The way the UN, the US and at times the Bar Council of Sri Lanka (BASL) are going about advising the Government on how the Police and Security Forces should be gentle, while seeking to disperse mobs that are likely to turn violent and arsonist, either they are living in another world, or they are looking for an undefined solution to the nation’s politico-economic problems, where the latter should actually be getting the utmost priority. What should hurt, rather than irk, anyone sensible is how they still go about completely side-stepping – and thus condoning — the protester-initiated violence that climaxed in the two-hour torching of politicians homes across the South and West of the country on 9 May.
True, there were a few incidents across the country where Security Forces had to open fire in the air to disperse restive people standing in all those long queues at fuel stations. The people’s frustration bordering on desperation is understandable. So, also the free advice that the world offers the authorities, especially the uniformed men forced to face the music, to behave sagely.
For all of them to continue ignoring the retaliatory arson of 9 May that burnt down the homes of nearly 80 ruling party leaders, including properties belonging to every Rajapaksa in public life, strains their motive and challenges their sincerity. The irony is that even a victim of the arson in National Freedom Front (NFF) founder and former Minister Wimal Weerawansa has been advising caution to the Security Forces without asking for bringing to book, all those culprits of all violence, including those involving the ‘Rajapaksa goons’, makes for confused, rather than amused reading.
It still begs an answer why not one of these worthies, or any other member of the otherwise vociferous civil society has still not condemned the brutal killing of ruling party parliamentarian Amarakeerthi Athukorala and his Police bodyguard Gunawardena – and mobsters, including a young mercantile executive, passing them off as suicide, instead. These are isolated incidents, maybe yes, but enough needs to be said and done to ensure that they do not recur in these times national desperation.
Timing the escalation
There are reasons. The way the ‘GotaGoGama’ protesters had escalated their direct action by seeking to block all entrances to the Presidential Secretariat and timing it for the day the IMF team was holding talks with the Government for the expected
D4 B credit, should cause eyebrows to raise – Heaven-ward too. Mischief was written all over the script, and it was possibly so even earlier.
The political agenda of at least a section of them was out in the open also when they protested against New Delhi, outside the Indian High Commission, not far away, from the beach-front protest venue. They were opposed to what they felt was a ‘controversial hybrid power deal’ with the Adani Group, the Indian infra major.It is not about Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans having to be thankful to India for being the only nation thus far to rush food, fuel and medicinal assistance, all at short notice(s) that too, when the Ukraine War had jacked up prices and condensed availability. It is mainly about those that want to make mean political capital on the home front, when the house itself is burning.
Put in perspective, if this is still going to be the perspective of such people even when they seem to have understood the gravity of the situation better than the rest, then God help Sri Lanka – and God feed Sri Lankans, the former, especially from such protesters, and literally so. Even without them, there is the vague smell of anarchy in the air and they are not dousing it. Instead, they are fuelling it, fanning it.
When economic privation hit them overnight and hard, the people did not know what it was. They did not know what to make out of it. Weeks and months down the line, they do not know how to cope with it. That is because even when you know your plight, your neighbour’s plight is equally bad, if not worse. So, the question of mutual help in times of deprivation and consequent desperation, is understandable. It is inevitable too.
The coping mechanism is two-fold from the individual’s stand-point. One, to find answers for the question where from would his and his family’s next meal come. Two, how to cope with the anxiety and threat that accompany such privation that did not come with you at birth. No religion has a solution to offer just now. If anything, religious players too, are soaked in politics to the full.
In this background, for the political Opposition to run down the Government endlessly, that too without offering any functional solution, is deplorable, to say the least. No one is talking about fresh elections any more as stoutly as they used to do – also because they are not sure if the people’s pent-up anger is only against the Rajapaksas or the nation’s political system as a whole.
Explode or implode?
According to the World Bank, as many as 107 nations across the world are either in Sri Lanka’s position or are inching towards the same. It means only one thing. That the world would not have time for Sri Lanka, as every other nation in their long list becomes a basket case. It would be true of China, which too has tightened its belt, as Sri Lanka is feeling even more. India’s good intentions are not accompanied by deeper pockets than it has. Russia may export oil, but the Ukraine War may impose greater limitations and restrictions – even if you overlook western sanctions.
All this means only one thing. The nation’s political class behave and do so quicker. Once the world loses its faith in the nation’s political class, they would simply vanish. The nation is sitting on a ticking time-bomb. Rather, the nation itself is a time-bomb, now.
Those that do not hear the ticking, which is loud and clear otherwise, would have only themselves to blame for the ruin that otherwise awaits them all, and with them, your innocent man on the street, too – not that the intransigent leaders of the political Opposition alone could hope to escape!
(The writer is a Policy Analyst & Commentator, based in Chennai, India. Email: [email protected])
By N. Sathiya Moorthy