Fifty ways to leave your government

Wednesday, 1 June 2022 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

FIFTY WAYS TO LOVE YOUR LEAVER: However, HE isn’t going, going, gone... Yet – So once more, into the breach; this time, to buttress the bastion of citizen sovereignty by bolstering civil society’s lone standing bulwark against a return of this or any other tyrant: investing in our joint futures - Pic Shehan Gunasekara 

In a sad song that tugs at the heartstrings, Sinéad O’Connor sings that “it’s been 7 hours and 15 days since you took your love away”. She’s particularly distraught because “nothing can take away these blues” and “nothing compares to you”. But there’s a silver lining in the cloud of the Celtic songstress: “I can do whatever I want, I can see whomever I choose.”

I was reminded of that sense of marking time from a keystone moment when the emotions of the protestors at the ‘Aragalaya’ ran counter to the Irish artiste’s experience. It’s been 53 days and several hours since the object of their affections failed to drag his sorry carcase out of the premises. And unlike the maudlin nightingale, they’re not so much sad – as mad, bad, and dangerous to know. I know. I’ve been, and seen the spleen on the green.

But Gota won’t go home. Nor will Ranil graciously accept the invitation to ‘go forth and multiply’. If the only thing he brings to the table is ostensible stability to the nation without a much needed legitimacy to his government, it will place him on the far end of the table from the struggling ‘Aragalayans.’ And he himself may well find himself feasting with panthers – if the cornered beast turns on its saviour? 

With the consolidation of the government of the day following Wickremesinghe’s appointment, the urgency of the struggle felt like it had lost its mojo, its oomph and at least some of its gravitas. This meant that, of late, the music seemed to have died... its fading strains momentarily lifted to a brief fever pitch over the weekend on its 50th day. 

With that said – the long, melancholy withdrawing roar as the reinforcing battalions returned to the daily grind of Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, WTF in a week after weeks, leaving only the faithful few to guard the garrison’s HQ at GGG/Galle Face. 

In fact, the only lamentable strains to be heard echoing in the corridors of power recently were president and prime minister hymning a ballad to themselves – and each other: “I know that living with you, baby, was sometimes hard... but I’m willing to give it another try.”

So it’s vital for the apolitical people’s movement that was making such headway until a few weeks ago to rejuvenate its gravamen. To strengthen its arm, to push for a putsch. Not by militant might or anarchic power. But by the wisdom of the serpent and harmless keenness of the dove. And there’s arguably no better way to bolster the bastion of citizen sovereignty in these challenging times than by buttressing the bulwark of civil society.

In short, sweet and simple terms, if you want to change your governors, you have to begin by challenging and critiquing yourself. So here, on the cusp of the 8th week of the unprecedentedly sustainable peaceful protest, are a few thoughts for reflection. 

By those keen that our children – and theirs – may not repeat the mistakes of their elders. 

Or be bowed down by errors of their own arising from a failure to set self right first, before one raises a clenched fist in the faces of our disgraced elected representatives. 

To be able to speak truth to power with courage and conviction, one has to have the high ground of a solider character than those of our politicos! 

#1 Wait.

Today, while an illegitimate government squats in the seats of power in the name of national stability, all seems lost. Yet, the game is afoot. 

For one, principled parties in opposition have refused to take seemingly expedient executive office to ‘save the nation’ because they don’t subscribe to realpolitik. 

For another, there is a growing conviction that an election to try and test and confirm the people’s true will as it stands today is a must... and that bridging finance or even multilateral donor agency grants could support such a venture which appears to be unaffordable at present.  Last but by no means least, the old political culture itself is agitating for an all-party government in which an authoritarian yet incompetent regime can be challenged and overthrown. 

The polity has to deal itself a studied hand in patience until the inevitable eventuates. 

#2 Sharpen saws!

While the citizenry awaits good riddance to bad rubbish, the constitutionally mandated checks and balances must work overtime to legitimise whatever, what little, good is left of our governance culture. 

Many parliamentarians – whether out of shocked conviction or a cynical standpoint – have urged the House to reflect the clarion call for ‘all 226’ to go home. 

This not only means that fresh hustings must prove the spurious claims of one party or another that they still enjoy the people’s pleasure. It also means that parties and personages desiring re-election must each and all do some serious deep-diving to discover how – if at all, the next time round – to secure a seat in the legislature and avoid the people’s displeasure again. 

#3 Plant the seed...

A video going viral over social media argues in favour of ‘why the government has no right to fail a single child sitting their O-Levels’. This is a dangerous idea to put into the minds of children who might not take their education seriously enough. 

On the other hand, it is a dangerously subversive enough idea not to share with uneducated politicos who never take anything seriously but their own bread, butter, and banana republic privileges. 

Sometimes, I worry that the children of tomorrow won’t have a future. Yet on other days, I rest assured when I see the children of today take their destiny into their own hands. 

Today, they’re at the barricades. One day, they’ll be building the bridge across forever and between communities among whom they perceive no politically motivated difference. 

Engineers and architects among parents, teachers and mentors may still not be too late to help them erect foundations.  It is a time to cleanse the Augean stables of the foul stench of corruption, incompetence and rank cynicism that has manipulated the electorate for long – for too long. 

It is also a time for fresh blood (perhaps from among the people who are protesting) to stand up and be counted by standing for public office themselves... being the change they want to see by modelling it.

#4 Hold “hope head” high

The old adage was that ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. The new truism – given all that has happened in the past 53 days, and more – is that ‘the more things stay the same, the more people change’. 

Yes, it is a pity that it took such stunning incompetence on the part of the incumbent administration to make the apolitical citizenry wake up and smell the gas leak. And, more’s the pity that a large mass of the hoi polloi seemed so able, ready and willing to turn a blind eye to chauvinism and chicanery from politicos of all ilks and calibres for so long before they said ‘enough is enough’. 

But better late than never. So there is hope... that despite political infiltration and state sanctioned thuggery, the obviously party-apolitical protest movement will stay the course, grow a pair in the face of mounting threats to citizen sovereignty from an administration growing complacent and self-assured again, and soldier on until we’re rid of the rot.

#5 ‘Round up the usual suspects’

As for the rotten lot that’s still playing at politics in the name of realpolitik thinly disguised as rationality, better never than late... 

And that – in my book at least – goes for agents provocateurs who provoke the protestors to violence as well as morally bankrupt and apathetic has-been politicos who sense a cardinal opportunity to resurrect their sordid careers at the expense (quite often painfully literally) of the public’s present will. 

True, the people don’t always know their own minds. But it is evident enough these days! They’ve had it up to here (see?) with the whole rotten lot... from incompetent authoritarians through pseudo-securocrats to last-man-standing lone wolves. 

And while we’re about it, let’s not fail to take the practical steps that we as a collective can take to marginalise the shepherds who’ve plundered the flock. 

This course of action spans the gamut from asking those who made serious mistakes that cost nation, state and country so dearly to ‘go home’ – to calling out those who continue to prop up a regime that’s illegitimate, tone-deaf and still acting as if they can’t hear the tune or words of the songs being sung on the green. 

#6 Be the best you can be

One has written about this before. But it bears repeated introspection and in-time responsiveness. 

I wrote not once but twice and here it is again: 

“And if we – all, I would dare essay – fail to see the ghost of an arrogant Gota or the gremlin in the engine of the power-hungry Mynah (who’s gone but not forgotten) in our own mindsets, we may be doomed to repeat the lessons of our history-in-the-making if we don’t learn from them as we go along. For such a spectre is a demon only we can exorcise and never ask it to #gohome if it is already ensconced there.” 

We need to grow up from being mindless self-serving voters seeking handouts to mindful sensitive citizens extending a helping hand. 

#7–50 Protest+

Like cricket of old – this is Sri Lanka’s new superpower. And like any newly discovered skill or talent, power is nothing without control. Do so with the greatest responsibility. 

As you and I do so, we may well come to realise that we are not only a part of the problem but also an integral cog in the solution. And that the wheels of social justice will grind as slowly and finely as we mature as a polity, and an electorate, and a citizenry on the cusp of hard-won change. 

I leave you with a list that’s far from exhaustive...

Protest! Against the elected representatives who admit ‘mistakes made’ but won’t be held accountable (enough to resign for them) to their misguided electorate who have now expressed an irrefutable recall. 

Protest! Because morally bankrupt legislators would seek refuge behind an untenable mandate from a now-invisible voter bank. 

Protest! For those lacking a franchise to express their frustration that a rich nation such as ours was robbed by decades of chicanery. 

Protest! On behalf of all those everywhere in the island who share your sense of pain and have grievances enough of their own to bear across the burning sands of time. 

Protest! To safeguard your constitutionally guaranteed right to dissent and secure the liberty that was won for all islanders sans bloodshed – except after independence. 

Protest! In the name of peace with justice. 

Protest! In the hope that even those who still cling to their precious shattered dream of a ‘Singapore of South Asia’ will see that tax cuts which benefit the rich and development that marginalises the poor are a sure way not to economic heaven, but a hell for us all. 

Protest! In vain though the surges angry shock be or the shifting sands of realpolitik.        

| Editor-at-large of LMD | ‘Planting flowers in the back yard.’ | 

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