That was a mighty decent thing to do. Though millions of people in his own country and round the globe would seriously decry the use of the word decent, there will be many Sri Lankans, including some of the political fraternity, who would breathe a sigh of relief at Trump’s gift of 200 ventilators to [...]


Trying to trump China


That was a mighty decent thing to do. Though millions of people in his own country and round the globe would seriously decry the use of the word decent, there will be many Sri Lankans, including some of the political fraternity, who would breathe a sigh of relief at Trump’s gift of 200 ventilators to the Sri Lanka government.

That is hardly likely to ventilate Sri Lankan grievances particularly over Washington trying to bulldose a resolution critical of Colombo at the UN Human Rights Council and pressing for war crimes accountability trials while  killing and torturing of Iraqi civilians (for example) by US soldiers are ignored and perhaps dismissed as collateral damage.

One year or so ago, Washington and the US embassy in Colombo working hand-in-glove with our own Foreign Ministry were trying to push through, all hush-hush of course, a bilateral agreement—SOFA—which had dangerous military implications.

Shortly after the coronavirus was first detected, presumable in Wuhan, turned into a pandemic and Sri Lanka was also worrying about the consequences, China started sending planeloads of face masks to protect the people on this friendly island.

Actually, they would have been more useful in covering the faces of Xi Jinping and the Communist Party leaders who, jettisoning key articles of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the China-drafted Basic Law. It earned the derision of the Hong Kong people for violating promises held out to Hong Kong and the world.

What was so hypocritical is China accusing other nations of violating treaty obligations while doing so herself.

So here we are with tons of face masks and other paraphernalia lying around while  consumers are concerned with laying their hands on a piece of turmeric or two and carrying it home triumphantly so that the dear wife could make their biriyani more attractive to the eye and a curry more tasty to the tongue.

I suppose this rush at small Sri Lankan grocery stores selling local condiments such as coriander and uluhal rather than at those super-duper supermarkets is because of a rumour that went around that turmeric mixed with other ingredients which we will not name for fear that the formula would be grabbed by lurking international spies.

They will readily smuggle out anything from rare species at Sinharaja to kos ata at the irida pola believing them to be essential ‘medicines’ for grinding a cure for the pandemic.

Since the great western scientific minds have failed to produce an antidote to Covid-19, it is all the more necessary that we double and even treble our guard against foreign intelligence agents hanging around Pettah, Maradana and Manning Market.

Some of these places do have a reputation of housing some sorts of sleuths who will readily change sides at the appointed political hour, their files and other secret documents rolled up inside their rather sparse bags.

Some years ago, asked why they seem to carry few personal belongings, the answer was understandable — easier to get away in a hurry.

But all this matters little to the “Great Leader” in the White House who has only to give instructions to several spies loitering round in the Rose Garden to catch the rats—never mind how many legs they have—and dispose of them.

The problem for this “America First” leader that most of those who go in search of Chinese and Russian intelligence sleuths never come back to the White House which several insiders call a dark place.

Now the dog fight is heating up with Trump brushing up his red-coloured ties (how many does he really have?). Whether this collection of red ties is intended to goad President Xi into retaliatory action for mocking China’s Communist Party, it has not been revealed by the mighty panjandrums who find temporary abode at the White House before they are kicked out or they go into hiding. Donald Trump calls himself America’s greatest president—after the Indian Chief Sitting Bull I suppose. The fact that nobody else calls him America’s greatest has not dawned on him.

But there are so many things that have not dawned on him. It was not too long ago when Trump had announced an anti-corona cure full of bleach that one journalist tired of Trump constantly blowing his own trumpet wrote that more Americans died in six-weeks than in the whole of the Vietnam War.

If, however, one listened to Trump tell the story, he fought the Vietnam War single-handed and the great Vietnamese war veteran General Vo Nguyen Giap retreated to the Mongolian border.

It was then that pre-Trump America manufactured chemical weapons of mass destruction determined to defoliate and lay waste to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with Agent Orange.

History tells us that some years before, the same great country now led by Trump (for how long is still to be determined by the American people if voting is not fixed as politicians are sometimes wont to do), atom-bombed two Japanese cities that had only civilians and non-combatants killing and maiming millions.

What was not revealed until somewhere in the 1980s is that the Tribunal that presided over the Tokyo Trials banned any mention of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and about the spread of communism. There might come a time when giving one the time of day could be considered a security offence.

When one of the American defence attorneys called the atomic attacks the worst of the war crimes, it was not translated into Japanese so that the defendants and the Japanese people knew nothing of this argument of the defence on their behalf.

It was a Kangaroo court and the way today’s US president manoeuvres the justice system with judges under threat is a continuation of the Tokyo trials without uniform.

Now Trump is telling voters that could vote twice though in some states it might be illegal to do so. If Trump picked up some ideas on coercion, he seems to have dipped into Sri Lankan habits too.

To tell a story that takes me back to the 1970s or so. When I was living at Jawatte Road, my polling booth was at Torrington Avenue. I was on my way to vote with my wife when I ran into Costa who used to do odd jobs for me.

I asked him whether he had voted. Yes Sir he said, adding triumphantly that he voted thrice. Don’t give me that rubbish I said because the Election Office had introduced indelible ink to be applied on the finger.

That is nothing he said pulling out a piece of pineapple. He rubbed the purple ink on his little finger. Lo and behold. The purple ink disappeared before our eyes.

That is not the only story of impersonation. Hector Kobbekaduwa was the SLFP candidate facing JR Jayewardene. Kobbekaduwa told me that when he walked from Aloe Ave to the polling booth close-by to cast his vote, he was told by the presiding officer that he had already voted earlier in the morning.

Anybody who could not recognise the former minister who had been a minister in the Sirima Bandaranaike government must have been from Mars.

The same is not likely to happen to Trump. Given his televised gaffes, lies and half truths that emanate from .Trump cannot be mistaken even for Winnie the Pooh.

(Neville de Silva is a veteran Sri Lankan journalist who was Assistant Editor, Diplomatic Editor and Political Columnist of the Hong Kong Standard before moving to London where he worked for Gemini News Service. Later he was Deputy Chief-of-Mission in Bangkok and Deputy High Commissioner in London before returning to journalism.)


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