Colombo Telegraph

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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