Many politicians have an inordinately idealized image of themselves.Will someone please tell them that such excessive self-adulation is only pitiful fantasy! Several of them over the years have been viewed by the general public as figures of ridicule and contempt. And don’t blame the public if they aren’t even familiar with a good many of those 47 Cabinet Ministers, 20 state ministers and 25 deputy ministers – the last grouping who exist in a state of limbo because they are not designated members of the Cabinet.
So it seems unsurprising that with the names of several central government ministers remaining inconspicuous to the general public, that provincial ministers and their chiefs remain even more so in obscurity except in their own neck of the woods. One exception perhaps is the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council C. V. Wigneswaran who has lingered in the limelight by accusing the present administration for adopting a “dominating, domineering and hegemonic” attitude towards the Northern Province.
Yet one way of emerging from such anonymity is to kick up a heck of a ruckus in public and shoot to prominence even though it would clearly mean attracting flak and notoriety. I am referring to the recent incident where Eastern Province Chief Minister Nazeer Ahamed ran into a storm last week when he abused a senior Navy officer at a prize-giving at a school in Sampur, Trincomalee.
The Chief Minister lashed out at the Navy officer as he was blocked from reaching the stage of the event. His main allegation was that the Navy officer breached ‘protocol’ when he blocked the Chief Minister’s entry. The officer although being humiliated and baited responded patiently in the best traditions of naval discipline and tried to defuse the issue by apologizing to the politician. But, the Chief Minister was not prepared to be mollified for ‘reconciliation’ of any sort. Eastern Province Governor Austin Fernando and the US Ambassador in Colombo were also present at the venue and the Chief Minister had no reservations about bawling out his pique in the presence of schoolchildren.
In the heat of his diatribe the Chief Minister’s hand accidentally hit a little girl standing near him to receive a prize. The video footage of the incident went viral on social media and it earned the condemnation of many right-thinking citizens. Evidently Nazeer’s frightful behaviour could not by any measure be condoned. He should as a responsible political authority have acted with more self-restraint. If miffed over the matter he should have walked out of the venue and raised the issue through the relevant official channels.
Nazeer should also have realized that the consequences of his actions would not have been in the best interests of his party, the SLMC, a constituent of the governing administration. Worse still they could have provided fuel for bigoted racists to fire up yet another communal powder keg. The Tri-Forces in the aftermath of the incident announced that they would boycott events attended by Nazeer, deem him persona non grata and ban him from entering their camps.But it appeared that political expediency has won the day over discipline and justice which of course serves to lower the morale of all our battling forces.
The upshot of it all was that the Commanding Officer of the Eastern province, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Navy, Rear Admiral Neil Rosayro – no relative of this writer – had been transferred to Colombo, as the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Navy and Commandant Volunteer Naval Force. Rear Admiral Travis Sinniah has been appointed Commanding Officer of the Eastern province. Speaking to the media, Defence Ministry sources claimed that the transfer had nothing to do with the issue surrounding the Chief Minister. So much then for such obfuscating statements where astounding coincidence appears to always be present. It serves only to widen the administration’s transparency and widen its credibility gap because the people start reaching for the proverbial salt.
One would also be mistaken to confuse notoriety or fame with greatness. Many in this country have obtained their fame and fortune outside their own merit. One striking aspect of our political representation over the last three decades or so has been the absence of gentlemanly conduct, because no one out there in present or recent governance has come out looking really good, despite official cover-ups and political mendacity.
It is true that the relationship between the masses and the politicians is entirely a matter of chemistry. That is why disgruntled voters treat certain elected officials like toxic waste. And it is no small wonder that most of the balloters despite their diverse spiritual beliefs subsequently have religious differences with their politicians. The reason is that while in power the elected think they are God Almighty and the voters don’t.
Ah yes, we have become a nation of rogues, no less. But no one hears about a politician’s home being burgled. That’s because of professional courtesy I guess!
Which reminds me that this country’s national malady, if we are to go by the statistics revealed by the World Health Organization, that one in four Sri Lankans suffers from some kind of mental illness. That is because it is clearly evident that at all general elections we – including a heck of a lot of the mentally afflicted among us – vote in a heck of a lot of parliamentarians to the legislature.
I do not profess to be a historian, a statistician nor a psychiatrist. But I have been an ardent observer of our changing political scene and have viewed the irrational behaviour of several of our elected lawmakers with both amusement and anxiety.
Yes, certainly judging by the speech and actions of many of them it seems pretty obvious that they suffer from delusional disorder. The danger is that too many of them have been driven to megalomania, which is a psychopathological ailment characterized by misconceived fantasies of power, grandeur or omnipotence.