When nuts can tilt the scales of justice


Pol. Pol… po pol, pol…pol, pol, pol Lankave vathu vala vevena pol When MS Fernando sang these memorable lyrics at the time he was very much the King of Baila, he had so much to say of our favourite nut - from its taste and many uses, to the skin tone of the woman who sells Thambili or King Coconuts. But he missed out on the spiritual power of the coconut.

That ‘pol’ and spirits often go together is known by it being the preferred choice of many against ‘gal’ among those who enjoy an evening at a favourite waterhole, raise a glass with friends at parties, get the courage needed to make a toast at weddings or even rant on public platforms on matters of politics they know little about.

It was not long ago that we saw the belief in the spiritual power of the coconut taking over politicians of all hues, in their attempts to beat their rivals in elections, or to invoke the wrath and curses of divine or nether forces on their political enemies, or those who they wanted to bring down from positions of power.

To judge from what took place  near  Colombo Magistrates Court Complex earlier this week, even aspiring politicians,  are taking to the nut, to invoke the gods for the cause of justice.

Hirunika Premachandra, daughter of the murdered politician Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, smashed coconuts near the courts complex seeking retribution against her father’s killer. She seems to be quick to learn the lessons of ‘pol politics’ from others who have taken this trail of nutty spiritual pleading in the politics of desperation.

Despite its many weaknesses today, I still believe that our justice system is not likely to be influenced by the smashing of coconuts outside a courthouse. But at the rate this belief in the power of the nut seems be spreading, it may not be long before the police, who have a pitiful record of successful prosecutions, would look at coconut smashing with considerable fear.

If they begin to fear that the wrath of the gods or demons could be directed against them for their poor records of investigation into crime by, the determined smashing of coconuts in public places, the time may not be far when then police would move for an amendment to the law to make the carrying of coconuts to be considered an offence, as it is to carry a knife beyond a certain length in a public place.

With coconut smashing to get at the spirits being absorbed into our political system, it seems time for some university to start  doing research into the benefits or otherwise of this phenomenon. There is a whole range of study possible on this, from the age or size of nuts most suitable to appeased the deities or demons,  how it should be smashed, the direction one should be facing when  it is being smashed, and what one should wear for the ritual; whether the coconut water that flows out from the smashed nut can bring blessings  on those nearby or bad luck to a passerby; and what effect  the eating of the kernel of such a smashed nut can do for one’s health  or spiritual advance. 

It calls for a special university chair on the subject of "Pol Gaheema", and there could be many politicians with nutty experience who would fit the bill for such a position, not excluding those who have received doctorates from purveyors of acupuncture who can now aspire for professorial status. "Mahaachaarya Pol Gahilla" would be a much coveted position to hold.

But what intrigues me even more is why our planners do not look at the export possibilities of the power of coconut smashing.  Our people smash nuts near court houses, at kovils, and under Bodhi trees, with a firm in belief in the power of the smashed nut to send spiritual messages to achieve their ends.  With so much being talked of regime change these days, in other parts of the world, why do we not use our diplomats and others with much more influence abroad, to market coconut smashing – Sri Lanka style, to solve the problems faced either by the results of the Arab Spring, to catch the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, do justice by the Norwegian people over the Anders Breivik killings;  or even tell Kofi Annan, of the efficacy of the  power of the nut from Sri Lanka to help ensure the success of his fragile ceasefire in Syria. We can also try to make Hillary Clinton a convert to "pol gahilla" to see quick regime change in Syria, without having to bother so much about how Russia and China feels about the whole idea. Who knows, even the re-elected Russian President Putin may like to smash some of our nuts to put down the opposition against him.

I have always had the feeling that coconut growers in this country are behind the promotion of coconut smashing for spiritual purposes; because of the profit it brings them. No doubt the market for coconuts is good today, thanks to a spreading disease affecting coconut and the vast felling of coconut trees for housing and other so-called development. But with foreign exchange getting scarcer each day, why can’t we think of exporting more of our coconuts with a heavy price tag attached for the spiritual or magical powers they are said to have.

We can make a start with India, by telling both Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha that smashing Sri Lankan coconuts, especially those grown in the north may be good to persuade New Delhi to get the UN to mandate a referendum on Eelam.  With a nut that is said to have such spiritual powers as to move the scales of justice in one’s favour, or against one’s rival or enemy, the sky’s the limit if our best brains or put to the task.

The problem of course is that most of those presented or on display as our best brains today are so nutty that their heads cannot hold much more than what is found in a coconut before the smash. The matter will ultimately end up as a political selection.  You can just see what a nutty people we have become. Pol, pol,..Po, Pol, pol …Pol, Pol, Pol

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