15th January, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 27

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


Batticaloa's  benign parliamentarian

By  D. B. S. Jeyaraj 

The 1990-94 period was a very challenging phase in the life of Joseph Pararajasingham.......


 More Focus

> Which is more important -  venue or the talks?

> Presidential hissy fit (....Thelma)

> Leftward swing in Latin America (....World Affairs)

Batticaloa's  benign parliamentarian

By  D. B. S. Jeyaraj 

The 1990-94 period was a very challenging phase in the life of Joseph Pararajasingham. The difficult period was like baptism of fire for the new parliamentarian. Yet he coped with the challenge creditably. He was aided greatly in his duties by his wife Sugunam.

Apart from attending to the individual problems faced by the ordinary Batticaloa people at the hands of the police, STF and security forces, Pararajasingham through Neelan Tiruchelvam played a quiet role in keeping various human rights organisations and diplomatic missions informed of the security and human rights situation in Batticaloa. This helped increase pressure on the Ranasinghe Premadasa regime.

This led to the Soza Commission of Inquiry being appointed to go into various eastern massacres like the ones at Sathurikondan and Vantharumoolai. Joseph played a key role in arranging people to testify. It was the Soza Commission which revealed for the first time the real identity of the notorious master butcher of those atrocities "Capt. Munas."  This military intelligence official who posed off as a Muslim was greatly responsible for aggravating enmity between Tamils and Muslims in Batticaloa. Though Tamils hated this man who they thought was a Muslim, it became known that he was really a Sinhala man named Richard Dias.

There were also the massacres at Maiyalanthanai and Kokkadicholai in 1992.  Again Premadasa appointed commissions.  Later legal action was initiated. Joseph again played an important role in helping prepare testimonies and witnesses. It was Joseph who persuaded a reluctant Kumar Ponnambalam to come to the east and look after the interests of affected families in these proceedings.

Later during the Kumaratunga regime there were some incidents too where Joseph was once again a voice of the people.  One prominent instance was the case of Koneswari Murugupillai.  This woman living at the Central Camp colony was gang raped by some cops who later killed her in a horrible manner, by exploding a grenade in her vagina. With Joseph highlighting this incident enraged policemen took the unprecedented step of issuing summons to the Parliamentarian.

Remarkable victory

It was the cumulative result of the selfless work done by Joseph and Sugunam in the early '90s that led to Pararajasingham's remarkable victory in 1994.  The TULF given up as 'defunct' raised itself up again with five MPs. Batticaloa District had three, namely Pararajasingham, Selvarajah and Thurairajasingham.  Joseph himself won handsomely with a tremendous tally of preferential votes.

Realising that he was now the mainspring of the TULF in terms of popular support, Pararajasingham demanded and obtained the TULF parliamentary group leader position. It should have been rightfully Trincomalee district MP Arunasalam Thangathurai's  as he was more senior.  Later Joseph rose in TULF ranks to be senior vice -president, making him next in line for leadership.

After 1994 Joseph began getting closer and closer to the LTTE.  The very same man who got a journalist colleague to check with the LTTE before taking up an MP position in 1990 was now personally close to the eastern Tiger hierarchy. Apparently his relationship with Karuna was always lukewarm but Joseph and Karikalan, the political commissar got on very well. The LTTE began cultivating him.

Soon Joseph was travelling widely abroad meeting with foreign politicians and officials and human rights activists. He briefed them vividly of the Tamil plight in Sri Lanka with special emphasis on the eastern situation. He participated in many conferences too including the controversial meet organised by former Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes in New Delhi.

With relations improving between Joseph and the LTTE the overseas branches of the Tigers also began warming up to him. Like Kumar Ponnambalam the benign Batticaloa MP too was a regular speaker at LTTE and pro-LTTE meetings abroad. Also the various LTTE media organs were in regular contact with him to get his views on a number of matters regarding the north-east.

Worried man

It is interesting to note that while Joseph was edging closer to the LTTE many of his TULF colleagues like Thangathurai, Sarojini Yogeswaran, Pon. Sivapalan, Pon. Mathimugarajah, Neelan Tiruchelvam etc. were being bumped off mercilessly by the Tigers. Though he kept up a cheerful exterior there was no doubt that he was worried. I  remember once  Sugunam Akka lamenting to me in his absence Endraikku irundhaalum ivarukku ivangalaal thaan saavu.  Naan vayittril neruppai kattikonduthan irukkiren (one day or the other his death will be through them.  I go about with fear in my guts).  She calmed up when Joseph appeared.

I also recall an incident when the LTTE whisked Joseph and Sugunam away at Vantharumoolai for an impromptu meeting with Karikalan at Thihilaveddai.  This led to a lot of wild rumours in Batticaloa. Thereafter they went to Kallar and returned late. Hearing that Joseph had been taken by the LTTE I phoned Batticaloa to find he was safe and sound. He had a request. "please inform my children that nothing happened to me. They may hear of this rumour and get worried."  I obliged him of course. This incident helps illustrate the insecurity of his position vis a vis the LTTE  then.

This increased identification with the LTTE may have helped reduce his fears and insecurity in relation with the Tigers. It may also have increased his popularity with pro-Tiger expatriates and media. But it had its flip side too. His persistent refusal to say anything negative about the LTTE publicly and his glossing over the human rights violations of the Tigers reduced his credibility as an independent politician and human rights champion.

In the mid '90s for example the Canadian Refugee Lawyers Association invited him for a public lecture on the Sri  Lankan human rights  situation. He made a good presentation with a serious flaw.  The violations of the LTTE were not mentioned by him. The question time demonstrated that many Canadian lawyers were unhappy about this glaring omission. Though he visited Canada often after that meeting Joseph was never asked to lecture by that association again.

Close to LTTE

Yet there is another incident I am aware of which throws light on another of the man's facets. A youth from Batticaloa had made a refugee claim here. One of the main reasons for his fleeing Sri Lanka was persecution at the hands of the LTTE. His lawyer in Canada upon hearing that the Batticaloa MP was in Toronto thought of seeking a letter supporting the claim from Joseph. The client knowing about Joseph's 'closeness' to the LTTE was doubtful whether Pararajasingham would oblige. When Joseph was approached he promptly gave an endorsement letter with a remark 'keep it confidential please.'  The lawyer and client were pleasantly surprised.

This increasing identification with the LTTE reached its zenith when the TULF as part of the TNA became the virtual political front of the Tigers. This helped them win seats in parliament but eroded their credibility in the eyes of the international community.  They were seen as terrorist accomplices by some foreign governments.

One such example was Canada.  There was a time when Pararajasingham  met with the foreign ministers of Canada in Ottawa on a one-to-one basis. Yet the same man was denied a visa to Canada like many other TNA parliamentarians last year due to their perceived LTTE connections.

Whatever Joseph's support level among Tamil expatriates his support base in Batticaloa began diminishing too. If the 1994 result was the high watermark in Joseph's political life subsequent elections saw his popularity declining.  In 2000 October, the TULF got only two seats in Batticaloa.  It was not Joseph but Nimalan Soundaranayagam, his wife's cousin who got more preferential votes.  Joseph came second with a narrow lead over Selvarajah.

In 2001 December, the TULF contested as part of the TNA. Three Tamils were elected. The first was Thangavadivel the TELO  candidate. The second was Krishnapillai of Tamil Congress.  Joseph came a poor  third.  Interestingly, Joseph had 'lost' to Selvarajah at first count.  A disappointed Joseph left the Kachcheri with his supporters. It was the recount which saw him elected with a razor thin majority.

In 2004 the elections were held a  month after the Karuna  rebellion. The TNA swept the polls in Batticaloa in what was a rigged election. This was so in the north too. Joseph however had an unpleasant surprise.  He had lost.  In fact he had only a few  hundred more votes than the murdered Rajan Sathiyamoorthy.  Comparative novices like Kanagasabai, Thangeswari and Jeyanandamoorthy had been elected.

Against  Karuna

Among the prominent politicians of Batticaloa it was Joseph alone who spoke out against Karuna after the split. He condemned the regionalism preached by Karuna and supported Praba in the name of undivided Tamil nationalism. It was a very bold stance but Joseph was only being true to himself as he had always stood for those policies as a disciple of S.J.V. Chelvanayagam. Joseph was close to Karikalan and not Karuna. The former had gone over to Kilinochchi after the split. This too may have influenced Joseph's position but his genuine Tamil nationalism cannot be disputed.

What is sad however is the silence  he maintained over the atrocities committed by the mainstream LTTE to his TNA colleagues after the Karuna split. Rajan Sathiyamoorthy was killed and even his buried body was dug out and half-burnt by the Tigers. Kingsley Rajanayagam who won the election was terrorised into forfeiting his parliamentary seat. Kingsley was later killed by the LTTE.  Joseph's silence in these  matters could be understood but not condoned.

Though Joseph lost the parliamentary hustings after 14 years of being Batticaloa MP, he re-entered parliament as a national list MP.  Why did the man described once as the 'uncrowned king of Batticaloa' lose miserably?  Karuna's men rigging the poll is one answer but there is no denying that his voter base  had been steadily decreasing over  the past years. Two reasons could be adduced.

One was his total subservience to the LTTE. The TULF was preferred by the people as 'moderate independents' and not to become slaves to the LTTE. Joseph in the east and Senathirajah in the north were seen as the two who began selling out the party to the Tigers. The second was due to his image being tarnished through charges of corruption and nepotism. Some of these charges were levelled against him even after his death by his detractors.

All these however do not take way the fact that the man did not deserve to be murdered in this fashion.  It does seem obvious that Joseph could not have been murdered without the connivance of sections of the security forces and their minions.  Joseph was a marked man by Karuna after the split. Like Sivaram he opposed the regional tide and stood by Pirapaharan. Realising he was a target Joseph avoided coming to Batticaloa unnecessarily.

Yet he did come to Batticaloa weeks before Christmas and stayed there. He had not reached there on Christmas eve. Family members also say that there was no telephone call as alleged in some quarters and that the family always attended midnight mass for Christmas. They had gone to  church at about 10. 30 p.m. though the service was to begin at 11. 30 p.m.. Finding the church virtually deserted they had turned back but returned in a few minutes after the arrival of Sugunam's brother, Robin's family.

Christmas day

The assassins had first arrived at the St. Anthony's Church in close proximity to the St. Mary's Cathedral. They had discarded their military fatigues inside the vestry and moved out quietly in civilian dress. They were tall and darkish. According to church-goers they were not seen before.  Moving into the  cathedral compound through a side gate they had entered through one of the side entrances to the cathedral at the front. This was when the Pararajasinghams with some others were kneeling at the altar for bread and wine. The choir had full view of the assassins but did not suspect anything.

Even as Joseph got up the assassins moved closer to the altar and the Bishop.  Sugunam got up a few seconds later. Joseph who had started returning to his pew paused and turned halfway to allow Sugunam to precede him.  It was at this point that the assassins started firing. The congregation, choir and clergy including Bishop Swampillai dived to the floor in panic. Joseph fell down.  It is believed he was killed instantly.

Sugunam and seven others were injured in the firing. The assassins then walked down the aisle firing away in the air. According to some reports they got into a waiting three- wheeler which headed out to the security camp located at an old toothpowder factory premises.  The  Patpodi camp as it is known is the operational safe house of the Karuna faction in Batticaloa  town.

Pararajasingham had five police bodyguards with him at the time of the incident. They were standing outside the church with one of them popping in every five minutes to check whether the MP was safe. None of the bodyguards fired back at the assassins.  Their explanation was that it may have hit the people. But then they did not fire even after the assassins went outside the church. Furthermore there were no attempts by the guards after the firing to take Pararajasingham to the hospital. Finally Joseph was taken by a nephew in his car and Sugunam by a niece in her car to the hospital. Fellow  parishioners helped carry them to the vehicles.

Apart from the official bodyguards the surrounding area usually teems with security personnel.  Additional men were deployed for Christmas. When people came to church the area was bristling with men. But when they returned none was seen. In fact security people reappeared only after an hour or two. The intriguing conduct of the bodyguards as well as the mysterious disappearance of the security personnel along with the safe and easy passage by the assassins indicate clearly that the killing was an officially sanctioned unofficial execution.

End of an era

Subsequent events confirmed this further. Leaflets claiming credit in the name of a hitherto unknown 'Sennan Force' were widely distributed in Batticaloa. A stack of leaflets were thrown at the front door of the Pararajasingham's  residence too. It became well known that the security forces were distributing the leaflets.  A second wave of leaflets were distributed a few days later. An ominous warning in the leaflet was the threatening demand that all eastern TNA parliamentarians should resign or face the consequences. In another significant pointer many of the anti-Tiger media abroad commenced a vilification campaign against Joseph. This was in typical Tiger style but only the roles were reversed.

Thus ended the life of Joseph Pararajasingham. Given the circumstances of his assassination it is the state which stands in the dock.  The Karuna faction was only an instrument of death. The brutal manner of Joseph being killed in the church after partaking of communion within full view of the congregation in the presence of the Bishop suggests the depths of depravity.

Whatever his politics, Joseph Pararajasingham did not deserve to die or be killed in this manner. His death will be a great loss to the people of Batticaloa. It fills me personally with great sadness. My condolences to Sugunam Akka and the children and other relatives of Joseph Annan.

May his soul rest in peace!


Sunday Missive by sonali Samarasinghe

Which is more important -  venue or the talks?

Somewhere between 55-95 BC the Roman poet Lucretius was to describe the satisfaction that naturally fills the mind of a human being who from a safe vantage point sees another traveller tossed about in the stormy deep.

Perhaps we may use the poet's words to describe the feelings with which the south, its politicians and some of its theoreticians view the storm brewing in the north and east of this country. Perhaps we may use these words to describe the actions of politicians and advisors, who in the safety of their homes, with the knowledge that their able bodied sons are reading books in vast libraries in prestigious universities in the West, knowing that a war will not touch them.

And while those in the south continue to beat the war drums and President Rajapakse warns that his patience is running thin, the fragile peace process hangs on a thread. The progress of the talks inextricably linked to a choice of venue. The Tigers are adamant on Oslo and President Rajapakse is insistent it should be any place other than Oslo.

Earlier Rajapakse told the media that since both he and Pirapaharan are Sri Lankans the venue should be Colombo. From the recent history of the failed PTOMs agreement one is entitled to assume that Kilinochchi may not be a meeting place of popular choice for the south.

Last week following a failed Indian visit, at a meeting with JHU parliamentarians, President Rajapakse vowed to get the International community involved. However, while engaging in such meaningless rhetoric the President himself would have known given India's nonchalance that such involvement was easier said than done.

Prior to the November election his diplomatic naivete and his reliance on the hard line parties prompted him to alienate the extra regional Co Chairs in general and Norway and its special envoy Erik Solheim in particular. Rajapakse placed all his eggs in the Indian basket which turned out to be full of holes.

President Rajapakse in last week personally issuing a threat on the life of an editor of a newspaper may have potentially entered the Guinness Book Of World Records as a world's first, but in fighting over a venue he is in hot company.

Historically venues have been so important in international relations that leaders have been compelled to meet on bridges or on rafts to maintain neutrality.

The venue for meetings has been a perennial problem stemming from not only issues of neutrality and acceptability to mutually suspicious parties but also from an implied prestige endowed upon the host who may well use this implication to his or her advantage. An acceptable venue to one party may seem hostile territory to another.

Thus in the 15th century Edward IV of England and Louis XI of France met on a bridge while in 1807 Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I are said to have conducted a meeting on a raft in the middle of the Niemen at Tilsit.

During WWII, Stalin, in his three summit meetings with his fellow allied leaders refused to travel to any destination which would force him to leave territory he controlled. There was no willingness to rotate the venue among the allies.

However with time, summits were increasingly moving away from capital cities to provincial settings, to contribute to a more informal atmosphere and states were using the principle of venue rotation.

Both the LTTE and the government must now find an acceptable place to sit down and talk, even if it were on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The choice of venue should never be made the basis for the abandonment of peace talks and the resumption of war.

At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, convened to settle the events of the First World War. France insisted that the peace conference be held in Paris. By custom, the head of the host state chairs the conference, and has a greater degree of control over the agenda. Both Britain and the United States were dissatisfied and rooted for neutral Geneva. French plans very nearly went awry when American President, Woodrow Wilson, announced his intention of attending in person and as the only head of state in attendance he would take the chair (others being  heads of government).

 Erik Goldstein in the The Origins Of Summit Diplomacy 1996 says the French were appalled as no American president had previously travelled abroad, much less personally participated in a conference. Finally Wilson agreed not to press his claims for precedence, a solution which confirmed the drift to greater informality at these gatherings.

More importantly Wilson was to observe that "no point of dignity must prevent our obtaining the results we have set our hearts upon and must have."

And it is in that same spirit that both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE must view the present impasse.

Leftward swing in Latin America

US President George Bush is in trouble. While he is fighting to make America safe and establish democracy in far-away places like the Middle East, there is trouble brewing in his own backyard and building up to formidable proportions.

The latest is the election of Evo Morales, an anti-American, left leaning former trade unionist of the Fidel Castro mould.  Morales was elected on December 18, polling 48 percent of the vote well ahead of his conservative rival who polled 35 percent. The election of Morales, some analysts say, would be President Bush's biggest nightmare.

Morales is of Aymaran Indian descent - 60 percent of the Bolivians being of indigenous descent - and obtained the clearest majority by any Bolivian president since democracy was restored in the 1980s.

The size of the mandate will enable him to push through extreme radical reforms he has pledged which include: Nationalisation of the second largest gas reserves in South America, rewrite the constitution and entrench the rights of the indigenous people. The most worrying of all to Americans would be his promise to end eradication of coca  plantations, the raw material for producing cocaine.

However, he has pledged to fight drug trafficking but reports indicate that Americans fear drug traffickers would move into Bolivia , already identified as a big source for cocaine production.

Early this year he was off to a flying start and was hosted in Caracas by the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who has become a thorn in the flesh of the American President.  Chavez who presides over the vast Venezuelan oil reserves promised the new Bolivian president 150,000 barrels of diesel oil a month in exchange for farm products and also $ 30 million for the promotion of social programmes and support for Morales' campaign to protect coca crops from US eradication campaigns.

Venezuela is the first stop of his world tour that includes visits to Spain , France, Brazil, China and South Africa before taking office on January 22.  Morales is also a good friend of Cuban President Fidel Castro who has already pledged his support to him.

Another evil axis

In some conservative American circles it is speculated that this alliance of Castro, Chavez and Morales would  be the 'Evil axis of Latin America.'

The  swing to the left in recent years, which is varying in its anti- Americanism has been quite discernible in the recent past. Political analysts point out that those who are now being elected in South American countries are ideologically quite different to those that were elected in the 1980s and 1990s. There is Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Lula da Silva  in Brazil, Nestor Kitchner in Argentina and now Evo Morales in Bolivia. Among other Latin American countries due to elect new leaders, left leaning leaders are the most likely winners.

It does appear that the so called Washington Consensus created by the George Bush administration has failed. This Washington Consensus amounted to the minimum demands made by the International Monetary Fund and the United States which was agreed to by pro-rightist regimes.

The Washington Consensus included privatisation of state enterprises, cut back or elimination of subsidies to poorer sections of the community and reducing taxes on affluent sections of societies. This Washington Consensus or the   Neo Conservative Liberalism of the Bush Adminisration as it is otherwise called did make economies of developing countries spurt ahead but it left a vast underclass untouched by this growing affluence.

This was evident close to home when both the Sri Lanka government led by Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Indian BJP government that followed neo liberalist policies of George Bush made the economies spurt ahead but lost the subsequent elections with the vast rural and urban underclass untouched by the growing affluence turning against them.

In Latin America too, except in Chile, neo-liberalist policies - trade liberalisation, conservative monetary and physical policies, cut in subsidies and privatisation have failed to reach the masses. The hostile reception given by the Latin Americans to President Bush at the recent Summit of Americas indicates the depth of anti- American feeling among them.

A report of PEW on World Opinion in 2002 had shown that almost three quarters of Argentinians polled had a negative opinion of the US government while in an extensive poll conducted in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay by the Latin American Faculty of Social Science showed that 70 per cent of those asked said that US policy was contrary to promotion of world peace.

Hugo Chavez

The daring and charismatic Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is now  not only proving to be a great embarrassment to President Bush but even to loyal conservative Americans. For example the popular televangelist Pat Robertson has even proposed that Chavez  should be assassinated.

 Chavez, a former military officer of black and American Indian ancestry is a follower and promoter of Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan leader who brought revolutionary European ideas to Latin America and liberated the South American continent from Spanish rule. Chavez has formed the Bolivarian Movement through which he hopes to spread his ideas throughout South America which undoubtedly alarms the United States. There have been several attempts to get rid of him with the blessings of  Washington, it is alleged. 

A coup was staged against him in 2002 which boomeranged on the conspirators. An economic coup was attempted by closing down the oil refineries of Venezuela which too failed and last year's referendum designed to defeat Chavez also resulted in a resounding victory for him.

Though a revolutionary, his reforms have been tempered with moderation and are social democratic. His land reforms have been directed at unproductive land with compensation while he has been channelling his oil revenues into social reforms that would benefit the poor in shanty towns.  The 51- year-old Chavez  is proving to be as resilient as Fidel Castro has been to American moves.

The swing towards the left in Latin America continues. Two weeks ago Argentina announced that it would repay all its debt of $ 9.8 billion to the IMF by the end of this month while earlier Brazil announced repayment of its $ 15. 5 billion debts to the IMF in the next two years. These countries have been highly critical of the IMF policies which they blame for their economic collapse in recent years. These terminations with the IMF it is expected would be of much political gain to Argentinian President Nestor Kirchner and Brazil's Lula da Silva who would face the polls within two years.

Political analysts discern two trends in the leftist swing in Latin America. One is  the more moderate  such as in Chile, Brazil and Uruguay, whose leaders understand what went wrong with the Soviet Union and Cuba and will  direct their policies towards social reform and economic reconstruction while broadening the democratic base. They will clash with the United States on many issues but would not take action that would result in crisis situations.

 Willing to confront

In the other wing are those with communist and socialist antecedents who would dare the United States and not hesitate to confront it on sensitive issues.

 Does the swing to the left indicate that the dominance of the United States over the Latin American continent has ended?  The Monroe Doctrine of President Monroe proclaimed in 1823 which virtually declared this continent to be America's backyard appears to be tapering off.  Coup d'etats which usually ended what America consideredupstart regimes are now no more. But some political observers point out that removal of such 'upstarts' may be tempting to some Americans  which  is evident in the proposal of televangelist Pat Robertson to assassinate Hugo Chavez. 

Presidential hissy fit

Darling Ma-hinder

Tut tut dearie, is this the type of language you've been using as you frolicked about all those years ago in your blue frilly knicker bockers in the Hambantota Montessorri?

No doubt,  the young sons of the ahala pahala minissu who were constant playmates to you in your salad days have not been a good influence on your soul. Or maybe it was that time you fell in the gutter and scraped your knee. Your knee looks fine but up to date you seem not to have been able to salvage your mouth from it.

And as your dear pappy dangled you on his knee would he have expected more from you darling? A fly on the wall was just the other day chatting to Thelma and telling me that a few weeks ago you spoke to a Timely journo at your official abode, your face creased with smiles and your pappy (albeit through a photo frame) looking lovingly over your shoulder. One wonders where your pappy would have been looking dear if he heard what you said last week to the Leading Ed. Certainly not over your shoulder I should think.

One cannot expect the blush of shame to colour your cheek of modesty on any matter darling, considering the way you have acted for the past four months. But I have a feeling, blame it on women's intuition, that Shiro's cheek would be coloured a natural blushing pink if one could only pry loose all that cake on her face.

At least she is a dutiful helpmeet to you dear, there you are beating the war drums and there is the little woman running about in her puff sleeves, machine cut gold bangles dripping from her left elbow, a shiny satin underskirt swishing about her right ankle as she busily lays on the war paint to show solidarity with your policies.

The Ed may have seen a thing or two in his time darling and heard a risqu‚ limerick now and then, but even the cauliflower ear of the Ed of this bally rag turned a bright red when he heard you. I mean to say the chap has been accustomed to being occasionally called a worm by your predecessor but worms can turn and very often do.

The problem with the Ed dear is that he has all of the bark with none of the bite. Rather a mild sort of chap when it comes to language darling, I'll have you know. Now if you'd only come to Thellie you'd have heard an earful yourself. Of course you might have had to have a bevy of translators handy as Thellie has not yet learnt the art of the native tongue. Thellie may have tasted a native tongue or two but never learnt to speak it especially not with the obvious style and flow with which you speak it these days.

Wee Wee would have been ever so proud of your achievements. Thellie may as well tell you that while she is a comely wench with a good grasp of the social graces and what not, she's had her way with a sailor or two and her great uncle's cousin on his mother's side happened to be a French pirate. Rather colourful the language used by the pirates in the 16th Century. Even though I must admit reluctantly that you surpass even my great uncle's cousin on his mama's side, by way of content.

But what made it all so sad and forlorn darling, is that you were barking up the wrong tree as usual. Accusing the Ed of writing an article based on some Chinese whispers spread by an Indian diplomutt and not verifying anything yourself.

And such a coy little Indian damsel too dear from what I hear. There the wench was, meeting the Ed of this rag in a sleeveless little number one day and gadding about the next day with you. If the photos are to be believed there she was I mean to say. Tossing her graying mane and coquettishly running her wrinkled hand through her salt and pepper hair while sneaking a peek at you sideways through half closed eyelids. All rather exciting for you dear no doubt and life certainly begins at 60 across the Palk Strait.

I mean to say darling, imagine the consequences of such a course of action. For instance just as a joke some jobless bloke may call you and say Shiro was seen at Clancy's and you might rush over there without calling her first and find that she was at the Rhythm & Blues instead. The upshot? All that time and petrol wasted. Luckily the petrol is on the likes of me.

Or worse still you might hear a rumour that Pirapaharan would like to meet you in Colombo, and rush to the nearest Food City and buy all the chick pea flour to give him a spread of vegetable pakoras only to find that Tamilselvan had gone off to Oslo. Imagine the wastage darling when the sons of the soil are toiling and moiling in Hambantota and you could have siphoned off the pakoras to help them instead rather than feeding the likes of that thala thel bloke eh?

Anyway dear you have not had a good run internationally so far. I haven't heard Bush hail you as a statesman or seen Blair wave at you from afar. Neither have I noticed Manmohan Singh look particularly fondly at you nor Benazir Bhutto nod at you with approval. In a word or two you've been a bit of a disaster and no poojas repeatedly done at any temple in Kerala or anywhere else will change that dear.

But not to worry, next time an Indian chap comes to Temple Trees tell him he can't come in unless he removes his checked shirt or dislodges his green eye patch or whatever takes your fancy dearie. You may even tell him that now you would have to get Lalith Wee to cleanse the place with Ponds toner after he sits on your chairs. That way you'll be even.

Even though these Indian chaps say they have to wash down their temple with soap and water after Shiro went in, don't be discouraged by that dear. Get Shiro to have a full body exfoliating loofah when next she steps out on the streets of Chennai. That'll teach em!

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