Suddenly summoning a news conference as if to announce that Elvis is alive and has been spotted leaving the building — in the same way that the former president Rajapaksa told a temple crowd in Bibile last week that he had turned up there to show he was not dead and that ‘appachchi is still [...]


By Gad, Sir, has the Pukka Sahib of Lanka’s leftists flipped his lid?

Vasu bares bizarre plan to topple Maithri

Suddenly summoning a news conference as if to announce that Elvis is alive and has been spotted leaving the building — in the same way that the former president Rajapaksa told a temple crowd in Bibile last week that he had turned up there to show he was not dead and that ‘appachchi is still alive’ — the UPFA bearded Vasudeva Nanayakkara, instead, revealed to the gathered media personnel another spot of bizarre news.
He announced the grand plan to topple people-elected Maithripala Sirisena from the Presidency and install people-deposed Mahinda Rajapaksa to act as executive president for a month.

In the process of outlining the sinister strategy the Rajapaksa rebels had devised to return to power, he also, inadvertently perhaps, bared the dangerous levels to which the fear psychosis, prompted by the corruption crackdown, had driven opposition sanity to plunge.

At least the plan has acknowledged that there can be no comeback for Mahinda Rajapaksa as president. But, in the event of a vacancy arising in the presidential office, until Parliament elects a member who is not disqualified to be president, the prime minister can act as president for a period less than a month. It is through this small mouse hole in the constitutional wall that the opposition plans to make the former president squirm his way through to act as president.

According to the grand design, Vasudeva said they will all unite under the SLFP led by President Maithripala Sirisena by the time the election is due and contest under one flag to win the election and form the next government. Mahinda Rajapaksa will be made prime minister and then, in the event of an impeachment resolution being brought against Maithripala Sirisena and he is unseated as a result, Mahinda Rajapaksa will act as president.

Two things in the Vasudeva proclaimed plan must trouble the nation. The first is this talk of an impeachment motion being brought to topple President Maithripala Sirisena and in the wake of the vacancy created in the presidential office to enable Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister automatically act as the President. This needs clarification.

First an impeachment motion to unseat a president is not in the same league as a simple no-confidence motion brought against a minister by the opposition. It is a long-drawn process which requires grounds of impeachment followed by a Supreme Court trial and determination. It also needs to be approved by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The plan presumes that while this long process is taking place, the rest of the country, the majority of Lankans who voted Sirisena as president, will sit idly by and let the Rajapaksa rebels wreak havoc as they wish. Furthermore, does anyone honestly believe that there is even a single ground upon which an impeachment motion can be based against the present President that would pass Supreme Court muster?

Thus the plan to make Rajapaksa acting president for a month, which is the declared objective of this plan will never materialise, for it is rather a long shot that a vacancy through an impeachment motion may ever occur. Unless, of course, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, when he mentioned the word impeachment, was unwittingly giving voice to the opposition’s use of the word impeachment merely as a euphemism to denote another event which will certainly cause a vacancy in the presidential office instantly should the unthinkable happen: Death of the president, for instance?
The second question that must be raised is for what earthly reason are the Rajapaksa rebels so bent on making Mahinda Rajapaksa acting president for a mere month or less?

What possible benefit will the SLFP gain by getting rid of its present leader Maithripala Sirisena as the President; and having as acting president for thirty days the man the people got rid of only a few months ago? An immediate halt to the crackdown on corruption, perhaps? A general amnesty granted to all members who served in the Rajapaksa regime? To stage a constitutional coup d’état to usurp power and thereby negate the people’s mandate for Maithri’s just rule?

Whatever the benefits the SLFP and UPFA rebels may have dreamt in torturous sleep, have they so taken leave of their senses in their wakeful hours that they have cussedly failed to comprehend the chaos into which they would plunge this nation merely to save their unworthy skins?
Can this nation, slowly recovering from a thirty-year terrorist war, just rising to a new dawn of just governance after nine years of despotic and corrupt rule, afford to return to the simmering cauldron of its tragic past merely so the privileged corrupt few could escape justice, could continue to enjoy their spoils for as long as they lived and desired, could see their lust for power continuously kindled and curse upon this land the apocalypse of gluttony?

Whoever the architect of this cameo maybe, what made Vasudeva not only ardently espouse such a cause and evidently display great enthusiasm for its success without a thought for the damnation it would invite upon Lanka? What also moved him, unasked, to reveal his cards even before playing it, like a schoolboy showing off his dinkies? But then his pumpkin days when he was raw in judgement and off his gourd may still be with him. Consider this short tale of a long life of a leftist Pukka sahib.

For all his stereotyped scallywag image, septuagenarian Vasudeva Nanayakkara is at heart a gentleman to the manor born, the conventional rebel without a cause to espouse other than his own blustering ego, a lifelong fugitive from high office and, despite his height and beard, a failed Castro-wannabe minus the signature cigar and the all vital charisma of the Cuban model.

Born with the silver spoon to the landed gentry, he left his alma mater Galle’s Richmond College and took to politics like others of his class and background take to planting, and, instead of a spell of creeping, spent the rest of his life scaling the political tower of Babel to make a name for himself.

But if politics has been his life, variety has been its spice. Joining the LSSP as a fresh faced Richmond boy, he has gone through the whole litany of left wing groupings like a connoisseur of fine wine, content to sniff the cork, roll a sip, spit it out, tender verdict and move onto the try the next plonk. Revolutionaries, after all, must be in constant motion, lest any pause turns them to scarecrows condemned to watch the pumpkins dry.
Leaving the LSSP and joining the NSSP, he won a seat at the 1977 elections but soon showed that the parameters of Ehaliyegoda were not vast enough to contain his delusions of grandeur. What was meant for the broad acres of Lanka could not be wasted on a rural patch and, if he had to cross swords with anyone, it had to be with masters. He came forward as the NSSP’s presidential candidate at the 1982 election contesting against J. R. Jayewardene of the UNP and Hector Kobbekaduwa of the SLFP. He came last. Of the 6, 522,147 total votes cast he could pick up only 17,000 or 0.26 per cent. But no matter.

Who’s counting when one is suddenly turned into a national figure after rubbing shoulders with the greats in Lanka’s much publicised first ever historic presidential election? If Vasudeva didn’t actually steal the limelight, he at least hugged it long enough to make it his own.

He helped himself to seconds again in 1999 when he, this former LSSP, NSSP, USA, again LSSP, PA, formed a new party the Left and Democratic Party and contested the 1999 presidential election, this time against sitting president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunge and UNP’s Ranil Wickremesinghe. This time he did better. Whereas at the 1982 presidential election, he had only got 0.26 per cent of the national vote, in 1999 he

Vasudeva Nanayakkara

received 0.28 percent of the national vote., or 23,668 votes out of the 8,435,754 votes cast.

Later in 2006, he renamed his Left and Democratic Party or, to be more precise, rearranged the names of the party deleting the ‘and’ conjunction and formed the Democratic Left Party and joined the UPFA. In recognition of his national pre-eminence, such was the esteem with which Vasudeva was held by UPFA leader Mahinda Rajapaksa that, in the same way that he, the twice elected former president is now desperately trying to get himself named as the SLFP’s prime ministerial candidate at the forthcoming general elections, named the twice ignominiously defeated presidential candidate Vasudeva as UPFA’s Mayoral candidate for the Colombo Municipality elections. The UPFA lost. And instead of adorning the livery collar or golden chain of mayoral office, Vasudeva had to be content with merely being the Chief Opposer at Town Hall as the UNP-backed His Worship went about his pastoral chores supervising the capital’s sewerage disposal.

For four long years he would have had to endure browning his nose with a stiff upper lip performing the humiliating task of seeing that the UNP-backed Mayor did his job well to ensure the weal and welfare of Colombo’s middle class bourgeoisie, the very class of people his political philosophy bred him to loathe. When the rustic toiling masses hungered for their basic amenities, clamoured for employment and had their woes swept under the mats, here he was in an ornate hall filled with framed photos of past mayors in fancy dress; here he was trying to ensure the rates the rich paid for their swank urban dwellings were scrupulously utilised to maximise their enjoyment of the surroundings. How often he would have wished for his fairy godfathers Lenin, Marx and Engels or even the local sprites NM, Colvin and Pieter, to have come with their wands and turned his home grown pumpkin to a royal horse chariot to whisk him through from municipal hell to a parliamentary paradise where his voice could soar sonorous for a nation to hear and forget in scorn.

But liberation was close at hand. And just when it would have seemed he had all the time to think of his future when he hadn’t any future to think of, his hour struck, his star shone and the distant drum boomed.

On May 18, 2009, two hundred and eight miles north of Colombo’s Town Hall, Prabhakaran lay dead on the banks of the Nanthikkadal, in the Mullaitivu lagoon. The nation’s anguish was over. So were Vasudeva’s heartbreak years. His pumpkin had ripened not into a slow moving steed drawn cart, but a full option, turbo driven deluxe Montero. The tidal wave of public rejoicing that swept throughout the nation was caught at the flood by the UPFA and led to a massive election victory at the presidential and general elections that followed soon after. But even then he barely scraped through coming only two before last in the UPFA Ratnapura list. Yet, Vasudeva Nanayakkara at 71 was back in Parliament after 10 years in enforced exile.

His new leader Mahinda Rajapaksa promptly made him a minister as he did almost the entire UPFA members. Suddenly for the first time in his life, having crossed the biblical life span of three score and ten, which finds most men hanging up their boots, Vasudeva found himself slipping into ministerial moccasins.

The ministerial portfolios chosen for him by the then president were right up his alley. He was appointed Minister for national languages and social integration. Words, including unparlimentary foul words, were his common stock in trade of his chosen political profession and, devilishly blessed with the dubious gift of the ceaseless gab, this language posting enabled him to give full throat and blare out the sad plight of the Les Miserable full of sound and fury.

And as for social integration what more could be asked from a man who had so admirably blessed his own flesh and blood tying the marriage nuptials with Northern Province Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s son and heir. Mahinda Rajapaksa had chosen well, had chosen shrewdly and had made a respectable middle class morality filled orthodox figure out of the once diehard now dried up member of the proletariat.

But Vasu tamed was a Vasu dry. He became a barren calabash that no longer yielded fruit. An immobile pumpkin firmly embedded on UPFA’s infertile soil to waste the remainder of its unproductive life. He had lost its élan vital. The decay was setting in.

The first of this surged to the fore when last year he vowed that it was his aim to see that the executive presidency was abolished before he died and vowed to commit suicide if it did not. The fact that it was not technically possible to commit suicide after one’s death and that such a vow sounded hollow was lost on his ageing mind.

Last week’s vulgar outburst against the Prime Minister in Parliament involved not the stylish cut and thrust of verbal swords, but a monotonous repetition of the phrase, You can’t make me sit down, I will not sit, You can’t make me sit down” yelled shaking with rage. He then descended to the vulgar, to the pristine vernacular, using a foul word not once but twice against the Prime Minister. After degrading the decorum of Parliament thus with filth, he immediately appealed to the Speaker to protect the dignity of Parliament. He seemed not to have grasped that he was the one responsible for the loss of dignity. He seemed not to understand he was appealing to the Speaker to take against himself. He seemed to have lost his marbles.

The Speaker rebuked him for using filth when children were in the public gallery. It nearly earned him the tag of persona non grata where children were present, condemned to be like children in the company of children — only seen and not heard. The Prime Minister’s reply to this was perhaps a little unkind. He called him a velichcha wattakka, a dried pumpkin, describing it as the fate that befalls the defeated. But he could have been even unkinder and branded him a dried prune which he did not.

Then this Tuesday, similar to the way the former JVP chief, 74-year old Somawansa Amarasinghe, held a surprise two-hour hunger strike on May 1st, Vasudeva, also 76 calls a surprise press conference on his own and announces the rebels’ grand plan to oust a democratically leader and to replace him with one who had been ignominiously shown the door by the people not even five months ago. Whether it was his apparent incontinence to keep a secret that made him jump the gun and rat on his comrades is not clear. But it is clear that those who harbour such plans have no place in the democratic system and have disqualified themselves from being nominated for re-election.

For all his warts, Vasudeva has always been on the side of the underdog. And whatever magic may sleep in the gold bottle opener or sharp edged envelope opener the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa constantly carries in his hand as his talisman of protection or an amulet of attraction, a vashiya, it has certainly worked its charm and miracle on Vasudeva Nanayakkara and opened up his heart. It has made him embrace Mahinda’s cause as his own and has shown that, in the general order of things, ‘they also serve those who only stand and wait.’ While the thought may comfort him, there is relief for the nation too. For as the years have shown, no cause is truly lost till Vasudeva has taken it up.

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