Last weekend I penned what might possibly be the last post for ‘At My Wits End’. For it is very definitely the last instalment of ‘Wits End’ that I will post on Facebook! In it I wrote that while there is much to be said in favour of the emerging new political culture, there is [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Promises to make, and keep; miles to go before we sleep


Last weekend I penned what might possibly be the last post for ‘At My Wits End’. For it is very definitely the last instalment of ‘Wits End’ that I will post on Facebook! In it I wrote that while there is much to be said in favour of the emerging new political culture, there is also much to be done by the emerging new regime. I caught a rocket for that, dears.

Some friends were annoyed I had posted my piece on FB when they had already read it in print. Some fellows quibbled that I had tricked them into reading a critical piece on the Heroes of the Hour. Some foes querulously queried my gumption: that I had dared to quibble with the H of the H at all.

This is not about me, but. Or you, even. But what has become – and is becoming – of the only media culture we have. Print, FB post, tweet, repeat unsubstantiated rumours – we’re all guilty.

Hope you will come to see that we’re setting ourselves up for a bigger fall than before, my dear country-folks. That is, if we don’t stop the euphoric road trip and take serious stock of the situ.

Yes, it was as free and as fair an election as we have had in living memory. Yes, it was a resounding victory for the idea of democracy – in that the usually ignorant/apathetic (“we don’t know/we don’t care”), as well as the unusually sophisticated (“we don’t believe in the system/whatever we do at the polls, it will all turn out right in the end”), voters voted. Yes, there was no violence to write overseas about. Yes, the people’s will was made manifest – albeit by a slender margin. Yes, a dastardly alleged coup was doughtily avoided. Yes, there has been a change in the winds of democracy. Yes, there is hope that a sterling republicanism might come out of it.


Yes, there is a but!

But we mustn’t be complacent – because politicians are people, and because coalitions are as corruptible as family businesses. But we mustn’t be cynical, either – because it’s still early days, and the national government is doing a darned sight better for democracy/republicanism since time out of mind. But we mustn’t be cautious in refusing to issue the all-new powers that be a blank cheque – by no means! – because one can be passionately sincere and passionately wrong at the same time… or passionately unable to genuinely deliver on one’s not-so-sincere promises. (If I promise sincerely to deliver what I know or – more charitably – suspect I might not be able to do, whose fault is it when my promises are – unavoidably, regrettably – broken?)

Yes, we have no bananas!

But we do have some questions. And we’d like the nascent new regime to suggest some responses – if not essay appropriate actions. (While we have some answers in question form… hoping against hope – long live the new regime – that we are badly, desperately wrong!)

Why does the 100-Day Programme not include more specific recourse to justice for some past victims of an oppressive regime? (Is it because the parties culpable might be in the ranks of the coalition?)

Who are the presently marginalised segments of our society who are still being ignored, and why are thugs still at liberty to wreak havoc in the name of their political parties as we saw this week? (And it seems that executives still have to order it, before the shortened arm of the law swings into action!)

Where is there political space for minority voices to be heard and minority issues to be addressed and meaningful remedies attempted, or is this coalition as chauvinist as the regime it replaced? (Is it that the ethnic component of the coalition is also willing to honeymoon awhile?)
When will known or suspected terrorists, drug lords, death squad leaders, and other corrupt/criminal elements be brought to trial/subject to investigation by due process? (Or must it be made to appear that the magnanimous electoral victors would not condescend to witch-hunt?)
What if the national government flounders in a hung Parliament? Or, worse, founders in a hijacked one? Will a strong executive presidency then become the partisan, less-than-national need of the hour – again? (Can the coalition at least expedite the promised reforms not requiring a Parliamentary majority?)

Don’t get me wrong, dears. I’m as delighted as any democracy-loving republican that the yoke is broken, deliverance come, and rescue from a hated tyranny begun. But there’re many promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep. Shall we let our erstwhile dormant republic slumber now as it once did, then? Or shall we (the people) police, investigate, enforce the mandate that we (the people) granted these sea-green incorruptibles? (And not only on FB; but in the forum, town square, and marketplace!)

Shall we be seduced by hard-won victories of the moral majority? Shall we be sidelined by excuses and reasons for non-delivery on deadlines, trotted out in all good faith? Shall we be satisfied with taking a back seat until the next election? Or shall we ask why questionable Cabinet appointments have been made and false allegations been levelled against the former powers that be by the questionable appointees themselves unquestioned?

Justice must not only be done, but seen to be done, and declared that it will be done. Realpolitik must take a back seat soon, or the new regime might be sorely tempted – indeed, may realise it has no option – but to compromise with the forces of accommodation, ‘realistic government’ over ‘righteous governance’, and “let’s postpone for the next polls platform what we promised at the late great last past one”. Revenge and retaliation must take a back seat now, retribution never be allowed to raise its ugly ahead again – for has it not long fed on its enemies: dissenters and dissidents?

There is this, though. If the national government is not to become another despotic regime, if republicanism is to survive – and thrive – beyond these 100 halcyon days, people of principle in Cabinet and Parliament must rise above narrow interests and personal gain and petty agendas to ensure these (because some of the rest is already falling into place and needs no bush whacking):

Investigate the politicos’ and journalists’ beatings, abductions and disappearances, and killings. Get those who have fled back, let no one else suspect leave – no matter what the backroom deals. Prosecute to the full extent of the law those culpable and found guilty (of crime and corruption) – no matter what their standing with, or significance for, the Coalition.

Do it now that you have said you will. While you still have the opportunity. And still enjoy our confidence. Your reputation – and political future – is at stake. To say nothing of making the most of our country’s last best hope yet.

As for my online detractors, who think I’m giving our putative rescuers from rack and ruin too hard a time… get a life, get real. Some may trust in horses, some in chariots. But we will not worship princes and politicians again – not while there’s life in these old republican bones, which called Caesar a tyrant while he was enrobed in purple.

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