A nasty spat

5th Column

A nasty spat

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My dear Wiggie,
I thought I should write to you when I heard that Sampanthan seeya and you were having a good old fashioned fight, bringing the North to a halt with a ‘hartal’. In a way, it was a surprise because it is not every day that we hear of protests in the North now, though there is plenty of that in the South.

Things got so heated that Sampanthan seeya’s party – or at least, some in his party – submitted a motion of no-confidence against you, and you were faced with the prospect of losing your Chief Minister’s job. And, to think that all this began because of charges of corruption against some of your ministers!

I am tempted to ask you why you didn’t choose the best solution that is now the fashion, when you find that your ministers are corrupt or inefficient: swap their portfolios. But then, I suppose you couldn’t be doing that because you are a retired Supreme Court Judge – not just a graama sevaka!

Nevertheless, Wiggie, even though you are a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and took to politics only much later in life after you stepped down from the bench, I think you have now become more like a politician than those who have been politicians for decades. Please allow me to explain.

Remember the time when the Provincial Council in the North was set up and Sampanthan seeya was looking for a candidate to run for Chief Minister? Everyone knew that whoever ran from his party would be the winner – and Mavai, who had served the party for many, years was the obvious choice.

At that time, Sampanthan seeya went against the advice of those closest to him and chose you. He felt that, given your legal background, you were the best man for the job because the Council was being set up for the first time – and there could be some disputes with the powers that be in Colombo.

We got the first glimpse of Wiggie the politician during that election campaign when you hailed Prabhakaran as a ‘hero’, just as much as Keppetipola was. Eyebrows were raised at the time, but that was overlooked because we thought you were simply playing to the gallery to win the election.

You won the election quite easily and was appointed Chief Minister. You enjoyed a lot of goodwill in your early days in office many hoped you will succeed in the job that you were entrusted to do – that of setting up an efficient administration in the North after decades of unrest due to the Eelam war.

You had your moments of fame but you didn’t use them wisely. When David Cameron visited you during the Commonwealth Summit, you cried to him about the army remaining in the North. What did you expect after thirty years of war, Wiggie – for the military to leave the day after Prabha died?

Soon enough, you were at odds with Sampanthan seeya and others in his party. When it was time for the last general election, Sampanthan seeya and his party felt that you were not supporting them enough. In fact, there were accusations that you wanted more radical groups to win the elections.

Sometime later, you formed an outfit called the ‘Tamil Peoples’ Council’. Many saw that as a direct challenge to Sampanthan seeya and his party. They thought that you wanted to become a leader in your own right. Why, Sampanthan seeya, bless him, once even offered to resign to make way for you!

Then we heard that you were dismissing ministers in your administration. That was when Sampanthan seeya ran out of patience and set the wheels in motion for a motion of no-confidence against you. You must have realised then that politics is too serious a business, even for judges of the supreme court.

We are glad that Sampanthan seeya and you were able to come to an agreement. Both of you are old enough to remember what it was like to live in a British colony. You have also seen our country go downhill because of ethnic divisions. So, you should know better than to start fighting again.

Despite their faults, those who have always been politicians are the best people for that job. When others – cricketers, film stars or even retired army commanders – try their hand at it, they make a mess of it. It seems that retired supreme court judges are no exception. Think about it, will you, Wiggie?

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha

PS: When a ‘hartal’ was staged in the North to support you, university students also participated but they didn’t storm into government offices and damage public property, did they? Can you give your southern counterparts a lesson on how to stage a peaceful protest, Wiggie? Some idiots believe that they can get away with anything, just because they claim they are pretending to protect free education!

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/170625/columns/a-nasty-spat-246734.html

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