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Cry salt tears against Govt. complicity in crime

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 STATE OF THE NATION: grave, when power covers up its crimes, and often even in tandem with its political opposition

What’s worse? A. A hit-and-run where the perp flees the scene; only to surrender himself to the cops the next day; after any evidence of allegedly DUI has been flushed down the tube; literally; or the local constabulary reviews surveillance camera footage and traces your vehicle? Or B. Bond scam culprits who flee the scene; never to surrender; in fact be offered alternative employment and defended to the hilt; by the highest powers in the land today? Or C. Complicity in systematically robbing state coffers in a time of war while enforcing ‘discipline’ against dissenters and dissidents?

Well, it depends on whom you’re talking to and who you are perceived to be. The moment you bring up the bond scam these days, you’re likely to be lumped with the media house that has an ostensible axe to grind against the incumbent prime minister. Their modus operandi may be egregious, and only time will tell if their audiences wise up to it and lose their loyalty to ‘we report, you decide’. However it doesn’t mean that justice has been served in the case of the now four-year -old Central Bank heist.

Nor does it exonerate the previous government under whose administration a similar if not more deeply-entrenched racket existed. In fact, while juxtaposing ‘Yahapalanaya’ with the Rajapaksa regime was once like comparing apples with ‘papols’, in terms of the ongoing CBSL rip-offs at least there’s nothing much to separate the green old boys from the blue dirty old men. 

But when it comes to holding one or the other accountable for the rape of the people’s trust – to say nothing of plundering national assets – it depends on what shade of blood runs in your political veins. (And the camp which holds that both recent scam and erstwhile schemes should be thoroughly investigated and all the usual and unusual suspects properly prosecuted is very thin on the ground.)

Impunity and the sands of time

Which raises the issue: How far back can accountability go before it descends into being a travesty of justice? Will any citizen, state or independent mechanism ever be able to encompass the gamut of abuses to which the principal government banking regulator has been subject since the opening of the economy? Does it make sense even to start an investigation into scams and schemes of decades under the current culture of impunity where a silence has fallen in legacy media on the hit-and-run talk of the town of less than a week ago? The mind boggles and the stoutest heart quavers.

With that said, does civil society not have an obligation to try? Is it not part of the transformational justice process that our civilisation attempts closure for its citizens on the most outstanding issues of its day? From what I see in plain sight and can discern with the dimmest of intuitions, the powers that be are broadly divided into three camps on this issue…


Firstly, there are the lofty ‘Olympians’ whose highfalutin ideals hardly match their praxis. These would embrace both noble ideas like transitional justice – and bring closure to grieving families afflicted by war losses – and less than noble brothers-in-arms whose thieving has caused inestimable national loss. 

On the one hand, these internationalists are probably the last best hope we have of extricating Sri Lanka from a primitive culture ruled by superstitious ultra-nationalism into a global milieu where we have a half-decent chance of finding our place in the sun. On the other, with the possible exception of their penchant for white-collar crime over blue murder, they’re not very different in terms of pulling the wool over a gullible baa-lamb silly-sheep public’s eyes. 

(I won’t even bring up the bodies of the JVP dead again. Or mention the alleged complicity of born-again liberal democrats in brutal crackdowns on inconvenient insurrections. The question is still alive – how far back can or must we track the transparency of even whitened sepulchres?) 


Secondly, you would find that ‘Dionysians’ who grimly take no prisoners would have all wrongdoers hanged from a high yardarm. Such drunken sailors are loose cannons on the deck… and would have absolutist accountability for selected crimes – in the main, cocaine use and abuse. Sad that their moralistic rants and macabre resolution to implement the death penalty doesn’t extend to those whom they would protect with ‘pinkamas’. Those accused of war crimes as well as offences against the common grain of humanity. 

So abjectly hypocritical are those in this camp that they would now offer tea and sympathy to the families of two murdered businessmen. While suffering severe memory loss in a litany of abductions and assassinations – from cartoonists and editors to children – in which they remain the chief suspects. 


Thirdly, look no farther than our emerging neo-capitalist city-state for the ‘Epimetheans’. Who, unlike the Ethiopians, have changed their colour. Where once they chauvinistically espoused total war against terrorism, today even the rising tide of neo-nationalism cannot temper their newfound globalist sensibilities. 

Perhaps the only way in which such ‘megalopolitical’ mandarins stay true to their leopard-spots is in taking a pragmatic view of the war-dead? Let bygones be bygones! And let’s issue death certificates to everyone – including petitioners against the state (who, by now, are themselves probably gone with the wind). 

Maybe the personal fortune of such opportunists, taken at the flood, helps them forget the widows and orphans in the same breath as the street victims whom they mowed down… only to flee the scene – and surrender under duress to the good offices then of good governance turned traitor to its mandate now? 

Talk of the town

Which brings me back to the hit-and-run talk of the town: How well so far have the police managed in their efforts to bring the case before a magistrate? Is it only on social media that keyboard warriors are agitating for a full investigation and prosecution? Can only these armchair tacticians see the pattern of old – the patriarchal protection of political brats across the spectrum? Has legacy media divorced itself from the social contract incumbent on it to speak truth to power? 

All in it together

I’m not holding my breath and waiting for justice to be served, and both hit and run artist and failure to report a crime aider and abettor, to be handed suitably stiff sentences. But hope springs eternal in several respects. Not the least of which is that at least now we the people of these political pastures will open our eyes to the collegiality of crime across party lines and the complicity of the powers that be in protecting political brats. Since the norm is that the governmental (administration plus opposition) super-class sticks together through thick and thin when the going gets tough against one of their own, we’ll all be very surprised indeed if there is a prosecution in this case such that all the old closed cases of politically covered up hit-and-runs are opened up again.

Not holding one’s breath

However hearts may grieve for real war heroes loved and lost, as much as for the Richards and the Lasanthas and many more unnamed and unknown of yore, let us allow the dead to bury their own dead in the land of the living where power is sweeping truth and justice under the carpet. Therefore if there be any vestige of life left in our common spark of culture and decency and civilisation, let us unite in these dark times to demand that at least some light be shed on the misdeeds of those in charge and control who would conceal their misdemeanours in broad daylight. 


(Journalist | Editor-at-large of LMD | Writer #SpeakingTruthToPower)

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