American late night television is not something that’s in my ken or anywhere near my range of interests, but when Craig Ferguson said once on his so-called late-late night show that he may have started two civil wars in Sri Lanka – back when he was drinking – a friend of mine called me to say that my interpretation of how the war began may be wrong after all.
No, there was nothing civil about that war. There is nothing civil about any war for that matter. How civil and war goes together in one sentence beats me, but may be Craig Ferguson when he was drunk was able to tell.
Craig Ferguson in that particular dialogue about Sri Lanka says that the country is a tear-drop shaped island. Hard to get that one wrong isn’t it Fergie?
He proceeds to claim that there were two civil wars in the country when he toured the island when he was drinking, but then when somebody is drinking he sees double, and that’s the problem.
Ferguson quickly launches into a political discussion about his allegedly starting two civil wars in Sri Lanka – a fact that he flatly denies.
He is not the only show biz personality who wants to claim some sort of ownership of Sri Lanka’s ‘civil war.’
There is Naomi Munaweera too.
Somebody nudges me to say that Munaweera was not a show biz personality and that her main claim to recognition was that she wrote some kind of book about Sri Lanka – a novel.
Since she wrote that Thousand Mirror tome about this country however, Munaweera has been mainly moonlighting as an ambassador for Sri Lankan novels written by non Sri Lankans.
You could safely say that she is now in her show-biz avatar.
No surprises therefore when Munaweera starts reading chunks out of her book at an event called Summer Reads, sponsored and put on by God knows who, in some part of the USA.
The same person, who wanted me to learn about Craig Ferguson and his purported efforts to ignite civil wars in Sri Lanka, had sent me a videotaped sampling of Munaweera’s Summer Reads discussion. To say the least, it is revealing.
Munaweera speaks, in that tape, to some nonchalant looking white College student types and strains to indicate that she has some connections to Sri Lanka.
That’s her problem that she feels compelled to do that having grown up in some other part of the world and written about this country as an afterthought…
But then, Munaweera gets it on, so to speak, and that’s when it begins to sound absolutely hilarious.
She has an impressionable, captive audience of young people.
Little wonder she could get away with the claim that she was at a flower show with her aunt in some part of Sri Lanka, when a bomb went off. She says she had left the stall with a friend to get an ice cream, and when she returned, was witness to terrible carnage and pieces of shrapnel stuck to the partitioning demarcating her aunt’s stall from those of others at the show.
She adds to good dramatic effect, ‘it could have been me,’ referring the people who died or were injured and were supposed to have been taken to hospital.
But this is when all this starts to get really weird.
Munaweera says that her father told her later that a Tamil lady had been in the gathering at the flower show. She had panicked, having thought she would be held responsible for the blast, and would therefore be arrested and questioned.
So, why is Munaweera wrong when she claims any of this? The answer is simple.
None of this happened. Munaweera on her own admission never lived in this country, but for those of us who have, it is not difficult to ascertain without a shred of doubt that there never was a bomb blast at a flower show in this country!
That simply didn’t happen. Munaweera could not have been talking about a blast that took place close to a flower show either, because she says that there was shrapnel stuck to the partitioning.
She talks about a bomb blast at her aunt’s orchid show, and about the poor Tamil lady who was traumatized about whether she would be arrested and ‘tortured.’
The problem is that this isn’t even from one of her novels. She says all this happened to her when she was on holiday in Sri Lanka, but there never was a bomb blast at an orchid show in this country and that can be stated here categorically.
May be she thought she could get away with it because nobody back home would hear about it and challenge her. Or she thought that there were so many bomb blasts ‘in that wretched country’ that nobody would bother contradicting her.
She was wrong on both counts obviously. Last week’s column in this space highlighted author Romesh Gunasekera’s plain dishonesty (I wouldn’t dignify it by calling it intellectual dishonesty) in depicting disciplined Sri Lankan army personnel as being wastrels who smoke at checkpoints and murder neighbors back home in their villages.
Romesh’s excuse would be the usual hackneyed untruth about a fiction writer having the license. He knows however as everybody else does that to descend on Sri Lanka and depict Sri Lankan soldiers as trigger happy hoodlums, particularly at this time when there has been a war in the country, is to malign professionals, very probably with a preconceived agenda. At the very least, he was trying to cash in on some anti Sri Lanka sentiment created by Sri Lankan Tamils abroad, hoping to kick start his book sales.
Munaweera knows no better than Romesh. To invent things that could have never happened on a ‘book tour’, is a new low in selling the old country down the drainpipe for a mess of pottage.Take a bow, Munaweera, or take thousand.