Still a Minister, still terrorizing journalists and average people
This is an article that ran in the Montage magazine. It seems relevant now, in light of this news item:
Lal Hemantha Mawalage, a Rupavahini news producer who made a protest speech at the Rupavahini Corporation on the day Minister Mervyn Silva entered the television station, had been attacked by a gang last night. The gang had cut his hand and he is slated to be operated on soon. He had received several death threats after the Minister’s incident (Mirror)
People celebrated when Mervyn got thrashed, but as long as he has Mahinda’s support, nothing will happen. Now he’s getting revenge on the people that spoke out. To reiterate, after walking into a news organization and assaulting the news director, Mervyn Silva is still a Minister in this government. And the people that spoke out are being investigated by the government and assaulted in the streets. Oh, and the mayor of Colombo is still an unelected trishaw driver. And all the LTTE planes are still operational. And tsunami victims are still in tents. Just FYI. Here’s the article:
Mahinda And Mervyn went up a hill to fetch a flight and reporter, Mervyn fell down and Mahinda came tumbling after. One lives in hope. First Mahinda cancels Peter Hill’s work permit for not booting 35 paying passengers from a holiday flight to make room for his entourage. In his more vulgar fashion, Mervyn went into Rupavahini and tried to thrash the News Director for not running a particular story. Mervyn got thrashed himself, rightly breaking his crown. Mahinda has still got his way, but his tumble will inevitably come.
The most comical member of the Rajapakse Brothers Circus is the clown, Mervyn Silva. From grabbing monks testicles to trashing nightclubs to raising little monsters, Mervyn Silva is the public face of the dirty deeds that make politics run. Those necessary bags of cash, those necessarily chastened MPs and reporters. Whatever his excesses, Mervyn is still obviously useful to those in power – as he has been to the Bandaranaike, Ranil, etc. Under Mahinda he has reached his apex, Labour Minister of all things, particularly dedicated to the employ of murderers and criminals in his security detail. At any bridge opening or Parliament event, the clown is front and center.
Behind his antics, however, there is the more cynical foolishness and abuse of the brothers themselves. This is not rampant violence as much as the corruption and personal entitlement that violence defends. CBK employed Mervyn, and CBK kept SriLankan flights waiting for hours while she shoplifted from Duty-Free, but the Rajapakses have taken it to another level. Rather than simply corrupt the airline we have, Mahinda has started an airline named after himself. An especially wise business move at this boom time when Sri Lanka no longer controls its airspace. Mihin Lanka was provided with Rs 500 million by the government as equity. According to the Sunday Times it leases two aircraft at $1.5 million dollars per month and recently acquired a third. It owes over Rs 60 million to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, etc, ad nauseum. Like any start-up airline, it is a risky venture that loses money for a long time – especially in times of war. But it is not run according to any business plan. The airline is run simply on the whim of its namesake, and the costly decisions seem to be personal. That is why when a real, pain-stakingly profitable airline won’t boot his customers, Mahinda can whistle and Mihin Lanka flies (empty, at great loss) to pick him up. Because it belongs to him.
What ties the two together? Well, Mahinda can’t fly if Mervyn doesn’t operate. The state under Mahinda isn’t a government by the people, it is government as a personal fiefdom. He has transformed parliament into a House Of Lords, with attendant perks and tidbits to keep the serfs at bay. And he has the threat of external terror (LTTE) and internal (Mervyn, TVMP) to keep people in line. In the simplest fashion, TNA MPs are threatened with extortion, and MP Mano Ganeshan flees the country in fear after his security detail is withdrawn. As a lesson, to those who forget whence the largess flows. It is a very sensible plan to entrench a powerful new elite, girded by the threat of terrorism. Of course, one occassionally gets peeks at the rot underneath, but on the whole most Sinhalese accept the premise. We’ll give him the perks if he fights the LTTE. Of course, this gives him an economic incentive to fight the LTTE semi-permanently, but as long as there is incremental progress the Sinhalese masses will be satiated.
But the violence of Mervyn is not an anomaly, and it is not a surprise. The fuel stoking Mihin Lanka’s indulgent engines is the threat of violence â€“ that of the LTTE. Mahinda can really spend whatever he wants as long as he keeps fighting the LTTE. If he needs Mervyn Silva to do his dirty work, we’ll put up with that too. We will give up our freedom and dignity for that pail of water, the peace atop the hill. Of course, many governments have gone up that hill for the same pail, but children love hearing the nursery rhyme over and over. And children we are, for look at the childish way our leaders behave. Crying petulantly when they don’t get a seat, beating our fists when they don’t get our way. Mahinda and Mervyn went up a hill, and the country goes tumbling after.