The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is reported to have appointed a committee headed by Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva to probe the asinine conduct of Labour Minister Mervyn Silva at the Rupavahini Corporation the other day. Appointment of committees is a ruse that any government in trouble adopts by way of a dilatory tactic. Committees, as it is said, function the way a person eases himself: They sit, deliberate for a while and then drop the matter with a thundering report. If there is anything good about the committee in question, it is that the Health Minister is its head. For, the national anti-rabies campaign comes under his purview and he could be urged to test canine vaccines on political thugs. Or, the mental health institutions under his ministry may also be of some use in rehabilitating political rowdies.
The government seems to have taken the masses for asses. Else, it wouldn`t have tried to pull the wool over their eyes in this manner. Who wants Mervyn Silva to be dealt with by an all SLFP committee? He must be arrested together with his underworld chums and thrown behind bars. It was only the other day that a member of the Barmy Army got arrested for a bold display of his private parts in public while a cricket match was on. His offence was that he turned a somersault in his birthday suit in a country where some ministers and their mistresses run naked inside ministries to escape their ferocious wives while others tuck up their sarongs and pee into swimming pools at hotels in full view of guests. The poor English guy who tried to make an otherwise boring game somewhat exciting in his own way happened to be punished. The police lost no time in arresting him. But, the same police sided with Mervyn Silva, who stormed the Rupavahini Corporation and had its News Director manhandled. Now, we are being told that the CID is questioning him! That, we reckon, is a bigger joke than Minister Bandula Gunawardena`s vow to bring down prices in four months! (Former Minister Anura Bandaranaike got it right when he called the present Cabinet a Carnival of Clowns, having left it on an earlier occasion!)
Some ministerial colleagues of Mervyn are said to be demanding stern action against him. But, their campaign against him may also be a ruse. When a pickpocket gets caught, his confederates act in a similar manner. They join the people who assault him and drag him away vowing to hand him over to the police. That way, they remove their friend to safety. (A few years ago we had as a Provincial Council Minister a person indicted for having `picked pockets` before entering politics at a bus station but after his election he got away with it by settling the State costs! Mervyn Silva did likewise as regards a fraud case.)
Those who thought Mervyn would take a lesson from his Rupavahini fiasco stand corrected. A few days later, he launched a poster campaign to vilify the media. Will he try to justify his boorish and aggressive conduct, which was condemned by the public, unless he is certain that his bosses stand by him? We bet our bottom dollar that the much advertised probe will get protracted and finally draw a blank.
Meanwhile, even if the government were to take action against him by any chance and strip him of his ministerial post, he would cross over to the other side.
He is no stranger to the UNP, where he was a parliamentarian and electoral organiser for years after his defection from the SLFP. Therefore, the UNP, which is after his blood, ought to make a pledge that it wouldn`t take him back to the fold, if he were to be thrown out.
There are signs of the government launching a witch-hunt against the protesters who held Mervyn incommunicado at Rupavahini. Their protest which was spontaneous is being given a political twist as we pointed out the other day.
What the government should realise is that all right thinking people are on the side of the protesters, though they may not approve of the physical attack on the minister. Perhaps, the live telecast of the Mervyn Fiasco was the best programme Rupavahini has ever had since its inception. Rupavahini deserves an international award for that coverage. (The government could have tried to gain some mileage by flaunting that footage as proof of `media freedom` under its watch. But, it blundered badly by stopping repeat telecasts thereof in news bulletins thereafter and denying the public the pleasure of viewing a really entertaining programme over and over again!)
If Mervyn is allowed to go scot free, that will set a very bad precedent, the message being that anyone could walk into a public institution and manhandle state officials. And there will be a long line of ministers at Rupavahini waiting to assault the News Director or the Chairman every morning, if their speeches are not given prime time exposure.
The Mervyn Silva Fiasco harks back to the colonial days when Arachchi`s dog terrorised villagers. The animal would make a menace of itself by barking and biting at will, much to the resentment of the people. The public wrath was directed not so much towards the animal but its owner who did precious little to rein it in.
Nowadays, unlike in the bad old days, the people have the pluck to stone such dogs and the day may not be far off when they start pelting stones at Arachchi as well. That is why President Mahinda Rajapaksa must ensure that loyalties don`t take precedence over the law of the land.
Mervyn must be stripped of his ministerial post and brought to book. He is too big a problem to be handled by his own party.