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Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted


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By Sharmini Serasinghe

Proactive, or control a calamitous situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened, is not a quality our laidback bureaucrats and their masters are familiar with. No matter which political hue they belong to, proactive they are not!

Instead, they remain inactive until the situation goes beyond control and only then do they react. Usually, too late!

Be it a flood, drought or a manmade disaster, inactive followed by reactive is the usual norm and that too after several yawns, much head scratching and foot-dragging. Then, they all get knee-jerked into a spin, react like a bull in a China shop and run around pell-mell trying to force the marauding animal back into the stable. In the interim chaos has unfolded, lives and property lost and an anxious nation shivering under a dark cloud of déjà vu.

Much could have been prevented had those hinges and locks on the stable door been well oiled and shut in time, viz. Proactive!

Once all hell breaks loose the blame game and finger pointing starts. It’s never the responsibility of those who are rightfully responsible but the blame is laid at the doorstep of every Tom, Dick and Harry. 

Post Kandy hell-fires, some in Government are reportedly claiming it cannot be blamed solely on the Government. The reason, it lacked preparedness in facing violence of such a scale! Honestly, if not the incumbent and its white elephant bureaucracy who in heaven’s name is responsible for the lack of preparedness?

Instead, fingers are now pointing at intelligence authorities for supposedly failing to assess the scale of violence in advance in order to take pre-emptive measures. Don’t these ‘intelligence authorities’ also come under the purview of the Government, namely the Ministry of Defence?

We are living in times when even a lump of flour in a packet of food can trigger extremist elements to run amok, as in Ampara. The unfortunate assault by a few Muslim youth on a Sinhala lorry driver and his subsequent tragic death happened hot on the heels of the Ampara chaos and, common sense or intuition sensed red lights flashing in the Kandy District particularly after the tragic death of the driver concerned. Without waiting for ‘intelligence authorities’ to tell us, it was obvious to those of us with common sense that Kandy was waiting to happen in the almost immediate aftermath of Ampara.

Now, the country is returned to a state of Emergency, a blow to the economy with foreign governments issuing travel advisories against Sri Lanka, and that too during the peak tourist season, followed by the blanket social-media blackout leaving those dependent on it for their daily bread wondering what hit them and for no fault of their own.

An entire country is now being made to pay the price for political and bureaucraticapathy! 

When it comes to self-serving purposes however, viz. an election, both ‘Proactive’ and ‘Hyperactive’ work hand in glove. The good, the bad and the ugly gird their loins and with shoulders to the wheel go into overdrive. Such enthusiasm and energy one never sees when they see no personal gains in the offing. 

In 2012 when saffron-robed extremists took to the streets and launched their campaign of spewing venom at the ‘Other’ the then incumbent President chose to be inactive, as did the incumbent of July 1983 – the start of a 30-year civil war. Proactive was kept at bay for reasons best known to the incumbent of ’83. By the time ‘Reactive’ was allowed to get activated, all hell had broken loose. Had ‘Proactive’ acted in time, our recent history would have read quite differently. 

While the incumbent of 2012 was basking in the glory of winning the war and spoils of power, religious  extremists and racist maggots were being carefully nurtured and propagated by the self-serving and warmongering in his bandwagon. The man remained inactive while these extremist maggots with impunity started eating into the foundations of peace and stability in this country once again.

His apathy for whatever reason to act against this antisocial menace has now snowballed into what we are seeing today. It’s already late but not too late to squash them!

Before long all those responsible will as usual shrug it all off, bury their heads in the sand and adopt a “what’s done is done” or “this too shall pass” attitude and continue their daily masquerade, while the glaring truth is what was done is still being done and will continue to be done if not put a stop to, in the here and now!

Entering this ugly scenario is the alarming attitude of the general polity; “their people, not our people” or worse “we are not affected, it’s their problem, not our problem”. Little do they realise that “their problem” eventually boomerangs and becomes everybody’s problem. Our children, including those of the “we are not affected, it’s their problem, not our problem” and their future suffer, the economy suffers, in short, the entire country suffers. Few seem to have learnt a lesson from the 30-year civil war from which we are still recovering.

Mr. President, many of us betrayed our party loyalties and voted for you, only to rid this country of a racist, self-serving demagogue and his clan hell bent on driving us and our country to another bloody war. What difference have you made?

What will it take for you to realise and appreciate the faith the voter placed in you, especially the minorities who voted for you? They literally placed their lives in your hands hoping you will make that change to ensure peace and stability for them. What have you done to follow up on the promises you so piously made?

It’s yet not too late to redeem yourself and walk the talk, Mr. President. You are here today and gone tomorrow and with it your title and all the glory that goes with it, no matter what political gymnastics you perform to hold on to them. However, what you will be remembered for by future generations will be your action or inaction. 

Meanwhile, we have a Prime Minster whose focus seems only on the far future vision and economic stability of this country. This is all well and good and will undoubtedly help ease the frustrations of the economically frustrated but what purpose will good economics serve in the absence of law, order and peace when the polity at large is increasingly becoming polarised and many among them are shuddering with fear for their lives and property in the here and now?

Religious extremism is a deadly weapon in the hands of the ruthlessly-ambitious 

politician!


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