By Emil van der Poorten –
Despite the title of this column, my intention is not to play Sherlock Holmes in the matter of the attempted assassination of yet another journalist but to, briefly, examine how such an event as the shooting of Faraz Shauketaly is being treated (and will be treated and could be treated) in the Debacle of Asia (DoA).
Let me say, at the outset that, given the fact that no one has been charged in the execution-style slaying of Lasantha Wickrematunge despite almost half a decade having elapsed, to expect anything worthwhile emerging from yet another directive issued by an all-powerful President to the Inspector General of Police is nothing if not the most blatant of wishful thinking.
Given the proclivity of Sri Lankans to burst into verse and their particular skill in pillorying those who think they are God Almighty, I would have expected that by now someone would have come up with a take on “Who killed Cock Robin” which would have exceeded the “bite” of that old piece of doggerel with a turn of phrase, particularly in Sinhala, that would have provided all of us with a great deal of enjoyment and food for thought. Alas, we haven‘t even had a simple re-writing of
“Who killed Cock Robin?
I, said the sparrow
With my bow and arrow.”
Instead, we have had the inevitable (now terminally boring) press release from the Centre of the Universe aka The Plumeria Palace/Araliya-gaha Waluwwa/Temple Trees – take your choice – informing us that the IGP had been directed to investigate the attempted murder of (yet another) journalist. I have serious doubts that anyone with an uncorrupted brain cell in his cranium was waiting with bated breath for this unique announcement. There had to be even more serious doubts that this directive was, in the last analysis, going to amount to even the proverbial hill of beans. After all, if proof was needed that future conduct (and results) were best judged on the basis of past behavior and the results therefrom, here was as good an opportunity as any. However, we were saved the proclamations of affection and alleged friendship with the victim that was the case when Lasantha was killed.
Such is the state of the Rule of Law in this country! All the blathering of sycophantic hypocrites, some dressed in academic garb and in or out of favour with our replication of Mediaeval Royalty, cannot obscure that fact one whit! Not even when they strive desperately to portray themselves as champions of human rights now and forever.
What is fascinating, though, are the theories that are emerging from various quarters as to who was behind the shooting and why it was done. The “why” part has produced as much conjecture, inclusive of wild and woolly guesses, as the “who” part.
It is symptomatic of the times though, that there are so many wildly-disparate theories being peddled. The reason for that particular state of affairs cannot but be obvious to anyone who is familiar with what happens when there is massive repression of basic information, leave alone the expression of opinion. I am constantly informed by those near and dear to me that I should not, ever, express an opinion that is, in any way, contradictory to the official line. The manner in which this is expressed is totally unlike what I (and many others) have experienced in countries where common-or-garden democratic practice, inclusive of dissent, prevails. What I am speaking about is not disagreement of a polite or angry nature. What I am being told, over and over again, is that dissent of any description is just not “on” and simply places one in danger of being “terminated with extreme prejudice.”
And now with the attempt on Faraz’s life, the number of “I told you so” comments has simply exploded! The arguments are hard to refute when the one newspaper with familial connections to the Leader of the Opposition has, for a considerable time, been censoring itself, and EVERY other newspaper is under the total control (in some instances, ownership) of the government or those with declared allegiance to it. And the definition and the extent of “declared allegiance” in Sri Lanka should be evident to anyone with even one of the earlier-mentioned uncorrupted brain cells in his cranium.
So where does one go for information of a kind that might be considered un-doctored, un-censored and with at least a kernel of truth?
Using web-proxies, many are getting round the fact that the government has blocked various websites that are critical of the Rajapaksa Regime and are likely to publish some “informational dynamite.” If one has this capacity and unfortunately I don’t, it could be most entertaining if not informative. Then there are those places in the wide world of the internet that presumably escape the attention of a government with access to Chinese technology that is pre-eminent in the matter of intercepting, hacking and doing all those weird and wonderful things to communications out in the ether. And lastly, there are those websites carrying material critical of the government which can be accessed by Sri Lankans because they also carry significant amounts of propaganda from the government’s paid hacks, professorial and otherwise.
This still leaves a substantial part of the Sri Lankan population with no access to any information that isn’t simply of a Goebbelsian dimension. I speak here of those people in a country that has a justified reputation for being addicted to matters political and do not possess computers, leave alone access to the internet.
This fact is the reality for a large (larger?) part of the Sri Lankan population and it carries some real advantages as well as risks to a repressive government which has left no doubt but that it is headed to a complete subjugation of a population the size of Australia’s.
The plus side of that ledger insofar as the Rajapaksa Regime is concerned is the obvious advantage of being able to treat Sri Lanka like a large mushroom farm, keeping it totally in the dark and feeding it bulltweet.
The debit side of that self-same ledger is the fact that word-of-mouth becomes the means by which pretty well all information, particularly of the political kind, gets conveyed.
Do I have to remind anyone reading this column of what happens when information, particularly of a potentially volatile kind, gets conveyed from person to person without benefit of an editorial red pencil of any description? Think about it, folks, and I particularly include our Monarch and Our Rulers in this invitation!