From the Green Corner

17th October 1999

With millionaires and billionaires it's definitely prosperity time for you!

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ImageMy opponent on these pages, Paakshikaya made a daring prediction last week. He declared that the Presidential election will be held first and that Chandrika Kumaratunga would win. Paakshikaya, unable to contain his euphoria at that, then went on to say that in the general elections that will follow, Kumaratunga's mandate will be enhanced!

I was happy to read Paakshikaya's sentiments because it reflects the stupid complacency some people in the Peoples' Alliance have taken refuge in. And what's more these are the very people advising the President who is made to believe that all is well with the state of Sri Lanka and that she would be queen for another half a dozen years!

I know that some ministers -the few of them who still maintain a good rapport with their voters- know that this is not the case and that the reverse is true but whenever they have made their thinking known, they have been seen as conspirators conniving with the UNP!

Tell me Paakshikaya, if you are so cocksure of victory why did Minister Kingsley Wickremeratne make such a song and dance about reducing the price of sugar by 50 cents last week? Come, my friend, aren't you up to your old "Chanda Gundus?" If you are so confident why don't you say "Seeni nethuwa the bonnam, Miris nethuwa hodi kannang" as you did in the seventies?

But of course your budget spokesman, G. L. Peiris- the person who "only just reads it out in Parliament" as your own President once said- is a shrewd man. He won't let that 50 cents be deprived to the Treasury lest his task of balancing the books become more difficult.

So, what does he do? Using all the logic he learnt as professor of law he raises the price of cigarettes by 50 cents! So, the coffers are still full and the government proudly declares that it has brought down the cost of living! And, I daresay that the government may have made a fast buck on the deal too!

So, Paakshikaya, we now know what to expect, come budget time in November. It will be a sunshine budget that Gamini Lakshman Peiris will present, standing half-hunched in Parliament and pursing his lips many a time. And the PA will proudly proclaim it has eased the burdens on the masses and shamelessly ask for their vote at the polls. Isn't that the strategy, my friend?

But is the president really keen on easing the burdens on the people, Paakshikaya? Does she work as hard as her predecessors did? Or is it just that she lives a day-to-day existence in her Presidency hoping that providence which has given her all the good things in life without having to really work for them, would continue to be on her side?

I ask this because that is what many people feel about her style of governance, my friend. Take, for example the Fund Managers meeting in Colombo last week.

It was a meeting that was looked forward to by all- by the local business community, by overseas investors and by the international media- because it was billed to bring the country's President and the Leader of the Opposition to one forum to talk about business and the economy.

I personally know that our leader attached great significance to this event and burnt the midnight oil preparing for this occasion because he considered it his duty to spell out his plan for the future.

And in contrast, what does the habitually late Chandrika Kumaratunga do? She confirms her attendance and then gives the event a miss and sends a pathetic excuse saying she is "held up in London!" And this is our "caring" President, who wants to re-model the economy by inviting overseas investors, so she could ease the burdens of the poor!

Of course, we don't mind that, Paakshikaya. All and sundry agreed that Ranil Wickremesinghe gave a brilliant performance that day and he would have anyway outshone Kumaratunga had she been there but then it was a walkover!

But of course, Chandrika Kumaratunga does have an excuse for everything and her favourite is that she cannot do anything- solve the ethnic war, develop the economy, give bread at three fifty- because of the 1978 J. R. Jayewardene constitution which she calls in her choice language 'bahubootha viyavasthaava'.

But then, she is still in power because of that 'bahubootha viyavasthaava' isn't she? And she is not taking a single step in the direction of abolishing the Executive Presidency despite frequent protests from her own coalition partners, is she? So, tell us Paakshikaya, how are you so confident of winning the next elections, then? Is it because you plan another Wayamba-style poll on a larger scale? Or is it because you have ordered the Army to try and outrun in the LTTE at least in a few areas so you could get Anurudha Ratwatte to go and hoist a flag somewhere in the north, call it a great victory, promote Ratwatte to a Field Marshall perhaps and then ask for the vote of the majority community? Ah, Paakshikaya what a pity you do not have a Kargill in this country to ensure re-election!

These are familiar tactics my friend, and we are alive to them.

And that is why the predictions you made last week will fall flat with the next polls.

Surely, if you are so confident of victory why would you spend thousands of rupees of your party funds (or is it state funds?) on advertisemnts in newspapers that proclaim your greatness, my friend?

But of course, even in doing so, you let your slip show. This is what your advertisement in last Sunday's newspapers said: "In five years we have laid the foundation for our future prosperity…" Ah, Paakshikaya, how true! You have indeed laid the foundation for your prosperity because most of your parliamentarians are now millionaires and most of your ministers are billionaires! And, most of your Parliamentarians are ministers anyway! I rest my case, my learned friend, let our readers judge this issue by themselves!

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