Colombo Telegraph

“They Were Only Doing Their Jobs!”

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

Recently there has been a spate of appointments of camp-followers of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime (MR1) to positions of responsibility and trust in government departments, research institutes and boards with operational and policy responsibilities.

When I have sought to engage some of the so-called movers and shakers and, particularly those loudly supportive of the current dispensation (MR2), I have been met with the response that forms the title of this piece.

To describe that response as being akin to what issues from the south end of a north-bound bull, would be an understatement.

I have had occasion recently to visit, frequently, a major health care institution in the Western Province which was deliberately neglected over the years of MR1 purely and simply because it bore the name of a past President of this country who wasn’t of the same political hue as the Rajapaksa Monarchy.

Among other things, it is patently obvious that the original structure, tile and fittings, particularly in the bathrooms, was of high quality but that neglect over more than a decade has taken its toll.

My initial impression was that there were a significant number of soldiers on the premises because, what turned out to be security guards were dressed in uniforms that, to the lay eye, were indistinguishable from the garb of battle-ready soldiers. The only difference – thank goodness – was the fact that they were not toting side arms or assault rifles. Not as far as I could see, at least.

Examination of their identification patches provided the reason for this uncanny and deliberate attempt to put a military face on a simply civil responsibility in a HOSPITAL, no less. The “unit” from where these men came was the subject of a piece I wrote some time ago on the subject of private armies and the effort being made in Sri Lanka to mimic what George “Dubya” Bush did years ago in Iraq with Blackwater Inc. which was found guilty of all kinds of atrocities. The identification patches said Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Ltd., (RALL) what I then identified (accurately) as the beginnings of Gota’s army, just the beginning of a far larger force with a sea -borne wing as well. A coincidental (?) footnote to that narrative would be the fact that the headquarters of RALL is just down the road from this hospital!

Given the history of deliberate neglect of this hospital by the self-anointed “First Family,” permitting this outfit to continue in intimidating military regalia says more about the current regime (MR2) and its adherence to symbols that we thought we had got rid of. Particularly the military threat of Gotabaya Rajapaksa who, according to the current Prime Minister who supplied, to the media, names and cellphone numbers of those recruited to encircle Colombo before the Presidential election thereby aborting what could well have been a coup d’etat which would have kept MR1 in the saddle.

But back to the iceberg of ironies the tip of which this column seeks to explore.

Guess who was the head honcho in the Department of Health Services when the work was afoot to deliberately destroy this hospital, the fifth floor ceiling of its newest building – housing the Intensive Care Unit of its Cardio-thoracic unit – showing obvious signs of massive water penetration?

I will keep readers of this piece in suspense because if I can obtain basic information from Mr. Google, they probably can perform such a task infinitely easier than I! You check who heads up the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital’s hierarchy today and who presided over its deliberate neglect under a prior regime.

I will not insert into this piece the irrefutable sycophancy of any of those who criminally abused public trust and were part and parcel of the massive rape and pillage of this country. Look around you and you will see that many – too many – of the foot-soldiers, minor ranks and officers of that “army” have been ensconced by this regime in positions of power and authority.

To call this state of affairs disgraceful would be an understatement. That their conduct should go unpunished is bad enough, but to re-appoint them while talking about cleaning out the Augean stables is beyond description.

Let me also add another comment to this business of Rajapaksa’s Foot Soldiers being re-appointed to positions of power and influence.

The people of whom I speak do not belong to the common-or-garden variety of Pandankarayas conducting themselves like stereotypical tuk-tuk drivers. Without exception these are what used to be described as “men of substance” in those bad colonial days. They went to the “right” schools, married into the “right” families (with appropriate dowries!) and were generally expected to “do the right thing.”

In the case of those I’ve stereotyped as carrying a tuk-tuk driver’s mentality, one could perhaps, excuse them because of their need to supplement relatively meager financial resources. That reason/excuse hardly holds good in the case of men (I don’t believe there is a single woman among them) who drive luxury cars, own very nice digs, have academic qualifications that open doors in the private sector, both here and overseas, to indulge in this kind of conduct.

One cannot realistically expect the middle-class dregs that were the senior torch-bearers to the most violent and corrupt regime in our history to wear sackcloth and ashes and retire to some pilikanna. But the least one can expect is that they fade into some (well-pensioned) backroom or well-paying private sector drug baronetcy and not seek to accumulate more money at public expense. Many friends have asked of me the rhetorical question about people of this kind, “’Don’t they have enough (millions)? Why do they want more?” The motivation of such can be expressed in one word: greed.

President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinge: why don’t you match your proclamations about “clean” government and “clean” administration by ridding it of those who were complicit in bringing this country to the verge of total collapse during the ten years that preceded your ascent to power? Those who planned to institute totalitarianism in this country needed minions in the execution of that task. How can you tolerate, leave alone mollycoddle those of that ilk?

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