Image courtesy Transparency International

Recently an air of nervousness has insinuated itself in to the Sri Lankan psyche. Doubt and uneasiness seem to be seeping like moisture through invisible social capillaries, carrying a message of treachery.  Evident is an alien concern; being branded foully on this island, which suddenly seems to have become a wellspring of traitors! Since this strange, new phenomenon of escalating treachery could hardly be attributed to ‘something in the water’, its fountainhead must be where that abhorrent label is encountered most frequently – in the rhetoric of the politicians!

Amongst the populace, there seems to be great confusion as to what defines a ‘traitor’ in todays’ Sri Lanka. As the term lies undefined, an air of uncertainty hovers darkly over Sri Lankans who are forthright, querying or even concerned about the future of their nation and her people. Speak out and question, and from some corner emanates an uncertain hiss of,  ‘Is that a Traitor…?’.

To help me understand and quell baseless fears; to stand confidently amidst a people who clearly understand their rights, I defined Traitors to the nation in Five Precepts as, a person who:

  1. STEALS FROM THE PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA: taking advantage of a position of power or affiliation to redirect monies, allocated for the development of the nation and her masses, for personal development. This includes taking commissions and bribes to execute officially contracted work. This is a Traitor to the nation.
  2. DEFIES THE LAW OF SRI LANKA AND AIDS THE LAWLESS: disregarding the written law of our land and protecting and promoting individuals who are clearly dangerous to society. This would include interaction with criminals and those indulging in criminal activities. This would be the action of a Traitor to the nation.
  3. DESTROYS SRI LANKA’S PROTECTED AREAS: taking advantage of a position of power or affiliation to sequester lands that are protected for future generations of Sri Lankans, for the purpose of ‘development’ for personal gain. This would include involvement in projects that destroy National Parks, Sanctuaries and Reservations for the purpose of developing agriculture, tourism and private villas. This would be the work of a Traitor to the nation.
  4. ILLEGALLY HARVESTS SRI LANKA’S NATURAL RESOURCES: taking advantage of a position of power or affiliation, to supercede the law of the land and permit abusive harvesting of natural resources. This would include condoning and involvement in activities such Sand-mining, Gem-mining, Timber felling which are carried out rampantly. This would be the action of a Traitor to the nation.
  5. ABUSES SRI LANKA’S STATE FUNDS:  taking advantage of a position of power or affiliation to enhance personal lifestyles. This would involve indulgences such as, purchase of luxury vehicles; foreign travel, entertainment and funding of family members at state expense with no concession to the pathetic state of the national economy while the masses endure the economic impact. This would be the action of a Traitor to the nation.

I now know without doubt that it is neither I, who fails to fly the National Flag on Independence Day, nor you who champions the democratic rights of fellow citizens or protests the loss of media freedom, who is a traitor. And it certainly is not they who reported the destruction of a National Park (by cricketers who despite their insatiable greed are still on their heroic pedestals), nor he who queries unconstitutional procedure who are traitors! Then it certainly could not be the fishermen who no longer can afford to go out to sea, who are traitors because they protest the lack of concessions, but those who prevent concessions from being made to the masses; those who will not sacrifice any part of they’re recently acquired, luxury lifestyles that the people of Sri Lanka pay for. These are the Traitors to this nation.

As Cicero, a Roman philosopher and political theorist once wrote,

‘A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within…. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.’

Naturally, anyone is reluctant to be shoved in to that defiling category: TRAITOR!