Wijith DeChickera wonders where all those erstwhile champions of a clean and open society have gone in the wake of whitewashing dark crimes

Traffic is a killer – in every sense. When it’s VIP roadhogs behind the wheel, the carnage can be deadly. And after that Traffic OIC died following his encounter with allegedly two political brats on the rampage, there’s been a steady stream of outrage at least on social media.

While the mainstream press has held its peace on the crime for reasons best known to itself, bleeding hearts online have underlined how regime after administration among governments gets away with murder. It gets worse when you realise the perps were defenders of two different faiths.

In a way, this is a perfect capture of the state of politics today and perhaps several yesterdays.

We elected a coalition of parties to be defenders of the democratic-republican faith. But while law and order lies bleeding on the street, those in – or close to – government gallivant around on power-driven binges of self-indulgence.

What adds insult to injury is that all this gadding about town comes at taxpayers’ expense. While it’s easy to predict that the killer culprits will not be brought to book, it’s too early to tell if some form of justice will be meted out.

All parties in power sooner or later distance themselves from the people who elected them as representatives of the popular will. Once candidates become elected representatives, their mandates undergo a sea change into something rich and strange.

These erstwhile champions of anticorruption drives among other initiatives become defenders of their own right to life, liberty and the pursuit of personal or partisan happiness. Sadly, many press barons, and their flunkey editors and news directors in legacy media, play along to cover up misdemeanours.

Politicians remain aware of the paramountcy of media in shaping opinions. Indubitably, this is why the president of our republic recently brought the media under his defence ministry.

And if that’s not ominous enough – an echo of the time when our head of state arrogated the government press and state media outlets to himself – there are also moves afoot to regulate social media. Some clever clogs advising the powers that be got the idea it seems from US diplomat Samantha Powers’ recent talk felicitating a cabinet minister.

While these wolves in sheep’s clothing (the advisers; not the ambassador) fatten the lambs for slaughter, the flock itself slumbers on. Not a day goes by when I don’t wonder why the voices of business out there in the marketplace don’t speak up against the impending disaster.

But then I hear less than sibilant speeches rendered in certainly not dulcet tones, bolstering the idea that what we need at this time is for a benevolent dictator to take the reins once again. And I rue the day when we didn’t push our pussycat politicos to bell the big game tiger.

So it comes to pass that the latter worthy has come forward as a likely presidential candidate at the next polls. At least some unseen hands seem to be arming (no pun intended) his candidature with big ideas and soothing sound bites.

All this talk about discipline makes some sense to a polity fed up to the back teeth with thuggish politicians and their brood of brats ruling the bullpen. With that said, there is one thing more dangerous than a brace of traceable Defenders on the rampage – it’s a white van that won’t be traced even on CCTV.

How did we come to such a crossroads so quickly?

Four years and a few months is a relatively short time in national politics but it has flown by so fast and to little salutary effect. There are many ills – sociopolitical, cultural and economic – that bedevil our once blessed isle. But none so egregious as the civilisational impasse we seem to have reached. We live in a milieu where state owned vehicles can mow down law enforcement officials on a public road, and live (while the victim died) to tell the tale of their brush with crime and punishment.

What more can ail us as a society than that craven sense of safety, which forbids us to speak out against such egregious impunity?

Of course, by the time you read this, the killer driver and his companion in dealing death – the follower who failed to report the crime – may have been apprehended (their identities are already known). It could be that this pair of political brats – one a blue minister’s offspring and the other a green municipal progeny – may be sacrificedto a greater political interest… much like former naval chiefs are cannon fodder before the UN.

There is something rotten in the state of Sri Lanka. The drivers of an internationalist agenda to fast track the nation into global modernism are as guilty – it would seem – of corruption and criminal negligence as much as the former charioteers under whose nationalist wheels the country was once dust.

Those of us – academics, business, civil society, professionals, the media – who stay in the middle of the road run the risk of being knocked down for good…

So isn’t it time to end the deadly Defender culture?

Say ‘No!’ to state enabled death on the road…