28th February 1999
47, W. A. D. Ramanayake Mawatha Colombo 2. P.O. Box: 1136, Colombo 2.
The rapprochement between the United National Party and the Peo ple's Alliance is almost as momentous as the end of the Cold War — or is that just purely hype and journalists flourish?
After the sickly violence of Wayamba, the sight of smiling Ranil Wickremesinghe shaking hands with the ebullient President Kumaratunga was like some unbelievable fairy - tale ending to a gross nightmare that the nation endured.
But those whose spirits were buffeted by this glittering cameo of rapprochement would have almost pinched themselves to make sure the picture was for real; that it was not doctored or spurious.
Amid the justifiable optimism there is also the feeling of deja vu, the unmistakable feeling that we have all been here before, and seen it all before this particular upbeat occasion.
This is a nation that is inured to the promise of grand starts and celebrated re- -awakenings, almost as much as it is inured to violence.
(How many five year plans lost steam in two years, and how many negotiated settlements settled in history's uncelebrated dustbins?)
Often, the political rancour that's seen between the country's two major political parties is so venomous that the rank and file are induced to commit suicide for their leaders, in somewhat the same way the ancient Japanese samurai laid down their lives for their lords and masters.
But the samurai committed hara kiri for honour and a noble cause, whereas the party rabble of the here and now whip themselves into various states of frenzy for what seems to be the cause of nonsense.
Take Wayamba for example, which was only a contest for a provincial council in a system of provincial administration which is generally taken to be ineffective and non - functional in the first place.
So its good that the power elite have chosen to shake each other by the hand before sitting down to have a friendly chat.
Though it must sound more than a trifle elitist on our part to say so, it still bears mention that these must be values imparted by schools such as St. Bridget's' and Royal, which unfortunately are not values that have rubbed off on the less fortunate yokels who fight each other in the electoral battlefields. Though our observation may smack of being elitist, it is also deliberate.
If anything, anything at all, strikes some good sense into the card carrying party members and makes them realise that they are being supremely stupid in killing themselves over some marginal polls, we wouldn't hesitate to invoke it. "Let's bring on the champagne Ranil, and shake a leg, what the heck?"
This image should strike home like no other, because it should at least convince the party rabble that they are to an extent being suckered as well, while their political labour is being manipulated.
So maybe the next political exercise of the card carrying party hoi polloi should be to paste this poster of the Ranil- Chandrika handshake on all the important pieces of concrete and all the nation's political parapet walls.
While the nation needs to salute the two leaders of the main political parties for this fine gesture of détente and rapprochement , we have to also collectively hope that if nothing is achieved at the leadership summit — that at least some of the spirit of cordiality will percolate to the country's political heartland.
Strangely sometimes, gestures and symbols can be more important than carefully drafted political statements.
So, even if Ranil and Chandrika do not sign some momentous peace accord to come together and solve the ethnic crisis or to overhaul the constitution, their basic and visible move towards political reconciliation should definitely engender some hope in a nation that had at one point in the last few weeks seemed to have lost almost all hope.
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