Kids, today is the 9th January of 2015 and it’s a day your father is going to remember for a very, very long time- the kind of day that will not be forgotten by history.
I want you to be a part of this but a part of me is doing this for myself- there are a couple of things I want to get off my chest, and the sooner I do that, the better.
President Rajapaksa who ruled our tiny island of big dreams for a good part of your father’s life so far was successfully ousted by the same man who used to be his secretary just a few months back. To be honest kids, Rajapaksa was a great President and a good part of the twenty something million inhabitants of the island loved and respected him. He put a military end to the war that plagued the island for decades and did some great infrastructural development projects that your father never thought he would see in this country in his lifetime.
But greed is a peculiar thing kids, it makes people act funny. Rajapaksa began to suppress any and all forms of dissent and diverging views. He amended the constitution so he could run for office for as many times as he wished. He jailed his best General for running for office against him, he ripped the Chief Justice off her post and his closest confidantes became murders and drug lords. He even tried to turn the communities in the island against each other- and in a country that has seen so much death and destruction as a result of that kind of thing- I think there is no bigger sin than that.
The corruption and the nepotism were at an all-time high when Sirisena defected from the Rajapaksa government. With the opposition, he built a campaign that spoke about Good Governance and Human Rights- issues that were hitherto necessarily seen as ‘western’ and ‘NGO agendas’. For the first time there were Buddhist monks and folk from all parts of the country talking about the importance of constitutional reform, the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary- talk that was hitherto limited to academics and journos.
One by one, some very influential people started to back the campaign but to be very honest, no one predicted the kind of victory that Sirisena achieved today.
It took a farmer’s son to oust Rajapaksa who once seemed insurmountable- Godlike, almost.
Kids, you know dictators do all kinds of horrible things to a country and its inhabitants but the worst thing that a dictator does to you is to make you feel worthless- unimportant, like a speck of dust underneath his feet. To be honest kids, your father had all these frustrations pent up in him but sometimes he couldn’t express some of them in the ways he wanted to because he was concerned about your grandfather and a few others that he really cared about. I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if they got into some kind of trouble because of me but sometimes that made me feel incredibly powerless. I think there are only a few emotions in this world that are worse than that kind of powerlessness- it really crushes you in the deepest parts of your soul.
But I also want you to know that even when he was under lots of pressure your father never agreed to support and endorse Rajapaksa’s campaign (it’s not like your father is a big man but there were a few who thought his two cents mattered)
My advice to you kids, is to never let someone make you feel the way the dictator made your father feel. Always, always fight for what you believe in- even if it means fighting alone. (But in his own little way your father lobbied a grand total of 7 confused eligible voters and convinced them to vote for Sirisena and he’s so incredibly proud of that!)
And to be honest kids, these elections came at an important time in your father’s life. I was starting to get so frustrated with the all corruption and injustice around me and I let it all get to my head. I was getting disillusioned with democracy that is built on insincerity and blood and the perverse self-interest that plagues politics. But just when the idealist in me started to die, in a corny sort of way, these results came out and that truly helped reignite that flame a tad bit.
My second advice to you kids is however much you age, to never let that youthful idealism in you die.
There’s nothing I find more attractive in a person than passion. Passionate, kind people with good intentions are a rare breed nowadays.
It will be naive to think that things are going to be only better from tomorrow. The truth is, the fight has only begun. But on this great day we will celebrate. We will sing and dance of the streets of Colombo because we’ve found something to believe in.
Tomorrow offers a new beginning- an opportunity to start over.
Finally kids, always remember the words to the chorus of your grandfather’s favorite song written by Tagore, translated into Sinhala by Mahagama Sekara and sung by the great Amaradewa.
පටු අදහස් නම් පවුරින් ලෝකය
කැබලි වලට නොබෙදී
ඥානය නිවහල් වී
බියෙන් තොරව හිස කෙලින් තබාගෙන
හිඳිනට හැකි කොහිදෝ
ඒ වූ නිදහසේ ස්වර්ග රාජ්යයට
මාගේ දේශය අවදි කරනු මැන පියානනේ
Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls…
…Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
and always always remember that we lost some of the smartest and brightest minds of our country to a war that didn’t have to be fought. We need to do everything within our power to preserve that.