The Relative Merits Of Jeyakumari, Ruki And Fr. Mahesan

An activist is an activist is an activist.  This means there are all kinds of activists.  An activist is someone who engages in or advocates activism.  Activism is defined as ‘a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue’.  The moment we bring ‘vigorous’ into the equation we are talking about an even bigger can of worms. 

The advocates and practitioners of drone attacks, for example, would be ‘activists’.   Those who throw Molotov Cocktails, deploy suicide bombs and explode themselves in public places, and who take pot shots at people are being active and vigorous. They are, therefore, activists.  Barack Obama is an activist. So was Osama bin Laden.  Prabhakaran too.

And how about aggressive corporate takeovers?  How about vigorous price wars?  Is there activism there? Are there activists involved?  Are thieves activists and is theft activism? 
So there are activists and activists. There is activism and activism.  It makes for selectivity, depending on who is doing the selection.  There are some who would call human rights advocates employees of rent-a-protest outfits.  There are people who would be dismissive of such tags but would never call those who flock to Bodu Bala Sena protests ‘activists’.

So activists and activism can be classed.  We have environmental activists of many kinds, focusing on different aspects of the broader issues.  Some would be professional greens, activism being a vocation.  The same goes for peace activists, women’s rights activists, temperance activists and of course human rights activists.

Let’s toss in some names here.  There’s Jeyakumari Balendran. There’s Ruki Fernando.  There is also Father Praveen Mahesan.  Jeyakumari is new to ‘activism’, the other two are not.  Jeyakumari hit the headlines, the others did too but not before they tagged themselves to Jeyakumari-News. 
How did Jeyakumari become ‘news’?  Who made her ‘news’? 

Well, first of all, she was an activist. Her sons were willing or unwilling members of a terrorist organization.  One of them, she claims, was ‘disappeared’ by the security forces. So she became a ‘disappearance activist’.  What she herself had wanted ‘disappeared’ was her sons’ LTTE connections.  She also wanted ‘disappeared’ the fact that she was cozy with some hardcore terrorists who also had criminal records.  She marketed herself as ‘activist’ and some people actually purchased the lie.  Ruki and his friend Fr Praveen Mahesan for example.

Actually, we don’t really know if there was ‘purchase’ here because that would imply naiveté.  Ruki is a professional activist.  If Ruki and his friend, Fr Mahesan were not in the know, they make poor apologies for activists.

That’s beside the point.

The point is that here we have an activist (Jeyakumari) being arrested and two other activists who came to inquire about her also being arrested, followed by expression of umbrage from Washington (Jen Psaki of the US State Department) and London (Hugo Swire, UK Foreign Office Minister).  Psaki and Swire are upset about Ruki and Fr Mahesan, but nary a word did they utter about Jeyakumari.

Are some activists more active than others?  Are some activists worth only until their true identities are discovered?  Heck, it’s the lady that got Ruki and Fr Mahesan some media coverage; surely they should say ‘Thanks Jeyakumari’?  Surely they should express outrage over Psaki and Swire giving her the cold shoulder in the political economy of umbrage?  Surely they should ask if it’s an example of discrimination along gender lines?

Well, it is doubtful that Ruki, Fr Mahesan or any of activists and activist championing journalists, diplomats and UN officials will direct such questions to Washington or London.  We can draw some conclusions though.

First. Jeyakumari’s shelf life expired.  She had her script, read her lines and now she’s done.  She’s outlived usefulness.    Exit.

Second.  It means that a lot of other ‘activists’ may have shelf-lives too; perhaps too, skeletons in cupboards that not all of their fellow activists know about.

Third.  The likes of Psaki and Swire were quicker than those wooly headed rights activists in Sri Lanka who allow regime-hatred to dull further their dull intellect.  They know, perhaps, that Jeyakumari is such a hot number that if she were to be waved about they might produce so much fire that other things that don’t buttress their lie might come to light.

But activists, so the HR handbooks say, are activists are activists.  Activism is activism is activism.  You cannot differentiate.  Now the onus is on Jeyakumari’s fan club to come out and say ‘Hey, she fooled us all!’  They won’t do it, I am willing to wager.  They just have too much to lose.  Credibility, for one thing.  Jobs, for another.  Careers. 

They picked poorly when they identified Jeyakumari as ideal pin-up girl for agitation purposes.  Can’t blame them.  After all, they even called terrorists ‘boys’ and said a thug called Velupillai Prabhakaran is a freedom fighter.

Those with any intelligence, if they were to be generous, would call Ruki Fernando and Fr Mahesan ‘suckers’.  If they weren’t generous, they would call them ‘aiders and abettors of a well-orchestrated vilification campaign that has nothing to do with human rights, disappearances and such’.  Either way, Ruki and Fr Mahesan need not worry.  It is not on the intelligent or intelligence that they count on.

The future must look bright for them, and they must be grinning in private even as they talk of ‘fear’ and ‘hurt’ and wax lyrical about democracy deficits.  It’s all good at the end of the day, never mind the fact that poor Jeyakumari is left in the lurch, sold down the river and all that kind of thing.

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