A long- time friend who has not lost his sense of humour despite the troubled times he lives in, tells me that the country’s starving and disgusted people have extended the Lord’s Prayer that is regularly recited by those of the Christian faith. If my friend’s name goes without mention it is at his request [...]


So what’s new — bad news or worse news?


A long- time friend who has not lost his sense of humour despite the troubled times he lives in, tells me that the country’s starving and disgusted people have extended the Lord’s Prayer that is regularly recited by those of the Christian faith.

If my friend’s name goes without mention it is at his request for reasons that seem obvious enough. With the dogs of war on the loose and incarceration not far behind as more people with dissenting voices are being rounded up by our smart sleuths who, somehow, seem unable to locate their own uniformed big-wigs or political thugs. 

Right now the average Sri Lankan, those of almost every faith, be they Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims or others besides the Christian believers, have extended the prayer to recite while spending hours and maybe days standing in kilometre or more long queues that are seen across the country which, just now, is truly like no other.

“Give us this day,” they reportedly worship to the deities they believe in, “our daily bread, cooking gas, kerosene, petrol, diesel, powdered milk, medicines, fertilizer, transport and whatever else would keep our hearts and souls together and our children alive from the self-serving ogres that rule over us.”

Whether such heart-rending appeals for divine assistance have produced any immediate results I don’t know. What one does hear or read about is that people still standing in ever lengthening queues die of heart attacks, strokes, starvation or just cursing those who have reduced this once pleasant and enjoyable homeland to a living hell through their arrogance, ignorance and avarice.

Friendly nations (a category that has fast depleted due to castigative utterances by some of our over-reaching foreign policymakers, international agencies, non-government organisations, charities and others have been alerted by warnings, especially from UN agencies of Sri Lanka’s impending humanitarian crisis.

Meanwhile, those much-touted experts who rejected seeking international assistance and spoke eloquently about home-grown solutions and on who our leaders showered undying faith for their knowledge and expertise aggravating the crisis, appear to have crept back into the woodwork, their grand plans all rolled up perhaps for posterity.

While a team of officials from the IMF is on a 10-day visit trying to sort out the initial mess at least into which our much-praised leadership and its self-bloated acolytes have led the country, an IMF expert passing by Independence Square last week might have wondered what a gathering of men and women were doing there waving their arms, sometimes while standing and at other times seated cross-legged.

They might have noted that at the centre of this ‘movement in unison’ was Sri Lanka’s unelected prime minister who some time earlier had been at the head of a negotiating delegation that was trying to work out some magic formula on how they could pull this once-prosperous country out of the morass into which successive governments of recent times had collectively pushed it.

When the news reached the IMF, it is reported though I cannot vouch of it, the team immediately huddled together in a conclave to discuss what it thought was a strange happening, one they had never witnessed in all their travels around the world to unravel the economic mess created by over-rated leaders in other countries on the brink of collapse.

To those unaccustomed to what seemed like some danse macabre, the prime ministerial gyrations of Ranil Wickremesinghe and those around him might have seemed like an ancient art to drive the IMF negotiators into some kind of mental trance forcing them to agree to whatever Sri Lanka’s artful dodgers proposed.

If they only realised that today’s cabinet consisted of a clutch of ministers who had pole-vaulted into cabinet ranks deserting the parties they once belonged to or returning to the one they had quit, all in the name of saving the nation, they might have taken the next plane out to any destination.

But IMF stoicism and explanations by a visiting Indian delegation possibly looking for ways to plant another power plant on our sovereign soil, that what happened at Independence Square was not voodoo but an ancient Indian art, seemed to have convinced the IMF negotiators to stay.

Meanwhile unimpressed by politicians’ spurious claims that whatever they were doing was in the interests of the nation, the protesters who have continued to stay put at their new abode called GotaGoGama kept demanding that the president and the Rajapaksa family get the hell out of politics and leave the country alone.

Instead, the protesters came to hear that Gota, as he is called by international diplomats and others of lesser breeds in their private conversations, is not going anywhere, least of all home wherever that is, until his public and personal assessment of himself turns from failure to success.

Some say that chances of such a transmogrification are as remote as winning the EURO lottery- a ratio of several million to one. But then who are we to judge what is in Gota’s mind. VP- that is Prabs for short- thought he could read Gota’s mind only to fall at Nandikadal. But that’s another story.

Meanwhile- everything here happens in the meanwhile as so many wish to dip their dirty fingers into this grubby mess-Gota secretly moved an highly experienced commander to the frontline to confound the Aragala-ites, opposition and even his own MPs-that is Gotas not Ranils.

Not surprisingly he is referred to by some as “Ranil the Sixth” for this is his sixth attempt at commanding the troops, a sort of Bruce of Scotland who never seems to give up. He might think he is there for the long haul, what with the bad news about the economy he brings to parliament ever so often it could be a tough ask.

As though that is not enough to frighten an already shaken population, he now says the economy has collapsed. That might be the worst news for the week. But then there are optimists who say that is a good sign, that Ranil had worked his magic. If the economy has collapsed, it cannot go down any further no?

At this writing, there are rumours of another hike in petrol prices. Anybody has any idea how many price hikes there have been in the last two years?

Meanwhile, that new whizz kid in the cabinet Kanchana Wijesekera, minister of power and energy who keeps gazing out to sea for the next shipment of fuel, warned the public the other
day not to undertake
unnecessary travel.

For heaven’s sake, what kind of garbage is this? It’s like his comment the other day when journalists asked what Namal Rajapaksa was doing seated with him at the head table during a discussion on fuel distribution to three-wheelers and other vehicles, he said Namal has good ideas.

Oh yeah?. Like how to find fuel for a handful of jet skiers while thousands are queuing for fuel to earn their daily wages and even dying for it!

Minister Wijesekera warns of unnecessary travel. People cannot make essential travel like taking patients to hospital for lack
of petrol. With thinkers like
this, why do we need the IMF and other experts!


(Neville de Silva is a veteran Sri Lankan journalist who was Assistant Editor of the Hong Kong Standard and worked for Gemini News Service in London. Later he was Deputy Chief-of-Mission in Bangkok and Deputy High Commissioner in London)


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