We will begin our narrative of this momentous day in Singapore, not only because the sun rises earlier there than in Colombo, but also because it is time we introduced some more characters. It is not that they are of any very great importance, but they do have a part of some consequence to play at this particular point in the story. In any case, we have not yet met any politicians opposed to the government, and this is a situation that must be remedied if we are to understand the cry for separatism that is held to have provoked the riots with which we began.
There were altogether seven members of parliament belonging to the Tamil party that had as its rallying ground the demand for a separate state for the Tamils. They were no longer members of parliament by the time they arrived in Singapore, for they had refused to take the oath that Tom had prescribed for members of parliament and arrack renters and insurance brokers and other such practitioners of occupations that should have been the sacred preserve of the Sinhalese. Nevertheless, having fled to India together at the very beginning of the riots, and having stated forcefully there the case for their oppressed brethren in Ceylon, there was no question but that they were, in international eyes at any rate, the most respected members of their community, and those best entitled to put its case before CARP.
Since there were seven of them, they were known as the Seven Dwarfs, both collectively and individually. Chief amongst them, on ground of seniority at any rate, were Sneezy and Sleepy. They were thus called because they both usually looked confused and not altogether there, but it was well known that in one case at least, though no one was ever quite sure which one it was, this phlegmatic exterior masked a mind as sharp as a razor. Then there was Bashful, who hailed from what was considered an inferior caste, although he came from the North, and Dopey who came from the East, although his caste was quite respectable; neither of these was considered of any importance whatsoever, not even by themselves. Grumpy on the other hand had thought himself important from the moment he got into parliament, and by dint of his conviction on this issue had got the majority of the party to come round to this view. He was young and energetic and was considered a strong proponent of violence, whether provoked or not, as a result of which his house had been burned down on several occasions by the security forces. This had made him even more grumpy than before, and he was liable to burst into torrents of incoherent expletives at the drop of a hat, or of any thing, which he promptly assumed was a hand grenade. Continue reading