From The Moon: A Second Helping
her mother before her and indeed like the Bandaranaikes as a class,
Chandrika Kumaratunga believes firmly that the people of Sri Lanka are a
bunch of dithering idiots. It is widely recalled how in the run up to
the 1970 general elections, Sirimavo Bandaranaike pledged to a starving,
bankrupt nation that if necessary, she would bring them rice from the
moon. A colourful metaphor, perhaps, which no one would take literally-
except perhaps a public that had been reduced to eating scraps out of
dustbins by seven years of chaos like only the Bandaranaikes can
precipitate. It might well be said however, with apologies to the poet
Wordsworth, that the child is mother of the woman.
Chandrika has refined lying to a fine art, throwing metaphor to the
winds: she lies with a panache that is little short of admirable, fully
expecting the public to believe her every word.
1994 too, Kumaratunga promised the moon. Bread at Rs 3.50, the abolition
of the executive presidency by July 15, 1995, free school books and
uniforms, one million jobs in the first two years, the dole for the
unemployed, free housing, a cabinet of not more than 20 ministers, no
Benzes, BMWs and Pajeros for ministers, and on and on. Of course, she
was lying all along: this barefaced liar finds it increasingly difficult
to distinguish between fact and fiction, a weakness she shares with
Robert Mugabe, to say nothing of Stalin and Hitler.
knows now that quite apart from shunning them, she spent upwards of one
billion rupees of taxpayers' money on Benzes and BMWs for herself- air
freighted to Sri Lanka, to boot. And as for the cheap bread and the
other mumbo jumbo, what became of that? A lot of dashed hopes and empty
JVP-SLFP Alliance's latest
manifesto, unveiled last Thursday, was simply a second helping - more of
the same. "We are committed to economic development" says
Kumaratunga, who actually sent the economy into recession for the first
time in post-Independence history (falsely claiming all the while to
have a political science degree from the Sorbonne and a PhD in
economics). "We are committed to restore peace and harmony among
the communities," says the very person who threatened to burn down
places of Hindu religious worship. "The National Police
Commission" will be further strengthened, we are told, hours after
National Organiser of the Freedom Alliance, Anura Bandaranaike pledged
to scrap it. "Full media freedom will be guaranteed," say the
very people who not long ago threatened "to kill an editor or
two" and sealed this newspaper.
just hours before the manifesto was unfolded, Wimal Weerawansa, a key
alliance leader not only threatened the editor of the leading
local-language daily, Lankadeepa, but also committed criminal trespass
and attempted murder by illegally entering the property of Commerce
Minister Ravi Karunanayake with illegal firearms and threatening to
shoot dead his attorney.
most telling is the renewal of a pledge to abolish the executive
presidency. Indeed, the tenth anniversary of Kumaratunga's fraudulent
promise to do away with her
job is fast approaching. Faced with the ghastly prospect of being forced
into retirement at the end of her second term, before her children can
inherit her place in the SLFP's leadership, and not trusting her
frequently tipsy brother and his servant boys to play the role of night
watchmen, Kumaratunga is now desperate to lead government from within
parliament. For this, the constitution must be changed, and the country
must be plunged into chaos. And this is the very same President
speaking, who sought to spend five billion rupees of public funds on
building a presidential palace for herself, quite apart from the one
billion on luxury cars. Who would believe this con artist again?
it is all very well to shower ridicule on Chandrika Kumaratunga and her
JVP acolytes, the threat to Sri Lanka they pose is no longer funny.
Wimal Weerawansa's criminal and violent actions last week left the
nation with a terrible feeling of deja vu, taking it back to the early
1990s when JVP cadres slaughtered thousands of citizens in cold blood,
looted banks, and stole jewellery and national identity cards. Now the
JVP has pledged to turn over a new leaf and to enter the mainstream of
democratic politics. We took them at their word. But Weerawansa has
proved that this is all mere bluff- otherwise how is it that he has the
gumption to terrorise newspaper editors and to threaten to kill a lawyer
after having illegally entered someone else's office?
only by a hunger for power, the JVP and SLFP have now embarked on a
campaign of terror to win the April 2 election by hook or by crook. For
his part, Somawansa Amarasinghe has been shown to be just that: a crook,
and a two-bit one at that. For her part, Kumaratunga seeks only to
retain her stranglehold on power, to keep the Lion Flag flying over
Horagolla Walawwa. That is what this spasm of chaos the country has been
plunged into is all about. Indeed, that is what her second secret
swearing in was all about.
worst fear of the public is the recklessness with which the alliance is
driving the country back towards war, a reality to which the LTTE has
responded by itself preparing for hostilities. Despite her claims of
honouring the ceasefire and the MOU, Kumaratunga knows that this will
not wash with the LTTE: that is why she has strengthened her security
still further, failing to show up even at the unveiling of her party
manifesto. To this extent, the split in the LTTE is hardly welcome, for
atrocities committed by one faction could well be pinned on the other.
Divided, the Tigers may yet rule.
is most worrying with less than three weeks to D-Day is Kumaratunga's
systematic campaign of abusing the police to further her own electoral
agenda. The disgraceful meeting she summoned on March 6, at which she
threatened to set fire to police stations that did not toe her line, is
surely by itself grounds for impeachment. So is her subversion of the
Police Commission, by placing party loyalists in the police force in
supervisory control of key electorates. Her greed for power, and the
means by which she will satiate it, know no bounds.
lauding the Prime Minister for playing by the rules, one fears that the
likes of Kumaratunga are unlikely, at the end of the day, to quit unless
shown the door by public action: the "people power" that drove
dictators like Marcos and Suharto from office. The Bandaranaikes are
past masters at outstaying their welcome. Just as Sirimavo forcibly and
illegally overstayed her term in 1975, so is Chandrika planning to
overstay hers in 2005. The people of Sri Lanka have stomached a great
deal from Kumaratunga, and it is time that everyone concerned called a
spade a spade and stopped pussyfooting around this despot as if she were
royalty. It is a mistake Ranil Wickremesinghe has learned to his cost,
and it is a mistake the people of Sri Lanka would do well to avoid.