Raigamaya and Gampolaya


By Dr Upul wijayawardhana

My title, in no way, is intended to cast aspersions on the good people of Raigama or Gampola but simply to remind the readers of a folk tale; one that is supposed to have happened during the time of Sinhala kings which came to my mind watching the antics of our two great leaders. Raigamaya and Gampolaya were traders, friends but competitors, who went from village to village selling betel leaves and arecanuts. Each, without knowing what the other was up to, decided to gain unfair advantage by cheating with substitution and hoping the other would sell the substituted product. Raigamaya substituted pepper leaves for betel and Gampolaya substituted ‘Domba’ nuts for arecanuts. They met for the night, before their travels the next day, and after sleeping in an ‘ambalama’ left in the morning taking the other’s bag. It did not take long for them to realise that they had only fooled each other. Is this not what is happening with the President and Prime Minister? Perhaps not, as they do not seem to have realised that they are fooling each other; instead, they seem convinced that they can continue to fool the voters!

Even thirty years of terrorism, not even the warnings of the international ‘do-gooders’ that ‘mighty’ Prabakaran could not be defeated militarily, could cause unity between the two major political parties. In fact, the only support the UNP offered were sarcastic comments in the Parliament, disparaging not only the Government that was attempting to defeat terrorism but also members of our services who were achieving it, sacrificing limb and life. But, to grab power, a grand coalition was formed and grand thefts occurred. Having disappointed all those who craved for good governance, they held off elections as long as feasible, using every trick of the political trade. Now that the inevitable expression of franchise is, at last, upon the voter, the two leaders and their minions blame each other, in order to get votes.

The President, guilty of dissolving parliament enabling the second, bigger, bond-scam, has extricated himself to some extent by appointing the Presidential Commission. As George Orwell showed in ‘Animal Farm’ that not all animals are equal, our politicians have shown that not all politicians are equal. A Commission, whose workings were exemplary, was tainted at the last lap when the Attorney General stepped in to have ‘a friendly chat’ with the Prime Minister instead of cross-examining him or allowing the team that did an excellent job to do so. Rather than using his power to sack the errant, the President uses his powers to supress women, in the guise that he is protecting women. If alcohol is bad why not ban it for all, not only women. The President is behaving more like a medieval religious leader than an elected democrat! Sorry, I forgot; he referred to bond scammers as pick pockets but then, he did not have guts to name them.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, who mocked the opposition referring to James Bond when the issue of the bond scam was raised initially and then behaved disgracefully as a rabble rouser in Parliament, goes on appointing committees of henchmen entrusted with the task of clearing the names of his flock. He seems to have lost all sense, not even understanding the concept of conflict of interest. May be, he is smarter; knowing that there is a UNP ‘block-vote’, he knows he can continue to fudge over issues. His supporters can always point out that he acted with firmness: getting the assistant leader of the party to step down though it was done when nothing else was feasible! What a joke ‘Yahapalana’ has become!!

Talking about jokers, the two jokers in the pack never fail to entertain. Mangala Samaraweera accused Mahinda Rajapaksa of an attempted coup but he was not charged for treason. Mangala then went to Geneva as our Foreign Minister and co-sponsored a resolution against the country he was representing! I could not help bursting out in laughter when I saw a video-clip of the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the UN, after announcing that his government has allowed women to drive, starting to clap without any others joining, perhaps, because they knew that Saudi Arabia was the last country in the world to do so. To his credit, he was doing what was expected of him by his country whereas our Foreign Minister was serving the international community. Perhaps, having realised there are no steps left for him in the political ladder in Sri Lanka, Mangala may be aiming at a UN appointment. While I fully support his decision to equate women to men as far as alcohol is concerned, I cannot understand why he did not respond when the President reversed hisdecision. Surely, he should have resigned but, then, resignations on matters of principle is a long-lost art in Sri Lankan politics. It was recently reported that a minister in the British House of Lords tendered his resignation from government because he got late, by a few minutes, to arrive in Lords, to answer questions. Theresa May had refused to accept the resignation as Lords from both sides of the House had wanted him to stay, as he is an effective minister. Can we even dream of achieving this degree of integrity?

Rajitha Senaratna, who has put monkeys to shame by the way he jumps from side-to-side, never fails to surprise. He has announced that Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be jailed just after the elections. As the cabinet spokesman, is he conveying a cabinet decision? When did the cabinet or the honourable minister assume the duties of a law-enforcement authority? Whatever crimes Rajapaksas committed should be punished but that should be done in the proper way, not by political decisions. Had Rajitha done this in an attempt to sway the voters, then the elections commission should take action. It is highly irregular for ministers to make pronouncements about jailing people, worst of all, during an election campaign. May be there will be an unintended consequence to this foolhardy act; do hope voters will get wiser!

There was a time, a very long time at that, we, as Sri Lankan were anxious about our country. Then there was a short period when we could justly be proud and hold our heads high; after all, we achieved something no other country achieved, eradicating terrorism. Now we are in a phase where we are ashamed of ourselves, simply because of the misdeeds of our politicians; Yamapalanaya more than a Yahapalanaya!

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