18th July 1999
Now it's Richard the Second
By Rajpal Abeynayake
Tear gas has a life of its own. Last week, a few tear gas canisters got into the hands of some innocent policemen on duty at a rally, and the canisters begged to be fired on the milling UNP crowd.
The policemen demurred. Then the tear gas canisters turned nasty. They screamed that if they are not thrown on the milling UNP horde, that they will self - explode and get under the skin of the policemen's eyelids and have these policemen crying like babies.
So, the policemen, bewildered and beaten gas busters, fired the canisters at the crowd, lamely. But their aim was perfect.
One journalist from the Khshithijaya newspaper got the tear gas canister right between his eyes. The tear gas canisters which had decided to strut their stuff come hell or high water, climbed yards after the policemen had fired them , and got into weird places like newspaper officers.
The UNPers — they didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. Dentist Senaratne was shouting into his cellphone and laughing through all his teeth at the hospital. Others were more dazed because the tear gas had made them cry, even if they wanted to laugh.
Now, journalists have their own black July to celebrate.
Meanwhile, there should be a christening party somewhere to crown Prez Kumaranatunga Richard 11, a coronation richly deserved. First, there was Junius Rex. He made a joke of everything including pummeling the press , and once released a detained journalist at a press conference, just like that.
In his reign, judicial officers were made subservient by stone throwing mobs, and journalists, were basically burgeoned before he made a joke of the whole thing and invited the Foreign Correspondents' Association for dinner and drinks.
Now, there is Richard 11. Richard 11 is female, but she holds the same omnipotent office that Richard 1 did, and that's reason for starters to call her Richard 11, misnomer or otherwise. Richard 1 said that Sri Lanka is a "dharmishta samajaya'' and he went on to bring in robber barons, casino's and the Mafia. Through all of this he smiled and said ''we have a five star democracy''. The next day he took resignation letters from his Ministers and MP's and kept them in his pocket.
Richard 11 plays a good Janus Rex to Richard 1, Junius Rex. Janus was a two- faced Roman god. Richard 11 is a two- faced Sri Lankan goddess. She doesn't say this country is a five star democracy. She just says this country has a much better democracy than the five star democracy that Junius Rex had. So by implication Richard 11 says she has a six star democracy, where the press has the freedom to do several more things than the press did during Richard 1's five star reign.
Richard 1 used the kingdom's newspapers to devastating effect. He used a dour Editor to run the English daily newspaper of the kingdom's oldest publishing house, in which he had a slice of ownership shares.
Richard the 11 didn't believe in keeping a dour editor who shuffled and walked the tightrope. She gave the whole job to an Actor and an ex-designer wallah. They among them have proved that the courtiers in Richard the 1's court were but mere Oxbridge ineffectuals and nerds.
The actor and the designer wallah have between them announced that there is a six star media (...with nine channels at that). Richard 1 wrote clauses on independence of the judiciary into his new constitution, and proceeded to get his goondas to attack the judges, almost as an after thought.
Richard 11 on the other hand wrote freedom of the press into her manifesto, and almost etched it into her agenda in gold. Then she got her press to doctor the news, nonchalantly. When the media men ( and women ) were rouged up by tear gas artistes and baton chage experts last week, six star democracy wallahs in her press said that 'opposition supporters had set upon the policemen.''
Television showed otherwise, but who cares? In Richard 1's time, television showed an Indian Prime Minister being attacked at a honour guard by a soldier who thought a gun butt was a handy decapitating tool. When Richard 1 was interviewed after the event, he said "the man was suffering from sunstroke.''
See? there is hardly any difference in the acts. They both dared us to defy what the eye saw, and one may have said it directly and the other through agents, but their styles were only different in the details. Richard 1 was admired by his entire retinue — his entire court of Ministers, Deputy Ministers etc. who all comprised a very sizable crowd , for his brains. Even his Oxbridge acolytes who also were quite confident about their brain department (and that's putting it mildly ) marvelled at Richard 1's brains. One reason was that hardly any of his motley crowd had much in that department, so naturally there was a lot to marvel about when they saw something they lacked.
Now, Richard II is admired by her own sizable retinue not so much for her brains, but for her balls. That too is because most of them don't have any in that department.
Richard 1 made himself executive president.
Richard II said she will make herself Prime Minister and didn't. Richard 1, he had a sense of humour too.
He said "api koranawa'' at a press conference and pretended he wanted a hearing aid when the questions got tough. He said the only thing he couldn't do was to make a man a woman and a woman a man, and things like that.
Richard 11, she jokes too. She rules by relativity, saying she has a better democracy than the five star democracy of Richard 1 and his men, and that's the biggest joke. But Richard 1 couldn't make a woman a man. Richard 11, she did that too. After all, isn't she Richard 11 — with balls ?
Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to