The mote is seen,the splinter is ignored


There are a couple of characteristics that we Sri Lankans share and many more that the Sinhalese people demonstrate. We are genial, foreigners say, and smile freely and start conversations even more readily. Another national trait according to some expatriates, is that we are over-fond of discussing our ailments – both minor and major - at social gatherings and itemize very accurately the medicines we take. "No wonder the many many pharmacies" they say.

A new fad: mass protests

A recent trait is that we are ever ready to see the other’s fault while ignoring our faults and complicity. Often the government is the ‘other’ while we carry on regardless - hence my title today. Another characteristic recently adopted by the Sinhalese people who love to hear their own voices and feel important (I do not mean politicians because this is a chronic disease with them) is standing in front of strategic sites like the Fort Railway Station or Lipton Circus, and on roads, preferably trunk routes, and protest. Carrying home-designed and scribbled placards, they shout slogans, usually appointing a cheerleader. Switch on TV news and there invariably is one, if not more, protests by a gathering of people, large or small in number; daily.

We will never forget the protest of the Rathupaswela dwellers asking for drinkable water since a rubber glove factory close by, they accused, had polluted their well-water. It blew up into a huge fracas ending in the army called out and the order to shoot given. Result: two innocent people killed. The protests about piling of garbage – mountains of it – have not been quelled, or a suitable solution implemented.

Protests have intensified of late with older women mostly shouting their guts out demanding that the molestation of children be stopped and going further, that capital punishment be re-imposed. There have been several smaller in size and volume demands for bringing back the death penalty. For me these protests somewhat represent the Biblical quote of Jesus Christ in Matthew Chap 7 "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye but considerest not the beam in thy own eye." It is very easy and sometimes even a form of entertainment to get into your best housecoat (dressing gown) or tuck up your sarong and get on the road and shout for this, that and the other. But not do the little you could do to prevent what you are protesting about.

I was maliciously amused at the call for the return of the active hangman. Did these people know that the ‘eye for an eye’ treatment is no longer in vogue; that capital punishment has been found not to be a real deterrent to fiendish crimes? And did they expect the President to bring back the hangman immediately on getting to know of their protests?

Protests have become a fad. I think the rash started with politicians and two in particular. One was wont to shout barbs at embassy gates and even went further to undertake a lie-down protest blocking the entrance to the UNO Office in Bauddhaloka Mavata. The other person, his boss, encouraged vociferous protests and had his helpkarayas engage people in protesting by giving them, we have heard tell, a quantity of alcoholic drink, a thousand rupee note or two and a buth packet to shout in his favour or against his rivals. Remember the orchestrated protest at the entrance to the road to Parliament when the lady Chief Justice was being impeached. Those shouting, admittedly ugly people all rough and sweaty and projecting hate, knew next to nothing about CJs and what the lady was accused of but shouted, paid and palavered as they were.

What could and should be done instead of public protests

What I mean to say is, these women protesters against child abuse particularly, should conserve their vocal chords, time and indignation and channel them in a much more useful and purposeful manner. They should first and foremost protect with greater diligence children in their families, and in neighbours’ families and generally be vigilant in their living areas. We know how effective vigilantes are. If the women, mainly the older who are freer of family responsibilities and household chores, had their ears and eyes open in the hamlet where Seya lived, they would surely have got to know of a young man in the vicinity who was ‘queer’. A man given to such depravity as shown in what he did to that toddler of five years would have shown signs of a troubled, maladjusted personality both in face and body, if not talk and mannerisms. The women could then have warned younger women in the place to take greater care of their little children. But the truth seems to be the murderer was noted but not reported nor taken for medical help. Time was when villages always had a Loku Menika or Sopi Hamy who was not only a gossip but a prodder into everybody else’s business. Such are needed now very badly since mothers of small children often go to work in offices and factories and returning tired, haven’t the energy to check on their children. Older aunts and grannies could oversee homes and, smelling danger, warn parents and even act Miss Marples. No, this does not get them on TV screens, another fad nowadays, again imbibed from politicians.

I sympathize with them but cannot but blame parents and mothers especially in instances such as the crime perpetrated on little Seya and that ten year old boy who was hacked to death. Molestation of children, rape and murder are most definitely becoming more common and almost getting out of hand. Reasons adduced are many: the encouragement of the criminal element through malaise; growth of population; too close living; mental and emotional imbalances caused more frequently and TV of course with its violent films. A definite cause is the easy availability of pornography in cell phones, and unemployment of youth. We know how Satan finds ‘work’ for idle hands. But to me the principal cause of the deterioration of morals and committing heinous crimes with no apparent fear is the stark impunity with which high ups in the political arena got away with corruption and crimes with none called to account. I need not quote examples, they are all too well known; committed within the last ten years up until January 8, 2015. Evil trickles down fast; the idea of impunity, though unknown by lower strata of the population, is imbibed readily. With a change in the style of government and the yahapalanaya air we breathe, we hope for a trickle down of decency and decline of psychopathic behavior.

The police should, instead of warming their official chairs all day and leaving station only when a crime or theft is reported, go on jeep patrols on the streets to make their presence felt. I am sure crimes of the kind we’ve witnessed recently were much less when during our civil war more khaki was on roads, even in small towns. Villagers should encourage Nosey Parkers and even organize vigilante groups. Much work could be done by religious institutions. Buddhist temples and Christian churches do undertake social work. Drunkenness and drug addiction are being addressed with not much positive results, it must be admitted. But if women are gathered together and awareness created on social evils, psychopaths and such like, I am sure heinous crimes against the weakest in society will be reduced

We now have a dynamic Head of the Child Protection Department. Complaints have to be made to that authority. Vigilance is what is needed from all sectors of society from religious persons, through the police to town and village dwellers. I do not mention however, Pradeshiya Sabhas and other smaller units of government; these institutions had some bad eggs during the previous regime.


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