Defending the Country

They cry foul in that cauldron
of a news room, saying these
human rights defenders
are traitors, publishing

their names and photographs,
inciting fears of death
squads preparing to drive
white vans to their residences.

The warning by the UN Human
Rights Commissioner to protect
witnesses is welcome, quixotic.
How will her office stop disappearances

when government has rejected
the resolution, said it will push back
reconciliation, which I presume to mean
more islanders vanished, bloodshed,

people living in fear and loathing,
keeping quiet or moving out,
accompanied to the airport
by diplomats from a friendly mission,

leaving their homes to caretakers,
a new life abroad for champions
of human rights at home? And
for those who stay, negotiating

protections, waiting for
a post- midnight call
by an elite team of assassins,
like the ones who shot

prisoners at Nandikadal,
stopping motorbikes
in the intersection
to beat Lasantha to death,

dressed in black with black
glasses, or as drivers
of white vans, in assorted
civilian garb, ordinary

people working
a second job at night,
disappearing themselves
into the morning rush.