It was intriguing to read Viruddha Paakshikaya’s reply to me last Sunday because he only writes about so-called lapses of the UNP. There is not a single word about what his UPFA would do, if it wins the election — and that is in stark contrast to his party’s manifesto, which is full of promises, [...]


UPFA’s “Tiger, Tiger” cry worked in 2010, but not now


It was intriguing to read Viruddha Paakshikaya’s reply to me last Sunday because he only writes about so-called lapses of the UNP. There is not a single word about what his UPFA would do, if it wins the election — and that is in stark contrast to his party’s manifesto, which is full of promises, promises and more promises.

I am proud to say that one of my predictions in my previous column has been proved correct, unlike Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena’s forecasts. I said the UPFA was having a problem about the cover of its manifesto because they couldn’t decide whether to have Mahinda’s picture on it or that of Maithri’s. In the end, they decided to have no one’s picture and had a betel leaf instead, a far cry from the days when Mahinda was smiling at us, not only from covers of manifestos but also from larger than life cut-outs from every lamp post and culvert.

But they say one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so I had a look at what’s inside and lo and behold, I got the feeling it was written not by Dayan Jayatilleke but by Hans Christian Anderson. All we had to do was to vote for Mahinda and the UPFA and Sri Lankans would be a fortunate lot: every three wheeler driver would get a 100,000 rupee credit card, every person between the ages of 18 and 25 would get a 50,000 rupee grant, every person entering a university would get another 10,000 rupees and if you are getting married, you would get an interest free loan of 200,000 rupees! So, if you are between 18 and 25, entering a university, married and driving a three wheeler, you could be richer by 360,000 rupees without doing anything else.

I have but one response to all these promises, Viruddha Paakshikaya. If only offering financial handouts was so easy without ruining the economy, why didn’t Mahinda think of these brilliant ideas in the ten long years that he was in office? Or has he found a part time job at Thomas De La Rue, printing currency notes?

These fantasies get better, when the UPFA promises political reforms. It says it will set up the Constitutional Council within a month and the independent commissions within two months. This, from a party which abolished these through the 18th Amendment and then fought tooth and nail to thwart the 19th Amendment when it was introduced by our government.

There is a small hitch though: the manifesto says it would bring laws to prevent criminals, those convicted of bribery, persons in the liquor, gambling and casino industries and drug dealers from contesting future elections. That is all well and good, but if your nomination lists at this election are anything to go by, you will then have a hard time finding contestants for the next election, Viruddha Paakshikaya.

Nevertheless, we must be thankful to Viruddha Paakshikaya and his UPFA for providing us with light entertainment during the campaign. Remember the days when the ‘Maha Rajaaneni’ song was aired when Mahinda got on to the stage at the last election?

Now though, when UPFA candidates get on stage, they are greeted with the traditional Sri Lankan hoot. Vijayamuni Soysa was hooted at Moneragala, Nandimithra Ekanayake was hooted at Matale and now others are running scared: Mahinda Samarasinghe kept away from meetings at Kalutara because he knew he would be hooted. And you still want the people of Sri Lanka to vote for them and send them to Parliament.

Then you have the three court jesters of your campaign: Dilan Perera, Udaya Gammanpila and the inimitable Bandula Gunawardena. They parade themselves before a media conference and proudly brandish vials of poison, saying that this is what UNP leaders would have to do on the 18th of August.

What message is that supposed to send to the country, Viruddha Paakshikaya? That drinking poison is an acceptable way to cope with a difficult situation? And this advice comes from the leading lights of a party that hopes to govern a country which has a serious problem of suicides, most of which are attempted by drinking poison! Reminds me of a recent film starring Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor: if I remember right, it was called ’3 idiots’!

Then there are others like of Thilanga Sumathipala who rush in as prosecutor, judge and jury. When our supporters were shot at in Kotahena last week leaving two innocent people dead, he claims that this is the work of underworld characters linked to the UNP. Sumathipala must be having a good understanding of how the underworld operates, I am sure, but it sounded as if fools were rushing in where angels fear to tread, even before Police investigations could be conducted — just to score a few brownie points before the elections.

With friends like these, Viruddha Paakshikaya doesn’t need enemies and I don’t envy his task of having to defend them. I do, however, have to answer a key question that he posed in his column last week. What is the MoU we have signed with the TNA, he asked.

The answer is just one word, Viruddha Paakshikaya: none — and our leader Ranil Wckremesinghe has announced that. Although you accuse us of resorting to old tricks and trying to divide the SLFP and win elections, we really don’t have to do that because President Maithripala Sirisena is more or less doing that for us! In contrast, it is the UPFA which is resorting to old tricks: trying to link the UNP with ‘koti’ (the Tiger terrorists), whenever an election comes around, just because a UNP government entered into a ceasefire with the LTTE fifteen years ago; an agreement your Mahinda Rajapaksa continued with for some time as well.

That mantra worked in 2010 but is old hat now, Viruddha Paakshikaya, as the results of the presidential election in January showed very clearly but you want to hark back to it because you don’t have any other slogan to attack the UNP with. And, if you really want to analyse that Ceasefire Agreement, think about who drafted it and negotiated its terms and conditions. Look around your stage and you will find that man: he is none other than the law professor with the lean and hungry look, G.L. Peiris, the father of all political turncoats who still proclaims the ceasefire as an achievement on his Wikipedia page! And, what about Karuna your Vice President and KP who has been mollycoddled by your party. The ‘kotiyas’ are really inside your pocket.

There are eight days more for the elections, Viruddha Paakshikaya, and I believe most voters would have made up their minds as to who they would vote for on the 17th. So, when the results are declared the next day, I have just one advice for my unseen friend: please don’t try to do what Dilan, Udaya and Bandula did, even though you might feel like it.

Our forecast based on a scientific opinion poll is as follows;
Question: Which party do you think is going to win irrespective of which party you will vote for;
UNFGG; 48% UPFA; 30% ; Don’t Know; 16% Others; 6%
Question: Who do you think will be the better PM, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe was ahead in most. The polling was based on what the voters felt were the top five qualities needed; honesty, personality, education, not corrupt and keeps to his word.
(Conducted in five waves between February 27 and July 24, all island random samples of about 2,500 18+ years registered voters; face-to-face interviews and questionnaire).

Good Luck, Viruddha Paakshikaya, in having Mr. Rajapaksa enter a front bench seat in the opposition of the next Parliament.

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