By R.M.B Senanayake –
Tomorrow it will be 65 years since we obtained independence from foreign rule. Should we rejoice or lament for we have lost our personal freedom now. We are no longer governed according to Law but according to the will of the ruler. If we displease the ruler we will be punished not according to any pre-existing law but according to the dictates of the ruler. We will be punished not by the courts of law which were established by the British and which we inherited but by some unknown criminals who will abduct us in a white van and destroy us without a trace.
The nation is now 65 years free but our life expectancy as individuals is 74 years. What will be the life expectancy of the nation? We know there have been many nations and civilizations that have disappeared in history. The past in Asia and Europe is littered with states and kingdoms, large and small that are scarcely remembered today. While their names may be unfamiliar- -their stories should change our mental map of the past. We can glean much from these lost empires. Why did they vanish from history? Often they disappeared as a result of internal conflicts. They failed to resolve their internal differences. We too have failed to resolve our ethnic and religious differences. Our rulers seek to equate the nation with the Sinhala Buddhists and seek to over-ride the others who inhabit the country. These minorities can in no way rejoice at the freedom we celebrate tomorrow. Nor can those who value personal freedom do so. It is a day for lamentation.
Robert Higgs the economist of the Independent Institute asks the question –what is the difference between a government and a criminal gang or a protection racket? Governments which claim to have been elected use force or violence according to prior established rules called laws. But when they find these laws do not permit them to do what they want, they make their own laws. So the President now wants to pass the 19th Amendment to the Constitution to make the Standing Orders of Parliament equal to laws. He has changed the Criminal Procedure Code to allow the Police to detain suspects in police custody for two days. That should be enough for the criminal Police to torture a suspect to death and claim that he committed suicide by hanging himself in the cell. Instead of cleaning up their dismal human rights record, the authorities will most likely criminalize human rights advocacy and undermine the courageous work done by human rights defenders and others seeking to expose the violations that take place almost daily.
This type of behavior is not different from that of a criminal gang. Criminals too have their own code of honor among thieves. They will change the rules that bind the gang. But the gang may not accept such new rules and that is the beginning of disputes. In the case of a State the rulers can change the laws but they have to be accepted by the people. But like in the case of the criminal gang the consent of the people only means the consent of those who are part of the gang. So to pretend that the peoples consent has been obtained it is necessary to manufacture such consent. The regime will use the news media, judicial decisions of subservient judges who are stooges, public speeches by political vermin who have bartered their souls for power or perks and now the Face book to imbue the people with the idea that their actions are legitimate. These justification efforts are bogus and any purported expressions of public opinion are also bogus. They do not represent the acquiescence of the people to such arbitrary actions outside the law. Any such manufactured consent of the people is only tacit consent- a mere acquiescence – a widespread resignation ( perhaps based on Buddhist Karmic acceptance) that signifies only that most people are reconciled to their fate, come what may.
Rights to our people are nothing but conventions since they are not based on any religious principles of their religion unlike in the case of the West where rights originated in the Bible. There the concept of freedom is that of a free people with a free will endowed by God and it is this conviction that drives them to protest against violations of their freedom. Patrick Henry said “give me freedom or give me death.” But don’t expect any such convictions from a people to whom religion means nothing more than conformity to rites and rituals rather than any deep rooted commitment to values. Those few brave souls who protested will now have to endure the government’s bullying and intimidation. They risk being abducted by a white van and being killed by hired criminals. But they will have the consolation of seeing the President himself calling over to condole with their family. Mussolini who is one of the modern exponents of state terrorism got King Alexander of Yugoslavia killed in 1934. He attended his funeral in full uniform and wept profusely. Activists for human rights face harassment and intimidation. They will be under constant surveillance by the security forces, and will lose their freedom of movement both within and outside the country in breach of their right to freedom of movement. Many are likely to be beaten up, by men in civilian clothes who are agents of the security forces.
The most we can expect from those who oppose terror is a type of sullen resentful acquiescence. It is not that they have surrendered their values and moral compulsions but their lack of will in the face of the insurmountable enemy. The danger is that our people may after a time get used to accepting things as they are because they have not known anything better. The English educated middle class may not fall into this category but the large bulk of the peasantry know nothing of such values of freedom. The politicians have over the past 50 years bribed the people with goodies and made them look up to them for favors. To get such favors the people would have to vote for the victors. If they have voted for the defeated they will be harassed and deprived of whatever benefits their compatriots enjoy from the State. The people have bartered their rights for the favors doled out by their politicians.
Robert Higgs points out that the assumptions about the nature of politicians are wrong. He states “I quickly learned that the politicians in Olympia did not fit the model I had mastered in my education as an economist. To be sure, they sought to feather their own nests, by hook and by crook. But, in many important cases, they acted simply to hurt their political and personal enemies—whose ranks, in some cases, were quite large. Often, it seemed, Mr. P was clearly “out to get” Mr. Q, and he was not simply seeking this objective, other things being the same; he was actually out to get Mr. Q even if he had to bear a cost in doing so. So, despite the formal models and informal rhetoric that economists and other academic specialists wield in their research and writing about politics and government, a critical element tends to be completely overlooked: the powerful role of aversion, dislike, and hatred”.
This sort of preference is the political sentiment Vladimir Lenin expressed when he remarked: “My words were calculated to evoke hatred, aversion and contempt . . . not to convince but to break up the ranks of the opponent, not to correct an opponent’s mistake, but to destroy him.” Henry Adams observed that “politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.” So don’t be surprised that the Bodhu Bala Senawa is attacking the Muslims. A new enemy must always be manufactured for the safe tenure of the ruler’s power, as George Orwell pointed out in 1984.
“Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral color when committed by ‘our’ side.… The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”So who says our soldiers and those in command committed war crimes? Not by us but only by them.
The only consolation is to know that Libya under Gaddafi provided every benefit for the people from the coffers of the oil rich State but could not prevent the upheaval. Sri Lanka of course is not Libya. We have no tradition of revolution and the youth who staged them were mercilessly decimated on the two occasions in 1971 and 1988/89 without any protests by the elite . So lament for God alone can help us now.