Standing among hundreds of apricot trees resplendent with glossy green leaves and bright yellow flowers in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, a bright-eyed man is talking joyfully to his customers, grinning from ear to ear, while his peers in the country's central region are distinctly less jovial.
Sri Lanka has seen significant political drama over the past 12 months. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the previous president who ruled for a decade was unexpectedly defeated during last January’s presidential election. Voters reiterated their desire for change during August parliamentary polls, though Rajapaksa still won a seat in parliament. Current President Maithripala Sirisena, a former member of Rajapaksa’s cabinet, promised bold reforms and has taken a few steps in the right direction.
On October 31, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer jointly warned the international community about the impact of current conflicts on civilians, and appealed for urgent and concrete actions, including unhindered access and protection for humanitarian personnel, facilities and supplies, internally displaced people and refugees, and the end of the use of heavy weapons in populated areas. The two also called for condemnation and effective investigations to hold the perpetrators accountable. Especially poignant was Ban’s comment. “In the face of blatant inhumanity, the world has responded with disturbing paralysis. This flouts the very raison d’être of the UN.”
If a plane flies into an empty airport, does it make a sound?
If the Sirisena - Wickremesinghe administration fails to handle the economy, the resultant crisis will be depicted as a problem created by the ‘privileged minorities’ to beggar the ‘disadvantaged majority’. A variety of National Socialism (based on an apocryphal politico-economic analysis of minority capitalism exploiting the poor Sinhalese) has always been part of Lankan leftism. It is this hoary old tradition the Rajapaksas and their allies are trying to resurrect.
There is a saying in Tamil about the tiny cylindrical rice measure, the aazhaakku. It smiles at the aazhaakku imagining that its little roundness has an ‘east’ and a ‘west’ : aazhaakkil kizhakku-merkku.