Lanka's Dr Pangloss. The wonderful optimism of G L Pieris.

By R. Chandrasoma

In Voltaire's celebrated novel Candide, the learned Dr Pangloss has a facile answer for each and every one of the discomfitures and tribulations that torment ordinary human beings. The vastly learned man believed that God had made the best of all possible worlds and that if mortal beings complained of ill-usage or of bodily insults, the fault lies in their own ignorance of the true state of affairs ordained by a benevolent and all-knowing God. A bite of a dengue-infected mosquito may seem lethally wicked to the fool, but in the larger scheme of things this God-made device is beneficial in that it punishes the carefree and the indolent in matters of public hygiene.

Lt us look at what, at first glance, appears unrelated to God and Dr Pangloss. The citizens of this beleaguered country are left as helpless bystanders in the context of a much-publicized pow-wow involving the bloodthirsty Tamil Tigers on the one hand and RaWick's UNF government on the other. It is not small beer that they are discussing - the very future of this country is the plaything of two monstrously unrepresentative teams refereed by a foreign caucus notorious for its antipathy towards the Sinhala Buddhists of this country. Let us look first at team A - the unholy triumvirate of Balasingham, Karuna and Tamilchelvam. Their boss is a doubly convicted killer. In a very real sense, 'His Excellency' Anton B. is a fugitive from justice in that he is the spokesman of a banned Terrorist organization answerable for many crimes against humanity -not the least of which is the invention of the Female Suicide Bomber. Others of his ilk are hotly pursued by agents of the Blair-Bush campaign against Global Terrorism - but Balasingham escapes unscathed and is even courted by those of the European North that are notoriously voluble in their denunciation of terrorism. By an unbelievable transmogrification of the sane and the rational, this contemptible goon is the anointed 'representative of the Tamils' in key discussions with the Sri Lankan Government.
Now for Team B - the team that is supposed to represent the 'Sinhala South' that for close on two decades was engaged in a brutal conflict with an enemy that took no prisoners and made no distinction between soldiers and civilians in their meticulously organized orgies of killing. Some of the latter are too horrendous for recounting and are conveniently pushed into the limbo of forgotten things by those who now smilingly shake hands with the enemy.

The Captain of Team B (representing the Sinhala South!) is none other than Dr (Pangloss) Pieris - who is notorious for his suave ways, his bonhomie with the enemy and his unbridled optimism regarding the 'Peace Process'. For this latter-day Pangloss, nothing can corrupt the dynamics of a peace process that has the inevitability and ineluctability of a Law of Nature. Here are some examples. The Tigers are caught in flagrante delicto smuggling boatloads of arms and explosives by our Navy. Dr Pangloss Pieris declares that it 'will not hamper the Pieris process'. A mini-flotilla of boats bristling with weaponry and transporting high-ranking militants is intercepted off the Eastern coast but is released on orders 'from above'. Again, Dr Panglss Pieris mouths unctuously that it will not affect the 'Piece Process'. Army camps are stormed by Tiger surrogates, Muslim villages are ravished, schools taken over as forward bases for the 'elimination' of Sinhala forces in the North, soldiers are kidnapped - we can go on with this list, but is it really necessary?

Amidst this mayhem our Panglossian friend stands unmoved and unfazed - the peace Process is unaffected, intones the Professor with the slicked down hair. 'We must expect this kind of thing to happen - the peace process will otherwise be unnecessary' declares Dr Pangloss Pieris with the kind of logic that seems irrefutable. If a Tiger bomb falls on GLP's head (which we hope and pray will not happen) his dying cry will be 'the Peace Process is unaffected by this minor personal mishap'.

The innocent would have thought that the recent ruling by our august High Court that Prabhakaran is guilty of many crimes warranting a jail-term of 200 years would have dented somewhat the sang froid of this great advocate of the Peace Process. Never fear - the man had a ready robotic reply - 'the peace Process is unaffected by this ruling of a Colombo court'. Short of mass destruction by the enemy, is there anything that will derail the Peace process? The more important question is not that concerning the psychology of this sad victim of Panglossian delusions but on the wisdom of sending such a man to a great conference as the representative of the Sinhala South. Dr Pangloss Pieris regards Sinhala Nationlism as extremism of a particularly vile form and his companions at the conference table are more than inclined to agree with him. That he has a following within the denationalized renegades constituting the upper class of this country is perhaps true. However, there is a powerful constituency - indeed, the major player in the tragic drama that is currently unfolding - that is wholly unrepresented. It is this repressed and inarticulate Sinhala-Buddhist majority that finds the man insufferable.

Let us plead with the authorities - currently hell-bent on dealing with the Tigers - at the very least to extend to the majority race the courtesy of having a man (or woman) who is attuned to the sensitivities and concerns of the group he (or she) represents. A Peace Automaton is the last thing we want.

R. Chandrasoma





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