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Is the Ship of State listing to Port?


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Friday, 16 December 2016 00:05


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SHIPWRECK? – Between the Scylla of statesmanship turned sour and the Charybdis of allegations of corruption and politicisation, the ship of state is floundering in troubled waters. But it doesn’t have to end in tears; for those helmsmen once seemingly committed to sailing perilous seas under the steam of principle rather than the sails of pragmatism can still take the rudder before the vessel founders – leagues short of its destination, fathoms beneath its enterprising potential

 

I thought the war was over. But military matters are much in evidence seven years after the last battle’s last barrage ended with a bullet-ridden body beside a bloody lagoon. 

South of the country’s “Chinese border”, Captain Haddocks wreak havoc by assaulting journalists in pursuit of their duty… the journo pursuing his duty, the old sea-dog (in civvies, to boot) persecuting the journo prosecuting his duty… to report on the alleged deployment of the navy to quell a mutinous strike by port workers. Then there are those ever menacing military convoys escorting bigwigs trough the bustle of traffic as if there was a Ben Hur at the wheel of a chariot on a bad day at the hippodrome!untitled-2

In the meantime, the defence establishment is sending out what runs the risk of being interpreted as mixed signals. On the one hand, while regular divisions seem confined to barracks, shadowy operatives suspected of having a hand in recent disturbances in the north point a finger to cover military operations taking place under the cloak and dagger anonymity of military intelligence. That oxymoron (“military, intelligence,” I rest my case…) notwithstanding, the Government is decommissioning the likes of Raknaarakshaka Lanka and Avant Garde on the grounds that civilian shipping no longer needs naval security. But on the other, the State Defence Minister is set on building boats to boost the prowess of our isle at sea. “Don’t mention the war! Did so once, but I think I got away with it?”

The occasional atolls like these, which bob about in a state that is almost becalmed by its burgeoning sense of tranquillity, may be few and far between. But these might well signal that all’s not well beneath the submarine surface of state security. Not that there is any danger of war, again – or is there? Why else such sterling security measures for Very Impertinent Persons – who presume on the taxpayers’ impatience, to protect their sorry hides from the wrath of a populace grown irate, at the imbalance between an austerity budget for the masses … while the masters still live and ride in the lap of luxury, safeguarded from critical engagement by their own paid up military stalwarts? And is there anything else worthy of assassination in them save some of their sorry characters, these mandarins being whisked about in their strident traffic snarl-compounding convoys like it was still 2009? (It is still war time in some mikado’s minds, by the looks of it!)

That no less than the Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s armed forces has said with conviction that half of all deals done by the state are corrupt is more than cause for concern. (Read it and weep, O champions of the so-called ‘Coalition to end Corruption’.) It calls for more critical engagement by civil society in general and parliamentary oversight committees in particular, on the political front as much as the law enforcement machinery embodied in the Attorney-General’s Department. 

Who are these corruption-mongers who have managed to get in their foot in at the door of ‘good governance’ and greasy palms on the knob of our incumbent governors? How does the head of state know that half of all that happens between government departments and general dogsbodies in trade and commerce is corrupt? 

What does he mean by “corrupt” – A soufflé of wasteful processes? A flan of criminal mismanagement with a pinch of bureaucratic salt and pepper to appease big business? Or a smorgasbord of grand larceny with generous lashings of bribery with nepotism for nuts and cronyism as coffee and chocolates? Who’s pocketing the after-dinner mints? Whose assorted petty cash accounts is the sorbet of state funding cleansing as an appetiser for the crimes of the century? 

Is any of this tender-minded business the desserts that democracy thinks is its due for saving the republic from a former regime which was said and thought to be utterly corrupt then and deserving of eviction for rank dereliction of duty… although not, it appears, for robbing the nation of its treasures while ridding the state of its terrors?!

 

Knot an issue, sir

Don’t get your lingerie in a sailor’s knot. I simply want to know if what the Opposition alleges is true. That governments may change, but that political cultures don’t. That the incumbent administration may have undergone a sea-change, but it is not into something rich and strange, but rather a poorer and less colourful version of its former self. That it has singularly failed to rise on the stepping-stones of its dead self to greater and higher things. 

Of course, the Opposition has neither the wit nor the wisdom to express itself in such philosophical terms. But in the matter of nautical goings-on in the south recently, it may have a point or six. That while it was roundly condemned for using the military as its personal bodyguard when it was in power, the present government is not above putting the security forces to uses better reserved for stevedores. 

That even in the hands of men about whom it is essayed that the pen is mightier than the sword, the temptation to deploy muscle to suppress dissent and dissension is mightiest when those men are normally meek. That – like Sir Lancelot of the Lake, about whom it was said that he was “meek in hall, but mighty in the field” – the incumbent administration (like others before it) walks softly and carries a big stick. 

That the iron fist in the velvet glove is no less apparent under the rule of men entirely great (and do please take that with a pinch of salt, you land-lubbers) than in the authoritarian antidemocrats they ousted, time now not out of mind, and then at that, to everyone’s good will and pleasure.

 

Put a sock in it, dears

On behalf of the folks who voted for democratic-republicanism over a despotic family masquerading as an authoritarian regime, I’d also like to ask where we voters and taxpayers can be said to stand as far as the defence establishment goes. Can we assume that it will go the way of all flesh – that is to say, towards a sea-grave – and that demilitarisation and normalisation of civilian spaces will become the order of the day? Or unseen and unbeknownst to most and suspected by only less than a paranoid few, is the phoenix of the military-industrial complex raising its tyrannical head again – this time under the aegis of a new or more sophisticated regime of oppression and repression? 

Could it be that international observers, home-based civil-society activists, and a few safely (well, maybe not really, any more) outspoken journalistic critics are right – that security matters and military might are slowly but surely encroaching on equality before the law, liberty to pursue one’s state-endorsed profession, and fraternity with the forces in maintain the peace and not some false sense of détente between an alarmingly jackbooted state and an increasingly cowed down civil society?

Don’t get us wrong. We’re not – like the Joint Opposition – playing politics with your heartbreaking decisions to pursue plans, policies, projects, programmes, and all that jazz to which you were so single-mindedly opposed when you were in the Opposition. 

We understand, we really do, that sovereign states – much less the all-too-transparent governments that run them for the nonce – are bound to bilateral commitments; and much as we lauded your hearty championing of the national interest then, we lament your seemingly pusillanimous caving into to globalist and regional pressures now. Just spare us the propaganda, cant, hype, hypocrisy, and lying silences. We still love you and are almost willing to trust you again. 

Don’t rock the boat… yes, you, sir, the smiling assassins who make flippant apologies in parliament or profound statements about corruption in public – and then despatch your un-uniformed goons to make short shrift of journalists in pursuit of their duty. They’re doing their job with as much passion as you were in pursuit of your personal ambitions cloaked in the secrecy of constitutional reform and stealth of consolidating respective party powers. 

Should the ship of state – and its escorting flotilla of destroyers, whether a naval fleet deployed to quell a mutiny or a flag officer acting like an errant rating – list to port any farther, we may have to abandon a sinking vessel. Which would be a great sea-disaster for all concerned: since we would be afloat on the high seas sans safety and security from a state sworn to protect the people’s sovereignty – and you no more than flotsam and jetsam on the high political seas where fortune favours sailors braving fair winds and foul.


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