Sri Lanka has rightly raised objections to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband`s speech at an eelam summit in London, organised by the Global Tamil Forum, an umbrella organisation for some notorious LTTE fronts. Colombo`s consternation is understandable in that Britain must not grant legitimacy to any outfit bent on destroying a fellow Commonwealth nation.
Miliband may get some votes from the LTTE sympathisers in his constituency for the services rendered but it is only wishful thinking that he and/or Britain will be able to make eelam happen. He may shout himself hoarse or stoop to the level of doing anything else at LTTE events but his pop gun oratory will not succeed where Prabhakaran`s artillery fire has failed. He is only barking up the wrong tree.
When a powerful car bomb went off near a courthouse of Newry recently, a spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, `Such acts are unrepresentative of the views of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland we will not allow a tiny minority to turn the clock back.` The same may be said of the LTTE rump and its sponsors like Miliband. They cannot turn the clock back.
Oscar Wilde famously condemned fox hunting as `the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable`. With apologies to that literary genius one may describe the Diasporic Tigers` attempt to achieve eelam with the help of shameless British politicians as `the unspeakable in pursuit of the unattainable`.
`Sowing` rice and phones
Two candidates in the parliamentary election fray in Galle have demonstrated the so-called southern ingenuity or cunning as some may prefer to call it. They have, according to a report in this newspaper on Wednesday, decided to `sow` rice and mobile phones and reap votes in return! They belong to the UPFA and the UNP. The ruling party candidate will distribute 150,000 bags of rice weighing five kilos each among the people in the Galle District and the other will give away 100,000 mobile phones. (Have they borrowed a leaf out of the book of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is also said to have a southern connection? He promised gold bracelets and gold necklaces for the youth at the 2005 presidential polls!)
The man who is throwing rice around seems to be aware that the way to a man`s heart is through his stomach. The other`s thinking appears to be more modern he seems to know that the road to the present-day gizmo freaks` hearts lies through their eyes and ears they may gladly forego a meal for a `reload`. (Mobile phone manufacturers might get inspired by this politician to put out a new model called `election edition`.)
Election bribes are not something new in this country they are older than our Independence. Henry Amarasuriya, it may be recalled, threw money around at the 1947 election in Galle. The late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike pledged to bring rice from the moon (handen haal) for the consumption of the hoi polloi and the late President J. R. Jayewardene promised eight pounds of grains (eta ata). Both leaders got and forgot as is well known and the people kept waiting for Godot! At the recently concluded presidential election, the Opposition candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka offered a 10,000-rupee pay hike to public workers and President Mahinda Rajapaksa granted Rs. 2,500 up front.
We have nothing but aversion to election bribes but people can always accept handouts from politicians and vote according to their conscience. In Achebe`s No Longer at Ease, we have a minister saying that the trouble was not in the receiving of the bribe, but failing to do the thing for which the bribe was given . But, when it comes to election bribes the trouble is in doing the thing for which the bribe is given. Voters should know how to get and forget! We are reminded of what the legendary southern politician W. Dahanayake, who rivalled Amarasuriya at the 1947 election in Galle told voters mama salli gahak helluwa, umbala ethi tharamak ahulaganilla ( I have shaken a tree full of money you can pick as much as you like ). And Daha won!
People must not blunder by bartering their votes for rice or mobile phones. For, there is nothing called a free lunch. The two politicos as well as others of their ilk doing a Santa are not driven by altruism they expect returns disproportionate to their investment. For every kilo of rice given away, they, if elected, will get benefits worth a metric ton of rice. Sow a fistful and reap a bagful, they say. This, they will do at the expense of the public.
Unless the people vote wisely, they will have to throw up the free rice soon after the election!