Reading about the haps and mishaps in Mother Lanka over the last several weeks I was reminded of Othello’s words to Iago in Shakespeare’s tragic drama. It was perhaps unavoidable these words should come to mind as most media coverage, be it in print or electronic media, revolves round politicians, political doings and political goings-on [...]


Time to get the act together even now


Reading about the haps and mishaps in Mother Lanka over the last several weeks I was reminded of Othello’s words to Iago in Shakespeare’s tragic drama. It was perhaps unavoidable these words should come to mind as most media coverage, be it in print or electronic media, revolves round politicians, political doings and political goings-on that swing pendulum-like between the tragic and the comic sometimes leading to farce.

One cannot of course ignore the tragi-comedies being played out on the political stage which do add some much-needed diversion to the banality of daily life as common citizens look skywards at the rising prices of imports and suffer from that sinking feeling at the value of the declining rupee.

So the All-Mighty dollar reigns supreme be it in our currency market or in our foreign policy-making with recent efforts to win friendship and favour by clinging to John Kerry’s boot straps. But to return to Shakespeare’s words which seem apt in the circumstances of the day. Othello said: “But yet the pity of it Iago, O Iago the pity of it Iago.”

Substitute the word Mangala for Iago and we have another drama on the stage. Whether it is tragic or comic let the public judge. To me it has elements of pathos and bathos. Poor Mangala was transfixed like an animal caught in the glare of the headlights. There he was in Geneva telling friend and foe, the skeptical and the cynical all the great things the National Unity (sic) government has done and intends to do to erase what they say is the stench left behind by the Rajapaksa clan et al. Do not think of the past, do not think of all the broken promises, was Mangala’s plea to the Geneva confabulation.

The new government was committed to right the wrongs of the years gone by and had great plans for the future. Let us not be afraid to dream, urged Samaraweera striking a note reminiscent of Martin Luther King. It seemed a welcome invitation to the soporifically inclined to return to their slumber having been regularly fed with sheaves of promises among which this time was one to end the death penalty.

Geneva was being asked to accept as a premature Christmas present maybe the good news that the current moratorium on the death penalty would continue as the government intended to abolish capital punishment come the next year. Only the Saudis and the like-minded who prefer to cut off limbs would have taken umbrage if at all, at the uncivilized intentions of the new Sri Lanka Government.

If anybody took the invitation to dream seriously it was only the teller of the tale who was in fact in cuckooland surrounded by cuckoo clocks that would have intimated time was running out in this Geneva escapade. Hardly had Mangala in all his innocence slipped into dreaming of Buddhist Sri Lanka abolishing forever the nightmare of the state taking a life when he was rudely awakened by a presidential pronouncement that no such thing was on the cards.

To poor Mangala’s credit it might be said that he probably had no idea of the state of play, if one might call it that, back home where calls were mounting for the return of the death penalty after the suspected sexual abuse and killing of a five-year old girl, the latest instance in the recent history of child abuse. It was this that prompted the presidential response.

Addressing the local media a few days later with the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister by his side President Sirisena reiterated that while he thought the resurrection of the death penalty might be timely, he would still consult parliament on it.
There was no upbraiding of his foreign minister. How could he, after all this is a government of National Unity no?
Still, this was not the only instance where the left hand and the right hand seemed unable to synchronise their movements and were doing their separate things.

While all this hullaballoo was going on in Geneva and Colombo about hybrids and lowbrids and other forms of judicial constructions that would best suit our search for truth and accountability, the cabinet spokesman stepped into the breach, if one is to accept the accuracy of the news report.

Mangala Samaraweera

Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne is not unknown for overstepping the contours of cabinet briefings and straying into areas better left alone to avoid controversy and contradiction. While the contentious issue of international involvement in the proposed hybrid court was still been debated and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was insistent on a domestic inquiry, spokesman Senaratne was quoted in the media as saying that “massive frauds and corruption that had been perpetrated under the guise of prosecuting a war, would also receive the due attention of the Hybrid Special Court to be established.”

If correctly quoted, the hybrid court like the hybrid government, Senaratne implied, is a fait accompli. The trouble is that there are too many with portfolios of one kind or another who belong to that open-mouthed community. The story goes that Harsha de Silva and Ajith Perera were moved out of the positions they held in the 100-day administration because of their regular utterances – de Silva on economic matters and Perera who was deputy minister of foreign affairs holding media briefings almost daily to speak of everything other than foreign affairs (which might not have been a bad thing after all).

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe laid down the law the other day about foreign visits by ministers, deputies and officials and the down-sizing of our delegations. While that is a welcome beginning, the much-mentioned code of ethics for parliamentarians should be a high priority seeing that even newly-elected MPs are throwing their weight around and intimidating the police and others. Gayantha Karunathilaka who is in charge of parliamentary reform and media mentioned that early next month the much-awaited Right to Information Bill will be tabled in parliament. What about the code of ethics, pray?

Talking of the police, it seems to have escaped the attention of the media in general that there is a new police force around. When ministers were appointed Champika Ranawaka was assigned a subject called “Megapolice”. I thought it was a typographical error and would be soon corrected. Then came the appointment of deputy ministers. Once again this Megapolice made an appearance with Lasantha Alagiyawanna assigned the task.

Everybody seems to have accepted this new police force including the IGP, without demur. The height of absurdity was when a secretary was appointed to this new ministry called “Megapolice and Western Development”. If you do not believe me access the website of the president called PMD News and search under “Information, where you will find the announcement proudly displayed.”

I am not sure what Champika Ranawaka is supposed to do with this megapolice, perhaps arrest the entire populace. But if this is the way things are run in the president’s office in the name of yahapalanaya may the multiple deities worshipped at home save us from these ignoramuses and all the embarrassment. It was surely meant to be megapolis derived from the Greek word megalopolis.

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