Comrades Change Their Tune

  • Politics you know because when I was WhiteVan they said I was responsible for all those abductions,murders etc. So I became Kahavan—Yellow Van—which sounds like the name of Dutu Gemunu’s father Kahavantissa
  • With increased salaries, allowances, special payments, duty free vehicles, free housing, subsidised food, bodyguards, pensions and much more

by Gamini Weerakoon

Avurudhu Kumaraya is the immortal Prince Charming of Sri Lanka. He descends on us from the skies above on his magnificent white steed attired in all his regalia for the Avuruddha. He is welcomed by all climbers— political and social— and women young and doddering — the  young lasses  in swings on Kadju Puhulang trees in their  enticing reddha-hettes and even doddering nonagenarian ladies with a twinkle in their eyes and past memories, overstaying in the ‘departure lounge’.

We record three of his visits this year.


Opposition in Power

Kahavan Tissasinghe, sarong tucked up, was pacing up and down in his spacious forcibly acquired Walauwe on Avurudhu morning.

‘Haminay, haminay’, he bellowed at his ever loving wife… ‘I don’t want the Yakko, and Yakka types to think we are the new rich. We must show we are genuine Walauwe. Avuruddha Kumaraya, my friend, is scheduled to visit us this morning. You know Avuruddhu doesn’t visit riff- raff. So must roll out the red carpet…… Did you get the fifty  Bara-bara Funfony sarongs-must give him to take back home no ………

Haminay: Have you forgotten you were kicked out of office two years ago. You are no longer a minister, where is the money a Bara-bara now costs over Rs 5000, I am told…..

Kahavan: Haminay dear, you know very well that the bottom shelf of the almirah is stacked with parcels of old notes from the last election; for heaven’s sake open them up, either termites or FCID will get at it before us …. If you can’t buy  Bara-bara Sarongs buy Pallyakat.. the old favourite from Chennai…..

Haminay: Can’t get Pallyakats, strict navy patrols in the Palk Strait, agent says….  heavy bribes on landing

At this moment Avurudhu Kumaraya descends on Kahavan Tissa Singhe’s garden.

Avurudhu embracing Kahavan: Hullo, Hullo Kahavan but why the change in name from WhiteVan to Kaha-Van?

Kahavan: Small matter… politics you know because when I was WhiteVan they said I was responsible for all those abductions,murders etc. So I became Kahavan—Yellow Van—which sounds like the name of Dutu Gemunu’s father. Kahavantissa

Avurudhu: Careful, dangerous. Don’t try to get into the Dutu Gemunu Line. You know, know? Anyway, how’s life? Some years ago when I visited you there was no Scotch, no ice with a power cut on , and given Old Arrack; when I called for soda I heard the Haminay shouting that a bottle was Rs 50.

Much better now Kahavan assured producing an array of single malt whiskies: Glenfiddich, Laphroaig- With dishes of venison that Haminay —in her well- kept sixties served while swinging her hips and other things.

Avuruddhu: Venison—great, but it is banned no………

Kahavan: Some people remember our past services…..

Avuruddhu:  Life out of power is better than in power?

The power of the Joint Opposition, Kahavan claimed as Avuruddhu mounted his white steed and galloped away.


Power of the Purse

His next stop was Temple Trees, Avurudhu’s tastes not matching tastes of fruit juice, iced coffee and egg hoppers of the presidential palace

It was an effusive welcome with Avuruddhu apologising to his old friend about missing his recent book launch.  I read that much of   your success is attributed to you being a Royalist. Maybe your alumni like Dinesh and Aluthgamage would have helped you much, Avurudhu opined.

There are many other Royalists doing far better, more than 30 Royalist MPs in parliament, Ranil noted.

Is this the FRCS…? Fellows of the Royal College of………

They are also there but our government has much more supporters, we are the Yahapalanaya— joint government of the SLFP and UNP. We get on wonderfully well; we are strongly bonded, united.

Avurudhu: How do you do that?

With increased salaries, allowances, special payments, duty free vehicles, free housing, subsidised food, bodyguards, pensions and much more……

Avurudhu: No common ideology, political philosophy, national perspective, common policies?

Ranil: Of course they are all there but the real bonding comes from financial and material benefits. We learnt it from the previous regime. They bought up some of our fellows with offers of cabinet portfolios and conferred the same benefits that are now being granted. So this system works whichever parties are involved. Money and perks talk like at any other place.

How long can your government go on?

Ranil: Till parliament is dissolved and they will be sad when that happens.

Avurudhu: But Rajapakse says he will topple your government this year.

Ranil: Why is he waiting if he can do it?

Avurudhu had two quickies, a bite, jumped on his horse and galloped away to a JVP hideout.


Inside the JVP

The revolutionary JVP does not recognise royalty and Avurudhu Kumaraya (New Year Prince) is ipso facto, a prince. The JVP by tradition does not recognise even crown or clown princes. But this year had made and exception and invited Avurudhu Kumaraya probably to convey the impression that they are now engaged in mainstream politics. Another unique feature for a revolutionary Marxist party is that drinks are taboo.

So Avuruddhu despite the entertainment with Kahavan  Tissasinghe and Ranil tucked in a couple of stiff ones from his flask, rode  into the JVP hideout to be received by a stern faced revolutionary who identified himself only  as Comrade X.

Why does a prince from the skies want to visit the JVP now? Was it a part of an international conspiracy or interplanetary conspiracy hatched at Siri Kotha, X with the solemnity of a sage queried. Avuruddhu now in a very jolly mood explained that Royalty was now opening its doors to common or garden revolutionaries and wanted to deal regularly with the JVP. Besides it was the JVP that invited him.

Comrade X wanted to test the revolutionary fervor of Avuruddhu.

What’s your stand on SAITM?

Avurudhu: Oh that potty little dispute which makes professors, doctors, students, hoi-polloi on the streets scream on the roads? I am all for SAITM. This country needs more doctors and hospitals with two on a bed and three underneath in government hospitals…….

Comrade X: Obviously you are a supporter of the neoliberal, capitalist class exploiting the toilers…..

Avuruddhu: OK, OK. You say the UNP and the SLFP are both the same—Unnuth ekai, Munnuth Ekai—- are you better? Comrade X: We have changed our policies after entering democratic politics. We now also say, Apith Ekai— UNP, SLFP and JVP are all the same. In a free democratic society working in accordance to a free economy, a party has to be corrupt to be taken seriously. That is why we have been rejected all along. Our new slogan is Munnuth Ekai, Unnuth Ekai, and Apith Ekai— You, They and We are all the same. United we stand, Divided we fall. That’s what comrades NM, Colvin etc did when they grabbed the Saree pota 50 years ago. Avuruddhu jumped on his steed and galloped away singing: The More they are together, together, the merrier

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