My dear Ruwan, I thought I must write to congratulate you on your ‘promotion’ as deputy leader of the Green Party, although I am not sure whether this is a great achievement because the Green Party is now only a shadow of the Grand Old Party it was, not so long ago. Still, I suppose [...]

5th Column

Uneasy is the head that wears a crown


My dear Ruwan,

I thought I must write to congratulate you on your ‘promotion’ as deputy leader of the Green Party, although I am not sure whether this is a great achievement because the Green Party is now only a shadow of the Grand Old Party it was, not so long ago. Still, I suppose congratulations are in order!

It is interesting that you have only been made the deputy leader. After 26 years as leader, and being in charge when the party’s vote at the general election slipped to a mere two percent, and after presiding over a chaotic government that led to this disaster, the Green Man is yet to call it quits.

We heard the Green Man tell us, soon after the election results were announced, that he was ready to give up the party leadership. Now he says he will do so next year, after ensuring a smooth transition. The next thing you know, he might appoint a committee to study the issue and wait for its report!

What JR and Preme (Snr) did to take the party to the masses during the latter part of Sirima’s rule in the late 70s when they were in the opposition – and you were in your diapers – was undone later when Lalith and Gamini tried to impeach Preme. It was only the Green Man who loyally stood by him then.

That was the beginning of the end for the Greens. The Green Man took over when Preme (Snr), Lalith and Gamini perished within one and half years. He did a reasonable job and formed two Green-led governments, but Blue bosses, Satellite and Cheerio Sirisena, took him, and the Greens for a ride.

As a result, the Greens have been reduced to just a few things: its name, the ‘elephant’ symbol and its headquarters at Sirikotha. It couldn’t poll 250,000 votes in the entire country at the last election. Even the rathu sahodarayas had nearly double the number of the votes they polled!

I am reminding you of all this simply to highlight the enormity of the problem that you are inheriting. Those such as your maternal great-grandfather DS who founded the party and others like Dudley, JR and Preme (Snr) who worked hard for its success must be spinning in their graves, seeing its plight.

The Greens have been known as the ‘Uncle Nephew Party’ or ‘Unge Nedeyange Pakshaya’, when its leadership passed from DS to Sir John and not to SWRD. Still you can argue it was better than the Blues or the ‘pohottuwa’ party where leadership is restricted to either the ‘B’ family or the ‘R’ family.

I am sure you realise that some will say you have been chosen as deputy leader only because you too are a nephew of JR. After all, you are a relative newcomer, having entered Parliament only 10 years ago. You don’t have any spectacular achievements to boast of during that time either.

Still, you did become deputy leader after a secret ballot, becoming only the third person to do so, the two others being the Premadasas, both father and son. You also beat a political heavyweight, Ravi, who must have realised that he didn’t win that contest despite having all the bonds he needs.

I was a bit concerned, Ruwan, hearing you say soon after your election that you would work with Ravi to learn from his experience. I hope you are not planning to rent a penthouse without knowing who was paying the rent, or trying to do a dodgy deal with bonds in the big bank!

I was, however, pleased to hear you say that you were willing to work with the ‘telephone’ chaps led by Sajith. You also said that anyone should be able to become the leader of the Greens and that you didn’t get to where you are because you were JR’s nephew and the Green Man’s cousin.

You have one of the best family ties to politics in this country – perhaps second only to Satellite and Anura who had both parents as Prime Ministers – with a great-grandfather being the Father of the Nation, and a grandfather being the Father of the Free Press. Still, we hope you were chosen on merit.

A good leader is always a student of history, Ruwan, and you too can learn from the history of the Green Party. You can learn from your uncle JR about what you should do, and from your cousin the Green Man what you should not do, if you want to restore the Green Party to its former glory.

JR realised that the baton of leadership should pass on to Preme for the Greens to survive. He allowed that and the Greens survived the terrible times of the late 80s and returned to power. The Green Man refused to pass the baton to Preme’s son, who was in such a hurry that he formed his own outfit.

You can even learn from good old Dearly Beloved, who united the Greens after Preme’s death. He invited Gamini back and held a vote to elect the Leader of the Opposition. Gamini beat the Green Man even though the Green Man had already served a stint as the Prime Minister after Preme’s death.

You are still only the deputy leader, but if you do become the leader, you have a golden opportunity to restore the Greens to their former glory. You can do that by extending an olive branch to Sajith to return to the Green camp. Then, you can let the party choose the best leader. Think about it, Ruwan.

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha

PS: I am just a bit worried about your name, Ruwan, because RW are not good initials for a leader. First, we had RW who staged two insurrections and he perished at the hands of a second RW who himself was killed in a bomb blast. The performance of the third RW is also not a good omen, is it?

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