Double speak, double talk, double tongued, double forked, call it what you will but former President Mahinda Rajapaksa thought he could distort through words the facts of recent history, of which he was a chief protagonist and make the Indians ‘doublethink’ on his personal role in the events that brought Indo-Lanka relations to its nadir [...]


Mahinda’s double speak north of the straits up the Indian way


Double speak, double talk, double tongued, double forked, call it what you will but former President Mahinda Rajapaksa thought he could distort through words the facts of recent history, of which he was a chief protagonist and make the Indians ‘doublethink’ on his personal role in the events that brought Indo-Lanka relations to its nadir during his ten-year rule.

His blatant try to do a double somersault and reverse Indian hard feelings towards him for the pro-China and anti-Indian policy he followed during his brief overlordship of the emerald pendent set dangling on an Indian necklace for decades, fell flat, fell foul and fooled none when he declared to the audience gathered at the ‘third edition of The Hindu’s Huddle conclave in Bengaluru, capital of the southern state of Karnataka,  that there was a “major breakdown” in the bilateral relationship between India and his country after a new government was formed in New Delhi in 2014.

In other words, what he said was that all was hunky dory between India and Lanka until former chaiwala Modi, the tea boy, came along to serve him a cup of tea not to his liking. That all was well and hearty when Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister and played host and served him crumpet for breakfast.

Really? When he embarked last week to India, Rajapaksa may have taken a bagful of spin but he must have left his marbles at home when he stated that he and Singh were getting along fine  on the lawn until Modi came with street brewed tea to upset the garden repast.

FALL GUY: Peddling his yarn in the Southern State of Karnataka this week

If Mahinda needs refreshment, here it is. The full Monty as reported by the BBC the day Singh delivered the ultimate sting when, in full view of the entire Commonwealth of nations, he chose to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting held in Colombo 2013 at the eleventh hour and forced the host to cover the snub with the fig flag that depicted not a roaring lion but a muted mouse.

On November 10, 2013, the BBC report stated, “Indian PM Manmohan Singh will boycott this week’s Commonwealth summit in Colombo, officials say, amid a row over Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

“Mr Singh has written to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to say he will be represented by his foreign minister instead, a spokesman says.

“Sri Lanka put the decision down to ‘internal political reasons’ in India.

“Mr Singh is the second government head, after Canada’s Stephen Harper, to boycott the summit.”

And to confirm the slap in the face, the BBC added the confirmation: “Sri Lankan Foreign Minister GL Peiris told the BBC that Mr. Singh’s decision was “not a defeat for us”. ‘Had he come we would have been really happy. This decision is taken because of India’s internal political reasons, but it will not affect the success of this programme, we don’t think it is a problem.’”

As the SUNDAY PUNCH commented on November 10, “Even as Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa rises from his seat this Friday to address the Commonwealth Heads of Government and looks at the carefully prepared speech couched in faultless diplomatic waffle designed to conceal truths with the glossy sheen of falsities, to varnish the sham with saccharine smarmed flourish, he must indeed wish he had it in his power to speak his mind, to give voice to what his heart felt, to say the truth even if it did hurt. As he pauses on the podium to gauge his bearings and peers at his audience of equals seated before him, the leaders of 52 members of the Commonwealth of Nations come to crown him captain of the Commonwealth ship, he must hear the words of his advisers warning him not to speak of issues closer home to his heart, euphemistically called ‘country specifics,’ since it may touch upon sensitivities, since it may tread upon tender toes, since he may traverse where he should not dare to go.”

THAT FANCIED GUY: Hailed s statesman by the Indian High Commission in Colombo this week

“Be that as it may, how he must wish that he could fling the crafted litany of invocations and supplications carefully contrived to appease the gathered flock, devised not to ruffle diplomatically preened and permed feathers, and instead, throwing caution and his foreign ministry warnings to the wind, say ‘off with the pious pretense. Off with the flamboyant fiction, the fashionable fib. The time for truth has come and I must say it or forever hold my peace and be forever damned.’

“As his eyes rove Nelum Pokuna’s auditorium and paused suddenly on two empty chairs, sticking out like two sore thumbs, the padded seats that should have held the Canadian Prime Minister and the Indian Prime Minister, the urge to break through the façade of diplomatic niceties must have grown more intense.”

For the truth contained in that moment of time is that he had terribly bungled Sri Lanka’s relations with India, perhaps permanently for himself personally.

If that snub delivered on an Indian Thali on that November morn six years ago before an international audience did not serve to help him digest its import then neither did the fact that, in the aftermath of his ignominious defeat in January 2015 which proved he was not invincible nor demi god of Lanka and his progeny destined to rule forever, India moved swiftly to restore the brethren bond it had shared with Lanka for centuries. No sooner the new Sirisena Wickremesinghe came to power, India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew in to become the new government’s first invitee and was accorded the honour to address the House of Parliament.

So what made a former twice elected president of Lanka claim in India this Sunday, that Indo-Lanka relations had a catastrophic fall with the advent of the Yahapalana government when he himself had engineered its breakup?

Had he held in his blinkered vision a brief glimpse of recent history, a single snapshot of his brief ten-year tenure as Lanka’s Head of  State, perhaps he would not have had  the audacity to claim that the Indian summer of romance ended with his  fall. And that the heart break began with a threesome of Modi, Maithri and Ranil.

It was a week that Chandrika the honoured guest of the Indian Prime Minister Modi while Mahinda was dining with the hyenas at some southern Indian state. It was also the week that made the Indian High Commissioner to Lanka hail Ranil as a statesman.

FANCIFUL GAL: Chandrika meeting Indian Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi this week

Addressing a ceremony to celebrate the 70th Republic Day of India and 71st Independence Day of Sri Lanka, organised by the Sri Lanka-India Society at the Taj Samudra Hotel on Sunday night, Sandhu said that Wickremesinghe was the modern-day architect of the close friendship between the two countries and it was under his leadership that many economic and development projects had been signed.

“A politician thinks of the next election, while a statesman was concerned about the future welfare of his countrymen,” the High Commissioner noted, adding that India was bound to rise further, since the world’s best were betting on his country.” We want Sri Lanka to be part of our growth, since you are special to us.”

Alas, for Mahinda. He should have taken a leaf out of J. R. Jayewardene’s Kama Sutra on how to woo and win the heart of Bharathi.

In the 1986, attending the SAARC meeting in Bangalore, at a time when Indo-Lanka relations were at a low ebb, he turned a billion people on with his mastery of words when he said, off the cuff to Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi:

“You quoted a poem from Rabindranath Tagore which is close to my heart. Tagore wrote: “If life’s journey be endless, where is the goal”. I think the goal and the road are one. Every step must be as pure as the goal itself. There can be no impure steps to attain a pure goal.

“I say this because I know that violence brings hatred. Hatred cannot be conquered by violence, but by non-violence and love. When I spoke at the 1957 San Francisco conference on the Japanese Peace Treaty soon after the war, I cited the Buddha’s words. I said, “Hold out the hand of friendship to the Japanese people. Hatred ceases not by hatred but by love.”

“Zafrulla Khan of Pakistan spoke after me. He said that Prophet Mohammed also had a similar view. Certain enemies were defeated by arms and they were brought before the

Prophet with all the goods that were captured. He said, “Release them, release everything you have taken from them, except their arms. Forgive them,” he said.

“Hindu Vedas and the Bhagwat Gita ask us to do right without fear of consequence. Christ forgave his enemies on the Cross.

“I am reminded of all this because every time a bullet, whether it be a terrorist bullet or a bullet from the security services in my country, kills a citizen it goes deep into my heart. I do not know how to stop it. Violence achieves nothing, except distress and hatred.

“I am reminded of a story of Gautama the Buddha. He was meditating in a jungle near a village. A young mother lost her only child. She could not believe that he was dead. She carried the body round the village trying to find some medicine. She could not find it. She was told, “Why don’t you go and see that holy man. He may help you.”

“She went to him. He told her, ‘Sister, can you bring a mustard seed? But it, must be from a house where there has been no death.’ She went back to the village carrying this dead child. She visited house after house; but there was no house where there was no death. In every house somebody had died. She came back and told the Buddha, “Lord, I could not find such a house to bring a mustard seed.”

“So he said, “Sister, thou hast found, looking for what none finds, the bitter balm I had to give thee. He thou lovest, slept dead on thy bosom yesterday. Today, thou knowest the whole wide world weeps with thy woe. The grief that all hearts bear grows less by one. Go, bury thou thy child.”

And then JR turned to face Rajiv Gandhi and addressed him directly:

“Whenever I hear of death it grieves me more than I can explain. One of your leaders, the great Mahatma Gandhi personified in his life the non-violence that I mentioned. He showed the world that non-violence can be employed to attain political and democratic objectives.  Whether it be freedom from foreign rule, or the elimination of Capitalism and the formation of a Communist State or whether it is Separatism or Federalism, this is the only way that can be supported by civilised people. That is the way of non-violence or ‘ahimsa’.”

And then he delivered his master stroke, his master line that captivated Indian minds and melted their hearts when he ended his speech saying:

“I am a lover of India. I am a follower of her greatest son, Gautama the Buddha.”

With that one flourish, the first President of Lanka ended the cold war that had existed between the two nations and turned the tide of Indian public opinion in Lanka’s favour.

That was the way that JR wooed and won the heart of India. The fox knew his chicks. And how to romance them into his coup. Rajiv Gandhi after receiving his knockout blow never returned to face another guard of honour  on Galle Face. Instead he sent a whole army to the north, to do what Sri Lankans finally did in the end.

Some are born to greatness. Some have it thrust it upon them. Some earn it. Perhaps JR possessed all three attributes. And some others have their greatness in cutouts on billboards on public highways and their photographs splashed on posters and plastered on every nook and cranny of this isle. Fit only for the goats to eat for the ‘pappa’ the flour paste needed to paste them and for the voter buffalos to swallow wholesale its slogans without thought and cast their choice in their ballot box.

The Rose

By Don Manu

In my garden there grows a rose
Which springs from thorns accursed and coarse:
But in her soul gaunt thorns repose
Enduring faith and all its hopes.
How such a wretched tree could give
Raw birth to beauty’s quintessence
Suffices to make us forgive
The sire’s sore at the bloom’s expense.
It’s still a bud but, look, how proud she blows
Disdaining all, knowing no woes:
As if within her core she knows
In the eyes of poets how bright she glows.
As if she knows no lover’s sigh
Would be complete without her by;
How in her breast her blood red hue
Moves the lover to love and woo.
Enthroned by poets, none can deny
Love lives within her, without her dies:
Her grace, her praise who dares defy
Crushes her bloom and love defiles.
This ode of nature, this sonnet, divine,
Is diadem crowned in each poet’s line
But within her, soul would she heaven find
When vain coquetry obsesses her mind.
Soon she will her soft petals spread
And ‘pon her innocence dawn’s dew will thread
To flower and foist, her coming of age.
So time and age can hoist their rage.
Soon some bee’ll seek her virgin bed,
And flattered she would others lead
To suck her nectar, make her bleed.
Soon closed petals will open up
To fill each bee’s lewd passion cup;
Thus ravaged, her deep crimson red
Would pale since innocence had bled.
And sooner than thought would a dark cloud bring
A somber chill to eclipse her spring;
Unbeknown would the worm creep in:
No more would bees hum nor poets sing.
Freckled and grey with her colour gone
She’ll resemble the thorns from whence she’s born;
For her fading light, no sun would dawn
And admiration would turn to scorn.
Who once in beauty’s rouge did blush
And drew to her scent butterflies rush;
Who soared majestic in pride swelled flush
Will lie crestfallen entombed in dust.
Now hour by hour I see time fly;
I hear her wail, I see her cry;
In throes of death she asks me why
Bloomed in beauty, she’s groomed to die.
She asks me why she’s doomed to fade;
Whether her curse is in life inbred;
Why her rising sun the evening bade
To set amidst roots’ ghastly bed.
I have no answer, for life’s mystery
Lies wrapped in rose petals for none to see:
How thorns of our sorrow from rose desires bloom
And conceals the cause of all creatures’ gloom
This fragrant rose grotesque born,
Once adored sublime now weeps forlorn;
Dreading the day when her allure’s gone,
She wails the song of the dying swan.
But day by day she will surely find
One by one her petals unwind;
Until at last upon her stalk
Withered she stands for all to gawk:
How the once proud bloom of the gaunt tree’s hope
Is also heir to what the fates dispose:
How the beauteous blossom crushed in its bloom
Reveal all life’s inevitable doom.

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