The Moving Finger Writes And Will Be Remembered
Those are the words in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Persian astronomer, poet, mathematician and philosopher which some have interpreted to be a statement on the irreversibility of the consequences of follies committed by rulers or ordinary mortals. Poets and philosophers like Omar Khayyam tend to take a along term view of consequences of one’s actions but in today’s world, a person particularly one wielding power, can get way with blue murder in the short term. But those who wish for long terms in office and certainly those who are thinking in terms of creating dynasties, Omar Khayyam’s predictions: Not all the piety, wit or tears shall wash or cancel half a line, will ring true.
In the short term action to get quick fire results can help to win elections round the corner like the three provincial elections near at hand. Flagrant disregard for good governance and maintenance of law and order to the benefit criminals and thugs, regrettably, could bring about positive results from an electorate held captive by circumstances such as the absence of an effective opposition. But for these political opportunists, in the long term, the writing on the wall spells out a disastrous fate. The failure of the exponents of ‘Grab power soon by hook or by crook’, throughout history, shows the impermanence of their success.
Realisation of the flagrant violation of the rights of the people by a government would have any such government back tracking on holding elections. However, the paradox of Sri Lankan politics today is that despite the widespread abuse of the rights of the people, the Rajapaksa regime has advanced the date of three provincial council elections and feels cocky about winning all three of them!
Only in the Northern Province do they see the writing on the wall and have given the excuse of outdated Voter Lists in the North for not holding elections along with the other three provincial elections, despite having conducted three elections—the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections – on the same Voter Lists.
There are many issues that surfaced lately on which a government would have fallen. Last month a desperado called Julampitiye Amare was named by many witnesses as the one who led a motor cycle gang to fire on a meeting of the JVP with automatic weapons. Two people in the gathering were killed and many others seriously wounded. The dogged pursuance of the Tangalle Magistrate who ordered the police to arrest the chief suspect and revealed that despite around 100 warrants of arrests being issued on Julampitiye Amare, he was roaming quite freely in the Hambantota area. On the previous day he had visited the Tangalle prison and a prison guard had opened the gate for the suspect, the Magistrate revealed. The suspect has been arrested but how long will it take for justice to be done to the victims who were killed and injured? Such an instance of outrageous thuggery would in most democratic elections result in an incumbent government losing an election.
There was the instance of 14 year old girl being raped by the Chairman of a Pradeshiya Sabha of the ruling UPFA for days in a hotel room. A widespread public outcry resulted in his arrest and removal from the Chairmanship of the Pradeshiya Sabha. To replace him his deputy was appointed but it is now alleged that he had been found guilty of rape as well. All this had happened in Hambantota, the home grounds of the legendary Dutu Gemunu, Vihara Maha Devi and the fiefdom of the ruling Rajapaksas!
The benign attitude exhibited towards Mervyn Silva despite his outrageous thuggery committed on state officials as well as ordinary citizens would have prompted any government seeking confidence of the public to remove him from office. But instead he has been promoted to the rank of a minister! The storming of the Rupavahini studios with thugs and threats levelled at a director of news for not telecasting Silva’s speech, his dispensation of kangaroo justice to a public official who had not turned up for a meeting called by him by tying that official to a tree was shown on national TV on the requests made by Silva to a private channel. His posture as an uncrowned king of Kelaniya by enforcing his own orders such as the halt to liquor sales has undermined the role of law enforcement officials in his electorate. The Chairman of the Pradeshiya Sabha and some of its members protested against the outrageous behaviour to President Rajapaksa himself. But Silva continues with his reign of thuggery even though the President has promised an inquiry into his conduct. Protection of such individuals by a ruling party and its leaders is unheard of in any democracy.
There are even more serious issues such as the storming of the Mannar Courts by a mob and threats levelled against the Mannar Magistrate by a government minister Rishard Bathiudeen which resulted in judges and lawyers protesting and paralysing the courts of law for a number of days. The President has verbally assured that he would protect the independence of the judiciary and done nothing more than to let the painfully slow judicial procedure takes its course.
The desperate plight of around 350,000 AL students following the mucking up of marking examination papers too seems to have left the all powerful executive President impotent. There are two ministers of education who are responsible for the plight of a generation of students but they seem to be like the bungling detectives Thomson and Thompson in the Tin Tin series. Quick, decisive and fair action to give justice to this generation of students whose efforts at 12 years of education are hanging on the results of this examination is called for. But an all powerful President in command of a two third majority in parliament appears to be helpless.
These are instances that would give any government facing elections, even provincial elections, the jitters but the UPFA government is confident of sweeping the polls.
The most obvious reason for this confidence is the absence of an effective opposition to which President Rajapaksa himself contributed heavily by buying over UNPers with offers of ministerial posts with all perks attached.
The other is the internecine squabbling going on within the main opposition party, the UNP which seems to be endless. Much blame is attached to the UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe for his arrogance and his refusal to give up leadership despite successive electoral defeats. Sajith Premadasa and his young Turks too should take a fair share of the blame for attempting to chew much beyond their capacity. These young men in an indecent hurry have forsaken the interests of the party to get to the top.
The third reason for the Rajapaksa cockiness is the near absence of a free and independent media. The State controlled press, radio and TV will be called upon to play their usual illegal roles in elections with none to check or stop them. The privately owned media – almost 95 percent – has been bought up by the UPFA’s offers of various incentives.
It is a clear and open field for the ruling party with no opposition in sight. But will an electorate forget the glaring failures and misdemeanours of the UPFA government such as gross misgovernance and collapse of the rule of law? In the words of Omar Khayyam: The moving finger wrote and having writ moves on. Not all the piety, wit nor tears shall cancel half a line. They will be read by the people in the course of time.