Fateful history of last 75 years: food for thought

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A Connoisseur of Journalism

Several participants at a very popular night-time political chat programme on television recently talked about the history of Sri Lanka after gaining independence. They also chose to lament that the historical events in Sri Lanka are not even taught, let alone mentioned even and discussed in our schools. As a direct result of this, the younger generation is quite unaware of how things had panned out over the last seven and a half decades. Some of the younger members of the community have not even heard the anecdotes nor even a few of the true-to-life stories of numerous cardinal mistakes made by many people who wielded power over the nation.

It really is an intellectual crime that the salient features and the glaring mistakes made by them during the reign of different governing parties and their modus operandi have not been adequately outlined in the history of our country. We talk so proudly of the magnificent three-century-or-so-old heritage of this country without graphically describing the damage done by political leaders in a period as short as seventy-five years; that is of course since the time we managed to secure the so-called independence from our colonial rulers.

Well, as a matter of fact, it is not just the children and the younger generation who have missed it. Even adults, the middle-aged as well as the elderly too have done so and missed the bus completely in their response to various man-made calamities that fell on this beautiful country. The Sri Lankan populace is notorious for having very short memories; virtually minute memories. All the faults and failures of the political clowns of our legislature are generally not remembered and acted upon to prevent a recurrence, thereby allowing repetitions of the very same misdemeanours, over and over…, again and again. Come any election time, the rhetoric of politicians makes the populace forget all that water that has gone under the bridge.

If one looks dispassionately at the way this island has been governed over the last three-quarters of a century, initially by the Prime Ministers from the time when independence was secured, and then by Executive Presidents from the 1970s, one could point out the very many glaring mistakes made to convert a once prosperous nation to the current status of bankruptcy as a country with untold and miserable suffering inflicted on our people. Short-sighted policies with the end result being complete disorganisation of the country, together with purposive manipulations to deeply fracture the coherent nature of Sri Lanka as a united country has wreaked havoc over many a decade.

The self-serving, utterly selfish and do not care attitudes of almost all our so-called leaders over many decades have been the bane of this nation. Making a quick buck and resorting to all forms of corruption with almost complete impunity has been how things have repeatedly gone along. Family cronyism and building personal empires, all at the expense of the people of the country and with enormous gains to the hangers-on, henchmen and henchwomen, really makes one want to retch and puke. However, these have become almost the norm.

The united Ceylonese of the late 1940s has been torn apart by all kinds of religious, ethnic and societal bitterness, and even unbridled sectarianism, leading even to a war, by leaders who fanned the flames of communal disharmony of Sri Lankans. Insurgencies by certain sections of disgruntled inhabitants of our land have dealt severe body blows to Lanka. Some of the proponents of those misdemeanours have now ostensibly entered into the political scenarios to apparently save the country and its people without shedding even a reluctant tear for the atrocities committed in the not-too-distant past. They do not have even an iota of remorse for the suffering of the people brought on by their dastardly capers in the 1950s, 1970s and the 1980s. They have never had the inclination or the guts to come forward and clearly state that they made mistakes in the past, that they murdered innocent people, that they violently rose against the state and that they are so sorry for those mistakes which will never be repeated. We can clearly see many wolves in sheep’s clothing in these shameful sections of our politicians and their supporters in our populace. Then there are the ‘wannabe’ leaders who are adept at only shouting themselves hoarse at the drop of a hat and coming out with grandiloquence that is at best laughable. If you listen to some of them raising the decibel level to the realm of sheer suffering, you would not laugh at all.

We have not had even one elected Prime Minister or an elected Executive President who has TOTALLY eschewed violence and not behaved like a dictator or a tyrant. Of course, they have all got their hangers-on to do all the dirty work without getting their own hands sullied. There are all too well-known instances of those dissidents who have opposed their views and actions, being sent on their way to the next world without any hesitation or remorse whatsoever. Some of these so-called leaders have been corrupt to the core and amassed unimaginable fortunes through filthy lucre. They have not thought even twice about bleeding Mother Lanka virtually to death. There is no doubt that such dishonestly accrued wealth is safely stashed away in other countries which do not ask too many questions about the origins of such vast fortunes. Nobody has up to now even made a feeble try to get that money back into our country coffers. Instead, they have made a concerted attempt to strangle the people with a draconian tax act.

Many of these ‘top leaders’ have also suffered from delusions of grandeur and a case in point is one who dreamed of making this country the Pride of Asia and taking it to Vistas of Prosperity. That worthy destroyed the country by instituting drastic cuts in inland revenue taxes to suit his hangers-on and then went on to completely crush the agriculture landscape of the country by banning chemical fertilisers overnight. He listened to some acolytes who did not even have a clue about agriculture. He did just that, rather than making a solid effort towards obtaining skilful and well thought out advice from the experts in agriculture sciences. He completely chose to ignore the facts of the matter such as the woeful lack of even one country on the planet that has been able to change to 100 per cent to organic fertiliser. In fact, there is no single country that has successfully gone into 50 per cent of organic fertiliser usage or for that matter, even into it by 25 per cent. The maximum a country has been able to successfully use an organic fertiliser mode is by a small proportion akin to 10 to 15 per cent of the entire agriculture situation in that country. Yet for all that, the hard nut decided to ban all imports of chemical fertiliser overnight. One could only echo the immortal words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, ‘O tempora, O mores’. We can only shake our heads in exasperation and incredulity at those who commit such wanton sedition.

The ‘selected’ latest leader who has been in the saddle for the last few months is even more of a cunning fox than his famed uncle who basked in the glory of the nickname ‘old fox’. The current glibly speaking nincompoop seems to have outsmarted all his adversaries. However, mark my words, he will get his just desserts, as one Siri…… from Polonnaruwa did to the tune of one hundred million Sri Lankan smackers. The blue fellow will ultimately learn to his cost that the delusion that he is under, which is that leaders control the people, will not work. That would be because, in a vibrant democracy, the people are sovereign, and they would ultimately take meaningful steps to control the leaders. In addition, at present, we are governed in the legislature by a plethora of buffoons, a set of liars, kings of corruption, confirmed murderers, renowned rapists and drug lords of all hues. They are totally indifferent to the suffering of all fellow Sri Lankans. Those who can do so, are leaving this sinking ship in droves. The youth are emigrating, seeking greener pastures. The intellectuals are deserting our beloved Motherland looking for better landscapes on the other side of this abyss of despondency. The powers-that-be are totally oblivious to the suffering of the masses. As for the legislators enjoying all the perks at the expense of the common masses, we need to remind them, in the illustrious words of the Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist George Bernard Shaw; “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity”. Such cold-hearted indifference towards the misery of our countrymen, women and children, will definitely boomerang on them, and hopefully with interest too.

In the current status of this wonderful country of ours, in this summer of discontent, everybody is suffering, in an unfathomable chasm of despair. Even the rich are in misery to a certain extent but they will survive because money talks, even in the very worst of circumstances. The middle class and the lower classes have no such lever to fall back on but the worm may turn at some time or the other.

It is noteworthy that in the most recent 75-year-long history of Sri Lanka, oppressor leaders and despotic legislators have been made to pay…, eventually. Some have even been made to pay dearly. The foregoing tirade of the content of this article was written to show how important the history of a country is. It is also axiomatic to remind the people of this thrice blessed land that history has a funny, inexorable and sometimes most unpleasant habit of repeating itself.

Courtesy The Island

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