April, wrote the poet T. S. Eliot, is the cruelest month. Some of our politicians are unlikely to know of Mr. Eliot and his writing even if they lived through several samsaras. Some others might have had a brief encounter with Eliot as they tried to grapple with his imagery while still others would have [...]


The witches’ broth our politicians cook


April, wrote the poet T. S. Eliot, is the cruelest month. Some of our politicians are unlikely to know of Mr. Eliot and his writing even if they lived through several samsaras. Some others might have had a brief encounter with Eliot as they tried to grapple with his imagery while still others would have lain like a patient etherized upon a table totally impervious to what the poet wrote several decades ago.

We have in our midst chief ministers who make female school principals kneel before them in a public gesture of obeisance and repentance for something we know not what. Not surprisingly this disgusting education minister from the distant hills has now been reinstated in the position from which he wielded power while three committees appointed to report on the incident after strenuous protests from teachers’ associations and others have still to complete their reports.

Whose dastardly work it was to reinstate this man, an insult to Sri Lanka’s education system and those who tirelessly built it book by book from pre-independence days, one might well have to fly immediately to London to ask some who are now there contributing to the Commonwealth Conference. What they are contributing and what they can genuinely contribute is a matter for serious consideration and perhaps a matter of national shame. But that is the lot we have got to rule this country with a 2500-year old civilization.

If what that so-called provincial education minister did stands as an example of what some politicians think of education then heaven help us all. These third rate politicians with fourth rate education – or none at all – have obviously more important things to do than try to fill the vast gaps in their education. After all why should they want to educate themselves, even if they could, when all they wished to be were politicians for which you need but a particular bent of mind. All they wish to do was fill their pockets and not some hole in their learning.

When over 90 MPs had failed to pass the GCE ‘O’ level according to one survey why should they bother with some chap named Thomas Stearns Eliot when one or more of his ancestors could well have been colonialists who themselves had dipped their hands into colonial treasures and packed them off home or taken some for souvenirs.

They, after all, appear like blood brothers. They were all after the national loot. Yet when April came along Eliot proved to be correct at least as far as Sri Lanka’s political class was concerned. Sri Lanka’s yahapalana government, always rather shaky on its somewhat dilapidated wheels, was given a good electoral shove on February 10 when voters went to the polls, shaking the government out of its supine slumber.

If that was not good enough to awaken this sleepy lot who appear to have forgotten or deliberately abandoned its electoral promises, the local government results sure rattled the chaps linking hands with the government but more than ready to let go the grip if and when the political tide turned.

The tides of March were sufficient for some of the rusty and crusty politicians to prepare for the long jump – the last of the not so athletic performances one hopes – that would carry them across to the other side, with a pit stop before the final journey to where they hope to be safe among other feathered friends collectively known as birds of passage.

While backroom analysts from every party and their frontline megaphonists twisted and turned the February results to signal a victory for their own sides, the Joint Opposition guys and dolls thought the results spelt a genuine opportunity to chase away the prime minister and install the JO in a position of power.
So JO decided to move a vote of “no confidence” on the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe relying on gestures – even promises some say now – from the highest on the yahapalana side that anti-Ranil elements in the so-called National Unity Government (NUG) would throw in their lot with JO and send Ranil W on his final journey to political oblivion.

But some of the many who were supposed to vote ‘Yeah’ decided to renege, like on the promises they made on those pre-election platforms more than three years ago and duped the common man – and even some intelligent ones – into believing all that was pledged. This February local election would not only be of interest to psephologists but those who find the study of politicians and their behaviour as fascinating a subject as that of tree-hugging primates. Notice how some of our politicians love trees – not to live on them but off them, cutting down forest reserves and removing the timber.

In the political melee that began in earnest after the February elections some politicians who woke in the morning did not know which side they were on – no, no not of the bed, but the political heap. Several of Sri Lanka’s politicians have crossed, double crossed and treble crossed the increasingly amorphous political spectrum. Some of those supposedly upright and outstanding figures parade today as men and women of unimpeachable integrity and believe they are way beyond reproach.

So while the prime minister beat off the attempt by the JO which thought the vote was sealed and dusted, there were conspiracies and plots being hatched within the party with which the UNP had signed a compact. What is becomingly increasingly interesting is the role that President Sirisena played or did not play or even the multiple roles he did play while trying to show his party and outsiders that he was being even- handed in this whole sordid affair.

It is well-known to the public that the president and his prime minister had fallen out and that the president had begun to rile the UNP leader at every possible turn. But was, and is, Sirisena as clean as his lily-white sarong that he now sports on his frequent foreign visits as though he has bought himself a permanent place on a free-loaders list?

When he appeared in London as an invitee to then Prime Minister David Cameron’s international conference against corruption and fraud, the relatively newly elected president cut a new furrow among some world leaders but certainly fewer than Cameron expected. Having followed that conference I was glad to hear Sirisena saying what steps the new government was taking and would take to stamp down on bribery and corruption. There followed the blithe promises to what he would do to see lost or stolen assets returned with international help.

Those promises made to world leaders and the people turned out as hollow as the pledges he made to his own people. Many will recall the promise that Polonnaruwe Sirisena made to the people that if he was elected president he will serve only one term – and a shorter than normal one too – after which he will retire to his village in Polonnaruwa where he can be nearer to his niyara.

But what are promises for if they cannot be broken like our own laws that are violated each day. Only a couple of days ago I read a statement by Duminda Dissanayake (yes the same chap who rented out last year a building supposedly for the agriculture ministry costing several million rupees a month but was never occupied at the time I read about it) secretary-general of the SLFP that Sirisena would be the party candidate at the next presidential election.
Edmund Burke once said that greater the power more dangerous the abuse. It seems that Sirisena who has now become bloated with the craze for power wants, like Oliver Twist a second helping of it.

Why not. He is enjoying his constant travel with family members in tow to foreign countries and absorbing a different life style from the one he was accustomed to. He may not travel all together lest the media cottons on to these family outings and photographs begin to circulate like the one of his son who turned instant delegate at the UNGA a couple of years ago and his daughter suddenly turning officious.

So maybe all of them no longer travel together. For instance the President goes on a flight which will no doubt be officially met and greeted. So it is always possible for family members including in-laws to travel on an earlier flight the previous day so they escape the vigilant eyes of the paparazzi hovering around.
Couple of other questions arise. Is it only UNP power players who have used their power and influence to stop or delay investigations for corruption and fraud among other allegations, against members of the previous regime? Have SLFP big wigs remained perpetual saints and never poked their fingers into activities of the AG’s Department and investigative agencies to do what the UNP is accused of doing?

Will the ministers, state ministers and deputies among those who resigned from the Unity Government and said they would sit in the opposition please return their official vehicles, official residences and all the other paraphernalia that go with the office including secretaries now that wish to make a clean break.
While April started like an April fool joke with even the inefficient and inexperienced in some missions abroad being dropped (under their own volition doubtless) like some rancid konde kavun, the month turned out to be a bloody mess as the days passed by.

There is one ray of hope for the unity government to maintain some unity and sanity. That is the committee headed by articulate, sensible and thinking men as Sarath Amunugama and others such as Mahinda Samarasinghe. It will not be an easy task, given the earlier acrimony and the Casca – like conspiracy plotted not by those at the bottom of the totem pole but right at the top, to betray Wickremesinghe.

But if Sarath Amunugama who has often played a diplomatic role in tight places is able to bring some unity we may still see the darling buds of May begin to blossom this spring.

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