Snoozing in Oxford, losing at home
Who put at least five women to sleep at the Oxford
Union? Chandrika Kumaratunga. Rupavahini forgot to edit out the footage
of at least five women snoozing during the Sri Lankan President's marathon
delivery at the Oxford Union.
Chandrika Kumaratunga's speech at Oxford seemed to be the best indication
that this is a President fast losing her touch. The whole tour of England
was a disaster, yes. She told BBC that 40 per cent of Sri Lanka's children
are malnourished, and that's old hat now.
But at Oxford, the President seemed to be determined to show mediocrity.
In the first place, should a President of a country have spoken at the
Oxford Union? Bill Clinton went there, but he was an alumnus. Benazir Bhutto
was an alumnus. But, Kumaratunga boasted that she was an alumnus's daughter.
She went onto explain how her father shared the bench (or whatever those
quaint people in that University call it) with so and so and such and such
potentate in Britain. She _ a head of state said she was honoured to be
at Oxford! This, to a bunch of grinning women and men, some of whom couldn't
suffer peroration for just 20 minutes, and were seen in various states
of dishabille nodding off, as a head of state read from her prepared script.
Sorry chum, but Castro wouldn't have done it. Sirimavo wouldn't have
done it. But the daughter does it, and does it badly, all a good sign that
this is a politician losing her sense of even keel, just before an election
that seems poised to bury her politically. Then she goes and sells her
soul to one Tim Sebestian on BBC. And they are said to have charged a cool
11 million for it.
You wouldn't need much more information to bury a government such as
this one. It's a feudal government, run by a feudal scion _ and it's been
run like a feudal fiefdom. It's a government of the elite, for the elite,
by the elite.
Bandaranaike came back from Oxford, and he eschewed most of Oxford's
stuffy traditions and what those had taught him. When Bandaranaike said
that Oxford kindled in him "the sprit and desire to return to his country
and work on behalf of it's people", he didn't quite mean it the way his
daughter said it. In Oxford, he saw why the Sri Lankan elite felt twice
alienated. They felt alienated from the common people, because they had
aped the British. They felt alienated from the British, because the British
would never quite accept them in Britain, though they would make a few
patronizing concessions like making one of them the President of the Oxford
In fact, we shouldn't quite be debating this issue at all. A President
of a country has no place in Oxford at all, today, a day and age when it's
an utter embarrassment to hark back to the shackles of a colonial past.
But, Chandrika Kumaratunga has this uncanny way of embarrassing the whole
country, of delivering it back to the age of the dominion.
Small wonder it's her government that's being dominated today by the
pernicious institutions of the West, and by vested interests emanating
from the West. Last week, this space discussed the issue of how the Americans
want the PA to be in power, so that it's own vested interests could be
persued via a corrupt inept government.
It's to the JVP's utter discredit that it has anything to do with a
regime as feudalistic elite and pompous as this one. It's a sign that the
JVP's young are still willing to be serfs and handmaidens to the effete
aristocracy of this land.
It's a sad indictment. As Wickramabahu Karunaratne, one of the few truth-tellers
in this campaign said _ the JVP is making a terrible hue and cry and ruckus
about the fact that farmers' loans had been written off under the JVP's
tutelage. As he says, it was only in theory and those loans would have
eventually had to be written off by any government anyway.
The JVP has embarrassed it's own political tradition by allying with
the remnants of the walauwa. That's why Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who rarely
fails to call a spade a spade, has a few of his choicest words reserved
for today's JVP. As for Chandrika she will probably remain President, thanks
to a man who never went to Oxford. J. R. Jayewardene, who made certain
political mistakes the way Bandaranaike did, created the Executive Presidency
which Chandrika now promises to use when the PA loses. Jayewardene's education
was at Sri Lanka Law College only where he didn't wine and dine with future
British Prime Minster's, but was privy to much healthier traditions, such
as winning the Hetor Jayewardene Gold Medal in those early halcyon Law