Fifth Column

28th January 2001

We knew it all the time

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My dear Rauf,

I thought of writing to you because everyone is talking about this so-called deadline you set Satellite when you joined her government a hundred days ago. I don't know whether you can remember it, Rauf but at that time you promised to quit the government if Satellite did not appoint independent commissions to administer elections, the police and the public service.

Of course, Rauf it is not that we took you seriously, then. After all, you were someone who had clung on to Satellite's saree pota at a time when your late leader had pledged he would not support her again. At that time you justified your actions by saying, 'wait and see, if she does not do as I want, I will quit.'

We thought the requests you made for independent commissions was a good one, not because you asked for it but because now, the police and the public service is being hopelessly manipulated by the government in power, be it blue or green.

But when you entered the Cabinet and began making demands for posts of deputy ministers, corporation chairmen and even ambassadors we knew you were trying to serve not your country alone.

Of course, Rauf, we understand your plight. We know that you are not secure in your own party. The widow will come out of mourning in a few days time and then, there will be a serious challenge to your authority within the party. So, you needed to reward your loyalists with perks of office to ensure that they side with you and not with the lady.

Of course, Rauf like a true politician, you forgot all about the deadline you set and it was left to the media to remind you about it. And when they did, you were cheeky enough to say that you were contemplating your future as a minister. But then, you meekly went back to Satellite, came back empty handed and said you will continue as a minister even though your request for commissions have been ignored.

Tell me, Rauf, what did Satellite tell you for you to change your mind? Did she promise you to appoint those commissions within the next hundred days? Or did she remind you with her charming smile that if you quit she could always deal with the lady leader and show you the door?

We understand, Rauf. one gets used to power and the trappings of power. There are also the free vehicles, duty free permits, entertainment allowances, subsidized meals, free fuel and telephones, free trips overseas and a pension after five years.

And anyway, even if satellite did appoint those stupid commissions, wouldn't there be serious problems? How can you stuff the Colombo port with people you selected if there is an independent commission monitoring the public service? And how can you transfer obnoxious policemen who do not do as they are told, if there is an independent police commission? Then, most importantly, how can you win the next elections if there is an independent elections commission?

So, Rauf, don't worry too much about these commissions. When you first made that demand we knew you were half hearted and by allowing that deadline to lapse we are only confirming what we already knew. After all, it is a politician's job to make promises before being elected and then explain to the people why those promises cannot be kept after being elected. But Rauf, in that respect you need a little tuition from Satellite- I can assure you, she does that quite well!

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha.

PS- Some people want you to resign because you didn't keep your promise of quitting the government unless those commissions were appointed. Please don't resign, Rauf- without people like you around, who will amuse us?

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