Don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful. Rosy Senanayake at Lasantha’s funeral
I was wearing an old UNP shirt through a checkpoint. Awkward. It says something like ‘Jathika Yovun Peramuna Pricharaka Balaka’ (I’m sure this is wrong, I’m just sounding it out and the ‘p’ with the curlicue is confusing me). Think it translates to something like National Youth Propaganda Force or something. I walk up to the army guy with my hands folded over my chest, cause I actually am a bit scared. Like, I don’t want no questions. I spoke in English and the guy asked me, ‘Api Sinhala, naythe?’ We’re Sinhala, no? And my heart dropped. You and I, the gun, National ID. We should be Sri Lankan. At least in this context. That is my national ID. I’m Sri Lankan. But sometimes it feels like a dying breed.
Was talking to a Tamil friend at the rugby club. Asked about his family, how they’re doing. They’re worried, of course, and the humiliation is everyday. I’d tell him to call me if they ever need help, but there’s not much I can do.
Was talking about, was talking about all the Sri Lankan doctors and lawyers in Australia, Canada, UK. All the Burgher girls, all the Tamil girls. My God I miss that the most. Tamil women are really hot. Really dusky eyes. And the Burghers know how to entertain, and travel, and tell stories. These people really love this country. And they had to leave. Most of the Burghers I know have family reunions in Australia now. And I’ve heard that the girls are a bit easier.
It’s something to hold onto transient demographics. People come and go, ships dock, sailors get off, etc. I mean, it’s not really possible. But sitting here, watching a diverse, cosmopolitan country veer into a Sinhala one. Kinda sucks. Even as a proper Sinhala myself. I don’t like it. I like our ‘minorities’, though I dislike the term. I mean, it makes you feel like a puss to start with, and you don’t have to be. I like having different people around, to chat to, and learn from, and flirt with and fight with and live. I like the Malays, the Muslims, the Colombo Chetties, the different parts of town.
And I like myself. Half Canadian American, half shark alligator half man. I like the people you bump into over Christmas or online, the New York journalists, the London drummers, the Dubai accountants, the Singapore students. I mean, these people, are to me, Sri Lankan. I mean, as Sri Lankan as they want to be.
And yet people play this political calculus with human beings. It’s granted that the SLFP (party in power) doesn’t give a fuck about Colombo, or the expats, or the ‘elite’. And I quote elite because it’s a vestigial term. The elite is now Sinhala and they have the guns and money. The Colombo elite may be more international and ‘cultured’, but they’re not elite in terms of power.
But to return, to the calculus. So many people tell me that Colombo people don’t matter, expats don’t matter, that they shouldn’t come back. That we’re not real, that we’re not Sri Lankan, because of where we live, what language we speak, our culture. And I’m like, WTF? I know that you don’t need Colombo to win elections, and I know expats can’t vote. But I wake up in the morning and I feel pretty real, and I walk around this country and I like it. I’m real and I’m here. What more does it take to be a person nowadays? Can I live?
And yet the Sinhala state and attitude is hardening. So you get comments like this from someone like Dayan Jayatilleke, who is – surprisingly – a diplomat at the UN in Geneva.
You use the word “people” , which is ironic: as far the people go, the masses, the majority of citizens, do you know what they think of the kind of stuff you are saying, and of folks like you? Who do you think the people prize more…Mahinda Rapajapakse, Gotabhaya or you and your heroes?
You want to know where the fuck I am. Well, I am on the side of the anti-fascist forces, the people and that impoverished old woman, the mother of Gamini Kularatne of Hasalaka who’s only wish is to be taken to the newly liberated Elephant Pass to see the improvised LTTE bulldozer/tank that her son disabled witha grenade while sacrificing his life in 1991 — an act for which he was decorated and his family visited by President Premadasa. That’s where I am.
To which I say? WTF? I had used the word people to mean humans, as in people with the same sort of organs who can produce fertile offspring. And this government guy is using it to refer to the majority, which is defined in opposition to facists. And I’m like fuck man, I’m people too.
I’m tired of people saying that I’m less Sri Lankan, or Tamils are less Sri Lankan, or Burghers, or gays, or white people who choose to settle here, or whatever. I did the paperwork, I pay taxes, I look out for the people around me, I don’t litter. I mean, I’m here. What it is.