The return of the court jesters
In the days when monarchies were a dime a dozen and
kings and queens could not trace their lineage beyond their mothers, every
court had its jester. Historians and others interested in such idiosyncratic
studies as court life have never really explained- to my satisfaction at
least- why any court needed any jester, from the outside, I mean.
The behaviour of royalty, one would have thought, provided enough comedy
for a court to survive all those bacchanalian, gastronomic and other bouts
of debauchery without the help of amateur clowns. Perhaps the kings and
queens and their hangers-on, sometimes known as courtiers, were so tired
of old jokes that they had need of assistance from outside to exercise
those already tired jowls. Our own courts, one must confess, were not averse
to having a joker or two around. We all know of the legendary Andare who
set the royal courts roaring in genuine mirth. But since then the quality
of humour, like the quality of mercy has been badly strained to the point
of horrible adulteration that in the presidential palace a joke is a serious
In the old days jesters picked from the market- place and brought to
court lost their heads. Not at seeing their opulent new work places, one
is sorry to say, but for telling poor jokes.
But how times have changed. Somawansa Amerasinghe was the only politburo
member from the JVP leadership of the late 1980s to survive when the violence
it unleashed turned round and smothered it.
He survived because he ran away. They who could not care for the human
rights of the thousands they killed, were suddenly on bended knee before
the courts (law courts, I might add) of capitalist countries they once
chastised, pleading, nay begging, that their human right to life, be protected.
Somawansa Amerasinghe somehow found his way to the UK where he now lives.
If he was shameless enough to run away saving himself but leaving hundreds
of misguided party men behind him to suffer what fate held for them, that
is his problem and he will have to live with it. But today he finds himself
back in the country from which he escaped-albeit temporarily-playing the
jester and justifying what they did.
But would he have had the courage to come to Sri Lanka had he not been
cajoled, persuaded or even coerced to return even for a few days?
Is Amerasinghe not a high ranking member of the party that President
Kumaratunga admitted on television was responsible for killing her husband
Vijaya Kumaratunga? Or has she, like so many other things, forgotten what
she has said?
Was it not the same JVP that led the insurrection against her mother's
government and had planned to kill her as they did her husband later?
It seems that jesters are in great demand these days. One has only to
read the media and see photographs to see the clowns cluttering the political
stage as we head toward December 5.
The same old courtiers, who robbed the people are running hither and
thither to save the kingdom from falling.
And an incensed public waits as the robber barons prepare once more
to do what they had done before- rob the people of their franchise. But
the drama is not yet over. The newest court jester, temporary passport
and all is ushered in.
Tell our party leaders to take up arms again, he exhorts. Sometime during
his days in London he has picked up a smattering of Shakespeare.
"I have come to bury the separatist alliance, not to praise the corrupt
and inefficient PA", he says imitating Mark Antony. What a Wansa! Did the
Bard anticipate him when he created the jester Malvolio?
Let's hope the joke is not on Sri Lanka.
How to win an election
By Goolbai Gunasekera
Elections are upon us again. Puffing and panting,
I climb the hill of a school in Kotte where, with more than usual stupidity,
someone has sited an election booth on a mini Sri Pada. Naturally, no vehicles
are allowed past the school gate so one really does wonder how elderly
voters or those with heart problems or arthritic problems, are able to
make it to that lofty cubicle, right at the very top of the incline. My
admiration for the teachers of that school grows apace. To think they labour
upward on a daily basis proves that they either love teaching or else are
terribly figure conscious!
But I digress. Unfortunately history is rapidly moving no matter how
still governments sit. Our last few governments seem to have been entrenched
behind bastions of non-achievement - particularly so after the assassination
of Ranasinghe Premadasa whose up and at' em policy gave tremendous vigour
to an otherwise lazy population.
"How are you going to vote ?" I ask my Dearly Beloved as we negotiate
"With a pencil," he answers briefly.
"Piggy. Tell me will you."
"It's my affair if you don't mind."
"What's the big deal about telling me for whom you intend casting your
"Can you keep a secret ?"
Truly, he asks difficult questions.
Now let us consider the all important issues of the day - issues to
which the candidates themselves have paid no attention whatsoever. How
could they? One and all, our politicians are busy slandering each other
, assaulting and setting thugs on each other. The few who do not, are regarded
as being really out of it. Of course, some politicians catch the eye better
than most. These few project charm as did President Roosevelt. Others reject
it as did Mao Tse Tung. Most of the charming ones are dead and gone. The
rest, like Mao Tse Tung, imagine they can lead this country on a Great
March to Nirvana. Alas, what a witches brew Sri Lankan politics has become.
Now here are a few hints to politicians: The wiser ones may listen.
The fools will blunder on upturning all order, disregarding the very Rule
of Law and arranging matters to suit their private purses. Politicians
behave as if there were no day of reckoning. In fact, there isn't. Not
by the usual process of law that is. But what of the higher law ?
Whatever one's religion may be, these laws operate eventually. Since
no politician worries his brains over such things, does one assume they
are all atheists and Godless beings ?
Let's assume they are... Godless beings, I mean. They know with the
experience of parliamentary skull diggers that all the clever devils are
seeking election while all the dim-witted angels are going to vote for
As they follow no known rules of ethics, let's map out a few ideas which
we feel will ensure their continued popularity with their voters. This
popularity contest they understand and therefore may pay heed too. Here
are my suggestion for the victors whoever they may be:-
1. Stop listening to 'yes'men. They only tell you what you want to hear.
2. Stop believing your near and dear. They tell you what they think
you want to hear.
3. Stop listening to your underlings. They tell you what those who have
bribed them want you to hear.
4. Stop listening to your wife. She tells you what she thinks her gossip
circles want you to hear.
5. Stop listening to your men friends (if you have any). They tell you
what all the cliques and clubmen want you to hear.
6. Don't ask your women friends for their thoughts either. They will
tell you the truth and the truth may cause you to turn tail and run.
7. Stop trying to hear 'The Voice of the People'. There is no such voice
in Sri Lanka. The 'Voices' you hear are as delusional as those of Joan
of Arc (and we all know how she ended up).
8. Don't use gimmicks. They fool nobody, but unfortunately you are shielded
by those mentioned above from the derisive laughter of the public.
9. Stop being pompous. The airs and graces of politicians border on
comic opera. There is nothing funnier than a yesterday's nobody trying
to look like today's somebody.
10. Try not to abuse your opponents. No one believes either you or him.
You both sound school childish and pretty silly.
11. Try telling voters the truth. It may shock them into actually giving
you a vote again.
12. Try to bring the words like "honourable", "honest, " dependable"
and "trustworthy" back into common usage when discussing politicians. (Impossible,
And finally just try to listen to that one voice you have so far gagged
and bound forever - namely - that persistent little nigger- your own conscience.
I know it has been totally underworked so far. Dust it off, bend your ears
towards it... and voila! We may actually have good governance at last.