An unhappy prologue to the swelling act of the imperial theme
Posted on February 8th, 2018

By Rohana R. Wasala Courtesy The Island

We must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time. S. Eliot

On February 4, 2018, Sri Lanka completed seventy years of independence from Britain. My inclination until that day was not to write anything to mark the day because the information I generally read while browsing the Web about what is currently happening in Sri Lanka in all important spheres, particularly in the political arena, suggests no reason for celebration. However, I changed my mind about it, as this tells you. In the unusually (though unsurprisingly) hotting up local government polls related electioneering atmosphere, the little public enthusiasm about the independence day anniversary that still lingered in the past few days finally  vaporized. (That is the feeling I get from what I gather from the news online.) But the two events (independence day functions and LG polls) together will not be without significance. They frame the crucial week that starts today (Sunday 4th  ) when the independence was celebrated; and the voters are due to go to the polling stations on the last day of the week, that is, Saturday 10th February. The latter date is turning out to be a D-Day for the nation, given that the election result will reflect the real, authentic public perceptions (both positive and negative), as opposed to the mutually contradictory claims of the government and the Joint Opposition, about the ‘change’ that was effected with the help of our foreign well-wishers three years ago.  However, as it is now evident to most Sri Lankans, the January 8, 2015 ‘regime change’, was a retrograde development. The common people eagerly hope that the long overdue LG elections will be held on February 10, 2018 as scheduled, without let or hindrance. It is going to be the first opportunity they get to provide the rulers with some badly needed feedback on their performance.

According to The Island on February 1, 2018 Prince Edward, the third son of Queen Elizabeth II, who had been invited to be chief guest at the state independence day ceremony to be held on February 4,  had already arrived. A couple of days ago, when it was first announced that the prince had been invited and that the invitation had been accepted, it was also reported that invitations had been sent to the royal families of Japan and Thailand (as I read in the Daily Mirror). But there was no news, as far as I know, about any equivalent VVIPs from neighboring countries in the region or elsewhere having been similarly invited to grace the occasion. As reported, the celebrations were going to be dedicated to the theme of One Nation”. The fact that royal guests from Japan and Thailand who, similarly, have little to do with the subject of Lankan independence had also been invited could imply that those who are currently at the helm are preoccupied with the theme of royalty rather than with the really important subject of national independence that they are supposed to be celebrating. Then there is the theme of national unity, which is at present getting a severe battering as never before. The surrealism of this irrational juxtaposition of incongruent images – royalty with independence, illusion of One Nation with the ground reality of threatened national disintegration  through the forced introduction of a divisive federalist constitution– is likely to have been lost on most foreign visitors and interested foreign observers who participated in the celebrations, but, the deeply disillusioned majority of us ordinary Sri Lankans didn’t fail to notice it. The surrealism could symbolize for us  an unconscious revelation of the truth by the powers that be who have brought the country to the brink of disaster, the ominous truth being that the yahapalana regime has by now become a cynical farce whose single motive is to keep going till the end of its term. The absurd show of the independence day celebrations today portends a calamitous future for our beloved Motherland. There is no doubt in my mind that the question of how to forestall that dire eventuality occupies the thoughts of all concerned citizens of all ethnicities.

The scene I feel compelled to conjure up in my mind as I read, watch or listen to news about Sri Lanka (on online media sources of both Sri Lankan and international origin) is one of doom and darkness as in a Shakespeare tragedy. Scenes of extreme undeserved suffering, thieves accusing and punishing innocents, overriding ambition, cut-throat scrambling for power, murderous treachery, betrayal, illusion alternating with reality, portents, ghosts rising or raised from graves, invocation or consultation of the supernatural by the heroes, energetic evil, and even mysterious halos flickering about the heads of doomed characters (I mean in a metaphorical sense: rumours about honours like the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded). What is glaringly lacking in our would be heroes, however, is the unparalleled greatness of the Shakespearean tragic hero and the equally important element of deeply experienced personal remorse over evil committed by them.  Hence the title of this brief opinion piece, adapted from the Shakespeare play  ‘Macbeth’.

The so-called ethnic problem or Tamil Question or minorities against majority crisis or separatist  conflict, in the final analysis, has local roots and must be resolved locally, without foreign intervention if possible, particularly without highhanded interference in the internal affairs of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka. Actually, at the level of ordinary citizens, there is no serious issue that obstructs peaceful co-existence among the communities. The overwhelming majority of the population are culturally compatible Sinhalese and Tamils (Muslims also have the same racial roots, though they are mostly Tamil speaking).  The key requirements are mutual cooperation and interdependence between the different communities; ‘and’ must replace ‘against’.   This was practically demonstrated in 2009, and the problem was effectively consigned to history, but unfortunately, the peace and harmony we achieved at such great cost has now been completely ruined, and we are back at square one, or probably worse, mainly due to the ‘fishing in troubled waters’ sort of intervention by the imperialist global and regional superpowers in pursuance of their  self-centred geopolitical  ends.

With a convenient lack of conscience they exploit the troubled political situation in the country for their own advantage, inflicting great suffering on our people. Post-independence politics has been dominated by the usually hostile, but occasionally cooperative, interaction between four broad political groups: the Anglophile or West-dependent  neocons represented by the UNP,  nationalists led by the (original) left-leaning SLFP (not the faction infested with parliamentary rejects that has formed an unholy alliance with the UNP), unashamedly communalistic regional minority groups organized in the form of a multiplicity of Tamil and Muslim parties, and last but not least the leftists, currently vying for a place in the sun in national politics, who have got divided into a variety of parties with varying membership strengths, though without any significantly large electoral bases. An important point to remember is that all the ethnic, cultural and religious communities are represented to some degree in every one of the four groups, except in the case of the most exclusively racist or fanatical entities within those four groups. So, we may rest assured that not everything is lost.

8 Responses to “An unhappy prologue to the swelling act of the imperial theme”

  1. RohanJay Says:

    Sri Lankans Don’t blame the UK and US for your self inflicted problems. Sri Lankans should take total responsibility themselves for their countries situation due to Sri Lankans stupidity and arrogance. Also no matter how hard Sri Lankans try they will never be able to match the talents and abilities of the Americans and British. Its just the way the cookie crumbles in this world. I’m afraid!

  2. Dilrook Says:

    There is no ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. If at all, it has foreign roots in Tamil Nadu and it must be resolved there.

  3. Vaisrawana Says:

    The quote in the epigraph: “We must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time” is from “Little Gidding”, which is the last of T.S. Eliot’s set of poems entitled ‘Four Quartets’ (1943). The erroneous ‘S. Eliot’ given as the name of the person quoted is obviously an editorial slip.

    Dilrook is right. Separatism started in Tamil Nadu. But India won’t tolerate separatism. If an Eelam was established in Sri Lanka it could be invariably used as a stepping stone to an independent Tamil state that is out of the Indian Union. Quite foolishly India is trying to remove the ever existing potential threat of Tamil separatism on its soil by palming the problem off on its small southern neighbour. The problem in Sri Lanka is a separatist terrorist problem, not an ethnic problem.

  4. Vaisrawana Says:

    Nonsense RohanJay. Don’t Sri Lankans have anything better to do than to inflict problems on themselves? How can any man of sense accuse ALL Sri Lankans of “stupidity and arrogance” as you do? You write: “Also no matter how hard Sri Lankans try they will never be able to match the talents and abilities of the Americans and British”! What nonsense is this?That could be your personal experience. But you can’t generalise like that. Who said Sri Lankans were or are in competition with the Americans and the British to prove what you call their “abilities and talents”? Sri Lankans have done things that other bigger and better known nations hadn’t even dreamed of until recently. If you are a patriotic Sinhalese with a sense of just pride in your race, I need not educate you on that.Be that as it may. All that the writer of this article implies is that Western powers or the international community (meaning in this context Americans and the British; one may say the latter are the former’s bumbling sidekicks) and the Indians, their stooges in our region, are fishing in troubled waters in Sri Lanka; why are they doing that? To promote their own national interests (what are usually called their geopolitical interests like keeping China at bay). Nationalism is good for these imperialists, but not for us, according to their strange logic. These foreign interventionists engineered the so-called ‘regime change’ (a well known American concept) of 2015 in a conspiracy that employed local traitors.

  5. Christie Says:

    The British are gone. Indian Colonial Parasites are running the country as they did it for the British.

  6. Vaisrawana Says:

    LG results are streaming in, predicting a landslide victory for SLPP’s “Pohottuwa”. The leader of the present tyranny in SL is doomed. The “imperial theme” is about to be squashed. So, he may now utter these words of Macbeth, finally giving up his presidential ambition. Seyton is Macbeth’s servant. Here we may change it appropriately if possible.

    Seyton!–I am sick at heart,
    When I behold–Seyton, I say!–This push
    Will cheer me ever, or disseat me now.
    I have lived long enough: my way of life
    Is fall’n into the sear, the yellow leaf;
    And that which should accompany old age,
    As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
    I must not look to have; but, in their stead,
    Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,
    Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not. Seyton!

  7. RohanJay Says:

    Nonsense Vaisrawana. First of I wasn’t moaning about all Sri Lankans obviously. You are just putting words in my mouth or deliberately misinterpreting my words. Second I am not patriotic anything. My family on my fathers side is Sri Lankan I was born in London I am a British citizen. I am not even really Sri Lankan for your information. However I did live in Sri Lanka for a few years in the 1980s and saw first hand the deadly and evil carnage of the Ltte terrorists as well as the evil actions of Sinhalese groups like the JVP.
    No my beef is with writers like Shenali Waduge and others on this website and commenters who go on and on about England and the British. When the British left the Island 70 years ago way before the LTtE or JVP was formed. It is as if Sri Lankan commenters can only feel good and important and have any sense of satisfaction about themselves by bashing England and the British all day. Or the Americans who only have an embassy on the island. Same with British. I am frankly tired of it.
    Also I am correct in my assertion Americans and British are more talented than Sri Lankans. How many inventors has come out of Sri Lanka compared to coming out coming out of United States and United Kingdom. If that offends you and you say it’s nonsense well sorry it is the truth. The facts are Sri Lankans haven’t achieved anything significant except moan about the British all day like Shenali Waduge or say how proud they the Sinhalese are or moved the country forward since independence. Or are when they have achieved jack in any field unlike the Americans and British who have moved the entire world forward with their inventors. No wonder so many Sri Lankans live overseas in western countries and many want to move to western countries. I think Vaisrawana your the one speaking nonsense.

  8. Vaisrawana Says:

    @RohanJay Says

    Thank you. You have made obvious who is talking nonsense here to all those readers who know some English.

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