My dear Karu, I thought of writing to you because you too are writing letters and issuing statements, while this paradise of ours continues to stumble from one crisis to another, thanks to Aiyo Sirisena’s foolish and hasty actions which are motivated by his desire to cling on to the top job for another five [...]

5th Column

Karu’s courage: One man’s battle to save democracy


My dear Karu,

I thought of writing to you because you too are writing letters and issuing statements, while this paradise of ours continues to stumble from one crisis to another, thanks to Aiyo Sirisena’s foolish and hasty actions which are motivated by his desire to cling on to the top job for another five years.

I know you are in a difficult situation, being the focus of all attention because Aiyo Sirisena chose first to prorogue Parliament and then to dissolve it, just so he could prevent the Green Man demonstrating support from a majority of MPs — until the top court intervened and Parliament was summoned again.

Karu, we know that you are not a political animal by nature. You took to politics rather late in life, after a successful career as a businessman and after a stint as an ambassador. You didn’t embark on a career in politics to earn money– as most people in the current Parliament appear to have done.

You have also been decent and transparent in almost all of your decisions. The only occasion when one may point a finger at you was when you betrayed the trust placed on you by the Greens and the Green Man over a decade ago and joined Mahinda maama supposedly to strengthen the war effort.

That experiment lasted just one year and you were soon back with the Greens. I don’t know what Mahinda maama promised you then, but it was very clear that you didn’t like the treatment you got. Since then, you have worked hard and won the respect and trust of the Greens all over again.

You did challenge the Green Man for the leadership seven years ago and lost — but no one can blame you for that. The Green Man was not very popular and Mahinda maama was running circles around the Greens after the war victory. In hindsight, the Greens probably made the wrong decision then!

Now, you are back in the firing line, Karu, not because you are with the Greens but because many people see you as the custodian of parliamentary democracy which has been threatened to the core by Aiyo Sirisena’s actions. So, they expect you to protect democracy, especially in the days to come.

Until now, you have maintained that until Mahinda maama proves his majority in the House, the Green Man remains PM. You have also said that this is a coup without guns. While agreeing with what you say, we hope you will have the courage to act accordingly as well, in the coming weeks.

We saw what happened in the House this week. On Wednesday, though parliament met, Aiyo Sirisena didn’t attend to open the new sessions of the House. Remember Preme? When he was impeached, he turned up and made a stirring speech. In contrast, Aiyo Sirisena didn’t have the guts to do so.

The Opposition passed a vote of no confidence on Mahinda maama and his new government. That was very difficult for you because everyone was behaving like hooligans — and the Blues were preventing a vote by name because they knew that if that was done, they wouldn’t have the numbers.

All hell broke loose on Thursday. Our ‘honourable’ members were at each other’s throats, abusing each other, brandishing knives or letter openers and throwing waste-paper baskets at you and both the Greens and the Blues were at fault. It was democracy that was thrown in to the waste paper basket that day.

There was some hope that Friday would be a better day because some of the Greens had met Aiyo Sirisena and he had assured them that it would be business as usual provided some changes were made. The Greens should have known better — who believes a word of what Aiyo Sirisena says now?

Thursday was a walk in the park compared to what happened on Friday, when you were not even allowed to take your seat. Our Parliament and democratic system were made a mockery of. The law of the jungle prevailed. The so-called ‘government’ wanted to prevent a proper vote and that they did!

It was as if there was a jail break and all the convicts had escaped. There was Borreley Pala, Kelaniye Prasanna, Kurunegala Johnny and Udatalwinney Lohan leading the charge. They stooped so low as to hurl water mixed with chilli powder — and it was the policemen who took the brunt of that assault.

While all this was happening, Mahinda maama was watching with Namal baby by his side. He didn’t want to rein in his barking lapdogs. Why would he? After all, they were only trying to protect the ‘Premiership’ that Aiyo Sirisena bestowed on him rather deviously, against all constitutional norms.

It was mob rule at its worst, taking over what was once called an ‘august’ assembly. Watching this, we remembered what it was like when Mahinda maama was king and someone dared to oppose him. He and his men may have been in the opposition for a few years, but nothing, it seems, has changed.

Their faction is trying to blame you for all this, Karu because they say you didn’t follow the ‘proper procedure’. Of course, you couldn’t, because they didn’t allow you to, by preventing a vote by name. If they did that, their ‘government’ would fall, so we can expect this to go on for a few more weeks.

We admire your courage for doing what you did, at your age, without flinching or giving in. You had said, Karu, that you will protect democracy even at the cost of your life. We sincerely hope it will never come to that but, after what happened on Friday, I don’t think we can guarantee that.

Yours truly

Punchi Putha

PS- Your actions this week remind me of someone saying ‘if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you’. We hope you can do that in the next few weeks, Karu. All this started because someone lost his head — and we all know who that is, don’t we?

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