BY Priyan Rajapaksa


Of 22.4 million Sri Lankans, 20 plus million live in a political asylum. The other  million or so are politicians, their families and hangers-on who ensure we remain there.

Political asylum is the right to live in a foreign country granted by a second state to those fleeing their own nation due to persecution. A mental asylum is an institution to shelter those with serious issues of the mind. For over 20 million Sri Lankans, these two definitions have merged – we’re now confined to a ‘political mental asylum.’

We witnessed an allegedly corrupt government being ousted to bring in a supposedly clean one. It was a grand coalition to defeat corruption and remove the deadly weapon of the executive presidency. And it was expected to usher in a new era of clean politics, and recommence our stop-start bullock cart paced 70-year-old journey to become a better place to live.

A recent post on social media read: “Go Royal Go, World Record for a School. UNP Party Leader – Royal, UNP Deputy Leader – Royal, UNP Assistant Leader – Royal, UNP Chairman – Royal, UNP National Organiser – Royal, UNP Treasurer – Royal. No wonder the country is in a ‘Right Royal Mess’.”

Has someone lost his marbles or aren’t there other capable people in Sri Lanka?

Incest and inbreeding are avoided by species as it reduces genetic diversity. Even some plants avoid it. At the state level, it reduces the diversity of background and life experience that is critical to informed political thinking. That is Colombo’s contribution to disorder. Disce Aut Discede (learn or depart) – there are less than 15 months more to learn or depart!

From an ancient capital, we have a seemingly honest politician who has misplaced his promise of honesty in his expediency to cover his anatomy. His henchmen count millions in cash in parked cars. Is this an instance of unsophisticated village mentality, plain stupidity or the arrogance of a bagman collecting for a godfather?

We may never know, as the true facts are unlikely to emerge.

The picking of national fruit by a few is not confined to Royalists. It extends to all walks of life as we continue to vote along primitive tribal lines and narrow social divisions – rather than for able people.

Even 80 years of free education has not instilled the faculty of critical thought in us. Some 2,200 years of Buddhist education hasn’t either although the Buddha said in the Kalama Sutta: “Do not believe anything on mere hearsay; do not believe in traditions merely because they are old.”

Given that we have a parliament overflowing with crooked and deadbeat politicians, my deduction is that Sri Lankans do not think top-down as Sri Lankans first but rather, bottom-up placing caste or religion first.

I am a ‘Karava’ Sinhalese-Buddhist from the Southern Province so I’m obliged to vote for any person – crooked or straight – who most closely resembles my obsolete pedigree. My Sinhalese counterpart who comes from the centre of the island is Sinhalese-Buddhist too but Kandyan and generally from the ‘Govigama’ caste. He will most likely vote and promote his clansman even if they’re nabbed with Rs. 200 million in a paper bag.

Caste lines are more rigid in the central hills of our land.

If I were to head north, the social cracks in that province go deeper than the arid topsoil and resemble geological fault lines in the earth that are carved deep by religious bigotry – a northerner cannot cross them other than by migrating to Colombo or another country.

In 2018, if a member of the ‘Paraiyar’ or ‘Adi Dravida’ caste cannot enter a temple or draw water from a well without polluting it, the situation is delicate. Many Tamil friends’ life experiences suggest that caste divisions in the north run deeper than those between northerners and southerners.

Until we think ‘Sri Lankan,’ we will not have a nation but only ethnic and religious tribal mobs that rampage from time to time. Our many ethnic, religious and caste based divisions leave us ripe for the picking by national politicians.

Internationally, vultures are watching and waiting until we slaughter ourselves. India, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and others circle overhead but we lack the mental radar to track their flight paths.

Vultures rarely attack healthy animals but may kill the wounded. When a carcass has too thick a hide for its beak to open, a vulture waits for a larger scavenger to partake in the meal first. Scavengers are of great value as they help dispose of carrion.

India is building houses and will have a proxy presence in the north. China has built a port and airport in the south that is better suited to its needs than ours. We have repaid China’s support for the war by paying for a port in a roundabout way. Saudi Arabia has given us ‘Wahabism’ to have a foot in the east and black veiled women elsewhere. Iran is giving us oil and unless ‘trumped,’ may slip in some Hamas.

Is this food for thought or are we food for vultures?