What in the names of all the deities is going on? And in this resplendent isle too! It is bad enough that envious eyes are cast in our direction hoping to grab a few chunks of what was once our sacred land to plant a port here and coal plant there. Of course there is [...]


Growing nuts or going nuts


What in the names of all the deities is going on? And in this resplendent isle too! It is bad enough that envious eyes are cast in our direction hoping to grab a few chunks of what was once our sacred land to plant a port here and coal plant there.

Of course there is no need to mention a few bakshees here, more yuan there and slippery rupees somewhere else that make the wheels of financial machinery turn as smoothly as Shanghai silk to the touch.

Such traditional practices have been put to the test for decades and improved over the years. In the good old days dirty linen was sent to the laundry man for a good wash and a hammering and scrubbing on the closest flat rock by the stream.

Today it is sent to the nearby laundromart by the helper at home. Unlike in the good old days the dhoby — as they say in parts of India — comes home to collect the linen. Now they call it money laundering only because it is an expensive past time and there is so much to clean before taking it to a bank or two for safe keeping.

Many of our countrymen thought that once the colonial Union Jack was hijacked by our worthy political warriors and lowered to the ground and our sword-carrying lion displayed as a symbol of our fearsome fighter class which is more likely to rely on technology than hands and feet, those with avaricious intentions would stay even farther away than the boundary dictated by the Law of the Sea.

If our forefathers thought that someday they could tuck up their sarongs, stretch out on the ancestral Hansi Putuwa and order the natives to do the ‘chokka’ work — as it was called — like they did when the White man ruled the roost and the plantations.

Actually how many could say what goes on in the bowels of Mother Lanka. Some say not even those who rule us, which is a strange thing to say. Only the other day when hell broke loose over those loosely controlled Ukrainian tourists of sorts, one of those who considered himself to be in the vanguard of the pilot project instead of remaining in the guard’s van, described himself pompously as the “Godfather of Russian tourists”. There was a time when the Russian overlords did not believe in God and ordered the citizenry to do the same.

Maybe the Russian ambassador should dash off a twitter at dawn to Comrade…oops sorry…President Putin for contempt of Russia. That should  prompt the Russian leader to send off a couple of MIG 27s — free of charge naturally — to overfly our beloved Motherland in case there are other upstarts who think they can play a Marlon Brando of sorts and spread fake news.

Earlier this week, a somewhat confused former citizen of Sri Lanka telephoned to ask what was “going on” in the country he was once proud of. I said I know as much as those Ukrainians flown into Mattala by the plane-load inquiring from the “God Father” and other sundry ‘pilot-projecteers’ whether they have been sent to the Russian frontier, shivering somewhat.

They did not mind where as long as they could take their virus and get the hell out of Ukraine. Some incoming “tourists” have claimed that Ukraine authorities had promised to pay for the round-trip even if it cost as much as an exploratory visit to Mars and two free mega-sized bottles of “Dammika Pani”.

There has been no news — fake or otherwise — what would happen to the free bottles of this magic potion once the tour party returns to Kiev. But the “God Father News”, a Russian- language tabloid published in Colombo and titled “Corona Keliya” reportedly claimed that any returnee surrendering an additional bottle of the pani to Immigration/Customs authorities would be presented with a gold medal signifying Ukraine’s highest honour and an extra week in quarantine at a Class 1 State prison without charge for returning to the corona-stricken country.

Ukrainian leaders consider the return of their nationals to their country as a singular honour unlike in Sri Lanka where returnees have complained that they have been kicking their heels in their country of employment without a way out and on arrival some have been quarantined in hotels they could not afford, costing them the little savings they were left with, if any at all.

There were media reports following Indian External Affairs Minister Subramanyam Jaishankar’s visit to Colombo that Indian manufactured anti-coronavirus vaccine would be imported by Sri Lanka.

Strange as it may seem the 18- carat nationalists nor the great nationalists awaiting to be awarded or rewarded as a national hero have whispered a word against the use of the Indian vaccine or the western ones produced by western scientific minds when Sri Lanka has produced its own.

No, we are not talking of the potted-potion that was deposited in the waters of nearby rivers by some ministers and other political or other dignitaries in attendance. What happened to the pots or its contents has not been disclosed unless they had been washed away to the Indian Ocean.

Whether Minister Jaishankar’s hurried visit to Colombo had anything to do with spreading fears that Sri Lanka had developed a secret weapon to control a part of the Indian Ocean.

Indian intelligence agents are said to be investigating stories circulating in Colombo trading circles that the President Rajapaksa government has decided to import coconuts from India.

Indian security suspects that Sri Lanka’s scientific minds while working on a coronavirus had accidentally hit upon a potential military weapon launched on water. It works on a natural principle that brought the coconut from the Pacific to the Indian subcontinent and farther on to East Africa.

Famous criminal lawyer, politician and historian Dr CR de Silva wrote in the opening lines of his two-volume book “Ceylon under British rule” that it were the “vagaries of wind and wave ……” that first brought the Portuguese to Ceylon. The same natural forces brought us the coconuts.

Indian security in Colombo had picked up a rumour that Sri Lanka tri-forces were planning to raise some new divisions or whatever and in the process promote some existing high-ranking officers. The news was flashed to the Indian Defence Ministry which instantly asked for more information from its defence attacheI in Colombo and an Indian spy passing off as a fast-food café owner who confirmed the story. As proof he sent a newspaper clipping that said the Sri Lanka cabinet has approved buying several thousands of kernels — coconuts that is.

(Neville de Silva is a veteran Sri Lankan journalist who was Assistant Editor, Diplomatic Editor and Political Columnist of the Hong Kong Standard before moving to London where he worked for Gemini News Service. Later he was Deputy Chief-of-Mission in Bangkok and Deputy High Commissioner in London.)


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