’ If you by any chance
    throw these people out can you find replacement. Are you going to bring
    from outside?

  • 0
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    Well Kumar, stop writing then, take the gun and take the street so that you can start the hartal.

    We will be right behind you……. about three kilometers behind!

    P.Rebel

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