An ungainly blob in lawless
that is also why last Thursday was significant. The ‘event’ was telecast
live-and it aroused more interest than the recent live telecast of the
test matches against England. People stopped work in offices to gape at
their television screens and they were universal in their condemnation
of Mervyn Silva and all that he embodied. And there was one question on
everyone’s lips: why isn’t the government acting against him?
When dog bites man, it is not news but when man bites dog it is news,
they say. If so, why did Employment Minister Dr. Hewakoparage Mervyn
Silva make news last week?
The maverick politician stormed the offices of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini
Corporation on Thursday and allegedly assaulted the Director of News
after which he was virtually held hostage by angry staff of the
Corporation before he was compelled to make a delayed retreat under
But what is new in all this? Nothing, because this is the norm and not
the exception for Mervyn Silva. This is the umpteenth time he-or a
member of his family-has taken the law into their hands and we daresay
this will not be the last.
The difference though on Thursday was two-fold. Firstly, the media
institution concerned was state owned and the circumstances were such
that it was possible to offer a live telecast of events, leaving no one
in doubt as to what transpired. Secondly, Silva was at the receiving end
of the wrath of Rupavahini employees, his intended victims, whereas
usually it is vice versa.
But now, we have reached the next and most decisive phase and the
collective public conscience goes through a now familiar routine:
everyone condemns the incident, reams and reams of statements are issued
against Silva and newspaper columns such as this one rave and rant about
the erosion of values and decency among our current crop of politicians.
Does any of this make any difference at all? It will be recalled that
whenever Silva is in the news with his antics, there is a frenzy of
Mervyn mauling in the media. Even the likes Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)
General Secretary, Maithripala Sirisena, join the fun but for all the
claims of disciplinary action against the maverick minister, nothing
Are we then, by focusing on Mervyn Silva, turning a blind eye to the
wider cancer before us? Is this just a loutish bully who offends with
psychopathic frequency and happens to be a parliamentarian to boot, or
is he merely an ungainly blob in a larger landscape of lawlessness and
lack of responsibility?
Consider the facts: Silva is a National List MP; he is also a
non-cabinet minister and these are the positions from which he derives
his arrogance, power and privileges. But both positions can also be
withdrawn literally with the stroke of a pen-and we all know whose pen
That has not happened with past incidents and at the time of writing
there is no indication it will happen with the latest incident either.
And it is not that ministers have not been sacked from this government:
they have been summarily dismissed for the mere transgression of
criticising the President.
That brings us to the central issue at stake: self-survival versus
accountability. There is ample evidence that this regime lives by the
day and has been made to fight for every iota of its existence, as was
evidenced at the recent vote on the budget. It has done that but in so
doing sacrificed the concept of accountability for its actions on the
altar of expediency.
Many examples can be readily cited that range from the clever to the
callous. They range from the roping in of the Karu Jayasuriya faction of
the United National Party (UNP) when the UNP had agreed to co-operate
with the President, dishing out portfolios to over a hundred ministers,
tolerating the peccadilloes of an obviously incompetent but high living
Foreign Minister and awarding ministerial portfolios to suspects in the
murder of a SLFP parliamentarian.
The bottom line is that Hewakoparage Mervyn Silva is but a little
statistic in this long list of sacrifices that the government of
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has to make in order to ensure its survival.
So it may just be that when the risks and benefits of keeping Mervyn
Silva within the government ranks are considered, the benefits-however
unethical they may be-outweigh the risks. So, Mervyn lives to fight
But that is also why last Thursday was significant. The ‘event’ was
telecast live-and it aroused more interest than the recent live telecast
of the test matches against England. People stopped work in offices to
gape at their television screens and they were universal in their
condemnation of Mervyn Silva and all that he embodied. And there was one
question on everyone’s lips: why isn’t the government acting against
It is the latter that President Rajapaksa must now consider. There was a
sense of ‘enough is enough’ among the public who witnessed the event on
TV. Mervyn Silva, for all that he brings to the government, may have now
become a liability. And if he is not sent packing, it may not take long
for the wrath that was vented on Silva on Thursday, to be transferred to
Therefore, there is a sense that President Rajapaksa’s integrity would
be judged on what action he takes against Mervyn Silva. It is time to
tell Silva, ‘in the name of God, go’ or else that maybe what the
masses-of whom there was a representative sample at Rupavahini on
Thursday- may be telling the President before long.