Columns - 5th column

Celebrating an illusionary independence

By Rypvanwinkle

“Thaaththa,” Bindu Udagedera asked, “are we really independent?”
“Why,” Bindu’s father Percy said, “do you think we are not independent?”
“Well,” Bindu declared, “I know that we gained independence from the British sixty four years ago.”
“So, what are you worried about then?” Percy inquired.
“It is just that I am not so sure whether we are independent anymore,” Bindu said.
“Why do you say that?” Percy was puzzled.

“Why, thaaththa,” Bindu explained, “it appears that everyone else is still taking decisions on our behalf.”
“How can you say that?” Percy argued, “I thought we have been taking our own decisions for the past sixty four years because we have been having elections regularly and changing governments during that time.”
“Yes,” Bindu said, “we have been doing that but we can’t really take the decisions that we want to, can we?” Bindu asked.

“Why is that?” Percy wanted to know.
“Why, thaaththa, when we were fighting the war with the Tigers, there were so many countries telling us what we should do and what we should not do,” Bindu recalled.
“That certainly was true,” Percy remembered.
“And now that the war is over, some countries are still trying to tell us what we should be doing and what we should not be doing,” Bindu protested.

“Why do you say that?” Percy was curious.
“Why, thaaththa,” Bindu explained, “they are telling us that our inquiry into war crimes allegations is not enough and that they should be having their own investigation into it.”
“That is also true,” Percy conceded.

“And it is not only these countries which are trying to control us,” Bindu pointed out.
“Why,” Percy asked, “who else is telling us what we should do?”
“Why thaaththa,” Bindu said, “ India is also telling us what we should be doing and what we should not be doing.”

“Why do you say that?” Percy inquired.
“Why, thaaththa,” Bindu said, “India is saying that we should go beyond the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution in trying to find a solution to our problems and that we should not be looking at anything less than that.”

“So,” Percy wondered, “do we have to do what India asks us to do as well?”
“Well,” Bindu said, “it is not only India which is trying to dictate terms to us now.”
“Why,” Percy was worried, “who else is telling us what we should do?”
“Why thaaththa,” Bindu pointed out, “ America is also telling us what we should do.”
“Why, what have they said now?” Percy asked.

“Well,” Bindu said, “they are telling us where we should buy our oil.”
“How can they do that?” Percy was surprised.
“Well,” Bindu said, “they are asking us not to buy oil from Iran just because they have imposed sanctions on that country.”

“But that is where we get concessions for all our oil imports and if we have to forego that, we will end up paying an awful lot more” Percy predicted, “and the Americans won’t reimburse that extra cost.”
“That is true,” Bindu said, “but that is what they want us to do.”
“So,” Percy said, “this is why you are saying that it is as if we have still not obtained independence from Britain .”

“Well,” Bindu said, “the British are also asking us to do what they want.”
“Why do you say that?” Percy inquired.
“Why, thaaththa, they show a documentary on one of their television channels and then want us to punish our soldiers based on that,” Bindu pointed out.
“Then,” Percy said, “it does appear that we may have been better off if we didn’t get independence from the British sixty four years ago.”

“Why do you say that, thaaththa?” Bindu asked.
“Well, if we were still a British colony, I don’t think we would have so many countries telling us what we should do and what we should not do,” Percy said.
“But thaaththa,” Bindu argued, “there is one more reason why I think we are not truly independent and we have only ourselves to blame for that.”

“What reason is that?” Percy demanded.
“I don’t think we have been correctly choosing who should rule us,” Bindu said.
“Why do you say that?” Percy protested, “we have been very democratic and having regular elections to decide who should rule us.”

“That is true,” Bindu retorted, “but by doing that, we have only been choosing who our rulers would be.”
“What do you mean by that?” Percy was confused, “isn’t that what elections are for?”
“Yes, thaaththa,” Bindu said, “but I don’t think we have been careful enough in choosing who our opposition should be or how strong they should be and I think, as a result of that, we have lost our independence to a great degree.”

Percy thought about that for a while and then realised that he wouldn’t disagree with that.

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