Of monstrous monarchies and diplomatic heresies

An attempt is being made in some quarters to make a mountain out of a molehill over an allegation that a Sri Lankan diplomat serving abroad has advocated that the British monarchy be abolished. The envoy concerned has denied that charge and explained his position. His response carried in this newspaper the other day was clear enough to put the matter to rest. But, some pundits who don't read the original version of anything or follow-ups including clarifications but love to go by the electronic grapevine (aka e-mail) which dishes out a great deal of doctored trash keep on baying for his blood. So do some gossipy Foreign Ministry mandarins who behave like women at a public tap and treat their political bosses like mushrooms––by keeping them in the dark and feeding them with hogwash!

In a way, even if a Sri Lankan diplomat were to suggest that the British monarchy be scrapped, why should there be such a hullabaloo? A former British High Commissioner didn't mince his words when he said in a public lecture in Colombo that he saw nothing ‘illegitimate’ about the concept of Eelam, which, he knew, was equivalent to the division of this country. And to some Western diplomats, the unitary status of this country has become something like a red rag to a bull. They openly advocate a constitutional change to transform Sri Lanka into a union of states. Most of all, terrorists funding and coordinating ethnic bloodletting here are operating from British soil with the patronage of some MPs there. But, there is not a whimper of protest from those 'concerned Sri Lankans' who are after the scalp of the Sri Lankan diplomat whom they accuse of having 'offended' the British royalty!

Some Sri Lankans literally venerate the British monarchy. If the Queen catches a cold in London, they sneeze in Colombo. Such is their emotional attachment to the throne! But, in Britain, the royal family doesn't seem to have so many fans. Princess Diana, who towards the latter part of her life pitted herself against the monarchy bitterly to the point of belittling it by starting an affair with a Muslim, became an icon for the British public. The number of British citizens who question the wisdom of maintaining the monarchy at such a huge cost is said to be on the increase.

Let's see how the British monarchy treated our monarchy. The fate that the last king of Lanka Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe suffered at the hands of the marauding British is only too well known. Taken prisoner at the behest of the British Crown, he died in exile. True, the Kandyan nobility was instrumental in betraying the king but the fact remains that the British got rid of him, reneged on promises to noblemen and violated the Kandyan Convention in every possible way.

Never mind that wicked king of Lanka. How did the military of the British monarchy treat the poor Sri Lankans? Their barbarism knew no bounds. It was through the scorched earth policy, genocide and gendercide that they quelled the Wellassa rebellion in 1817-18.

Tens of thousands of acres of lush paddy fields were reduced to rubble and all fruit bearing trees felled to starve the people by way of punishment for their defiance. Worst of all, males of all ages were put to the sword in their thousands. Brutal destruction that the imperial army wreaked on Wellassa, which means one hundred thousand paddy fields, was so severe that even today it remains backward.

In the hill country, many Kandyan peasants were driven out of their lands, which were taken over for raising commercial crops. Most of them have remained landless ever since.

Sri Lanka's experience with all foreign monarchs has been bitter. Indian kings apparently made a sport of invading Sri Lanka in ancient times. The Portuguese, in the name of their royalty, committed heinous crimes against Sri Lankans. Places of worship were destroyed and their assets removed by the cartload. Wanton destruction of life and property characterised their rule. The persecution of Muslims was so brutal that King Senerath had to intervene to shelter the victims in the Kandyan kingdom and later settle them in the Eastern Province. (Thus, it may be seen that Sri Lankan kings practised some kind of R2P centuries ago against the invading armies of the Occident to protect human rights.) The Kandyan king also rose in defence of the religion of the Portuguese, which the Dutch were all out to wipe out. He kept Catholic priests in his kingdom to save them from the Dutch rapiers.

So, abhorrence of foreign monarchies and their marauders is in the genes of Sri Lankans, though times have changed and foes have become friends. They are truly loved by only those whose forebears sold their souls to the colonialists and got land and titles in return for their servility.

However, Sri Lankan diplomats are not supposed to articulate the views of the populace. They must be suave and sophisticated. A diplomat is said to be a person who is capable of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that he will really look forward to the trip. Here is an example. When Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was assassinated in 2005, some foreign ambassadors issued statements condemning the crime and urging the government to ensure that the CFA, in force at that time, would not be jeopardised. Translated into ordinary English, their message read: "Stick to the ceasefire regardless of how many ministers get killed!"

We don't believe the liberal- minded British are as perturbed as the anglophiles in Colombo seem to be by the unsubstantiated allegation that a Sri Lankan diplomat has called for scrapping the British monarchy. If the British government, by any chance, kicks up a diplomatic shindy over the issue demanding action against our envoy concerned, the Sri Lankan government ought to request Britain to act in a similar manner against its envoys overstepping their diplomatic limits and, most of all, the terrorists coordinating their operations from British soil to destroy Sri Lanka. A deal, eh?

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