The Fifth Column

10th November 1996

What's a funeral

“Thaaththa,” Bindu Udagedara asked, “are you sad that seeya passed away?”

“Yes , I’m sad ,”Percy said, “but I’m sadder at the way they treated him after he passed away....”.

“You mean the so-called ‘state’ funeral ?’ Bindu asked.

“What was so ‘state’ about it ?” Percy asked, “except some coverage on TV....”

“And the other networks would have shown it, anyway...”

“And that would have been better,” Percy said, “than those very critical comments on Rupavahini...”

“And why were there no military honours, Thaaththa? Wasn’t Seeya the Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces for twelve years?”

“You will have to asked the defence minister that question,” Percy said, “but even when an officer of the forces dies, he is given military honours usually...”

“Then this is very unusual...”

“Of course it is ,” Percy said. “ I remember we had days of mourning when Brezhnev died in Russia and Indira Gandi died in India...”

“Why Thaaththa, we even had a day of mourning and a state funeral for ‘Sergeant Nallathamby’ when he died.”

“Yes,” Percy agreed, “Seeya would have been the President of the country...”

“Why do You say that, Thaaththa?”

“Why, Sarachchandra who wrote ‘Maname’ recently got a decent state funeral, didn’t he?”

“But wasn’t he critic of Seeya.?”

“Sarachchandra was a great man in his own right and I admire him,” Percy said, “but that doesn’t make him a greater man than Seeya.”

“Who said he was?”

“well,” Said Percy, “ at least some people thought Seeya was less important, which is why TV and radio stations were broadcasting ‘Baila’ as usual on the day of the funeral whereas, for Sarachchandra, it was mourning music all day.”

“Thaaththa,” Bindu asked, “ Why didn’t they take Seeya’s body to Parliament?”

“Again, Bindu, I just don’t know why. Previously of course, when leaders of the country died, they lay in-state in parliament. That is another way to honoring the dead.”

“And Seeya was in Parliament for more than forty years,” Bindu said.

“You must asked the Speaker about that,” Percy said, “ though judging from that day’s funeral organisation, I dare say it was not the Speakers decision.”

“And there are many more puzzling decisions, Thaaththa,” Bindu said.

“What, for instance?”

“Why, those condolence messages came very late, even after all those massages from the other parts of the world.”

“ Well, some people usually late, you know ....”

“Then, they repeatedly announced that the day of the funeral was not a public holiday; that was very ugly, Thaaththa...”

“ But Bindu , Seeya , as usual , had the last laugh because under the Provincial Council system he introduced, five out of eight provinces had a holiday ....”

“And , Thaaaththa, when we think about it, it is because of Seeya’s presidential system that all these people are still in power ....”

“Well, they don’t seem to be grateful for that.”

“But even then, our religions tell that we should not disrespect the dead,”

Bindu said.

“That is indeed why all this is such a disgrace. Seeya did a lot for this country but in doing that he would have made some mistakes, may be even deliberately.”

“Is that why he was treated like this,”

“But ,” Percy said, “he remains of former head of state and should have been treated as such without been so personal about it.”

“Thaaththa,” Bindu asked, “what would have Seeya said about all this had he known about it?”

“I suppose,” Percy said , “he would have said that ‘Prophets are rarely honourd in their own countries’ and smiled that enigmatic smile of his.

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