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The never-ending party for the Lion King; the ever-growing hunger pangs for his subjects

The King wants to plant 1.1 million saplings to celebrate his enthronement as the Lion King. Who did this accounting? Why not just one million? I got it. He wants to surpass President Premadasa’s one million housing venture. There are no lions in Sri Lanka and even leopards are as rare as barking deer in Bandarawela. It takes 12 years for a mango tree to bear fruits and ditto for coconuts unless it is the hybrid variety.

by Pearl Thevanayagam 

(October 31, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) We may be a third-world nation and two thirds of our population living on shoe-string budgets but we like to party.

For seven long days we are going to celebrate the King’s indefinite ascendancy to the throne. We will be celebrating the King who vanquished the LTTE, incarcerated the General who out of sheer national pride fulfilled HM Rajapakse’s orders or rather his unruly brother who goes by the title of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse through annihilating the LTTE and in the process caused the massacre of thousands of civilians and soldiers in the name of protecting the island’s sovereignty.

The soldiers are still awaiting Jaipur foot prosthesis and the money promised for their families still a pipe-dream as reward for fighting valiantly for a terror-free nation. Those who absconded with weapons are relegated to mercenary killings to earn a living; our latest cottage industry.

The King wants to plant 1.1 million saplings to celebrate his enthronement as the Lion King.  Who did this accounting? Why not just one million?  I got it. He wants to surpass President Premadasa’s one million housing venture. There are no lions in Sri Lanka and even leopards are as rare as barking deer in Bandarawela. It takes 12 years for a mango tree to bear fruits and ditto for coconuts unless it is the hybrid variety.

His Hambantota port project decimated thousands of acres of vegetation to make way for a port to honour his name and to pay gratitude to China which provided weapons to annihilate a sizeable number of Tamil civilians. The wild-life and flora and fauna were sacrificed at the altar of HM Rajapakse and deprived the livelihood of its rightful cultivators.

It is with great shock that I read recently we only have 4,000 elephants left. What happened to the elephant specialist Sarath Kotagama. Has he been bought by the US? The denuding of forests to make way for 18 par golf courses and hotels surely must contribute to the loss of wildlife. Tate & Lyle, the British sugar company, shows no mercy for wild-life and the government only seeks kudos and not conservation. The British are known for their NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude when it comes to conservation. They will tie themselves round the old oak tree in their homeland to protect their flora and fauna but they have no qualms about hunting down rare species in their colonies.

The Japanese too would scour Burma, Indonesia and Phillipines for their chopsticks all the while preserving their pristine woodlands. They also fish in the Indian subcontinent for their tuna with their latest marine technology and full blessings of its leaders and export their mackerels to Sri Lanka in their dead, mortified and chemical injected canned forms. 

The Jack Mackerel marketed by Delmege Forsyth and MD are deader than dodos and still not within the reach of an average housewife.

And Rajapakse clan aka Nero would fiddle while Hambantota’s common populace starve of hunger while their agricultural lands are forfeited for the glory of the incumbent pseudo-royal megalomaniac of a President who was a non-entity 10 years ago.

Chandrika once told a Tamil veteran BBC journalist that Mahinda was always servile and obliging and that he showed such subservience to the point she felt sorry for him.

The kurakkan-shawled President sets no precedence to his predecessors including the Late President Premadasa who genuinely felt the pulse of the people. Never in our island’s history had the populace elected a President who wields his presidential immunity to appease his own selfish and grandiose ambitions in such a short time and who shows no contrition that he is veering the island towards an authoritarian regime.

His baby-faced son Namal is a law unto himself. He is the sonnaboy who wants his way and ammi and thathi would make sure he gets his way or else he would throw tantrums as we saw when he circumvented ICRC’s allocation of hand-held tractors to his supporters (read daddy’s sycophants) much to the chagrin of deserving farmers.

There is absolutely nothing positive the country has benefited from the election of Mahinda Rajapakse except a much-touted end to terrorism. White-van abductions continue, arbitrary arrests are the norms of the day and dissenting voices stifled and even summarily executed.  The judiciary is under the jackboot of fascist regime and the judiciary and the police genuflect at the feet of the King.

History shows such leaders scurry down the snakehead of  Snakes and Ladders  much faster than they climbed notwithstanding their clarion cry they howl that they stand for a proud Sinhala nation.

What Sri Lanka needs to be proud about what with escalating prices of food items and essential commodities, absence of welfare benefits for the poorest of the poor, suppression of civil liberties, censorship of media not supportive of the regime and even voices of the burgeoning student democracy in the halls of higher learning is beyond comprehension.
  
We are a nation who love to party. My neighbour, Mrs J., in Colombo fights a daily battle trying to place three square meals on the table for her family of five after paying for the mortgage on her house out of remittances from her husband in the Middle East. But come December she would, like a prayer, whitewash the house, polish her furniture and floor and make thambili wine in time for Christmas.

As  a member of the Keells Housing Association in June 1991 when Colombo went under water due to unexpected floods, I and others in the committee raised funds to feed the families displaced and forced to find shelter in made up tents on Peliyagoda Bridge.

After cooking many kilos of rice, parippu, boiled eggs and seeni sambol and distributing the buth parcels for the victims we decided we deserved a well-earned break. So what did we do.  We had a little party ourselves with the remainder of food and a few bottles of stout thrown in.

No occasion, sad or happy, is passed without a party in some form or another.

But the biggest party of all is yet to come. The King will celebrate his party just before Christmas rallying gullible supporters and making believe that for once we are not a nation with insurmountable debt, that we have no welfare measures in place for the jobless, single mothers or ageing citizens and that we have no security for our future but we have enough kudos to ensure Mahinda would reign supreme for kingdom to come and that his family would outsmart the traditional Bandaranaike and Senanayake clan.

The 18th amendment to the constitution passed without a hum in the cabinet and ensured the King’s reign for eternity unless he meets an untimely death in the hands of the many enemies he created among disgruntled citizens including those undergrads and minority dissidents. The Rajapakse charm worked so well that even the so-called former academic GLP is now trotting the globe singing the praises of the President to anyone who would listen. It is possible that someone whipped out his brain along with his conscience while he was asleep at Acklands and replaced them with servility and sycophancy.

There are no funds to rehabilitate North and East which suffered immensely from Tsunami and then the ravages of a protracted war which deprived the inhabitants of their lands, livelihood and relatives. But there is enough money to celebrate the King’s enthronement.

But we’ll party till kingdom to come and to hell with the populace which brought a regime no-one envisaged and no-one questioned; all in the name of preserving its hegemony as a Sinhala Buddhist nation. The ordinary Sri Lankans had better keep reciting Dhammapada, Baghavad Geetha, Bible and Quran until they die for they are certainly not enjoying the fruits of abundance in this birth. 

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