The British Philosopher and Historian Bertrand Russell has said three factors come out prominently when a country is degenerating from democracy to dictatorship. These vices are violence or crime, rampant corruption and false propaganda.
Tragically, Russell’s vipers are stinging Sri Lanka and raising questions whether we are becoming the model of Asia or plunging into the political terror of a dictatorship.
Violence and crime have reached their worst levels. The ethnic war ended in May 2009 with hundreds of thousands of people being left dead, paralysed of seriously injured, displaced, destitute and languishing in varying degrees of degradation. Tens of thousands of people – innocent civilians, troops and LTTE terrorists-were killed in the final months of the war. Human rights and religious groups are therefore raising questions about the moral validity of celebrating May 19th as victory day. They ask whether the killing of tens of thousands of people should not be a day of lamentation.
Even after the war, violence and crime continue in different and dangerous forms. The latest was the mystery over the incident involving Minister Mervyn Silva’s son Malaka. After his son was remanded on Monday, the minister said it was heart-breaking for him, but it showed the democratic principles of the Rajapaksa Government, which ensured the freedom of the judiciary. But what happened the next day was something like a chapter from a James Hadley Chase detective fiction novel. Perhaps aliens were involved but the less said about it the better. The consoling factor however was the forthright comments made by the judge who heard the case yesterday.
A politicised crime of a different nature was seen in the formation of the administration of the Eastern Provincial Council. It was a clear betrayal of tens of thousands of Muslim youth and others who voted against the UPFA Government. But it appears that ministerial portfolios and power are more important for SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem. UNP deputy leader Sajith Premadasa described Mr. Hakeem’s decision to join the UPFA in the EPC as an act of “political prostitution”.
As for corruption, the multi-million-rupee mafia freely continues its pump and dump manipulations in the stock market. Two vital state institutors, the CEB and the CPC appear to be plagued by corruption and mismanagement, with a heavy price being paid by the people. The CEB has lost tens of millions of rupees this year, though the electricity bills of the people are said to be the highest in Asia. The multi-million-dollar frauds in the CPC continue, its probe committee reports are a fiery joke, and no one is being held accountable for the plunder of millions of dollars in public funds.
As for propaganda, never before have the state media institutions, especially the SLRC and the ITN have been abused in such a vile manner. Stooges and ‘henchaiyas’ of politicians tell bare-faced lie after lie. So are we a democracy or a dictatorship today?