Fifth Column

8th April 2001

Building breaker in big rubble

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My Dear Avamangala,

I thought I must write to you when we heard about your decision to demolish that Buddhist temple at Punchi Borella last week, which led to so many problems and protests.

We know you began all this demolition work saying that the cities are being disfigured by unauthorized structures and that you would remove them, no matter who they belonged to. At that time, many people praised you saying it was a courageous decision because you were bold enough to take action even against some of your own party supporters.

And demolish you did, with due publicity from the media which painted the picture that you were above party politics in this matter and even the greens were admiring you for your tough attitude, especially in the face of opposition from your own cabinet colleagues.

But now, Avamangala, all that seems to have gone in to your head which is the only reason I can think of for decisions that you are taking lately. In fact, you seem to be intent on committing political suicide.

Why on earth, Avamangala, should you be so worried about a small but venerated temple in Punchi Borella? Just what are you trying to prove? No wonder the people now call you 'Anavasara Idikireem Amathi'!

And, all this seems rather silly isn't it when your government made such a big fuss about the Buddha statues in Afghanistan? We are telling the world that we will even buy the pieces of those statues and re-build them and your PM even made a trip to Pakistan to try and stop the destruction. Needless to say, he failed in his mission and we all pretended outrage at that incident but here we are now bulldozing our own temples! How much more absurd can we become, Avamangala?

What is even more laughable is your excuse for demolishing the temple, Avamangala. You say that it was being used by a person who was charged with issuing bogus certificates to the Tigers. Surely, Avamangala, if that was indeed the case the appropriate course of action would have been to deal with that person- and not the temple. Why, then the first thing that you should do is raze Parliament to the ground because it is being used by people charged with murder and even having associations with, gold smuggling.

Avamangala, we don't know what your definition of 'anavasara idikireem' is, but in our book, there are some structures which qualify more to be in that category than the small temple you demolished on Wednesday. Both are being built now at colossal expense at Kotte, one for your boss and the other for her little brother.

As far as we understand, they are both unnecessary at a time when the boss herself is telling her countrymen to tighten their belts because the state has no money to raise their salaries. Now, if you are really the courageous man that you are, why don't you take your bulldozers there and raze them to the ground, Avamangala? I'm sure you will then be able to regain the respect that you lost last week at least in some measure!

So, think again, Avamangala. It is unlikely that after what you did last week you will be seen as the courageous man who went about his job without fear or favour. Unless, of course, you have the courage to apologize for what you did.

Yours truly, 

Punchi Putha.

PS- In any other country, a minister would have resigned by now for what happened. But then, this is Sri Lanka. However should you ever be out of a job, don't despair- you could always get a contract with the Taleban.

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