The Sri Lankan Smile

The lieutenant was talking to Bala earnestly when I got in today. Later, I was in the boss’ office when Bala was called in for something, and after the pressing topic of conversation had been dealt with, Bala proceeded on to the “by-the-way” bit of the conversation. Only, this time, the “by-the-way” bit made me nearly shit my pants.

The lieutenant had told Bala in confidence that for some time they had been watching a man who was living right next to our premises. They suspected him of being an LTTE terrorist. The man is from Vavuniya. He had recently been whitewashing his side of the common boundary wall. The wall has an anti-RPG fence on it on to which he has tied a clothesline from his house (or garden). The lieutenant theorizes that the line could be used to detonate a Claymore mine which could be attached to the fence, facing the strategic targets on our premises – the reason why we have a lieutenant and twenty-five soldiers at all times, not to mention, an anti-aircraft gun).

The lieutenant is convinced that the man in question is a terrorist and is going to do something about it soon. His plan is to plant two grenades in his house and arrest the man from Vavuniya. That’s the plan. God knows what will happen after that. Bala said that he had even said something about possibly bumping him off. Well, actually, Bala didn’t say those exact words; he stopped after “might even…” and then just made a sweeping clearing motion with his hand. I had to question, “What do you mean? They might kill him?” and Bala just shrugged.

That’s it. That is the post. That’s the story. I am sorry if it sounds stilted or not as clourfully descriptive as my normal posts, but I feel uncomfortable about this post, mostly because it is set in my workplace. So, that is all you are going to get I am afraid.

Oh, except for two more things. Firstly, I instinctively like the lieutenant. He has a trustworthy, honest, hardworking face. He told us recently during an office disaster contingency seminar that we should stay indoors if an LTTE attack involving an explosion should take place. The reason he gave is that for about a minute and a half after an explosion in the vicinity, he said the soldiers would be likely to spray bullets randomly at pretty much anyone they see. He was very open about this, and he said that it was a natural reaction. He was being honest, and I liked him for it, even though I was taken aback and thought to myself, “Shit, I wonder how much of this random spraying at passers-by goes on in conflict areas.”

Secondly, in case you are wondering, today I did ask the question, “…but what if the man is innocent?”, to which I received only our famous Sri Lankan smile in response. 



5 thoughts on “The Sri Lankan Smile

  1. Since you mention an AA gun, I assume these guys are SLAF. They and the RAMFs normally do a lot of spraying & praying. Fortunately the teeth units of the Army are better trained and disciplined.

  2. Today, I went with Bala for a walk in the grounds, looked over the fence and wall towards the neighbourhood around, and then climbed up to where one of the anti-aircraft guns are and spoke to the army person there. (It IS army, btw, David).

    So, Bala and I were chatting to the soldier and Bala asks him in the most chatty way he can manage about whether they rape women after they take an area. Bala is like this at the best of times.

    Incidentally he had just finished relating a tale about how he had transferred some employee who was regularly engaging in sodomy on the work premises with another employee of the same sex. The Bottom had called and threatened to fornicate with Bala’s mother if he didn’t transfer the Top back. Bala said that he had informed the Bottom that he would never transfer him back and that the Bottom was welcome to try and fornicate with his mother if he wanted to.

    Even with this ice breaker, the soldier, who is from Baddegama in Galle district, was taken aback at Bala’s question. He seemed slightly concerned that we would imagine that they went around raping women as a matter of course. He told us that they respected human rights and that they would not shoot at someone even in conflict areas unless they had a weapon.

    It was heartening to hear that.

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