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Brats 3.0 and acting the goat

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 12 October 2016 00:01


BOYS WILL BE BOYS? – was once the war-cry of a plethora of pestilential political progeny – it seems the plague isn’t over… and pesky violators of the public peace are perhaps the casus belli of goon-fuelled personal vigilantism on our streets at night – at state expense!


He did it, he didn’t. He was there, he wasn’t. He instigated the whole thing, he only watched from a safe laughing distance while his goons did the dirty work. 

Who is he? What is he doing? Where is the truth in all of this, where is justice?

Well might you have thought of many possibilities to complete the identikit profile above. Has your columnist in mind the boyish thugs of a bygone regime as they strutted and fretted their macho heroics on the rugby field? Or was it of a senior mandarin not unrelated to those juvenile delinquents I had in mind? Is it the present clown, er, crown prince – but not necessarily heir apparent, for ambition must be made of sterner stuff than rambunctious shenanigans alone – I was thinking of?  

In a burgeoning republic where the sins of the children are visited upon their fathers, the culture of bratty thuggish-like behaviour has come home to roost in the domicile of the righteous ruler. Once upon a time, in never-never-land, one would not be far wrong to point the finger at an unholy trinity – a veritable band of brothers, both senior and junior – for what ailed our banana republic at the time… 

Whether it was a fast car crashing on the streets of Colombo in plain sight, or a so-called national airline crash-landing in the Deep South out of sight, with no planes to make it an airport, there was a triad of the usual suspects who were never arrested, lined up, photographed for posterity, locked up – and the key thrown away. Today, both troikas may be a thing of the past… but the culture they spawned appears to be alive and well… alive, armed by goon squads, and dangerous to the public health.

At the time of writing, there has been – as is usual in cloud-cuckoo-land, with Sons of the Most High – chaos, confusion, miscommunication, misinterpretation, and maybe misinformation. No one among the members of the public really knows what happened at the night club; no one within the tribe of mainstream scribes cares to find out or share. With good reason, perhaps, it has been left to jungle telegraph-fuelled social media to drive the campaign against allegedly errant presidential offspring. 

The cloak of secrecy around special reports presented in prime ministerial quarters only adds a patina of suspicion to the thin veneer of respectability of police inaction and the kindly, solicited, patronage of the injured parties who are reportedly under PSD watch while in hospital receiving treatment for ostensibly self-inflicted wounds during the melee.

O tempora! O mores!

The times and customs haven’t changed. Much. At least one presidential brat roams the city at night, pumped to the gills with adrenaline and goon-reinforced Dutch courage: a public menace unchecked by polite society (the operators of the night club have been very civil about the whole thing) or police sanction (that confidential report is as far as law enforcement went). 

Which raises a whole lot of questions for impertinent gadfly observers like yours truly, who are relegated to the dark alleyways of civil society, hiding away from brats and thugs and hoping that no one will notice. (Or that the appropriate representatives of the powers that be will, in fact, sit up and take note; and take relevant, meaningful, significant action – pronto, please, before presidential brats upset the apple-cart of the apple-cheeked romance between their parents and the incumbents.)

What, those questions? Ah, yes, my dears! Here they are:

nWas there a breach of the peace at a popular (no, elitist) night club this week in which CCTV footage suggests members of a highly placed and officially endorsed ‘protection squad’ was involved?

untitled-8nIf so, would the regular police force mandated with maintaining the peace be able to identify and apprehend the culprits? If not, why not?

nIs there any truth to the pernicious rumours that a presidential brat was involved in the imbroglio? Is it only rumoured to be the same young thug who has been guilty on no less than two other egregious occasions before in which he has been accused of violating the public peace and causing grievous bodily harm to third parties inimical to his sense of privilege and position?

nWhat position does a presidential brat hold in the formal republic, and to what perks and privileges does this entitle him? In a nation-state that is officially at peace and is committed to peace with justice at a national and international level, is there not incumbent on presidential offspring to tow their sire’s line in public as well as in private? Or is towing the party, presidential, and official national line only tantamount to elbowing one’s way on to centre stage at an awards ceremony and gate-crashing a global forum to stand proudly beside papa? More to the point, why would the taxpayer wish to protect presidential offspring with cohorts and convoys?

nHas there been a genuine transformation in our political culture such that no one is truly above the rule OF law? Or is it still the case that in some exceptional cases it is rule BY law – whereby certain alleged offenders are exempt from the full and awful majesty of the long arm of the law visited on the general public and political opponents, while bratty offenders with fathers in high places are treated with kid gloves? Can Sri Lanka condone or support such impunity by puerile perpetrators of narcissistic rage in public places or private spaces at state expense? 

A more temperate and sober perspective

Of course, any responsible reporter would be advised to sound to themselves and members of the fourth estate several notes of caution. For as much as we might dislike present presidential brats – as much as we despise past presidential brothers who still swagger about the corridors of influence with impunity – there are legal maxims that must be honoured in the observance. Even though now, as then, these seem to be honoured more in the breach. Which include such principles and values as innocent until proven guilty, audi alteram partem, etc.

Then there are also the possible political machinations behind the scenes which would dearly love nothing else but to see a untitled-7convenient wedge driven between the fathers and mothers of the new social pact we call coalition government or national government or (while in our cups) our last, best, hope for transitional justice and democratic-republicanism and all the other hype and hoopla that brighten our days. 

One would do well to be savvy (whether an armchair commentator like myself or a fingerpointing social media outlet prone to be trigger-happy with the pistols of accusation and apathetic to the facts) about jumping to confusions. The smoking gun may not be in the hands of a presidential brat, metaphorically speaking, but between the grimy paws of those who would see the republic undone by a parting of ways among the many strange bedfellows who are still enjoying a political honeymoon; in some cases literally speaking. (In any case, don’t shoot the pianist: he is doing his best… a little night music never hurt anyone.) 

And last but by no means least, there is the case of the Great Smoking Gun. This attack on the night club and its patrons was carried out by cover of darkness and under the cloak of anonymity. Other far more egregious attacks on the public peace and individual persons as well as their property were carried out in broad daylight in full view of everyone who had eyes to see, and not a sharp-edged killing-stick’s throw away from a high security zone. 

After the passage of nearly eight years, have the alleged villains of that outrageous assassination been arraigned or indicted? Or is government still content to play the goat, er yes goat, ah!, and begin at the bottom – bringing up the bodies, again – when the evidence and allegations and rumours are right at the top? Why not begin there: with the powerful former allies of the previously powerful former administrators; rather than low-level arrests of intelligence operatives who were inevitably and oh-so-obviously to all carrying out orders from high up, not acting on their own initiative? 

In the case of the attack on patrons and officers of the night club, too, will some poor (I use the word without hypocritical sympathy) terrified low life of a security squad member be made the fall guy? Or will government – and law enforcement – grow a pair between them and act freely and fairly to send out to a strong message of rigorous watchfulness to would-be criminals masquerading as crown princes? As much as a subtle message of wonderful reassurance to a public that once placed and still puts their trust in good governance?

Good night, thanks for all the fun

At the end of the day’s work done investigating the strange incident of the dog who barked at night, it might transpire that the defenders of the clown were right after all. But it would behove the defenders of the faith who trumpet transparency and accountability – president, premier, police, patrons of the night club, perhaps the security of the establishment, perish the thought: the security of the squad detailed to the princeling! – to set the record straight. 

Fiat justitia, ruat caelum! Which means that the very responsible national leaders who recently made a reasoned defence of corporal punishment in schools – and who rather decently admitted to having a tough time of it bringing up their brood – must be willing to see justice done… even if the ceiling – or the coalition – falls.

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