By Neville de Silva
MoU : who or which ‘Karan’ signed what
If winter comes can spring be far behind, wrote that Romantic poet Percy
Bysshe Shelley, more in hope, I suppose, than expectation. Going through
an English winter in Shelley’s days could not have been a pleasant past
time, having to pass the nights by a coal fire and go out every time the
coal burnt out.
With no central heating and no special fuel allowance like the one the
Blair government offers pensioners-and even refugees, I am told but don’t
take my word for it and rush over here- it could be awfully annoying not
to mention uncomfortable.
Anybody who has had the misfortune to experience English weather long
enough might well wonder why the year is divided into four seasons when
they all seem to appear very much the same.
Even the bright, sunny weather two Friday’s ago could not bring enough
Sri Lankans outdoors to demonstrate opposite the Sri Lanka High Commission
in West London against what is seen as the Wickremesinghe-Prabhakaran pact
under which the latter would presumably become the boss of a new geographical
entity having failed to be the leader of what some people here called his
real Motherland which is Tamil Nadu.
One cannot, of course, blame Ranil Wickremesinghe for that. That was
largely due to a political miscalculation (some call it the ultimate faux
pas) by VP- that is Velupillai Prabhakaran to you, ignoramus- which was
the killing of Rajiv Gandhi. Any chance VP had of becoming Big Brother
across the Palk Strait was sacrificed on the altar of vendetta politics.
Anyway, now that we are naming names, can VP’s closest aides- or even
the registrar of births- please say how his name is spelt. I’ve seen at
least three different spellings including one that calls him Pirabhakaran.
I mean it is easy for chappies like Shakespeare to go about saying “what’s
in a name” and that sort of thing. I wonder what he would have said if
some stupid petitioner wrote his name as Shakesperera.
I’m not being unduly fussy when I insist on a consistent spelling. One
of the first things journalism teaches you is to get name and place-spellings
correctly. There was a time in the journalistic history of this country-Ceylon
not Britain-when reporters had to cover weddings and funerals. One of the
most important aspects of such reporting was to record the names of those
As journalists of those days of yeo used to say, writing Sinhala names
in English could actually end in your own funeral. The English spellings
often indicated the caste of a person and woe be unto the reporter who
unwittingly lowered the caste of an attendee. He could expect to have 50
cents deducted from his monthly salary which was a princely three rupees
or so in those golden days of eternal summer. That was if the boss was
in a forgiving mood.
If not the poor reporter would be ejected with a kick to his posterior
and would be trudging the pavements looking for a more tolerant vocation.
Today few care about spellings, grammar or comprehensible language.
But I think we should insist that VP’s minders provide the media and the
public with a consistent spelling of the name. To me it does not really
matter whether dear Velupillai spells his name as Piribhakaran or Pirabhakaran
or Prabhakaran or just V.P.Karan
I think it very important that he informs others of the correct spelling
of his name. All he has to do is to give notice in the Gazette.
“I Velupillai Prabhakaran do hereby inform the Government of the Democratic
Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the general public that I shall henceforth
be known as Velupillai Prabhakaran and sign all documents as V. Prabhakaran”.
I mean it does not cost more than a few rupees and his tax collectors
can always get it from a public servant or a tea boutique owner. There
is one small problem. He might not want to give notice in the government
gazette especially if it is the official organ of the Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka.
Perhaps his ideologue Anton Balasingham might advise that to publish
such a notice in the government gazette is tantamount to recognising the
authority of the gazette in the Wanni or wherever VP resides these days
now that a ceasefire is on and the Norwegians are coming and going more
often than Kadirgamar.
Balasingham (Dr. is he?) might suggest that VP publishes the notice
in the Wanni Gazette as evidence to future historians that the presence
of the Wanni Gazette is sufficient proof that a separate government existed
in the jungles of the North Central Province.
I seriously believe that the Norwegians-if they were real facilitators
and not fellow travellers, would want to make sure that neither VP’s name
nor its spelling is in any doubt.
Well for one thing, our Vanniathamby is signing all sorts of documents
these days- from his own edicts to a Memorandum of Understanding which
in diplomatic shorthand is a MoU and sounds very much like the noise cows
Others might take this rather lightly, but I insist that this has vital
ramifications and unless some understanding is reached every Memorandum
of Understanding is bound to lead to plenty of misunderstanding.
Let us say, just say that my old schoolmate S.L.Guna-sekera decides
to make an application to the Supreme Court or wherever such applications
are made arguing that the MoU is in violation of the Constitution for blah,
blah, blah reasons.
And all of a sudden- I don’t know whether such things are possible-
the Attorney General appearing on behalf of the government produces a witness
who denies that the signature on the MoU is that of Prabhakaran. And how
does he know, SL will surely ask dismissively.
Well, the witness will say, because I’m the chappie who taught Prabha
how to write English and how to sign his name when I was teaching at Velvettithurai.
Or let’s say some of Prabhas’ pals are caught trying to float a few
missiles across the Palk Strait. Ranil W would have to burn the midnight
oil-literally of course because of the power cuts- studying the MoU. Next
day he will get on the hotline to the Wanni and ask what the hell all that
Why did you violate the MoU?
“What MoU?”, Prabha will ask.
“Why the one you signed and sent me, VP”.
“Whaat Aiyar, I never sent you any MoU”.
“But your name is here”.
Then you spell it to see”.
So Ranil spells it.
“Cha, chaa. Somebody must have made a mistake.That is not how I spell
my name no”.