12 September 2014

Jehan Perera and the agonies of ‘Pamperditis’

I believe that there are things in this world that warrant the registration of strong objection.  And I believe there are things which, although arguably irritating, are too trivial to tear one’s hair over. There is a difference, in other words, between legitimate complain and insufferable whine.  There is a time to refer that interesting adage about complaining that one didn’t have shoes until one sees a cripple and then there are times when the reference to the worse-case is not a legitimate response.

My thoughts today derive from not so much from a complaint but an insufferable whine in the form of an article by Jehan Perera in the Island (Tuesday, September 29, 2009) titled ‘Need to take risks to overcome North-South divide’. 

I should not be surprised, I know, since Jehan Perera has acquired for himself a considerable reputation as an incurable whiner (in addition to other and less dismissible character traits).  In this case he is whining about what he believes to be the unreasonable length of time taken to process travelers flying to Jaffna from the Ratmalana Airport.  He also whines about the facilities.  He is upset that even after the end of the war (an eventuality that the man fought tooth and nail to prevent by the way), the security procedures had not been relaxed.  

Here is a man who is getting paid to vilify the Government of Sri Lanka.  A man who talks of good governance, democracy and the like but lacks the basic integrity to call to question highly exaggerated numbers and wild claims about conflict and post-conflict scenarios.  Even if we were to believe that Jehan’s ‘Jaffna Trip’ was an innocent excursion, the snobbery of the man is utterly obnoxious. 

I am not saying that the conditions at the Ratmalana Airport are amazingly good.  I am sure there is much room for improvement in facility and service.  However for someone to be so upset over having to get up early in the morning and ‘waste’ a few hours while being processed is bordering on a bad case of pamperditis.  I know, for instance, people who spend seven to eight hours a day of their entire working lives on the road, going to and from work.  I know children who walk 3-5kms to school or to the nearest bus halt to go to school.  Perhaps it is Jehan’s per-hour worth that has caused him to feel a pinch in his tender behind, but I thought it was all a selfless for-the-love-of-the-people kind of exercise that he is engaging in.  Maybe I am wrong.

Now Jehan belongs to that surreptitious gang of English-speaking, English-piddling self-styled ‘elites’ in Colombo who are horrified by conditions in IDP camps (meaning they’ve never set eyes on the poor and the conditions of poverty that are pretty widely evident in many parts of the country).  I was thinking how Jehan would run IDP camps had he been given that monumentally challenging task.  I am willing to wager that the first thing he would do would be to set up office and living quarters for himself, fully furnished with the comforts he enjoys at home. I am sure he would not go for a kind of toilet that the displaced have no choice but to use. 

Come to think of it, Jehan is an IDP himself.  He is displaced in his own country, divorced from its realities and sensibilities, distanced from the concerns of the general population, ideologically located outside this island in terms of preferred Utopia, financially dependent on funds offered by organizations with dubious and patently anti-Sri Lanka agenda and totally at sea when it comes to political realities. 

Jehan says ‘democratic and open societies must take risks that some terrorist or demented person somewhere will explode a bomb’. What does he care?  He never really  ran those risks and in fact, in championing the flawed and highly dangerous Ranil-Prabha Ceasefire Agreement, actively sought to create conditions for such explosions and succeeded too.  Just imagine letting our guard down completely (I think it should be and is a gradual process) and having some demented person (Jehan would qualify, come to think of it) tossing a bomb into a bus filled with school children.  Only someone with a moronic sense of the political would not envisage the fallout of such an incident.  We simply cannot afford anything like that. For the likes of Jehan Perera, though, it would be a gift from heaven.

His final lines are telling. Referring to the vast crowds that flocked to the BMICH during the International Book Fair, Jehan says, ‘The large number of bookshops and book publishers showed that Sri Lanka has a literate and well read population whom the government can take into its confidence in taking the risks that need to be taken to re-link the north and south again.’

Has Jehan forgotten that his plan for conflict-resolution (negotiating with the LTTE) lost out?  Does he know why?  Does he even bother to entertain the idea that the reason for this is that the Government did have the confidence of the ‘literate and well read population’?  Does he not know that monumental risks were taken to re-link the north and south again, in real terms, and not the trivial and probably temporary imbalances and mismatches that are quite understandable given a war that took thirty years to come to an end? 

Or does he think that ‘well-read’ refers only to those who read the trash that he writes and passes off as serious political commentary?  Is he in fact begging that someone takes him into confidence? 

Spoilt.  Utterly spoilt.  A brat, in fact. A bad case of Pamperditis. That’s the Jehan Perera that emerges from this piece.  And I am being generous here. 

*First published in the 'Daily News,'  September 30, 2009.  One hopes Jehan has had a more comfy in subsequent journeys.