Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

By
Faraz
Shauketaly

Gallantry has a price – ask Lasantha Wickremetunge’s family and they will confirm it. If you don’t know them you could try asking any member of the armed forces, including former General Fonseka. Gallantry as the world understands it is more or less dead now thanks to a veritable breakdown in good manners and acceptable norms. The so-called norms have long disappeared and been replaced with a cavalier attitude towards what is and is not acceptable. This breakdown conspires to turn on its head what we have for years understood to be good manners, gratitude and decorum.

The conflict not only desecrated and devastated much of the North and North East but also ruined the aspirations and prospects of many generations

Does one good turn deserve another simply because of that good turn? Is that not the same as you scratch my back and I will scratch yours? Most of us will say yes that is true, one is almost obliged to reciprocate a good deed with an equal or better deed. To me it reminds me of the pumping and dumping that went on at the Colombo Stock Exchange.
However, does doing a good deed to a fellow human being confer upon that person the right to act deplorably and without honour? Is that the right of anyone? Women in particular almost always seem to get the raw end of the deal. Many are the ladies who have been befriended in the office by their seniors, showered with gifts and treated as ladies only to be dumped from a place far higher than they could have ever imagined. Of course they are gullible, say some. Perhaps. To act with such deplorable impunity however is to descend to depths that can only be described as perverse and without parallel.
On our island nation, fondly called the land of serendipity by some, we have a particular problem apart from a breakdown of what we have all understood to be acceptable behavior. As almost everyone knows, Sri Lanka has emerged from a bitter and damaging thirty plus year war. This not only desecrated and devastated much of the North and North East but also ruined the aspirations and prospects of many generations of Sri Lankans. The terror issue has served to cause division and separated families. One would have thought that with the return to peace the shackles of suspicion would have been broken down and that a common purpose and unity would prevail over the island. An all-encompassing peace and togetherness. Very unfortunately we have not seen that – and that in turn causes Sri Lanka’s allies in many an international capital to be doubly worried. And not all is fuelled by the government’s inability to reach a common consensus with the minorities.
Much on the contrary is found within the activities of the LTTE-leaning Diaspora. Early this week representatives from Tamil political parties from Sri Lanka joined international Tamil Diaspora groups for a discussion on Sri Lanka in Berlin. One of the principal players is the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) which was set up according to them in 2009 after the end of the armed conflict. Many of their pronouncements are of course admirable but their call for a negotiated political settlement appears to give the game away. If these Diaspora groups are harbouring any thought of any form of a separate state – in whichever form – they will find that zero progress will be made on that front. The government of Sri Lanka has made it abundantly clear – Sri Lanka is not for separation or federalism. The stated aim is for one sovereign nation within which an ambiance of balanced equity will exist. For Tamil political parties to flirt with anything other than within that ambit, is to display a reckless disregard for the urgency which is demanded by the requirements of forging ahead in the new peace-blessed Sri Lanka.
The majority population of this nation is quite unlikely to ever grant a mandate to any politician who espouses the cause of federalism or separatism especially after the onset of peace on the island. No mainstream-party politician worth his salt will dream of promoting such a cause either. It beggars belief that these so-called special interest groups claiming to represent the real aspirations of the Tamil people continue to avoid playing a role in the regeneration of the former conflict areas if nothing else. Instead of expending millions of dollars on dysfunctional global meets – which of course results in adding a dash of legitimacy to their fund-raising activities – these groups are notable for their absence from playing a dominant role in redevelopment activities.
Instead the groups continue to claim that the Sri Lankan government is engaging in a systematic breakdown of Tamil identity and are a ‘threat to Tamil claims to North and North East of the island being their area of historic habitation’. The fact remains that these groups have become heavily dependant on the income generated by their fund-raising activities that any possibility of losing out on those funds is almost unthinkable to some. Instead of joining hands with the government of Sri Lanka and carrying out meaningful discussions on how their Diaspora can contribute towards the redevelopment of the areas that they refer to as their traditional ‘homelands’ their efforts are largely concentrated on spreading and promoting disinformation and negativity. It is not that they are unaware that such activities do and has had an impact on Sri Lanka’s quest to attract more tourists, more foreign direct investment (FDI) and ‘soft’ aid from traditional allies. Dark and not so dark, forces are at work to force Sri Lanka into a position of having to negotiate from weakness, if Sri Lanka does not look sharp.
Of course one must be always ever mindful of wolves in sheep’s clothing as a parliamentarian once put it. There are inherent dangers in accepting any and everyone without the necessary checks and balances. As it is Sri Lanka has already had its share of decidedly dodgy investors who arrive here with the hope of using Sri Lanka and its myriad opportunities as a laundry. The job of the financial monitoring unit at the Central Bank must be one without envy as Sri Lanka struggles to juggle between the need for FDI and to weed out those investors merely seeking ‘laundries’. So as much as there is nothing really as a ‘free lunch’ one must be aware at all times of just who is coming to dinner. They may come in all forms and disguises but resorting to the back-to-basic theory of good manners and artful analysis of the available data has not hurt anyone. In as much as the wheel has already been invented, the yardstick for plain good manners is also established.
Men who believe that women are mere objects to be treated as beneath the established decorum must preferably be banished to a new pseudo-Guantanamo Bay – or they may look for inspiration in the appointment of a lady to the helm of the ultra-important (and controversial) Ministry of Power & Energy. This rag though has practiced – with its Lady Editors – that art for over three years of course. The best set of rules we were taught, is to have only one set of rules. A set that includes a healthy respect for the rule of law and for the rights of others, one that recognizes another’s right to existence, to always be aware that the goal is a balanced and equitable ambiance for all. To be mindful that ‘Noblesse Oblige’ is still very much alive and well.
(faraz@thesundayleader.lk)

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