SRI LANKA: Sometimes, I feel that when institutions die, it’s even worse than people dying 

Today in an emailed letter I received from a friend there was this sentence: “Sometimes, I feel that when institutions die, it’s even worse than people dying.”

This is a profound reflection. I showed it to several of my colleagues from different countries, Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They all nodded, agreeing. I am sure if showed to a Cambodian, he also would have understood and agreed with this statement.

The statement was a reaction to the passing of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution yesterday (8th September).

A fatal night
My friend has grasped the profound significance of this fatal night and I am certain that many thinking people in the country would have thought the same way. At such events many people lose their normal reactions.

It would be no surprise if many people just remained silent and not said anything at all about what had happened. Such signs of withdrawal are manifestations of an internal understanding that a great tragedy has taken place. To be just furious does not make very much sense when such things come to pass.

By such silence people demonstrate their understanding that their own lives are now trapped in the tragedy. They have no escape from it. Their first reaction is that they do not even know how to cope with it. Perhaps they begin to see that they will never know how to deal with it at all.

In such times many people come to realise that all their assumptions were wrong and it is always disturbing to realize that one’s own assumptions could be so radically wrong.

When one’s assumptions go wrong all one’s dreams also die. What, for example, happens to a person who wanted to be good lawyer, when he or she sees that law itself is now senseless? What of the person who thought that judicial independence was possible, when the possibility of that no longer exists?

For those who have wanted to believe that the Constitution of 1978 was not all that bad and lived in a state of denial the 18th Amendment has removed all their doubts.

From now it would be difficult for anyone to continue believing in things they have believed in so far.

To remember September 8th, I extracted this quote, printed it and pasted it on the door of my office. It will remind me of what I share with the people of Cambodia, Burma and other similar places in terms of the death of institutions.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-091-2010
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Rule of law,