5th Column

Losing face to get a leg up


My Dear Rauff,

I thought I must write to you this week because you are in the news once again, all because of wanting to contest the elections in the Eastern province on your own, after announcing that you would be contesting with the Blues only a day earlier.What is refreshing about this, Rauff, is that finally someone in the coalition that is ruling the country has got the guts to say that they will go it alone even when the Blues seem to suffer from the ‘if you are not with us, you are against us’ mentality.

Of course, I don’t really expect people like Wimal, Champika or even Dinesh, Vasu or Dew to follow in your footsteps because all they can do these days is to grin and bear it, no matter how they are treated by the Blues.Don’t get me wrong, Rauff, but I also know your party didn’t decide to contest on its own because it wanted to teach the Blues a lesson. You simply wanted a larger slice of the cake-in terms of slots on the nomination lists-and when the Blues refused to give it to you, you decided to go your own way.

Rauff, your actions remind me of Thonda, who made minority politics a fine art in the days when JR ruled the country. Thonda, ever since he joined forces with JR in the late seventies, ensured that his party remained in the government-and it has never been in the opposition since!
Now, no one even bothers to talk about Thonda’s party anymore because it is taken for granted that it is part of the government of the day, whichever it is. I’m not sure whether even Thonda’s grandson knows whether he is green or blue these days!

Even though your actions remind me of what Thonda did with JR, I suppose you could argue that you are only following in the footsteps of the founder of your own party, the late Mr. Ashraff. That gentleman also made it a point to side with the government of the day, didn’t he?
Why, he emerged as a national leader at the time JR’s successor was ruling the country and supported him. But just a few years later, when Satellite took over, he was quick to join her bandwagon and was soon appointed a Minister in her Cabinet.

Now we see you doing the same. Just over ten years ago, when the Greens formed a short-lived government of their own, you and your party contested with them and were part of their government. That is how you even had a face-to-face meeting with Prabhakaran.
At the next elections, even though you remained with the Greens, most of those in your party who were elected because of votes polled by the Greens, accepted Mahinda maama’s invitation to join his government, unable to resist the many temptations that were on offer.
But I think Rauff, the unkindest cut of all came two years ago, when you first supported the General against Mahinda maama at the presidential election. Then, after he lost, you and your party contested with the Greens and entered Parliament.

Lo and behold, less than six months later, when Mahinda maama wanted to pass the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution to ensure that he can have more than two terms in office and was looking for a two-thirds majority in Parliament, you were by his side!
I understand that it was a shotgun wedding at best, because you really didn’t want to betray the trust the Greens placed in you but at the same time, you faced a revolt in your own party if you hadn’t joined Mahinda maama’s team at that time.

And here you are now, once again, trying to break free from the shackles of the Blue coalition at least in the Eastern province. Again, I hear that if you didn’t agree to do so, there would have been another revolt in your party and that is why you agreed to go back on your word to Mahinda maama.

You also say that you will remain with the Blues and be part and parcel of their Cabinet. It would be a funny arrangement indeed where a cabinet minister of the government is leading a party that is contesting against the major party in that same government! Even Thonda couldn’t manage that!

But stranger events have occurred in Sri Lankan politics, so we should not be surprised. I suppose what happens next will depend to a large extent on the outcome of the election. If you lose, you will have a lot to answer for, but then, you don’t really expect that to happen, do you, Rauff?
I wish you the best of luck, Rauff. I hope that at the end of it all, justice will be done not only to you and your party but also to the people of the Eastern province. And who better than you can ensure that this happens, because you, after all, are the Minister of Justice!

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha
PS-At the very least, no matter what the outcome of the election is, you can expect to learn about how elections are fought by the Blues, where their slogan appears to be that the end justifies the means. But then, you shouldn’t complain because it will only be a taste of your own medicine!

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