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 This is Paradise


Standing history on its head

That was a very curious thing to say. That is if he said it at all. It all happened after President Rajapakse accepted the proposals of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) last Wednesday.

All the parties - personalities actually - that are in the government were falling over each other to praise the President for trying to find a political solution to the problem that has been troubling the country for three decades or more.

They all wanted to be seen, heard and heralded by the Big Chief for supporting his move.

The problem was that the All Party Representative Committee was not really an all party representative committee. Therefore it might be called a misnomer. That is what the JVP who were sitting outside and having a little joke at the expense of APRC Chairman Tissa Vitharana, said a while ago.


The JVP renamed it the Government Party Representative Committee because the various shades of political and personal opinion within the government were represented in it and apparently no one else.

The JVP, given its political somersaults in recent years going in and out of governments, supporting them from the inside, outside and every other side possible, is in no position to be laughing at all, least of all at others.

Be that as it may, as some writers never seem to tire of saying when they have digressed from the subject and are searching for a convenient phrase to announce their return to the mainstream argument, there was no hiding the fact that there was general jubilation.

It was certainly so on the government side of the fence, even if it was strictly for public consumption, while the response was lukewarm elsewhere.

Even if support for the President was the name of the game, there should be a limit to the nonsense you utter. That is if you believed that state-run English daily, called the daily something or other which ran a report headlined "Political parties express satisfaction over APRC proposals."

Karu's comments

As a headline it was pretty poor, to say the least. But even that was excusable when you read the comments attributed to some party leaders.

The newspaper reported Karu Jayasuriya, the leader of the 'UNP Democratic Group' (whatever that means) saying "such a bold initiative will surely pave the way to dispel the bad reflection on the country and the President has the resolve and strength to fully eradicate terrorism from the country."

It was Hamid "Fast Cash" Mansoor who was hooting with laughter as he read it for all to hear when we met at Paradise Club, our favourite watering hole down Duplication Road way last Thursday evening.

"Fast Cash" had picked up the paper from the mahogany bar top which the enterprising Siribiris was polishing vigorously as he usually does before the place begins to fill.

"Fast Cash," Colombo's casino king was glancing at the paper when his high pitched laughter pierced the air like a screeching police siren.

No one can understand

"Hey Kesara, you are Royal College and all that. Did you understand that sentence?" asked Mansoor.

"Sorry I could not follow the whole thing," said Kesara Kasalagoda who had walked away with the Shakespeare Prize at his alma mater and was known as something of an English scholar unlike that Kohona character whose knowledge of the language is more Matale than S. Thomas' College, Mount, Kasalagoda's rival educational institute.    

So Mansoor obliged by reading it again.

"Sorry Fast Cash, I can't understand what Karu was trying to say," pleaded Kesara.

"The question is whether that is what Karu Jayasuriya said or the newspaper's badly-written version of what he said," interposed Puli Pachchathanni, the poet laureate of Pungodativu.

"Well perhaps this will make you chaps make up your minds as to whose idiocy it is," butted in Pandu Pusvedilla of the Notorious Peace Committee (NPC) who had in the meantime picked up the paper and read the offending news item.

Stupid thing to say

"Listen to this. EPDP Leader Minister Douglas Devananda thanked President Mahinda Rajapakse for his bold initiative for the first time in post independence Sri Lanka to devolve power as a solution to the national question."

"Now that is a stupid thing to say," burst out Bandu Bahubootha, university don turned NGO wallah.

"My point exactly," cut in Fast Cash. "But Devananda cannot be that ridiculous unless he is throwing history to the wind in his efforts at sycophancy."

"So where does that place the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact and the Dudley- Chelva Pact," asked Kandiah (call me Ken) Vinasapathi, of the now defunct Civil Service and vastly knowledgeable in these matters.

 "No but there was no national question then," argued Agnes Arapathiam, ace reporter of the newspaper under discussion.

"Oh really," said Dr. Ananda (Andy to the foreign NGOs) Ansabage with sarcasm drooling from his lips. "So the national question suddenly popped up did it?" he said.

Earlier attempts

"Surely it was because there was a national question, of course in its early stages, that Banda and Dudley both tried to devolve power to the periphery through regional councils and district councils. I know because I was quite involved with this in my days in the Civil Service," added Ken Vinasapathi.

"To say that this was the first attempt to devolve power is not only a complete distortion. It is a travesty of history," added Felix Katepittu, veteran diplomat now retired.

"What's in a name," said poet Pachchathanni, "devolution by any other name -- regional councils, district councils, provincial councils, is still devolution."

"The trouble was that there was always some opposition. The UNP opposed the regional councils, the SLFP opposed the district councils and now the JVP and JHU oppose the provincial councils though the JVP sits on some of the councils. So there you have it my friends," said Ravi Ratevedda, former MP for Nadagama summarising the post-independence efforts at devolution.

"By the way the 13th Amendment and the provincial councils created under it as a means of devolving power are nothing new as everybody knows except that daily nuisance. Surely it was an Indian creation just as the Norwegians gave birth to the CFA," I said having remained silent all that time.

"So what's new"? asked Wendy van Rinderpest.

"Not devolution baby," cracked back "Tsunami" Silva reaching for the devilled prawns.

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