In memory of Father Tissa Balasuriya :This is Our Country too and it is Worth Fighting For
Last week Fr. Tissa Balasuriya died. Fr. Balasuriya, in and through his life, personified what is best and most humane about Christianity. ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest’: that was Father Balasuriya in thought and deed.
In a previous repressive era, when many chose indifference or equivocation, he stood up for democracy, provided a platform for dissent and kept his doors ever open for those in need. He was reviled as a CIA Agent/a Catholic conspirator by Sinhala fanatics and persecuted by the Vatican as a heretic.
This article is not about Fr. Tissa Balasuriya; it is for him, in memory of his passion for justice, his rational progressivism, his commitment to sanity, honesty, honour and decency in public life and, above all, his large-hearted generosity which was incapable of discrimination. For all that and more, this article is a very inadequate public ‘thank you’ to a priest, a fighter and a man this country needs more than ever today.
“Never to submit and never to oppress…”. Camus (Reflections on the Guillotine)
In a dishonourable hour, Rizana Nafik’s mother has reminded us what honour is. In an unprincipled hour, Rizana Nafik’s mother has demonstrated that principles can be found where they are most unlooked for.
None would have thought that a poor woman, with a sick husband, two dependent children, no steady source of income and a tumbledown shack for a home, would refuse the money offered by Saudi Arabia. Who could have blamed her for accepting that money? But she did not. And in her refusal to take the blood money offered by her daughter’s murderers, she acted with a dignity which is almost non-existent amongst our political, economic and religious elite, the powerful, the influential and the rich of Sri Lanka who have made a creed out of the most myopic and unenlightened self-interest.
If we had parliamentarians like her, the impeachment would not have happened and we would not be afflicted with the most supine and unprincipled ‘chief justice’ in the history of Sri Lanka.
Mohan Peiris epitomises the new Rajapaksa Man; he is the Model Subject for an enslaved Sri Lanka. His willingness to worship the powerful and place self-advancement/protection above all else symbolises the ‘ethos’ the Rajapaksas want to inject into all Lankans.
Rizana Nafik’s mother epitomises the values of a dying Sri Lanka, as did Father Tissa Balasuriya. Mohan Peiris epitomises the values of the new Sri Lanka which is being created by the Rajapaksas and for the Rajapaksas.
That Rajapaksa Sri Lanka despises the poor and weak. It is unequal and discriminatory and lacks all sense of common or garden decency. It is blustering and cowardly; it is a haven to religion without morality; it criminalises independence and freedom. It is unmoved by the plight of its malnourished, abused children. It loves vulgar exhibitionism and opulent bad taste, gloats over the fallen foe and seeks to keep its people shacked in ignorance and fear.
Do we want Sri Lanka, our common home, to become that country?
Resisting Rajapaksa Reality
Tyranny is deceptive. It must be because it needs to hide its true nature from the eyes of those on whose support/indifference its continued survival rests. Successful tyrannies excel at hiding reality, turning the truth on its head and criminalising its victims.
The Rajapaksas too want us to believe in an alternate reality.
In that make-believe world, Sri Lanka is a rapidly developing land - its debt burden is not spiralling out of control; its poor are not been deprived of their homes and livelihoods; its environment is not been degraded; its health and education systems are in mint condition; its prices are falling; and its Central Bank always tells the truth.
In this make-believe world, the impeachment was an exercise in justice - the Rajapaksas knew nothing about anything until 117 UPFA parliamentarians, renowned for their independence, their zeal for good-governance and their crusading efforts against corruption, prepared and signed the impeachment (on their initiative) and presented it to President Rajapaksa and the Speaker Rajapaksa as a fait accompli.
In this make-believe world, a laissez faire judiciary is necessary to protect democracy, promote human rights and ensure good governance.
The Rajapaksas want us to accept this imagined reality as the real one. After all, we did accept the twin myths of ‘humanitarian operation with zero-civilian casualties’ and ‘welfare villages’. So why not Rajapaksa democracy, Rajapaksa justice and Rajapaksa development?
The Rajapaksas want us to become our own ‘Thought Police’, to suppress the truth we know and to believe the lies they tell us.
They do not want us to see nepotism in the elevation of Yoshita Rajapaksa as the new captain of the national rugby team. They do not want us to discern signs of megalomania in (or even be embarrassed by) ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa International Challenge Football Championship’, ‘President Mahinda Rajapaksa T-20 Under 19 Triangular Cricket Tournament’, ‘Chamal Rajapaksa Challenge Trophy’, ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre’, ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa Tele Cinema Park’ and ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa Vidyalaya’ (to mention a few).
If the Rajapaksa-hatred of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake has not been appeased by her illegal ousting, if they decide to make her suffer more iniquity and indignity, they want us not to be angered or appalled by it, but accept it as justice.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is to commence another programme ‘to totally eradicate the underworld’, using ‘various tactics’, according to media reports. When ‘Suspects’ in their thousands are murdered, while ‘resisting arrest’ or ‘trying to escape’, the Rajapaksas want us not be outraged, but to accept the bloodletting as good and proper. (The Rajapaksa CJ will make it all legal).
The Rajapaksas are particularly interested in moulding the younger generation into becoming ‘Perfect Subjects’. They want a younger generation which esteems power and strength and despises physical and politico-economic weakness; a younger generation incapable of being outraged by a society in which the powerful and the rich will always have their way while the poor and the powerless are denied even their ineffectual say; a younger generation habituated into regarding intolerance as the moral-ethnical norm and violence as the optimum solution to all problems/differences; a younger generation focused on ‘getting ahead’ and incapable of resisting.
Had Vellupillai Pirapaharan won the Eelam War, he would have created an enslaved state in which the Tamils would have had only one freedom and one right – the freedom to worship the ‘Sun God’ and the right to hate his enemies. The Rajapaksas are no different. They focused on winning the Eelam War, so that they can rule over Sri Lanka in perpetuity. In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, we too have the freedom to support the Siblings and the rights to oppose their enemies. Everything else is crime or treachery. If the Rajapaksas have their way, this country will become poisoned by violent mores and brutal deeds.
Sri Lanka is not a Rajapaksa property. Not yet. It is our country too. We must resist the Rajapaksa-plague, by thought, word and deed, because Sri Lanka is worth fighting for.
- Asian Tribune -