There is a tangible feeling of an
impending carnival-coming-to-town in the air these days in Colombo. The city is
being virtually turned up-side-down and inside-out, dusted and vacuumed by the
Surgeon General of Lanka’s cosmetic surgery-Urban Development cum Defence - in order to make it look pretty to
impress the visiting revelers.
Vibrant coloured banners and
gadgets decorate the streets and roundabouts, competing with larger-than-life
cut-outs of our very own Emperor-in-new-clothes. Trees pruned and some
uprooted, innocent homeless dogs banished, roads re-carpeted and of course the
pavements/side-walks dug up and some still awaiting to be tiled. In the
interim, pedestrians at great risk to life and limb must share the roads with
In short, anything that doesn’t
look pretty and prosperous is being removed and pretty-looking-things put in
But this is not just any ol’
carnival coming to town, it’s CHOGM!
One wonders if such a din has
ever been made by any other member nation over CHOGM during the entire 64-year
history of the organisation.
With the exception of Canada, and
some reticence on the part of India (caught up in a ‘to-go or no-to-go’
quandary) ultimately deciding if India’s foreign policy or domestic politics
will win, some 50-odd countries are eagerly trotting to Lanka to attend our
Emperor’s carnival. And, of course, Britain is obliged to come after that
massive Rolls-Royce deal they clinched with Lanka (or should it be with the
Emperor and his Clan, at the expense of the Lankan tax-payer).
After all it’s getting rather
cold in some of those countries, so why not enjoy an all-paid holiday, basking
in our warm weather, sandy beaches, friendly smiles and our legendary
hospitality - again, courtesy Lanka’s tax-payers.
In order to facilitate this
carnival and picnic, thirty-five schools in Colombo are now closed for two
weeks “in order to implement a comprehensive security plan for the Commonwealth
Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)” states the official website of the Ministry of Defence & Urban Development.
Furthermore Universities around
the country will be closed for one week while the Carnival is in town. Why
close Universities around the country when the performance is happening in
This is an obvious move to silence
any rising voices of dissent amongst our vibrant young student community that
will obviously embarrass the hosts - Emperor and Clan - while the ‘foreigners’ are
around, the foreign media in particular.
Ironically, while the country’s
Universities remain ‘closed’ the first private
University in Lanka, a very controversial one at that, is expected to be
officially declared ‘open’ during the ‘carnival period’. How about that?
CHOGM in Lanka is not a victory
for our country but a massive, opulent and extravagant ego-booster for the
Emperor and his clan. It has been argued elsewhere in these columns that “Hosting this event is an opportunity for the host country
to make a lot of money”.
different circumstances with a leadership and political administration more
open to transparency, decency and honesty this could well be true. But in the current
scenario the question begs “who” in the host country, (in Sri Lanka) will be
making a lot of money? And will all that “lot of money” go towards the
betterment of the country OR will it all wind up in the pockets of the
Emperor’s lackeys or both?
Thus far CHOGM has only one
significant achievement worthy of being remembered- its stand against apartheid
in South Africa. Thereafter it dwindled into a toothless talk-shop that issues
declarations not worthy of the paper it’s written on at the end of each
Perhaps this is why there are no
qualms amongst the member nations about a fellow member governed by an
administration that has violated with impunity, the core values enshrined in
the Commonwealth charter- Democracy,
Human Rights and the Rule of Law
being given the Chair of the organisation for a period of two years.
Had the Commonwealth been made up
of a strong back-bone, this would have been the ideal opportunity to trap our
Emperor in a catch-22 situation. After all he will be the Commonwealth
Chairperson-in-Office (CIO) for the next two years, with the onus on him to
uphold the core values of the Commonwealth Charter- Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
Our Emperor obviously realises
this. If for whatever reason he is stripped of the Commonwealth Chair, he will
use it as a weapon to win the next Presidential election. He will go howling to
our gullible masses about the injustice caused to him by the International
Community and the usual sympathy vote will come into play again.
Naming and shaming our Emperor in
the international arena will have no effect, since, “how can you shame those
who have no shame” as one wise one put it. One thing is assured, after the
Carnival leaves town- the hungry will be hungrier, the poor will be poorer and
the rich will become richer and richest. Budget 2014 will ensure that.
But all will be forgiven and
forgotten come the next Presidential election. For the majority of our stupid
voting public will never realise, that Rajapaksa
is NOT Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka is NOT Rajapaksa!