CAPTAIN SRI LANKA: CIVIL WAR – While the nation struggles to transform itself from a post-war to a post-conflict society, our elected representatives appear to have set an ironic agenda for themselves – to bicker and brawl like the very schoolboys who watched them, aghast, from the visitors’ gallery; as partisan and petty personal wants ruled over the better judgment of those who would do well to rein in the worst instincts of those who did poorly to overrule national interest in the interest of those who once reigned (but are evidently not quite yet done and dusted)
As a voter, dear reader, you would have heard – with various states, degrees, and conditions of responses – what’s been happening in the House these days. First, there were fisticuffs and the swearing of entirely un-parliamentary oaths that would put your favourite fish-market of earthy ruffians to eternal shame.
Then, a tad bit before this unseemly fiasco, there was that other imbroglio of members making an almighty ruckus about military security withdrawn as regards a lionised ex commander in chief. And now, to crown it all, there is the saga of the missing MPs and the not so salutary mystery of their whereabouts when Parliament last sat to work at what it’s paid for and was elected to do.
Your responses upon these sordid revelations above would have ranged from awe to pity to shock to horror. (Pity, when you pause to give it thought, for ourselves at our democratic plight. Awe, for being taken for fools for the umpteenth time in the chequered career of our pathetic parliamentary democracy.) Their own responses following the squalid media exposés should have been in the order of guilt, shame, and/or fear. (From what we hear, many of the errant MPs’ replies to pointed fingers and questions asked was: ‘none of the above’.)
One wonders what ails our storm-shaken House. And why grimy and grubby behaviour by scoundrels less fit to set a national example than costermongers and stevedores continues to characterise and stigmatise what less discerning scribes still describe as an “august assembly”. More to the point, perhaps, why the sorry state of affairs is permitted to babble on brook-like, save for the temporary rapids of discipline that are altogether pleasing to the miscreants. Or the shallows of brief suspensions from sittings apiece for the main mischief-makers alone that allows the aggravators time off to wreak God knows what havoc elsewhere – out of sight, but by no means out of mind.
Last but not least, what sign and symbol of the state of the nation this sad ethos of national hooliganism captures, with a nation of later-to-be outraged voyeurs momentarily titillated by a parliament of fowls (or fouls).
First things first
“First, there were fisticuffs and the swearing of entirely un-parliamentary oaths that would put your favourite fish-market of earthy ruffians to eternal shame.”
For those who take pride in these things – and there are some who do, and say or show that they do – Sri Lanka’s national legislature is not unique in the kind of circus that comes to town as regular as clockwork or the type of clownish acts it occasionally showcases. Far from it, to judge from the shenanigans that Facebook posts in the aftermath of the devilry by the Diyawanna highlights. From fist fights in Latin American legislatures to free-for-alls in the caucuses of former Soviet republics, the web is rife with lamentable examples of parliamentarians behaving badly and demonstrating why a collective of baboons is so-called. What is of concern to Sri Lankan legislators – to say nothing of the country’s people, to whom parliament owes it privileges and who owe the demographics they represent a duty – is the type of excuse that senior politicians have trotted out in the wake of the washout by the lake.
#This is normal. #All countries have things like this, from time to time. #We have a right to sort it out. #Boys will be boys. #All in a day’s work, no. #Don’t take any notice, men.
(I paraphrase, of course. If you think I’m kidding, however, read up on the rationales that stalwart parliamentarians have put forward in defence of their ilk and their ills. Rather than hang their collective baboonish heads.)
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Least said, soonest mended. Lot of fuss means a lot of trouble for all. Long forgotten this too shall be soon enough. Let the Parliamentary Code of Conduct regulate all of this.
DEVIL’S ADVOCATE: Let there be sterner measures taken – by Parliament and, if necessary, the Supreme Court – against buffoonish disturbers of the peace in parliament. Let a ^new political culture^ in which the reputation-injured parties themselves rather than the provosts charged with keeping protocol impose monetary fines – say, salaries to be predicated on punctuality and attendance – on MPs who act like costermongers in the House.
Take it on the bumping off
“Then, a tad before that fiasco, the imbroglio of members making an almighty ruckus about military security withdrawn as regards a lionised ex commander in chief.”
Our yahoos need little excuse to run amok. Those yobbos have been known to act like bulls before a red flag for the least provocation – and have no more than a red flag raised by Mr Speaker or the Serjeant-at-Arms for acts of agents provocateurs as little as running riot short of running away with “that pretty bauble” (à la Cromwell) the Mace. Once a national flag was set on flame in the Well of the House over a constitutional wrangle! On another occasion a venerable monk elected to the allegedly august assembly had his, er, testicular fortitude tested in public to test his mettle and his threshold of pain against the stranglehold of politics vile and politicos viler!
So outcry against an ostensibly well-beloved ex head of state having his security detail downsized and its character changed from military to paramilitary is peanuts in comparison. For sure there is a case to be made that the putative victor in the valiant war-games fought and won is evidently a sitting duck for those shadowy elements of renascent terror who are rumoured to lurk in the jungles of the night (“Tiger, Tiger, burning bright”).
But let it be said and remembered among more sober judges of these matters that a large contingent of highly trained guards is no defence when the sentries are among the assassins who have infiltrated home base. The leonine then-General was bearded in his own den and nearly done in. The leopard-like Defence Secretary was targeted and almost blown up in the heart of the city he was set on rebuilding. Thus the pitiful cries of the sheep that their former chief shepherd is exposed has been shown to be a red herring drawn across the trail of their own culpability in covers up vis-à-vis financial crimes at least and perhaps even war crimes against a larger canvas of corruption.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: All the former President’s men in parliament were right to vehemently protest their personal “national hero’s” marginalisation by the present powers that be.
DEVIL’S ADVOCATE: The crocodile tears shed for the insult to an ex-leader might may have white-washed the weepers’ and wailers’ sensitivity to their own misdemeanours which might come to light in the event their erstwhile champion is not returned to power soon in some form to facilitate further white-washing of loyalists.
Missing in inaction
“And now, to crown it all, the saga of the missing MPs and the not so salutary mystery of their whereabouts when Parliament last sat to work at what it’s paid for and was elected to do.”
When Oliver Cromwell said to the Rump Parliament in 1653 “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately” he may have foreshadowed the calibre and ethic of another legislature in another many-sceptred isle of the future. And when he urged his less than august legislators to “Depart, I say! And let us have done with you!” he appears to have been taken more seriously than was his want and their warrant, when our MPs absented themselves from the infamous non-sitting last week which is presently the scrutiny of Speaker, Disciplinary Committee, We the People, and the Fourth Estate.
We would like to know when they were asked – and they assumed – that “in the name of God” they had to “Go!”, where they went… Was it, as is the case with all flesh, to the grave or some other sepulchral appointment so as to cement their excuse for absence? Or the toilet or the privy, these non-privy un-savvy councillors? Or was it to the Savoy where they had been invited for a special screening of Captain America: Civil War?
O, the irony of it! O captain, my captain! That a post-civil-war nation on the brink of post-conflict parliamentary civil war should, in the midst of mighty gnashing of teeth over the allegedly compromised security of its main champion in the aftermath of a May Day rally that effectively spelled civil war between the two main factions led by past and present national captaincies – this presidency – would absent themselves en bloc from the sitting of parliament so that they could sit en masse at a showing of a civil war not only alien but marvellously <no pun intended> alienated from the real world, which, to all intents and purposes of the people whom they represent, has gone with the wind!!!
Issues sans resolutions?
So: What ails our House of cards? Why? Whose responsibility is it to generate and implement solutions in the national interest? A plethora of senseless possibilities prevail over good sense:
NAÏVE/NORMAL~NATURAL: Nothing ails it. It’s par for our parliamentary course. Laissez-faire! Laissez-passer!
NECESSARY/PRAGMATIC: Let Chief Whips, Speakers, Committees to sanction, etc., work it out. It will all come out whitened in the wash.
NAUGHTY/CYNICAL~STRATEGIC: A UNP Government is using an SLFP-heavy Parliament as its happy hunting grounds to separate the men from the boys, to provoke a great divorce for its greatest opponents.
NASTY/SUBVERSIVE: It’s part of a managed spectacle. We’re patsies. They know we’re powerless for five years.