Unless you are an apolitical animal or have been living in cloud cuckoo land in the eventful week just past, you would have realized that the Republic we knew and loved was under a shadow. Of course, it was not the first time that the worst kinds of politically-oriented people - full of passionate intensity - were pushing the envelope in favour of a full-blown 'benevolent' (one hopes) tyranny. And it will probably not be the last occasion on which the so-called 'best' - lacking all conviction - merely mewled and puked in their mothers' arms. Frailty, thy name is Opposition!
While what passes for people's representation sat stoically and silently and solemnly and sullenly (take your pick) in an ill-timed satyagraha outside Parliament, the beast slouched towards the Palace to be born from above. And even before the focus shifted from the House by the marsh to the streets of the capital, the sneaking suspicion among cynics was that the lame-duck motley crew which opposes in name only would be hamstrung by effete leadership and expedient abdication from the debate at hand. But it was in the street, among other unlikely places like the gutter of politics, that the Tsar Wars were being fought - and what an unequal battle it turned out to be.
The first salvos heard by the public were fired by petty players who strut and fret their hour upon the stage and are heard no more… until, at least, the Great Dragon breathes fire again (as it is increasingly wont to, in these heady days of its ascendance). These actors are the internationally transparent types, the civil-rights wallahs, and the usual suspects who are generally pilloried by the progressives close to the presidency. More power to their pens… but under the rule of men entirely ingrate, the buck stops right there (if you will pardon the mixed metaphor).
Who else cried wolf? For one, a legal-minded MP, who challenged the lawfulness of the proposed 18th Amendment to the Constitution. For others, those firebrand dissidents of the picayune party that takes delight in cocking a snoop at budding Caesars. And a lone episcopal voice, that of one crying in the wilderness: one that has been weeping and wailing in essentially a solo act until recently, and refusing to be comforted. Somewhat reassuringly, as on a few rare instances in the past, a chorus of ecclesiastical and lay voices added their likeminded laments to the litany of cautions, concerns, and challenges. Civil society in these backwaters of faith and social justice, seemingly reassured that their leaders would back them if only they led from the front, chipped in with a spirited coda…
And it was heartening to note that once the red flags had been raised, the hoi polloi were not slow off the mark to rush down to the barricades and stamp their feet in unison. Here a protest, there a demonstration. Everywhere a rally to defend the last bastions of democracy. Bar councils, intellectual brigades, kos polos cliques. The resistance against the powers that be and their push for a constitutional dictatorship appeared alive and well in the Republic. Although it must be admitted that even in republican ranks, the spectre of tyranny raised its head… for who can deny that even many democrats are ruing that day in the past when universal suffrage was granted? Some now feel it was too high a present price to pay for the future local suffering it made possible for citizens to engender - by voting 'this lot' in!
And the Empire was not slow to strike. In fact, it had placed its placebos well in the ranks of even the enemy - and these fifth columnists fired their broadsides at strategic intervals. For every statement made against the proposed 18th Amendment to the Constitution, a distressing number of supposedly Opposition backbenchers held well-publicized press conferences and crossed the stiles, sorry aisles, to assert their new-found allegiance (as for loyalty and their crises of conscience, pigs might fly). All of this greased the wheels of the juggernaut that has well and truly flattened everything in its path… from Medamulane to the Media, from Kataragama to Kilinochchi, from Hambantota to the House.
One must give the devil its due (don't deny us the delight of being able to pay you a compliment, dears). You have managed the war to end all wars in this land brilliantly and with aplomb. You have summoned up reserves of élan, éclat, and esprit de corps which no one suspected you had. First, the Machiavellian machine inveigled time-servers and those with skeletons in their closet so that they jumped ship like proverbial rats. Then, the goons cut a swathe through the few outspoken critics and commentators who were clearly betraying their nation with those libertarian trivialities. And now after this, the Gestapo will gently take care of the handful of visible democrats, republicans, and other sub-human political animals left…
No, don't laugh, folks; it's true. This is no waking terror brought on by the sunstroke of heat or delusion caused by the eroding of untimely rain. For the fact remains that one by one, the bulwarks of the vibrant polity we knew have been denuded of their vim, vigour, and vitality; their zest, zeal, and zing; their duties, rights, and privileges as members of the oldest democracy in Asia… It is not over by any means. It is still the time to light candles for democracy and rage against the dying of the light. It may be that the darkness will descend soon. It is not finished yet, but just beginning.
In the meantime, now that civil society has played its part by lighting a candle, joining arms in the streets, and going home feeling fully self-satisfied that a good day's work has been done in terms of standing up for Democracy, the real work of defending our Republic must begin.
Over to the guardians of the law who swore an oath to do so; the echelon of egalitarians we elected to counter the self-interest of self-serving claques and cabals; and the people and people-groups of this nation with clout enough to wield the knout on behalf of us serfs and slaves - yes: big business, and conscientious professionals and outspoken academics; as well as judges, MIA media types, and the rest of ye clerics… we mean you!