By Kumar David –
Everyone believes that the great conflict in Ceylon-Sri Lanka in modern times was ethnic, but if you peruse the comments appended to my last piece you will change your mind. Denizens of the Island are ferocious in their devotion to their favourite mango. Karutha-columban extremists slay humble Alfonso consumers with a ferocity redolent of July 1983. Fugitives from Trinco slander the glorious ambalavi as a wishy-washy gira-amba; never trust a Maoist Mango! Maharashtra, Gujerat and Jaffna are to the mango what Bordeaux is to wine. The first syllable in mangifera indica most likely comes from the first syllable of the Tamil maamaram , maanghai or maambalam. India with 1,000 varieties cultivates 40% of the world’s crop, but China is second strenuously endeavouring to save the world from fruity imperialism.
Did you know that the Alfonso was banned in the US due to fake allegations about pests? The truth is that US mango stakeholders with operations in Latin America and US bureaucrats feared competition from India’s delectable offering. However in 2006 the US was lobbying to get Harley-Davidson motorbikes, as iconic to America as the mango is to India, imported into India and a trade deal was struck. It was cemented when President Bush, on a visit, tasted an Alphonso and beamed at Prime Minister Singh “this is a hell of a fruit!” You see the mango was to Indo-US diplomacy what ping-pong has been to Sino-American rapprochement.
The Alphonso is named after Portuguese Viceroy (1509 to 1515) Alfonso de Albuquerque who conquered Goa but far more important was his achievement in grafting mango cutttings to create a fruit suitable for serving at formal dinners. This was a century and a half before the Enlightenment usually dated 1650 to 1780. Newton (1643-1727) espied a falling apple in 1666. He was contemporaneous with Spinoza (1632-1677); the dates of death of great Enlightenmant thinkers are; Voltaire and Rousseau 1778 and Diderot 1784. Enlightenment values, crucially, are pronouncdly different from liberalismn which is identified with free market capitalism (Adam Smith 1723-1790 and David Ricardo 1772-1823) and liberal philosopy (John Stuart Mill 1806-1873). There is a parallel transition in the fruiting cosmos from the stately Alfonso to the populist karutha-columban and ambalavi, followed by the crass commercial age of apples and grapes.
It is in this fruitsalad world of interantional relations that the three powers who will decide our fate – over which we have little control – India, China and the US, are pondering what to do about our fruitcake regime. Competition among them to one side, it is in the interests of all three to unscrable this tabbouleh and avert this country’s descent into a failed-state abyss, which thankfully we have still not reached. The primary initiative has to come from the regime itself which has to work out a via media to present to the UNHRC and to the aforementioned powers as proof that it will accept its reconcilliation-accountability responsibilities and will maintain a foreign policy balance which will not discomfit any great power. If Singapore, Bangladesh and for that matter Taiwan and the Philippines can pull it off, so can we.
For this to be possible there have to be adjustments in power sharing in the regime itself. I don’t have a clue what skullduggery is going on within the Royal Rajapaksa dynasty, but now is just the right time to make visible adjustments. Forget about enacting a divisive new constitution to claw power into the grasp of the Executive; if firing military sorts already hired for top slots is infeasible at least give an undertaking that there will be no more sounding brass speaking in garbled tongues; put scientists in charge of pandemic control and win, as Biden seems to be doing; dump this squalid and reckless foreign policy team; stop manipulating the judiciary and halt assinine Presidential Commission circusus; stop pandering to extremists since this impedes a deal with the minorities. All this is doable if the executive is restructured and a multipartisan orientation is adopted. The public is persuaded that Gota failed because he is inexperienced and his inner circle is dumb; Mahinda and Basil deftly keep out of the limelight. If the government wishes to pull itself up by its bootstraps it must undertake the policy changes outlined in this para, restructure its personnel, pray much harder and offer mangoes to the deieties superintending Sri Lanka. The $64K question is whether Gota has the appetite for this healthy and fruitful menu.