”Nevertheless the president would know better than most that giving certain kinds of people an inch leads to their grabbing a mile and Mervyn Silva belongs to that breed. Laughing at their antics and allowing them to preen in the glare of publicity is certainly not the best way of controlling them.”
The irrepressible Mervyn Silva made waves last week by muscling his way into the act of animal sacrifice at the Munneswaran Temple near Chilaw. We are in no way advocating animal sacrifices anywhere. We abhor and deplore the practice. But Silva’s behaviour, especially as he is a minister of the government wielding political muscle and enjoying the use of taxpayer paid vehicles and other perquisites and privileges, raises a number of issues including that of law and order. These include sycophantic policemen dancing attendance on him. Silva was quiet for some time after he had an official, allegedly negligent in not attending a dengue prevention meeting, tied to a tree. After the flak that incident provoked and the silence that followed, the worthy non-cabinet minister made a memorable remark that “these days I open my mouth only to eat!’’
But he’s now back in full flight. He had driven to Munneswaran where the deplorable traditional practice of animal sacrifice had long continued and hundreds of goats and fowl have been ritually slaughtered over a long period of time. Priests there say the gory business is the work of people who have taken vows who redeem them by causing the slaughter. That contention is not entirely acceptable. The priests or other temple authority surely have a say on what is done there. And what happens to the flesh of the poor animals? No doubt eaten by humans, hopefully the poor. Given the price or mutton and chicken nowadays, there are obviously beneficiaries from the ritual and perhaps naming and shaming them may yield some useful result.
Although various confusing and contradictory reports have been published and aired over the electronic media, it does not seem that there has been any court order banning the animal sacrifice. The Court of Appeal, on the basis of a petition filed by an animal rights group, had said it could not interfere. The police are on record saying there was a court order, apparently from the District Court of Chilaw, but this has been to ensure the maintenance of peace. It is obvious that if one group wants to continue the practice of animal sacrifice and another is determined to stop them, there is an imminent danger of the breach of the peace. Any court is duty bound to issue the necessary orders to the law enforcers to prevent that. The sensible way of doing that is stopping the ritual slaughter – the legality of which has not yet been ruled upon by the courts.
Mervyn Silva is, of course, good theatre. Sensing a good story accompanied by appropriate images and sound bytes from a man who is now back to opening his mouth for purposes other than eating, the media naturally followed him to where the action was. The Prince of Denmark did not disappoint. He demanded to know who the owners of the goats and fowl brought there for slaughter were. Not surprisingly there were no claimants. Lots of cops standing by, a cheer group including members of the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha led of course by a shall we say too well known minister though not of cabinet rank, it would have been a brave man or woman who would have claimed ownership of the unfortunate animals. Mervyn then ordered that the now fortunate goats and fowl be driven off to what he called a “friend’s estate.’’ He grandly proclaimed to a radio station that if there were owners, let them come and take the animals away.
Mervyn Silva obviously was not the owner of the animals he had ostensibly saved and the police around the place obviously knew that. We don’t blame the cops for acting as they did, no doubt in the interest of their own skins. As one wit once famously said, a policeman without a uniform is only a banana without its peel – lellak nethi kehel gediyak wagai.
We are not altogether convinced that the lives of the animals have actually been saved.
The chances are that they will eventually end up in the pot if that has not already happened. Last year a group of Buddhist monks unsuccessfully attempted to thwart the animal sacrifice at Munneswaran. This time it appears that not even a stay order had been issued by the courts against the animal sacrifice with a date fixed later this month for consideration of the petition.
The question is whether the Mervyn Silva’s of this world, or at least this country where it is accepted that the poor fellow who suffered the tied-to-a-tree indignity actually asked that this be done to him and where an SLFP inquiry has cleared the accused of any wrong-doing, are to be permitted to muscle into sensitive terrain and function as judge, jury and fiscal however popular the cause. Mervyn has of course reveled in the publicity and is now on record saying that he will cut off the hands of anybody who slaughters innocent animals if they are caught in the act. He also says that he will shut down all meat stalls in the Gampaha district. It is claimed that there are no meat stalls in the Kelaniya electorate where you-know-who is UPFA organizer. We rather doubt whether frozen chicken, sausages etc. are also not available in groceries in the electorate although we can’t say we are unhappy that bloody animal haunches hanging from hooks are not on display there.
Mervyn also does not like international schools where he says children are taught to say “ta ta’’ and “by-bye’’ instead of being taught our country’s history and ancient values. Now that he’s had his day, he has obviously been encouraged to open his mouth on some new subjects. We suppose every court needs its jester or Andare and the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration is no exception. Mervyn has been allowed to get away with a lot although his latest escapade has been by and large popular. Nevertheless the president would know better than most that giving certain kinds of people an inch leads to their grabbing a mile and Mervyn Silva belongs to that breed. Laughing at their antics and allowing them to preen in the glare of publicity is certainly not the best way of controlling them.