The Politics of Tragedy and the Tragedy of Politics

19 October 2019 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Since April 21, 2019 Sri Lanka has witnessed probably the most unusual behaviour of politicians of all shades of opinion and their slavishly loyal goons, in the wake of one of the bloodiest attacks in recent times on one of the most holy days for Christians worldwide. The public who voted for them have become helpless bystanders, watching this tragedy unfold before their eyes. The irony  is that everyone wants to become the protagonist, but no one knows quite what to say, so they go about making speeches filled with utter stupidity. These politicians possessed with crooked, corrupt and warped minds are probably hoping that the onlookers are filled with the same insanity. Unfortunately, for them the answer is no. After 30 years of a bloody battle to save Sri Lanka from terrorism, people have learned much.  


In the immediate aftermath of the attack on three churches and two hotels, like vultures, politicians were preying on the dead bodies of the innocent people who came to worship. Chasing after the scent of fresh blood from the wounds of the dead and injured, the politicians came in their numbers, heavily guarded of course to see how they could benefit from being in front of the camera and to make a political point at a moment of tragedy that affected at least 350 people and their families, therein demonstrating in the most uncouth sense of what I call the Politics of Tragedy. Politicians have artfully made this tragedy a political drama, with every crafty politician putting their unique spin on it. Politicians and their goons began making passionate statements and sympathetic moves to woo people who were undergoing untold suffering. The suffering continues, the dead will never come back and the lives of those affected by this tragedy have changed forever.  

 

These are people who are promising to change the system, to work, day and night for the good of the people even at the risk of their lives, to put an end to corruption, fraud and waste

 


This attack comes barely 10 years after winning one of the world’s bloodiest terrorist wars in Sri Lanka that lasted 30 years. It is sad and unfortunate that this tragedy occurred at a time when we as a nation were healing from the effects of this 30 years of terrorism. The Yahapalanaya Government,  inherited a country enjoying the blessings of peaceful times. The economy was well, with vast improvements in infrastructure, high foreign investor interest all leading potentially to an era of prosperity. Politicians who are known to forget what is unfavourable to them, took this attack as the first time a terrorist hit Sri Lanka, and quickly began pointing fingers,even before the grieving families buried their dead.They forgot that we have well-trained, smart and skilled men and women in our security forces and the police who put an end to terrorism in our country, which no country in the world can boast of.  
The Disaster of Politics is such that politicians of all colours and types have begun to disown the attack, taking no responsibility, and have won the wrath of those affected and that of peace-loving people. The tragedy of politics got into top gear with the announcement of the presidential election. Key suspects and separatists havebeen embraced for political expediency to harness their support at the oncoming presidential election. Others have steered clear from these suspects and separatists and are trying to make a statement that they will not tolerate terrorism. The UNP struggled and struggled to nominate its Presidential candidate. It was like Waiting for Godot. The difference is after a lot of jockeying, pressure from the membership and the threat of a breakup of the party the leader gave in and Sajith Premadasa was nominated as the candidate, again not from the UNP but as part of a large alliance which is a bringing together of strange bedfellows, under the swan symbol, a stark reminder of the fateful election in 2015. This whole ordeal reminds one of the JR-R. Premadasa era. 


The latter so badly wanted to be president, and when JR stepped aside and gave it to R. Premadasa the country was heading for an abyss, with the North and the South in flames, depaththen paththuwena villakkuwak wage was the way R. Premadasa described it. The tragedy of politics continues as he cunningly eliminated his internal political opponents like Lalith Aluthathmudali. Will the son who promises to walk in his father’s footsteps bring the same fate upon Ravi Karunanayake, Navin Dissanayake, Sarath Foneseka, etc., even though the Field Marshall has been earmarked for a top post in the Sajith admnistration? The tragedy of politics plays out even further with a total of 35 candidates paying a mere Rs.75,000 each as a deposit, to contest the presidential election burdening the taxpayer with a bill of possibly over a billion rupees. The benefits each candidate gets in the run-up to the presidential poll far exceeds the Rs.75,000. Now remember these are people who are promising to change the system, to work, day and night for the good of the people even at the risk of losing their lives, to put an end to corruption, fraud and waste. Behind all this rhetoric is a colossal waste of taxpayer money and those candidates with bleeding heartsare making this happen. At a time when ex-servicemen/women and their families have been driven to the streets to fight for their rightful pay, it’s a shame that not even those with presidential dreams are willing to set an example. After all, if one knows that one will not win the election why not save oneself of the embarrassment, of course the benefits of throwing one’s hat in the ring outweigh the embarrassment and disgrace.  


One knows the tragedy is deep when attempts are made to get rid of one’s political opponent who poses a significant challenge. The cases against Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a case in point. Nobody who is not compliant with the law of the land should be considered for the highest office in the country. This is true for Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Arjun Mahendran and for that matter anyone else. When Arjun Mahendran, a citizen of Singapore was appointed as Chairman of the Central Bank, why did the patriots such as Chandragupta and Viyangoda not go to court? It may have saved Sri Lanka of one of the greatest bank robberies of epic proportions. The key suspect is still free. Now that the verdict is out and Gotabaya free to run for the presidential election, every sensible citizen thought it was over. Not so soon, it seems! The key spokesman for the alliance under the swan symbol has indicated that the JVP is planning to take Gotabaya to court to challenge his dual citizenship and there is an appeal to the judgement of the CA by Chandragupta and Viyangoda. The JVP vehemently denies having anything to do with Rajitha’s statement. While it is every citizens’ right to have their day in court, and justice is common to all, one must also wonder when it is a waste of  the judiciary’s time. Such politically charged law suits gives a bit of instant gratification to the instigator and the runner to court, but in the long run only demonstrates the depth and bitterness of the tragedy of Sri Lankan politics.   


Now while all the candidates are running helter-skelter on taxpayers money to get before the camera and on TV, the Catholics who lost their loved ones are still seeking justice. The PSC is over. What is the outcome? The President promised a new impartial commission to inquire into the Easter Sunday attacks. At least the public saw some drama with the PSC on TV in lieu of transparency, but does anyone know anything about the new commission by the President? Someone once said that the best way to do nothing is to give something to a committee. Does this sound familiar? And then suddenly President Sirisena comes out with a bold statement that the Easter Sunday attacks were a result of his war on drugs. What a strange correlation? With due respects to Murali, this sounds like a doorsa gone bad. No one picked on this, the media decided to ignore it and social media had not even mentioned it.   


Its six months since this disastrous attack was carried out on Catholics and several others including foreign visitors, and it is still only His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith who speaks out for justice. His call for justice has been criticized both directly and indirectly. Some acts of charity and goodwill by the government are meted out in small parcels, but the fundamental issue remains, in that those responsible have not yet been tried in a court of law. The Defence Secretary and the Chief of Police have been in and out of remand prison. The PSC was comic to say the least. Now there is a Presidential Commission. Will it add to the comedy or lead to the truth? At this time its anyone’s guess.   

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