A time to plant, a time to reap

Sunday Times

My dear Ravi,


I do apologise for writing to you again so soon – especially after writing to you a fortnight ago and writing to your spouse only last week. I don’t think you will be annoyed though, because very few people will visit you, talk to you or write to you now, now that you are no longer a top minister!

Ravi, I am not sure whether I should commiserate with you or congratulate you. At first I thought it should be the former because, after all, it is not every day that you resign from a top ministerial job and go home as a backbencher – not to mention foregoing all the perks that come with the job.

But then, listening to your resignation speech in Parliament on Thursday, I was a bit confused. That is because that speech took me by surprise, when you declared that you were resigning with pride. Then, when you left Parliament, crowds had gathered to cheer you, as if you were some kind of a hero!

Those scenes reminded me of another politician, that Duminda chap, being cheered by his supporters when he was charged with murder. Maybe we shouldn’t be too worried because you have something else in common – like him, you too suffer from the ‘mata mathaka nehe’ (‘I can’t remember’) malady.

Honestly, Ravi, the general belief was that you were resigning because it wasn’t quite right for someone to pay the rent for your penthouse, especially when that someone appeared to be profiting heavily from the sale of bonds in an institution under your control, when you were Finance Minister.

Pardon me, Ravi, it maybe because I am ignorant but I can’t see anything to be proud in that. I think the majority of people in this island feel the same way. Of course, I may be wrong because our people seem to elect those like you – be they Blue or Green – again and again, despite incidents like this.

What I was surprised about, Ravi, was your eloquence in Parliament on Thursday. There you were, comparing yourself to Lord Buddha and Jesus Christ one minute and quoting generously from the Dhammapada, the Holy Quran and the Thirukkural the next – ah, what wisdom, coming from you!

I was surprised about that because it was only a week ago that you were acting like a ‘thoththa babaa’ or little baby when you gave evidence before that commission, saying that you knew nothing and remembered nothing about how the rent for the million rupee penthouse that you lived in was paid.

But you could have spoken in English which you are familiar with, instead of trying to utter all those difficult phrases in the native tongue – it reminded me of Dayasiri struggling with ‘Disce Aut Discede’ instead of saying ‘learn or depart’! You did depart, though whether you have ‘learnt’ is another issue!

Of course, Ravi, as Sampanthan seeya pointed out in Parliament on Thursday, we realise that you too, like everyone else, are entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. You resigned before that, but you must also realise that there are times when the facts speak for themselves.

Anyway, Ravi, now that you are no longer in charge of our finances or our foreign affairs you will have a lot of time on your hands. You should use that time to put your penthouse in order – pay its bills and have a chat with your better half about how to pay its rent on your meagre salary as a mere MP.

If you are angry about what happened, I can understand that too, Ravi. The Greens were back in office after nearly ten years, hoping to get their own back on their Blue counterparts and hoping to put them behind bars, after all those allegations of corruption that were made during the election campaign.

Instead, look at what has happened: most of the Blues against whom those allegations were made are still roaming the political jungle; some of them are even ministers while you, of all people, had to resign and go to the back benches, all because of some commission of inquiry appointed by Maithri.

I think there is a lesson in this for you, the Green Man and the Greens, Ravi. If you gave your votes and blessings to Maithri to sit in the presidential chair and expected him to behave like DB (or Deaf and Blind as they called him), now you know that he has taken the Greens for a very expensive ride.

You have only yourselves to blame for that. Many say that those in ‘yahapaalanaya’ are so inefficient that they don’t even know how to steal without getting caught but your predecessors were so good at that, you can’t still catch them. Now that you have time on your hands, think about that, will you?

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha

PS – I am a bit worried about what the Green Man said the other day. He says that we now have a new political culture where people resign when there are suspicions about them, even before they are found guilty. If that really happens, we won’t have much of a Cabinet left, would we, Ravi?