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acts-of-faithWe move again now to Singapore, where the news of the attempted assassination of Tom has halted CARP in its tracks. The delegates have scattered, to mull over the news and their future plans on their own. Harry, who might have kept them together, has retired to his room to pray. Insignificant as was the news of his death to the rest, Dick was his brother. Harry is also upset about Gerry, whom he remembers from before her wedding, long before everyone had begun to go their separate ways.

Grumpy and the two Communists retire to the bar. They are not dissatisfied with what has occurred, though as the two Communists put it, had the Leninist been more up to date in his Marxism he might have got rid of Tom as well. Sneezy and Sleepy, on the other hand are more worried even than before and go up to their rooms to plan for the future. Bashful and Dopey go to their rooms as well, where they both soon fall asleep. Happy and Snow White go to the Coffee Shop to discuss the situation over a banana split, and Veronica and Doc go out, separately, to make further inquiries. Veronica goes to the local offices of Amnesty International. Doc as it happens has a very close friend in Singapore, in the form of Luke’s second cousin’s brother-in-law, who is the First Secretary in charge of Information at the Ceylonese High Commission, a special envoy of the President, and it is to his office that he goes.

Happy and Snow White, in comparing what has happened to the worst excesses of the French Revolution, have just remarked on the wisdom of the government in having proscribed all Communists earlier on, when it suddenly strikes them that at this very point they are closely associated with two of the gentlemen who have been proscribed. It occurs to them that it is going to be very difficult for them to return to Ceylon. Switching on the radio they have brought with them, they hear from the BBC about Luke’s performance on television, and they are even more frightened, for it is interpreted as being a clear call to battle against anyone who could be accused of socialism. It is while they are wondering what they can do to redeem themselves from the taint they have unwittingly incurred that Doc returns, and comes direct to them in the Coffee Shop. He has heard of the massacre in the jail of the Stalinist and the Trotskyist, amongst others, and he has come to them with a plan.

Very simply, he thinks it is time Tamils like themselves, as opposed to radicals such as Grumpy and fellow travellers such as Sneezy and Sleepy, asserted their unshakeable loyalty to the government. In the feelings that the Leninist by his foolish but characteristic action has roused against revolutionaries, the bitterness that has been directed at Tamils will be forgotten, at any rate if they show themselves to be conservatives and gentlemen. Doc therefore proposes that he and Happy and Snow White affirm their allegiance by returning to Colombo, bearing with them symbols of their good faith in the form of the persons of the Maoist and the Che Guevarist. The logistics of this are not difficult. Happy can arrange with one of his wealthy friends in Singapore to loan them a helicopter to fly them back to Ceylon this very evening; Snow White can persuade Dopey and Bashful to join in as well, in which case the two communists can be invited to a gathering of minority Tamils in Singapore, an invitation they would accept without any suspicion. Bashful is very large and can hold the two Communists in turn, while the Doc gives them an injection that will put them to sleep for the whole journey back to confinement in Ceylon. Doc’s friend at the High Commission will send a Telex through to Luke to warn him that the helicopter will be arriving at his own personal pad, built just a few months back at the top of his house. In the present situation it seems best to deal with Luke, since he is clearly deputizing for Tom for the duration of the crisis.

Happy is delighted by the plan, and after not very much persuasion Snow White overcomes her qualms too. Everything works out perfectly. Bashful and Dopey are very willing to pitch in, and the Communists accept the invitation without any hesitation. Veronica returns just as Bashful and Dopey and the two Communists are going away in their taxi, but by then it does not matter. Snow White stays talking to her for a while to lull all suspicion, and then hurries off herself, leaving most of her luggage behind in the room she shares with Veronica to put her off the scent. Veronica does tell her about all the prisoners who were not Marxists who were killed, but Snow White who does not approve anyway of people who go to jail hardly remarks on the matter. By the time she gets to the house of Happy’s friends, the two Marxists are out cold. Happy’s and Doc’s friends have between them made all arrangements for the flight and it only remains to take off.

Snow White has never been in a helicopter before, let alone such a large and luxurious one, and she is quite thrilled. The pilot lets her sit in the cockpit, and even play about a bit with the controls. The others have two bottles of whiskey with them, but they drink in moderation, for they want to be in top form on their arrival. The Telex was sent off just before they left, and Doc believes that there are bound to be television cameras waiting to receive them. He has heard extracts from Luke’s speech and he has also heard about the buzzing in financial markets that has been caused, and he has no doubt that great things are brewing. The present escapade, he feels will figure largely in the history of these times, and he is determined to make the most of their forthcoming appearance on television.

*

As we have already stated, apart from the massacres in the jail, there was not much bloodshed in the immediate aftermath of Luke’s speech. But it was apparent, and certainly so to any expert in the field of mass movements and crowd violence, that an explosion was imminent. Matthew in particular was extremely concerned about what might happen, and said as much to Tom whom he got to immediately after the broadcast. At first Tom was inclined to play down the whole business, but as the day wore on he discovered that everyone else was against him.

John turned up soon after Matthew, having declared a holiday at his ministry and advised everybody there to get away and go into hiding as soon as they could. Tom thought he was being histrionic, but he insisted that the whole might of MASH and MADAM would soon enough be directed against him and his principal advisers. Indeed he begged that the military guard outside his residence be reinforced, and he was so importunate about this that Tom gave way and issued orders accordingly. Fortunately it transpired that the forces were not unwilling to obey. They had been irritated by Luke’s dismissive reference to generals being murdered and, while they did not wish to interfere with the eradication of Socialists, whom they suspected on general principles of having dubious intentions with regard to military budgets, in other respects they were more inclined than on the previous occasion to maintain law and order.

Then Mark turned up with news of the international reactions roused by Luke’s speech and the mounting resources that were being placed at his disposal through MASH and MADAM. Tom was surprised to hear that Luke had been in a position to take over these organisations, and it was only then that he was told that there was a generally prevalent rumour that Luke had had himself circumcised a few days before, at the first signs of the mass appeal of Dick’s movements. Dulcie indeed was of the opinion that Luke had been circumcised at birth and had cunningly disguised the fact until he thought a suitable moment had arrived to get rid of his cover. Though this view did not gain general credence, it helped to reinforce everyone’s suspicions.

Despite this, Matthew’s offer to address the nation was not entirely to Tom’s satisfaction. He was gathering up the courage to perform the task himself instead, when news came through that the Governor of the Central Bank, a close confidant of John, had been waylaid outside his office on his return from lunch and murdered. The police had succeeded in stopping the bank itself from being stormed, but the situation was clearly getting more dangerous. Tom immediately decreed a curfew, and decided that, in view of his greater experience, especially as far as Luke was concerned, it was Mark rather than Matthew who should speak.

Mark however declared that he did not quite know what to say. This was a problem that had been dogging Tom as well, since on the one hand he felt that a mere plea for calm would not suffice, while on the other he did not want the memory of the enormity he had suffered to be entirely effaced. Matthew however refused to reveal what he would say. He told Tom that he thought he had further evidence of Luke’s iniquities, but since he was not sure he required more time to gather evidence, and he did not wish to make any insinuations until he was certain. Tom was most irritated by this unwarranted coyness, but he reminded himself that this was another example of advantage being taken of his weakness, and he simply sighed quietly under his breath.

Nevertheless he might not have granted permission had Dulcie not convinced him. She had always been fond of Matthew, ever since he had been particularly kind to Indra at a time when Dick had been neglecting his family more than ever and the boy had clearly been feeling the effects of this. Besides, Matthew had come to see her often while Indra was away, and she felt too that it was Matthew who was responsible for the engagement to Diana, without which Indra might never have returned from England. Of course it was as a consequence of the marriage that Indra had moved away from home, but that was a small price to pay for having him in the country, and in any case Matthew too came to visit her often, much more often indeed during the past few days of crisis than Indra and Diana. She was more convinced now than ever that he was a fine boy, and she told Tom so. Devika too, who had come along as well since Dulcie was a stickler for propriety and did not think it correct that she, a widow now, should call unattended upon a widower, even upon a visit of mutual condolence, concurred heartily with this judgment and pointed out several instances of Matthew’s kindness to widows and orphans. Tom did not think these to the point, but he gave in. Matthew was deputed to broadcast to the nation and, without letting the enormity of the offence committed against Tom and his family be forgotten, to undo the effects of Luke’s words and reduce the sympathy that appeared to have given a new lease of aggressive confidence to the Muslims.

Ceylon Today 7 Dec 2014 – http://www.ceylontoday.lk/96-79462-news-detail-cathartic.html

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