SAARC, SAARC - KAAK, KAAK
This political and media hype now on about
SAARC was driving us nuts. Morning, noon and
night radio and TV have been droning and
drooling about SAARC. Newspapers with their
technicoloured headlines are screaming SAARC,
To getaway from this SAARC cacophony, we
took refuge in our hansiputuwa by a window
to ruminate about far more pleasant things
and enjoy the invigorating monsoon breezes
blowing in. We fell asleep in the cool
morning but were suddenly jolted from our
slumber by someone screaming 'SAARC, SAARC'
in our garden.
This was the giddy limit and we were about
to go rushing out when we spotted the
culprit: A crow on our gate singing merrily
his favourite tune: 'KAAK, KAAK.' It sounded
like 'SAARC, SAARC.'
Our nerves were shattered and we decided to
soothe the frayed nerve ends at the
water-hole. But even on the way, SAARC leapt
out from everywhere in the form of
billboards. The laying of a wafer thin
rubber carpet on the road to make the
representatives of the poor South Asians
have a comfortable ride during the summit
had brought traffic to a halt. Our taxi
driver - obviously an UNPer - cracked:
'Don't know whether the rubber carpet will
last the three day summit.'
Why the summit?
There was absolute peace and quiet at this
oldest water-hole in town around noon with
only the dispenser on the other side and us
sipping ice cold water as a prelude, perched
on a stool. Not even the club cat was
But you can't keep this all pervasive
subject out for long. A thirsty political
academic spotting us at a distance came in
saying: 'I say all you newspaper hacks have
missed the most essential point. Why did Sri
Lanka decide to host this summit? True,
Maldives passed the Rs. 5.1 billion cheque
on to us but how come we accepted? Was it
Mahinda Percy's love for political
razzmatazz and all that jazz or our Big
Brother twisting our arm to keep the Sri
Lanka pot boiling?'
'Surely with bombs going all round the
capital, Mahinda and his boys engaged on
three war fronts - Wanni, Anuradhapura and
Ratnapura, Red Comrades threatening a three
day strike not forgetting the price of
bandakka, wattakka and wambottu, the mood is
quite right for a three day peaceful pow-wow
with our South Asian brothers on the
delights of poverty alleviation in five star
As we confessed before, we were sick to the
gills about this SAARC lark. We called for
the papers and showed the academic, the mind
boggling defence of SAARC by Boggles - sorry
- our Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.
The major portion of the expenditure would
be spent to purchase new technologies,
vehicles and motorcycles for the police, he
had said. It is because they don't have
these facilities we need so much money.
Besides 12,000 police officers would be
working during the summit and they have to
be given breakfast, lunch and dinner, the
Minister had pointed out.
Now we know why the police couldn't catch
those abductors in white vans, thugs
assaulting journalists, women being attacked
in public highways and the like. The poor
cops didn't have the facilities and free
meals but after the 15th SAARC Summit we can
hope that these crimes will come to a halt.
BMWs for patrolling
Most probably PC Punchi Banda and SI Silva
will be given bullet proof BMWs that were
imported for this summit for their routine
patrols. Besides, according to this mind
boggling logic, all this expenditure will go
down as capital expenditure.
And this will make the Treasury boss Punchi
Banda Jayasundera and Governor Nivard
Cabraal crow from the top floor of the
Central Bank that the GDP has reached the
highest ever. Defence expenditure being
taken as capital development in calculating
the GDP! Will some learned economist
calculate how much of defence expenditure
went on to boost the high GDPs in the two
years of the Rajapakse regime?
SAARC is good
SAARC is good for the man on the street. Ask
the residents of Glennie Street, Slave
Island who are on the streets after their
homes were demolished. What about those of
other nations? We yakkos of Sri Lanka don't
know what is good for us.
One newly arrived pundit writing to the
state press speaks of the SAARC Development
Fund established in1996. A 'series of
studies' had been conducted but the fund
apparently has no money because a sum of US
$ 300 million has only been recommended for
the 'Social Window' of SAARC but not yet
Whatever has happened to the plans for
poverty alleviation in the region? There are
tonnes of research papers read at five star
hotels to fill up libraries. Have the yakkos
read about 'inter regional connectivity,'
'economic and people- to-people
connectivity,' Infrastructure Development
Fund and other esoteric subjects?
An entire new SAARC Industry is in the
making like the Human Rights Industry but
the latter is not short of funds unlike
those backed by the eight regional states.
We have to confess about our failure to
answer the question: Why hold the SAARC
Summit in Colombo at this time? We have been
told why not. If we can play three Tests
against India at this time why not hold
Besides we are winning 'the war,' we are
told. We are also told that our honourable
leader sees 'connectivity' between SAARC,
cricket, 'the war' and inflation. It makes
us forget the cost of living.
A cynic says: 'If we go by statements of our
government spokesmen, we may soon overrun
Chennai and our troops will be proceeding to
Bangalore.' We told him: Don't be SAARCastic,
we are patriots.'
The cynic quotes an American showman of
yore, P.T. Barnum: 'A sucker is born every
minute' and says that
South Asia is famous for it and we all are 'SAARCers' - one billion