Grease devils and some other slippery customers

The number of cases of mistaken identity is increasing at an alarming pace. Only recently, the papers reported an amusing incident in which a paddy farmer in the north-west of the island was arrested and beaten by the local police because the innocent man could not prove his bona fides in a theft inquiry.

(Of course, the assaulted party did not find it amusing – but there’s no pleasing everyone, is there?) And then there was the unfortunate instance where a handful of players were put in to bat on the hopeless assumption that they could turn out a decent enough performance in a crucial one-day cricket encounter.

Last but not least, of course, is the growing threat to domestic peace and quiet that comes in the shape and form of ‘grease yakas’ – those slippery customers who have captured the nation’s imagination and compromised its sense of ease and tranquillity.

This phenomenon is worth investigating. (We wish the powers that be would take the same attitude, rather than spewing out platitudes.) Anyone who is alive and well in the land today knows that some game is afoot, so we won’t enter into the details here. Suffice it to say that as with virtually any controversial issue to bedevil (pun intended) our islanders, everyone has a pet theory as to the state, nature, and degree of the problem. Some people think the root cause is the state of anarchy.

Others feel it is in the nature of the beast of a troubled race like ours that we can’t bear too much peace and quiet, and so must invent the very devil (no pun intended). A few dissenters with no experience of fear and loathing in the villages assert that the issue is not of such a degree as to be a national concern.There are those who take a more serious view of the attacks and counterattacks that the advent of these greasy devils has given rise to.

The powers that be have suggested in no uncertain terms that the origins of the slippery plague may lie with malicious agencies in the diaspora. The police may well suspect it could be army deserters as yet to be apprehended, and the army may be forgiven for thinking that rogue elements among the coppers are to be pinpointed.

The people are caught between a rock and a hard place. That is to say, if they catch anyone who looks remotely like a policeman or army deserter, they beat him up thoroughly – no questions asked. (They say we are a hospitable race.) None of which has prevented terrified men, women, and children being set upon in the middle of the night – and now even in broad daylight. The scratches on victims’ bodies and the trauma on villagers’ faces reflects the unpredictable terror that these goblins bring. There is a gremlin in the engine of national security today.

We all worry that there may be more to all this than meets the eye. Mysterious figures march around rural environs at odd hours with odder implements, and vigilantes are instrumental in adding chaos to existing confusion. Murderous folks with revenge in their hearts may be concocting opportunities to settle old scores under the cloak of uncertainty enveloping the town and country scene.

Mischief-makers may be hatching a diabolical ploy to pre-empt the lifting of the emergency regulations in the guise of providing stability to a nation rocked by peace. More to the point is what you and I can do in such a mad milieu of mayhem. Be wise in where you go, where you stay, and what you do there. Be bold as citizens with rights but discreet as potential targets of unscrupulous rioters. Be brave at heart, and stay cool and calm; for this too shall pass.

We have been through worse together as members of a commonwealth. Be alert! (Be a lert. Sri Lanka needs more lerts. We’re short of wakes, too. So be a wake. And how about larms? A larm is as good as a lark in a day and age when law and order are honoured more in the breach than the observance.)
NEWS FLASH: A bearded but fair-skinned Arab man with a glazed look in his eye and a fugitive demeanour was allegedly detained at our sole international airport on the grounds that he looked a lot like a North African dictator on the run.

(We shan’t say who, because the ousted despot in question is reported to have friends in high places.) Despite the best efforts of alerts, alarms, and sundry conspiracy theorists, the authorities could not pin the blame for the ‘grease yaka’ scare on the refugee – largely because the well-oiled escapee from the international terror being imposed on his homeland gave our customs and emigration officials the slip…

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