Colombo Telegraph

“Yahapalanaya” Vs “Ohey Palayang” Government

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

I have to acknowledge my gratitude to a friend who shall remain nameless for coining the second term appearing in the title of this piece. I believe he very accurately described the dismissive attitude that our current government has adopted towards those who put it in power and its attitude towards those it claimed to represent in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

The increasing equivocation of this lot is, at least, something that our recently-deposed would-be Emperor could not be accused of. Even in the vilest acts that were performed under the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime (MR1), there was seldom the dimension of vacillation in the matter of decision-making. This was true even when those decisions were driven solely, it seemed, by the needs of shifting political expediency. In any event, MR1’s over-arching threat, terror and ruthlessness took care of any perception by the general public of anything resembling weakness or vacillation!

Apart from the political flotsam and jetsam that constitute a large part of our multi-party Cabinet, this government chose to appoint to very senior administrative and management positions those who never so much as dissented while the MR1 bunch were acting with absolute impunity. What this amounted to was best expressed by what I was told a senior member of the United National Party had said when taken to task for seemingly-endless silence during the heyday of impunity: “What to do, machang, have to put petrol in the Benz no?” That is the attitude that is in the process of being rewarded by the Maithri/Ranil (MR2) dispensation.

Then there were the senior government functionaries who, without question or apology, carried out the diktats of the MR1 dispensation. Many of these were not only unprincipled but criminal by any definition. By virtue of their “seniority” I am told and “their ability to do a good job” they have been installed or re-installed by the current government where they can do us, the great unwashed, more damage again and proceed to walk off scot-free to display their administrative skills even when, God forbid, there is a return to MR1.

At this point, let me deal with a constant excuse I hear from the apologists for those creatures who wielded considerable power and exercised it with abandon more times than I care to remember. That excuse is, over and over again, “they were only doing their job.”

Those who operated the gas chambers at Auschwitz were also “only doing their job.” Do I have to be more explicit in the matter of my opinion of these functionaries who performed the bidding, without complaint, of those pulling the levers of power during MR1?

I don’t – and I don’t see how anybody pretending to even some basic code of morality or principle – subscribe to a system of forgiveness that not only permits these people’s transgressions being going unpunished but permits and encourages their elevation to positions of influence and power to do more of the same, in what amounts to a gesture of approval.

Franz Kafka, where are you when we need you most?!

The early indications of the stage being set for these individuals to crawl out of the woodwork was the elevation of those previously loyal to Ranil Wickremesinghe who had very effectively kept themselves out of any likelihood of being caught in the line of fire during the MR1 years, being placed in positions of authority and importance. Even attending the same school as our Prime Minister, now considered as providing the key to power, hardly even begins to explain what is happening around us.

Make no mistake: there is no way that any senior functionary in the dictatorship that was deposed a little more than a year ago, wasn’t a participant in the violence and corruption that dominated a decade of Sri Lankan politics. (Do I have to trot out the Auschwitz symbol again?)

Many of those who have recently emerged, after the dust has settled on the MR1 regime did more than pull the levers of our own version of the gas chambers. They were active participants at the decision-making table and made little secret of why they were doing so: to provide support to MR1 who repaid them quite handsomely.

That our current rulers have chosen to elevate such creatures to positions where they can make decisions of importance that effect the everyday lives of all of us is beyond credibility. It is simply obscene!

While all this is going on, you have what is allegedly Sri Lanka’s principle English language daily, hosting and making enormously popular a series of gossip snippets about the shenanigans of some of these people, ensuring, of course, that none but the “inner circles” might be able to accurately identify who the miscreants are in each vignette! After all, you wouldn’t want the hoi polloi to find out who is using their money to chase some high-priced call girl or attend some private hospital that specializes in the reversal of the effects of an overdose of aphrodisiac, would you? Not if you valued your government advertising revenues!

The rot began with the obscenity of a “national government” which was little but a bunch of recycled political has-beens who had, immediately preceding their new elevation, been kicked out by the voters of this country. It is evident that, at that point of time, the stage was set for the re-installation of people in positions of power and authority who should have been consigned to the dustbin of Sri Lankan history. One can but express the forlorn hope that it might still not be too late for us to rid ourselves of this pestilence and establish something resembling principle and decency in what used to be called the “Swivel Service” and those heading all kinds of important entities expected to provide very important services to the citizens of Sri Lanka.

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