5th Column

The great liberal democrat

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Guten Tag, Uncle Ranil,

I thought I should address you in German now, Uncle Ranil, after your ‘match winning’ performance with the German radio station Deutsche Welle while you were visiting that country. That video went viral and received rave reviews from some people in Paradise, so congratulations are in order.

It is not every day that one of our leaders can go to the land that gave the world Hitler, Benz cars and Einstein and tell them to mind their own business and not to poke their noses in our affairs. We don’t go about demanding international inquiries about what happened during the holocaust, do we?

Anyway, Uncle Ranil, I think your performance that day was outstanding for many reasons. Firstly, you seem to have finally realised, after playing the great liberal democrat for four and a half decades, that it doesn’t pay. All it got you was a life sentence as the longest serving Leader of the Opposition.

Your luck turned when Gota maama decided to run away. You happened to be at the right place at the right time. As you assumed the office you coveted all your life, although accidentally, the great liberal democrat has slowly but surely dwindled away. Your Deutsche Welle interview only confirms this.

I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but what we saw that day was a cross between Mahinda maama and Mervyn, albeit in English and dressed in a suit. There was Mahinda maama’s ‘my country is first’ slogan mixed with Mervyn’s ‘how dare you talk to me like that?’ gung-ho attitude.

That was a masterstroke, Uncle Ranil. We know that the more genteel among the citizens of Paradise would have cringed at what you said and how you said it, but we could almost hear the so-called ‘baiyyas’ cheering for you. The latter outnumber the former. That is all that really matters at elections.

We also saw you lose your cool. We can understand that too. You are used to walking into Parliament and silencing the MPs there by saying ‘I say, shut up and sit down.’ Those chaps obey you meekly. So, you must have been annoyed to have that interviewer fellow persistently asking pesky questions.

So, he got his just deserts for being an upstart when you told him that he hadn’t done his homework properly and that you had been in the media longer than him. What he probably didn’t realise was that you were telling the truth: you have been in the business of manipulating the media for decades!

In fact, I felt you had certainly done your homework much better than him that day. That is why the media division at your office was at the ready to transcribe the interview and release its video clip to local outlets with Sinhalese subtitles, as if it were a Mr Bean skit that everyone wanted to see!

There will always be those who say that your performance that day was unbecoming of a Head of State, and that you should have kept your composure. What they didn’t know was that it was all part of the plan and that you were playing to the gallery. And, boy, oh boy, didn’t the gallery like it!

Your supporters are already playing to the gallery: In Batticaloa, there was a massive ‘cut out’ of you though you said you didn’t want it. If they are doing it, they should do it well. Their grammar must be correct, instead of saying ‘We for Ranil.’ It must also be a smiling photo of you, not a frowning one!

Full marks to you, Uncle Ranil, for realising even at this late stage that, instead of being principled, you must give the audience what they want, if you want their votes. I won’t be surprised if I see you next disembarking from a plane sporting a moustache, wearing a ‘saatakaya’ and, kissing the ground!

Seeing your interview the other day, I couldn’t but help thinking that an election must be around the corner. One to elect the big boss must be held within a year but we are hearing stories about that too, suggesting that you could ask for a referendum to abolish the job – and then stay on until that is done.

That is a clever strategy, Uncle Ranil. Why conduct an election if you are not certain you can win? The only referendum we ever had was conducted by your uncle. The Greens are known as the ‘Uncle Nephew Party.’ As the uncle was the first Executive President, the nephew could be the last!

You must be happy to hear the ‘pohottuwa’ types who ridiculed you, praising you for not only that interview but for ‘saving the nation’ in the economic war. Who knows, we may even see you in white national dress instead of suit and tie. Ah, the great liberal Ranil is dead; Long live Ranil Rajapaksa!

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha

PS: These days, the focus of attention is on cricket because of the World Cup, though we lose every game. There are calls for captain Dasun to be dropped, but I think he should be given more time. We didn’t drop you, Uncle Ranil, after all your failures over 30 years and look where you are now!