By Emil van der Poorten –
As I write this, I am informed that the price of large (“Bombay”) onions, a staple for all the “rice-and-curry eaters” has doubled in price in the local market. I am also told that rice has jumped in price. Coupled with an increase in bus ticket prices and several other essentials inside and outside the categories of food, clothing and shelter, these are all costs that are disproportionately borne by the poor and middle class in a country where there is no progressive income tax structure and where, to add to the misery, a relatively miniscule part of the population pays any taxes at all, while the “stinking rich” get off scot-free thanks to “incentives” of various kinds that obviate the services of some slippery ‘tax consultant’ to ensure avoidance. And, please note, I have not so much as mentioned the contribution of the “kudu mudalalis,” extortionists and other practitioners of the truly ugly arts!
Yet, it seems with the additional provocation of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (attended by less than half of those “heads,” it appears), one’s auditory (if not olfactory!) senses are being assailed by the “peace dividend” that we are allegedly harvesting at this point of time. Maybe, the more affluent and city dwellers of the upper and middle-classes are enjoying life a great deal more than they did during the times of the lurking Prabhakaran monsters. However, those who lived and continue to do so in the hinterland have seen a significant reduction in what little they might have had as disposable income. Whatever food substitution was possible by virtue of living in rural circumstances has been increasingly reduced by the growth in numbers of vermin that compete more than successfully for what food the human inhabitatnts might have been able to grow above or below the ground. Suffice it to say that the numbers of wild pigs, porcupines, giant squirrels and that ultimate curse of rural Sri Lanka outside the forest areas, the macaque monkeys, seem to have grown exponentially. What (illegal) means of control this part of our population had via snares, trap guns and the like have been cracked down upon by the “guardians of the law,” while absolutely no attempt has been made to provide an alternative for those unwilling to surrender the fruits of their labours to their porcine, simian or rodent competitors. And PLEASE don’t give me that “the animals were here first” because that wasn’t true within the last couple of hundred years at least and if you seek to carry such patently fictitious statements forward, not God himself can convince you otherwise!
In the matter of law and order, need a great deal be said when a man who tries to molest a child cuts up the child’s grandmother when she seeks to protect the little one is still roaming free. You want more icing on that particular cake? The sexual molester repeats the attempt on another woman while out on bail and, for reasons, best known to those concerned, is still not in a crowbar hotel. Of course, one must remember that this guy’s relative immunity could well be on account of his being classified as a “war hero” because he has had formal weapons training at a military establishment. I hate to cast aspersions, but I do share the suspicions of some in our neighbourhood that this individual could also be the one who, more recently, attempted to sexually assault, in the early hours of one morning, a woman old enough to be his grandmother. A further indication of the state of peace and tranquility in the neighbourhood, not to mention implicit faith in the rule of law, is that this old lady is not prepared to name whom she might even suspect in this connection!
I cannot resist a little diversion here in the matter of weapons possession.
From all media reports Mr Herman Gunaratne was “packing heat” which he did or did not discharge at that now-famous Matara altercation where several of his enemies sustained gunshot injuries. In any event, several people were hit with bullets from a sidearm one of which Mr. G. appeared to be in possession of quite legitimately. As one who was refused a licence to purchase a single-barrelled shotgun for crop protection by virtue of being a “senior citizen” some years ago, I find this quite puzzling. Mr. G certainly fits in the same age category as I do, unless the Presidential soothsayer has succeeded in turning back that particular clock, and it might be interesting to know how and why an exception was made to an age barrier which, I was informed at the time, was specifically brought in by the Secretary of Defence. “Diff’rent strokes for different folks?” Also, I suppose, the usual apologists for this horde will rush in to say that Mr. G, being a Presidential Advisor was entitled to a semi-automatic weapon intended to be used against human beings while I had no right to an SBBL which I might discharge at a wild pig or a monkey! I wonder whether the establishment of this principle can be described as yet another improvement to the quality of life in the Debacle of Asia?
The CHOGM has had the official Sri Lankan message, already repeated ad nauseam, that the right to life supersedes all other human rights. And you will get NO argument from me on that score. However, when the protection of life is deemed to make UNNECESSARY all other human rights, I’m afraid that we have, at best, to agree to disagree. And that is the burden of the song that is being repeated ad nauseam at this farce of a CHOGM, which if truth be told, doesn’t qualify for the words signified by its three middle initials! It is not without significance that the one-person Hallelujah chorus for this refrain is the absolutely reprehensible Tony Abbott of Australia who will soon have a bit of explaining to do in the matter of his Coast Guard deliberately abandoning a boat load of asylum seekers to a watery grave.
What has Tony Abbott to do with the predicament of people increasingly deprived of their right to law and order in the hinterland of Sri Lanka? Suffice it to say that he is symptomatic of the privileged few who believe that the right, as the US Constitution famously put it, to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” are living in cloud cuckoo land and they should consider themselves fortunate that even the first right in that list counts any longer. What is very conveniently ignored is that if you ditch the second and third of those precepts, the first is not worth the paper on which it is written!