And, before he'd even typed that final r in "voter" a band of people could be heard shouting from their platforms. They weren't just any platforms either, they were platforms on rooftops. They were shouting about the
From where I view things, yes I know, a million miles away from Sri Lanka, never having actually lived there and about as Lankan as George Dubya B wearing his cowboy boots and cowboy hat, at least that's what some think, the picture is vastly different.
"We have a real choice at this election and it's already delivering results" Indi says.
I say you're faced with a choice that really comes down to which moustache you prefer. The fact is that your next Prez will have a moustache, all well and good if you're a facial hair fan but not so rosy if you want a clean shaven chap.
Some of those results are the emptying of the IDP camps, the release of Tissainayagam and of course the building of the new flyover at Dehiwala junction. It's pretty much indisputable that they're good things. It's just the motivation behind them, the what might happen next after the election and the incredible coincidence that these things have only happened since the election was announced that many question.
Tissa's out on bail, the IDP's are no longer the grave potential threat they were to national security they were a few weeks ago and the flyover's only got two lanes anyhow. Putting innocent people in captivity then releasing them is good is it? Or is it fundamentally wrong that they were held in the first place?
"How dare the West criticise when the Americans and British went and invaded Iraq under false pretences and they're not being held accountable for that?" I've been asked.
"A million people protested against the Iraqi invasion in the UK and you still went ahead" I've also been told.
It has more or less been proved that Saddam didn't have WMDs and therefore we, the British public, were misled or misinformed. But to me the most salient point is that a million, or however many people, were allowed to voice their opposition. I didn't, I think I had a band practice that night, but I could have protested without thinking realistically that I might get shot or put in prison for the rest of my life as a consequence. I quite like that.
On top of that, I wasn't personally responsible for the Iraq situation, nor for Afghanistan, so telling me that I've no right to criticise things in Lanka because of the actions of the West is akin to telling me that I shouldn't talk about the dangers of driving at speed because a friend of mine got done for speeding once, which is to say, irrelevant.
Indi, and I'm sorry to focus on him so much but his is one of the most widely read blogs and his opinion is weighty at times, goes on to say
"The JVP and people like Gotabaya Rajapakse are trying to spread this idea of an international conspiracy against Sri Lanka and Patten plays right into their hands."
I think it's actually people with opinions like Indi's one who are playing into the aforementioned hands. The first line of defence, that of the international conspiracy, is becoming cliched and tiresome, it's a way of avoiding the very real issues, like a child sticking its fingers in its ears and saying "I'm not listening, I can't hear you."
"You don't live here, you don't know what it's really like" is another thing many say to many people. As a fellow who falls firmly in the you don't live here category I can only concur. But I don't necessarily agree that it's a bad thing.
The views of the diaspora and of any individual from afar are going to be different, they'll perhaps be more detached and less influenced by some of the nitty gritty and very local issues. That, however, doesn't make those views wrong or bad, just different. Perhaps, just perhaps, there's something to be gained from listening to the Chris Pattens of this world.
We the diaspora sit here in our ivory sugar coated towers and preach at you, the poor Sri Lankans who have to deal with things on a day to day basis. Well yes, in a way that's true, but another way to view things is that the perspectives of people at ground level and those at other levels can be used together to build up an overall picture upon which ideas and solutions can be based.
Let's stick two fingers up at the West, let's tell them where to put their money, their GSP Plus concessions, we don't need it, we'll manage without, some also say. Sri Lanka, like most other countries, depends heavily on international trade. There's tourism, garments and a plethora of other trading that goes on between Serendib and other countries.
It's all well and good to make a big gesture and say that we'll do fine on our own, we don't need your aid, but it's not about aid alone. There's also international relations, diplomatic relationships and strategic alliances to be considered.
I for one don't want my motherland to become the Chinese Republic of Sri Lanka. I want the chinese restaurants in Sri Lanka to be called chinese restaurants, not just restaurants.
For what it's worth I think Sri Lanka, the entity we all love with that weird passion we can't explain, needs to stop acting like the petulant kid. Disagree with the West? Sure, feel free. But stop telling others that they don't have the right to an opinion because their shoes are the wrong colour or because they once did something wrong.