22nd August 1999
The 'channel' crew uncovered, mask unmask and all
By Rajpal Abeynayake
The actors in the Channel affair are a group of variegated people. They can be a microcosm of Sri Lankan wheeler -dealer and political wannabe society (Wannabe being a direct import from the American vernacular, a.k.a Baywatch lingo)
Chanel number five is a perfume that won the hearts of millions of women, and Channel number 9 is a big stink. An incremental climb in four numbers can have a profound effect on your nose.
Anyway, talking of the men of the Channel affair, first there is Avathara (aka bus) Sotthisinghe. Avatara was first known as the man on the buses, who with several buses brought from various parts of the world took people, the people, for a spectacular ride. Avathara Sotthasinghe wheels and deals, and knows nothing besides.
But after Sotthisinghe's name got enmeshed in the bus issue and all that, and bus kits ended up without buses, he has been desperately trying to get kosher and become less smelly in the business world. That's why he wears jackets on hot Colombo days, and drops Singapore and Canberra and London and such capital city names the way some Colombo socialites would drop names of Ministers.
But, Sotthasinghe can never get honourable, and not get his name involved in some kind of big stinking mess. This time, he lent some money to one Helluva -gale fellow, and got himself into a big shimozzle which he half enjoys.
On TV he comes and says, "api pare innna ballo nevei'' (we are not street dogs) assuming correctly that he has to defend himself against the unmade charge. He says he has given money to this party and that party, but giving money to this party and that party would not qualify him to be a kingmaker like some Maharaja. He has miles to go before he acquires that kind of finesse. And to paraphrase good old Grandpa Mao, he has slept with too many dogs, so inevitably he will wake up with too many fleas.
Actor 2: Zany Goone-tikka. Actor allright, he is. Has slept quite a bit; slept so much that one day when he woke up he found himself kicked out of the house. Has a weakness for a lady who has a weakness for actors. The lady appointed him to look into the affairs of the liyana- mahattayas. Basically the job was a sinecure, but the man took himself too seriously.
Is the main player in the Channel affair, not used to playing supporting roles anyway. Poor fellow. This country is known for commissions . The whole big - sands for instance, was built on commissions, being taken by everybody, from the charismatic, downwards.
But, Zany the naluwa takes a commission, a small one, and nobody is quite sure he took it, but there you are — he gets himself into a big galactic bang of a mess.
The man should have stuck to sleeping, which he does well. But, once he came into the role of a political sidekick, he kicked himself in the mouth. When the Channel affair first broke, its almost incredible the amount of Ministers who didn't spring to his defense. The one from the kurrakan area down South for instance, who always is a bit of a pain in the neck anyway, was particularly against Goone-tikka. This of course, though the reasons are never given, may be because of raw jealousy, because Zany with his acting credentials is so close to the lady who has a weakness for actors.
Anyway, the long and the short of it is that the man is supposed to have been thick as thieves with this Helluva - gale, who is supposed to have given him a small shanthosam, even though the details are still mired in tape and are quite murky.
In a country built on commissions, this man had to be the one that got caught in a mess. He has not been able to shake off the after effects of quite a common form of shanthosam taking, and this may be because the man is a good route to getting at the big fish, the lady fish. This actor in a strange way, poor man, is a bit of a sprat caught up in the battle of the sharks.
Actor Number 3 : Helluva - gale, first impressed with his name, until it was discovered that he was no kinsman of the clan's kingpins. Helluva - gale is a man with a track record — and a tape record.
Basically he is a wheeler- dealer to his teeth, and this is as murky as it gets. But, even a wheeler- dealer has to get what he was promised. When he doesn't get that, he has shown wheeler dealers are such that even hell hath no fury like them.
Basically, this time the wheeler-dealt with the bus-man, and gave some money here and there, and made some deals here and there. But, those who dealt with him, underestimated his capacity to wash dirty linen in public, just to get even and get his bit of the morsel. He just didn't wash the dirty linen, basically he dredged the whole scum pond. Now, whatever happens, the man might find it difficult to get anyone to deal with after this whole contretemps is over.
Actor 4 : Lassie Rama-tune. If Goone-tikka sleeps and acts., this man digs and writes. He will dig any thing, as long as he can get some dirt on the big fish. If he can't get at the big fish he will be satisfied getting at the actor, because somebody from the side will be tainted.
In the Channel affair, he might be onto something, but, the fact is, these deeds have been done before, in a country that lives on commissions and he will be hard put to paint this thing as any special and different from the oceans of graft juice. Besides, he digs up so much that it is all like another part of the long tele drama — another episode and not a stand -alone one. Lassie, has been looking pugnacious on TV, playing angry young man to the hilt. Angry and hungry we might say, more perhaps the latter than the former. Leader, he intones every minute, but has got one in his pocket.
Other Actors: Sugar Balls, the Minister who gave new meaning to the idea that the most important day in a man's life is the day his father dies, Bob Dylan, Big Beard and Duth-thiha, all side-show hatchet men with very opaque hatchets, and the butler, who gives his job a bad name.
From wheeler -dealers to wannabes, the plot thickens, until the next cricket match comes along, and Shane Warne becomes everyone's pet hate instead of the Channel thing.
A word about the Audience: They are the people, who enjoy tele drama soaps such as this once in a way in this sunny (no pun) land, between cricket matches.
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