As if this was as easy as oiling palms
By Rajpal Abeynayake
There will be oil in the Puttalam and Hambanthota coastal belt, we have been promised. This would have been cause for celebration of course. My friend, let’s call him Mr Oilmus is always for celebrations. One more celebration for the cause of finding oil would have been nothing for him.

But, this time he was not celebrating. I was wondering whether all the seasonal celebrations would have done him in, but that was not the case.
“I do not think that discovering oil is a cause to celebrate,’’ he pointed out looking forlornly into his grapefruit juice.

I promptly called him a traitor. I said he is standing in the way of petro-dollars, and in the way of keeping out ayahs with us rather than sending them to oil rich countries. “We will be an oil rich country’’ I said, “and maybe we can have some Saudi Arabian housemaids working for us for a change.’’

But Oilmus kept on being forlorn. He said that being rich and having oil is a different matter as it is in Texas or in the North Sea, but look at every country that is poor and has oil -- and its an invitation for an oily mess.

He also added that if god meant for this country to have oil he would have not made it so beautiful - - because look at all the countries that have oil and they are all just desserts.

I half hoped he was right, and just in order to get his sprits up I did say that maybe he was right -- and maybe that these peremptory oil explorations are like all of the other false alarms that were there before - - and that we will probably not have any oil anyway, and that he could rest in peace.
But he said no this time we are probably going to find oil.

He said he is waking up having nightmares that we will be a petroleum exporting country, part of that OPEC cartel. I said that it is not half bad, if all we have to do in exchange for that is to send our oil minister in an Arab headscarf.

He said that an Arab headscarf was the least of our problems. He said that Arabs and lawyers can live on dates, but if we get hooked on oil, the Americans will get hooked on us.

What have the American got to do with this I was tempted to ask, but before I could, he took another look at his grapefruit juice as if there was oil deep down there somewhere, and said that if there is oil in this country Americans will be interested in our anthropology, our sociology our lifestyles our language our history an our customs and manners and our everything.

But I said aren’t they already interested in our forests and our harbours?
He laughed that derisive laugh which he reserves for everyone he wants to scoff at so badly as if to dismiss with contempt.

He said “forests?”
He said we could burn down all our forests for all we care and all the Americans care - - but they will still be interested in this country if there is oil in it.

He said the Americans would come to this country even if there were not a single forest or not a single beer to drink.

Come to think of it, was he right? Look at the places that the Americans have been in -- it’s easier to find a barrel of oil in Iraq that to find a beer in Iraq, I would have thought. Thereby, enlightenment gradually dawned on me. Perhaps we should settle for just the little oil in our coconuts; that way we might still have oil lamps to light whereas Iraq gets bombed right back to the dark ages.

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