03 December 2012

A note on resilience

Sri Lanka is a resilient nation.  The people of Sri Lanka lived through two bloody insurrections, three decades of war, and all manner of natural disasters capped by a tsunami that left hundreds of thousands homeless and over 40,000 dead.  And still we smile. 
When we talk of disasters, however, there is one which we routinely overlook: the 1978 Constitution.  This is strange, especially since the 1978 Constitution, both in article and lacuna, veritably presides over the playing out of tensions between the executive and judicial branches of the state (which have spilled over and found expression as tensions between the judicial and legislative branches).
The bone of contention is of course the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) appointed to investigate allegations against the Chief Justice (CJ).  The Supreme Court (SC) is currently in the process of hearing a petition querying the constitutionality of the PSC, a process which rebels against the principle of natural justice (where the CJ essentially is part of a process determining the legality of a course of action initiated against her).  Those against this move offer that it is pregnant with selectivity and vengeance.  Parliament has summoned the CJ to respond to charges and the SC seeks to summon the Speaker. 
As things stand, if the contentions of lawyers petitioning the SC are upheld, we would have to conclude that the CJ is above the law.  Since integrity, ethics and respect for institutions and posts such as the ‘Chief Justice’ have left the building a long time ago it is unlikely that any of the parties will back down from positions.  In a post-1978 Sri Lanka where the executive, legislative and judicial arms of the state have on numerous occasions encroached on one another’s territory, acted in high handed manner, shown unconscionable parochialism, selectivity and malice, the only word to describe things is ‘unfortunate’.  One should qualify thus: the only ‘generous’ word. 
All this serves only to turn playing ground into happy hunting ground for forces pursuing narrow political agenda which could very well result in Sri Lanka’s sovereignty being compromised and the people’s vulnerabilities further exacerbated.  The issue has been politicized from the beginning by all key players, a state of affairs which naturally provides a lot of ammunition for detractors of the regime and general Sri Lanka haters. 
Much of it is beyond control of course.  Sections of the Opposition, for example, sorely lacking in the proverbial straws to cling to, would naturally find in the CJ a new pretender (like it flirted with former CJ Sarath N Silva and like it leased out, in Sajith Premadasa’s now famous words, the presidential candidacy to Sarath Fonseka).   Those who saw the LTTE as a convenient ally in destabilizing the country (and later the Rajapaksa regime) and who now have lost that little money-spinning toy are likewise straw-clutching.  Let there be no doubt whatsoever that this issue will be taken up in Geneva in March 2013, even though there is nothing ‘unprecedented’ or horrific about a CJ being impeached. 
The best that the Government can do is to resist temptation to play the politicization game. 
The poster that was put up in Colombo this morning, with the legend ‘Lajjai Methiniyani’ (Shameful, Lady!), referring unabashedly to the CJ is an example of unnecessary (and distasteful!) politicization of the issue.  There is constitutional provision, one can argue.  If there isn’t then there is room for relevant amendment.  There is a process that’s underway.  The Government ought to let it run its course without frilling process and feeding those elements that would make things darker than they really are. 
To get back to resilience, it is pertinent to ask whether the current ‘impasse’, so-called, has the attention of the masses that some may say it deserves.  If there is ‘concern’, it seems largely hidden.  As prominent lawyer and political commentator Gomin Dayasri pointed out if the CJ is not ‘hero-to-be-followed’ in the way that Sarath Fonseka was (for some at least and for some time at least), it has something to do with how the people view the judiciary and the Army respectively.  The latter, people feel, they owe something to.  Not the former. 
What’s happening in the SC and in Parliament therefore has not prompted anything close to mass objection.  Moves against the CJ is not covering anyone in glory, true, but on the other hand the CJ’s moves to turn the Judicial Services Commission into a trade union is not eliciting any cheers either.  Lawyers and judges have already desecrated the courts by turning them into places where coconuts are smashed to obtain succor from deities who are supposedly amenable to vengeance extracting contracts.  The Parliament is and has been home to a lot of hooliganism.  If there’s more ugliness in store it wouldn’t surprise anyone.  It probably will spill into Geneva in March but that won’t surprise anyone either. 
Regimes thrive, become unpopular, survive unpopularity and give way.  It has happened throughout history, and as President Mahinda Rajapaksa is reported to have recently told MPs of his party, no one should harbor the illusion of political immortality.   Judges, likewise, have and will have their day. They too will pass. 
The people remain.  They have suffered much and survived much.  They are resilient. 


Ananda Ariyarathne said...

The way things keep on happening in Sri Lanka, it makes me wonder whether the true meaning of the word ' resilience ' is the ' capacity and ability to come back to the original position. In the case of people, does not it mean the acceptance of the inevitable or learn to live with something, stop thinking about what went wrong and start thinking positively or is it the desperation to survive? Or is it just that people think that it is not their business, a possible feature generated by the genes of a people who were always subjects under monarchs who have the right to rule ?
I think it is that and people simply accept things as they come and suffer silently. The rulers and those who try to become rulers one day may think that they are almighty and therefore wish to remain as almighty. From that moment onwards, the so called ' Supremacy ' of the people is disregarded and it becomes a case of " Listeners' Choice " as the minstrels would be singing only the songs soothing to the ears of the rulers. I think that is where the whole problem is.
Coming back to the issue, the Posters that have come up in the city today definitely has the signatures of some who keep on trying to please the ruler to show that it is how the people have reacted. But the rest of the world can interpret it as a government sponsored action and it will filter down to establish it as the decision of the Political Leadership of the Government.
There is no problem in recognising and respecting President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the only politician to have the guts to try to keep this wonderful country in one piece. He could not have done it without the help of his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who did a wonderful role of guiding his brother, the President and the Armed Forces when it was necessary. Even the Tamil people have realised that they have more freedom now.Madness is over. Even if CJ made a mistake, it could have been countered in many other ways without creating just another problem.
With pressure demanding the implementation of 13th Amendment on one side while making the Sri Lankan government to kneel down by way of causing unrest within the country due to rising cost of living will become the ingredients of the recipe.
All over the world , Nations are trying to work together to enjoy the benefits of the resources they have to improve the living conditions of their people. Here, we play sitting ducks when we can see clearly that some few schemers are trying to fragment this country.
If a joint state was made in the land of Palestine Israel would not have had the problems they had to face and while Jews were wondering all over the world, Palestinians existed there but ended up becoming a kind of people not recognised as a proper nation. The fragmentation of India and creation of Pakistan ended up in three different countries compelled to solve problems related to sharing geographical resources.
Let us say 13th Amendment is implemented, what is next ?Sharing river water, Sharing water from reservoirs, Tamil people living in predominantly Singhala areas, Crime that can go up due to lack of coordination can be just a few of the possible developments.
If Tamil people need a separate state, why cannot they have it in Tamil Naadu where the Tamil Population is more and a larger area of land is available.
Those schemers will never give up. The problem is with the people who have the capacity to rule in Sri Lanka.

If they cannot understand the naked truth, an if they keep on making blunders, should the people become the shock absorbers.
I think, it is going beyond the limits now. It is like a large and a very destructive storm approaching. Only difference is that the storm is made possible only because of the shortcomings of our own rulers.
How long will resilience of Sri Lankans stay ?

Ananda Ariyarathne