Columns - 5th column

Freedom: A luxury we can’t afford!

By Rypvanwinkle

Thaaththa,” Bindu Udagedera asked, “what is all this fuss about independence?”
“Why, Bindu,” Bindu’s father Percy explained, “we are celebrating the freedom we won after being under British rule for over a hundred years…”
“But thaaththa,” Bindu asked, “are we really free?”
“Why do you say that, Bindu?” Percy was puzzled, “we have been free for the last sixty three years…”
“We may have been ‘free’ from foreign rule, thaaththa,” Bindu argued, “but are we really free to do what we want in this country?”

“Why, Bindu,” Percy inquired, “do you have any doubts about that?”
“Well,” Bindu said, “at least some people seem to think we are not really free…”
“Are you talking about what the Greens are saying?” Percy wondered.
“Why, what are they saying, thaaththa?” Bindu was curious.
“Well,” Percy said, “they are saying we cannot be really free because the man who was responsible for that freedom is in jail and not able to enjoy that freedom…”
“And,” Bindu said, “there may be some truth in that too…”

“So,” Percy asked, “is that why you are saying we are not really free?”
“No, thaaththa,” Bindu said, “I was not thinking about that when I said we are not really free…”
“Then,” Percy demanded, “why do you think we are not really free?”
“For instance, are we really free to eat what we want?” Bindu asked.
“Of course we are,” Percy retorted, “why, is anyone telling you what you should eat and what you should not eat?”
“Well,” Bindu said, “Uncle Di Moo and Uncle Wimal did tell us not to eat bread but to eat rice…”
“I think what they were saying was that rice was healthier than bread…” Percy observed.

“But thaaththa,” Bindu countered, “are we free to eat rice?”
“Of course you are,” Percy said, “why, don’t they say that you can even eat rice for all three meals…”
“They may say that,” Bindu pointed out, “but with vegetables being so expensive, I don’t think we are really free to do that…”
“But Bindu,” Percy countered, “they say this is a temporary increase in prices because of the floods; I am sure the prices will come down soon…”
“But thaaththa,” Bindu persisted, “it is not only the vegetables that we are not free to eat…”

“Why do you say that?” Percy asked.
“Why thaaththa,” Bindu explained, “even chicken, eggs and coconuts have increased so much in price that they are importing those also; so we are not free to eat those as well…”
“That may be true,” Percy agreed, “but surely Bindu, freedom is not all about the freedom to eat as much as we want to…”
“There are other freedoms that we do not enjoy, thaaththa…” Bindu argued.
“And what are these freedoms?” Percy wanted to know.
“Why, thaaththa, we are not allowed to elect representatives to local government institutions…” Bindu declared.
“Why not?” Percy was surprised, “aren’t they having elections just for that, next month?”
“But thaaththa, they are having elections only in the areas they want, not throughout the country…” Bindu pointed out.
“But they say that is because of the World Cup…” Percy said.
"But thaaththa,” Bindu recalled, “they are not having elections in areas where there are no World Cup matches either…”

“I don’t think you should worry too much about that, Bindu…” Percy proposed.
“Why do you say that, thaaththa?” Bindu inquired.
“That is because,” Percy explained, “we do enjoy so many other freedoms now, Bindu…”
“And what are these freedoms, thaaththa?” Bindu demanded.
“Why, Bindu,” Percy pointed out, “even former terrorists enjoy the freedom of being appointed ministers in the government now…”
“That is indeed true,” Bindu conceded.
“And the Attorney General has the freedom to discharge former MPs from murder charges because he discovers there is no evidence against the accused after four years of hearing the case…” Percy observed.
“That is quite a freedom, really…” Bindu agreed.
“And we also have the freedom to recognise our courts martial as proper courts of law…” Percy declared.
“That must be a unique freedom too…” Bindu admitted.
“And,” Percy said, “people also seem to have the freedom to spread rumours about others’ health…”
“That is also not a very good thing to do but we do seem to enjoy that freedom as well…” Bindu acknowledged.

“But we also have the freedom to burn down the offices of websites that publish all these nonsense…” Percy pointed out.
“I didn’t realise that we enjoy that freedom too…” Bindu said.
“And, we have so much freedom that people attending ‘bodhi poojas’ also carry clubs and stones with them, so that they can prevent anyone from staging peaceful protests and disturbing their ‘bodhi pooja’…” Percy said, “so, what more freedom do you want, Bindu?”
“If that is so, we must be living in quite a free country, thaaththa…” Bindu agreed.

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