By Emil van der Poorten –
When I received from a friend a piece about the very recent investigation of the ethnicity of a prominent member of Sri Lanka’s publishing community by her local constabulary, I was struck by the fact that this lady was one among those whom I’d already categorized (stereotyped?) as among those who disapproved of Sri Lanka’s slide into fascism but who’d done nothing about it and would continue in that same indifferent mode.
To say that the content of her letter was disturbing would be to understate the case. However, suffice it to say that what she’d encountered was in no way surprising to anyone who’d paid even the slightest attention to the serious deterioration of the quality of life in Sri Lanka, with its descent into an indescribable state given the manner in which we started our independent years.
That letter described, in chilling detail, persistent efforts by her local police to ascertain her ethnicity and that of her family and neighbours of Islamic persuasion even though, while her name clearly indicated the connection to Islam, her demeanour and public persona certainly did not suggest even a hint of the Wahhabi ultra-conservatism that many in her community are accused of.
That old lyric of the flower-power years asked of those who turned a Nelsonian eye on the abuse of civility and civilization, “When will they ever learn?” I cannot but invoke that line given that it is so appropriate in its application to those who believe themselves to be politically-sophisticated Sri Lankans.
I have in the past raised this issue, particularly pointing an accusatory finger at such as the “forums” that spend their time tut-tutting around the periphery of the worst abuses of the last vestiges of the rule of law in this land. And suffice it to say that I will not cease to raise this as a damned serious lapse on the part of those with any pretensions to the defence of law, order and elementary decency in this country.
Admittedly, the forces of civilisational darkness keep getting more powerful by the day because the more the-powers-that-be recruit from the ranks of the violent and outright criminal element in our society the more powerful they are likely to get because the recruited individuals and groups, by their very criminality, are increasingly dependent on an all-powerful government for their very survival. Need one spell out then that, when the political tide turns, the likely fate that awaits those who have deliberately visited mayhem, up to and including death, on those who have stood in their path to self-aggrandisement and unbridled power and authority? Even though few of that number have an excess of brain cells to apply to a contemplation of their likely fate when the tide turns, they are not so stupid as to believe that anything but a “sticky end” awaits them when Sri Lanka’s “Judgement Day” arrives.
That fact is the glue that binds better than any 21st century space age adhesive. And it does, because in circumstances where the ruling clique are devoted single-mindedly to plundering the country in any and all conceivable ways and their acolytes are permitted absolute and complete free rein as long as they do not get in the way of that primary goal, the sky is the limit!
Those who visit all kinds of misery on anyone daring to display the temerity to stand in their way know that once their protection – inclusive of heavily-tinted vehicle windows concealing the occupants, heavily-armed personal security and immunity from what used to be the long arm of the law – is all that keeps them from the inevitable wrath of people who are increasingly hard put to feed themselves and their families.
Suppressing dissent in any and every way possible is seen as the only way to keep the masses from throwing this flotsam and jetsam of a once-civilized country back into an ocean that will take it away from our shores. However, this lot is not making any preparations to “go gently into the night!” Far from it, particularly because that particular option is not likely to be available to those who’ve practiced violent criminality in the name of “governance.”
There is, of course, the business of having various elements of this fermented fruit salad that passes for a national government continue to circle the wagons, firing up, down and sideways at anything moving or stationery. Given the composition of the current government, this is not hard to accomplish, particularly when it now has become par for the course to have to extend apologies to our giant neighbor despite the fact that Narendra Modi’s lot are the most natural allies that our government could ever have wished for from across the Palk Strait. Despite the fact that our international credentials in the matter of ill-mannered behavior have been well and truly established, continuing personal abuse of leaders of other countries cannot, in any way, rebound to our advantage and, somewhere along the way, that personal abuse could well cause enough irritation to provoke a response when it is least expected (and most injurious). Shooting at anything that moves does have some risks attached to it and the recent abject apology to the Indian government could well be the tip of that particular iceberg.
In keeping with the ludicrous invitation extended to the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to visit Sri Lanka and observe the unfolding Miracle of Asia is the spectacle of jurists from London being invited for all-expenses-paid holidays in Sri Lanka as “advisors” to the current familiocracy’s “investigative” efforts. One of these men has apparently publicly pronounced his belief that killing 40,000 civilians in order to free 300,000 of their friends and relations, allegedly all being held hostage, is perfectly acceptable “collateral damage.” This certainly reminds me of a certain Desmond de Silva whom I had the misfortune of having in a sub-teen cricket team that I captained such a very long time ago! It also brought to mind the conduct of his father who, perhaps for the wrong reasons, was a well-remembered member of the Kandy bar and a UNP “stalwart” who avoided any revenge by a vindictive SLFP by keeping his head down, not doing anything to display opposition to it, until JRJ came along to elevate him and others of his ilk to positions of some importance and significant income as Ambassadors. His grandfather whose statue still stands in a little park in Kandy town with one of his hands behind him in a manner that many have suggested was most appropriate was a legend in his time, assuming one wishes to be remembered for the reasons that George E. De Silva was. Suffice it to say that the third generation also now appears to give ample evidence of the ability to advance its own fortunes, irrespective of what that entails.
Applying the term “ludicrous” to all of this, coming as it does from a government that consistently claimed that there were “zero civilian casualties” in the final days of the war against Prabhakaran’s horde, doesn’t begin to describe our Sri Lankan reality!. However a sidebar to all of this is the fact that a number of writers to various political and current affairs publications, now wearing cloaks of faux-objectivity, are letting leak admissions that a government (and family) that has been very kind to them, might be guilty of some human frailty. This ranges from little “confessions” that members of the Rajapaksa Regime might not have been perfect in the matter of “reconciliation efforts” to acceptance of the fact that members of that group have been in the business of smuggling baby elephants and forging documents in the crudest manner possible to “legitimize” such action. The next thing you know, some member of the Dead Left will even admit that his leader might be overlooking capital crimes in order to advance their collective political fortunes! After all, this is the Miracle of Asia and one must be forgiven for living in expectation of more similar miracles to come!
That the allegedly-intelligent, moral and ethical segment of our population chooses to turn a blind eye to all of this certainly suggests nothing less than a suicidal impulse to ignore what Pastor Niemoller had to say about Nazi Germany!