A voice from the past

Thursday, 22 December 2016 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


A DEAD RINGER FOR DUPLICITY – While the republic reels under the regime-normalising deceptiveness of realpolitik, voices from the past speak to their former readership from beyond the grave and their present polity in funereal tones. Be that as it may, Good Governance need not be gulled into abandoning it pledges to pursue and prosecute those guilty of egregious crimes against media freedom, if it is to prove its credentials to the stakeholders in Sri Lanka who are not as gullible as they look…



If things go on like this, Christmas – like local government elections to come – will be a piece of cake… and that joint anniversary on the eight of January next year (Good Governance alive and kicking after two whole years, and gadfly editor Lasantha Wickrematunge dead and buried eight long years) will be just a hole in the ground. That the ghosts of Christmases past cannot forbear to cheer when rank commercialism and crony republicanism kick in, in tandem, as if on cue, is rapidly becoming a foregone conclusion. It is galling that we can see the writing on the wall… and, at present, all it seems to be saying is MEGA SALE and ALL ITEMS MUST GO! (At bargain-basement prices, to boot…)   untitled-2140

As much as the hoi polloi protest when parliamentarians get an undeserved pay rise at public expense, the average person in the street seems to manage better than most come the Silly Season. We may grumble about the increasing cost of living and grouse about the burgeoning debt cycle – but come sales times, and we’re no better than the grubby politicos we’ve come to despise in making sure our bread is buttered with le beurre d’echiré and the X’mas turkey or goose is getting fat! 

The thrice-blessed MPs themselves – blessed to be born into a coconut republic like ours, blessed to be favoured by the gods AKA their political masters, blessed if we the people can fathom what earthly good they are – are sitting pretty (even if they don’t always show up when the House sits) and sitting in clover (never has so much been owed to so few by so many). 

That the powers that be have justified the perks for already privileged members – the Premier with a cheeky smile and flippant witticism, as is his wont when under pressure; the President with a reluctant nod, as grim as death warmed up these days – is a great pity… We can see the writing on the wall… it says LG POLLS – and methinks the gentlemen protest too much when they insist that sops to Cerberus (the wolf at the gate, those hyenas or hangers-on who are needed to boost the numbers in the House as much as on the ground) are genuine requirements to guarantee that ‘Good Governance’ continues apace.


The revelation

Now, you may be wondering what has brought on all this Christmas cheer from your usually curmudgeonly columnist. True, the joie de vivre generally deserts me and a certain je ne sais quoi replaces it at this time of the year, with its empty traditions and careworn rituals and hollow customs. And, if you add the mindless fun, frolic, fellowship, festivities, and fricasseed light-fantastic-tripping to the meaningless waste of delicious food and fizzy drink in a country where too many citizens for mindful comfort are going to hell in a hand-basket, you would understand my melancholy and refusal to be sanguine about the condition of our café society’s soul. But, it is not all this jism-inducing jollity or all that irksome jazzed up faux celebration that has brought up the choler and bile… rather, a recent pseudo-development on the realpolitik front that has flushed the phlegm and my peace of mind down the tube…     


The ramification

The thing that has cropped up off the main political radar to set alarm bells ringing is a less than ten minute long video. In it, a former President and the gadfly Editor I mentioned above have a nice friendly chat on the phone. They talk about mice and men, and women, a certain woman President, an erstwhile Army Commander, corruption and the imperatives a chief executive has to stem and stymie such goings-on under his watch, a plethora of other concerns that boggle the plebeian mind. 

For those who take a more sophisticated or patrician view of politics – in which a private citizen can speak openly to a sitting president – it is full of insights into the state patronage of cronyism, the same old political culture as has always seemingly prevailed, the state of the nation in all its dirty rotten scoundrel-ness. At any rate, it is clear that Lasantha and Mahinda were close friends and colleagues in the grimy give and take of republican politics under an altogether grimmer and grottier dispensation that now prevails.

The shocker for me is not that Mahinda and Lasantha talked to each other. That is hardly a revelation, since the latter’s proclivity to inveigle powerful politicians was as well-known as the former’s penchant to spill the beans about goings-on under CBK’s regime, for instance, to a sympathetic ear – which he evidently had in this senior journalist and one-time politico. There is parity of status, as it were, that reeks of complicity and familiarity which is shocking to those who observed the nexus between State and Fourth Estate under the Rajapaksa administration. 

As much as it challenges its hearers now, the audio track of the tape must have comforted these two interlocutors then. To all intents and purposes, Lasantha – for all the power and pathos of his posthumous editorial: that piece of alleged accusation from beyond the grave – seemed to slumber in a wonderland where (although all was not well) neither he nor Mahinda envisaged the intentional assassination of an iconic anarchic Editor under a war-winning President’s victorious watch.     


The resolution

All of which raises a panoply of questions in my troubled mind’s-eye:

Why this tape of all tapes, now?

Whose interests does it serve most, maybe thereby pointing the finger of suspicion for its release in these uncertain transitional times?

What purpose does a partial revelation like this serve, and whose agenda will it further, while realpolitik in all its rottenness envelops the state on all sides?

Would that you had heard the tape, O reader! No doubt you would be able to add a cataract of questions to my kaleidoscope of inquiry?

Be that as it may (as Lasantha was fond of essaying in his trademark editorials, not many of which sounded anything like his much-trumpeted last post), I’m going to take the plunge – and a risk – in suggesting some possible scenarios as to the timing, purpose, and effect of the video’s spurious positing on social media earlier this week…

NAÏVE: This is just another example of a media outlet doing its job, its duty, in keeping the nation informed about what transpired in the past… so that our present governors and their governed can be better informed and understand future developments more insightfully. (No one believes this. If they do, they’re less than naïve; they’re deluded.)

NICE: It’s good to know what past Presidents and late Editors got up to in private phone conversations, so that the voting public – curious and/or inquisitive – can have an insight into why (although political cultures may change superficially) human nature’s face cannot be touched up by cosmetic make-up.

NORMAL: In the usual run of things, it is par for the course for parties with a vested interest – such as regime change – to drop bricks like this… to put their political opponents on the defensive, to dumbfound the voice of civil society agitating in favour of accountability and transparency.

NATURAL: In the bleak midwinter of “Good Governance’s” honeymoon coming to an end, it is a legitimate tactic by former mandarins ambitious to regain control of state apparatus to bowl a googly at law enforcement’s plodding but perhaps inevitable grind towards exposing the identity of egregious wrongdoers.  

NASTY: Good Governance finessed this! So that it wouldn’t have to prosecute powerful previous holders of office! So that everyone could live happily ever after!

NAUGHTY: Colonel Mustard did it, in secret behind the scenes, with an ulterior motive that smacks of psychosis as much as political ambition. 

While (as a beloved former Editor’s weekly column customarily began) this happened, the plot thickens. Don’t be surprised if it transpires that Lasantha killed himself. Cheers, and a very merry Christmas!

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