Rajpal's Column

14th January 2001

Master Sir, when shall I call you friend?

By Rajpal Abeynayake

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The Malwatte Maha- nayake has given the US ambassador a lesson in openness. These are headlines that somehow, even in these topsy turvy times, people thought they never would live to see.

But, apparently the Mahanayake thought nothing of "rebuking'' as some agency reports put it, the Mahanayakes of the world.

For a long time now , this sort of team- game between the Mahanayakes here and the Mahanayakes of the world has been developing.

It's not just the Mahanayakes of the Chapters ( press reporters can quote chapter and verse on them ) but the "Mahanayake's'' of the smaller countries such as ours that have been developing a quarrel with the Mahanayakes of the world.

The Mahanayakes of the world are not just from the country that Ambassador Ashley Wills represents. In short, particularly in Sri Lanka, the antipathy of the ruling class towards the representatives — and the diktat — of countries from the Western power block has been manifest.

For sometime, it looked a UNP exercise, particularly when British representative Gladstone was sent packing by a former President, but then, we had Mangala Samaraweera cursing Article 19 in broad daylight.

This government has both a love and a hate relationship with Western powers, and even a member of the European Union election monitoring committee had let-on recently that the committee served its purpose in "legitimizing and propping up the PA government.''

Such a government may have no merit in adopting the direct confrontational approach. But, nevertheless, it has been constrained to be constrained.

Take Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar for instance. It's almost as if he is straining, beneath being genteel to the fingertips, from letting go a few four letter words at some junior Ministers etc., from certain European countries. But, it's also memorable, the way he had one Ambassador of the UN scurrying for his DDT, when he said that "this agency should concentrate on tasks like eradicating malaria for instance. .''

Sometimes, watching this war of words from a distance, it is difficult not to wonder, as in the song immortalized in a Sandarasagara movie, when "this tug-o-war will ever end?''

It will probably never end, but the form and content of every particular face - off or episode is the thing that has one bemused as it has been this week. The Mahanayake has purported to give the US ambassador a lesson on openness when he said " I have no secrets to hide,'' brushing aside a request by the ambassador to keep the press away from their meeting.

It is of course impossible for any government to rationalize it's attitude towards Western democracies and say that hitherto it will be adopting ''this stance and no other'', towards developed nations and their interventions. But, still the discomfiture of a government such as the PA with the powers of the Western block has been so apparent that in some way one has to feel sorry for the PA's predicament.

On the one hand , the PA has been almost bludgeoned into submission by the Aid Club and the World Bank, but has been put in a difficult position to resist, because of what the government owes to the European Union for instance in terms of services rendered in "legitimizing the elections.''

( Not my words , but the words of a UN election monitor, now dissident.)

Which is probably why the utterances about the West are whimpers here and there, like Mangala Samaraweera needling Article 19 and the Foreign Minister Kadirgamar taking potshots at the UN ambassador.

Beneath these few choice words, perhaps the groundswell sentiment of the PA political forces is to tell the whole caboodle of Western powers to go fly ten kites.

But it just can't be done, which is probably just as well that the Mahanayakes say it once in a way because it affords at least just that bit of comic relief, and does for a country what its government seems to want to do badly in the first place.

End- piece: From the sublime then to the absolutely ridiculous, but, then what's so ridiculous about a Reggae star gyrating at the "beautiful indoor stadium'' that bears the name of an ex President?

Nothing really, particularly seeing from a standpoint that entertainment of that genre done by an exponent of the calibre of ( Mr ?) Shaggy is some respite for a nation now increasingly starved of entertainment. The hip gyrating was something to talk about too, but Colombo, as said in the main piece, is always ( always) bemused…...

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