Colombo Telegraph

The Fuss Over Crowds

By Sarath De Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

The sure way to be cheated is to think one’s self more cunning than others. That is what happened to our dear Prime Minister who challenged Mahinda Rajapaksa to fill Galle Face on May Day. Now lets us get down to business.

This is a response to Mr. Shyamon Jayasinghe’s vacuous rhetorical enquiry ‘what is this fuss over crowds’ in the Colombo Telegraph.

I assumed that the caption “In imminent, immediate distress, May Day! May Day” was sufficiently explicit in its purpose. Apparently I was wrong. I should have captioned it “A nation in distress; May Day! May Day!’

The argument or proposition I made was that the May Day in Sri Lankan political landscape was an ego measuring exercise for Political Leaders and their parties to demonstrate their ability to mobilize their respective support bases.

The UNP could have used Galle Face and offered the venue of Campbell Park to the joint opposition. It was good old Ranil Wickeremesinghe trying to be too clever by half. He was challenging Mahinda Rajapaksa to fill the much larger grounds.

There was a time when President Permadasa would not offer Galle Face to any other party and made the May Day in to a musical show with imported Bollywood stars. Ranil could not possibly do that. Instead he challenged Mahinda to fill Galle Face. Mahinda obliged and now Ranil has egg on his face. At the time of my writing this I can see Azath Salley who was promised a National List slot in parliament by Ranil and later jettisoned him on TV blaming Ranil for the May Day Fiasco.

I do not want Mahinda Rajapaksa back. That does not mean that I am ready to be bamboozled by Mr. Ranil Wicktremesinghe.

What did I say about crowds? I said “Mahinda and his Joint opposition had the biggest, largest and positively preponderant collection of people.” While Rupavahini was showing the SLFP rally in Kandy and ITN was covering the UNP rally at Campbell Park, Derana TV was showing clips from all events including aerial shots of the Joint Opposition rally at Galle Face.

What did I say next? “The TV channel that makes no attempt to hide its loyalty and allegiance to Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced it with a creative knockout in political psychology.

“Campbell pitiyata Jana Ganga galai. Mahanuwarata Maha Senagak. Gallafce pitiya pireyi.” [A human deluge in Campbell Park. A massive multitude in Kandy. Galle face cram-full. A masterpiece of creative excellence in the art of fortifying implied consent in television reporting]

The tongue in cheek description by the TV anchor made me realize that in this day and age of instant visual communication, even fooling some of the people, some of the time is easier said than done.

Now, I don’t think the years spent in Australia has dimmed the vernacular wisdom of the ‘Pothey Gura. I am sure he is familiar with the Sinhala saying ‘Kumbiyata Ugey Hujjja Gangavak “. To the ant, its own pee is a river.

Mr. Jayasinghe then resorts to conjecture. “But for the sake of argument, let us say that Mahinda’s rally was more impressive than the other three rallies. Sarath de Alwis’s reasoning isn’t lucid even then. That is not merely due to the obvious truth that one cannot jump from the premise of crowd attendance in one spot on one day to the inference that Mahinda has already won even the momentary concurrence of over 12 million voters spread out all over the length and breadth of Sri Lanka. It is also because the voting time is still over two years away.”

I made no reference to 12 million voters who are spread out all over the length and breadth of Sri Lanka. I can offer no cure for that piece of convoluted logic.

I confess that this response I penned with great distaste. The easiest way to reduce a discussion to a farce is to distort what was said and reconstruct something else that was never intended. They you are well on the way arguing a point that was never raised.

I understand the dilemma of Mr. Jayasinghe. There are instances when people attempt to debunk the obvious. They avoid the glaring truth because they are not ready to acknowledge it. Then subterfuge comes to their rescue. Then you are told that your thought however valid do not matter. Again I hark back to his days of youth. Why did the queen in the Maname story offer the sword to the Veddah king? Passion or reason?


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