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Living And Believing In The Past As Sri Lankans

[The Sunday Leader.lk, Monday, 8 November 2010 10:00 No Comment]

Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa, in an embarrassing turn of events, calls off visit to Britain fearing arrest for war crimes, reported Times of India last Friday. Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, war crimes and crimes against humanity can be prosecuted in Britain even if they were not committed in the UK, as it was with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for atrocities he committed against Spanish citizens during his 17-year rule, said the news report.

Mahinda Rajapaksa will not be going to the UK as planned Former army commander and now former general and common presidential candidate, meanwhile, is being tried for inciting communal hatred to cause panic or inflame public, providing information to cause disaffection against the legally constituted government, etc., in the infamously popular ‘white flag’ case, while being accused of many more crimes from corrupt deals in military hardware procurement to political involvement while in uniform, recruiting army deserters for election campaigning, contempt of court, conspiracy against the state, etc., etc., in court martial hearings and in civil courts.

Thirty years of armed brutality and then the hyped, official ‘humanitarian war’ unleashed, is said to have killed over 20,000 civilians during its final phase, leaving a heavy baggage of accusations on war crimes, crimes against humanity, violations of human and fundamental rights and left three whole districts scorched and empty from West to East coast. A ‘humanitarian war’ that left over 300,000 civilians displaced, well over 100,000 dead, unknown numbers in hundreds if not in thousands missing, at least 14,000 detained, a minimum 80,000 young females turned widows, unknown and undeclared numbers of youth without limbs, partly or wholly blind with 6,200 soldiers killed and labelled as ‘war heroes’, infants and children without parents yet to be given national importance and accounted for, being slowly whispered about at the LL&RC and are reluctantly reported in distorted bits and pieces in the media.

This, in a scenario where media institutes were attacked, journalists were abducted, killed, assaulted and tortured and some compelled to flee the country to save their lives and where owners, publishers and editors kept playing for privileges and profits with state patronage. (for more – http://www.thesundayleader lk/?p=26074)

It is one year and almost six months into post war Southern Sinhala life, enjoying the defeat of LTTE terrorism, with universities that are in chaos, undergrad students not only taking to streets, but also put behind bars and suspended, while the higher education minister proudly claims, he would not stop at that, with the SJP University VC said to be suffering from ‘puritanical disorder’ where young female students are concerned.

Now VCs and university dons are attacked by protesting student monks, while the government uses police within universities and parental thugs outside, to ‘discipline’ university students and not ‘suppress’ them, as the minister prefers to call the crackdown on universities. Nurses in government hospitals predict they would fall sick if their grievances are not solved and they do. Medical doctors are accused of heavy corruption at SJP hospital by the subject minister himself, while patients visiting government hospitals have to be buy most drugs from outside, for in-patients too. Over 1,000 medical doctors go out on strike in NWP against one man’s promotion, an administrative issue, the authorities cannot satisfactorily solve.

Rizana facing a death sentence and Ariyawathie returning home with iron nails, both in Saudi Arabia, represents over 500,000 maids in the M-E and over 100,000 who’d leave every year for just US $ 150 per month and remit the largest percentage of foreign exchange to the country, with never a sign of prosperity for them. This government nevertheless claims the economy is growing at or over 6 % of GDP.

Schools’ grade five scholarship exam that turns out ‘over-worked’ mini robots is to be crowned with yet another scholarship exam at grade six according to the minister, who does not know that our schools’ education system with about 9,700 public schools, carries with it a teaching profession that no parent would ever wish to have their child enter into, unless there is no other sensible employment to indulge in. An education system that absorbs around 450,000 children as pupils every year to drop over 425,000 by the way side in a rat race, that only caters to around 20,000 in universities, which create wholly unproductive graduates in a chaotic, unintelligent environment of rote and exam.

These are just a few ‘sit ups’ and ‘dot-coms’ from recent news lines that broke into media. Few, most would not have been able to avoid hitting them in the ‘eye’. News stories that tell it is the same ‘isle of paradise’ of yore, now run by a Satanic regime, where even devils as much as gods are ‘outsourced’ to make people believe, they live because the regime works for its own benefit; where ‘law’ is what you could influence or buy for your advantage and ‘order’ is what you decide for you, if you have enough power to over rule others in a country, where even ministers accept, the police department is perhaps the most corrupt of all departments and institutes that are also unquestionably corrupt.

There’s plenty more, if one would wish to scratch the surface. Plenty like the National Labour Advisory Committee (NLAC) re-reading the National Workers’ Charter that was read and approved by the NLAC 15 years ago, chaired by no less a person than Mahinda Rajapaksa when Minister of Labour and was to go before parliament, like picking loose pages in the note book and a slip in naming a colleague that make rounds, instead of digging the truth in what was said about ‘white flag surrendees’ and what was written, like fly-overs on major roads to ease ever-increasing traffic against increased road accidents within ten months that outnumber the total in the whole of previous year and even the ‘Gaming Levy Bill’ by the government, while the JHU strictly stands for Buddhist morals and discipline, where the parliament complex is to have an extension at a cost of Rs. 750 million and the government promising coconuts at Rs. 25 a nut.

Phew…if The Sunday Leader allows, more than a whole page could have more of such post-war arrogant chaos, silly stupid blunders, planned out corruption, nepotism and a mega fiesta waste of public funds, in a crumbling society. But then, what are Sri Lankan citizens living in Sri Lanka, doing about all or any of these? Do they hold the government responsible for all or any of them?

If they do, there would be a dialogue, a discourse in society. The opposition would be questioned and would not be quarrelling like third graders in a ‘teacherless school’. The universities would not be as rowdy as they are and most academics would not be dumb political stooges. If this society is alert to what’s happening around them, the professional associations would not be as ignorant and irresponsible as they are today, with individuals lining their wallets sans ethics and morals.

There is cynical, anarchic resentment no doubt. A resentment that does not wish to learn and only wish to throw it all out, in public. To burn buses and vehicles on roads, break and vandalise public property, hit back with anger and thuggery are often what is seen and heard. Often, it is a comfortable dialogue that attempts to justify all such ‘public anger and anarchy’.

The unanswered question is, can Sri Lanka live this way and for how long? This post-war society is in dire need of a long term plan for all its issues from education, transport, health, industry and agriculture to youth employment within a robust national economy that should take in rural economic development as well. A holistic programme that would allow people in the provinces to be ‘live’ participants in development and not alien ‘plate holders’ for charity, decided in Colombo. The Colombo Securities’ ASPI, Milanka Price Index, GDP and Per Capita Income percentages, which most of Colombo’s abstract intellectuals feel proud to read out on development, serves little purpose in understanding priorities, the majority outside the Western Province is yearning for, to get started. It needs learning from the past.

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