Fanfare for the common man
And who shall I say is calling?

Prabhakaran. That’s who. Now these words. Read them slow, show them care. They are from a singing poet. His name is Leonard Cohen. He sings a different blues, in a style they call cabaret jazz. His words here are of fear. Let the Tiger hear.

And who by fire, who by water

who in the sunshine, who in the night time,

who by high ordeal, who by common trial,

who in the merry merry month of May,

who by very slow decay

and who shall I say is calling?

This is how we die, and as you listen to him sing, you will uncover more ways in which it is likely to happen. But for now, and Prabhakaran, these seem a busy menu, other than the merry merry month of May.

And doubt it not, Prabhakaran is calling. Well, it may not exactly seem as if he was in the volunteer regiment, but he’s calling anyway, with some encouraging manoeuvres from our brave men in battle.

The question is are we okay with this. Are we in our partisan corners hoping something will happen to make it go horribly wrong, so that our party and Prabhakaran will survive?

If you think I have just announced my candidature for the funny farm, I am about to assassinate your ambitions of choosing psychiatry for the odd buck on the side.

Listen. Not long ago, and nowhere near far away, an attempt was made by the LTTE to kill our Defence Secretary. This was in the inglorious summer of the ceasefire. A crumbling woman, desperate in her dull scent and dying threads said to me on hearing the news: Well, I’m glad, that at last, they’re directing the bombs at the right people. I was stoned. And why did she say that? Her people were not in government. That she was fully possessed of an ethnocentric mob mentality, was also there. The Tiger missed out on something. He didn’t need any other device. He could have flung her at our Defence Secretary, and all that crooked thinking and sickening hate would have destroyed living things for miles. I regret to report that she still remains breathing and twisted, while hundreds upon hundreds of our brave soldiers, very many of them from hamlets having little to offer for an encouraging existence, have died to keep her, and the rather more deserving of us, alive.

These lost and others living in battle are singing the song to the Tiger, and as at no other time in twenty-five years of struggle, Prabhakaran is having to say he is calling. Leading his men in chorus is surely one of the most committed fighters against fascism this country is fortunate to have, the battle-hardened and bomb-struck General Sarath Fonseka. Prabhakaran is hearing the song also being sung by those magnificent men in their flying machines and those other trimmed blues on the ocean wave. On land, on sea, and by air the crouching Tiger has been taught to cower. He is no more about to spring, and moves the beads sunk in his head in despair.

We, the sons and daughters of democracy, are winning the unwinnable war. We, the people, having sacrificed more than seventy thousand lives, will rise from this with more honour and less bigotry when the morning comes. And, in that new day, we must be people caring for each other and wanting all to share. This is our walk out of the valley of terror, out of the incubus of war, out of the den of the Tiger. And even now that walk has begun. Many thousands are taking to the road of liberation as base after base and bastion after bastion of Tiger horror tumbles by the day.

But look, even as the light shows, new shapes are seen, new utterances are sounded. Speaking to Vatican Radio on 23 July, the Archbishop of Colombo, Dr.Oswald Gomis, said the civil war in Sri Lanka between the government and the separatist Tamil Tigers has now reached a point where opportunities for dialogue are practically non-existent. Aunty BBC, or more to the point, her Sandeshaya Sinhalese Service, was quick to pounce on him. Pardon the Tiger pun. My Lord Archbishop, as my friend the Sculptor would say, finessed them in a manner becoming his wisdom. There are people who believe that there is no point in discussions, because the LTTE always gained advances during this period of discussions. In my interview with Vatican Radio, I told them the government had offered to talk…only if the LTTE lay down arms…Taking that into consideration, I said there is hardly any prospect for peace talks at the moment. His Lordship got it right the first time.

So here’s Prabhakaran then, having, so to speak, the time of his life. On land they’re coming at him from four sides. His sea routes have been sliced making him hit the books for new lessons in economics on the supply side. He can hardly take the Latin poet Ovid’s advice and gaze upon the stars, because great balls of fire are falling from the skies.

Then he hits on comedy. The SAARC staging in Colombo, is bringing Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh to the Summit. Three Indian battleships and three thousand Indian troops happen to be accompanying him, just in case Prabhakaran feels the need to indulge his favourite pastime of assassinating Indian premiers. The Tiger declares a unilateral ceasefire.

If it weren’t funny, it would be tragic. I think he gets to have both.

He has also, in high probability, opened a new theatre of entertainment for the international community.

In January, this year, the redoubtable Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, our Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in an interview on the BBC Sandeshaya Sinhalese Service, put Prabhakaran’s comedy turn powerfully in perspective when he said: The LTTE should have implemented the CFA of 2002 in 2002 and not in 2008! Having violated the Agreement in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008, the LTTE now says that it is willing to implement the 2002 CFA in its entirety without any changes. This is a joke.

Ambassador Jayatilleka is a tough act to follow. Let me bite the bullet.

It comes from Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s 1892 operatic masterpiece, ‘Pagliacci’ (‘Clowns’), where at the closing, the clown hero Canio, in the throes of tragedy, says: La commedia e finita.

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