18 September 2015

Getting a grip on the fear psychosis

Written and published in September 2009 in the 'Daily news', this might give some perspective about how things have changed (or haven't) since January 8, 2015 and also show up the lady that rants and raves, is full of venom and hatred and ironically is in charge of 'reconciliation' or rather put in charge of that subject by Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe in all their wisdom.

‘There is an atmosphere of fear and lack of freedom in Sri Lanka,’ Chandrika Kumaratunga is reported to have said in Kerala recently. She says that even though ‘it is a government of (her) party in power,’ she doesn’t feel safe. Implying of course that people who are not members or supportive of the party in power would feel even less safe. 

The war may be over but a country that has suffered for three decades would be silly to let down its guard immediately after the tyrant has been vanquished. There are also arms and ammunition, bombs and claymore mines being unearthed. The need for vigilance has not disappeared. There are still check-points in the city. There is no absolute freedom in Sri Lanka, she is right. 

She is also right about ‘fear’. ‘Angulana’ happened. An SSP’s son turned thug and beat the living daylights out of a fellow-student. Other ‘unacceptables’ have taken place. So, no, Sri Lanka cannot be described as a land without fear. 

We live in times where the ruling party is so popular and the opposition so weak that candidates running for office at the Southern Provincial Council election have had to limit themselves to attacking fellow-candidates. 

Few among those who are in the fray can be tagged ‘blameless’. Many are veterans at the rough-and-tumble of regional politics and not averse to do the by-any-means-necessary to secure more preferential votes. There have been clashes. Threats have been tossed around. I am pretty sure that none of the candidates feel absolutely safe. Even though they belong to the same part and this party happens to be in power. 

Chandrika Kumaratunga is just another citizen. She used to be the President of this country. She has been in politics for decades. She comes from a well-known political family. She was the leader of one of the two strongest parties in the country. She should know what she is talking about. But does she, though? 

She must remember the process through which common criminals ended up as powerful members of the Presidential Security Service. She must remember one Rohana Kumara. She must remember all kinds of limitations knowingly imposed on basic freedoms. She would not, I am sure, have felt that she was enveloped by an atmosphere of fear. She had too much security to indulge in such ‘fantasies’, one can reasonably surmise. 

There is a lot she can remember and consequently an equal quantity of things she can forget, but there’s one thing that even if she chooses to forget, the public cannot: the atmosphere of fear generated by the LTTE and the limitations on freedom consequent to this. There was a real threat (she knows this first-hand, thanks probably to over-confidence regarding invincibility and horrendous lapses in security). 

There was a time when you got into a bus or a train or walked into a crowded street and could never say with any degree of conviction that you will definitely go home at the end of the day. 

That was a time of suicide-bombers blowing themselves up in crowded places. That was a time of bombs exploding in your face, literally, in a bus stand, a railway station; of terrorists descending on sleeping villages and massacring innocent people in cold blood. 

That, ladies and gentlemen, was most certainly a time of fear. Real fear. BIG fear. And how did Chandrika Kumaratunga go about alleviating this fear? She talked, shop with the source of this fear - the LTTE. She went around telling her people that the LTTE could not be defeated; essentially making a case for surrender. 

That was also a time when national assets were being bartered in the international market; a time of shady deals and an abject deference to things ‘foreign’. It was a time when one could legitimately fear for the sovereignty of the nation. 

And so I am intrigued by the term ‘atmosphere of fear’. I think it is airy. I don’t know which kinds of landscapes Chandrika Kumaratunga prefers to visit in order to breathe, but I do know that quite a number of people are relieved that the LTTE, as a fighting force, is no longer a threat to worry about. For four full months, we have not had a single suicide attack or any other attack on civilian targets. If anything, what we are experiencing right now is the absence of such fear. 

Chandrika cannot talk and this is not because there are processes seriously compromising the freedom of expression. Fear, or driving fear into heart and mind or facilitating the heightening of fear, happened to be her preserve. 

Given all this, I cannot conclude anything regarding her fears than the anxiety of not having the power to generate or facilitate fear. 

As for those other fears such as the ‘Angulana-fear’ or the ‘Fear courtesy papa-power’ they are real and should be addressed. I wouldn’t be surprised if last person anyone would go for help in this regard is Chandrika Kumaratunga (now that Velupillai Prabhakaran is dead). 

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