Waiting with bated breath for more on ill-gotten gains

Of masseurs then and now

The landmark Supreme Court judgment on the Water's Edge case has justifiably led to a sense of euphoria among all law-abiding, right thinking people of the country. The main reason is undoubtedly the endless vistas that have opened for the purification of public life in the country which has sunk to the lowest imaginable depths.

Amidst the grave and serious nature of all the erudite discussions and comments in the media not to mention almost every nook and corner in the country, there is an important bit of news directly connected with this case loaded with mischievous humour that should lighten the hearts of the crestfallen honorable segments of society.

The Sunday Times of Oct.12 in its front page carries a story with a picture of President Chandrika which reads: "Land given to CBK's masseur to be acquired.

"In the wake of a landmark Supreme Court judgment the government will acquire a plot of land which was allocated to a private Company known as Lifestyle Health Services (Pvt) Ltd….

"The 188 perch land at Narahenpita had been allocated to Kumaratunga's personal physiotherapist Australian Mike Chomley in 2001 for a BOI project."

The thought that flashed across my mind the moment I read this was 'Has Sri Lanka with all her cherished values of simplicity so deeply etched in her culture produced a person, a leader at that, who has surpassed the fame of Imelda Marcos?'

Talking of masseurs, those of my vintage will probably remember Don Thomas who was also fondly referred to as 'pocket Apollo'. He was a genuine masseur, small-made and muscular. He was the masseur who accompanied our Olympic Contingent to the 1948 London games. Probably it was he who softened and toned up the muscles of Duncan White, the great natural athlete who believed in the minimum of training. He even drank and smoked.

Don Thomas and Duncan White would never have heard of performance enhancing drugs, a malady affecting athletes today. To come to the point, Don Thomas prided himself as the masseur to the head of state. I distinctly remember him in 1965 visiting 'Woodlands' to give Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake a massage. This happened about once a month. Robert Senanayake, the Prime Minister's brother was also one of his clients. I was then an ASP and in charge of the security of the only two VIPs in the country, the Prime Minister and the Governor General!

Don Thomas did not get state transport, nor was he paid by the state. He travelled about on a scooter. After he massaged the Prime Minister, he was given a cup of tea and Rs.10 by Carolis, the PM's valet. The Prime Minister did not handle cash! Don Thomas would have died a pauper. He did not get nor did he expect an inch of land from the state.

The Oxford Dictionary defines massage as, "Rubbing, kneading etc. of muscles and joints of the body with hands to stimulate their action etc." Masseur is defined as "One who provides massage professionally".

The Bribery and Corruption Commission entrusted with the further investigation of all the irregularities highlighted by the Supreme Court has an unenviable task. The nation is waiting for these probes with bated breath. Apart from the state land for a luxury massage clinic, how much was spent on the presidential masseur out of state funds?

The blatant breach of public trust scorning the sacred responsibility of working for the public good and in the public interest has had a Karmic effect of tsunamic proportions. The shame, the crying shame cannot be measured even in billions! This shame must be shared by all sycophants and henchmen who strutted around like tin-pot dictators. For this great tragi-comedy to be brought to a fitting climax and a logical ending even those who amassed wealth and have left the shores of this country must be brought to book. Good luck to the Bribery Commission.

By Edward Gunawardena, Battaramulla

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