by Namini Wijedasa
We’ve said this before but what the heck let’s churn it up again: Sri Lanka is a nation of such appalling paradoxes that it puts all paradoxes everywhere in the world to dire shame.
Now take this Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP). That sweet Tiger doyen-chief arms procurer, ambassador, overseer, manager and successor to Velupillai Prabhakaran-is now, bless his soul, the government’s very bestest, bestest friend. Getting top security and people to carry his bag, it seems.
Damn, I don’t get anybody from the state to carry my bag or to clear the roads for me. Then again, I was never a highly successful terrorist. I didn’t kill anyone, procure weapons to kill anyone, amass shady wealth or take over a terrorist organisation after my terrorist boss died. Therefore, it’s understandable (one supposes) that I would not be as popular with the government as someone like KP would be.
The same government boasted only last year that Sri Lanka’s state intelligentsia was so good it managed to nab the elusive KP in an elaborate sting operation that involved cooperation with several countries. Back then, Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella (who continues to run an utterly successful laundry service) said that KP’s arrest was a big blow to the remaining foreign network of the LTTE.
Defence sources were also quoted as saying that the arrest followed a weeks-long intelligence operation in East Asia by several teams from Sri Lanka. Seems KP was on Interpol’s list of most wanted for various charges including the smuggling of arms and criminal conspiracy. Meanwhile, India had also asked for him in connection with Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. These are only a fraction of KP’s vast repertoire of misdeeds.
Anyway, KP was brought to Sri Lanka. The public was told that he was in state custody and being questioned by intelligence. After a while, we heard nothing more of KP. The people didn’t know where he was being held, what sort of freedom of movement he had, what he had revealed (but for selected revelations in certain newspapers), what had become of the vast wealth he had in his control, where he bought his clothes, who his drinking buddies were, who cooked his food, who paid for his maintenance and what was to be done with him.
Despite it being a citizen’s right to know what the government had done with this extremely high-profile terrorist, nobody thought to ask. Being loyal subjects, we have learned not to raise questions that the state may not appreciate.
Anyway, what to ask now? KP has suddenly resurfaced, travelling to the North and East and meeting all nature of government officials with offers to help reconstruction efforts. We don’t know what else he has offered to help with-or, indeed, help along-but, hell, we’re not asking. The government will get angry.
Meanwhile (and here’s the paradox) 10,000 ordinary cadres of the LTTE are still in detention with no information-naturally-of when they would be released. KP is hobnobbing with the government; ordinary cadres, many of whom the terrorist organisation he helped to lead had forcibly recruited, are languishing in jail.
It is such a pity that ordinary cadres don’t have money. Because it must boil down to money... mustn’t it? And contacts too, one assumed. Of course, being a government that defeated one of the most ruthless terrorist organisations in the world, this must know what it is doing, right?
Perhaps KP has the contacts they need to do whatever it is they are in the process of doing (sssshhhhh, don’t ask). After all, he has already brought nine Tamil “intellectuals” to meet government leaders and got them to pledge support to reconstruction efforts. Presumably these intellectuals once had close ties with the LTTE. So, what better way to get money than to ask it from former terrorists, no?
But this government does like paradoxes and they don’t do it in halves. Observe, for instance, the prices of essential items. They have shot through the roof (to put it mildly). Vegetables, milk powder, sugar, bread and flour are costlier by far. Gas is exorbitantly priced. Rice is too expensive for a commodity that is our staple food. Tinned fish is also high but cheaper than unprocessed fish which will soon become a luxury (despite new catches entering the market from the North and East). It is too expensive to eat in this country and soon it will be too expensive to take a bus because the fares are to be revised.
Still, who needs to take a bus? While most of the price hikes are a result of the government imposing taxes on essential commodities, Sri Lankans can now buy a Mercedes Benz on the market for roughly four million rupees. The same model was around seven million rupees before the government slashed the tax.
So here’s the plan: Buy a Mercedes Benz (scrape the barrel; take a few loans; ask your parents if you have to), lie low till the government raises the tax again-everyone says they will-sell the car, and buy food. How’s that for a plan?