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This is my Nation


 

 

Lessons learned from the Silvas’ follies

The firm stand taken by the court with regard to Malaka Silva, is a clear sign that the wheels of justice are moving in the right direction, and that fair play will prevail in future dealings with those violating the law 

It is no secret that politics is a cancer that has infiltrated every sphere of activity in this country and left its corrupting influence on almost every sphere of activity in this country: from education, employment, health, the armed forces and the police, banking, sports and many other fields. The list is endless. And, as the reputations of politicians become murkier as a result of this canker, less and less well meaning individuals are willing to enter the political arena. The tragic result of this is, an erosion of the quality of the average politician. Politicians and their hangers on have thus become all powerful, and their patronage becomes essential even for the average, tax-paying, law abiding peaceful citizen of the country, whose active involvement in politics would otherwise have been confined to casting a ballot at election time

This country must surely owe a debt to Malaka Silva and his more famous father, Mervyn Silva.
Obviously it is not for going about their business, threatening all and sundry and causing commotion and controversy wherever they choose to make their appearances. Instead, it would be for awakening a sense of fair play and civic consciousness among a large section of the general public.

The Silvas, Mervyn and Malaka, were by no means the first to flex their political muscles. There were other ministers and ministerial offspring who threw their weight about, but thankfully, the offspring quietly disappeared from the landscape, perhaps because saner counsel prevailed on them.

The politicians themselves though are still around, such as the likes of D.M. Dassanayake and Susantha Punchinilame for instance. They could give Mervyn Silva a good run for his money in the art of political gung-ho. This has been a political culture that has evolved over the last twenty five years or so, as politics in general became more violent with the advent of northern and southern insurrections, and toughness became a requisite for survival in the political jungle.

Many factors led to the escalation of this violent culture. The northern insurrection grew exponentially into terrorism, and killings became the order of the day. Even on the electoral battlefield, the turf wars for the preferential votes meant that the gentler candidates fell into the, ‘also ran list’ when the election results were announced.

The Sri Lankan public then became resigned to tolerating loutish behaviour from their politicians. So much so that it was almost a part of their job description! Politicians were your archetypal buffoons and were expected to behave as such. When they did, no one was surprised. It was as if we had become a nation in a masochistic slumber.

What Mervyn and Malaka Silva have done is to arouse the country from that siesta. As Mervyn Silva himself said, incidents similar to the latest incident his son was involved in, happen in every neighbourhood probably every day, so why the big hullabaloo? Why did the print and electronic media trail every move of the Silvas and report ad nauseam on the incident?
What the ‘doctorate laden’ Silva (Snr.) could not fathom with his brilliant intellect was,  that he and his son appear to have crossed that imperceptible line, which has made a collective body of people say, enough is enough. And that has been the difference, this time around.

Why did this not happen before? There maybe many answers to that question.
It is no secret that politics is a cancer that has infiltrated every sphere of activity in this country and left its corrupting influence on almost every sphere of activity in this country: from education, employment, health, the armed forces and the police, banking, sports and many other fields. The list is endless. And, as the reputations of politicians become murkier as a result of this canker, less and less well meaning individuals are willing to enter the political arena. The tragic result of this is, an erosion of the quality of the average politician.

Politicians and their hangers on have thus become all powerful, and their patronage becomes essential even for the average, tax-paying, law abiding peaceful citizen of the country, whose active involvement in politics would otherwise have been confined to casting a ballot at election time.

The consequence of this is, politicians acquiring near absolute power and, as the saying goes, getting corrupted absolutely. Thus, anyone would think more than twice before crossing the path of a politician. But make no mistake, even with the Silvas, what happened would not have happened if not for the courageous steps taken by the judiciary. And that is a most welcome trend.
The judiciary, over the past few months has been taking many proactive decisions. Their interventions have ranged from matters related to school admissions, gas prices, teacher strikes, budgetary allocations and many more important issues too numerous to mention here.

It is not that previously our wheels of justice were not turning. But now, it does appear that they are turning at lightning speed and in the right direction. Indeed, it would be fair to say that the country is witnessing a period of proactive judicial activism as never before. What this has done is to infuse a sense of confidence in the public, that any perceived injustice, could be brought to the notice of the courts with the bright prospect of a favourable result, regardless of the political considerations involved.

This is just what happened with regard to Malaka Silva. When he was ordered to be remanded, he was dispatched to a private hospital. That was challenged by a concerned citizen. Not only was the challenge upheld, those responsible for making the decision to transfer Silva (Jnr.) to the hospital, have been summoned to provide explanations for their action.

The underlying lesson is clear: even those public servants who act at the behest of their political masters, will be called upon to explain themselves and if found wanting, could be punished. Obviously this serves as a deterrent to others, who would have otherwise happily trodden the same path.

This is only a beginning and more needs to be done to rid the country of unnecessary political interference. That day will come only when the politicians themselves, are called upon to pay for their sins without fear or favour. That prospect has not materialised just yet.

Till it does, maybe we should just be thankful to the Silvas. As for those governing the country, with friends like the Silvas, they don’t need enemies.

****