Portrait of an Immortal : Sri Lanka’s eternal elite

His cologne takes your attention before you see him. Forcing your instincts to turn and notice. That his Versace, Patek Phillipe and the rest are real. That you are in the presence of a higher power.

A power that does business with men who toy with the fate of nations. Over food, wine and single malts money can’t buy. At places too exclusive to exist in public. In Geneva, London, New York, Shanghai, Moscow. Wherever billions are quietly made. Without fussing over human rights, ethics, the environment and other trivialities. Meetings reached on a hassle free first world passport. Without sitting among the common cattle in business class.

He knows that in his world, he’s another minor darkie shark. Yet in the small pond of Sri Lanka he tops the power and money food chain. He knows that too. When he shakes your hand you feel it in your bones.

The power is bought with the money. Yet only time you will see it is in a Cartier money clip. The cologne gives a hint about his cars. Though he’s only seen climbing out of some fancy SUV. Always with mute tough chaps in baggy shirts.

You will hear about his toys from other people. The ones who try to show they are his pal. The cars of course. What he has docked on a exclusive Rivera pier. The fab party he had aboard while anchored in Dubrovnik. Or the views from his posh pads around the planet.

Like the Nile, the sources of the money flow behind a fog of respectable vagueness and unverifiable rumour. The respectable part says its family money. New money aged out of its vulgarity. No hint that it ever needed washing.

He’s done wonders investing profits from Thathi’s business they always say. Yes there are companies with places where overseas investors visit. The poor guy has to cart them around. Endure endless receptions and dinners introducing them to politicians. His uncles are on boards of this and that. Lots of dull import export run by cousins in Dubai and Singapore. Or is it Bangkok? One is never sure.

For the rumour part you hear of fingers in every white elephant pie the politicians cook up. Assuming you think our rulers have the brains for fancy schemes of moving money. Perhaps he gives them advice. Introduces them to helpful overseas chums.

Then there are tales of the usual money men in Labuan. Shell companies in the Dutch Antilles. Owned by foundations in Liechtenstein. Links to “investments in the Middle East” are bandied about. He is not the sloppy type. You won’t see his name attached to anything. From Panama or elsewhere.

It’s harder to wonder about such things in his presence. His physique is too distracting. After the ex special forces personal trainers, the supplements, and regular mid mornings in a home gym, it better be. Custom tailoring emphasises his assets to the ladies. Makes boys out of the men. Gossips speak of surgical enhancements. That he never cuts his hair outside Europe. Shocking how uncharitable people are these days.

He isn’t tall. Yet you feel he looms over everyone. It’s his polish. The way he handles and reads people. Becoming whatever the situation expects. The urbane executive of something too important for you to ask about. The perfect putha to the aunties. With astrologers paid to keep them off his back.

His looks are frozen somewhere around thirty. A picture of youth matured by experience. Oozing with confident strength from surviving the ordeal. Yet immortality comes not his looks but from what he does. From the ancient role he plays in the ecosystem of human society. From the eternal class of the connected he joined through daddy’s connections. The connected who leach their powers by hanging around the throne. By being nice to cronies of whoever wears the crown.

Am I being too abstract? This is not a rant about the Illuminati. Just an acknowledgment of the physics of politics, money and the power it buys.

Human societies are hierarchical. Run by small groups of people. Who come and go with the gusts of politics. The immortals avoid politics. Turn access to the top into a strategic advantage. The money such access brings is just a means to an end. Which is the power to rise above the laws, norms and other inconveniences in the mud of “normal life”. The glow of knowing you have God like power to decide how lesser mortals live, starve or define happiness.

In the first world they are the now famous “one percent”. Under anything socialist they are The Party, the Nomenklatura, the Apparatchiks. Celine’s laws, Robert Michels’s Iron Law of Oligarchies, and the field of Elite theory outline this uncomfortable terrain better than I can.

Yet you know that already. If you ever had the privilege of free education in a Sri Lankan boys’ school you know. Even as you deny your knowing. Most seem to accept this as a price of living in a social system. Others aspire to such immortality. A few are already immortal. There are those who rail against the workings of the immortals. A fraction of them take action with meaningful results. Not that I have heard of them or their victories.

Which group do you fall into? Think about it as you sweat in the power cut dark. While the immortals make money to last three generations off the power plant that should be working. Stashed billions all over the world. While your piddling earnings are taxed to pay for generations of “policy” fuck ups. To prop up the organised crime called politics.

Or perhaps it is better not to think about such things. There are no easy “answers” and quick “solutions” to such “problems”. Find refuge in what ever comforts you. Perhaps it a cheaper single malt. Your family. The job that keeps it fed, clothed, housed, educated and cocooned from misfortune. Hobbies. Art. Sex. Wait for the end. Which, as far as this blog post is concerned, is now.


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