When singing becomes a crime

Posted on November 19, 2006. Filed under: Entertainment, Music, Music of South Asia, News |

"God sent his Singers upon earth

With songs of sadness and of mirth,

That they might touch the hearts of men,

And bring them back to heaven again."

— H. W. Longfellow

Many a person has blown a gasket over the appointment of popular singer Karunaratne Divulgane as the North Central Province Governor. They demand to know whether President Mahinda Rajapakse couldn’t find anyone else for that post. Most appointments that politicians make are questionable and the consternation of the public is understandable. But should the appointment of Divulgane be condemned on similar grounds?

Divulgane’s disqualification, according to his detractors, is that he is a singer. In other words, they don’t consider singers fit enough to hold political/public office. We have had all sorts of artistes as politicians, mainly actors but there has been no such opposition to them on the grounds of their profession. The late Mr. Gamini Fonseka, actor turned politician, went on to become the Speaker and NE Governor and maintained the dignity of those posts, though not without theatrics.

Across the Palk Straits, in Tamil Nadu we have seen several celluloid heroes and heroines reach the zenith of political firmament, like MGR and Jayalalitha. The US had Ronald Reagan the actor as President and the present Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a blockbuster idol.

Never mind, artistes, in this country we have had even the scum of the earth as politicians. Among them have been killers, torturers, rapists, arsonists, drug dealers, thugs, cattle thieves, bootleggers, swindlers, frauds and pickpockets. We mean what we say but stop short of naming names because of the bludgeon of privileges at their disposal to beat the press with. ‘Lawmakers’ are, as we have pointed out in these columns umpteen times, still using firearms without permits, an offence for which any other person would have been thrown behind bars. Worst of all, those who have robbed the country of billions of rupees and killed dozens to get elected continue to be returned at popular elections. Strange but true! It looks as if the country had come to take the criminal track record of politicians for granted.

As far as we are aware, Divulgane doesn’t fall into any of the aforesaid categories. His only ‘crime’ appears to be his singing! Is it that his detractors wouldn’t have objected to any of the abovementioned anti-social characters being appointed the NCP Governor instead of a singer?

Divulgane is a singer par excellence, though he has sullied his image by engaging in party politics. It is unfortunate that he has forgotten that an artiste belongs to the people and not to any particular political party. He shouldn’t have lent his voice to any politician and accepted favours in return. For that, one may say, he deserves, so to speak, a knuckle sandwich! However, he is not alone in having committed that mistake: All political parties are full of artistes who have lost their way. Politics has become their last resort.

We are never short of clowns as politicians. Once there was a state minister by the name of A. J. Ranasinghe, whose only qualification to be in charge of the media was his offer to make a soup out of President Premadasa’s slippers (sereppu soup) and relish it. (We must be evoking readers’ memories of a scene in Gold Rush, where Charlie Chaplin prepares a ‘boot soup’.) We have written extensively about a parliamentarian from the North Western Province, who dyed all the birds in his poultry farm green, the colour of the UNP, after its landslide victory in 1977. Then there was that Minister of School Education who challenged students, teachers and a principal at a school assembly to give him another name for mathematics and triumphantly declared, when they failed to answer his question, that it was algebra!

If one cares to visit Parliament while it is in session, one will see for oneself the real standards of Sri Lankan legislators. They hurl abuse across the well of the House and hit one another’s genitals with mobile phones. Once, a group of school children who were in the public gallery started crying when they were scared out of wits by a rowdy scene below. Or, if one watches regular cockfights a.k.a. TV political debates,—provided one doesn’t have anything else to do—one will see the politicians for what they really are.

Divulgane is far superior—at least at present—to most politicians and political appointees we are burdened with. Whether he will be a good governor, we don’t know. But we know for sure that he wouldn’t be any worse than the lot we have had so far.

Having said that, we have this to tell Divulgane: Now that you have plunged into the cesspit of politics, try to remain afloat! We are worried about the good singer in you. -The Island Editorial


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