By Malinda Seneviratne –
There’s a pithy Sinhala saying that probably predates Sigmund Freud’s notion of the slip that reveals the deliberately concealed truth: කට බොරු කිව්වත් දිව බොරු කියන්නේ නෑ (even if the mouth lies, the tongue does not). So we are talking about mouths and tongues. And we are talking about the United National Party (UNP).
The official campaign slogan of the UNP at the forthcoming local government elections is ‘ගම හදන ආණ්ඩුව’ (the government that develops the village). It implies of course that the UNP, for all of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s rhetoric to the contrary, has had enough of the Unity/Yahapalana arrangement with President Maithripala Sirisena and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). That however is incidental here.
What counts is what the mouth said and what the tongue betrayed. The tongue, in this case is the UNP’s mayoral candidate for Colombo, Rosy Senanayake.
It is natural during election campaigns toss around promises and brag about services rendered to the particular electorate. I don’t have issue with that kind of thing. It is also natural to shoot one’s mouth and slip out something that says too much.
Rosy has said a lot and one can argue has done a lot too. For example, she played a major role in getting legislation through to improve women’s representation. That’s Rosy. What about Rosy as a UNP candidate and an articulator of UNP policy and thinking?
There are two things she said that reveal a lot. First, she claimed that under the previous regime Hambantota got kiri and Colombo got kekiri, a clear play on an old JVP slogan on regional disparity ( කොළඹට කිරි අපට කැකිරි). Then she said that Colombo is the heart of the United National Party.
Now when did Colombo get kekiri and when was it denied kiri? Also, is Rosy saying that Hambantota and all other places apart from Colombo should get kekiri and nothing else? Only someone who is utterly ignorant of development gaps between Colombo and the rest of the country could make such a claim. As for Colombo getting kekiri, only someone with a very short memory and suffers from myopia could say something like that.
If Colombo is pretty now then it was made of squalor before 2009. If by January 2015 Colombo got kiri by way of the analogy, then post-2015 it’s well on the road towards becoming a kekirilanthaya.
How then are we to read Rosy’s angst? It can’t be about physical realities such as infrastructure and essential amenities. It is probably about who ruled the country and the city. It is about a class that was denied political-kiri for a long time. Yes, they were a kekiri-party. This is what’s being extrapolated into a skewed description of geographies.
The second statement is an elaboration of this mindset. Let’s repeat. Rosy says ‘Colombo is the heart of the party.’ Now let’s ask some questions.
If Colombo is the heart of the UNP, is Jaffna its jaw? Is Bowatte its bowels? Is Nivithigala its knee? Is Tholangamuwa its toenail? Is Anamaduwa its armpit? Is Buttala its buttocks? Is Rikillagaskada its wrist? Is Penideniya its pancreas? Is Nochchiyagama its nose? What is the UNP’s appendix, what is its kidney, what is its hard palette, where are its incisors, eyelashes, eardrum, knuckles, heel and foot? You can think hard about your electorate, which to most would their political heart, and ask what body part the UNP sees it as.
Rosy reveals and how! Essentially the UNP cares only about Colombo and ‘Colombo’ is not a geographical location but a social class which, Rosy feels clearly, got political kekiri for a while after swimming in kiri for decades. The UNP sees anything that’s not ‘Colombo’ as dispensable, negligible or made for neglect.
Whatever it is, it is not ‘heart’. It’s lesser. That’s what the UNP brain says. It’s an ‘Us-First and Last’ kind of thinking. And the ගම (village) is at best an afterthought. Condescending and humiliating, really. That’s Rosy’s tongue speaking the truth that the UNP-mouth dares not utter. Her tongue is the UNP’s mind. The other body parts, obviously lesser in their eyes, would do well to take note.