Since Sri Lanka so emphatically won the civil war with the Tamil Tigers, the catch-phrase in the country has been 'patriotism'. Are you 'patriotic'? Do you endorse 'patriotic' activities? Which 'patriotic' leader do you follow? Do you know anyone who is un-'patriotic'? Sri Lanka these days is a collage of Mahinda Rajapakse's smiling visage and the word 'patriotism' in different tenses, conjugations and scripts.
We are a peculiar people. As a whole, the people of Sri Lanka have almost total disregard to the world's opinion of them. This can be seen as a good thing, in certain contexts, and just laughable in others.
Take for example this riot that occurred in the Free-Trade Zone in Katunayake yesterday. There were loud and demonstrative protests to the new pension scheme the government is trying to employ; a scheme where, from my understanding, the money accumulated by hard working citizens towards the EPF will now be lost, replaced with a non-transferable monthly pension that can only be withdrawn after retirement. I'm not even going to debate or justify the proposal, since I'm not educated enough to understand the inner workings of the scheme (because on face value, it just seems ridiculously unfair). What I want to focus on is the way these protesters were handled.
The reports are conflicting at best, but all seem to point towards a large mob that the police could not control; a mob that eventually got violent and assaulted the handful of policemen there, including the DIG. I supposed that's what mobs generally do, and I doubt anyone is surprised by this random and pointless act of violence towards the police and the local police station.
What is surprising however, is their reaction.
Apparently the Special Tasks Forces were called in to assist. There are, again, conflicting reports on what happened next, with some saying that the STF or the police went so far as to shoot live ammunition into the crowd. I don't know about that, but I do know that in retaliation for the assault of the police officers earlier, they broke down the gate of one of the factories, stormed inside, and proceeded to trash the building, breaking all the windows as well as smashing the cars and bikes parked in the company parking lot. These reports aren't in the papers, but I have it on good authority since I now someone who was there and witnessed it. Plus, apparently there is security camera footage as well.
It is becoming more and more amusing to read about the stands we are taking against the 'western' nations and their ideals, and how we refuse to 'bow down' to their demands and expectations at the 'cost of our integrity', especially when we are not operating on any higher moral ground ourselves. Violent protests happen, especially if they aren't controlled properly, but the authorities resorting to petty retaliation? Aren't the police trained for these types of situations, in that they know how to handle them effectively and not go into a blind rage just because some fellow comrades got hurt? This silly 'tit-for-tat' mentality is childish and unacceptable. At least, it would be unacceptable in any other civilised 'western' country, where there are laws that are actually implemented, and if not, there are measures and ways to deal call attention to it. What we have here instead is the police and the supposed peace-keepers taking the law into their own hands and dealing a form of vigilante justice. Yes, the mob got violent. Yes, the assaulted a few policemen. No, that doesn't give you license to carry out vandalism and property damage.
I am tired of the stupidity that I see in the newspapers everyday. I'm tired of laughing at some of the stories I hear regarding government, politics and common sense. I'm tired of people asking why it was alright for Obama to get Osama assassinated and not for us to kill Prabhakaran. I wish there was something I could do to fix it, but all I can do is write a whine on this blog and hope for the best. I wish for once I could read or hear of some new plan or strategy that will take the country forward rather than backward. If that makes me unpatriotic, so be it.