Rajpal's Column

24th December 2000

Cyber kadai and sinna Prabhakaran syndrome

By Rajpal Abeynayake

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imageJournalist friends used to congregate at the saivar kadai in those days. The final idea, before the deadline, gets knocked into shape there, among ittlys and the thosais.

But, the times did change. Now, saivar kadai moves over and scribes feel compelled to retire at the Cyber kadais

From saivar kadai to the Cyber kadai has not been a long hop. My journalist friend Sivaram couldn't go home the other night, without stopping off at the Cyber kadai on Galle Road. ('Cyber Cafe", the cognoscenti insist, but we know it - they know it. It's Cyber kadai, where hot coffee is sold for easy rates, and other edibles like doughnuts are purveyed instead of the round ulundu vadai, which was regular fare at the saivars.)

The Cyber kades are now being watched with a hawk's eye, for other reasons. There was a time when saivar kades such as Greenlands were thought to be frequented by Tamil brethren with a separatist bent.

Now, they think they all retire to Cyber kades and hobble there before computer screens, reading subversive Tamil literature with a separatist bent. Sleuths have been arresting some of these Cyber kadai 'sinna Prabhakarans' and Cyber Kade's are now no more secure for these people, than the saivar kadais.

But, that's an entirely different issue.

Cyber Kadai's have changed the way people perceive the enna-pondhadi-bidi periya kachal that is going on in this country's North and East. ( I met a Malaysian recently, one Mr Khoo, with apologies to whom I write this.

Mr Khoo's father is Chinese; he says he got his hair from the China. His mother is a Tamil from Vadudkodai, a somewhat removed relative of Prabhakarans. Mr Khooo got his considerable intellect from that side. Mr Khoo says he doesn't agree with Prabhakaran's policies, but he knows a good deal about Sri Lanka's conflict, even though he has done only one trip to Colombo all his life. That's because Malaysia is a bastardized country, he says, with so many Sri Lankan aiiya's who sing 'Suranganee' every time they have a whiskey within sight of Malaysia' s Petrona towers. Everything in Kuala Lampur is within sight of the Petrona towers - those are the tallest buildings in the world.)

Not much doubt about it, even people like Mr Khoo get a great deal of their information about Sri Lanka from the Cyber kadais.

The problem is that when Prabhakaran issues something like the cease-fire notice which he issued to the newspapers last week, everybody in the newspapers write as if all that follows will be discussed in the newspapers. ( The Sri Lankan government has already publicized their grouse, which is that Prabhakaran 'went to the newspapers before he notified the government' of his ceasefire moves. )

But a lot of the reactions to Prabhakaran's moves are gleaned nowadays at the Cyber kadais and the web pages, those pages which are as raw and as crisp as the plantain leaves in the earlier saivars.

Prabhakaran seems to know this. That's why he seems to have launched the public relations initiative of the decade, which is audacious because it's unassailable even if it is suspect.

You only need to take one look at the British. They already want Sri Lanka to take Prabhakaran's offer and 'reciprocate'. Sri Lanka has been reduced to a reciprocal partner in this whole negotiation mess, and Kadirgamar is there wishing that Hain will shut-up like the junior Minister that he is.

Prabhakaran first starts by saying that there can be 'no negotiations without war', and being sure the government won't bite, he offers to put his money where his mouth is, and calls a cease-fire himself!

The Sri Lankan establishment, government and sections of the opposition, mumble that this is probably Prabhakarn's old trick, and there is a very good chance that they are right.

But, what's important to note is that even they can only mumble about it. Already, Prabhakaran has put the establishment on the back foot, and cried all over the web pages that even though the Sinhalas want to talk, they are not sincere about it.

Picture would have been different, if the government had declared a Christmas ceasefire, at least for six days. The government wouldn't have had to take Prabhakaran's cues, and not even the Sihala Urumaya or the NMAT would have lost sleep over a six day breather in hostilities.

Of course the government is entitled to think that Prabhakaran can continue to dream on, and that he is not gaining anything form his dubious offer of talks related ceasefires.

A government which has nothing to do with the Hain-s of this world, can probably think so, but, however strident Kadirgamar gets with his dismissal of the junior Minister even Kadirgamar behaves as if Hain matters.

With a few Web pages, and some deft moves, Prabhakaran exudes sophistication, and wherever his offers should have been transparently strategic, he has managed to make even transparent initiatives look quite opaque.

He makes it appear that it is plain as night follows day that there cannot be fighting when there are talks, even though there is nothing plain about it.

When he puts it in these reduced terms, even Hain doesn't have to look sophisticated. He just says 'reciprocate'

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