Convention extravaganza; glad tidings of various sorts



Spectacle of the past week was the SLPP Convention held at the Sugathadasa Stadium. Of course, the crowds were present – transported from outstations since nobody thirsting for some free frolic will stay home when offered transport and food and probably more than a tot just to swell the audience.

The usual paeons were sung about the Leader of the SLPP, who was called the present-day Dutugemunu, for defeating the Tamil Tigers and unifying the country. But unlike King Dutugemunu, who was a genuine king and developed the country, this present day ‘hero’ became a self-styled king with his brothers and son, and ruled wearing a maroon band in lieu of a crown.

To Cass and many others, the Bud Party Secretary made a sacrilegious statement, loud and clear. He dared to pronounce that Mahinda Rajapaksa was the second national hero, the first being Anagarika Dharmapala. He followed this astounding announcement with praises galore. Even if he was referring to post-independence times, MR falls far short of being a hero. Did he, like Prince Dutugemunu, fight Prabhakaran fist to fist, sword to sword? No. He had a good team, led on the battlefield by a General, who was later imprisoned. MR and brother Gotabaya lost the peace.

Then came the spending sprees and swelling the armed forces so that in ten years from 2009, the country was pushed to bankruptcy. The Yahapalanaya government and others, mostly bureaucrats, did some pushing towards sending the country to the pits, but it definitely was the three Rajapaksa brothers that doomed Sri Lanka –Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil.

We suffer and will suffer much more come 2024. The Supreme Court named those responsible for what has happened to Sri Lanka but no recompense demanded for the economic crimes they were guilty of committing. Their crime, aided by others who were named, did not only affect the economy of the country; it affected extremely adversely the lives of every Sri Lankan, barring of course those who lived very well on stolen money. The psyche of the people was damaged; their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing degraded; and the exodus of professionals commenced, tearing families asunder and making the country even poorer.

Going back to the SLPP Convention, the redeeming features were that thinking people objected to a tamasha in these bleak times and expressed their contempt by hoisting bundles of grass and straw below the Pohottu flags strung widely all over – never mind the cost. That was apt; a clever symbolic message and labeling. Often the most effective method of conveying a message is through humour.

Another side effect was the showing on TV news the gathering of very decent, candle-bearing persons along roads carrying placards reminiscent of what occurred just prior to the congregation of peaceful protestors in their hundreds at Galle Face Green. People Power is strong and must never be ignored. The govt must take measures to remedy matters and never ever attempt to crush peaceful protests as we saw was done to women protesters near the Parliamentary Complex some weeks ago.

Good tidings

This is the traditional season of good tidings of great joy. The start was with the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem to Mary and carpenter Joseph. Christ gave the world such a wonderful religion of love. Almost the entire world celebrates his birth and all the miracles that followed; and sorrows at the immense tragedy of his end. It was his mortal body that was crucified. He rose to heaven.

We in Sri Lanka unitedly celebrate Christmas which is the festivity that most non-Christians join in. There is so much merriment and joy in this Christmas season. Many Buddhist homes light up a fir tree, exchange gifts and either make or buy traditional cake and Xmas pudding. Cassandra’s son believed in Santa till he was 12 years old, and happily Santa never failed to visit him. Times were good then; money was available after the stringent measures of Sirimavo B’s govt descended on us and was defeated.

 As you know, Cassandra is a woman who has a jaundiced eye and venomous tongue which is often too outspoken. But she believes we still have freedom of expression; her belief is pooh-poohed by others. Thus, Cassandra, borrows the phrase ‘Good tidings of great joy’ to express her reaction to recent events that have occurred in the murky, mushy areas of bribery and corruption, drug trafficking and delivery of justice.

The former Secretary of Health, Janaka Chandragupta, was arrested for sanctioning the buying of thousands of phials of intravenous immunoglobulin from a most devious company in SL that has no expertise to produce this drug. As the Editor so very pointedly writes in The Island of Tuesday Dec 18: “What the CID has been able to uncover is only the tip of the iceberg.” Then the Editor exposes truths in his individualised manner, pointing to the Ex-Minister of Health, K. Rambukkwella, who is ultimately responsible for matters in that ministry under him. We await the day when all racketeers are caught and if not slaughtered at least charged so govt, coffers receive much needed lucre.

Minister Tiran Alles recently announced that the police would go strong behind drug traffickers, smugglers and vendors in an attempt to wipe out the drug trade in this island. The acting IGP, who is under a cloud, as a human rights violator, echoed the Minister emphatically. Maybe an attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of the public. No redemption for the Deshyamana police officer in that area.

What Minister Alles proclaimed and the Acting IGP endorsed seems to be an unreachable goal in this corruption and drug ridden country. But at least if a considerable dent is made in this  pernicious, pestiferous, damning canker that has attacked so many, especially  the young, by denying easy access to drugs,  the entire country will heave a huge sigh of relief and thank Alles and hold him up as one Minister who gets things done.

Royalty arriving

Another spark of glad tidings: Princess Anne arrives with her husband Vice Admiral Tim Laurance to celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations with the UK. Forget colonialism but remember the Brits grew tea which was/is a major Forex earner for long; built our network of railways and gave us the start in good education and the English language – most used by humanity. It will be fine to get a whiff of British Royalty that definitely is subject to winds of change under King Charles III.

Remembered is how this only daughter of Queen Elizabeth accompanied her mother’s body as it was taken by plane to several places in the United Kingdom until it finally reached London. And at the solemn funeral, Princess Anne rode just behind the cortege all the way.

We Ordinaries are certain that she will not be handed the outrageous insult of being kept waiting. Do not forget the media reports that President Chandrika Kumaratunga kept her waiting in the visitors’ room at President’s House until she, the Prez, descended from wherever, doing whatever (probably waking late from sleep! To which Cass can add an explanatory word!) to meet HRH, who was about to leave the place, after refusing to sit down and wait. That was Sri Lankan hospitality which we are known for. Maybe the charming smile mollified Her Majesty.

Cassandra wishes all her readers and everyone else a happy, joyful Christmas, in spite of economic woes. What to do, aney?