guys of Medamulane
Rupavahini provided superb
entertainment during the week of its 25th anniversary celebrations.
One day we had His Excellency,
President Mahinda Rajapakse breathing fire and thunder while
sacking three of his ministers. It was virtually a bolt from the
blues. The solemn faced President with his Stalin like moustache
bristling, declared that that there was a dastardly conspiracy afoot
- even a threat to assassinate him. It was Julius Caesar stuff - et
tu Brute or rather et tu Samare
and all that - with his one time buddy with whom he had waged many
campaigns, Mangala Samaraweera now in the dock as a leading
The second in the line of fire
was the Crown Prince - never mind if the Samasamajists of yore
called him Clown Prince - Anura Bandaranaike for daring to challenge
him on the floor of the House and the third was a bearded ex- naval
officer, Sripathi Sooriyaaratchi who had fought many a battle for
him on TV talk shows.
The highly indignant President
striking high moral tones declared that he could not tolerate such
indiscipline which would wreck his party and in turn result in
threats to the security of the nation.
He had to take drastic action.
He was not Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, Sirima Bandaranaike or
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. He was Medamulane Rajapakse.
Very few knew who or what
Medamulane was until the political sophisticates sent it down the
grapevine that it was his village - his birthplace. The implication
apparently was to tell the world that Medamulane guys were tough
guys. These macho men don't let others cross their path. It's kaput
for any one who dares cross their path and that explained the fate
of the unfortunate three.
The message to those griping
cabinet ministers who had been stripped of some of their ministries
to accommodate UNP renegades was clear:
Don't play about with the Medamulane Rajapakses. They are not
people to be trifled with.
The next day on TV, however,
the fire breathing, fire eating Stalin had undergone a wonderful
transformation. He was all smiles, like what we used to call in our
school going days, a Lactogen Baby albeit with
a moustache and in the company of rolly polly Anura Bandaranaike in
shirt, striped tie and longs. Had he been in shorts he would have
been a typically overage Billy Bunter.
And the two seemed to have
made it up and were buddies with the genial Alavi
Moulana, apparently the political broker, smiling and
satisfied as if he had
just consumed a buriyani from Buhari - his favourite hotel he once
had nationalised as a government owned business undertaking! Now all
that Presidential ire and invective had evaporated.
It was no doubt vintage TV
drama fit enough for a quarter century anniversary, if not for the
fact that Sri Lanka has been made to appear in the eyes of the world
as a huge political joke. The president of a country does not sack
three of his cabinet ministers and denounce them in public and the
next day welcome one of them with open arms! He said that it was for
the sake of the party.
But why or why did he not
think of the party when he went through this unusual exercise of
instantaneous sackings without calling for their explanations?
Mangala Samaraweera and Anura Bandaranaike are very senior members
of the SLFP and even if they were guilty of misdemeanours they
should have been asked for explanations - not sacking on TV.
This is another example of the
unbridled power of the Executive Presidency which has to be reined
in through the 17th Amendment which had been made inoperative as a
result of political manipulations which we pointed out in this
column last Sunday.
Anura Bandaranaike is a tragic
figure in Sri Lankan politics, anxious to get to the top but not
getting there. He has been quarrelling within his party, crossing
over to the UNP, re-crossing, being sacked and now being taken back.
He is a man with a political heritage and substantial means who need
not be clamouring for public office like a common or garden
Now it is reported that he is
being re-offered his ministry of
National Heritage, which itself is a joke. Probably the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be offered in due course . For the
sake of political credibility he should not accept any ministry but
remain as a backbencher while serving the party.
In the eyes of the public he
will still remain an untrustworthy and gullible politician. It did
appear that he acted in consonance with Mangala Samaraweera
in defying the President. A press conference was to have been
called on Wednesday by the sacked trio but instead Bandaranaike
appeared on TV with Rajapakse announcing their reconciliation!
Now Samaraweera has been left
high and dry. At the time of writing Samaraweera and Sooriyaarathchi
had been invited to meet the President but they did not seem as
eager as Bandaranaike.
This will undoubtedly be
interpreted as ploy a of Rajapakse to split up the opposition
building up against him and isolating Samaraweera, his main
antagonist. As the weekend draws to a close more sub-plots are bound
to reveal themselves.
18 UNPers who crossed over - some more are reported to be
joining them - will be wondering what their fate will be when a
cabinet sworn in a few
weeks ago has three key ministers sacked and one taken back with no
The JVP agreement, the
President seems to have thrown into the dust bin and the UNP
agreement was wrecked by him although he accused Ranil
Wickremesinghe of being responsible for it.
Apparently the President is
entitled to change his mind as and when he or his advisers, mainly
from Medamulane want .The UNP recruits should keep in mind that
Medamulane rules the land.
I often wonder dearie how it
must have been for you as you bopped around on your mammy's knee as
a wee toddler in Beliatte and/or its suburbs. I myself have only a
passing acquaintance of the town and/or village not even having had
time to stop to collect a hat that had blown outside my vehicular
mode of transport on to one of those alleyways you may have
frequented as a young lad.
Time as you well know dear is
of the essence. Can't let the ole rocking chair rock by itself now
can we. You of course are much more relaxed.
Anyone comes your way with a
file rather too thick to be of any importance to your chugging gray
cells, there you are telling them to run along and tell all to Baa-sil
or Goatie. Little wonder you have time to tootle over to every
birthday bash in town. In fact you are becoming quite the social
nuisance. Very soon you'll be more prevalent in the pages of fashion
magazines than in the news dearie.
Be that as it well may, I'd
love to know all about the rollicking times you had with the rest of
the gang when you were known better as Podda. I must say that you
are giving me quite an education as it is. Apparently you chaps in
the village liked the overgrowth as much as the under growth. I mean
to say dear to barge into Mangy's house last week and demand his
lawn mower ...really that took the cake.
Well no ..that really took the
lawn mower but it wasn't until I heard about your fellows pulling
out telephone and intercom systems from the walls in a frenzied
hurry that the true meaning of Medamulane Maa-hinder came to me..all
of a sudden.
The problem with us
sophisticated gals dearie is we couldn't really care a rats patootie
lane thyme no.no.....
rosemary.dil..no no.yes, yes
now I remember, baa-sil, goatie or any other name you may have to
Apparently nor does Mangy.
Given that the poor
chap breaking the habit of a life time actually bent backwards and
not forwards to get you into power, it would seem the recent sack
race you've been having with some of your staff members is beginning
to go out of hand.
And what's this about secret
deals with the cyanides darling that that fellow Sree-pathi is
babbling on about... deals with the cyanides and talks of tape
recorders in his possession? I
mean to say who cares if the silly fellow is in possession of a tape
recorder or two. Half of Paradise is teeming with chappies who claim
to have tape recorders on which they would play the latest Hindi
melody, hutch kutch hota hai or pya kira ne hai or whatever that odd
ball Shah Rukh is singing lately into his microphone.
I mean to say Medamulane Maa-hinder
would hardly be threatened by a Hindi song now would he? So do tell
darling. Who is this Sree -pathiya talking about really? And here we
were thinking all along that it was an ali -koti givisuma that
prevailed. Now some chaps in the know are talking of others having
deals with the striped fellows.
Who could it be? Try as I
would I cannot imagine darling. Of course no one would be as far
fetched as to think it was you. You m'dear are the Paradisian
weeraya. The next Dutugemunu who crouched in his bed for one or two
reasons which I quite forget. Oh yes the raging sea was it
not...giving him the spasms in the nether regions while the cyanides
were doing their bit to irritate the young monarch in the upper
But who is the 300 million
rupee question. Hmm. Do rein in your CID chappies scurrying to and
fro in newspaper offices trying to dig up sources and get them on
the job. Now there's something for them to pull out the dusty
magnifying glass, put on the brown overcoat and steal along quietly.
Perhaps it will give them something to do in these dreary times.
Meanwhile, if you hear of
anything do give ole Thellie a quick call.. You know how I love a
chit chat with my favourite village chandiya.
Tara for the nonce
minutes to Doom's Day
The Doom's Day Clock was moved
by two minutes to five minutes to midnight - zero hour for the end
of the world - on January 17.
Created in 1947 by scientists
of the University of Chicago as an indicator to the world's
vulnerability to nuclear war, this is the 18th time that the hands
of the clock had been re-set. The last such move was during the 9/11
The most anxious days were
during the Cold War when intermediate ballistic missiles of the
United States and the Soviet Union were poised across Europe and
also during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Some of the reasons cited for
this nuclear threat were: North Korea's nuclear test in October last
year; Iran's defiance of UN resolutions and proceeding with the
enrichment of uranium which Western powers allege is aimed at
producing nuclear weapons which Iran denies, citing nuclear power
generation; 27,000 nuclear weapons possessed by the five nuclear
powers - of which 26,000 weapons are those of the United States and
Deal with North Korea
It is most likely the
agreement reached last week in Beijing following talks between North
Korea and five nations - United States, South Korea, China, Russia
and Japan - where North Korea agreed to begin dismantling its
nuclear production plants would put back to a certain extent the
hands of the Doom's Day Clock. North Korea had also agreed to permit
examination of its nuclear plants in exchange for food, oil and
other energy supplies in addition to aid of some $ 300 million.
There was, however, much
scepticism about whether the unpredictable North Korean Leader Kim
Il Jong would go back on the deal as his country had done so
earlier. However, this agreement had been pushed very hard by China,
North Korea's neighbour, ally and provider of economic assistance.
China has feared any breakdown
of the North Korean economy because the country threatened with
famine and hunger could lead to the influx of hundreds of thousands
of North Korean refugees across their common border into China which
would result in the great strides made by the Chinese economy for
the past two decades being undone.
Pre- emptive strike?
However, a greater threat
looms large in the increasing confrontations
between Iran and America. Last week President Bush accused Iran of
providing weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq. The Iraqi government
temporarily closed up exit points between Iraq and Iran.
The American and Iraqi forces
last week launched a joint defence operation to quell sectarian
violence in Iraq. Even though the new American Secretary of
Defence, Robert Gates, categorically stated last week that
America had no
intention of going to war with Iran, there are many political
analysts who do not rule out a pre-emptive
against Iran's nuclear facilities.
The thinking is that President
Bush with only two more years to go before his term ends and having
failed in his main objective of creating a democracy in Iraq as a
showpiece for other Middle East countries, will leave his mark in
history as a man who destroyed potential nuclear facilities of an
Israel did stage such a
lightening strike against a facility suspected to be a nuclear plant
of Saddam Hussein at Osirak in 1981. But it is believed that Iran
would not have all uranium enrichment plants in one location but
would have distributed them around the country and also buried them
deep in concrete bunkers which bunker-busting bombs will not be able
is believed that such a move by America is not possible in today's
context with the Democrats dominated Congress being strongly opposed
to the belligerent moves of President Bush in the Middle East.
There is also the possibility
of Israel attempting strikes on its own against Iran's nuclear
plants. Iran is said to possess nuclear warheads and a missile
system capable of delivering them. With Iranian President
Ahmadinejad sounding like a modern day Hitler, threatening to wipe
out Israel off the map of the world, the Israelis may be tempted to
act on their own as they did with the Osirak plant.
But the theory of Mutually
Assured Deterrence (MAD) which prevented a nuclear confrontation
between the two superpowers during the Cold War may hold in this
instance too. Attempts either by Iran to attack Israel or vice versa
would result in mutual devastation of both countries.
Saner counsel in the West is
pressing hard for intense diplomacy on the Iranian issue citing that
in the case of North Korea it did work. In Iran too there appears to
be opposition in the higher echelons to Ahmadinejad's populist
slogans about "the
inherent right of Iranians for nuclear power" and some
influential newspapers have already asked him to keep off the
nuclear issue - Iran already facing UN sanctions for refusing to
comply with the UN Security Council calls
to stop uranium enrichment. More UN sanctions are likely to
follow soon. Not all
Iranians are mad atomic mullahs as some in Israel and the West
fools and the prodigal's return
This is not the moment to go
into the origin of our family name, though to me it suggests that
centuries ago when colonialists were liberally dispensing names to
the natives like ministerial portfolios these days, some local
mandarin must have had a knife into my ancestors to give a
Portuguese sounding name.
But that's another story, as
they say. Right now I just wish to confess that our family is not
the religious kind and though I was forced to read the Bible in my
early school days in a Christian institution, I read it more for its
simplicity of language than its philosophical content.
That is why I was reminded of
those early school days when Kosala Kehelmala, who you have already
been introduced to, hailed me with the words "the prodigal
I was just entering the bar at
Paradise Club a couple of days back for our weekly dinner date with
several other habitu‚s of the Duplication Road watering hole and
cosmopolitan melting pot of ideas.
The story of the returning
prodigal has rather painful memories. Well, painful not only to the
mind but to my rear as well. Those were the days when corporal
punishment was still very much a teacher's prerogative.
It all happened during this
religious lesson when the chaplain who was also doubling up as a
teacher posed the class a question.
"Who was sorry," he
asked, "when the prodigal son returned?"
I promptly put up my hand.
"Yes Tom," said the
"The fatted calf," I
That did it. My explanation
that it was the fatted calf that was sorry because it was the one
sacrificed for the feast that followed did not impress him. Logic
never did, he being a chaplain. So I was given 'four of the best,'
as they used to say, on my posterior.
So you can imagine my
immediate reaction to Kosala's kehelmal remark about the returning
prodigal. I was returning no doubt as I am at Paradise Club every
day of the week. But to call me a prodigal seemed hardly fair since
I had not run away like others, deserting friends and party.
"Are you referring to
me?" I inquired, naturally perturbed at the thought.
"No, no, not you Pacho,"
remarked Kehelmala almost apologetically. "I was referring to
the reports that Anura Bandaranaike has made up with the President
and he will be back in cabinet soon. I don't know where these
newspaper fellows pick up such news. Must be nonsense, no?"
"My dear chaps. Having
worked in the public service for nearly 40 years I have seen
politicians behave in the most extraordinary ways. So this is no
surprise if the story is true," said Kandiah Vinasapathi,
formerly of the Ceylon Civil Service.
"That may be Ken, but who
leaked the news? In Chandrika's days she used to believe that
Mahinda leaked cabinet stories to the media. I don't know whether
that was true. But who is doing it now? It cannot be Anura or his
friends, really," observed Pulli Pachchathanni, the poet
laureate of Pungodativu.
"Ad dad daa, I think I
know, man," cried Ahmed al-Qaeda in a voice that was several
decibels higher than a mezzo-soprano but served him well as a
leading casinopathi and the 'Crack King' of Colombo. "Why
should AB leak the humiliating news that he is going back? So it
must be somebody on the other side, yes."
"Of course, yes,"
agreed Bindu Palpart, leading pandama of the daily Pacha Pathara,
who had come to the Paradise Club hoping to snoop around and pickup
a ping adi meal, "They say AB is coming back with his tail
between his legs after all his high sounding talk. Shame no,
"So you are saying that
somebody around the Presidential abode did the dirty to embarrass
AB? Is that your thesis?" inquired Udayan Underpalam, Associate
Professor of Economics (Money Laundering), University of Boru Epa,
"Don't quote me,"
said Bindu pompously (as though anybody would), "but my
information is that he was not keen to leave his official residence
and so he has to take what is offered and he has."
"But how can he do that.
He called the whole cabinet a carnival of fools or some such words,
didn't he? Having said that, how can he go back and sit among the
fools?" asked a visibly angry Para Pathiam, the Mannar
mathematician and terror of the Tamil Union.
"Myeee, you boys are
really jealous of Anura baby aren't you," interjected Wendy Van
Rinder Pest, sipping her Old Arrack and smiling at all. Wendy is
president of the Dutch Breudher Association and Miss Ceylon 1965.
"When politicians lie,
you fellows attack them and really let them have it. But for once
when someone tells the truth, you chaps jump on him. Anura Banders
is a dear friend of the family, you know."
"Are you saying all the
cabinet ministers are fools?" asked an outraged Bindu Palpart
as if personally insulted, though calling him a fool would not be
far from the truth.
"Listen my dearie,"
went on Trendy Wendy, Salsa Dance Winner 2006, "The ones I knew
were not only fools, they thought we Rinder Pests were fools too.
How could they, those idiots?"
"Why, what happened
auntie?" asked Palpart in a conciliatory mood.
"Why they drove all our
people off to Australia. Today we can't find a Burgher to make a
Dutch Breudher. But I'm not going to tell you about my younger
"But it was Anura's
father and mother who drove your people away with their policies,
like my people too," argued Para Pathiam.
"Well it was good in a
way. Now I can teach money laundering at university. Actually you
can do an MBA in the subject," cut in Udayan Underpalam.
"Look you guys, we are
straying from the subject," I said. "What is going to
happen now? That is the important question."
"Pachcha is right. It is
simple really. The carnival will go on, the fools with gather and
sit, if they can find seats. That is that."
"No, AB used the wrong
word. This is not a carnival. It is a circus. There are the trapeze
artistes trying to stay on the wire in a balancing act. There are
clowns who will bend and crawl and try to make the leader happy.
There are the jumpers who go from side to side. Maybe the circus
will have more jumpers very soon. The circus, my friends, will go
on, clowns, gymnasts, court jesters and performing elephants,"
concluded Kandiah Vinasapathi.
"So the President has
won," asserted Ahmed al-Qaeda.
"Not necessarily, friend.
He threw AB out. He has now taken him back with an added bow to his
string. Is that a victory to be savoured or quietly forgotten?"
"So this is how the mad
world of our politics ends," acclaimed poet Pachchathanni,
"not with a bang but a jumper."
With that we all strolled in
and sat down for dinner. Bindu Palpart of the Pacha Patharaya sat
down too. Nobody had invited him.