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Drifting towards darkness at noon
Breeding Wijeweeras and Prabaharans

If the state makes a mockery of democratic customs and traditions it is fomenting the breeding ground for the next generation of Wijeweeras and Prabaharans. Lenin did not make the Russian Revolution, Tsarism did; the people of Eastern Europe did not cause the fall of Communism, Stalin did. Let us not reverse cause and effect; if Prabaharan and the LTTE were terrorists, for that we must thank the State. If a few years down the road disillusioned youth turn once again to insurrection or terrorism, the source lies in the demolition of democracy by systematic repression.

Here is a true story in which I was ‘uncle’. A politically intelligent neighbourhood fellow in his mid teens watched the election story with bewilderment; then when Fonseka was incarcerated, something snapped. "Uncle, your talk of democracy is junk is it not? You old people can go on fooling yourselves, but you can’t fool us anymore" - rough translation from Sinhala. What answer to that? As young people grow up through the fetid experiences and a foul value system that have become pervasive, it is hideous to imagine what lessons they must be learning. The clear headed will hold on to the democratic anchor through the storm, many good ones will opt to be another generation of Wijeweeras and Prabharans, and some, unfortunately, will end up Mervyns. Without venerating the opposition I hold those at the helm responsible as they command the trend setting muscle.

It was a little girl was it not, not the foolish throng, who cried out "But the emperor has no clothes!" When the apogee of power debases democracy without scruple, then the next generation will opt out. This is a more intractable and graver problem than the stealing of one election, the incarceration of one man on sham charges, or intermittently manacling the press. I see the cynicism of the innocents being stoked by the day by the crass irresponsibility of the powerful; there is an intellectual Mervynisation of the whole political space. You don’t believe me? Go ask the Mahanayakes, all four of them.

 

Darkness at noon

A headline in the front page of the Sunday Times (14 Feb) declares "Chinese here for cyber censorship" and the report quotes the new TRC Director General Anusha Pelpita as saying "he did not rule out the possibility of imposing sanctions and censorship". The report adds, "In addition action will be taken to impose controls on the Google search engine". State sponsored banana vendors in the most revolting banana republics are not quite so barefaced about their plans for thought control. This is a frightened regime, scared of truth and transparency; this country has never before been threatened with despotic thought control replicating Chinese or any other Stalinism as the norm; no not ever before. The worst is that once this rotten lot start it, the next government and the ones thereafter, UNP, SF or whoever, will never roll it back; they too will exploit these despotic powers to the full, till one day the people throw out the whole putrid system. Hence I come back to my starting point: The Administration is breeding Wijeweeras and Prapaharans at high noon.

I am alarmed that commentators in the national press take a position of moral ambivalence on fundamentals. The Editorial in one of newspapers I write to and a political columnist in the other had me shaking my head in disbelief on 14 February. Both explained – ‘explained’ not in the sense of why the government did it, but in the sense of justifying the action – that the government had no choice but to take Sarath Fonseka into custody because in a BBC interview a few days earlier he said he intended to reveal details of war crimes. Now if these two worthies had said that this was the government’s motive for the arrest I would have seen the point, but it astounds me when instead they gung-ho justify criminal abduction on these grounds. The moral relativism is patent: If war crimes were committed, such must not be revealed, not by Fonseka or anybody else, it must be concealed. These guys need to pinch themselves: Wake up! Why not put them all on trial, including Fonseka, if a prima face case is established? Not even in the hoary days of Alfonso Capone did Chicago newspapers run columns justifying putting down witnesses for fear that they will incriminate crooks. Evidence must be concealed, squealers silenced; a darkness at noon has descended on the press, no less amoral than in Koestler’s time.

It is also necessary to take to task some naïve but perhaps semi-sincere reasoning which has seen print recently. The government has made the "perfect blunder", say these pubescents, by arresting Fonseka and conveying the impression that it is anxious to suppress testimony. Since our government has nothing to hide, let Fonseka free, let him shout, his lies will be exposed! Does it not strike them that the government may be acting rationally; it may indeed have a lot to hide. Naive "perfect blunder" theorists seem to miss the obvious.

Finally we have DBS Jeyaraj in the Daily Mirror of 13 February doing for the regime what it cannot do for itself. I do not intend to attribute motives but those I discussed the article with have no doubt that its effect is to reinforce assassination and coup speculations and to entangle the JVP. It contained phrases like "It appears that the government is in possession of some information", "It remains to be seen", "What Fonseka’s motives were is unknown", and "Complicating matters further was the JVP factor". Whatever the writer’s motives the end result has been stoking suspicion and breeding doubt.

The damaging assertions include: The Foseka camp recruited deserters and serving personnel vacated post and joined the campaign in droves; the JVP-Fonseka link was "a very big worry for the government" not because of potential electoral setbacks but fear of treachery; "It was alleged that Fonseka while being army chief had fraternised regularly and clandestinely with the crimson comrades (JVP)"; "Lists of names (of Rajapakse supporters) were being prepared" for punishment; "If Rajapakse lost the winners could unleash mayhem and vindictive violence against the President, family members, associates and supporters".

Phew! Propagating these rumours is malevolent; Jeyaraj must now produce hard evidence. He is obliged to back up his assertions with something more solid than; ‘It appears’, ‘The Rajapakse camp feared’, ‘It was alleged’, and such innuendo.

At this stage I must make my own standpoint clear. I support, nay pioneered the term ‘regime change’ because it would have been better than no regime change and am disappointed with the outcome of the presidential elections. Now the slide to dictatorship vindicates this stand – the proof of the pudding, unfortunately, has been in the bitter eating. However I am not a Fonseka man, I am a leftist. As a leftist I oppose trumped up charges and kangaroo tribunals; I am for transparent investigations of alleged security breaches and financial transgressions, explicit farming of charges and an open civil trial. In the same spirit I will join those who will call for investigation and prosecution of those handling the case now, if it turns out, that the processes were mala fides, vindictive or politically motivated.

 

Some living in darkness have seen a light

The aforesaid Political Watcher (PW) has a crazy take on why the Malwatte Mahanayake lampooned Rajapakse for the Fonseka arrest and criticised politicians for misconduct. Nope, we are enlightened by PW, it’s not because he has a shred of public spiritedness or moral rectitude in his bones; it’s all to do with Rajapakse’s refusal to maintain a separate Bauddha Sasana Ministry. This infuriated the Mahanayake and sent him off on a delayed fuse which lit-up last week.

So this hullabaloo, not just by Malwatte but presumably the other three Mahanayakes as well, "has less to do with Fonseka or democracy than the parochial interests of the Buddha sasana", in PW’s words.

I know nothing about the Buddha sasana and even less about religious affairs, but I find it quite interesting that the prima face point that there could indeed be a case of unlawful arrest and that politicos are indeed running amuck, is not given a thought. Ad hominem means, avoid the message attack the person; PW has perfected the art.

I prefer to disagree. The intervention of the clergy against the slide to dictatorship is a good thing. I do not, as a generality, approve or disapprove of any clergy intervening in public issues; it depends on the issue and the stand it takes. Liberation theology is a jolly good thing; the message of Hindutva is an abomination. On this occasion the intervention is in the public interest. As of writing just one Christian Bishop, Chickera has stood up and voiced his concern, others may have by the time you read this. It was disappointing that the post-election statement decrying electoral fraud was signed by only six bishops; a glaring blank was Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith. At a time when the thunder of the Prophets is sorely missed, some bishops prefer the patience of Job! The Mahanayakes seem to have a better grasp of the Old Testament style iniquitous state of our political establishment!

"Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters" (Isaiah 1:4)

I will close by asking an important question; does the standoff between the Buddhist clergy and the regime signal a schism within Sinhala-Buddhism which will have a ripple effect on the national question? Maybe a little, but I veer on the pessimistic side. What has happened is that the clergy, like most of us, cannot stomach what is going on anymore. This is not a rift with deep ideological roots. As events unfold the clergy itself may fracture between regime followers and critics. Anyway, I expect the regime to deftly back down and the fracas to be defused before the elections. Aggravation will have severe repercussions, but I suspect it won’t go that far.

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