O tempora O mores, wrote that reputed Roman orator, writer and lawyer Cicero disgusted at the viciousness and corruption of his day. Commenting though he was on the life and times then, those who live in Sri Lanka today would wryly ask what has changed from the days of Cicero who lived in the century [...]


Leopards are killed but Tigers get life support


O tempora O mores, wrote that reputed Roman orator, writer and lawyer Cicero disgusted at the viciousness and corruption of his day. Commenting though he was on the life and times then, those who live in Sri Lanka today would wryly ask what has changed from the days of Cicero who lived in the century before Christ.

Vijayakala Maheswaran making the controversial speech

If anything has changed, it is only for the worse with corruption multiplied a thousand fold or more, while fraud continues unabated and the judicial system and the rule of law so corrupted and degraded that the public treat them with cynicism, if not disgust.

What times indeed. While Buddhism teaches non-violence, egalitarianism and moral conduct emphasising Sila and Pragna some of those who preach the Buddha’s philosophy are ready to encourage followers to strike out on a dangerous political path that is the antithesis of Buddhism.
If pre-war Germany’s vicious killer Adolf Hitler is now being touted as an embodiment of nationalism, correct governance and a strong decision maker then the oft-battered Sri Lankan people have none but providence to turn to for release from such jingoistic blowhards.

Not all believe in synchronicity as faithfully as a former senior colleague of mine at the Daily News in the 1970s. But even sceptics will recall the controversy over the Asgiriya Anunayake, Ven Upali’s admonition to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to be a strong decision-maker like Hitler and lead the country with the military at his side (or back or front or wherever). Before turning to his Hitler analogy, the venerable monk said that the country needs a religious leader.

One supposes that he meant a religious leader who believes in ahimsa and non-violence and would provide the people with moral guidance. It seems to me that to speak of a religious leader immersed in such ethical purity and in the same breath ask him to adopt some Hitlerian principles and practices with the help of a military which is hardly a non-violent force is contradictory. As Gotabaya Rajapaksa, supposedly a presidential aspirant, said, he could understand what the monk meant when he said what he said, possibly because others do not have the intellectual sagacity of Hitler or a pocket Hitler.

While the Ven.Upali set out next day to explain what he meant, others tried to wish away any damage a resurrection of Hitler’s dreaded methods of ruling the Third Reich might have done.

Synchronicity it might not have been but 10 days or so after the Asgiriya monk’s words of wisdom echoed around Gotabaya’s home and spilled across to the outside world, memories of the despotic rule of a local Hitler were being revived in the north of the country whose people suffered from the devastating effects of a war brought on by a war lord called Prabhakaran in the name of freedom.

Speaking at a meeting in Jaffna earlier last week Vijayakala Maheswaran, the State Minister of Child Affairs (what a queer title for a ministry) recalled the peaceful days in the north under Prabhakaran’s rule when people could walk about without fear of being attacked or women from suffering the social stigma of rape.

Apparently it was the sexual assault of a six-year-old girl and the spread of crime in the north that brought about State Minister Maheswaran’s call for a return to Prabhakaran’s days by reviving the LTTE. Or so she has supposedly explained as Upali thera did after his exhortation.

It is not strange for politicians and political aspirants to suffer from selective amnesia. The State Minister who resigned the other day seems to forget that in the latter years LTTE cadres snatched children away from their homes as their parents wept, to be turned into child soldiers. This is well documented and does not need exegesis here.

One would have thought that Maheswaran as State Minister for Child Affairs would have decried the conduct of the LTTE that trained those in their early teens or even younger to be suicide bombers and sacrifice themselves in the name of a higher cause while the movement’s leaders stayed away in their luxurious underground bunkers.

Maheswaran implies that crime was unheard of during the heady days of LTTE rule. One supposes that she failed to realise that the fear of instant justice so common under Hitler’s fascist rule drove fear into the minds of the people of the north. Surely it was not that the people were free but that their lives were controlled through fear.

Moreover, the rest of the country — and even some living in the north and east — might well have believed in a crime-free society because the LTTE’s rigorous control of the media prevented any news leaking out. The ex-State Minister, if one might call her that for the time being, also forgets that there has been a unending demand by sections of the northern people and the Tamil diaspora particularly in the west, for the Government to withdraw its security forces from the northern areas.

On the one hand they, including sections of the so-called international community, whine about the presence of police and troops. On the other hand they complain when crimes are committed. Even a leopard is not safe. They are tortured and then killed, a practice one supposes that was picked up during the days of freedom that Maheswaran longs for, though how long she lived in Jaffna and other areas of the north under Tiger rule is not publicly known.

She denies that her husband, a UNP parliamentarian was killed in Colombo by the Tigers. Who then was responsible and what reason or reasons led to his killing?

Had Maheswaran’s plea for an LTTE renaissance or LTTE-style governance been made before the Asgiriya monk’s anusasana, the thoughts expressed then for strong government with military support would have been used as a justification for the call that went out to Gotabaya.

But the monk’s call came before. Still it seems that both south and north are promoting authoritarianism with fascist tendencies. It was George Santayana who said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Is Sri Lanka slowly but surely pushing policies that would sit with greater assurance in the 1930s fascist parties of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco?

Even justice can be sadly compromised and the more Hitlerian Sri Lanka becomes the less one can expect judicial integrity. The fact that our judiciary has for decades failed to draft a code of conduct for judicial officers, allows judges to recuse themselves rather freely without any transparency and postpone cases for months on end, some without ever having been heard, and is increasingly leading to declining public faith in our judicial system.
If this can happen in today’s Sri Lanka under a government that claims to provide good governance what would justice be under an approximation of a Hitlerian system of justice?

Historical records tell us that between 1933 and 1945, German judges both civilian and military handed down an estimated 50,000 death sentences most of which were carried out.

As Telford Taylor, the US Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials said “The dagger of the assassin was concealed beneath the robe of the jurist.”
Nazi expert Jorg Friedrich said, “A constitutional state can stand on a judicial mass grave”.

If ever Sri Lanka produces its own Obergruppenfuhrer a jurist’s robe might not be enough to conceal a judge’s backbone.

If a venal and bigoted people are content to leave the rudder of the nation increasingly in the hands of sanctimonious preachers and their empty mouthpieces one would surely be reminded of an old saying about people deserving the rulers they get. Sri Lanka can well do without a Trumpist approach to inconvenient realities. The pressures of a nascent fascism are coming both from the north and south. The Sri Lanka people should repudiate such dangerous tendencies unless they are currently in an induced coma.

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