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This is my Nation


 

 An ungainly blob in lawless landscape

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 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 police protection.

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 materialises.

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 is.

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 another day.

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 him?

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 the government.

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.

****