The most asked question on Google in the year 2019, according to reports, is ‘Where is Sri Lanka?’ I am not sure who is looking for Sri Lanka or why. Maybe it has something to do with Sri Lanka being picked as the No 1 island to visit. Again, I am not sure who concluded this or why.
Sri Lankans know where Sri Lanka is. Most Sri Lankans know what Sri Lanka is. Of course there are those who think Colombo is Sri Lanka and vice versa and who, consequently, don’t think that non-Colombots really count and therefore are often shocked at how politics unfold. That’s a different story.
There are people from other countries who know where Sri Lanka is and have a rough idea that the island is not only about tea. The more discerning and aware know the island’s history, its strategic importance in the Indian Ocean and of course who plundered what and when. Most, however, have only a cursory knowledge of the island. Arundathi Roy, for example. Gullible to the core, and yet sufferable in ways Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are not.
Boris and Jeremy, leaders of the Conservative and Labour Parties in the UK had many things to talk about in the run up to that country’s parliamentary elections. Usually, Sri Lankans are not really bothered about by such processes, not least of all because the result, either way, has little chance of changing the predatory and condescending attitudes and actions of the UK government(s) with respect to Sri Lanka. This time, however, both leaders mentioned Sri Lanka in the course of their respective campaigns.
It’s not hard to understand. There’s a significant number of Tamils of Sri Lankan origin living in the UK who have the vote. Elections are about votes. Politicians woo voters. They are a promising lot. The aim to please. And so Boris and Corbyn had to say stuff that they believed was music to the ears of this relatively tiny segment of the voting population.
A minor matter and it didn’t really count, but it nevertheless indicates stuff. Jeremy talked of genocide. That’s a good thing. Britain know all about genocide, ethnic cleansing, cultural erasure and plunder. Boris wants to achieve ‘reconciliation, stability and justice.’ Across the world, he says. In current or former conflict zones, he says. Yeah, right!
Those who get high on either Boris or Jeremy should relax. They are no different. The only good thing is that we have to deal with just one of them. As things turned out that would be Boris.
Now Britain may have reconciled itself to forgetting the past and the present when it comes to horrendous excesses (yes, a mild word, that). However, if Britain wants justice, that’s good. Here’s stuff that Britain could do.
First. Return all the loot. Second. Compensate for genocide, torture, dispossession and for having flowered up a people via divide-n-rule. Third. LEAVE US ALONE!
That country, folks, doesn’t know whether it is coming or going. It preaches democracy but is just another monarchy. It could never tell East from West and still believes the sun has not set on collective behind. It believes that it is a free country when it is in fact a client state of the United States of America. It is not sure if it is a part of Europe or if it is not. It pretends to be one country in the United Nations but when it comes to sports (like Rugby and Football) it ‘breaks’ into its constituent parts.
And they want to give us direction. Wait. I need to laugh for a good ten minutes over that!
Alright. Done laughing. Seriously, folks, when you dig deep into all this, it is not funny. It’s gruesome. And it is unresolved.
Sri Lanka is not the UK and not only because we haven’t really robbed other countries or stockpiled weapons. We don’t do what they do. We don’t tell others what to do. We don’t insist they inhabit our version of their reality. We are not telling them to mind their own flowering business.
Britain has its own tumors to deal with. That much is clear. Xenophobia. Terrorism. Chicken coming home to roost. That kind of thing. Perhaps the likes of Boris and Jeremy feel good about themselves by dissing countries like Sri Lanka.
And we here they are fretting over something called ‘Brexit’. Britain + Exit, that is. The first time I heard that term, I remembered Nanda Malini’s catchy song in the ‘Pawana’ album, titled ‘Nidahas Baila’. This is how Sunil Ariyaratne saw it: sudda yanna giyeth nae, nogihin hitiyeth nae. (The white man did not stay, and neither did he leave)!
We’ve been waiting for Brexit for more than two centuries. And it’s not their fault alone. There are people among us who just don’t want them to leave. Maybe ‘Brexit’ is a Sri Lankan project. An unfettering. It might actually give a boost reconciliation, ensure stability and obtain justice simply because we won’t have rank idiots telling us who we are, what we are about and what we ought to do.
This article was first published in the ‘Sunday Morning’ [December 15, 2019]