My dear Maithri, It’s two long years

(Sunday Times)

My dear Maithri, 

I thought of writing to you to congratulate you on completing two years in the top job in Paradise. Just over two years ago when you were Minister of Health and dealing with minor matters such as dengue mosquitoes and warnings on cigarette packets, who would have thought that you would get this far?

Many people think that you just got lucky, taking on Mahinda maama at a time when his fame was fading. I don’t agree. If that was the case, the Greens could have asked their leader to run against him. They didn’t. So, there must have been something that convinced the masses that you are their best bet.

It took courage on your part too, to run against Mahinda maama. We all saw what happened to the war winning General – dragged away in the darkness and then treated like a common criminal. As you have told us on numerous occasions, if you lost, the chances were that you would be ‘six feet under’.

We also remember what you told us when you took your oaths. You said that you will not run for the top job ever again. We hope you still remember that. It is not that we don’t trust you. It is just that we have been lied to so many times by so many people who did your job, we just want to make sure!

Maithri, I am not sure whether you will remember this or not, but some 6.2 million voted for you two years ago expecting a clean government without corruption, with a minimum number of ministers. They wanted the corrupt to be punished. They expected their ministers to be frugal in their expenses.

I agree that you have changed some bad habits that we had. Because of the changes that you made, one person cannot be President forever now. Top appointments are made by independent panels – and not at the whims and fancies of whoever is boss. The courts are independent. These are most welcome.

Internationally, we are not treated like a rogue state and our country is respected once again. The racist propaganda that seemed to have the blessings of the powers that be during the previous era has become less. All communities seem hopeful that we can work out a way of living together in peace.

I don’t know whether you know this, Maithri, but despite all this, at least some of the 6.2 million people who voted for you are not very happy. You might wonder why, when you have been on the job for just two years – and they put up with Mahinda maama and his shenanigans for ten long years.

I will try to explain why that is, Maithri. Most of the time, we are all confused about what your government is doing and who is in fact the boss. We know that you have a difficult job on your hands because your team has both the Greens and the Blues in it. But they seem to disagree on everything!

When the Greens want more taxes, the Blues don’t. When the Greens want to sell Hambantota to the Chinese, the Blues oppose it. When the Greens want the Bribery Commissioner to stay and do her job, you criticise her in public and she resigns. The Greens want the ex-Big Bank Governor but you don’t.

Of course, we all know that governing with the Blues and the Greens in the same team – who have been at each other’s throats for the last sixty years- is no easy task. There should be consultation, compromise and consensus but instead what we have had is confrontation, confusion and chaos!

I don’t know how good your memory is, Maithri, but you promised during your election campaign to punish all those responsible for corruption. Two years have gone by and although everyone who was someone has been taken for questioning, no one has been punished yet. How long more do you need?

Despite your promise to have a small cabinet we have almost a hundred ministers. They all get cars, offices and staff. We, the voters, maintain them. How about cutting down on some of those expenses? For a start, you can give them Volkswagens from Kuliyapitiya instead of their Mercedes Benzes!

We are told that we have to pay more taxes and tighten our belts while our beloved politicians roam around in luxury cars and get increased allowances for sitting in Parliament. And there’s hardly any development that we can see. Ah, no wonder then that Mahinda maama thinks he can return in 2017!

A big part of the problem is that you won the election two years ago with Green votes but you are now trying to lead the Blues. I think you would have been better off sticking with one team or being neutral. I’m not sure what your plan for the next three years is, but it better be different to the last two!

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha
PS- I must thank you for keeping part of an election promise though. Remember, you promised to close down the airport at midnight so that the crooks of the previous regime would not be able to run away. I think some crooks are still here, others have run away and new crooks are coming in but now, at least the airport is closed at midnight!