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The Fifth Column

21st February 1999

Not that late for a Princess

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My Dear Crown Prince,

I thought I must write to you this week as you celebrate your fiftieth birthday. There wasn't much about your birthday on Rupavahini or in other state media because they were so busy commemorating the death anniversary of your brother-in-law which also fell this week, so that is all the more reason why I should offer you my belated greetings.

Crown Prince, we all remember you from the days when you as a young man became the MP for Nuwara Eliya-Maskeliya. At that time, there was a rumour that you were given a 'safe' seat because that was a multi-member electorate then. If I remember right, Gamini was your opponent then.

Since those days, which seem a long time ago now, you have come a long way. Even though you have spent almost all of your life in Parliament in the Opposition benches - except for a brief period as Higher Education Minister with Dearly Beloved - I think you did your best for the country while in the Opposition.

That was after the TULF chaps - Amirthalingam and the crowd - were forced out of Parliament in '83 and you became Leader of the Opposition. There were only a handful of MPs - Richard, Maithri, Amarasiri, Halim Ishak, Lakshman, Ananda Dassanayake, Dinesh and Sarath Muttettuwegama - to support you but you led them very well. Even those on the other side waited to hear you speak. You should be proud of those times Crown Prince.

As you can see these loyal old soldiers are not those in control of the Blues now. Some thought that Akka would make a better leader and they forced you out of the party that your father founded. I don't think I need to mention names, I think you know who they are, Crown Prince.

But then, the Greens haven't treated you badly, have they? They even allowed you a "conscience vote" when the Government brought a resolution cancelling your mother's civic rights removal by J. R., didnt they? But of course, Crown Prince, I'm sure the Greens realise your value because next to Ranil you are probably the only person in that party with a name that will appeal to anybody anywhere in the country - and you might rival even Ranil on that score!

Now, at fifty, you must be wondering what to do next. They say life begins at forty but even that has not turned out to be true for you. Don't worry, Crown Prince, remember that JR was seventy one years old when he assumed power. Even your father was fifty seven when he became Prime Minister. So, even though the hair maybe turning grey and you seem to be putting on weight forever, you are politically still young!

For the moment at least, I think, you should stay with the Greens. The way your sister is running the show, if your crossover to that side now, you might become leader of the opposition forever as JR once wished you.

Then, Crown Prince, what about a princess? There are many who feel that if you were to find one, a lot of you problems would be solved. Besides, then there might be an heir to the Throne too, with the famous 'B' name. Or is it that you don't mind the family business being passed on to young Vimukthi.

Think about all these things Crown Prince. Some people say that you have done precious little for the country. Since you spent most of your life in the Oppostion, that maybe true in terms of development projects and the like. But at least, you have led a decent, honourable life as a politician. That is much more than most of your colleagues - on either side - can boast of. And, we want you to know that we appreciate that.

Many Happy Returns!

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha.

P.S. - Think about what Oscar Wilde said in "The importance of being Earnest", "All women become like their mothers, that is their tragedy. No man does. That's his". That's quite appropriate for your family. Isn't it?

Rajpal Abeynayake's Column

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