My dear Mahinda maama and Gota maamey, I thought of writing to congratulate both of you, not only on the resounding victory the ‘pohottuwa’ party recorded at the recent general election, but also on the choices you have made in selecting new ministers. From what we saw in the last few days, we are likely [...]

5th Column

The bizarre Cabinet


My dear Mahinda maama and Gota maamey,

I thought of writing to congratulate both of you, not only on the resounding victory the ‘pohottuwa’ party recorded at the recent general election, but also on the choices you have made in selecting new ministers. From what we saw in the last few days, we are likely to see a government like no other!

Both of you deserve all the credit you can get for your election victory. Everyone knew you would win but it was the scale of your victory that surprised everyone. Even Basil maama - who is more accurate than Sumanadasa on these matters – predicted about 135 seats at most, so you did really well.

Of course, you were helped by your long-term friend and ally, Ranil, whose actions ensured that the Greens remained divided until the election. As a result, some Green voters opted for the ‘telephone’ while others kept away. All this meant that you nearly got the two-thirds majority you asked for.

Indeed, it was the Old Fox, JR’s PR system that ensured that the ‘telephone’ got as many seats as they did. If not, you would have got the kind of majority that JR himself got in’77. Still, I suspect that even you might be a bit sad that your great rival, the UNP, is now on its deathbed, gasping for breath.

What the election also did was to get rid of a host of MPs who have been in Parliament seemingly forever. Most of them were from the Green camp – the likes of Ranil and Ravi, for example – but a few big names from the Blue camp were also sent home by the people, as was Sunil, the rathu sahodaraya.

I suppose you realise that those who voted for you will expect you to deliver on your promises such as repealing the 19th Amendment. I am wondering what changes you have in mind, given that you can enact almost any change you want because you have a working two-thirds majority at your disposal.

That is why your choice of ministers deserves even more praise than your election win. To start with, limiting the Cabinet to 26 ministers was a great idea, with you, Mahinda maama, holding several portfolios, even if you were compelled to enlist the service of some 39 state ministers.

You have also kept it all in the family, haven’t you? Getting four ‘R’s in the same cabinet must surely be a world record. It is also good to see young Namal get a leg up over his contemporaries, while he is still in his political diapers, so to speak, with a Cabinet portfolio, while seniors such as SB get nothing.

You can make it a nice round number of five ‘R’s in the Cabinet by including Basil maama. Now that you have a two-thirds majority, you can easily scrap that ban on dual citizens and get him in, couldn’t you? Surely, he needs to be rewarded because he is the mastermind behind the ‘pohottuwa’, isn’t he?

There was another ‘R’ – but spelt differently – who didn’t make it to either the Cabinet or the ‘State’ list. Rumour has it that he was offered the latter but refused. Anyway, he has been jumping from one camp to another. I will be surprised if he himself knew which side he was on, so you decided wisely.

The biggest omission was Cheerio Sirisena. He wanted to live happily ever after in your government. Still, as both of you – and Ranil too – realised, he is a snake in the grass. Therefore, many feel that it is wiser to have him in the tent, hissing out his venom, rather than have him outside, hissing in.

You have been smart enough, Gota maamey, to ignore your promises to ‘change the system’. In a Cabinet of 26 ministers, why else would you have one 81-year-old, 7 on the wrong side of 70 and another 7 over 60 years of age and no one from your own ‘Viyathmaga’?

You have also sent a loud and clear message that loyalty to the ‘R’s is the new criteria for climbing up the political ladder. That is why you have ignored very senior Blues such as SB, John and Yapa, giving them nothing, but elevated the relatively junior Ramesh and Prasanna to Cabinet rank.

Appointing Sabry as Justice Minister was a masterstroke.  Gota maamey, what better job can you find for the lawyer who defended you against all those charges? Even JR had his lawyer, brother Harry, only as his legal advisor – you have done better. The wheels of Justice will surely turn smoothly now!

What we enjoyed the most were the titles of State Ministers. It was as if whoever thought of them was playing a game of ‘genu, pirimi, mal, palathuru’. So, Duminda looks after the Wind, Dayasiri oversees Batiks, Arundika manages Palmyrah and so on. In some cases though, they got the subjects mixed up.

For example, Sanath Nishantha, who doesn’t need oxygen, should have been given the subject of Wind. Prasanna, instead of Shasheendra, should have been assigned ‘Chillies’ because of his chillie-related skills. Nalaka, and not Cabraal, should have had Capital Markets because we saw his talents in that!

Mahinda maama and Gota maamey, people voted for you with great hopes for a ‘system change’. Seeing your ‘new’ Cabinet taking oaths – some of them walking with difficulty – they appeared like old wine in new bottles. We can only hope that in a few years, they don’t leave the taste of rancid vinegar!

Yours Truly,

Punchi Putha

PS: Gota maamey, you chose Ruwanweliseya and Mahinda maama, you chose the Kelaniya temple for your swearing-in ceremonies. I hope you realise that the ‘Magul Maduwa’ - where ministers were sworn in – was where our nation was betrayed to the British. We hope we won’t be betrayed again!

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