By Emil van der Poorten –
Written on the cusp of an election that is supposed to provide Sri Lankans with a clear idea of where this land is going in the next little while, the title of this piece does, I hope, clearly indicate the dilemma that faced most of us.
Let me expand.
On the 10th of February, we would have lined up at polling stations. (At least I hope there would have been enough of us to form lines). This is when the need for a contortionist’s skills would have been most urgently required to perform the single most important duty/exercise-of-citizenship facing anyone residing in an allegedly democratic country.
One would have needed a contortionist’s skill because it is not easy for the average person to hold his/her nose while placing an “X” on a piece of paper that threatens to blow away at any moment, that’s why.
The next question posed could well be “Why did you have to prevent your olfactory powers from operating while performing such a simple task?
The answer to that is that the choices were so odious that one ran the risk of asphyxiation if you had accidentally breathed in while, in any way, invoking the presence of any of the protagonists.
The Lotus Bud gang hardly need description of any kind. Simply viewing their track record of murder, mayhem and embezzlement on a national scale should suffice.
Then there were the surviving elements of that briar-smoking, Greyhound breeding three-piece-suiter, the “SWRD” of Sri Lanka who, with his “Sinhala-Only” policy condemned several generations of his compatriots to one of the technologically most awkward languages spoken only by fifteen million of a world population of goodness knows how many billion. Of course, setting the standard for such things, that product of the Oxford Union ensured that his own progeny suffered under no such constraints. Coming events casting their shadows in the matter of creating for one’s own circle, a milieu in which they would start ahead of their fellow citizens and put even more distance between themselves and the great unwashed as the years went by (and their bank balances grew). I think it was the Yugoslav Communist Milovan Djilas who coined the term “New Class” and that is what we are talking about here.
That the foundation on which Bandaranaike built his edifice grew stronger as the years went by is very obvious by what we have as our “Sri Lankan Reality” today.
Of course “Yankee Dick” Jayewardene’s contribution towards expanding the ranks of the Sri Lankan social dalits must not be missed. That worthy ensured that amorality achieved complete respectability in the practice of government. Simply put, you could do anything under his watch and while within his ranks as long as you did not get caught.
While all of that might provide some weird and wonderful justification for our current predicament in the matter of governance of what was once considered the epitome of democratic practice in South Asia, it still did not make the task of anyone going into a polling station on February 10th any easier.
I have sufficient belief in the essential decency of human beings to think that those having to vote in the coming local government elections have one of the most unenviable tasks that we’ve ever been faced with.
At least in recent times, until the change of government in 2015, we didn’t have proof positive that the opponents of the Mahinda Rajapaksa horde were but a small step behind that lot in the matter of corrupt practice.
What makes it even more aggravating is the insult that is proffered to the thinking public by this lot when they mouth platitudes about erasing corruption from the face of Sri Lanka. Some of these people have a documented track record of sucking up to the Rajapaksa lot until Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated by the current President. In fact, there is continuing proof of these same butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouths “patriots” continuing to cozy up to those who operated the most violent and corrupt regime in our seventy-year history as an independent country.
The fact that Mr. Sirisena, by virtue of the fact that his very life and that of his immediate family were under threat at the time he had the temerity to contest Mahinda Rajapaksa, would be less likely to encourage a return of that retinue is cold comfort in the context of whom he has surrounded himself with from the rump of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) or the coalition which it led. If the behaviour of any of that band is subject to even cursory scrutiny, the danger of puking is a very real one.
What is one left with? Voting for “The lesser of two evils?” But how do you even begin to measure that “evil?”
It would seem that, no matter what one’s choice has been, the only practical way to have performed one’s civic duty without requiring a cleaning crew behind you in the polling station, would have been to hold one’s nose with one hand while trying to place your “X” on that piece of paper with the other. Talk about Hobson’s Choice!