By Malinda Seneviratne –
Meanwhile In A Parallel Universe
If it is rumoured that former president Chandrika Kumaratunga was instrumental in getting Maithripal Sirisena to take on Mahinda Rajapaksa, the lady’s thinly disguised treatment of the candidate as though he was a serf in her ancestral estate almost turns it into fact. If that were the case then Maithripala should be grateful. For now. After all, he’s earned more brand-points over the last few weeks than he has accumulated over the last 40 plus years in active politics in the SLFP. If he loses, then he can’t exactly say ‘thank you, madam.’ He might think to himself, ‘I should have said, “thank you madam, but no”.’ But that’s all conjecture. For now.
Right now, in a parallel universe, Maithripala goes to see Chandrika (yes, not the other way about) to discuss the status of the campaign. Here’s the transcript of the animated discussion.
‘Good morning Madam,’ Maithripala was habitually respectful. He didn’t sit down until Chandrika said ‘Sit, sit…let’s talk.’
He sat. Waited. Respectfully. Chandrika was bubbling with enthusiasm.
‘Mahinda is finished!’
“There’s still a long way to go Madam,’ Maithripala was seasoned enough to know that it’s not over until it is over and wondered why his former boss was acting like a first time candidate for a Pradeshiya Sabha.
‘Oh! I know, I know. But the other day I finished him off. I took away his brag about winning the war!’
Maithripala remembering that in the press conference held to announce his presidential bid he had paid a glowing tribute to Mahinda Rajapaksa for his leadership in ridding the country of terrorism, looked at Chandrika without betraying incredulity but still showing a bit of skepticism. It took a fraction of a moment, too quick for Chandrika to notice. She went on. And on. And on.
‘I said what everyone knows. I said that I reclaimed 75% of LTTE-held areas while I was President. I said that I never bragged about it. I said I never put up huge cut-outs of myself or took credit for this victory. You see Maithree, when I say I reclaimed 75% territory it sounds like I did 75% of the work and people will think Mahindaya had to do only 25%. So he can’t make any claims about winning the war. This is how you must to politics. You must tell the truth but perhaps not the whole truth. The balance will be added by others!’
‘But Madam, how about Alimankada?’
‘Tosh. What’s the difference between Alimankada and Pamankada?’
‘Pooneryn, Mullaitivu?’ Maithripala couldn’t hide the incredulity now.
‘Just names. Details.’
‘How about demoralizing the troops with your various peace carnivals, caravans etc?’
‘You see Maithree, you are new to this game. In politics you never know how things could end. It is good to keep options open. So I did both. I asked the generals to fight even as I asked Mangala and my NGO friends like Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and Jehan Perera to make a big song and dance about how the war couldn’t be won. If we won, I would get the credit. If we didn’t then I can say “I listened to the voice of reason!” Easy!’
‘You didn’t win. And you didn’t get any peace either, Madam.’
‘I did my best,’ Chandrika snapped, a tad annoyed. ‘I tried to appease. Remember PTOMs? Remember promising to lease out the North and East to Prabhakaran for 10 years?’
‘In other words conceding the 75% and offering three times as much?’ Maithripala was sounding a bit Presidential all of a sudden.
‘My! My! My! ගෙම්බෙක් උඩ ගිය තරමක් (Look how high a frog has jumped)!’ Chandrika said testily, but recovered enough composure to change the subject. ‘Anyway, you must admit that I was spot on about election malpractices, huh?’
Maithripala didn’t reply. He thought to himself.
‘She’s obviously forgetting the Wayamba Provincial Council. She’s forgetting a lot of things. She’s also forgotten that I said categorically that “computer jilmart” is not possible. There’s obvious abuse of state resources during a campaign and that given ruling party candidates a big advantage. There’s also intimidation of people who are believed to be loyal to the opponent, but nothing serious happens to the votes, ballot boxes etc.’
Aloud, he said, ‘Madam, I think you have made your point. You said it loud and clear. About the war, about election malpractices, fraud and nepotism. Madam, I think you’ve done more than we expected. I came here to thank you from the bottom of the heart. Madam, I think you should rest now. Leave it to us, we can manage it from here onwards.’
‘Thanks so much Maithree,’ Chandrika beamed and added, ‘Yes, I’m exhausted. I think I’ve done my part and now it’s all up to you. I will rest a bit. I want to be fully rested and ready to roll when you win. I can’t wait to become leader of the SLFP again. People wrote me off, but they are wrong. Ruling this country is my birthright. Thanks to you, I will return to power. Then we’ll see!’
‘Of course Madam. You will get your නිසි තැන (suitable position).’ Maithripala said. Straight face.
Chandrika swallowed it. Maithripala bowed with perfect deference. Left.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com