While Lanka’s largest opposition party, the UNP, struggles to find fringe parties to form a united front to meet the challenge they face from the Government on the Uva polls plateau, a pint-sized party with a pint-size leader decides to alight from the seemingly unstoppable UPFA juggernaut and brave the hustings on its own — [...]


Wimal’s lone flight to his castle in the air


While Lanka’s largest opposition party, the UNP, struggles to find fringe parties to form a united front to meet the challenge they face from the Government on the Uva polls plateau, a pint-sized party with a pint-size leader decides to alight from the seemingly unstoppable UPFA juggernaut and brave the hustings on its own — a move which has made the political grapevine rumble agog as to exactly what bizarre game plan is on, this time around.

For if it is not a shady stratagem devised by devious minds unknown in dark cellars of political intrigue, then what, exactly, is it? And to achieve what mystifying end, is the game plan concocted?

One man who may possibly know the answer as to whether it is an act of political deception or pathetic foolhardiness is Weerasangili Pannikiyalage Wimalasena, aka Wimalasiri Gamlath or bka, better known as, Wimal Weerawansa, the leader of the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna, aka National Freedom Front or bka Wimal’s party.

His recent demeanour portends a brewing storm that may soon break in thunderous roar to bedevil us all or pass away like a fly-by-night whose brief existence is of no grave import. But whatever the outcome the present level of play raises a certain alarm as to the way politics is practised in Paradise.

Wimal’s musth started setting in early May this year, the seasonal summer time in which such secretionary spurts have been observed to occur in his behavioral pattern in the past.

For no earthly reason whatsoever he suddenly sprung from his normally docile state to which he is comfortably chained and flung, in wild abandon, his reserved role as the hallowed ‘chinthana’ bearing caparisoned tusker on the UPFA perehera; and turned rogue, going berserk on the streets distracting the gallery with his tantrums and taunting the government with his trumpet. Finally, arrogating to himself the mantle of Lord Protector of the UPFA Government, he sweated out his hallucinations by issuing ‘The Twelve Commandments of Wimal’ to be religiously obeyed by the Government if it wished him to return tamely to the kraal.


And what were these commandments the Government must steadfastly uphold or suffer Wimal’s wrath? Pedestrian dicta born of mediocre minds, peddling the same rehashed patriotic prattle as if they were revelations divined on Mount Sinai.

The Government’s response was to keep him swaying and sulking in the wilderness for a month and then to summon him for talks and announce that a committee of five SLFP members will inquire into his demand that the Government adhere to his ‘Dolos Raja Dhamma” the Good Governance Dozen’. Exudations from Wimal’s eyes, ears and mouth temporarily ceased to flow when he was pacified by the President who declared that Wimal’s commandments were in conformity with UPFA policy. So what was the problem?

The problem with musth is that mood swings recur and can be triggered off by the slightest irritation. The fresh attack came with the arrival of South Africa’s Acting President Cyril Ramaphosa on July 7 as an invitee of the Government to mediate in the ethnic crisis. This was in direct violation of the Fourth Commandment of Wimal which states ”in the name of reconciliation and devolution of power, no intervention of external state parties or other parties including South Africa shall be considered as a facilitator’. It made Wimal blow his top.

But luckily for the Government, help was at hand and it came in the form of Cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella who sedated the hysterical Wimal by telling him that Ramaphosa had come to Lanka as a tourist to watch South Africa play cricket at Hambantota with the Lankan team. Wimal blithely swallowed Keheliya’s banana bunch whole and digested it without any visible regurgitation, merely adding, “If he has come as a tourist to see the match, then it’s okay.”

Or at least he pretended to swallow the fib, glad, perhaps, that Rambukwella had offered him a face saving exit from his projected intransigence. But alas, then came the Government’s decision, gazetted on July 15, to expand the scope of the all local Missing Persons Commission by appointing a three-member International Advisory Panel (IAP). It flouted his Second Commandment which dealt with non-interference by any external party in any internal war crimes probe which was also the Government’s declared position until July 15. And, worse, it was done behind his back. He had not been told. Someone somewhere was trying to pull the wool over his eyes. To Wimal, this was the last straw. How much can a small man take?

On July 22, Wimal issued another commandment, the 13th commandment – another unlucky 13 it seems – demanding the President to immediately amend the gazette notification of July 15 appointing the IAP or else!

With the Government ignoring Wimal’s letter, he called a news conference on Tuesday and declared he had lost faith in UPFA’s integrity. He then dramatically announced his party’s decision to contest the upcoming Uva provincial elections alone and not as a party of the UPFA. He would use Uva, Lanka’s second largest province as his bowling ground, of battle, wage his party skittles and dare UPFA to knock down his ninepins with its weighty ball of power.

“My party wouldn’t hesitate to take the right decision regardless of the consequences,” the National Freedom Front leader and UPFA Minister of Construction, Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities Wimal Weerawansa proclaimed at the media briefing.
What courage moved Wimal to take this decision and place his party’s neck on the block? What drove the little man to think bigger than himself for once and stoically announce a parting of ways with the Government that has made him what he is today — the perked up, gelled up, jazzed up, manicured minister enjoying all the plumy trappings high office can give — merely to prove his patriotic colours?
His decision to sacrifice his public funded privileges, to get down from his ministerial BMW 520 full option plus limousine and step into his Nidahas Peramuna Nano three wheeler plus one is admirable and should be trumpeted from tower to tower, sung from coast to coast, if it were only true. Alas, it is not.

If sacrificial lambs are demanded then it will only be his party members contesting the Uva polls who will be called upon to pay the price, who will board the tumbrels, who will see their heads fall. The party will remain as a party of the UPFA and Wimal himself will remain as the Minister of all the portfolios he presently holds. There is no intention of giving up even one gilded scrap of his powers, one creamy scoop of his perks. To assure the Government that the status quo will remain the same he tells the Government he will not rock the UPFA boat,

“The Government may brand the NFF as enemies,” he says, “but that would be unfortunate for we do not intend to act in any way detrimental to the Government.”

At least the Jathika Hela Urumaya’s lanky leader Champika Ranawake is more transparent in his two-in-one stance and, though soaring like a cloud clearing pinus, prefers to remain the Christmas tree upon which the government hangs its goodwill gifts. On Thursday his party spokesman Sri Warnasinghe declared the JHU, despite its own publicly aired disagreement with the Government on the same issue, would be sticking with the UPFA Government.

Thus the JHU has opted for the safe and plushy path and decided to stay with the cushy caravan. They are content beyond compare to merely record their disapproval of certain government actions but, after this initial symbolic chirpings against all things anti-hela culture have been done away with and laid to rest, they will happily extend their fullest support for its continued perpetration in return for a few ministerial posts and concomitant perks.

When pragmatic Champika’s Hela Culture obliquely dictates direction thus, what makes Wimal endanger his party’s lot by turning his — as he would put it — ‘constructive criticism’ to downright threats of ‘go it alone’ action? Could it possibly be the irrepressible showman in him playing up and flamboyantly playing out the scripted role, knowing full well how his bravura performance is choreographed to have a happy ending with him as the risen hero before the final curtain falls on the theatrical act?

Flashback your mind to July 8 four years ago, when, during another summer musth season for him, Wimal went on a hunger strike outside the United Nation’s office in Colombo protesting against the “Experts Panel” appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. For two days the man did not yield to temptation and refused to eat until it moved the President himself to visit his roadside deathbed and offer him a life saving sip of water which was accepted along with food the moment it was proffered.

So what gives Wimal the confidence to embark on this suicidal course? Could it be that he thinks his guardian angel would not let him down this time, too, even after all the profanities cast? If he does so think, then spare a sympathetic moment this Sunday morn to reflect upon the simple yet obtuse thought processes at work in the mind of Wimal Weerawansa, Lanka’s Minister for Housing and Construction, as he builds castles in the air where, presumably, he intends to take his seat of permanent residence.

From musth in early May and more so ever since the Vesak moon waxed, he has acted strange and wallowed in a prolonged state of self aggrandizement. The self appointed leader of a one-man party called the National Freedom Front, who broke away from the moribund Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and joined, along with other failed Marxists parties, the Government in 2009 to give it the seeming appearance of possessing a national coalition representing the length and breadth of the political firmament, suddenly seemed to have found in himself all the trappings required of an indispensable crutch, without whose vital support, the government would collapse.
While he acts out his charade and thinks his little skit will once again make him some sort of a martyr and the people’s simulated applause could be amplified to resound his own, he may have underestimated the credulity of the watching public even as he may have overreached himself in delivering ultimatums to the government.

This time has he gone too far? But even as he may be expecting to receive the life saving chalice at the eleventh hour and be brought back to life in the government fold, he should also pause for thought and be wary as to what the cup may hold this time for him. Will the bamboozler become the bamboozled?

Though the cabinet spokesman Rambukwella on Thursday pooh poohed Wimal’s threat and stated that any constituent party of the UPFA was free to contest provincial elections on their own and that he was confident that both the NFF and the JHU will be with the Government when it comes to the general elections, can Wimal be absolutely sure that the sod will not be cut off under his feet? Though Rambukwella said it was the way democracy was practised in the UPFA, whether the concept of collective cabinet responsibility would allow Wimal to take intolerable liberties and entitle him to persistently slap UPFA’s face?

This time, who knows, his bluff may indeed be called, and the real stature of his five feet no inches party that presently walks tall on bamboo ‘skywalk’ stilts will be cut down to size; and he will be revealed for what he truly is; a Lilliputian dwarf with a Gulliver complex, leading a following of party members whose combined presence hardly fill his shadow.

After BBS, meet the new look MBBSSUNDAY PUNCH 2

Buddhist monks do it on the streets. Provincial chief ministers and chief minister hopefuls do it in television studios in front of television cameras. Now doctors have begun to follow suit and do it inside hospitals, within the main National Hospital in Colombo no less.
Their treatment for treating simple maladies now is to prescribe a good punch up right in front of an audience of patients. And the letters after their name MBBS have suddenly come to stand not for Medicinae Baccalaureus, Baccalaureus Chirurgiae but for the more apt Medical Brutes Belligerent Squad.

One more domino in the social strata hitherto afforded respect and honour tumbled down ignominiously on Wednesday when an argument between two groups of doctors at Colombo’s main hospital, turned into a right royal no-holds-barred brawl, a medical slug fest eaten at the high table of eminent doctors.

The issue was a simple one. A group of 30 consultants held a meeting at the hospital canteen during their lunch break to elect officials to their union branch at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL). In a scene reminiscent of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) charging into Hotel Nippon and breaking up a media briefing organised by the Muslim clergy with a Buddhist monk in April this year, another group of GMOA doctors had stormed the canteen. Fighting broke out and the police were called in. Those involved were not interns but senior doctors and specialists.
Surprising, isn’t it, that members of so noble a profession, so honoured and respected by the people, even bestowed divine status and treated as living gods on earth by wonder struck patients could stoop to such animalistic violence at the drop of a hat over a trifle? Where was their long ingrained training to withstand pressure whilst holding godly power over a patient’s life? What trust and confidence can we repose in their self promoted and professed genius to act with fortitude when Wednesday’s ugly row revealed that they could flip their countenance and were no different from the rest of us?

The GMOA has said that seven of their members have been suspended and are now facing internal disciplinary action. That is their own private matter and they will be treated in accordance with their own set of rules. But have they been charged by the police?

It now seems to be the practice to regard assault and battery committed at public places as private matters affecting only the individuals concerned and, provided they do not commit blue murder, that it can be safely left to them to sort out their differences. That is why Buddhist monks who allegedly incited violence on the streets at Aluthgama in June were not charged. That is why Wayamba UPFA Chief Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera and UNP MP Harin Fernando who had a violent exchange of blows with Harin claiming Dayasiri even bit his shoulder at a television station last month were not charged.

But they should have been. The offenses of assault and battery are not merely against the persons concerned but are crimes against the whole of society. The matter can be settled amicably between the parties later. But first the law must be enforced and charges must be leveled.

Take the case of billionaire casino boss James Packer’s fight with his lifelong friend and best man David Gyngell on the pavement outside his beach front house at Sydney’s Bondi Beach in May. Even though both were willing to settle and forget the whole episode, and though no official complaint was lodged, Australian police issued both with criminal infringement notices for offensive behavior which carried a fine of Aus $ 500 or approximately Rs 60,000.

Before public brawls and street boxing Thai style become common place acts of top drawer educated folk, and precipitate society’s inevitable slide down the slippery slope towards anarchy, the Attorney General should prefer charges on those suspected of assault and battery, no matter who they are.

In the meantime anxious parents whose first choice as an ‘ideal catch’ for their unmarried daughters has traditionally been doctors should henceforth seriously consider whether to include the following in their marriage ad in the papers: Those with MBBS need NOT apply.

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