Bollywood superstar Salman Khan is no stranger to controversy but he outdid even himself this week after appearing at a campaign rally with Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse ahead of the island nation’s presidential election on 8 January.
Mr Rajapakse is seeking a third term in office in a move many in Sri Lanka see as a way of further entrenching the Rajapakse family’s position in government.
Khan, 49, was accompanied on the visit by his ‘Kick’ co-star – and former Miss Sri Lanka – Jacqueline Fernandez following an invitation by President Rajapakse’s parliamentarian son Namal.
Fernandez later insisted that the trip was a ‘humanitarian’ one, adding that she was helping Khan extend his charitable activities to Sri Lanka.
In this open letter, leading Sri Lankan playwright Ruwanthi de Chickera attempts to provide some context about the furore for the benefit of the two under-fire stars.
Dear Salman Khan and Jacqueline Fernandez,
It was probably not your intention to be in the middle of this embarrassing political controversy.
Clearly, all you wanted to do was visit your old friend Namal and distribute some spectacles in order to boost your charity.
But, I must say, you two… the time you picked for this was just a little short-sighted.
It’s understandable that as you come from Mumbai (Jacqueline has been there for all of six years now…) you were ‘not aware of what was happening here.’
But by now you must know your friend Namal’s dad has been terribly busy trying to convince the people of Sri Lanka to re-elect him as president. And, well… things have not been going too well for him.
However, he must like you very, very much; because, just one week away from the elections, he and Namal and a whole lot of other people, (who should rightly be using every waking hour available to them to campaign for his re-election), actually spent a lot of time and money and resources helping you promote your charity.
Bless them all.
Yes, in this light, as you said Salman, Namal’s dad is probably the ‘most humble person’ you have ever met.
We, in our ignorance, assume that everyone else you know spends millions upon millions of other people’s money lining the streets of India with pictures of themselves.
Anyway, Jacqueline, we are sure that you would rather focus on other things “rather than this silly circus.”
Apologies for inconveniencing you with our antics.
But you are spot on. It is a bit of a circus here.
Our media is rigged, our police is corrupt, our money is being robbed from us, our journalists are being threatened, our artistes are being beaten, our minorities are being silenced, our justice system is a joke, our constitution is an embarrassment and right now, there are lots and lots of people getting assaulted and intimidated for exercising their right to vote – and this, with the right sound track, could be material for a very funny circus scene.
Sorry that this irritates you.
But you see, for us it’s a crisis. It’s been bleeding us to death – and it’s very important to us that it ends.
Finally, in all fairness to you, you may not have known the extent and depth of corruption that your friend’s family has unleashed upon this country, or how fed up, we, as citizens are of them.
But hopefully now you do. Now you do.
We anticipate that the next country you pick to promote your charity in brings you less embarrassment and a little more respect.
Ruwanthie de Chickera
Ruwanthie de Chickera is artistic director of Sri Lanka’s Stages Theatre Group. In the past 15 years, she has written and/or directed more than 20 plays, while lecturing widely on acting and directing. She also wrote the script for the acclaimed comedy ‘Machan’, and has produced feature and short films.
This letter was first published on www.groundviews.org, a citizen’s journalism initiative.