Political Sketchbook  

Moragoda the magnificent - he means it
"When everybody's somebody, then no-one's anybody." Does Milinda Moragoda remind you of that line? If Milinda Moragoda is Athulathmudali without the charisma, and Gamini Dissanayake without his magnetism, then Milinda Moragoda is a political everybody, right?

Wrong. Says who? Says Milinda Moragoda of course. Last week, Milinda Moragoda was sitting in the Eastern province, talking to students of the Eastern University, with Rauff Hakeem by his side.

Suddenly, Moragoda takes a break from discussing deadly issues such as political unrest in the East, and switches to something profound. You can see it in his look. He gazes heavenward. It is a signal that everybody should hang on to this vastest, mostest and latest profundity. Which is?

Himself of course. "My colleagues say I am funny,'' he announces, and Eastern University students thought they had problems. " My colleagues think I am funny,'' he goes on. "Because I don't think of only one side. I think of both sides in an issue. I am like that, I am different.''

So here he is. Modern visionary. Thinks of both sides in an issue. Hear hear hear.

Milinda Moragoda's only - or his most vocal - political pitch sorry, is that he is different from all other politicians, his pitiable humdrum " colleagues.'' That you have to hand it to him is true. He is the only politician who spends half the time talking about himself, and how he is different from the rest of the pack. He has something to say, this one. While all others try to talk about the issues, however insincere or hypocritical they may sound - Moragoda talks about himself. Don't believe it? See this week's MTV footage on which Moragoda 'discusses the burning problems of the East.'

But Milinda Moragoda is a sacred-cow, says one of my liberal companions. That's because he is involved in the peace process. Anton Balasingham likes him in a scholarly kind of way (even though he is more chummy with G. L. Peiris - that's right, G. L. Peiris takes first place in the vital Balasingham friendship stakes…), and Moragoda has been talking to a lot of big people about peace. Sacred or otherwise, let us look at his CV. Milinda Moragoda is the ultimate CV kind of politician. If you take the CV off the late lamented CV Gooneratne - well, at least he will end up with the Gooneratne. Take the CV off Moragoda, and he just won't be 'Milinda Moragoda' anymore.

Anyway his CV says he is a Graduate of the Master of Business Administration (MBA) Programme of the Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland. From 1994 to 1995 he was a Fellow of the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. Buying a summer at Oxford is easy, and so what's buying a single post-grad year at Harvard for a self-confessed one helluva businessman? (Ask a former Liberal Party MP, who also liked to sit together with Muslim politicians.)

So then, where exactly does Moragoda's modern vision come from, if it is not exactly from his educational achievements? He says himself - who else dares speak for Moragoda? - that he didn't destroy the environment to get elected. He says he didn't do what other politicians did, which is to think on only one side of the issue. He says he is not like other politicians, period.

So there. Milinda Moragoda is the politician - the only one mark my words, Moragoda will be highly offended if you don't put him in a class by himself, even if its fourth class - who is distinguished not by what he did, but what he didn't do.

But how uncanny that truisms can be very true sometimes? Athulathmudali was distinguished by Mahapola and his abortive impeachment putsch, Dissanayake by his Mahaweli and his impeachment putsch, Wickremesinghe by his tenacity, Karunanayake by CWE, and Milinda Moragoda by what he didn't do, because he has done exactly that - nothing so far. Alright alright, photo opportunities in Sattahip, and negotiating in Uruguay or some godforsaken niche, and if Moragoda says that makes him different, who am I to argue? But imagine the possibilities for his future. If Moragoda can say he is the only different politician by doing nothing in such a short time, what a unique politician he can be if he continues in this vein doing nothing for his entire future political career?

Mind blowing. You will hesitate reading that epitaph, when Milinda Moragoda's figure is carved in stone at Galle Face green, with the legend - the only politician of his time who dared to be different.

In small letters, will it say of his political career:

2001-2040: did nothing (really) for peace.

2001-2040: did nothing for the economy.

2001-2040: did absolutely nothing for the Eastern province Muslims.

Milinda Moragoda - he truly dared to be different?


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