The Sunday Leader

Shift Goal Posts To Maintain Sanity

By Faraz Shauketaly

Frustration is a catalyst for many an act some of which manifests itself in evil. We in Sri Lanka know a thing or two about that: the frustration that was felt amongst those that inhabit the northern climes in Sri Lanka – traditionally speaking of course – festered and fermented over a period of time specifically that gave birth in 1956, manifested itself in the form of violence. It took over thirty years to take care of the violence – albeit with even more violence – but it will take many more years than that to restore confidence, restore trust and above all restore faith in their fellow men. No amount of reconciliation talks and committees and commissions will make that distrust go away – indeed the majority who learned to be subservient and servile to their colonial masters, will most probably still harbour suspicion that the quest for separatism will manifest itself again. Equally the minorities will never quite have the same confidence that their ilk enjoyed pre 1956.

The only sure fast track methodology to restore confidence, trust and faith is by real action. Whilst that is super-fast in the talking it is painfully slow in the delivery. In the meantime there are generations who knew nothing but the terror all over the island, who have grown weary of all that hope. They collectively recognise that life is short, that life needs to be lived and with an opposition that is boneless and spineless – reminiscent of nothing quite more than jellyfish – they know that the only way to maintain sanity if not enjoy a modicum of happiness and satisfaction is to shift the goal posts.

Gone are the days when there was pride in the law enforcement agencies. The shocking news which was long suspected has manifested itself in recent weeks: that the long arm of the law enforcement has been very much part of the breach of that law! Oh yes we in Sri Lanka knew that the Police, were as bent as the next man down at the local municipality but although there has been a somewhat tacit suspicion that more breaches of the law at a far more serious level may well have involved the Police, – no one quite took the latest news without rather a jolt. Here then was the confirmation of that suspicion. My dear grannie God bless her soul and all that, did say there is no smoke without fire – even if the fire was nowhere to be seen. These subjects from the law enforcement agencies have in the past been mired in controversy and seemingly have played the system to appear to have coated them in ‘Teflon like’ material. And usually, much of the blame is placed at the feet – if not hands – many several rungs up the ladder – so high in fact that one perhaps cannot go much higher.

That brings us to the point that there are limits to everything. Limit even to turning the Nelsonian eye for past favours. Where transgressions can be cast aside swept under the tiles. But there does come a time when even the ‘higher ups’ simply get fed up of shifting the goal posts as it  were. Enough it appears has been enough. Hence the current mire. Of course the consolation prize is the almost de rigueur stay at the hospital, not usually available for the Bandas, Kotte Upalis, Kirimandala Lals and Nawala Nihals or Gundus of this world.

Of course what a lot of people who have authority, who have acquired that authority and even who have had that authority conferred upon them by virtue of appointment or whatever else, forget is that even the common man – the so-called Bandas and Velus of this land – have limits of tolerance. They will only take so much of blatant abuse, downright lies, fraud, corruption, nepotism, lies and damn lies. They too will get fed up of having to constantly shift the blessed goal posts so they can avoid looking at the problem straight in the eye – because they may be afraid for themselves for their family and for their friends. But there does come a time when they will without a doubt tire of all these charades.

In the meantime as we float aimlessly without proper direction and apparently without so much as a weather vane Lankans have become the masters of the art: of shifting the goal posts. Thirty years ago it would be almost unthinkable to even dream of shifting the goal posts. Of course it was done even in those days of Governor Generals and horse-riding Prime Ministers who oversaw pint-sized cabinets rather than Olympic poolsized ones like we have now, but corruption, transactions and deals had a certain finesse that is simply not present in this day and age. There were the higher ups that had cronies to hold on to their (ill gotten) assets hoping to collect on pay day: when they had safely left government.

Occasionally matters went awry, like when the trusted trustee simply feigned ignorance of those assets. But little could be done then: having someone killed or tortured or a mixture of the two, it appears was not quite the vogue then although murder is possibly older than the oldest profession we know about.

These days, with life said to be very much ‘cheaper’ renegades and turncoats who let their ‘masters’ down can expect to end their days. The only doubt would be whether they will end up in a field in Dompe or someplace else. Dompe for now, apparently, is the vogue.

This necessity to shift the goal posts is a creation of our legislators and indeed of our judiciary. Various laws have been permitted to become law without so much as a courtesy being extended to the peopleof the country. In the war years the people believed, nay accepted, anything. It was after all done in the name of the war. To overcome terror anyone would give anything in pursuance of that. However to rush and to permit that indecent rush in the name of urgency has shown up the short termism if not opportunistic nature of those decisions now.

Lankans have become not only the world champions of cricket but have now become the world’s most adept population when it comes to shifting the goal posts so that we simply ignore corruption, ignore the transactions, deals, the lob sided and painfully archaic laws, the at times lethargic pace of the pursuance of law and order and of course the bitter taste of a very partial application of laws.

Once every man and woman would seek solace from the knowledge that ultimately the law will ride with the people and on the side of the judiciously correct, the people for now, they shift the goal posts. faraz@thesundayleader.lk

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