“You are not getting my point. I ask, what happens if he dies? There are thousands in the Third World who die of starvation each day. Millions, each year — because they have nothing to eat.”
Seated in his plush suite atop the glass tower housing the UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was in a foul mood. As a Korean, he that day, had an unusually dark pallor. He was telling an under secretary for the Third World: Why are you bothering me about a minister in Sri Lanka going on a hunger strike against my decision? What happens even if he dies? Wish him all the best!
Under Secretary (US): Sir, Sri Lanka is in turmoil. They are stirring up the Third World, the Non Aligned…
Moon: You are not getting my point. I ask, what happens if he dies? There are thousands in the Third World who die of starvation each day. Millions, each year — because they have nothing to eat. Now this politician wants to starve to death although I am told that Sri Lankan politicians get subsidised meals and many other subsidised things. Am I to be responsible for all the starving millions who die? Now am I to spoon-feed this character? Why don’t you tell the WHO to look after his health or FAO to feed him?
US: Sir, he is on a fast to death because you appointed a commission to investigate alleged war crimes made against their war heroes. It violates their sovereignty, the politician alleges. He says the country has 5000 years of recorded history — great civilization, unique irrigation systems, once the granary of the East and is a sovereign country with a great leader who won a war against terrorism which most of us said can’t be won.
Moon: Every country — all of them in this building claims they are sovereign and have long and great histories and great leaders who claim to have scored stupendous victories. But there can be no exceptions at the UN. If they wanted to be free of one and all, untouched by any country, why did they sign the UN charter? You know that the Arabs are at my throat demanding that I appoint a committee to investigate war crimes of Israelis such as the storming of a ship carrying relief supplies to Gaza. The Islamists are asking why I don’t appoint such committees to Afghanistan and Pakistan to investigate American and NATO crimes. Now this Sri Lankan Johnny threatens to fast to death because I appointed a committee to investigate alleged violations on human rights by their war heroes. I will be accused of double standards if I act either way. The UN is not a village council where every Asian thug with his sarong raised can make demands.
US : But sir, this is a serious situation.
Moon: The whole trouble is that this place is packed with secretaries; under secretaries, secretaries for various commissions, shapely secretaries, fair secretaries, sexy secretaries. They all want commissions appointed with their friends to investigate every thing going on in this planet. Who recommended the appointment of this Sri Lanka committee? I can’t remember signing the papers…
US: I think the proposal came from White House. Besides, your re- election is due soon.
Moon: Oh Yes! Yes! What happened to my predecessor Butros- Butros shouldn’t happen to me. Flexible spines are required for those who sit in this chair. My motto is: ‘Stay not too far away lest Uncle Sam forgets thee. Never mind if he grabs thee’. Can’t ignore Uncle Sam, can you?
US: But Sir, the Non Aligned are equally important when it comes to re-election. I hear Indians are see-sawing because they want to lead the Non Aligned chorus.
Moon: Ha! Ha! Call Manmohan Singh and ask him whether they need the support of the Secretary General when it comes to India’s entry to the Security Council?
US: Brilliant sir, brilliant. Indians won’t miss a chance of being a world power for the sake of a starving Sri Lankan politico.
This Sri Lankan dialogue is interrupted by a shapely UN Secretary trooping in and announcing that a Sri Lankan is on a top storey of the UN building and is threatening to jump off.
US: I know about it sir. It is a Sri Lankan problem. The fellow has a problem with Colombo.
Moon: Ask him to jump. This place lacks excitement — only resolutions and debates. We need some excitement.
US: I was thinking of preventing him from jumping and getting you credit for preventing him from taking the plunge. It will bring you out in better light in Sri Lanka.
Moon: Please don’t. Every nut who wants to jump off the building will want the Secretary General to intervene. It will become a global phenomenon. I am informed that in Sri Lanka people climbing water towers and hospital roofs and threatening suicide has become an epidemic. All of them will demand appeals and pledges from me. Funny fellows these Sri Lankans: Earlier they swallowed cyanide and took leave from us; that was no problem. Now this fellow wants to die of slow starvation and then this jumping off higher elevations.
At this stage, another secretary clipetty-clips into the room and gives US a print out.
US reads: The fast to death has been called off after the Hon. President went down on his knees and fed orange juice to his Minister.
Moon: (Beaming like the full moon) So you fellows wanted me to cancel the appointment of the Committee. I knew this was a Sri Lankan comedy. For half a century only one Sri Lankan has died fasting to death. Glucose with water is the secret. The fellows should have known that the Secretary General can’t change his decision if one person dies of starvation when millions in the world and hundreds in their own country are starving. Do these Sri Lankans have any political advisors?
US: There are a lot sir. Most of them trusted relatives of the President’s family or their friends.
Moon: What about that Oxford chappie — Rhodes scholar and all that?
US: He is an advisor and very good but right now he is the family tuition master on international affairs.
Moon : Are these fellows annoyed with me? Must be. I saw pictures of my effigy in flames.
US: They are sir. They intend to have their next cabinet meeting in Panmunjom. That is to rub into you and your mentors that political solutions haven’t worked for 58 years between warring North and South Koreans.
Sri Lanka Guardian – by Gamini Weerakoon