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Monday, July 18, 2011

The rise of a nation of sycophants

The Island 18/07/2011

Thankful as we are to the President and the armed forces for eliminating terrorism from Sri Lanka, it is about time we take a good hard look at the current state of affairs in Sri Lanka, without being blinded by this triumph.

People who serve this country for no personal gains other than the salary they receive at the end of the month are in a better position at interpreting and analyzing national issues and current trends and the changes in the thinking of the masses, objectively. Many of us keep on writing to the opinion pages of our newspapers on varied topics with the intention of drawing the attention of the authorities in charge, basically politicians, to that particular issue, but we wonder whether these columns are even read by them. There are superb and impeccably analyzed editorials in some of our newspapers on real and burning issues that face our country, written in the greatest interest of the country and its rulers and its people, but we wonder again whether even these are read by those in places of power.

Sycophancy has never been so rife in this island nation of ours as it is now. Officials coming under various ministries generally say ‘aye’ to their Ministers who, with the exception of a handful, in turn compete with each other to please the President. Banners with the President’s face with a minister or a governor or an aspiring political candidate assail us from every nook and corner of the island, ad nauseam. I am positive that the average public does not even bother to look at these banners now as they are so common place; some tend to trivialize issues. Recently, I saw several banners put up by the Health Minister all over his ministry’s boundary walls about how grateful he is to the President for banning tobacco smoking in public and for saving our kids! Has anyone worked out how much these meaningless ego-boosting banners would have cost the public coffers by now?

Either the President is oblivious to this fact or he welcomes this mindless sycophancy. Either way, his worst enemies are the ones who are closest to him saying "aye" to everything and interpreting any saying or action that they do not like as either "JVP propaganda" or a part of the "international coup against Sri Lanka to de-stabilize the country," clouding everything else that is significant and real. For example, FUTA’s trade union action was laughably interpreted to be JVP propaganda and as an attempt to de-stabilize Sri Lanka and also as a part of an international coup by the Minister of Higher Education and his Secretary.

The latest horror comes from Jaffna itself. At a time when the country is bracing itself against charges of inhumanity, we have a graphic report with visuals of election violence in the North, hitherto not witnessed, in which a pet dog of a candidate is decapitated and stuck on a stake in front of his house. I believe that this kind of brutal acts will dearly cost the country’s image and will negate the immense attitudinal changes towards Sri Lanka that the likes of Kumar Sangakkara and Rajiva Wijesinha were able to generate recently with a single speech and an interview, respectively.

Champa Fernando