ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 49

Our sound of silence is deafening

By Ms. D. Samararatne, Kandy

It is more than evident to Sri Lankans and the world, that the Sri Lankan State has failed to deliver. Today, we are facing the consequences of the populist and selfish decisions taken by successive governments. Wherever one goes, people are complaining about many things – that the cost of living is rising daily, that there is no justice, that civilians (in the North & East and the rest of the country) are the biggest and worst casualties of the war and so on…

Who is to blame? Is it only the politicians? Is it only those in authority? What about the people? What about the vast majority in this country who continue to keep silent and who continue to suffer in silence? What about the so-called intellectuals of this country? What is their role in this tragic drama that is unfolding?

Over four months have passed since a Vice Chancellor of a university in this country has been abducted in the capital of this country. Daily, politicians and their supporters are making a mockery of politics. They keep making almost comical statements to the public.

The list of absurd realities of this country is almost endless. What should our response be at this time? Arundhati Roy in her collection of essays makes a relevant and powerful statement which is applicable to us too.

Isn’t it true, or at least theoretically possible, that there are times in the life of a people or a nation when the political climate demands that we – even the most sophisticated of us, overtly take sides? I believe that such times are upon us, and I believe that in the coming years, intellectuals and artists will be called upon to take sides, and this time, unlike the struggle for Independence, we won’t have the luxury of fighting a ‘colonising enemy’, we’ll be fighting ourselves.

We will be forced to ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions about our values and traditions, our visions for the future our responsibilities as citizens, the legitimacy of our ‘democratic institutions’, the role of the state, the police, the army, the judiciary and the intellectual community. (The Algebra of Infinite Justice, Arundhati Roy, 2002, p. 198)

Are we willing to ask uncomfortable questions? Why is it that in Sri Lanka in spite of our so-called community based values – we never seem to take up common causes as the people of this country?

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