Colombo Telegraph

A Continuation Of The Theatre Of The Absurd In An Effort To “Skin A (Dissenting) Cat!

By Emil van der Poorten –

Emil van der Poorten

I hope I gave readers, last week, some idea of the machinations of some elements of our ruling junta.  However, I think I owe those readers an update given the fact that my constant whining does appear to have had some positive (?) results.

As I indicated last week, I have made numerous telephone calls to the Secretary to the local Member of Parliament requesting some action about the immediate crisis both I and about 25 other families faced thanks to a road closure that need not have occurred.  I must say that he was unfailingly polite and did appear to be making efforts to contact the local Pradeshiya Sabhawa (P.S) Chairman to have them remove the two very large tree stumps obstructing the road and preventing the passage of any vehicular traffic for several days.

He kept telling me that action was being taken and, in response to my last two calls, said that the PS Chairman had told him that the obstructions had already been removed which was a blatant lie.  As a footnote, I told him that I had no doubt any longer in my mind about the motivation for what was happening and that it was simply an attempt at political victimization and harassment of someone seen as an “enemy” of the current government.  I reiterated the fact that my spouse was someone with very serious health problems and that I would hold those creating this problem accountable for any adverse result of a days-long inability to reach emergency medical help if such was needed.  The gentleman at the other end of the line also told me that the P. S. Chairman had not responded to his calls all of the previous day.  I concluded by reminding him that it was Friday and that, if nothing was done to rectify the problem on that very day, the best that could be hoped  for would be a renewal of entreaties after the two-day week-end to follow was over.  This would mean that the road would have been closed, continuously, for a whole week, when less than an hour’s work with a backhoe could have rectified the problem.

In any event, not having inspected the site of the obstructions for a couple of days, I decided to extend my usual “constitutional” and to do so immediately after this conversation was concluded.   Just before I negotiated the final bend in the road preceding where the two tree stumps had landed, I heard voices and, miracle of miracles, the moment I rounded that final bend, I was greeted by the sight of five men in “official” P.S. uniforms and one in “civvies” who had the demeanour of a “supervisor” and a black t-shirt to go with his position, presumably!  You will note that I didn’t suggest that I was “greeted by the sight of six men working” and this was because they weren’t doing any such thing!

One of the “workers” was leaning on a mamoty when I first saw them, the other five not being able to do so because they had no such tools to lean on and besides two of them, at least, would have found any such activity an impediment to drawing on the cigarettes that they were in the process of smoking!  Now, dear reader, I expect you’ll appreciate the validity of the title of this essay which is “Six men and one mamoty!”

Another resident of the area who happened to come upon this scene volunteered the loan of a mamoty and it was suggested by the driver of the tractor which usually hauls garbage up this hill six times a day to the completely unauthorized and illegal dump that there were other residents in the vicinity who might be persuaded to loan mamoties or similar tools in an expression of public-spiritedness!  Another of the “work” crew was then dispatched on a borrowing mission.  He didn’t return within  the hour I spent at the obstruction site and was presumably having a chat and cup of tea with whoever he was seeking to borrow tools from.

It would not be inappropriate, I am sure, to insert a few other bits of information at this point.

It was claimed by those present at the “work” site, that all the earth-moving equipment on the PS’s inventory was out of order, as were chains and other ancillary bits and pieces that might have been employed productively in the effort to remove two tree stumps obstructing all vehicular traffic on this road.  The fact that there was a training organization for heavy equipment literally within sight of this obstruction from which one of their five or six backhoes might have been borrowed had obviously not occurred to anyone in the chain of command, either.  In fact, subsequent inquiries indicated that the operators of that training institute would have been only too ready to assist in that regard, without charge.

I couldn’t resist the temptation, before leaving, of expressing my surprise at the fact that the two logs had returned, presumably, under their own volition since (according to the P.S. Chairman) they had been removed some days before!

This little saga did have a happy ending because the two tree stumps which had made the road totally impassable for five consecutive days were removed before quitting time for the work crew (2 p.m) on Friday, November 2nd, and even though the surface of the road is in even worse condition than before, the soil being close to the consistency of your neighbourhood paddy-field, it can still be negotiated by wheeled traffic.   What is also significant is that the removal of the obstructions was done by the crew that mans the garbage tractor and not some special crew.  These people had, on the day that the tree stumps first landed on the road come along with their first load of garbage for the day, found the obstructions and gone back.   Would it have taken a bunch of Einsteins to do then what was done five days later with no change in manpower or resources?  No, what  is most obvious by the sequence of events is that this totally unnecessary situation which could have had very serious repercussions to those outside the “line of fire” was brought about by an attempt to teach someone perceived as a critic of the government some sort of “lesson!”

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