Dreams with V8 engines
Posted on December 22nd, 2016

Editorial Courtesy The Island


What most people, crushed under a massive economic burden, wish for is a square meal. But, well-nourished political endomorphs have no such worries. Every day is Christmas for them. For, Santa is apparently resident in Parliament and takes care of all their needs. Now, they get pocket money to the tune of Rs. 100,000 each a month!

Power is highly addictive and fuels greed and ambitions. Elvis Presley it was who famously likened ambition to a dream with a V8 engine. Many politicians are adept at camouflaging their ambitions; they remind us of Macbeth, who says in an aside, ‘Stars, hide your fires; let not light see my black and deep desires.’ There are, however, times when some of them happen to betray their innermost feelings unwittingly.

Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has said at a public function recently a scholar told him that he is fit to rule the country because of his struggle against the mighty tobacco industry to save the public. He, no doubt, deserves praise for having hit the tobacco giant where it hurts most; he has become a marked target in the process. He has also undertaken to tame Big Pharma and make drug prices affordable. Let him be given the credit for that too; he deserves encouragement and assistance from the public.

We, however, choose to remain non-committal about the eligibility or otherwise of the Health Minister to rule the country.

Many are the politicians and civil society activists who claim the credit for last year’s regime change. Senaratne is one of them. Victory is said to have a thousand fathers while defeat is an orphan. It is not surprising that the ruling coalition is full of born-to-rule types or presidential aspirants. The dental surgeon turned Health Minister’s claim at issue may have prompted the wannabe presidents in the ruling coalition say, “Hell’s teeth, we have another contender!”

There is a little known political party, whose name is a classical example of paradox, Okkoma Wasiyo Okkoma Rajavaru or ‘All are subjects and all are kings’. This kind of egalitarianism is possible only in a utopian society as far as the ordinary people are concerned, but the ruling politicians with king-sized egos and intoxicated with power seem to think they are all kings or okkoma rajavaru.

Dreams powered by V8 engines have made the ruling grandees renege on their promise to campaign for abolishing the executive presidency, which they are now eyeing. It was a bunch of sour grapes for them while they were in the political wilderness. Now that they think it is within their reach, they want to retain it. They are salivating at the prospect of securing the much coveted post. They must be in the same dilemma as Macbeth, who in the aforesaid aside considers the Prince of Cumberland an obstacle in his path: ‘That is a step on which I must fall down or else o’erleap.’

If music is the food of love, then Sri Lankans may agree that the food of treachery is hoppers. It is likely that Dr. Senaratne may be served anything at his bosses’ dinners but hoppers, which the incumbent President is said to have had with his former boss President Rajapaksa on the eve of his defection to challenge the latter in the last presidential race.

Here is some gratuitous advice for the presidential or prime ministerial aspirants in the two main parties. They had better refrain from making public their dreams lest they should put themselves in the cross hairs of their political masters and other ruthless ambitious elements. We have witnessed political versions of the Night of the Long Knives on several occasions in the SLFP, the UNP and the JVP.

Had President Maithripala Sirisena made his presidential ambitions known prematurely as a member of the Rajapaksa Cabinet he would not have been able to contest last year’s presidential election; he would have been either reduced to a political nonentity overnight or even framed and thrown behind bars perhaps into the cell which had become vacant upon the release of the then Gen. Sarath Fonseka a couple of years back. The price he had to pay for staking a claim to premiership is only too well known. Ironically, the boot is now on the other foot.

Let Dr. Senaratne be wished good luck!

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