Fifth Column

23rd January 2000

Crossing the age barrier… that's important!

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"Thaaththa" Bindu Udagedera asked, "what is all this fuss about a Conscience Bill?"

"They want to introduce a bill that enables MPs to cross-over from one party to another", Bindu's father Percy explained.

"But why do they have to call it a 'Conscience Bill?"

"Why, what's wrong with that?" Percy wanted to know.

"Why, thaaththa, do politicians have a conscience? Especially those who recently crossed-over?"

"But don't forget that some of our greatest politicians have crossed-over at one time or the other…"

"Who are they?" Bindu wanted to know.

"Why, Bindu, SWRD crossed-over from the greens to form his party. Daha crossed-over so many times. In recent times, Anura did the opposite of what his father did and don't forget that even Lalith and Gamini crossed-over…" Percy recalled.

"But thaaththa," Bindu argued, the greatest of those people are those who crossed-over from the government side to the opposition, at a cost to themselves…"

"Yes", Percy agreed, "not those who cross-over from the opposition to the government just to get a cabinet post…"

"And" said Bindu, "they sometimes don't get even that but are treated as people with 'special assignments'…"

"That is not surprising" Percy observed.

"Why do you say that?"

"Why, Bindu, that is called the 'Karapincha' treatment…"

"And what is that, thaaththa?"

"That is when those who have power use those under them, holding out many promises and then discard them afterwards…"

"Do you think that will happen to those greens who have already crossed-over?"

Bindu wanted to know.

"That could always happen…" Percy observed.

"But thaaththa", Bindu queried, "then why are more greens said to be interested in joining the blues now?"

"They may not be sure of winning from their own party at the next elections…"

Percy suggested.

"And they will all be given cabinet posts?"

"If that happens" Percy said, "we will have a cabinet of about sixty ministers…"

"And that is a guarantee that absolutely no work will be done…"

"And we will have sixty deputy ministers and sixty ministry secretaries…"

"But thaaththa," Bindu said, "what will happen to the Executive Presidency then?"

"Why, that will stay, of course…"

"But thaaththa, Satellite promised to abolish it…"

"That is exactly what it is, Bindu, a promise and only a promise…"

"Why do you say that?"

"That's the only way Satellite can be at the top for the next six years…"

"And then what happens?"

"And, at the end of six years, she can always abolish the Presidency, hold an election where the Prime Minister is the head of the government and then try to come back as the Prime Minister…"

"Thaaththa" Bindu asked, "then shouldn't politicians be asked to retire after they reach a certain age?"

"Why do you say that?"

"Why, thaaththa, in all the other professions, you are supposed to retire when you reach sixty or sixty-five years of age even if you are physically fit…"

"That's true…" Percy conceded.

"Why is that?" Bindu wanted to know.

"That is" Percy explained, "I suppose because they think the brain functions less after you reach a certain age…"

"Ah," said Bindu, "that explains it…"

"What does it explain?" Percy asked.

"Why, it explains why politicians are allowed to continue without an age for retirement, thaaththa" Bindu said.

Percy didn't disagree.

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