Why am I silent ! A Condemnation of Sri Lanka’s Politicians

Elmo Jayawardena, 

article_image Two hugely popular local entertainers prompted me to write this article. They are Nanda Malini and Sunil Perera. I need not say more; everybody knows them. Of course, we are all aware that the current flavour of the season is the August 17 election. If one listens to what is amplified and trumpeted by the lily white contestants, one may get the impression that there are no more saints left in heaven or wherever people with halos gather. They have all descended here to take part in the parliamentary elections with one intention––to serve the people. All that is missing is the presence of Pope Francis to canonise them all and make them official saints. That being the script, let me get back to my story and pause elaborating on the ‘holier-than-thou’ politicians of the two colours responsible for ruling us for 67 years. Avurudhu Dedahas Panseeyak is a thought-provoking song by the mercurial Nanda Malini. If you have not heard it just listen to it. By God! She says it all in the three minutes. Nanda Malini is no stranger where protest songs are concerned. Remember her song, Udangu Liyan banned by the powers of the yesteryear. The reason was that the haunting lyrics speak of a flower thrown in the path of a funeral procession in honour of a person who has died for the country. That was good enough for the politicians to ban the song! This time around Nanda sings about the woes of Mother Lanka. Any Sri Lankan who hears the song would agree that she is singing the truth and nothing but the truth. It is sung for the people like you and me. The words, clear and precise tell us how leaders have abused Mother Lanka in the name of governance. In one simple song she says it all and lays bare the absolute TRUTH.

I am sure Nanda Malini did not sing for personal gain. She is immensely popular and she does not drive around in SUVs or eat Jacqueline’s platinum plated hoppers. She prompts us to sit up and ask: “Why am I silent?” Yes, it is a difficult call, no doubt. “You may not be OK but since I am OK, why protest?” This may make sense for some people. But that is the very reason why corruption thrives.

The world has changed on numerous occasions because the common man protested. We, too, need to make some sort of a complaint for the 67 years of political corruption we’ve had. We need to ask or pray or plead or protest for good governance from whoever goes to Parliament after August 17 lest we should promote corruption with our silence.

G-sunil 22 Gypsy Sunil 11

For decades Sri Lankans have been entertained by the grandiose creations of Sunil Perera or shall I say ‘Gypsy Sunil’––pardon me Sir, people know you better that way! We have all enjoyed his creativity, his singing and his stage magic. Sunil undoubtedly is the Number One Sri Lankan entertainer. And not just flash and go but the ‘Full Monty’ for more than 40 years. And the man with the bowler hat and winsome smile has stood his ground amidst controversy and walked tall at all times to become a legend.

Gypsy Sunil is a great band leader whose innovations are always original and super-sonic, as it were. Then, came his greatest feat––the interview on Swarnavahini which is now doing the rounds on the Internet. What he sang was exceptional, but what he preached on TV was extraordinary; the best I have seen of him. At the interview he was honest, he was correct and he spoke the truth the way most of us see it. He did not pull any punches when lashing out at political rulers.

Seldom or never have I seen anyone having the courage to be so forthright and accuse those who have brought the country to this pass? I do not think he stood up and protested for himself. I don’t think he did it for personal gain or with a view to securing a seat in Parliament. I think he did it for the sake of silent Sri Lankans. He couldn’t take it anymore. So, he protested, causing us to ask: “Why am I silent?”

This land is the only piece of the planet that is ours. It is Sri Lanka for Sri Lankans. What difference would it make what God one worships? Why label a man by race and measure or treat him differently? What sense does it make to have a different slide rule for the minorities? They did not parachute here from the blue sky. They have been walking this land from time immemorial. Maybe lesser in numbers but that does not mean any less affection for Mother Lanka on their part. Then why pigeon hole people and separate them? Hear out Nanda Malini! She has a lovely meaningful message to give. Please, listen at least once to her Avurudhu Dedahas Panseeyak. You are sure to ask yourself: “Why am I silent?”

Every morning the newspapers are filled with seenibola promises made by candidates. Every evening TV is full of politicians going at each other’s jugular. In a Derana TV program I heard politicians themselves mention astounding amounts of money needed for campaigns––thirty million for some and more for some others. Must be manna falling from heaven! But, this is politics and the generous gods throwing bundles of cash do expect something in return!

All this will end on the midnight of August 17. Then we will await for the promises to be honoured. This is nothing new. The same old pack of blue and green just that the cards are shuffled differently!

My dear friends, Nanda Malini sang and Gypsy Sunil spoke and I bet there were many who listened to them and asked the all-important question: “Why am I silent?”

We may not be able to stem the tide, but at least we can try our best to bring some honesty to the governance of our motherland. We do not need a country that is flowing with milk and honey as it is depicted on TV screens and in newspapers. We have had enough of two colour politics and promises for 67 years.

We need a land where people live in peace, everyone three square meals, every child a school, every hospital doctors and medicine and every family shelter and adequate income. More than anything else we need an end to corruption as much as punishment for the corrupt. That is paramount. Sadly, we haven’t seen that happen under Chinthanaya or the Yahapalanaya.

Thank you Nanda and thank you Sunil, you woke me. Maybe, I can wake up a few others. After all, this is our beloved land that is suffering due to political decay.

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Filed under accountability, democratic measures, doctoring evidence, governance, historical interpretation, life stories, meditations, politIcal discourse, self-reflexivity, social justice, sri lankan society

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