The looming crisis

Ceylon Today Editorial 

The then strident and voluminous Tamil journalist Aiyathurai Nadesan was killed allegedly by persons known to many in today’s political parties. That was on 31.5.2004 to be exact, ‘Taraki’ or Dramaratnam Sivaram as journalists knew him, wrote of Nadesan’s killing in a measured critique. But he too knew that his life was on the line. That was the then political culture.

But all these years later, while the media and the people keep asking “who done it?”, none asks what’s been done about a serious probe about those and other killings.

Taraki of course, to many, brought a more radical pen to his writings, and obviously far too radical for the people who had killed Nadesan.

So they killed Taraki too, just a couple of days before May Day of 2005, on 28 April.

This third May Day Rally of the government in power hence marks a near complete metamorphosis from the pre-2015 political culture to one in which the nation’s democratic freedoms are permitted full expression, though to a fault.

The point is that justice was not seen to have been done by people from different professions, white or blue collar, and the politicians under whose watch they and several others were put to death and abducted to go missing forever.

These politicians, despite a gory record that even this government is dragging its feet on, regarding honest investigations, were on the May Day Rally platforms last Monday, using the workers’ day as an opportunity to woo votes at forthcoming elections. Only a fool will argue the fact that this government has, (in all circumstances proved just to date), accommodated workers’ demands, including the long delayed demands of armed service personnel wounded in the war against terrorism.

What is amazing as well as deeply disquieting is the fact that impressively large crowds gathered at those rallies. What means was employed to get them to those rallies is not the point. The point is that lessons of the past evils continue to be sanctioned by a pretty large voter base. And when the outcome of any election depends on the mentality and moral of such a voter base, when charisma makes strident appeals to such lower life forms, then the restored democracy is still very, very much at stake.

The government, or rather, the leaders of the parties in harness in power, need to face that reality if the democratic rights wrested from the clutches of tyranny, murder and mayhem are not be lost again.

They need to recognize the fact that no amount of development, and even the benefits of development trickling down to this morally deficient proletariat, is ever going to change their decisions at elections. The fact that the strongest pull is downward was never as true as it is in the greater percentage of the Lankan voter mass.

Everyone knows that no one who has exercised his/her human-worker rights, especially in politics and journalism, is in immense jeopardy of life itself, should this government fall at the next elections. For this purpose alone it is an imperative for this government, for the President and Premier, to consider socio-political realities which sadly are not changed by salary and other worker benefits.

Such measures will not necessarily win votes as the attendees at May Day rallies amply demonstrated. If the crowds at the rallies proved a point, it was that a huge section of the populace is sadly lacking in the ability to see right from wrong, or deliberately gravitate towards politicians who appeal to their baser instincts.

Time passes extremely quickly.

When Theodore Roosevelt said that to educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. This is what we have in our society today. Brutes who are a menace.

Lenin put it succinctly saying that “There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.”

We write today from the point of view of the morals-based school of journalism, out of a sense of social obligation to sound a warning, as Joseph Pulitzer did, when he said that he regards journalism, is a noble profession and one of unequalled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people.

The government needs to take a serious look at what saner minds in journalism have been drawing its attention to especially for this past one year and forge a closer political merger that can sustain the gains for which, to date, at least the pioneer of change, the Venerable Sobhita Thera sacrificed his life.

It was saddening to see that none observed a minute’s silence on any platform on May Day, in remembrance and gratitude.