Happy Celebrate, Investigate, Aggravate day – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
I don’t mean to trifle with you as some folks may say that bankruptcy will help us build back better if only they’re given more time. Not enough, the past almost 50 years, sir? So let me say at the outset that this is not about the Central Intelligence Agency or other phantom menaces.
But that doesn’t mean ‘the great game’ of our geopolitically charged region isn’t always and usually afoot. And recent high-powered official state visits – to say nothing of our nosy, concerned neighbour and another friend farther afield offering the right hand of fellowship filled with gracious accommodation – send out tropes of smoke signals.
They signify to some that sister nations as much as empires rising in the east (and falling in the west) are pursuing mutual interests, as par for the course in international diplomacy. Whilst denoting the ongoing erosion of our sovereignty through debt traps and ‘iron fist in velvet gloves’ encroachment to others.
You pick. Or opt for a bit of ‘both/and’. Safe bet it is. Safer than putting all your eggplants in a non-organic basket!
This is however, about Sri Lanka’s 75th anniversary of independence – and its ramifications for reflective or ruminative souls. The first initial is about Celebration; the second Investigation; the third Aggravation.
Shall I elaborate?
The first question of course, is with all that has happened – and is going on with no end in sight short of an IMF board-level approval of the $ 2.9 billion bailout (and that’s peanuts for food and fuel, and that’s for starters only...) – could/should we be celebrating anything at all?
The answers are by no means easy, and reflect both worldviews and wishful thinking.
For those who maintain that we must put on a good (air?) show, the matter remains a triumph of form over substance.
No matter what millions make in their regular meals or lack thereof, mothers lament the absence of milk for mewling infants, and many citizens working like automata because there is no option in a medicine-less milieu but to lives of quiet desperation... there are those who put pomp and circumstance before practical wisdom and human compassion.
To such as these, slow justice grinding surely unseen may still come someday sooner than later – whether through electoral defeat or denial of their liberty through a show of force as was seen some seven months ago on the angry streets of the Aragalaya.
Then there are others who would reflect, tone down any tamashas, pick moderate means, celebrate in some meaningful way, and be grateful for small mercies... good – go for it. As Hemingway suggested in ‘The Old Man and The Sea’, “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”
One thing Sri Lankans can do is to put on our thinking hats and ask the hard questions as never before, as well as contrary to how we (all? some? maybe that is academic now) failed to ask them only too recently... instead, we swallowed a sweetened pill that was hard to stomach less than two years in!
What do the suppressed part of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday bombings say? Whom will it expose? And is it enough – in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that those indicted of callous negligence of duty, which led to 269 deaths, be made to pay stiff penalties – that one of the chief neglecters seeks the people’s pardon ahead of seeking presidential office... again? Or is it barefaced opportunism at best or a more sinister ploy to keep the true perpetrators from being named and shamed, to say nothing of being punished?
Is the costly local-government election mere tokenism – a nod to democratic rights and long-stymied citizen imperatives – or a cynical testing of the electoral barometer ahead of parliamentary first, and then presidential polls?
Is this déjà vu – or hasn’t the same thing happened to us before? Wake up and smell the elephant dung on the lotus bud!
Are we gung-go to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution because we’re committed to devolution and keen on honouring our promises to the international community – or is it a reflex of pressure brought to bear by vested regional interests? Pick a position and defend it with passion.
These are acid tests for a people who need to prove now more than ever that they will not be gulled by their elected representatives ever again.
Yet another set of value and volume raising exercises suggests itself in the light of recent ‘small victories’ for liberty, independence, freedom, etc.
For one, that the supreme court of the land handing out stiff fines for criminal neglect of bounden duty by state officials sends out a strong signal that the judicial arm of the state watches over us all... and that a first step towards making government officials accountable has been taken.
For another, that first a key leader of the youthful dissent movement – and then a brace of others – has been released from bondage and cleared of all spurious charges under the draconian PTA is a cause for celebration indeed.
Last but by no means least, not all – but some – corporate houses and a few sensitive spirits in places of power and influence have begun to realise, and say, that there is little point in the rich and financially safeguarded feeling insulated from a pending ‘Economic Armageddon’ if and when the Damocles’ sword that has been hanging over all of our heads drops.
Maybe on such a day, the politicos who cynically receive the salutes of the tri-forces that protected our nation-state in its former days of evil will realise that it is the people of our country – and not its elected representatives, banding together in a political culture set on self-aggrandisement – who are the real heroes standing bloodied but unbowed against war, plague, famine, pestilence and other parasites.
Happy Celebrate, Investigate, Aggravate day!
| Editor-at-large of LMD |