Many decades ago — until the end of the 1980s — when we covered the country’s political scene, it was customary to see some politicians strutting around like over-rated popinjays promising to have village roads with holes as big as our fiscal deficit, filled in no time, non-working street lights would be repaired in a [...]


Tryst at midnight and more gas leaks


Many decades ago — until the end of the 1980s — when we covered the country’s political scene, it was customary to see some politicians strutting around like over-rated popinjays promising to have village roads with holes as big as our fiscal deficit, filled in no time, non-working street lights would be repaired in a jiffy and sheaf of other promises that were never fulfilled until the next elections loomed in sight.

Senior citizens of the area and young wags accustomed to what they considered political comedy would tell each other in stage whispers “May minihage gas eka harima vadi” (this man is full of ‘hot air’) which all and sundry understood to be no compliment to the swaggering politician, who did not have today’s luxury vehicles bought duty free to display.

Reading about the antics of today’s politicians and watching their performances on social and mainstream media, it is scant wonder that Sri Lankans in the Resplendent Isle and those living elsewhere in the world, ask themselves what catastrophe caused some political upstarts to end up as representatives of the people.

The derision with which they are treated are scripted in increasingly abusive language as more and more unbearable burdens are heaped on the sagging shoulders of the average citizen.

What brought me to recall old times was the lowest depths to which domestic politics has sunk today and the still haughty attitudes of some current parliamentarians who the people would like to forget as symbols of their voting follies.

The increasingly vitriolic attacks in the last few months — even from within the ruling coalition — over the energy deal with New Fortress Energy Inc (or was it?) of New York on the Yugadanavi Power Station raised a whole series of questions about the legitimacy of this agreement. Those questions are now well known to require repetition.

While they are still to be sorted out and more than one minister and senior officials need to answer very pertinent questions that have been asked in parliament which has still not seen the agreement and elsewhere, the central protagonist among the dramatis personae of this on-going drama that is fast turning into a ‘who-dun-it’, has taken wing to his central abode making use of his dual citizenship.

Surely it would be ridiculous to discuss Hamlet in the absence of the Prince — in this instance perhaps the Crown Prince.

So the principal questions will remain unanswered until his return when, according some sections of the grapevine, he will be anointed prime minister of the fair isle called Lanka. What caused his sudden (as far as the public is concerned) flight to Biden country where is based the company with which this deal is said to have been negotiated.

If it was signed at a midnight tryst, as was claimed by frontliners of the National People’s Power (NPP) and others, it adds to the mystery of putting power in the hands of despised America instead of in the arms of Xi Jinping who has been downsized to providing nauseating fertiliser.

But there is a comic sub-plot to all this devious and intricate manoeuvres over the energy deal. With omicron now spreading here and stepping on to the streets is ill-advised, I was rummaging through some accumulated news files from mainstream and social media when I came across a jewel of comment.

It came from that irrepressible Johnston Fernando, the Government’s chief whip who I last saw in a memorable photograph taken during a brawl in the last parliament wielding a chair in a display of brawn. This comment was possibly a display of brain.

While all hell was breaking lose over what seemed a rather dubious deal, Johnston Fernando was quoted as telling the media ““I did not see this agreement, so I do not know whether it is a genuine agreement or a fraudulent one, but this Yugadanavi Agreement is the best thing this country needs.”

This minister does not know whether the agreement is genuine or a fraud but readily raises his hand in support of it as the best thing for the country. For heaven’s sake!

The minister adds: “The Cabinet has given its approval to sign this agreement. Then I will not have to completely read it as a cabinet minister and find out what is required in the agreement. This is an agreement that goes to the Attorney General’s Department. I do not think it’s a problem, I do not believe we should read everything in it” and says it is not necessary for every minister to look into it or read every aspect of the agreement.

Now that is what is called sheer logic. He does not know what the agreement says but claims it is the best thing for the country. Even though it is the best thing for Sri Lanka he has not taken the trouble to read it.

But what takes a whole Litro gas cylinder, regulator and the hosepipe is Fernando’s gall in saying he does not have to read every word when he has not even read a single word. In fact, he confesses he had not even seen the agreement.

In point of fact the complaint of some ministers is they too had not seen the agreement, that it was not made available to them at the cabinet meeting. Some may be clairvoyant or even rely on a certain Gnana Akka for intellectual sustenance.

Recently the veteran Communist and one time cabinet minister DEW Gunasekera said in an interview that the present cabinet except for four or five members, was the worst (some media quoted him as saying the stupidest) since independence.

While sections of the public might well agree with DEW, they might also now understand why the staff of the current parliament refused to divulge the educational qualifications of the MPs they had (mistakenly some might now add) voted for.

(Neville de Silva is a veteran Sri Lankan journalist who was Assistant Editor of the Hong Kong Standard and worked for Gemini News Service in London. Later he was Deputy Chief-of-Mission in Bangkok and Deputy High Commissioner in London)


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