Photo by REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte via Channel 4
So what is your country like?
This question is put to me by a new friend of mine.
I hesitate, flinch. Uncertain about what I should say… And then a deep pain and anger fills me from the inside.
What do I say?
That my country of birth is now in the grip of a dictatorial family and that it is hurtling backwards through civilization? Should I start here? That my country is deeply anti-democratic, that all its power is concentrated on one individual, that it has an absolute Executive Presidency unlike any other in the world, and that currently the person who holds this position is a dangerous animal drunk on power, saturated with greed and bloated with self-glorification … Is this what I should say?
That the wealth of my country is being ravaged large-scale by this executive president, his sons, his brothers and relations; that even the common heritage of our people – our forests, our streams, our natural treasures, our beaches – is being bought, scavenged, dug and drawn, rented and destroyed by this dictatorial family and those who feed off them. This is what I should say.
That the roads, bridges, harbors and parks of my country are not being built to meet the needs of the people or the economy, but for how many millions of dollars they can bring in through commissions for this president and his family, is what I should say.
My country and my people are being plunged into billions upon billions of debt to countries like China, over senseless projects decided upon by the president’s family, which have no development benefit to the country. This is what I should say.
Just like in other countries, my country too has a thing called a Parliament; however, in this parliament, known criminals, rapists, thugs and drug dealers gather; elected through the vote of the people of my country. This is what I should say.
Just like in other countries, my country too has a thing called a Constitution, but that this constitution can be changed on the whims and fancies of the Executive President; and that in my country we have Ministers who vote for any kind of anti-democracy-constitutional reform in exchange for a bungle of money and a few additional privileges, is what is should say.
That my country, at this point, is a country without law, is what I should say.
That from the Supreme Court down, the entire Justice System of my country has been crippled into a weak, puppet machine, driven mainly by its mandate to justify and maintain the presidential family. That unlike in other countries, when someone falls victim to a person with political power, there exists no clear recourse to justice, is what I should say.
That my country is saturated by a primitive political culture of revenge-taking, is what I should say. That in the past, many people, including the Chief Justice of the country, who did not pledge unstinted support for the Executive President, had to face a very harsh fate, is what I should say.
Just like in other countries, my country has an institution called the Police, but that unlike in other countries, the people in my country are afraid of the police; that under the directions of politicians, it is the police who most break the law and disturb the peace and that in the past, a number of suspects taken into custody have been killed within our police stations is what is should say.
That jounalists who question the criminal acts of the rulers in this country are killed, abducted, carried away in white vans, their bones broken and thrown away into ditches in borad daylight, is what i should say.
That my country spends the least amount on education in the world is what i shoudl say.
That my country is one of the hightest budget allocations on defence, is what i should say.
That the army runs our parks and our theatres is what i should say.
That there is no Right to Information in my country is what I should say.
That my country destroys the sacred Buddhism of Lord Buddha; that it is a country with extremists, nourished through the State, dressed up in robes, with poles and swords in their hands, who feed religious and race hatred and is what i should say.
That the president of my country is a slave to superstition, and that all the critical issues in the country are decided by the placement of his stars and horescope, is what i shoud say.
That my country has not yet produced a leader who can be held as an example to the children of our country.
Yes, my country is one like this, is what i should tell her.
And I know that she will get deeply perturbed and will be unable to understand what I am saying.
And I know that she will ask me ‘while all this was happeing, did your people just watch? And after all of this, will your people continue to be fooled?”
Again I flinch.
But I then I will draw upon the collective conscience, knowledge and intelligence of my fellow citizens and look her directly in the eye.
I tell her that we are a country and a people who have learnt more than our fair share of harsh lessons from the past, that we can no longer be fooled by the molten words, the diluted promises, the teeth gnashing, breast beating howls of ‘motherland motherland’ or the gyrating discos dances of dictatorship. That I believe that we will not allow ourselves to be locked up in the darkness of ignorance, while the rulers of this land drink our country dry.
I tell her that the people of my country realize that they are being given one last chance to save themselves from this cursed rule, and that they will make the best use of this opportunity.
This is what I tell her.
My friend’s heartfelt wish for me is ‘may your people be given this wisdom’.