Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
Bumbling Butch Cassidy Act at the UN Podium
4 October 2008
"El President’s stupid UN act in speaking a few sentences in Tamil, coupled
with the saddening news of Hollywood actor and humanist Paul Newman’s
(1925-2008) death that followed, prompted me to reminisce on Paul Newman’s
signature role as a bumbling Butch Cassidy in 1969. Paul Newman in his role
as a comedian cheat delighted his fans with a fumbling act as a bank robber,
pretending to speak Spanish to scare the customers and bank workers..."
wonder how many Tamils and those who sympathize with the Tamil cause would have
been fooled by the news of Sri Lankan President Rajapakse’s faking a Paul Newman
act at the UN podium by pretending to speak in Tamil language.
Here is the story for record,
speaks in Tamil at UN’, from India’s rediff.com (Sept.26, 2008) report.
“Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who perhaps became the first Head
of State to speak in Tamil at the UN General Assembly, has conveyed that the
government puts the language on equal status with that of Sinhala, a top
minister said. ‘The President's actions (on Wednesday) makes its clear that
we are a government committed to promoting and nurturing diversity,’ Human
Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said. ‘It was a
very strong signal to the people of the north and east that Tamil, an
official language of Sri Lanka, is used and respected by the head of state
and government,’ the minister told a meeting.
Rajapakse, who spoke a few lines in Tamil said, ‘While my mother tongue is
Sinhala, let me elaborate a few thoughts in Tamil. Sinhala and Tamil are the
two languages of the people of Sri Lanka. Both these have been used through
the centuries, are rich in literature and are widely used in my country with
recognition as official languages. With the widening of democracy in our
country, the bonds between the Sinhala and Tamil people of Sri Lanka will
grow and remain a major force for its future development. We will march
towards a richer freedom and lasting unity that await us as a nation,’ the
President said. Rajapakse had used Tamil in an extempore speech in Colombo
during a meeting a few months ago.”
El President’s stupid UN act in speaking a few sentences in Tamil, coupled with
the saddening news of Hollywood actor and humanist Paul Newman’s (1925-2008)
death that followed, prompted me to reminisce on Paul Newman’s signature role as
a bumbling Butch Cassidy in 1969. Paul Newman in his role as a comedian cheat
delighted his fans with a fumbling act as a bank robber, pretending to speak
Spanish to scare the customers and bank workers. To relish, here is a verbatim
script of the screenplay by William Goldman, in the Butch Cassidy and
Sundance Kid movie. Butch and his sidekick Sundance Kid, played by Robert
Redford, enter a Bolivian bank. Both jump into action, as scripted below:
Esto es…es… (yanks out his crib sheet) Robo! [Before Butch can even finish,
everyone in the bank quietly raise their hands and back quickly against the
Butch: (to himself) Raise your hands.
(out loud). Manos arriba.
[moving nervously among the people in the bank, frisking them for weapons as
he goes.] They got ‘em up – skip on down.
Butch: (to himself) Raise them! (out
Butch: (to himself) Back against the
wall. (out loud) Arrimense a la pared.
They’re – against-the-wall- already!
Butch: (furious). Don’t you know
enough not to criticize someone who’s doing his best? (going to Sundance,
showing the paper at him) Here- you’re so damn smart, you read.
[The Bank people, standing quietly confused, hands raised, looking at each
Like the Bolivian Bank customers of that movie, El Presidente’s pimping, tacky
act of Tamil speaking in the UN podium, wouldn’t have gladdened any Tamil
hearts, since there is a proverb in Tamil that castigates this sort of rowdy
behavior. President Rajapakse’s script writers should have told him, this Tamil
proverb; ‘Padikkirathu Thevaram – Idikkirathu Sivan Kovil’ (-
படிக்கிறது தேவாரம், இடிக்கிறது சிவன் கோவில்
Reciting holy hymns, but desecreating Lord Shiva’s temple). With every bombing
act perpetrated by El Presidente’s military minions in the Tamil territory,
President Rajapakse’s shmooz (idle talk) act of Tamil speaking projects him as a
master of schlock (someone who specializes in selling cheep merchandize).