When batters, runners and beauties become lawmakers
POLITICS AND POLITRICKS BY CHANDA DAYAKE – SundayTimes
The election of the General didn’t materialise but the general election is now upon us, even though the General is now ‘safe’ behind bars, appeals from the Mahanayake theras notwithstanding.
This election is certainly a different kettle of fish. At the presidential election, we had to contend with just two faces, two slogans-and twenty others who got a kick out of donating their deposits to the state. In a sense, that was much easier. More is certainly not merrier here.
Very soon, we will have a million posters defacing every available square inch of wall space available with the benevolent mug shots of our would-be legislators smiling down upon us, exhorting us to vote for them in April, exactly a week after April Fools’ Day.
Already, the malady has begun, like some uncontrollable skin rash that spreads by the day. In Colombo, this is dominated by those from the ruling United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and some of its main contenders such as Susil Premajayantha, Rohitha Bogollagama, Thilanga Sumathipala, Duminda Silva and, yes, Wimal Weerawansa. And they come with a catchy slogan to boot.
For instance, we have ‘rata wenuwen lova dinu’ Bogols. The less said about his world victories, the better. And then, we have ‘wedak karana’ Thilanga. We all know that he has done a lot of ‘weda’. But he has either forgotten to change his shirt from the time he contested the Western provincial election — or he is using the same posters he couldn’t use then, when he was battling Duminda Silva for the highest number of preferences.
Silva, by the way, has changed his shirt. In fact ‘api gena hithana’ Duminda no longer displays his pumping-iron biceps because he now dons the ariya Sinhala suit. So, he is all ivory, in contrast to Sumathipala’s ebony. And he would have made a dashing hero in a Sinhala movie, starring opposite you-know-who.
But for the moment, the prize for the best poster and slogan must go to that young man in a hurry, Wimal. He calls himself ‘maubime panchayudhaya’. We agree; he has got five weapons indeed: mud, hate, venom, malice and downright lies — like when he came on television while the presidential election was on and told us that General Fonseka was ineligible to be elected because he was not a voter.
But this is a far cry from the Wimal of the JVP. Their trademark poster was handwritten, in red and black on low quality paper through which you could see the ‘paappa’ marks. Now Wimal looks down on us from huge hoardings which must have cost a fortune.
The man, however, probably got hold of the wrong advertising agency. In the slogan the ‘binduwa’ in panchayudhaya is in fact a picture. So, at a distance it reads like ‘maubime pacha-ayudhaya’. Freudian slip? International conspiracy? Well, take your pick.
You have to look really hard to find a poster from the United National Party (UNP). Every now and then there is one, but I am yet to see one with a slogan or picture to write home about. It may be because they believe posters are illegal and Dayananda Dissanayake has ordered not to paste them. And at the end of the election the UNP tells us that they lost because the poll was rigged!
Or is it because they were undecided till a few days ago about whether they will contest with or without the JVP and they didn’t want to print posters with the aliya on them, not knowing whether they will have to contest under the swan, the eagle or any other animal that Somawansa Amerasinghe took a liking to?
This proposed UNP-JVP alliance was confusing people anyway. Yes, it served a purpose at the presidential election and it gave us a once in a lifetime pictures of Ranil Wickremesinghe and Somawansa Amerasinghe sitting cross-legged together, but how could they go beyond that was the question.
The UNP wants to open the economy; the JVP wants to close it. The UNP wants maximum devolution, even a federal set up; the JVP opposes even the North-East merger. The UNP wants private universities; the JVP is hell bent on keeping even the state universities closed.
How then can they contest a general election together, even if they both want Sarath Fonseka released and Mahinda Rajapaksa dethroned? At last, Ranil Wickremesinghe seems to have had the guts to say ‘no’ to yet another alliance and go it alone.
That seems to be sorted now. Anyway, the marriage of the UNP and the JVP was never made in heaven. It was a shotgun wedding, the gun being the General’s. The divorce can be granted on all three grounds: malicious desertion (by the UNP), impotence (at the presidential election) and adultery (with the TNA). So, the UNP and the JVP will strike separately and then march together as the opposition in the next Parliament. At least, that is the plan.
Spare a thought for the UPFA. They have no such problems. Their symbol is the betel leaf; their leader is the President and they get enough publicity from the state media. All they have to sort out are their nomination lists — but that must be an extremely difficult task for Susil Premajayantha, even harder than printing question papers with the answers on the reverse.
Why? Everyone wants a slice of the cake. And we are not talking of politicians here — the Geetha Kumarasinghes, Sanath Jayasuriyas, Susanthika Jayasinghes all want to be candidates. And how could poor Premajayantha say no to someone like Geetha, for instance?
Of course, we should have all of them in Parliament. How many times has Parliament adjourned without a quorum? Now, all they have to do is spread the word around that Geetha is in the chamber instead of ringing the quorum bells — and they will all flock there. And who knows, they might even get to see Rosie as a bonus! Now, that didn’t work with Ferial or Pavithra, did it?
And remember the time when they had a debate about Susanthika in Parliament? Now, that will not be necessary because you would be able to debate with Susanthika instead. And if we are lucky, we may even catch some lively cross-talk between Susanthika and S.B. too!
As for Sanath, I’ve admired the man so much, seeing him pulverise opposing bowlers and win matches single handedly for Sri Lanka. Now, I am hoping that they would give live telecasts of parliamentary debates just like in cricket because then I could watch Sanath: first he would touch his collar, then his shirt, then his pirith noola and then wax eloquent about Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, devolution of power, GSP plus and the seventeenth amendment all in one scintillating speech — ah that would make my day! But, even if all these celebrities are included, Susil Premajayantha has other problems to contend with, such as which Rajapaksa to put where.
There is Chamal, Basil, Nirupama and Namal (in chronological order) and thankfully, they have all been accommodated, and even if Gotabhaya makes a wild card entry, there is always the National List, so Susil must be heaving a sigh of relief at long last!
Despite all this, elections are a necessary evil. As chandadayakeyas, we complain when there aren’t elections and then we complain when there are elections. When this one is done, we don’t need to have any for the next half a dozen years, so let us enjoy this while we can, shall we?
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