Politics, tech, and stuff in between. Written by @yudhanjaya.
January has been a bad month.
For some reason, I’m reminded of the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”. I don’t know why. I’ve been over that poem many, many times, and my predicament bears nothing in relation to that poet. January, for me, has simply been a month of delays; of overdue things; of missed deadlines and half-complete projects; of will and attention wasted on frivolities.
There is this particular zone I live in. It’s a mental state, that same state that allows you to burn the candles, drink the coffee and power on through the night, slinging words from the keyboard like a gunslinger firing his six-shooters. Its what you come home after a day-long event and have a thousand-word essay up before you hit the sack. I haven’t had that this month; I have (to psychoanalyze myself) genuinely been feeling tired, spent and withdrawn. Even the random small events I’d meant to hit seemed like pretentious twaddle for people with too much time to waste.
Part of it is due to disappointment. One thing you forget when working from home and through the wee hours of the morning is that not everyone runs the same mile as you do. Some have different roads, by which I mean different priorities, and while I have a deep distaste for people who don’t do what they’re supposed to do, it’s still useful to kick back and divorce yourself a bit and let the matter go, lest you become too involved and end up making an ass out of yourself. January has literally been Janus-month, with me looking forward to promises to be delivered and looking back to promises that weren’t.
Another part of it is because of this foot. It’s tired with me. It’s tired of me putting my weight on it and going places when I should be resting. It let rip this month, almost completely incapacitating me. The pain is annoying, the painkillers a buzzkill. Sleeping late and waking late doesn’t help, either; it’s disconcerting to stumble around while the world has gotten into full swing. To wake up at the crack of dawn is a far, far better thing, and if that means sacrificing the nightly game of Dota 2, it shall be done.
Despite the setbacks, though, I’ve managed to achieve three very important milestones in January. Two are classified, and in the web space; the third is this.
I have (finally) bought the bike I wanted: a Honda CD125T Benly. They don’t make these anymore: my bike was build in 1990, registered here in 1992, and has run hundreds of thousands of miles – more than’s shown on the odometer, anywway. It’s a hunk of steel and weighs a lot. Mechanically, it’s perfect. Electronically, it’s not. So while I wait for my leg to heal, I have something to do: to fix this bike. This shall be my hobby, and once complete, my mode of transport. An anchor of sorts to the world of the real and the tangible. Words typed into an online textbox can only go so far.
On a different note, Maithripala Sirisena’s now-famous 100 Days manifesto seems to have instilled in everyone a much-needed sense of accountability. That makes me happy. One small step for a man, one giant leap for a nation. Let us not make kings out of those we elect to power.
Sri Lanka cried out for the arrest of UNP Parliamentarian Palitha Thewarapperuma, a man apparently competing for former Minister Mervyn Silva’s records for public humiliation (note to self: I think there’s a bondage fetish there somewhere). A lo and behold, Thewarapperuma was arrested. Whether he will stay arrested or be miraculously restored is still up for grabs, but my money’s on busted. What’s up with those pants, though?
The “Lamborghini witchhunts” began, targeting the three sons of former President Rajapakse for all manner of corruption, but mostly for running expensive cars bought with public funds. The results: one Lamborghini, which turned out to be a Nissan GTR (illegal on Sri Lankan roads to the average mortal), unregistered and with false plates. The biggest fingers are pointed towards Rohitha Rajapakse (I.E: NOT Namal), who has a known penchant for cars and a brief but practically meteoric career in oddball racing.
For example, he’s raced an Ariel Atom against a Honda Civic (kind of like racing a horse against a toilet seat) and won. (http://www.ft.lk/2014/09/10/rohitha-drives-to-triple-at-drag-race-championship/)
More to the point, photos on his Facebook account show him with an unlicensed GTR (which he apparently raced during Namal Rajapakse’s Night Races). Rohitha’s also crashed a GTR outside the Bishops Auditorium. There really aren’t that many of these cars here.
All in all, the systematic machine of public hate is being turned against the Three Lambs, and it doesn’t look like it’s going well for them.
I’m neither for nor against this. It’s a public secret that the Rajapakse sons do have a whole number of ill-gotten gains – everything from educational degrees to pilot licenses to get-out-of-jail-free-cards. I like the fact that the world’s against them. However, I don’t agree with them being made scapegoats for everything. What they did was made possible because of a whole bunch of corrupt people. You can’t run an unlicensed GTR and spend millions in taxpayer money and shut down entire cities for ludicrous street races without people willing to let you do that. If someone’s going to fry, everyone should fry.
The Pope (arguably the coolest Pope ever) arrived in Sri Lanka, fought briefly with the wind and then decided to let it go.
The President’s brother, Kumarasinghe Sirisena, was appointed the Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom. That’s the old nepotism creeping in, alright. On one hand, the dude is qualified. He has a Bsc in Public Administration Management, a Bsc in Management (wait, isn’t that the same thing? Is one more corrupt than the other?), and MBA and something called a “Master of Public Administration.” Google thinks he’s a whole bunch of hot women.
Either way: he’s qualified. But in a general sense, and not specifically to run a country’s biggest Internet and fixed-line voice services provider. He apparently worked for 19 years in the RDA, and also has time a Director of the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation. The RDA has historically been one of the best ways of skimming money off the public account. Until people got ambitious and started building entire airports, the easiest thing was to do a shitty job of building a road and then do it again.
However, the man has skills. He was the CEO of the State Timber Corporation since 2006, until Mahinda fired him last December for being the Common Candidate’s Brother. He’s also served as Maithripala’s Coordinating Secretary. He apparently also consults for his brother Dudley Sirisena, who, well, controls a sizeable chunk of the rice in this country.
Maybe he can actually make SLT better. Maybe not. It’s a better appointment than many under the Rajapakse regime – he isn’t a young, fetching girl or a politician who failed Education 101, but he definitely is not the most qualified person for that particular job. The last I checked, a tar road, however useful, is not a data cable.
The 100Days plan is falling behind
This was expected. Despite an early start, three of the last few deadlines – appointing the Cabinet, forming a National Advisory Council and convening Parliament – have been set back by a day (but nevertheless completed). Standing Orders have not been amaended.
Have you seen Muhinda Rajupaksa? No? Here.
Muhinda is a parody – a parody of recently rejected President, Mahinda Rajapaksa. I don’t know who runs it; I don’t have any idea why they’re doing it. What I do know is that it’s damn funny. I’ve seen insane amounts of meme’d mud-slinging on all sides, but Muhinda is special. Special. Because some smart wit has not only gone and parodied MR, but also created supporting accounts for almost everyone in the story. Shirunthi Raupaksa? Nomal Rajupoksa? Ronil Wickrumosinghe? There’s a whole gang of these new pages interacting and joking with each other, and it’s hilarious.
It speaks volumes that, in a world where meme-making is commonplace, it took an election for this kind of slapstick humor to emerge. Humor and jokes – especially those of a derogatory nature – are a universal part of human culture. Where three men meet, two will gang up and laugh at the third; in the cultural crossroads that is an entire society, the attention commonly shifts to public figures, stereotypes, and to making light of issues that, in the light of tomorrow, can be safely laughed at (see Humor across cultures: an appetizer). Even, as in the case of Charlie Hebdo, things that cannot be safely laughed at…
But I digress.
Jokes about the Rajapakses were never common, unless one counts Awantha Artigala’s amazingly astute political cartoons. The Rajapaksa clan is-was practically taboo – partly from their actions, partly from the rumors that spread behind their backs about what happened to people who dared speak against them. Stories of Lasantha Wickrematunge gunned down in cold blood. Stories of beatings and and strong-arm guards and white vans that would whisk you away. I rant – but tell me, how much subconscious fear does one have to instill in a populace to prevent it from doing this very basic thing from happening?
I think it’s good that the humor is coming out – as acid-like as it is, it’s important that the country get over this fear, this combination of awe and terror of the King In The South. Parodying a man and his family is not the wisest course of action – definitely not one I would take. But if laughing at a man diminishes that subconscious fear, if it reduces that errant unease that prevents people from speaking their minds for fear that Mahinda Rajapaksa might return to power, then I think it’s time for some humor.
Or perhaps people, being people, are always ready to kick the dog once it’s down.
Slow clap, anyone?