The SLFP’s patron saint, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, was spot on when she assessed the mood of the nation and, posting a message on her Facebook account on Thursday, told her many faceless friends: “Some of you might feel perplexed over the appointment of some cabinet, state and deputy ministers. There was no alternative but to [...]


Chandrika is right! The Nation is perplexed over ministerial choice


The SLFP’s patron saint, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, was spot on when she assessed the mood of the nation and, posting a message on her Facebook account on Thursday, told her many faceless friends: “Some of you might feel perplexed over the appointment of some cabinet, state and deputy ministers. There was no alternative but to go for a national government as no party obtained a clear majority to make single party government. ”

She is right with regard to the first sentence. The nation is perplexed. Not only perplexed but flummoxed, bamboozled, distraught and discombobulated to find, in the new pantheon of a different but benevolent god, the cheerless presence of evil demigods thought to have been exorcised with the nation’s dramatic change of faith, ensconced upon individual ministerial pedestals and empowered with the right to hear the supplications of the masses and answer their prayers for succour provided the proffered platter is full of their favourite fruit.

CHANDRIKA: There was no alternative but to take them

Was this the temple the nation thought it was erecting when the first foundation stone was laid on that auspicious day in January this year? Is this the blooming result of the Purushamedhaa that was performed all day long barely three weeks ago in August to cleanse the edifice of the boothayas, the perethayas that had taken hold of the sanctum and turned it into a house of pandemonium, the abode of the demons?

What possible reason could justify their return to their old haunt of power, to Ali Baba’s steamy cave, when the whole motivating and inspiring purpose for the new temple to rise from the still burning ashes of a nation’s anguish had been to exile the satanic cult and banish their diabolism from the body politic of Lanka?

Though the former presiding deity has been successfully kept out of the inner chamber, cannot evil seep through the ‘gargoyle’ disciples to pollute the pristine philosophy of the new Yahapalana religion now that they, seemingly cleansed of previous transgressions by professed conversions as born-again SLFPers, are deified as souls worthy of ministerial worship?
Wasn’t it Chandrika who stated to the Hindu newspaper last week on her visit to India that she had difficulties in looking around for an SLFP front ranker to contest Rajapaksa because “it was difficult to find anyone in the SLFP who wasn’t known to be corrupt or a murderer?”

If one was difficult to find as being impeccable presidential material, then it would have been a Sherlockian task to sift the chaff from the wheat, to investigate the backgrounds of the rest and identify those possessing a minimum standard of acceptance to fill the ministerial cadre. But how come, with a watchful St. Chandrika at the Temple Gates screening the entrants, a whole gang of rogue riff raffs slip in unnoticed and were deemed fit to be enshrined as the guardian deities of the new Maithri Age?

These are the questions that perplex the people today. And though they understand that the demands of politics may necessitate the sacrifice of ideals, they fear that the worthy principles of just governance may be compromised by the appointment of men, long bred in the Rajapaksa ‘shape and cover up’ system of government, as ministers to whom the concepts of justice, equality, accountability and transparency of government may seem alien, as far removed from their spheres of thinking as another galaxy is to the Milky Way.

Even if one accepts Chandrika’s assertion that there was no alternative, the question on the people’s lips is whether it justifies rewarding these dubious characters with such high profile important portfolios far above their political worth; and the subjects they have been charged with, far beyond their ken? Whether those who had conducted themselves in so repugnant a manner that invited public opprobrium merits to be entrusted with such high ranking ministerial power? Whether their seedy presence in the highest circles of government will frustrate the aspirations of a nation to see an established form of civilised government that would rank equal with the enlightened democracies of the world?

On Wednesday, after appointing the new ministers of state and deputy ministers, President Sirisena felt emboldened to declare that whatever political opponents may say or do, the Government would rule the country for the next five years without any hiccup to meet the targets set by UNP-SLFP led consensual government. This is good news for the nation. Political stability is indispensable for any nation to rise. The last eight months are sufficient proof how instability can ruin a nation. But would accommodating those infidels hell bent on creating confusion, whose only focus is on the light of power found at the end of the tunnel of chaos, bring genuine stability? Will a consensual government of two parties flounder if there is no consensus within one party?

It has long been the President’s declared intention not to split the SLFP. As party leader it is understandable that he should desire a united party. But by attracting those sworn to topple his apple cart to his gravitation pull, by enticing them to revolve around him by appointing them as ministers of the national government, and even by granting them portfolios more important than the one granted to his own faithful, he may have unwittingly created a mini Rajapaksa cabinet within his own cabinet, a mini cabinet of members who still owe allegiance to their former leader.

Though the controversial appointments may have created the appearance of a finally unified party, President Sirisena may be sitting on a remote controlled powder keg which may blow up at any time. The enemy within is more dangerous than the identifiable foe on the opposite bank. As a pithy Sinhala saying goes, “do not put snakes in your sarong and then shout ‘I have been bitten, I have been bitten.’

But then Maithripala, though he is not a master magician like his predecessor who could pull countless bunnies out of false bottom hats and thrill his audience with a surfeit of hocus-pocus, is a master strategist and plays politics like Russian Grandmaster Boris Spassky plays chess.

Twice he had demonstrated his mastery over the tide of events. When the 19th Amendment seemed doomed by the machinations of the Rajapaksa rebels, he somehow managed to deliver it as promised. Those who tried to sabotage it ultimately ended up voting for it. Due to his silent manoeuvres, he managed to get it passed by 214 out of 225 members. The second time was when the people were perplexed why he had granted nomination to Rajapaksa and his band of rebels. Dark clouds had then gathered. But when the results were announced on the morning of August 18th, it revealed that he had checkmated Mahinda Rajapaksa and turned the pretender to the throne into a political eunuch.

Today once again dark clouds have appeared to darken the skies. People are perplexed as to why he let those who vilified him in foulest filth treating it as a sport repeatedly, those who supported Mahinda fervently and those tainted with thievery and villainy to return nonchalantly as hot shot ministers of his government. Only time will assuage the people’s fears. But until the grand design becomes clear, it is best to know that with President Maithripala Sirisena, it is always darkest before the dawn.

Born to be a Princess but a twist of fate made her Queen
Tribute to Elizabeth as she breaks world record
Heavens, what a record! The Guinness Book of World Records listed a new entry in their annals on Wednesday when an 89-year-old British grande dame created a new world record that will indeed be hard to beat. Spending the last 63 years, or 23,226 days or 33,446,430 minutes seated on a specially created hot seat: the jewelled Throne of Imperial Britain.

QUEEN: Royal love scandal toppled British crown to fall on Elizabeth's head

To enjoy such existence at the uplands of celestial bliss on earth maybe the kind of public funded lifestyle power craving politicians aspire to enjoy in this birth when they dream of establishing family dynasties to rule the land in perpetuity.

But perpetual good fortune does not surround ordinary mortals with an impenetrable aura merely because they perpetually gloat over winning tribal wars or opening public lavatories at city centres.

Nay, it is exclusively reserved for those extraordinary individuals blessed by the gods, ordained by the Fates and forged by their karmic actions helped, no doubt, by a propitious birth but not solely depended on it; as has been the singular case of Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith. She marked a historic royal milestone this week when she became the longest serving monarch of England, surpassing her great great grandmother Queen Victoria’s record of 63 years on the British Throne and as the longest serving female sovereign of the world exactly at 1630 GMT on Wednesday.

Sixty three years ago, a young girl on a wild life safari holiday in the bush of Africa was awoken from her tree top bed in Kenya to be gently told by her husband that her father had closed his eyes upon the world and that she was now the Queen of England. Hardly had she time to react to the death of her beloved papa in sorrow when exacting duty summoned her to brave her tears and adopt the stiff upper lip to hear the traditional refrain: ‘The King is dead. Long live the Queen’. She was only 26. And, like Cleopatra, still in her salad days.

And as she left her Kenyan residence Santar Lodge to embark upon her voyage to the sceptred isle of Britain to step ashore as sovereign, little did she realise that she was leaving behind her the carefree happy youth in the summer of its blossom forever buried in the dark continent that was Africa where even the wild are born free to follow their star. Instead with the crown of Britain placed on her dainty head with a thud, and the immense responsibility of reigning over millions of peoples of different nations falling simultaneously upon her brow, she was to be sheathed in royal armour and her natural span of life would henceforth be strictly regimented as royal protocol mercilessly demanded.

She was not only Queen of the United Kingdom; she was also Queen of Ceylon. And Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan. She also became Head of the Commonwealth of Nations, a position she still holds. She is still Queen of Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas and over 10 other nations.

But Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was not born to be queen. When she was born, her uncle was the Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne and her father Bertie was second in line. It was considered unlikely that Bertie would inherit the monarchy for his elder brother the debonair Prince of Wales, Edward was in the prime of youth, a known flirt and a thief of hearts. However, he was expected to marry soon as royal tradition dictated and produce the heir that would take the House of Windsor forward. Elizabeth was third in line but even that placing was dependent on a boy being born to her family and she was hardly even considered to be in the running.

But fates have an uncanny way of knocking off the skittles that stand in the way of their chosen seed. Upon the death of Elizabeth’s grandfather, her uncle became king and assumed the name of Edward the VIII but soon decided that his love for an elder American woman twice divorced, and Catholic to boot, was greater than his desire to be king and defender of the Christian protestant faith; and he gladly gave up the crown to marry the woman he loved. His sudden abdication which shocked the British nation and the world paved the way for the reluctant Bertie to occupy the throne of the then far flung British Empire upon which the sun never set. Her father died at the early age of 56. Suddenly the girl whom no had one had seriously thought of as a possible queen of the realm, was catapulted to the throne of Britain.

Sixty-three years performing a vital role in being the pivotal head of the constitutional monarchy of Britain has been no mean feat. This is especially so when the role had not been one of choice; and not one of birth alone either but one which had been thrust upon her by the hand of Fate.

But while the world admires her for her dedication to her royal duties and for the royal poise and style with which she scrupulously discharges them; and while many envy her for the seemingly pampered royal lifestyle she leads, what most forget is that beneath all the royal regalia she is shrouded in, is a human being subject to all “the thousand and one natural shocks that all flesh is heir to”.

No fort nor moat, no castle wall nor turret guarded night and day by an order of knights can keep inveigling sorrow from laying siege to the human heart; and Elizabeth, Queen of England though she maybe, is no exception. Though wealth and opulence may swamp her in luxury, though a battalion of chamber maids maybe at her beck and call and treat as commands her every wish, though a host of ladies-in-waiting may swab her in cotton wool and dip her in asses’ milk, none can soften the pain or ease the hurt with incense and myrrh and make it cease. Sorrow comes ever scarlet to the royal breast as blood red as the bloodiest rose that ever blew unseen in the unknown hearts of her 64 million subjects. Queen Elizabeth is no different, no stranger to tragedy. But unlike the masses who can give vent to their suffering and even weep in public impromptu, she must make an appointment to keep her tryst with tears.

Her own marriage to Prince Phillip though it has lasted 67 years has not been without strain. The disastrous mismatch of her eldest son Charles with Diana ended in acrimony followed by divorce and finally, amidst scandal which rocked the Royal House of Windsor, ended in the tragic death of the princess. In a speech to mark her 40th year as queen, she described 1992 as her annus horribilis, horrible year. It saw the breakup of her second son, Andrew’s marriage to Fergie and the divorces of her only daughter Anne from her husband mark Phillip. Ten years later, her mother and her sister both died.

But through it all while storms whirled around her and threatened the existence of the Royal family itself, she never wavered but remained as steady as the Rock of Gibraltar. She saw through the tempest and emerged from it without a spot or blemish on her character or a ruffled tress on her head to fly the flag for her country.

It is not to the queen but to this extraordinary human being, so blessed but yet so denied, that the world must pay homage. She is a living role model for politicians to emulate. Whilst they have chosen their vocation politics out of their own free will and loudly proclaim that their mission is to serve the people, see how they behave once elected. Compare that with the way the Queen, denied choice in the matter, still chose to serve her people diligently and still reigns without missing a beat.

And on Wednesday while Britain celebrated her landmark record, what was she doing. At her desk, attending to her royal duties as usual. To those Lankan politicians who would have erected pandals, held felicitation ceremonies throughout the country and celebrated for weeks on end at public expense had they achieved such a record, let that be to them another worthy lesson to emulate. Take an inspiring leaf from her book of life, not a glittering jewel from her crown of queenship. Long may
she reign.

(Next week in sunday punch: how the fates nobbled Victoria’s rivals to make her queen)

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