It’s all about the name…..

by The Nightwatchman

(August 11, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) We Sri Lankans love to drop names…. We want to drop names like it is going to out fashion tomorrow. I know Him, He was in my class, we went Uni together, we are at that club, my friend, ‘the rich’ guy, ah, you know him, he is the friend of my uncles neighbor whose dog was killed by so and so’s black Mercedes….. you know what I mean.

However at the same time we are really good at name calling too. Sinhalese call Tamils names, Tamils call Sinhalese names, we both call Muslims names, all three of us call Burghers names…Not sure what the Burghers call all of us anymore as many are in Australia now and if they do call us names back, I am sure it must be very bad, and will have an Oz accent to it. Insults always feel horrible when said in an Aussie accent, I always thought.

What is in a name? Do we check to see who the person behind that name? Will we remember that name long after we meet that person? The last 30 years of this country’s sordid history we heard many names. We used many names to describe many people. We were called many names. I am called a racist, just because I love my country and I speak on behalf of her and refuse to abandon her for greener pastures. I am called a Frog in a Well because I refuse to lie my way in to the UK/Canada and work 18 hours a day to make ends meet. Well, this frog has DSL and a Core2Duo. I love my well. I can reach outside the well 24/7 and not have to work 18 hour shifts in bitter winters. If patriotism and the love for ones country is rewarded by the label, ‘Racist’, please shout my name from the roof tops!! I am racist and proud of it!

Since 2 months ago, my commute to work takes me past the SL War memorial on the Parliament grounds. This is for me now has become hallow ground. Up to that point I scoffed at parliament grounds as an obscene patch of grass overlooking the Diyawanna oya. Where fat people walk to lose weight, men come to pick up walking women, women come to pick up walking men, where kids play cricket, where cops ask for bribes from couples inside cars, where all kinds of nonsense happens on any given day. But now I don’t see all that. All I see is several rows of granite with names on it. Thousands upon thousands of them. Each etch on that stone wall has a name, that name was a person, a father, a brother, a friend, a cousin, a husband, a lover and a son. For me that constitutes the real cost of our war. As far as bills go, that’s the mother of all bills. And what an immense bills that is. I don’t think we can ever settle that bill. We will carry the debt longer than we can even imagine. Long after the smoke and the dust settle that single patch of land will remind us for generations what it cost us to keep our country safe and in one piece. One day I hope that our children will walk along those walls and look in awe at the names etched in stone. That they will look and realize the price a whole generation paid so that they can live free and live under one flag.

So I wonder again…what is in a name?

Captain S. Aladeniya , Corporal Gamini Kularatne, Second Lieutenant K. W. T. Nissanka, Warrant Officer 2nd Class H.B. Pasan Gunasekera, Colonel A.F. Lafir, Lance Corporal W.I.M. Seneviratne, Lieutenant-Commander Jude Lakmal Wijethunge. These 7 names have one thing on common. They all have the name PWV (Parama Weera Vibhushanaya) at the end of their given name. They have another thing in common, they are all dead. Dead! Never to walk among the living, never to hold a hand, never to watch their kids grow, never to be at home on a weekend, never to visit friends and family, never to laugh, never to grow old, like the rest of us living. Their names are also on that granite wall. Amongst the thousands of other names that this war in the name of ‘minority rights’ and ‘separate homeland’ put on that wall.

The United States Armed Forces’ equivalent of the PWV is the Congressional Medal of Honor, the ultimate in all US Military decorations. It’s not easy to get one. The US names its navy ships and combat vessels after their Medal of Honor recipients. That is how important a name is. A name defines us. We are remembered by our name. That is why we have to remember their names.

I know for one thing, even if I live to be 100 years, I will never live my life the way those names spent their last moments on earth. I am not that privileged. I am not that brave. I am not that self sacrificing. I will never run towards the enemy with two primed grenades in my hands knowing for certain my destiny is 5 seconds away.

That’s why my name is not worthy to be on that wall.
- Sri Lanka Guardian