Changing boots (Sunday Times)
My dear Field Marshal,
I really didn’t think I would have to write to you again so soon but here you are, in the news once again. The entire country is talking about a new appointment for you after Maithri is said to have suggested this. In keeping with the trend of this government however, everyone is confused about it.
To begin with, there is a major problem about this announcement: it was made by none other than Rajitha. Now, we know that Rajitha previously made a living by opening other people’s mouths but every time he opens his own, especially as the spokesman for the Cabinet, he risks losing his own job.
We know that we have to take whatever Rajitha says not with a pinch of salt but with possibly a handful of salt. Even so, he was quite convincing, this time. He said Maithri offered you the job of ‘overall commander’ for two years and that you said you would resign as a minister to take it up.
Hardly twenty four hours later, that other chap, SB, tells us Maithri was only ‘joking’ when he asked you to resign from your portfolio and take up a military role again to instil discipline in the country. I’m not sure what the whole truth is, but some say that they thought Maithri was a joker anyway.
Of course, the problem is that this was told to us by SB who too is a chap who got into trouble because of his big mouth, so much so that he had to spend time in jail as a result. And if we are to believe him, this Cabinet must be one hell of a comedy where everyone makes rather strange jokes!
Then we have John from Ratnapura adding more spice to the story. He too says that Maithri made those remarks jokingly and he didn’t even dream of offering you such a post. Whether you are to be offered such a post or not, it is heartening to know that Maithri and John discuss their dreams!
To complicate matters even more, there is that other garrulous chap, Zoysa of ‘appachchi malo’ fame who says he is not sure whether Maithri was joking but Zoysa wants the job given to you. With four different people saying four different things, we get a sense of how ‘disciplined’ yahapaalanaya is!
Some people are not so thrilled. They think this is all a ruse to control trade unions and prevent them from staging strikes though I don’t know how even someone like you can prevent trade unions going on strike. Regardless of whether a new post is offered to you or not, it is clear that they are worried.
Meanwhile, Mahinda maama’s mob is complaining that democracy is being destroyed! Coming from that camp, that is a bit rich because Mahinda maama himself recently boasted that during his time there were hardly any strikes, there was discipline and the country was run without any disruptions.
Now, some people say it is because of Gota. They also say that it is because of white vans. They say that there was so much fear and therefore no one dared to strike. Please correct me if I am wrong, Field Marshal, but do I get a sense of déjà vu here? Are they trying to replace Gota with you?
I hope not. You have always done your duty by the country, firstly by winning the war and then by challenging those who you believed would abuse their power. You didn’t win that challenge but you were proved right: they went on to abuse their powers- and were themselves kicked out of office.
Field Marshal, you must be enjoying this boost to your image as the man who can instil a sense of discipline into all of us. After all, it is not for nothing that our soldiers feared you more than the ‘Johnny’ mines when they said, ‘if you go forwards, there is Johnny, if you go back there is Fonny’.
Dear Field Marshall, You have risen from being just a prisoner with a number at Welikada to become the person with the highest ever military rank in the country. We’d rather read about the fall and rise of the Field Marshall rather than his rise and final fall. So, I think you should rest on your laurels now.
PS: Talking about people who would be worried about you getting a ‘special’ position, I can readily think of two. First, there is Justice Wije who called you a ‘Vel Vidaaney’ when you were awarded your rank. Then, there is the GMOA which now roars like a lion and plans another strike over the SAITM issue though it was purring like a pussy cat during Mahinda maama’s time, although SAITM was created and existed even then!