Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Attack on Fashion Bug: what does the reaction tell us?

-With three updates to the original post, on the latest developments-

The attack on the Fashion Bug shop should, in any civilised society have drawn condemnation from all quarters and, at a minimum, promises of an investigation from the authorities.

In Sri Lanka, the reaction was strangely muted. No minister, apart from a couple of Muslim MP's, of the hundred plus cabinet issued a statement. With so many ministries around surely somebody must be responsible for law and order, religious discrimination or even trade and investment; all areas that will be affected? Judging by the stony silence, apparently nobody was responsible. Perhaps they were simply not interested.

There was a vague statement issued by the Government Information Department talking of local and international conspiracies "to ignite ethnic clashes and religious disputes to destroy the prevailing atmosphere of freedom in Sri Lanka."  That has certainly happened, but what are the authorities doing about it?

The Sunday Times political column has more details of the tussle within the Government with Rauf Hakeem wanting to call an emergency cabinet meeting but the president refusing to do so, promising instead to call a meeting of the Government Parliamentary Group. A statement was finally issued by the SLFP. Why should the party issue the statement, not the Government? Perhaps the Government does not want to distance itself from the BBS?

The complete apathy and relative inaction seems to point to either complicity or approval. Probably secure in the knowledge that nothing will happen, the BBS has called for the culprits to be brought to book. The BBS might need to ring up the minister in charge, whoever it may be and remind him of his duties, since they all seem to be fast asleep. (Update: Groundviews has an excellent piece on this. Update 2: In a more positive development, three monks involved in the attack have surrendered. Whether it was motivated by the flurry of online activity, external pressure or good sense we do not know as yet, but this is the best news so far. If they are prosecuted it will send a firm signal that the Government is distancing themselves from the movement).

As DBS Jeyaraj points out, there seems to be concerted effort to cover up the attack.

There has however been considerable effort spent to take the incident off the news. Most newspapers carry reports only on the inner pages and seem to have subscribed to the official line that this was some minor personal dispute that blew up a little bit. DBS Jeyaraj disagrees with the received wisdom.

As far as the propaganda angle was concerned the Government seems to be acted, judging by the short lived blocks on some internet news sites and the success in kicking the story to the back pages.

Although they don't say so, the Rulers realise that this is negative publicity. Not that this seems to invoke any interest in solving the problem, the solution is to "manage" the news.

Naturally we do not want foreign lenders, on whom we are dependent or the deal makers to be put off? Those guys are valuable, they have lots of cash, no?   We worship any hand with sufficient cash, so no point putting them off is there? Especially over such an insignificant thing? Citizens be damned, only the money matters.

Update 3: It has been announced that the matter was amicably settled by the parties concerned. Given the pattern of past activity it does not take a great leap in imagination to suppose that pressure was brought to bear, to force the "amicable" settlement, the objective being to sweep the whole sordid affair under the carpet. For the umpteenth time, the perpetrators of another crime are allowed to walk away while the victims are left to carry on, as best they can. As if to underline this, another man walked free yesterday

In the meantime deep rifts have emerged in society. Last week's Sunday Observer carried an advertisement for the sale of a house. The advertisement specified that the buyers should only be Sinhala Buddhists. 

I wonder how much more time and space for reconciliation the Government will ask for at the next UNHCR meeting?

-Updated: New GV link on BBS
-Update 2 : Monks surrender to police
-Update 3: Parties come to an amicable settlement.

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