There is a pithy Sinhala saying that I surmise derived from the sinking of the Titanic where while the unsinkable ship was submerging in the Atlantic in the cold night of April 14, 1912, the band was ordered to play on. It starts with Neva gilunath … but I shirk completing it because its commonness draws gooseflesh along my sensitive skin. This saying is how I describe the general ambience of the Aluth Avurudhu season just passed. Whatever our troubles, limitations suffered, paucity of money, near starvation of some are, there was gaiety and celebration from the parana avurudhu to the occasion of oil anointing and setting out to work on Monday 17.
And this resilience and readiness to push aside troubles and enjoy with others is a laudable characteristic. It goes hand in hand with our national trait of easy forgetfulness, which latter however is not good. An MP may be the worst scoundrel but often he is returned to Parliament and not by mere bribing or intimidation. People of this country, more so the Sinhalese, are ever ready to forget, and even forgive. Not through metta or charity of spirit but because of sheer laziness and a don’t care attitude. Likewise, they are every ready to celebrate whatever their or the country’s circumstances be.
Thus, we saw on TV, villages and hamlets having the usual games and festivity. Maybe feasting was somewhat reduced and imbibing less, but people did enjoy themselves. The travelling to parents’ homes and places of birth occurred, so much so that Colombo became a ghost city.
It was good to see organisations giving a helping hand like Gammedda, which conducted elaborate doings in a System C area. From raban playing the crowd proceeded to all the traditional games of skill, usually causing amusement; ending in the selection of the Avurudhu Kumaraya and Kumari. I heard these handsome hulks and trim beauts usually end up as starlets and advertising models. Good for them! However, one feature noticed by Cass who watched these parades on TV, the girls were far from typical village beauties. They were sophisticatedly made up but not to the extent of all looking the same with similar arched eyebrows heavily plucked and styled.
Why did Cass misquote Eric Maria Remarque in her title? Because local TV news broadcasts showed no shouting of the usual firebrand protest leaders and people marching ferociously demanding this and that; the marchers ranging from doctors and academics to petroleum workers. Thank heavens for that, we intoned. Our eyes, ears and minds got some rest from irritating sights, blasting noise and disturbing thoughts. The island subsided sans shouting and vituperation to the sounds of the koha calling, the rabana thumping and gleeful shouts.
Silent protest of remembrance
Cass lauds Malcolm Cardinal Ranjit’s call to protest on April 21 around 9.00 in the morning along the main road between the Kotahena and Katuwapitiya churches. He has rightly ordered silence and quiet and we are sure these orders will be followed. For didn’t he, almost singlehandedly, prevent a backlash after the bomb explosions in the three churches and hotels that killed and maimed so many completely innocent persons? He restrained the enraged Sinhalese who the Islamists aimed at provoking. He is determined to dreg the depths of the horrific tragedy until those who master minded the attacks are named, blamed and punished. He is so sure when he speaks that there was a mastermind that manoeuvred the entire bombing by facilitating it and perchance funding it for, as he says, political reasons.
The radical Islamists planned the suicide bombings but it is plausible that extraneous powers propelled them forwards and facilitated their heinous crime. The hands of the Police and the Law do not point their accusing fingers since these too were, and are, stymied. But people know who and what he boldly pronounces. Four solid years have gone by since the tragedy and two reports, as Cardinal Ranjith said on TV, pointed to a sinister hand beneath what happened, but not a sign of it being revealed or the plot exposed. Same as with the foulest of murders of Wasim Thajudeen and Lsantha Wickrematunge.
On Tuesday/ Wednesday – April 18/19 – the spotlight fell on ex AG, Dappula de Livera, who is reported to have said: “There is a grand conspiracy with regard to the 2019 April attacks.” He has been summoned to meet the present AG.
So, we again have to wait and see. Most of us are certain nothing will come of it. No word can adequately describe the enormity and incomprehensibility of a crime committed for power – to maintain or regain it. Is power so very desirable that to get it an entire country and its people can be sacrificed? Yes, since it can be used to cover up crimes, like Donald Trump knows and resorts to.