Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SIEGE, a Poem


I can't recall the links at the Golf Hotel
but I don't believe the government

of Alassane Ouattara is contemplating
a chip shot or a putt. I read there are only

800 Peacekeepers between his team
and Gbagbo's army. Betting men say

that ethnic ties are paramount and nobody
ever doubted a Bete man's will to fight,

and as for logistics, how long will
an African Union army take to arrive

in Cote d’ Ivoire? Needless to say they will
not be greeted with attieke and grilled fish.

But wedging Gbagbo, freezing World Bank
loans, his bank accounts in Europe, coco

exports have come to port but have not
been able to leave, how long can this last?

More will die including some principals.
Perhaps there will be a palace coup.

Perhaps the will of people written
in the urns will be respected

but only after unnecessary, uncivil
bloodshed, 200 dead thus far.

Indran Amirthanayagam, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ivory Contemporary, Poem

Ivory Contemporary

Named for ivory, later stripped clean,
the country began to sprout cocoa,
though in copses by a few rivers
the forest elephant drooped still its tiny
frame and trunk through the bulrushes.

I recall the fine tarmac and dirt
paths we drove to meet Headman
and Elders, to bring books and receive
a rooster, a hen. Agriculture, land
husbandry, how can I forget

the moutons with their Djula herders,
and Dozos, hunters with amulets
that can deflect bullets?
Yet what are these few memories
worth at market in Cocody

or Treichville, now that the Army
has blocked nearby streets
and prepares to lay siege
to the Golf Hotel where Ouattara
and his government have registered

guarded by Peackeepers
waiting for the current
occupant of the Presidential Palace
Laurent Gbagbo, to accept defeat,
go into exile, or continue

to order the Army and his gangs
to fight; what price shall we place
on power? His foreign homes
are under threat, the squeeze
has begun, when will the Man

come out of the palace
to face the people
who denied him at the polls?
What value suffrage?
Whose army is stronger?

Sad to recall that Gbagbo
was once a legend, a philosopher
and hero of the Left, the chief
opponent to the sometime
benign dictatorship of Houphouet-Boigny.

Go with dignity. Hold your head high.
Don’t forget the family, the assets,
the invitation to be an elder statesman
to the continent, not reviled in history
as Mobutu, Charles Taylor, Idi Amin Dada.

Indran Amirthanayagam, le 20 de Decembre 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

On Anthems and the State of the Union

I posted the following on

I have been stirred and moved even to tears by both the Tamil and Sinhala versions of the Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, anthem. I think I owe this emotional tie to birth on the island, to school on the island, to my first toffees and cricket matches on the island. I wonder now how a boy born today in this same, yet- not- the same, Sri Lanka will feel, denied the comfort of hearing his mother tongue at the award ceremony, the annual Shakespeare recital, the spelling bee. I find myself a bit blase contradicting the noted historical wisdom of the ministers who passed the recent decree. They said there are no countries which sing their anthems in more than one language. Of course, that is not true. Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand, South Africa, even the United Kingdom which brings together different nations with their particular anthems, come to mind.

But I wonder why a country that has celebrated its rich mixes-- that have produced outstanding talent in literature (Ondaatje), cricket (Murali), and that sprinter, Susanthika Jayasinghe, who won a silver at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and Duncan White who started the trend at the White City Games in 1948-- has changed its law. I speak too much of sport. What about antropology, which has rewarded the world with Gnanath Obeysekere and Valentin Daniel, political analysis, with Jayadeva Uyangoda, diplomacy with Jayantha Dhanapala? We have many heroes in our country and we were all once, boys or girls, moved, choked-up, listening to our mother tongue on the loudspeakers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Liu Xiabo, Updated


Liu Xiabo sits in jail
for writing in favour
of free speech
and thus seeking
to “subvert”
the state, an old
crime against
the emperor
for our times.

Indran Amirthanayagam, December 8, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Injustice in Cote d'Ivoire

Alassane Ouattara just won the second round of the long delayed elections in Cote d'Ivoire by 54 percent to 46 percent for the losing candiate Laurent Gbagbo. Despite this loss Gbagbo has seized power in the country through his influence over the country's Constitutionsl Court. President Obama, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and other leaders from throughout the world have recognized Alassane Ouattara's victory. We cannot remain silent before another injustice committed against the democratic values we cherish and celebrate. Speak to your representatives. Write poems. Work with the African Union to isolate this usurper, this recalcitrant power boss and his government that will not accept the will of his people and the wishes of democrats everywhere.