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Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha

Somarama Legacy

7 March 2001

By Churchillian wit, Chandrika Kumaratunga is a good politician. Why? Churchill once quipped that the politician should have, 'the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen'. This is what Chandrika has been doing since she assumed power in 1994. Her latest interview with India's prime-time power-peddler N.Ram to the Frontline magazine (March 3, 2001) has to be assessed along these lines.

In my view, Chandrika has become a specialist in malingering as a terrorist victim. Malingering in medical context means, 'conscious simulation of mental or physical illness in order to gain some end.' She has told Ram:

"The main reason we could not use the other-alternative-methods of bringing in the (new) Constitution is: Number one, I got bombed. When I had very definitely told the people, 'If you give me the mandate, I'm going to do it' - and that's why the LTTE wanted to kill me!"

Six years ago, the same Chandrika, in an interview to the Island newspaper in Sri Lanka, complained, 

"I face a greater threat to my life from corrupt armed forces officials and vested interests in the business sector than from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam" [Associated Press news report, Feb.14, 1995]. 

Just prior to this, to a question asked by the Time magazine interviewer, "Why are you pushing so hard for peace?", Chandrika has lamented, 

"I was 14 when my father was assassinated. My husband's assassination shook my family. I have an absolute, deep-rooted horror of all that is violent." [Time Asia edition, Dec.19, 1994]

There is a syndrome known to doctors as Munchausen syndrome, named after Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Frieherr von Munchausen (1720-1797). He was a German swashbuckler renowned for his mendacious fables of his prowess as a soldier and sportsman. Thus, according to the Oxford Medical Companion (1994), patients who tell fantastic and patently untrue tales of their illnesses are said to be victims of Munchausen's syndrome. In a similar vein, Chandrika's posturing as a terror victim is an example of Somarama 'shock'.

It is a fact that Chandrika lost her father in 1959. She was only in her early teens when her father Solomon was assassinated by Somarama Thero. But there are tens of thousands of Tamil teenagers and children in Eelam who have lost their fathers and mothers to state terrorism. One thing which differentiates these victims from Chandrika is that, not a single mother of theirs became the prime minister of Ceylon. Thus, on relative terms, Chandrika had a privileged upbringing, protected by the cocoon of power during her growth phase. Because of someone's fault, Chandrika even now, has never learnt to accept responsibility for her own actions or ineptness. She has bleated to Ram:

"If the international community takes the pressure off the LTTE, they will not be interested in peace at all. Because the LTTE does not believe in peace. The LTTE believes in bloodletting, violence and terror and I don't think they know anything else! They will never be comfortable with any other situation."

Even after six years in power, Chandrika's list of agony-makers is endless. Until now she has specifically named, Pirabaharan and LTTE, UNP, other 'Tamil parties', Sri Lankan army, her own bureaucrats, SLMC and the current Constitution of Sri Lanka. For reasons of propriety, she omits in public discourse many others like Buddhist clergy or her potential usurpers in the SLFP such as uncle Anuruddha Ratwatte or Mahinda Rajapakse.

While answering to another question, Chandrika laments about the other 'Tamil parties' as follows: 

"In this Parliament, it's going to be more difficult [to pass a new Constitution] because we have fewer seats. The SLFP itself won one MP more. But the Tamil parties have lost out a lot. Therefore, the majority we had with their support is now much less."

There, one has the answer for the much-publicised prospective reform for the maligned Constitution. Despite all the tub-thumbing oratory, she will serve out her term of presidency, without abolishing it. Also, she had put it aptly: 

"The Tamil parties have lost out a lot [in 2000]". 

The Tamil parties she refers to are those which buffeted her in power, the EPDP, EPRLF and PLOTE. Has she bothered to think or explain, why these 'Tamil parties' lost out, even when playing the election game according to the obnoxious standards of her team? The interviewer N.Ram also had remained silent without prodding further on this issue.

That during Chandrika's tenure of executive office, the sinister range of the Somarama legacy is expanding can be attested by the recent news report which appeared in the Island newspaper of January 18, under the caption, "Saffron robed man leads robber gang". Here it is:

"An armed gang led by a man in saffron robes said to be monk of an ancient Buddhist temple in Kehelella, Badalgama was arrested by the Special Operations Unit of the Negombo police yesterday. Among the suspects arrested were the owner of a Chinese restaurant in Minuwangoda and two army and air force deserters. The main suspect, the robed person had been identified as Meegaswewa Dhamminda (42).

On questioning the suspects, police recovered a cache of arms consisting of one T-56 gun, 115 T-56 bullets, four ammunition mags, two Browni revolvers and four bullets, one grenade, two wigs, a van and two three wheelers. These suspects are residents of Ampara, Kurunegala, Minuwangoda, Heenatigama and Seeduwa areas. It was revealed that all robberies carried out by the gang had been planned at the temple and they have committed twenty robberies to the tune of rupees twenty million. They had raided banks, petrol sheds and houses...."

It is a moot point to ponder why the politician Chandrika and journalist N.Ram never bother to discuss terrorism of this kind. Is it because, as William Butler Yeats had mused in his 1938 poem, 'The Old Stone Cross',

"A statesman is an easy man
He tells his lies by rote;
A journalist makes up his lies
and takes you by the throat."



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