By Grusha Andrews –
“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.” ~ Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
In the philosophical novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Irish poet, writer, dramatist and journalist Oscar Wilde, Dorian Gray, a wealthy gentleman with unparalleled physical beauty is painted by an artist called Basil Hallward. This portrait is kept in an attic, hidden, and in exchange to the physical ageing of Dorian Gray, the picture ages and manifests in itself the sins of Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray lives an ever youthful hedonistic life of depravity and sin and finally conscience stricken and alone he stabs the picture into destruction. The picture then appears ever beautiful whereas an aged, distorted man is found dead at the feet of the picture of Dorian Gray.
Ranil: the Dorian Gray of politics
Ranil is the Dorian Gray of Sri Lankan politics. He remains unfazed, re-inventing survival tactic, rejuvenating with each strategic victory. Based on a logic fully comprehended, perhaps only by himself, he is single mindedly presiding over the largest singular democratic political party of Sri Lanka and attempts to uphold liberal democracy. Like Dorian Gray his outward demeanor and survival does not show significant degeneration. However in the UNP attic, politics is putrefying, much like the picture of Dorian Gray.
It has been the political destiny of Ranil to self-annihilate his own political potential for leading the country to the future in exchange to retaining his power within the UNP. The microorganisms who have dedicated their puny lives for the political destruction of Ranil such as Sajith Premadasa, Shiral Lakthilaka, Maithri Gunaratne, Palitha Range Bandara, Sirasa Media Network, Palitha Thewarapperuma et al, in their restricted amoebic world view do not recognize that Ranil, just like them is a man seeking soul’s security.
It has been thirty years since there was a UNP cabinet under a UNP President. There appears to be no one who genuinely looks at Ranil’s political upheaval with kind eyes. In his every waking moment Ranil is probably facing indescribable political and psychological conflict and complexity. Perhaps Ranil himself is not able to verbally articulate his inner dilemma. The more isolation one encumbers Ranil with, the more he will react like any other human being who is facing isolation. He will enclose himself with a few he believes to be his trusted allies to validate his existence and decisions.
The moral duplicity of the UNP
Those who expect political demi-Godhood from Ranil should first recognize his humanness. Those who expect renouncement, fairness, philosophical-ness and uprightness from Ranil should first stand in front of a mirror and take a good look at themselves. Whether man or political demi-God, the thick pals Ranil brings to the high table for political decision making have little distinction from the men who have for decades plotting his political annihilation. His political blood brothers are in fact political parasites feeding on Ranil’s political currency and isolation to feed their nourishment to the point of their political obesity. They are a central cause of isolation of Ranil from the people and democracy. The number one victims of this moral erosion are the women of this country constituting 52% of the population.
Like Arjuna at Kurukshethra, Ranil is entangled in fighting his power battle within the UNP and in the post No-Confidence Motion (NCM) phase. The NCM brought against the Prime Minister representing the premier party of the country was defeated amidst political hullabaloo. Ranil has re-emerged driving home the reality that he has mastered the art of outliving his political opponents and managed to re-establish himself within the party like a cat with more than nine lives, promising party reforms. If he does not include the empowerment of women in to those reforms, it will be the moral failure and moral duplicity of Ranil who is elected by the votes of women as well. He should rise up to the challenge of finding some female political friends who can have an intelligent conversation about the future vision of Sri Lanka, and who are not mere servants of politics.
Wanted: a new (girl) friend
If Ranil truly believes liberal democracy he should act on his conceptual beliefs at this crucial juncture. He should appoint a woman as the General Secretary of the UNP. The misuse of women in Sri Lankan politics is a topic for another day. Their utility is largely limited to begging for votes door to door , making tea, serving biscuits, performing welcome dances, holding candles by the side of traditional oil lamps, ushering guests and being used as fillers in political rallies and walks. This is largely the fate of women outside dynastic politics of Sri Lanka. Even within the rightwing liberal democratic UNP, the role of majority of women is pitiful.
It is reported that Ranil is planning to appoint his sidekick Akila Viraj Kariyawasam as the new General Secretary of the UNP as a part of the promised reforms, replacing Kabir Hashim. Akila Viraj Kariyawsam is a well-established, somewhat fearless minister of the government. There are no reported allegations of corruption against him. Apart from the fact that he believes that mothers of Kurunegala district who hug their sons to sleep end up having sexual intercourse them, justifying the separation of a child from an HIV positive mother, there seems to be no other problem with his liberal views either! The country, Ranil or the UNP don’t stand to gain much in the long run from political pets who have no insight in to human existence, depth or its magic.
The only woman to rise in ranks due to her performance within the UNP was Rosy Senanayake. However it is not only Ranil and Ranil-philics who cannot contextualize Rosy. Even Rosy appears to be failing at this feat. Embodied within her lame leonine roar of “I’m not a just a beauty queen- I’m a real woman” is the surrender of women in politics. If Rosy were not depending on her body for politics, she need not fix expensive acrylic nails, rigidly stick to uniformity of fashion for the sake of ‘branding’ and be consistently draped in the fall of her saree at any given moment in 24 hours. If you carefully observe with a body language analysis perspective, the 2 minute 14 second video shared on her Facebook page of herself being sworn in as the mayor of Colombo, you will notice that she adjusts the fall of her saree 7 times in that short period and thankfully also manages to sign the papers! This observation however is not documented to undermine her political achievement.
Not only those in the likes of Kumar Welgama who have inflicted sexual harassment on Rosy, even Rosy herself has not been able to overarch sex-politics. Although much commentary can be documented here about Rosy from a cosmetological aspect very relevant to body politics, the writer will not further dissect this aspect in recognition that a woman’s ownership of her body is her own. However, in short, Rosy who dedicated her political life to UNP not forsaking it, making a formidable contribution to the party at the 2015 General Election was outvoted by a younger beauty queen and mini she-goon of Kolonnawa connected with abduction of another human- Hirunika Premachandra whose slogan was ‘my father- my vote’. This drives home the limited utility of sex-politics as a long term survival tool for women in politics.
The most pivotal electoral reform for women in the last 100 years was brought forth by Ranil in increasing the percentage of female representation a mandatory 25% at the 2018 local government elections. The beauty of this reform is that it has an innate velocity to traverse to the provincial council and the parliament in future. In this context, it is not unrealistic to dream a dream of equality through Ranil. However nothing constructive to general society, let alone for women in particular can be expected from the current women in parliament who are in essence ejaculates of the dead genitalia of their fathers and husbands. They may be women in anatomy but are essentially male puppets in lipstick in their political behavior.
What’s to be done?
In accordance with the constitution of the UNP, Ranil can bring in a professional, successful, educated, woman with institutional knowledge of the country armed with political sense to the position of the General Secretary of UNP; ideally not stemming from dynastic politics; a person with experience in personnel management, public relations, conflict resolution and other qualities required for living in this world; . She should not be a woman who has putrefied herself in the political swamp. She should have kinship to the country, be bilingual or tri lingual, should not be tribal or a racist. Such a woman must exist somewhere among 22 million strong population of this country.
Further, in all future elections Ranil should reserve 50% political space for women who are professional and able. This space should include the National List. One might ask why all these demands are made from Ranil alone. Are the rest of the political party leaders dead? It is a good question.
Till she comes round the mountain
Till the new (girl) friend comes round the mountain, who should be the General Secretary of the UNP? It is the opinion of the author that till she is found, it should be held by an individual of Imitiaz Bakir Marker’s stature. Accepted by all races, non-tribal and a proponent of the Sri Lankan identity he can be entrusted with this position with the explicit understanding that he would divest power giving way to a woman when she is identified in the spirit of imagining a just future for Sri Lanka. To build an equal society for women is Ranil’s moral prerogative. Way before the day of destruction Ranil should look at his picture of Dorian Gray with his eyes of conscience. We are also watching him.