It is now officially announced by the Military Spokesman, Ubhaya Medawela, the defence establishment has 50,000 army deserters on its hands, to deal with. The amnesty period for voluntary surrender over, they remain to be tracked down, arrested and prosecuted, according to the military spokesman, as quoted by AFP. There is no significant change in the pattern of desertions, even after the war is over, he has further confirmed.
What is 50,000 army men for the military? It is around 25 per cent of the total strength of the military, that fought the war. It means, one quarter of the military has deserted their positions and or stations. It also implies, desertions will not come to an end that fast, or any sooner.
What is 50,000 army men on the prowl, for society? It is 50,000 men trained in using a variety of assault weapons, trained in armed combat, used to a brutal war that saw an abundance of human blood and mutilated bodies. It is 50,000 frustrated men, probably with arms in hand or access to arms, ready to commit any crime for their own personal or group needs and existence.
Proof of it is in the rising crime rate and involvement of army deserters in crimes. A week ago, police had a running battle with an armed gang in Kegalle, that ended with six gangsters killed and four of them identified as army deserters. There had been reports of deserters committing rape, robbery and murder, in the past. There had been reports of suicide as well. With 50,000 such men used to guns and blood on the free, can a regime seeping in corruption and accused of war crimes, afford to track down deserters, arrest and prosecute them as told by the Military Spokesman?
Already there are video clips and photos with gory scenes of crimes committed, running on YouTube that raises more voices for war crime investigations. Some claim the “clips” have been from military persons. Will a crackdown on deserters provoke more “leaks”? Will this regime risk more accusations? That looks too hot and risky, for this regime to handle the deserter issue.
Added, the latest media reports reveal the biggest “rackets” happen with police and political connections in town, and at the top. The Liberty Plaza raid on “Madam G’s” luxury sex service apartment had exposed, according to the media, that it had thrived with patronage from top police personnel and politicians. Reports said, there were understandings that any who interfered, would have transfers to remote stations. That in fact, is an accidental exposure and what goes without any, is far more seriously corrupt and complicated for society to live with.
Corruption and crime are not two different vices in any society. They live and grow together and this regime is ample proof, despite its heavily publicised puritanical statements on tobacco and alcoholism, pornography, child abuse and drugs. Often, high moral publicity is a forerunner to the dirtiest of all vices. Often restrictions and raids lead to and nourish crimes all round. That in fact is what an “Al Capone” regime is about.
It is rather weird though interesting to note that the rise and crowning of Al Capone as the gangster lord of American history has a “Prohibition” law under the most infamous “18th Amendment” to the American Constitution that banned manufacture, transport and sale of alcohol in the US from 1919 to 1933. A law that gave Al Capone an eminently luxury life, Marilyn Bardsley had this to write about.
“There had never been an outlaw quite like Al Capone. He was elegant, high-class, the berries. He was remarkably brazen, continuing to live among the swells in Miami and to proclaim love for his family. Nor did he project the image of a misfit or a loner, he played the part of a self-made millionaire who could show those Wall Street big shots a thing or two about doing business in America. No one was indifferent to Capone; everyone had an opinion about him…” (Al Capone / p – 18)
Life in Chicago that gave Al Capone his self made millionaire life was all about bootlegging, gambling, prostitution and contract killing during the “Prohibition” period. That life was also about recruiting police officers, judges, legislators and politicians for all things illegal. That was most evident at funerals, as written by Laurence Bergreen, the biographer and historian of repute. [quote]…..the last rites became a gaudy demonstration more appropriate to…a powerful political figure or popular entertainer…an event that priests and police captains alike attended to pay their last respects to the sort of man they were supposed to condemn. Colosimo was universally recognised as Chicago’s premier pimp, yet his honorary pall bearers included three judges, a congressman, an assistant state attorney, and no less than nine Chicago aldermen.[unquote]
This society we live in, is no less different. Its an Al Capone society. Puritanical at its best in political rhetoric and vulgar to the core, in corrupt existence. With that, will the deserters be brought to book, or will they become part of the system that would keep them safer and richer? It would be both, for sure. There will be cases of arrests and legal proceedings initiated. That would feed the public palate, with well garnished news by the media. That’s also the puritanical side of Rajapaksa politics. The fuel on which they keep the regime running.
From what the military spokesman had said, punishment would be decided on their past record. The records of deserters. There would thus be pardons given and re inductions possible. There would certainly be many unknown and unheard of cases of deserter “absorption” for personal security of especially Sinhala Al Capones, also. Those needed to run the system as an arms twisting, muscled regime that silences all critical and dissenting voices. That would be “prohibition” politics of the regime.
Will such politics be challenged any where? In parliament? Seriously never. The parliament, the “left” and the “right” sides of the Speaker have enough corrupt members, who are accused of even selling their duty free vehicle permits to dealers. There are enough rough and rowdy members, who only know to twist and squeeze the opposition members physically, but never to debate and discuss. The Chief Government Whip proved he is only a Mariyakadey product, even in parliamentary debate.
The opposition would take another 120 days to have their leadership selected, after agreeing on a reformed party constitution, at the convention just held. They are never serious and would not know what they would do, even after they decide on the leadership as declared at media briefings.
Will there be any escape from this politics? That seems the only unanswerable question, for now. Although the in-flight SriLankan Airlines magazine Serendib is all glamour and glory about a regime that’s racing with development projects towards an Asian Wonder, official numbers say 300 of the 600 odd projects are well behind schedule. Only 54 per cent has been disbursed till the end of the third quarter of year 2010. What these projects are and how effective they are in terms of necessary development, is better left without questions.
This certainly is not real life in Sri Lanka. This certainly is not unknown beyond our shores. I met a World Bank consultant on a flight to Colombo a few days ago, who was to meet Sri Lankan officials on development projects. The talk obviously shifted to this regime’s corruption and lapses in implementation. “Why does the World Bank assist corrupt regimes? Does not the WB take up governance issues ?” was a pointed question I posed. And pat came the response. “You choose a decent regime and we would appreciate very much….This is what you chose for us to work, for now.” Thus the merry-go-round goes, complicity, chaos, corruption and all. Where do WE desert to, now?