I am generally an avid reader, and these days my bookshelf is full. Everybody who is anybody is writing a book. A couple of weeks ago, that indefatigable politician who will stop at nothing, Wimal Weerawansa launched 'Garu Kathanayakathumani', a collection of his speeches, a smattering of the pearls of wisdom he scattered in Parliament and it was none other than His Excellency who did the honours at the book launch.
Knowing Wimal and his tendency to call a 'kusalaanaya' a 'padikkama', I am sure it must be a good read. I haven't read it yet, but I would if I get a complimentary copy -- but it would have been juicier if he wrote in it the details of how he engineered the defection of his comrades from the JVP to form the JNP!
Anyway, before I could say 'Pachayudhaya' we have another book hitting the bookshelves. Maithripala Sirisena's biography, released to mark his forty third (yes, forty third) anniversary in politics -- and the chap is only fifty nine years old!
I wonder what he did at the age of sixteen to 'enter politics' when he couldn't even have voted. He probably went for a meeting that C.P. de Silva had in Polonnaruwa -- but I am only guessing here. And I can hardly wait for another seven years — if he is releasing a book for his forty third anniversary, just imagine what he would be doing for his fiftieth anniversary — releasing the waters of the Parakrama Samudra perhaps!
But if you are the astute political observer that I am, you will note the little details: H.E. didn't do the honours for the book launch of the general secretary of his party. So, who knows, in seven years' time, we might be talking of Prime Minister Weerawansa with Sirisena doing an 'SB' and sitting in the opposition benches!
Ah, but it is not fair to engage in such speculation, especially, when you have so much more to do. For instance, if you are not the reading type you could try browsing the internet. Here too, you would find plenty of websites that keep you entertained.
There is a considerable choice to pick from too. For instance, if you are not happy with www.champikaranawaka.com, you could go to www.pavithrawanniarachchi.com (and there is no www.wdjseneviratne.com at the time of writing, maybe one will appear after this is written). If you want to probe still further, you can visit www.milinda.org or www.ravikarunanayake.com or even drkodituwakku.lk (for Karunasena Kodituwakku). And of course, those chaps wrote books most certainly have their websites, www.maithripalasirisena.com and www.wimalweerawansa.net. I had only one disappointment, browsing through these sites. The site www.bandulagunawardhana.com is not accessible, rather like the 'sahana malla' that he promised all of us just before the Presidential election!
Then, when you visit these websites, if it is about a government politician, visit the image gallery and look carefully at the pictures posted there. There are pictures and more pictures, mostly showing them standing side by side with Mahinda Rajapaksa but absolutely none showing them with Chandrika Kumaratunga. Well, maybe they had the pictures but they were all holidaying on the Hambantota beach on December 26, 2004 and the pictures with CBK got washed away in the tsunami, or so I thought!
And just in case you were wondering, there is indeed a www.mervinsilva.com. His slogan is 'mama oba rakinnemi' (I will protect you), so we can say with confidence that the website was not designed by Sirasa. But in true Mervin style, he takes a poll: are you going to vote for me, he asks. I said 'no', but eighty eight per cent who had taken part in the poll had said they would vote for him, so I am decidedly in the minority. Of course he gives you no guarantee that if you voted 'no', there wouldn't be a busload of protestors pelting stones at your house, so at least for the next few days, I am keeping the water cannon at the ready!
Even for Mervin, the possibilities are endless. I would suggest that he adds an online game to the website. We can all take pot-shots at the Sirasa office. If we strike, we score; if the water cannon hits us, game over. Or better still, guide Mervin through to Rupavahini. The more punches he packs to the programme producer, the higher the score; and yes, when the 'kukul saayam' can hits Mervin, it is game over. I am sure it will be a hit (metaphorically too), and Mervin will get more 'manapes' as a result.
Then, there is a different kind of game that is being played these days -- the numbers game where the aim is to popularise your 'manape' number. Bandula Gunawardana thought he stole a march on everyone because he simply put up small blue placards with nothing but '19' on it, because that was his number.
He probably didn't count on his opposite number — ironically, also a Trade Minister, just like Bandula — Ravi Karunanayake outsmarting him. Ravi's boys promptly went about pasting his picture on the placards with '19' on them. Cost effective, Ravi the accountant would say because that saved him the cost of the placard. Bandula, I suppose would explain that citing some reason related to the world market prices of placards!
But if one were to judge by cut-outs and posters alone, there is only one winner: Wimal W. I am not sure how much each of his cut-outs cost, but they are ubiquitous adorning every junction in Colombo, putting the likes of Thilanga Sumathipala and Duminda Silva, the other cut-out kings, to shame. If Wimal is funding all this with his own money and he calls himself a socialist, I'd ditch capitalism now and become a socialist right away. Anyway, for poor Wimal's sake I only hope that the Inland Revenue Department hasn't taken serious note.
And while on the subject of revealing your assets, we heard Ranil Wickremesinghe telling us this week that not only politicians but also their families should reveal their assets. Well and good sir, and correct me if I am wrong but at the time of writing, as far as we are aware only three candidates standing for this election have submitted their assets: Basil Rajapaksa, Mahinda Samarasinghe and Ravi Karunanayake. It is impossible to vote for all of them since they are standing in different districts, but what bothers me more is that the vast majority of candidates don't want to reveal all.
Wouldn't it be nice to know the assets of say, Thilanga, Wimal or even Sanath Jayasuriya and Geetha Kumarasinghe, for instance? I suppose we will have to leave that to another day, if at all.
But to be honest, it has been a lacklustre campaign in which the only redeeming feature is that there would be no more major elections -- presidential, general or provincial -- for at least another five to six years.
And, by the way, just in case we forget, there is that other little issue of the General contesting the general election. He will probably get elected from Colombo, and will have to be escorted from prison to Parliament because he can attend sittings while in prison (just ask SB about that, if you are in doubt!). So, even if the drama surrounding the general election will wind up in about ten days' time, the other drama surrounding the General will play on for some time to come!