|People and Events
The greatest positive of the celebration was the giving of due place to the Father of the Nation and the Future Leaders of the Nation school children. You thought of all the practice those kids who performed on the Sports Ministry grounds would have put in, burning in February sun, and felt sad and disappointed that the President could not, did not, stay to watch and applaud them. I remember commenting on an earlier parade along Parliament Road, when Madame stayed on till the end applauding the performers, specially the kids, and showering them with her bright smile. She even seemed to have tears in her eyes when the bevy of half-sari clad girls sang to invoke blessings on her and the country. Not so this time around.
It was heartening and really good that D. S. Senanayake was remembered, his words quoted by commentators and his memory given due respect with garlands and flowers placed on and at his statue. I groused in this column on a celebration held at the Independence Square during the regime of the PA when our first Prime Minister and true Father of the Nation was ignored. A later PM, and one at whose feet many lay the blame for the mess we are in, was praised with no mention of DS. Such matters should be way above party politics. There is no gainsaying that praise and gratitude should be given to those who deserve it. History must not be altered for political clout. Praise must go to those who deserve it, so also blame.
The One Speech
Theres no two words about being proud when our President appears at State functions. Not only is it a shot in the arm of feminists; not only is it symbolic that the Head of State is a woman and mother; not only is she beautiful and so well groomed; but also the fact that she carries herself with such dignity. But what she says is another matter.
The Daily News screamed its headline in the 5th morning issue that the President praised the government on its peace initiative. What I heard was her cautioning the government, and rightly so. Then she spoilt it all by saying it was her government that started the peace process; that her government in 1994 put right a failed economy bequeathed upon it by the previous regime(!); that her government stopped all violation of human rights and brought in honesty to replace corruption (!!). My comment here is the stupid thing we used to chant as kids. Knowing people know!
I think we all need to read again D. S. Senanayakes speech delivered at our first independence day celebration. That was a celebration of a united Sri Lanka (Ceylon then) throwing off the yoke of colonialism to manage our own affairs as Ceylonese. Of course the divide lines were there between the races but there was amity too and things could have been worked out. Terrorists of the ferocity of the LTTE and JVP need not have raised their ugly heads.
The speech, like all DS said, was plain good sense. He appealed that all work together forgetting ethnic and religious differences. It may not have been of the magnificence of Nehrus "We have a tryst to keep with destiny" but it spelled out basic rules for bringing Ceylon to the forefront of newly independent countries. See where we are now!
Thoughts crowding the mind
The principal and ever present thought troubling the mind as one watched the dignified ceremony and then the parade and performance by school children was: What is their future? What is the future of the country? Do these beautiful kids performing as they did, specially the acrobatic team, have the future they deserve? What is the future they deserve? A life of certainty as far as that is possible, which is the duty of any government to provide and ensure to its citizens.
We are in a state of complete uncertainty as regards the security of the country, its remaining a single country with a strong central government. The uncertainty that all will be treated fairly in the north, east and all over the country; that an intolerant, totally dictatorial and cruel leadership may rule one part of the country and spread its tentacles to other parts, strongly niggles the mind and causes much concern and fear.
These fears are not, I repeat not, unjustified. They are not imaginings or whispers of paranoia. Coming colours, as the trite saying goes, are getting more and more evident. Will all the peace doves sent northwards be shot, once power is gained by those so clever at shooting. And this power is being given them, on a golden platter, with great obsequiousness and deference. WHY ON EARTH, is the question that screams out loud and clear. Is it keeping to a pact agreed upon? Is it the result of power hungriness on both sides? Who suffers? You and I the ordinary people and most of all innocent children the future generations of this country.
How utterly and deplorably sad that we are selling their birthright and their wellbeing to appease power hungriness of a handful of leaders. These children will have to bear the burden of paying off loans now taken to develop the north and east so the LTTE can rule one third the land, rebuilt and restored to a glory it never enjoyed before, and in time increase the share.
We have heard not one murmur of protest or complaint about the sudden change of mind of the LTTE causing the vast number of northern and eastern children who were to join their southern sisters and brothers in commemorating the Fourth of February, not being sent to Colombo. People are striving so hard to bridge the divide, the gap, the too long separation of the northern people from those in the centre, west and south of the country. And here was a golden opportunity to get the children together. And then suddenly the principals of northern schools are asked not to send the children to Colombo. For what reason? Useless asking that question.
But what does our government do? When Mr. Balasingham says he cannot travel to Thailand our negotiators all troop (at great expense to the government) to a venue that is convenient to Mr. Balasingham. Would there have been any change if say, Prof. Peiris were not able to travel for the negotiations? None at all, you can be sure. Replace him would be the advice we seem to seek and always listen to from the LTTE. Arent there any other negotiators, would be the question. My question is: do we pay all Mr. Balasinghams medical bills too?
Such expense to the government while the people are near starvation. How many can afford enough bread to quell hunger pangs at the current price? Dont talk about rice and vegetables. How buy the next cylinder of gas?
Institutions like the universities have no money. The publishing programme of the National Library and Documentation Services Board, which helped so many aspiring writers and gave to the literature of the country valuable additions, is stopped due to lack of money. But the roads in the north will soon be paved with gold. We do hope this gold will benefit the PEOPLE of the north who have suffered so much due to the LTTEs fight for Eelam.
I re-read sections of Kien Nguyens The Unwanted: a memoir of childhood (about the takeover of South Vietnam by the Communists after the Americans departed Saigon), with greater trepidation, increased foreboding and a feeling of being doomed, our country, I mean.
Every day at five in the morning, before any activity could begin, the adults in my neighbourhood were required to come out of their homes and salute the flag, while a loud speaker played the national anthem
In this country of ours not the Lion Flag, and not Sri Lanka Matha... for sure in the not so distant future!
All over the city the Communists had adopted a new strategy to break down capitalism, starting with the rich communities up in Chinatown and spreading to the outlying villages. It was a simple plan. Each day, the community leaders would pick out a target area at random. They ransacked every house in that sector, paying special attention to the once rich and famous. The object was mainly to find hidden treasure or evidence that linked the people to their sinful past. As the government agents probed through the owners belongings, members of the household were pushed into a corner. Anything with monetary value would either be confiscated or destroyed immediately. If they found proof of the owners involvement with an unacceptable past, depending on the degree of guilt, the person would either be taken away to a death camp or held for trial. Even the children did not escape the militarys search, since many cunning parents had learned to hide their treasure in or on their offspring.
Such can very well happen in this beloved country of ours due to the loud and made-powerful ringing of the seenuwa (bell) or the roar of the tiger. Seems very, very likely as things go.
So how celebrate 55 years of independence with economic, social, political, and cultural unity and independence fast sliding away, helped on its way by those who should be much stronger and consider the greater good of the people.
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