Dear Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa,
Given that communication between the two of us is limited (to a great extent) I concluded that writing you a letter is my only option. You must be beat after that invigorating but nevertheless stimulating seminar last week where you preached to one and all the truly heroic role played by Sri Lanka’s military in defeating terrorism.
‘Sharing Sri Lanka’s experience on the road to military defeat of the LTTE’ – I would have loved to attend but I never got an invite and when we tried to nevertheless bulldoze our way in, we were told (extremely rudely at the door) that The Sunday Leader is “barred” from these events. Honestly, you really do need to wag your finger at some of your uniformed types and teach them manners telling them how to treat us lovely ladies at this old rag. No wonder plans are afoot for a leadership training course to try and stem all this boorishness. I am fully in support of that except please do not miss out on those that need it most, our 225 parliamentarians.
I have finally realised we paradisians have got it all wrong – that famous cliché politicians love to use during election time, “I am a servant of my people…” Honestly I do believe our local politicos have got this saying all mixed up with ‘Servants of the People’ a book by Andrew Rawnsley which left no doubt that Servants of the People would be the story of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s strangely ambivalent relationship with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
If you haven’t read the book let me know and I will post you a copy – since I am not allowed anywhere near the doors of the Defence Ministry I will have to depend on the local post and hope for the best. But, it really is a must read. It is right up our street. Particularly for those of us at The Sunday Leader.
The Raymond Chandler style in which Rawnsley writes and the sex-and-shopping novel detail which he adds to every anecdote, invites doubts about his sources. He is particularly keen that his readers should know how ministerial car and plane seats are upholstered, and almost every chapter begins with a sentence which proclaims the subtext, ‘I was there.’ To learn that ‘The Prime Minister was in a panic, “Find Gordon,” Tony Blair urged his assistant, Anji Hunter’ and that ‘Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were having one of their quieter, more sinuous arguments’ adds to the compelling excitement that makes Servants of the People the most readable contemporary history to be written since New Labour was elected. It also invites the question, ‘How does he know?’
Anyway, I digress.
Now, let me congratulate you on the fabulous work you are doing in and around Colombo. I frankly, am of the view that you are doing a great job. I am all for a garden city and plenty of grass, ferns, flowers, pineapple, beans and carrot all sprouting in full and vibrant colour.
Of course, none of it really affects me – since I have not been ordered (yet, I might add) to tear down my wall and begin planting vegetables and fruit all in the name of progress. And I am pretty sure you won’t be doing that either. After all, if you did where would you put all those sharks you keep as pets in that beautiful inbuilt wall tank in your garden?
It is indeed strange but I have always been taught that when a government asks its people to start growing their own veg that is a sure sign of a doomed economy. But of course I could be wrong, and am more than willing to stand corrected here.
I once had a social science teacher who taught me that growing your own food can be good exercise and could save you money. It can also provide you with a healthy supply of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables, she used to say. Adding, it’s easy to get started and there are lots of places you can grow plants, even if you don’t have a garden. She drove herself to school everyday in a Mercedes Benz and always – always… arrived in school beautifully turned out in saree draped Kandyan style with perfectly manicured fingers and toe nails. She was certainly not tending or manicuring her vegetable plot. One example, I learnt early on in life of someone not practicing what they preached. I have since come across dozens of other people like that. Haven’t you? I am sure you have. And I am certain you will agree with me how wretchedly frustrating that can be!
But I do agree wholeheartedly that growing your own veg and fruit could save you money on expensive items like salad leaves. It helps children understand where food comes from, and could encourage more interest in eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Except, mine hate vegetables and fruit. But of course we could still grow them and allow anybody who is hungry enough to steal them. You must recall how just a few weeks ago when people were complaining and thumping their breasts at the high prices of vegetables and fruits, it gave the Colombo municipality the bright idea of setting an example for people to grow their own food. It planted fruit-bearing trees and grew vegetables at the Town Hall roundabout. But somehow the good intention had not borne fruit because some hungry people had taken away most of the fruit and vegetables. Gardening can also help to reduce stress and can give you a sense of achievement I am told. Honestly, we both do need to try this out.
Now, to move on. Again, my congratulations in your having got rid of all those awful, perfectly horrid, shanty towns. I used to shudder every time I drove through Slave Island, Park Street (which is now my all time favourite street in Colombo – minus the ugly dwellings) Maradana and Grandpass. You do certainly have good taste in cleaning up the city. But where did all those poor people go? They do, after all, need a home. Like you and I do. And since their sudden eviction we cannot seem to find any of them. They are not in some dog house now are they? I‘m kidding! You can take your finger off that trigger!
The thing is, at this rag we found out that most of those people held actual deeds to their homes. Now how on earth was that possible? A little bird whispered to me that this was the result of “corrupt” politicians who get equally crooked lawyers to draw up pieces of paper they call a “title deed” and hand it out to the less fortunate all in the name of securing one more additional vote. And with nowhere else to go it’s a catch 22 situation for those poor people. I would do the same in their position.
You know it was Margaret Thatcher (not sure if you are a fan or not but most men hated her – she had b…s they whined) once said, “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.”
You and I both know that it is just impossible nowadays to imagine a person living totally isolated. Since early times people have realised that it’s much safer and easier to give and act in groups or communities sharing common interests, traditions, and ways of life. Both an individual and society can’t but influence each other. And the more democratic a society is the more guaranteed the rights and freedoms of a person are.
I studied Greek and Roman Civilisation in school and cannot but help think how remarkably close in similarity you and your family compare in retrospect..
The ancient Greeks famously invented democracy.
The ancient Greek word demokratia was ambiguous. It meant literally ‘people-power.’ But who were the people to whom the power belonged? Was it all the people – the ‘masses’? Or only some of the people – the duly qualified citizens? The Greek word demos could mean either. There’s a theory that the word demokratia was coined by democracy’s enemies, members of the rich and aristocratic elite who did not like being outvoted by the common herd, their social and economic inferiors. If this theory is right, democracy must originally have meant something like ‘mob rule’ or ‘dictatorship of the proletariat.’
As Plato once charmingly put it, Those cities that were not democracies were either oligarchies – where power was in the hands of the few richest citizens – or monarchies, called ‘tyrannies’ in cases where the sole ruler had usurped power by force rather than inheritance.
Gosh! I do hope I’m not boring you. But really, you do see the amazing similarity don’t you? Between them and us. Or is it us and them? I don’t know. I am so confused what with this 2600 year old civilisation suddenly thrust upon me and given my inability to add any number exceeding two digits without a calculator I seem to have aged by an additional 40 years! I am not looking in the mirror ever again. Will instead, hold that up for our readers to look into every Sunday.
And I know you will agree with me on this one. I simply MUST stop all those court appearances. I am fodder for the wild asses, never mind me being one myself. You know what I mean.
My warmest wishes, Frederica Jansz