Man­gala did what oth­ers should have done

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - COMMENT -

took it upon him­self to con­demn the rowdy con­duct of a group of thugs, par­tic­u­larly so when th­ese asy­lum seek­ers were un­der the care and pro­tec­tion of a UN agency.

Some­time af­ter Man­gala Sa­ma­raweera’s un­mit­i­gated con­dem­na­tion Health Min­is­ter Ra­jitha Se­naratne also added his voice to con­demn the at­tack by a hard­line Sin­hala group and some Bud­dhist monks: “This is not what the Bud­dha taught. We have to show com­pas­sion to th­ese refugees. Th­ese monks who car­ried out the at­tacks are ac­tu­ally not monks, but an­i­mals.”

What sticks in the craw is the ab­sence of word of con­dem­na­tion for this un­pro­voked at­tacked from Pres­i­dent Sirisena and Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe. Surely it is the lead­ers of the gov­ern­ment - its pres­i­dent or prime min­is­ter- who should have been the first to do so.

Th­ese 31 Ro­hingyas, mainly women and chil­dren, are not ter­ror­ists as the mob of civil­ians and monks tried to por­tray. They are vic­tims of a regime in Myan­mar that presents a civil­ian face but is in re­al­ity a mil­i­tary junta that has not fully ab­di­cated its role as the over­lords of a coun­try that re­fuses to lift its mil­i­tary jack­boot.

Dur­ing the three and a half years I spent in Bangkok I had close con­tacts with diplo­mats, jour­nal­ists and Burmese peo­ple who painted a dif­fer­ent pic­ture from the one usu­ally dis­played by some western na­tions and their po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tives keen to pro­vide Aung San Suu Kyi and Myan­mar a clean bill of health.

If Suu Kyi is try­ing to pro­tect her flanks by not ut­ter­ing a word of con­dem­na­tion against the ex­trem­ist Bud­dhist monks such as Ashin Wi­rathu who are armed with weapons of hate in­stead of the Dhamma­pada, and the mil­i­tary, one might see a sim­i­lar en­act­ment by the ya­ha­palanaya lead­ers who take refuge in the Bud­dha, dhamma and the sangha but ac­tu­ally hover be­hind the soiled saf­fron robes of the dis­cred­ited thugs and oth­ers in mil­i­tary uni­form.

Did Sri Lanka and the world have to wait for a cab­i­net meet­ing to hear the gov­ern­ment’s con­dem­na­tion of the thugs and hood­lums who at­tacked the UNHCR safe house and ut­ter a word of com­pas­sion for the vic­tims when our lead­ers are ever ready to rush in with to­kens of sor­row when ter­ror­ists at­tack Euro­pean ci­ties.

Some might well say that our lead­ers are ready to grovel in the dust, as it were, to in­gra­ti­ate them­selves to western politi- cians but can­not find the time to ut­ter a few words of apol­ogy to vic­tims of mob rule in the coun­try they lead.

The way the GMOA treats our lead­ers even threat­en­ing to strike with­out warn­ing shows the ab­ject dis­re­gard in which they hold this gov­ern­ment.

It is not just the GMOA that acts this way. Last Sun­day I wrote about the shenani­gans go­ing on in our na­tional car­rier called SriLankan Air­lines. A few days later the news broke that its chair­man Ajith Dias had pro­posed that his CEO Suren Rat­watte be given a bonus of Rs.10 mil­lion. Heaven only knows what prompted this though the chair­man has tried to make a puerile case to jus­tify it which has set oth­ers laugh­ing like hyenas.

Does this chair­man have noth­ing called shame to even pro­pose grant­ing such a sum as a bonus pay­ment when the air­line is on its last legs? Is he and his CEO so dumb that they can­not fathom the crit­i­cisms that have been fol­low­ing them like their own shad­ows at the way they man­age the air­line.

When such largesse is of­fered from within is it any won­der that Suren Rat­watte was sug­gest­ing that the air­line’s board of di­rec­tors be al­lowed to run it with­out any in­ter­ven­tion from higher up?

Just the other day the chair­man of COPE Su­nil Han­dun­neti said that there were 190 em­ploy­ees of SriLankan who were earn­ing ru­pees one mil­lion or more a month and top of­fi­cials earn­ing Rs.4 mil­lion.

How­ever bat­tered and bruised they are by the pub­lic, SriLankan’s man­agers will con­tinue on the merry way un­til the air­line drops its fuse­lage on the heads of the ya­ha­palanaya lead­ers. Such is the lack­adaisi­cal at­ti­tude of our lead­ers to a fail­ing en­ter­prise though they try to hood­wink the pub­lic by promis­ing stern ac­tion such as re­con­sti­tut­ing the board of di­rec­tors.

Pres­i­dent Sirisena and his prime min­is­ter are prob­a­bly too busy study­ing the world map to see what coun­tries they have not trav­elled to yet and prob­a­bly mak­ing plans to do so. No won­der they have not much time for run­ning the coun­try.

So saf­fron-robed per­sons and civil­ian ex­trem­ist thugs can do what they want and air­line bosses can share the loot with­out a care in the world. Our lead­ers who said they would only serve one term are now pre­par­ing for a sec­ond. Why worry about those who call them­selves Ro­hingyas. There are those in coloured robes to take care of them, no.

Ro­hingya refugees pour­ing into Bangladesh with noth­ing but the clothes they were wear­ing.

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