The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.
In the fifth installment of the Hollywood Blockbuster sequel “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’’, agent Ethen Hunt, played by Tom Cruise, overcomes all odds, pulling out miraculous and daring feats to accomplish his mission which initially appears impossible. The scene is set, not in Hollywood but in this neck of the woods called Sri Lanka, where a Rogue Nation has been created. Yes, the nation that once prided itself on its 2,500 years of pristine Buddhism, its humane and kind people and tolerant attitudes; when compared to most of its neighbours is an ideal backdrop for the next instalment of Mission Impossible.
In common parlance a Rogue Nation refers to a state that does not respect other nations or causes a threat to the collective good of the international community. But what about a State where roguishness is the norm from top to bottom or a state full of rogues?
All across the society
Somehow we have come to this, a Rogue Nation! Interpol must be opening a new desk to act on red, blue and what not, notices that are being issued on Sri Lankans. The FCID, PCoI, PRECIFAC and Special High Courts for financial crimes have become the order of the day to tackle the magnitude of corruption and thievery that has permeated each and every layer of society. Contrary to popular thought, corruption, dishonesty and thievery are not things that are confined to this or that segment of society. It is rampant from top to bottom; leaders, professionals, law enforcers, priests, public officials, businessmen and the common people are all happy partakers of this putrid culture. From admitting children to schools, getting driving licences to MIG deals and bond scams!
The COPE report is testimony to the malpractices, corruption, plundering and thievery that go on in public and semi public institutions having a direct bearing on the economy. A list of cases in a Magistrate’s Court in any given jurisdiction will show how widespread and rampant thievery, illegal businesses, stealing and other vices are.
Big Sharks and small fry
The ordinary people who lament that only small fry get caught in the net of the law while sharks and whales roam free, themselves engage in bribing, fraud and thievery in their petty little ways. On the other hand those powerful and mighty, who stand accused of frauds of astronomical magnitude, draft laws to create special courts to deal with thievery. A typical case of Dracula in charge of the blood bank, isn’t it?
The law enforcement has two gears in its operating mechanism; first and the overdrive. When a school student steals five coconuts to pay school fees or the court peon takes a 5,000-rupee bribe for some thing, the machinery moves on overdrive; arresting, producing, punishing in a swiftness and speed reminiscent of Hussein Bolt. Yet when it comes to those cases involving billions of dollars and individuals of the top echelons of the power structure, it is a totally different story.
When one says that people are left with a choice between the pot and the kettle, both of which are black, obviously, in terms of electing leaders to govern them, you are overlooking something. It is not only the pot and the kettle that are black with corrupt soot. The populace, themselves, are second to none in this game; they are veterans of dishonesty and underhand deals. Leave your mobile phone on the bus seat, walk to the front door, turn back and see if it is still there.
Not only is it not, but the sim also would have been removed in a matter of seconds. Give your car for repairs to a garage and then get an expert to check the parts to see whether the original parts have been replaced with duplicates. Bury your dead with some jewellery that the deceased loved in her lifetime or in a costly coffin, come back the next morning, dig the grave to find the body remains without the coffin, relieved of the jewellery. Yes, folks, even the dead are desecrated for money in this land of 2,500 years of pristine culture.
Lack of self criticism
We are not humble enough to admit where we falter or fall short. Face it, self criticism is not our strong point. Look at Germany and Japan and the atrocious circumstances they underwent during the Second World War scenario. But look at them today, leaders in their own right, beacons for other nations not only in terms of political stability and economic might, but also in terms of discipline, integrity and civility. We talk about emulating Singapore, but refuse to have fingerprinting machines to mark attendance in our work places, specially the public sector.
All are patriots in this country, if jingoistic rhetoric is the yardstick then we are the most patriotic nation in the world. But when it comes to day to day action, of doing our duty, going the extra mile for the country, paying our taxes, preserving our environment, not resorting to corrupt and dishonest practices, we fall way short of the mark. We fail to see that a rogue or a scoundrel could never be a patriot. Anyone who pilfers national coffers or evades taxes or seeks kick backs from national projects will never be a patriot.
The soil of this land is no longer fertile, it is poisonous; the waterways which are the veins of this land are polluted beyond recognition; the entire upcountry is at the risk of being swept away in landslides. Most of these catastrophes have been brought about as a result of greed, the lure of filthy lucre, by overlooking proper procedures, ignoring warnings and skipping proper methodology for financial benefit.
In the Corruption Index published by Amnesty International, Sri Lanka is ranked 91 from among 175 countries showing where we stand in terms of corruption. Yet if I were to give examples to prove that we are a rogue nation, the Features Editor, would have to provide me his valuable space from the first page to the last. Suffice it to say it is endless. Political leadership is not capable of cleansing our land from this filth as they themselves are the origin of this putrid mess.
On the brink
I had finished this article when it was reported that the Golden Peacock award received by veteran film-maker Dr. Lester James Peiris had been robbed by one of the ‘mourners’ who attended the funeral. Later it was revealed that those responsible was an organized gang which frequented high profile funerals and other occasions where people gather and carried out these blatant and shameless acts of thievery.
The location for the next sequel of Mission Impossible is right here. It is Sri Lanka. Yet it is doubtful whether even a daredevil like Ethan Hunt will be able to rid this nation of its roguishness. Even he is bound to fail in cleansing this rogue nation.
We are on the verge of doomsday; we are at the brink yet little realize it.
It is Mission Impossible, folks! We are a rogue nation.
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