Some people have a permanent image problem. Those with criminal tendencies, severe personality disorders which are left untreated, and some politicians sons’ fall into this category.
As long as such image problems remain as purely personal issues, they should not concern us too much. But when somebody’s image problem affects the whole country, becoming part of that country’s image problem, then we should be concerned.
You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to realise that Malaka Silva, the notorious son of a notorious Deputy Minister, has a severe personality disorder. The father should have the wits to work that out and the humility to get his son the best possible treatment. But the situation is left unchecked until the latter becomes a major public menace.
But it isn’t just the father (both parents, actually, because surely the mother has a say in such a high profile family, or doesn’t she) who’s perception of his problem, son is faulty. Sri Lankan society as a whole is at fault because it tends to shrug off such ‘incidents’ as boys’ pranks. That’s why we can’t dismiss this as merely one of a kind, “Malaka Silva’ problem. Personality disorder or not, it’s widespread and part of our socio-political culture.
The sons of several high profile ministers of this cabinet have got into the news during the past several years for the wrong reasons. While Malaka Silva may be in a class of his own among these high-profile miscreants, we can see a method in this madness. These young men are the sons of politicians. That most of the recently reported cases involve powerful members of this government may lead to the complacent belief that the sons of the opposition are better brought up. I, for one, don’t suffer from any such delusions. It’s just that they don’t have that kind of power and wealth at this moment.
That Malaka Silva and his gang do not bother to pay entrance fees to the night club should not surprise anyone because, as a rule, the power-holders of this country prefer to have everything free, at the public or someone else expense. Our politicians are among the stingiest people you could ever meet, siphoning money off public funds and getting supporters and favour-seekers to pay their bills.
Stealing from public funds is one thing. Suffering from grand delusions of power so that you become a danger to people around you is another. In one notorious instance a young cricketer, the son of a minister, tried to open the exit door of an airliner in flight. But many of the cases involve women.
Last year, the son of another minister and his friends made lewd remarks to a young Sri Lankan woman at a holiday resort. When the husband intervened, he was assaulted. This politically-empowered gang was reportedly provoked because she wore a bikini.
When Malaka Silva last got into the news, he was prepositioning another young woman in a posh shopping mall. Unfortunately, she happened to be the girlfriend of someone more powerful, with dire consequences to him.
This time, he picked on a Western couple in a night club. He must have been shocked when they hit back, but that’s as far as their ‘clout’ goes. The husband reportedly didn’t even want to press charges, fearing the worst. It’s the British High Commission which took up the matter.
Whatever provokes this kind of insolent behaviour from these ‘golden sons’ of the ruling class – be it airliner doors, a policeman, bikinis or a white skin – the underlying reason is a belief that whatever they want is within their reach. They are the untouchables. Whoever governs, this belief has been mapped into their blood by our socio-political culture. People don’t even bother to discuss it. There is no public outage, no debate in parliament, no citizens’ discussion on radio or TV, no politician ever publicly apologizing for his son’s misdeed. Boys will always be boys, at least within our political culture.
There is another, deeper, and more disturbing truth behind this indifference (and indifference leads to acceptance). There is no shortage of political groups and lobbies full of reformist zeal. Alliances of monks and hawkish laypersons, these groups believe that Western influences are the principal evils destroying our society. By their twisted logic, the behaviour of Malaka Silva and other brutish political sons is due to Western decadence.
Note that these cowboys work out their frustrations in posh hotels, holiday resorts, shopping malls and night clubs, landmarks of ‘decadent Western influences’. If women who visit such places get harassed and attacked, it’s their own fault because they are decadent. Our own political culture is pristine. The hawks too, see such venues as destructive elements, blotches in our cultural purity. They don’t have a word to say about the political cowboys who rampage in such ‘unholy’ places, possibly because they are partners of an unholy cultural and political alliance.
As long as this hypocrisy continues, we shall continue to breed Malaka Silvas and other cowboys damaging the image of this country as one with laughable laws and a political culture with no accountability on anything.