5th Column

What were you thinking?

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My dear Range,

I thought of writing to you after I heard you saying that we should all get together for the sake of the country and, instead of having elections in a few months, give Uncle Ranil two more years on the job to finish the task he began when Gota maama fled the country around this time two years ago.

Surely, Range, holding the important position of General Secretary of the Greens, you must know that the entire country is eagerly looking forward to this big election. That is despite Uncle Ranil still not having declared himself as a candidate and keeping everyone guessing. Still, we all expect him to run.

You are not the first to suggest that we should give Uncle Ranil more time. Vajira, his Man Friday has said that Uncle Ranil should be allowed to run uncontested and that he should be given 10 more years at the top. Because that idea was so bizarre and also because of who said it, it was treated as a joke!

It is different when you front up to an official briefing of the Green Party as General Secretary of the party and make this suggestion. You are taken seriously. That is why there is such controversy about your proposal and why people are questioning your political wisdom now – or rather, the lack of it.

There is another reason for the uproar. Let me tell you what that is. Remember early last year, when the stage was set for local government elections and the opposition was waiting eagerly to capitalise on the sentiments of the ‘aragalaya’ – especially the rathu sahodarayas and the ‘telephone’ chaps?

That is when Uncle Ranil casually walked into Parliament telling everyone, “there is no election, even if there was an election, there is no money”. And true to his word, there has been no local government elections since then. So, are you surprised that people are now quite worried about your suggestion?

They must be also thinking that it is in Uncle Ranil’s genes to postpone elections. Remember what his uncle, JR, the Old Fox, did? His complaints were the loudest when Sirima postponed elections and governed for two more years, but he did better (or worse) and ruled for six years with a referendum!

To be fair, JR did have a mandate from six years earlier – and a massive one at that. The cunning political animal that he was, he was trying to preserve as much of that as possible with a referendum. Uncle Ranil, on the other hand, has no mandate and is living on time borrowed from Gota maama.

It also doesn’t make much sense, Range, when you argue that the cost of a referendum will be much cheaper than an election for the top job. In case that referendum is lost, then we will end up paying not only for a referendum but also for an election, when we hardly have any money left in the coffers.

The question on everyone’s minds was whether you woke up that day, had a sudden flight of fancy not to have the election, called a media briefing and said your thoughts aloud. That sounds a bit far-fetched. If that did happen, you should have been sacked by now considering the damage it caused.

Or, as someone said, were you only echoing ‘His Master’s Voice?’ and floating a trial balloon at his request to see how the public would respond. You certainly have got the answer to that question now, what with even those such as your own Ravi saying that you shouldn’t become a political comedian!

You tried some damage control with a repeat appearance, quoting clauses from the Constitution and saying it is within the democratic framework to do so. That didn’t sound at all like the ex-Policeman that you are but someone coached by a good lawyer – and we know who would have organised that!

All this has now led to unnecessary questions such as ‘why have a referendum if you are so sure of winning?’ In fact, some are suggesting that the only reason for a referendum is not the uncertainty of winning but the certainty of losing. So, regardless of whose idea this was, it has ended up as a disaster.

To do what you suggested, a two-thirds majority is needed. Uncle Ranil cannot muster that now. So, it looks as if someone used you to conduct a political experiment that made you look very silly – and I think we know who. The least you can do now is ask for a National List at the next election, Range!

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha


PS: If, after this, anyone suggests that you are the worst General Secretary the Greens ever had, please remind them about Tissa. There is no better predictor of elections in Paradise than Tissa: the side he is on, always loses. Most people believe this ‘Tissa’s rule’ is still valid – even for the next big election!