Monday, July 19, 2010

Sri Lanka: Cleaning up human detritus to gratify tourists and investors?

By Kumar David | Lakbima News

“Members of the vanquished Tamil Tiger terrorist organization, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are posing as beggars in the cities throughout the country to gather information. The government intelligence services have identified that these beggars having been trained and deployed by the LTTE”.

Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne (Report in ColomboPage website, 11 June 2010)

The cat is out of the bag! I do not know if some agency of the state actually smashed the heads of a dozen homeless beggars and hawkers as they slept in Colombo’s gutters and pavements, or whether a state agency set up criminal operatives do it, but the country’s prime minister is finding explanations and making excuses. This de facto endorsement amounts to encouragement and Jayaratne is in effect saying: “These are terrorists, these are Tamil Tigers gathering information for dastardly deeds; it is acceptable that patriotic citizens are taking the law into their hands and ridding the nation of these vermin”.

OK reader, am I being unfair? Isn’t this the import and implication of this statement? Then the important question is this; even if an agency of the state was not directly or indirectly involved, why does the prime minister hit upon excuses for such brutality?

The first point, in fairness to the PM, to get out of the way, is whether it is true, or even remotely likely, that these miserable creatures are indeed Tigers in Skunks clothing. These homeless cripples and street crust have long been a familiar sight to people living in the vicinity, there are communities of beggars, they know each other, they have names (Manoj, Gamini), and they have been around supplicating for alms for years. The police know them all. If these creatures are Tigers, you my dear reader, are a monkey’s uncle. Clearly, we are plumbing the nadir of prime ministerial delusion!

Seeking rational explanations

A somewhat less inane explanation being trotted around is that this is all the work of criminal gangs. Well indeed, the actual killers may well be criminals if they are well paid. A drunken criminal or a drug addict on the high, may, once, go berserk and smash someone’s skull, but a systematic, serial, campaign! If it’s a criminal gang(s) at work, then money is being funnelled from an official or special interest group.

Then there is the theory of the serial killer, a kind of Jakolis the Ripper, a psychopath on the loose. Make no mistake about it, one of these days the cops may produce some nutcase, beat him to a pulp and have him confess to being Prabaharan’s granddaddy, or a cannibal. Sorry Mr IGP, but when over the years you and your force have cultivated a reputation that stinks like a beggar’s rags, who will believe you anymore?

This leaves us seeking a more rational explanation. Let us recall the context. Not long ago criminals and drug peddlers were dying in droves as they duelled to death, guns and grenades materialising in their hands by magical means whilst in tight custody, compelling virginal policemen to reluctantly mow down assailants in self-defence! Aesop’s Fables you will say; police in cahoots with the state I will say. The beggar killings seem to fall into the same pattern; clean up the city. Getting tighter control of society in disregard for the law was the crusade last time, but what is the motive this time? Well, making Colombo congenial for foreign tourists and investors is not all that far fetched a thought!

True there is as yet no smoking-gun evidence linking these murders to business interests or the state, and even if such evidence existed, our investigators will never reveal it. These thoughts are speculative, so I put the issue to a strongly pro-UPFA, DLF central committee member, who works with the party’s Hawkers Association. The e-mail reply, and I quote verbatim from a mainly Sinhalese speaking comrade, was interesting: “Dear Kumar, urban development under the Defence Ministry. Human dust sweep out for clean the city form unknown way, like early stage of capitalist development in Brazil”. Hence I maintain that my line of reasoning in the previous paragraph is more plausible than the Tigers in Skunks clothing or Jakolis the Ripper fairytales.

The new economic policy of the government

Whoever is cleaning the streets of Colombo of its human detritus aside, that the Rajapakse government has struck out on a bold new economic direction is undeniable. The Budget Speech was a kind of a con and not a con; let me explain the paradox. It is not a con in that at the insistence of the IMF the government laid out a clear new fiscal and investor policy direction. This has been widely commented on; I need to summarise only in a sentence or two. Prices of mass consumption commodities and services will be raised, VAT or other instruments strengthened, education, health and welfare cut. The armed forces will be kept at full strength to put down plebeian (this time Sinhalese) opposition. Business will be given tax breaks and incentives, and the economy will be led by the private sector. You may think this redirection is good or bad, that’s a debate for another day, but I really don’t think anyone (except my UPFA-Left comrades squirming in the face of working class and plebeian rage) can doubt that the thrust of economic policy has somersaulted.

The con in the Budget Speech is that it conceals from the people the concrete revenue raising and expenditure reducing measures through which these changes will be levered. They will be introduced surreptitiously, step by step here and there, usually through gazette notifications. The people will be conned into it. Secondly, the Budget Speech is untruthful in pretending that the budget deficit will be brought down to 8% of GDP in 2010 and the debt to GDP ratio will decline to 80%. I have explained (LAKBIMAnEWS 27 June and Sunday Island 11 July) that the deficit will turn out to be well above 10% of GDP in 2010 fiscal year, and the debt to GDP ratio will be over 90% at the end of 2010.

Whether the new development strategy “works” in the sense of whether this type of capitalist development thrives depends on three factors; eliminating rampant corruption, subduing the Rajapakse dynastic obsession (otherwise this confrontation will spill over into class war), and on who wins the initial struggles that will break out in the short-term. Perhaps cleaning out human-dust is a trial run for this showdown, now distracted by the Weerawansa-Rajapakse fasting-watering-clowning show for gallery audiences outside the UN office.

In the first instance, the JVP is the entity best positioned to lead working class and urban and rural mass resistance to belt-tightening. However, by associating itself with the slaughter of Tamil militants and by celebrating the reinforcement of the armed forces of the bourgeois state, the JVP may have dug its own grave - Who cares! But it may also have dug the grave of the working class and the Sinhalese plebeian masses. It is a provocative topic that I must leave for reasons of space, but I will return to it many times as the drama unfolds.

© Lakbima News

Bookmark and Share

No comments:

Post a Comment

© 2009 - 2014 Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  © Blogger template 'Fly Away' by 2008

Back to TOP