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Rajpal's Column

28th March 1999

Wish we were awash in political prophylactics

By Rajpal Abeynayake

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A story that thousands of condoms were found in the Sri Lankan Parliament building blocking some of the wash-room drainpipes in those precincts, was not of scandalous proportions. The story barely managed to remain adrift. Sri Lankans uniquely lay a premium on political news over sex scandals, in contrasts to say Italians the Americans or the British or even the Malaysians. This is not to suggest that the presence of condoms in the premises of the legislature was necessarily scandalous.

But, the fact that the story did not "swim" vigorously in the Sri Lankan newspapers, may, on the other hand , be a fresh sign that the political culture in the country has got even more de-humanised . Politicians are lethal; that they engage in natural expressions of human behaviors such as, say, sex, was not something that interested the Sri Lankan community. They were for the most part interested in the lethal activities that the political breed were involved in more than they were interested in a tiny "sex" scandal ( as little as around a nine hundred condoms ) in the wash - rooms of parliament.

That's a sure sign, to put it at its least flippant - sounding, that the political culture of the country is degenerating almost beyond repair . America, for instance, was mired, bogged - down and caught up deep in a sex scandal with a President who was caught with his pants down. . But what was the Clinton- Lewinsky sex scandal in quintessence?

It was for the most part painted in the American press as a degenerate spectacle , a dangerous assault on the morals of the country. But the entire fiasco was a trifling thing at best. Despite the sense of ugliness and amorality that was appended to the spectacle by the press and the pundits, the Lewinsky scandal also showed that there was a certain political innocence that prevailed over America even as late as this. At least its one way of looking at it. The ugliest thing that American politics could get entangled in was a schoolboy - level sex scandal.

That would be in contrast to here, where the ugliest things that are manifest in politics are so ugly that sex scandals don't even pass muster in the ugliness barometer. The press is simply more involved in reporting political murder, mayhem and political irregularity that it is not distracted by a sex scandal that would buffet the news and at least contribute some buoyancy even to bad news.

The current political campaign has contributed heavily to this pervading sense that the current political culture is looking and smelling like a cess - pit. ( A condom pit would have been at least redeeming.)

One candidate, for instance, from one of the two reputed parties, is said to have got up onstage and announced that his own party's list contains the names of some of the "most notorious drug peddlers and thugs." The issue here is not to decide which is worse the fact that the party list contains the names of such notorious elements, or the fact that the candidate chose to expose his own party's list. Either way, it seems, things have come to this pass.

In another interior electorate, a fairly well known candidate has evolved what is probably the best slogan in post independence politics . The slogan is " if I lose, you will see stars". It's up on the walls, this bald, tight, unveiled threat. In this political culture, small wonder no one seems to be distracted by peripheral Sex scandals!

Those are things that would titillate boyish British political sensibilities . But back home the political arena is like a Roman amphitheater in which gladiators fought themselves to death. In this gory political bloodsport , there is no room for little tantalising things as natural , but as titillating, as MERE sex.

End piece: Its not strage in this backdrop that some of the politically ambitious seek to prove their credentials by standing as far apart as they can from the political breed. They do this by calling themselves "professionals" or other such euphemisms in short by referring to themselves as anything but politicians.

It's a route by which the professionals are becoming "Signore's".

The Gypsies with their song about a political loser, have romanticised a political culture in which the romance has died. Thereby the Gypsies have traversed a few eras and evoked the politics of a few aeons past.

Now, the professionals and the sundry others who have entered the fray seem to be trying desperately to take politics back to this past. But it seems that river is too wide now for crossing.


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