My dear Green Man, I thought I must write to you when I realised that it was your 70th birthday today. Rather than send you a birthday card – of which you must be receiving thousands – I thought I should write to you about a few matters, especially as this milestone means you have [...]

5th Column

An evergreen’s birthday


My dear Green Man,

I thought I must write to you when I realised that it was your 70th birthday today. Rather than send you a birthday card – of which you must be receiving thousands – I thought I should write to you about a few matters, especially as this milestone means you have now reached the biblical lifespan!

You have been in Parliament probably longer than anyone else alive now – for 42 years. You have also been leader of the Greens for 25 years, by far the longest period anyone has led the Greens. Still, I am not sure whether you are proud of that, because most of it was in the opposition.

During this time, you were appointed PM five times – again, more than anyone else in this country, even more than the beloved Dudley and the record-breaking Sirima. Unfortunately, you were never in absolute control of any government when you were PM because someone else was always the boss.

When you got the job the first time, Dearly Beloved was in charge but it was a bad time to be PM. The Greens had been in power for too long and the people wanted a change. At that time, you rightly left Temple Trees after the general election when Gamini wanted to try and form a government.

Since then, you had the misfortune of becoming PM under Presidents from the Blue party. First, it was Satellite who took you for a ride, promising not to dissolve Parliament, when there were calls to impeach her. You believed the lady, perhaps not knowing that a lady is entitled to change her mind.

After suddenly taking over three ministries while you were overseas, she dissolved Parliament just two months later – and formed a government with the rathu sahodarayas, the same party which assassinated her husband. Isn’t it ironical that you and Satellite appear to be the best of friends now?

However, that betrayal was nothing compared to what Aiyo Sirisena did to you. You resurrected him from being just a minister in Mahinda maama’s Cabinet who was not destined for greatness, and placed him in the presidential chair, with the promise that he would abolish that office and retire.

Instead of doing that he betrayed you – and over six million people who voted for you – by suddenly sacking you and appointing Mahinda maama instead, just so that he could get in to Mahinda maama’s good books and run again for the top job. Even Brutus and Judas would have blushed in shame!

Despite all this, Green Man, you cannot say that you haven’t had your chances, especially in the last four years, when you had a considerable say in government despite Aiyo Sirisena’s tactics. Yet, most people would say that you have underperformed and not delivered on almost all of your promises.

Worse still, it was under your watch that the Central Bank was robbed of billions in bonds. As far as we can see, one of those responsible was someone handpicked by you. You may not have been directly involved, but your actions since then – by not dealing sternly with those involved – doesn’t help.

Most people admired you when you kept your cool when Aiyo Sirisena stripped you of your job last year and they thought you will change for the better when the courts restored your position. Instead, you went ahead and re-appointed Bond Ravi to the Cabinet, so it is difficult to have faith in you now.

Green Man, your greatest lapse is not what you couldn’t achieve for our country – but what the Green Party has become under your leadership. Your uncle transformed it to a common man’s party. Preme continued that trend. However, under you, the Greens seem to have lost that common touch.

For the last two big elections, the Greens didn’t nominate their candidate. They outsourced that job first to the General and then to the Grama Sevaka. Let’s be honest, that was because you thought you won’t be able to win against Mahinda maama. Now, are you up to your old tricks again, Green Man?

The younger Greens won’t allow you to outsource the big race to someone else again. Is it because you are again not sure of your chances that you told the rathu sahodarayas this week that the Greens now want the top job abolished? Ah, the games you play, just so you can stay at the top, Green Man!

When you are in charge, you are often surrounded by people who say only what you want to hear. That happened to Mahinda maama and I feel that has happened to you too. I think the time has now come, Green Man, to listen to those who tell you the truth – and not only to what you want to hear.

It is not that those in Paradise don’t value your contributions. Some of your achievements – like guiding the nation after Preme’s assassination, splitting the Tigers, masterminding the change four years ago and keeping your cool when Aiyo Sirisena lost his last year – are noteworthy. We respect you for that.

You had your chances but didn’t make the most of them. The time has come to heed the saying, ‘it is better to go when you are asked why you are leaving instead of waiting till you are asked why you aren’t’. That is because your chances of winning the big race is as good as us winning the World Cup!

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha

PS: I almost forgot to wish you, Green Man, so I wish you many happy returns of the day – though not many will wish you many happy returns politically. You may get a piece of cake from the gracious and elegant Maithree but not from Maithri – and if you do get one from him, make sure it is safe to eat!

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