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Aiyo, sirrah! The last hurrah?

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Thursday, 20 October 2016 00:00


While you were sleeping, some of us dreaming, the world of words changed overnight. Quietly, while almost no one was watching, a superb Sri Lankan expression entered the English language. “Aiyo.” The perfect interjection or exclamation to communicate a wide range of emotions. From despair to disgust, horror to terror, regret to wretchedness.dft-14-14

The most recent update to the Oxford English Dictionary has slipped it into the lexicon of the world’s half a billion speakers of Shakespeare’s language, the Queen’s, and Stephen Fry’s. That august institution, which constantly reminds us that English “as she is spoke” is polyglot, defines its new entry as an exclamation. It adds, helpfully, but not quite comprehensively enough, that in southern India and Sri Lanka, it expresses “distress, regret, or grief”. Aiyo, there’s so much more to it than that, OED! 

But, QED: it’s what Britishers will now say on realizing the full or awful horror of Brexit; it’s what Americans will say, soon enough, no matter which of equal but different terrors they elect as top dog; it’s what Sri Lankans will say sooner or later, when they wake up from their wordless slumbers.

And, realize that the world of actions speaks so much louder than words.


See here, it’s not the last hurrah yet!

Mr President, for one, would have noticed that his Bribery Commissioner has called it quits, thrown in the towel, handed in her resignation. (What’s this, then, OED – or Roget’s Thesaurus?) But joke apart, it’s not funny. We thought the coalition government headed by this chief executive was committed to eradicating corruption – not eliminating its champions. She, too, no doubt was under that general impression until recently – until her boss clearly showed her the error of her ways by berating his chief graft-bashing official for grinding an axe on behalf of her political masters (who, incidentally, are his own strange bedfellows now growing increasingly estranged). Aiyo…

Sir, you should also know that the democratic republic you lead in name if not in nature takes a dim view of recent events connected to another potentially emerging ‘royal’ family. It has been rumoured – and since reported – that a public breach of the peace has been caused by a princeling close to the presidential palace. untitled-1

But you know this already. That is why you removed his security: that apparatus of the state rightly reserved for presidents and not their progeny. It is also why you ordered an impartial inquiry into the matter. As if you fancied that the police department would not act without fear or favour – if it would act at all – without a push from you. 

There are critically engaged citizens who continue to wonder when it will dawn on our champions of human rights and civil liberties (and all that jazz) that the police are best left to the pursuit of law and order in their time, at their own speed, to the best of their ability – and not at the behest of their political paymasters. The long arm of the law might well be shortened these days, and their turn of speed not impressive to the proverbial tortoise. Nor their ability anything to laud and honour – but it is how a democratic republic works. At least one where the rule OF law and order (due process, bad or ugly) prevails; not rule BY law and order (undue pressure, even if it is ‘good’). Aiyo, sirrah!

Dear beloved leader, you could also take a leaf out of your predecessor’s book when it comes to fulsome statements which are full of sound and fury, but on closer inspection signify nothing. When we say “take a leaf out of” (Roget’s – ‘imitate’, ‘emulate’, etc.) we mean “out of” (OED – ‘out’, ‘of’, ‘out of’). Thus less of the grandstanding on how you have held your peace on the political culture thus far, but no farther since it is intolerable to you, if your coalition partners don’t play the game according to your understanding of it. Aiyo, Sirisena?


Sure and begorra

To be frank, we don’t really care about your coalition per se. It started off as a good idea, with the citizenry accepting your championing of good governance as a timely if unexpected panacea to what ailed our isle at the time. Even those who were wary of coalition politics as a minefield of conflicting interests, and even leery about the values of a character who had trumpeted the previous regime’s triumphalist position, embraced it as a wind of change to blow despotism out of office. 

But now it is becoming apparent to all and sundry that things are pretty much the same… and, in some parts, not half as pretty. I think we all suspect you are caught between the rock of the passive-aggressive joint opposition and the hard place of protecting the military in the national or perhaps simply partisan interest. On the other hand, we don’t care for the way that your coalition of late – no, you only, maybe – has or have been trying to sail between this Scylla and that Charybdis and stay afloat. 

But we do care about the virulent ideas that your vaunted new political culture threatens to inject into the mainstream of the nation’s lifeblood. For one, it is a shock to the system when a sitting president alleges that the anticorruption agencies in the country he leads are operating in accordance with a political agenda. For another, it sends shivers up our collective spines when the incumbent suggests he is privy to earth-shattering secrets, but will only dish them out for public consumption if his political partners don’t tow his line. 

That line, these days, is looking strangely like the line in the sand drawn by his predecessor: protect one’s family, instruct the police to do their duty, please the military lobby, appease the opponents within one’s party with ploys or threats. That one’s political partners are, possibly, culpable in the matter of a selective prosecution of pending criminal cases is, momentarily, beside the point. 

Would you therefore pay heed to present concerns, sure and begorra?

(In case any of you would-be lexicographers are interested, it’s an old Irish – near-enough to be English – saying. Sure, is ‘sure’. And, ‘begorra’ is “b’gora” or “by God”. So, “sure and begorra” means certainly, by God! It means, among other applications: “look here”, “see now”, “it would do to pay attention”.)

look here, the coalition is coming apart at the seams (Roget’s – crumbling at the edges, its wheels are falling off, etc.). see now, we don’t really care about ‘good governance’ in its present pitiful pathetically apathetic avatar, or the ‘new political culture’, or any other piece of politically motivated propaganda or claptrap (OED – rot, rubbish, garbage, but you get the idea!). 

It would do to pay attention to the fact, however, that more citizens and civil society movements than are good for your political health care about the new social contract (pls read, “the deal”) we struck with you. So would you please, please, b’gora, stop playing politics, stop playing to the gallery, stop playing to the grandstand, and get a move on with rebuilding the republic that the previous regime dismantled brick by dismal brick? Aiyo! We don’t want any of that, any more! Got it? 

No more brats, boasting, bullying your opponents with threats, brandishing a big stick at the media, breezing through life with your blasted perks and privileges while the rest of us struggle to eke out a blessed living – and complain loudly about the lack of luxury cars and the lovelessness of your coalition partners while we contend with a taxing, rising, flooding, irrational, unjustifiable cost of living. 

Adey appa, don’t get us wrong – we’re not quite in despair yet, and we’re still reserving the disgust for despots who continue to rouse chauvinistic claques to stir the pot of racist unrest in parliament and periphery.

Aney, we’re not saying that we regret voting them out or that we regret – yet – voting you in (aiyo, no!). But, we’re rather wretched at the recent turn of events in the late great republic reduced to a banana version of its shadow self by a bygone regime.

Aiyo, but we’re mortally afraid that if a leader of the calibre you claimed to be and your political machine is still positioning you as doesn’t take a firm stand on the state of the nation and the nature of statecraft today, there will be a slow but steady downward progression from horror to terror bound to set in (ai-ai-yoo!).

So man up, Mr President! And sure and begorra, no more aiyo and ai-ai-yoo! There’s a good lexicographer. There’s a good leader.

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