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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2344

Mangala (wedding) or Awa-Mangala (funeral) ?

H. L. D. Mahindapala

It is a pity that Mangala Samaraweera quit the ranks of the government he worked so hard to establish. As long as he was with his leader, Mahinda Rajapakse, he was steering a steady course. But after he quit he seems to have lost his way. First, he rushes to Horagolla and pledges his loyalty to the founder of the SLFP, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike and his principles. His next stop after Horagolla is Cambridge Terrace, the residence of Ranil Wickremesinghe – the den of all the political vices rejected by Bandaranaike.

These are two polar opposites. Horagolla and Cambridge Terrace are like the east and west -- ne’er the twain shall meet, though promises have been made by both sides to work together. Bandaranaike quit the UNP and paved the way for the democratic alternative by establishing the SLFP with the Rajapakses. The Rajapakses, incidentally, have stood by the SLFP like the Rock of Sigiriya. But the Samaraweeras – both the father and son – have used the SLFP to jump into the UNP at the time most convenient to them.

Mangala Samaraweera clearly is following his footsteps of his father, Mahanama Samaraweera -- the communist in his salad days who became a minister in Bandaranaike’s SLFP cabinet in his middle age and then crossed over to the UNP in his declining years. Mangala swears that his blood is as blue as the SLFP and will not join the UNP. One of the ridiculous oddities facing the SLFP is the presence of “Bandaranaike loyalists” who think that the best way to demonstrate their loyalty to the founder of the SLFP is to pay homage at Cambridge Terrace also!

Here’s an excerpt from Mangala’s interview reproduced in the Asian Tribune which explains his position. He said: “I am committed to the ruling party SLFP's policies. The other day at Horagolla, we pledged that we will obey the SLFP's moderate policies. To show the difference between the extremist factions within SLFP and us, we had to form the new Mahajana Wing (People's Wing) within the party. I strongly feel that before long, we can forge ahead as the mainstream SLFP itself.”

This makes his policies as simple as a mess of tangled hair. According to this, he intends forming a party within a party – the Mahajana Wing (people’s Wing) – to pursue “the moderate SLFP’s policies” as opposed to “the extreme factions within the SLFP” and before long he hopes “to forge ahead as the mainstream SLFP itself.” Hasn’t he learnt a lesson from his dear “leader/friend”, Chandrika Kumaratunga, who also set up a Mahajana Pakshaya with her husband and abandoned it the moment she got a place in the SLFP? Of course, it must be noted, that all this is done not in their self-interests or to pursue their personal goals and ambition for power but in the name of the poor “mahajanaya” (the people)! Anyway, now that he has formed his “Mahajana Wing” how does he propose to “forge ahead”? The first step doesn’t augur too well for him. He has indicated that he can “forge ahead” by taking direct flight from Horagolla to Cambridge Terrace! This is like the man who stood on the edge of a precipice and leapt into the abyss saying: “I want to forge ahead.”

Besides, it is common knowledge at Cambridge Terrace that Ranil can’t even find his way to the toilet. And at Sri Kotha he loses his way even when he is guided by his Pissu Nayakes. So if Mangala Samaraweera hopes to “forge ahead” can he do it with Wickremesinghe, the born loser?

His other bet is his “leader/friend” whom he “respects highly” – namely, Chandrika Kumaratunga, the least Bandaranaike of the remaining Bandaranaikes. Mangala believes that the sun shines out of her jeans. He says: “During her time, lots of things were happening (don’t we know that?) -- so many projects, PNO, NTT, Emirates..all came during her time—unlike the commission thieves who are creeping to our country at night nowadays. There was even economic growth at 6.5%.” What Mangala forgot to mention was that, according to Victor Ivan, the guide, friend and philosopher of Ms. Kumaratunga, the economic growth rate of Mangala’s “leader/friend” was far in excess of 6.5%. After “Emirates and the lots of things (that) were happening” she scored the highest growth rate ever of any “leader” in Sri Lankan politics, according Victor Ivan who was her friend, guide and philosopher. So is he proposing to “forge ahead” towards his magnificent “vision” with his Queen of Thieves?

In the Q & A reproduced in the Asian Tribune he was asked: Will you be in politics with Ms. Chandrika Bandaranaike in future?

Mangala Samaraweera: “She has decided that she will not return to politics. People say that Choksy MP will resign to pave way for her. It's a diabolical lie. I talk to her often. But we can still tap her political experience. Even though she won't contest elections, she will come forward to save the SLFP. The SLFP still loves her-big time! I too invite her to return to politics. But her two children do not want her to. In fact, they are even angry with me "for dragging her" back to politics.”

Clearly, Mangala intends to “forge ahead” in his bullock cart drawn by Wickremesinghe and Kumaratunga. Not a bad combination when you come to think of it! From what Mangala says, he “still loves her – big time!” whatever that means. As they say in spicy Sinhalese, the two of them are matched like jaadiyata moodiya!

But when Mangala says that “we can still tap her political experience”, a cold chill runs down the spine, bringing to mind the portrait of Ms. Kumaratunga drawn by Victor Ivan in his book Queen of Deceit/Thieves. Ivan says: "President Chandrika Kumaratunga has been the most corrupt and inefficient of all the corrupt and inefficient politicians who has come to power since Sri Lanka gained independence in1948."

There are other links too that tie the trio together, according to revelations made in the book, Queen of Deceit/Thieves. Ivan narrates the story of how information was provided to the then Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe, “detailing bank safety deposit boxes belonging to several political figures, and the money they contained." Wickremesinghe allowed the Police to raid the banks containing the money of Anuruddha Ratwatte and others but not Ms. Kumaratunga.. Then Victor Ivan rang Wickremesinghe to find out what was likely to happen next. He asked: "Isn’t it true that the man who gave you information about Anuruddha Ratwatte’s safe also gave similar details about another safe which can be traced to Chandrika?” I asked the Prime Minister. I went on to ask him whether he would adopt the same tough policy with regard to this latest information about the President. Instead of an answer, all I got was a dial tone; the telephone had been disconnected on the other side.”

This demonstrates that the three of them know each other very well and how to cover up their devious plots to sell the nation. It is against this background that Mangala has drawn a political map for all three of them to team up in a broad coalition to bring down the Mahinda Rajapakse government and form a triumvirate in which all three can jointly protect safety deposit boxes, even at the cost of betraying the national interests. With a past like this can the people (he mahajanaya) trust these characters to serve the nation? Also how much time will Mangala have to lead the nation to his magnificent “vision”? Is it when he is watching porn movies on mahajana credit cards, according to The Leader? Or is it when he is dancing the baila with the Queen of Deceit/Thieves ? Parenthetically, it must be mentioned that no one can object to him watching porn movies as long as he does not do it on “mahajana” credit cards.

Quite appropriately the interviewer asked: You now have a certain political ambitions. How long will it take to materialize?

Mangala Samaraweera: We have just begun. And this new journey will continue. It may not have the speed we desire. There will be disappointments, difficulties…But truth will triumph. As long as the original policies of the SLFP are dodged, as long as this dictatorship prevails, this journey will continue…for sure!

But what is the truth? That’s a tough one. The Indian philosopher S. Radhakrishnan said that even Jesus couldn’t answer the question when it was put to him by Pontius Pilate. But the Sri Lankan voters know the truth that Mangala is trying to peddle.

They have seen too many promises like this come and go with only the politicians pocketing the benefits. The cynical electorate knows only too well that Mangala today would have been defending not only the Mahinda Rajapakse government but going aggressively on the offensive against Wickremesinghe and even Ms. Kumaratunga if only he was made the Prime Minister. His pose of trying to make a difference to the political culture lacks credibility because he encouraged and endorsed the scandalous and corrupt politics of his “leader/friend” when both shared power in the kitchen Cabinet, with Sanath Gunathilake playing the lead role of the glamour boy in the court of the Queen of Deceit/Thieves.

So it rings hollow when Mangala vows to restore “the original policies of the SLFP”. Besides, his actions cast serious doubts as to whether he knows what they are? It is the habit of those who breakaway from the SLFP to claim the heritage enshrined in the Bandaranaike policies. They do so mostly when they are in trouble, or when they fall out with the ruling elite. The dissidents also never fail to drop in at Horagolla and pose for the media (dressed in national costume, of course) as the true and legitimate heirs of the Bandaranaike legacy. But they discard both the legacy and the costume the moment they step out of Horagolla. Mangala is a typical example of running from Horagolla to Cambridge Terrace.

Whatever the faults of Mahinda Rajapakse may be, he has been loyal to the Bandaranaike policies just not by sticking to the national costume but by pulling the nation out of the grave dug by the three main undertakers -- Ranil Wickremesinghe and Bradman Weerakoon under the supervision of Erik Solheim. The greatness of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike is in doing what Mahinda Rajapakse does now in 1956 – saved the nation by changing direction and restoring the legitimate dues of the people who were denied their rights under 500 years of colonial oppression. Bandaranaike restored the lost cultural heritage. Rajapakse restored the lost pride and territory surrendered by Wickremesinghe in the guise of restoring peace.

The Rajapakses walked out with Bandaranaike in 1952 and remained with him and his policies through thick and thin. They never left the SLFP. It is the Bandaranaike siblings and their “catchers” like Samaraweeras who abandoned the SLFP and Bandaranaike’s “original policies”. Mahanama Samaraweera, his father, crossed over to bring down the government of Mrs. Bandaranaike in 1964. His son is now attempting to outdo his father’s betrayal of the Bandaranaike “original policies”. Like father like son, eh?

Of course, it will take sometime for the initial fizz to settle down and sober up both Mangala and Sripathy Sooriaratchi. Perhaps, it will not take too long for them to realize that the “splitists” who left the two main parties invariably returned to the fold. More crafty and skilled political operators than Mangala, “splitists” like Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake, who attempted to carve out independent paths of their own, either ended up in disaster or returned home with the tail between their legs. Anura Bandaranaike cottoned on to this reality fast and returned home in double quick time. But Mangala is operating under the heady delusion that he has triggered a political tsunami. Sri Lanka has had three big tsunamis. Tsunami 1 hit Prabhakaran when he was about to launch his Eelam War IV. Tsunami 2 exploded with Ms. Kumaratunga’s P(for pacha)-TOMS. And tsunami 3 was when Wickremesinghe signed the Ceasefire Agreement with Prabhakaran. Do we need another tsunami (imaginary or real) with Mangala Samaraweera?

- Asian Tribune -

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