Wednesday, August 5, 2015

And the voter dies for the voted (again)

Wise men rarely speak. They calculate what's to be said, add and subtract words, and ensure that their audience knows the point being put across. Wisdom is its own reward, some say.

Politicians aren't exactly endowed with wisdom. They talk. They rant. They expect everyone they back to support what they say. Otherwise, they'll end up (in) a mess.

Speaking to the media last Friday, Ravi Karunanayake (politician, please note) spoke about the Bloemendal shooting that left two killed. He was sober. He kept to the point. Named names. And uttered warning (if not prediction): “We’re telling all this because the opposition will be sure to blame us if something explodes at one of their rallies.”

The Minister, moreover, went as far as to offer elaboration: “They might stage this a couple or so days before the election to gain mileage over us.” He ended with a prophecy: “And they'll point fingers.” He might have added: “Forgetting of course that most of their fingers will be pointing right back at them.” Either way, he's right. To a point that is.

Whether the UPFA was involved with the Bloemendal incident, we don’t know. What we do know is that within days of the shooting, no less than two contenders from Karunanayake’s own party contradicted what the man insinuated.

The first. Sujeewa Senasinghe, known for his outspokenness and less known for his sobering remarks, offered comment: “We can’t say that Rajapaksa was involved with the shooting. It would have probably involved the underworld.” According to some that sucked out substance from Karunanayake’s allegation.

The second. Srinath Perera, President's Counsel, affirmed Senasinghe. There was sobriety in what he said. Less rhetoric. “There’s a known thug among the injured,” he admitted, “and from the looks of it, this was nothing more than a clash between him and a rival gang.”

Thilanga Sumathipala said just about the same thing: “We had clean elections till now. This has to be the underworld at work.” And of course, he added a manape-driven caveat: “The UNP has brought them back.”

Truth is version. Relative and unverifiable. But three people are dead. For all their political preferences and colours, these were lives. Whether the pathalaya was involved with their deaths, whether the “Rajapaksa avatar” (Karunanayake used that term frequently) has returned, it doesn’t matter. In the end we’re human.

This doesn’t marginalise the Minister's remarks. The problem however is that they lack substance. Yes, he named names. Yes, he wagered that what was churned out on January 8 has returned. Without evidence however, what Senasinghe, Perera, and Sumathipala said gains more credence. Hardly comforting.

To top it all no less a figure than the Media Minister has said that it's "too early to comment." Gayantha Karunathilaka (one of the more gentlemanly stalwarts in the UNP) added that "until investigations are over, we can't sniff out any underworld involvement." Well, if it's too early to comment on that, then it's too early to accuse the Rajapaksas and their "henchmen". It works both ways.

What happened next was expected. Ravi Karunanayake hinted: "Sujeewa may be on Mahinda's payroll." Senasinghe then offered balm: "It was during Mahinda's time that the paathalaya bloomed." We can forgive him for forgetting Baddegana Sanjeewa, the kalu balallu, and those disappearances extra-judicial and otherwise sanctioned by both the UNP and the People's Alliance (PA), the latter of which was headed by Rajapaksa's predecessor (who in an interview with the state media pleaded ignorance over how Sanjeewa became her bodyguard).

Not that this exonerates the UPFA. Sure, self-appointed yahapalana activists from it made claims. Like Dilan Perera, who's posturing about free and fair elections, sees the incident the way Senasinghe and Perera do, and asks the police to investigate incident without delay. All words, though. All cheap.

What matters is what will not be talked about. Two lives. Each as precious as the other. Each as invaluable and stripped of political frill as the other. Did they deserve what they got? Do they deserve what’s being carried around in their name (with little to no dignity, may we add) for the sake of (political) mileage? And for that matter, when cause of death is “Rajapaksised” this way while being contradicted by members of his own party, does Ravi Karunanayake manage to do himself any favours?

In the end there are no saints and angels. There are only people. Voters with preferences. Preferences that get them killed and bandied around. All in the name of their “patrons”.