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The Fifth Column

3rd October 1999

Think before you make your next move

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My Dear Ashraff,

I thought of writing to you because these days everyone seems to be talking of you, even more than Channel Nine or even the Test win against the Aussies, especially after that big fight you had with Richard.

To be in the news is nothing new to you but what has apparently upset all these people is your belief that it is you will decide who forms the next government. Now Ashraff, it is too early to talk about that but clever people do not go about saying things like that.

Of course we know that you too have your capabilities. We remember how you invited both Satellite and Ranil for your party's annual convention and it is to your credit that they both attended- that being probably the only occasion that they met!

We also remember how you played the master of ceremonies when All Countries Seen passed away recently. Some even say you tried to upstage the greens at that funeral, perhaps trying to win some votes from Akurana in the process. Knowing you, I daresay that those stories are not really inaccurate. Even before that, your supporters had put up black flags when Ranil visited your region and the chap was annoyed, to say the least. So now, I don't think the greens would like you to support them, if they can help it!

And now you try to burn the candle at both ends by rubbing Richard on the wrong side. We heard that he gave a good piece of his mind in language and that would not have been music to your ears and even Satellite would have been surprised at that outburst.

Look at it this way, Ashraff. It is true that under this PR system there is always the possibility of a hung Parliament and therefore the likes of Thonda, Deva and you can always bargain for a share of the power.

But can you really go it alone. You antagonize both the blues and the greens and where would you be left? Yes, you can go back to the East and but what would you be able to do from there? You would be cornered because the Tigers are already sharpening their claws against you. I'm sure that if the Tigers have anybody they hate more than those in the South it is those of you in the East!

If we remember right, five years ago, you played your cards correctly. With the greens at the tail-end of their rule you had both Dearly Beloved and Satellite guessing as to who you would support. They both wanted your goodwill desperately and we thought we saw a Thondaman in the making- the only difference being that you were from a different region, representing a different community.

But the events of the last few weeks have really surprised us because you have showed that you may not be as sharp as you appeared to be initially because you seem to be keen to annoy both the greens and the blues at the same time!

Then, to make matters even worse you have a debate with a much-respected monk on television. You may have performed reasonably well at the debate but the fact that you dared to do what no Buddhist politician has done wouldn't endear yourself to many, my friend.

Just take a leaf out of Thonda's book, will you? There's a clever politician if ever there was one and you are still a 'podiyen' compared to him. He has brought down governments and he has propped up governments but has he ever said so in so many words? Of course not. And that is why he is able to be elected on the UNP ticket, yet sit in the Cabinet! Think about it before your next move and that will help you a lot.

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha

PS- They say that a politician thinks of the next election while a statesman thinks of the next generation. Unfortunately in this country, Ashraff, you have to become a politician first before becoming a statesman. When politicians forget that and try to act like the latter, they don't succeed. Remember that will you?

Rajpal Abeynayake's Column

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