Rebel SLPP MPs issue ultimatum: ‘Make us ministers or we decamp’

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  • Looming rift in ruling party threatens Govt’s slim majority in Parliament

Diehard SLPP MPs who had once enjoyed the pomp of ministerial power are beginning to feel the heat. The strain, the stress, bereft of office and exiled to a political wasteland, has reached alarming levels, and now threatens to burst in oozing putrefying pus, set to befoul opposition benches.

WIMALAWEERA: Livid

With their once idolised savior now reduced to a shadow of his former self, they restless prowl in the by lanes of memory, hankering for halcyon days, where in royalty’s shade, they strutted about as princelings of the state, wielding power without responsibility.

But do they cringe before their fate, do they whine and beg for office? Does this lot of has-beens, openly pine and moan for privileged stations, which they crave so much in secret? Nay. Like foxes scorn the sourness of elusive ripened grapes, this bumptious bunch of failed has-beens holds in contempt all glorified state ministerships.

JOHNSTON: Angry

Those spangled baubles are beneath their pride, demeaning to their eminence.  They will not any longer give a freaking toss to anything less than ennobling posts that further dignify their supreme states.

Nothing less than cabinet seats for these MPs in eclipse, who say they will not shine again unless allowed to cast their light in Jupiter’s exalted ray.

“We do not want state ministerships, even my dog will not touch it,” declares rabid SLPP’s national list MP, Sanath Nishantha, perhaps forgetting that he, as State Minister for Water, is presently gnawing the very bone his canine pet abhors to touch.

Speaking at a local SLPP branch meeting, Sanath Nishantha issued his call to arms on behalf of the SLPP’s outcaste ex ministers. “As a state minister representing the government, I must tell the government that though Chandrasena and Johnston are here today, they are here in great pain. It’s not for anything else but that these people who tirelessly worked to obtain a two thirds majority for this government, find themselves left out in the cold.”

CHANDRASENA: Hurt

“We have to tell the President, we have to tell those running the country that if this is the way these people are treated then the Government cannot go forward. The people who want to serve the people who are with the people, who formed this Government are now seated in the Government’s backyard. We must now think twice of the situation.”

And then there’s the firebrand Johnston, whose stirring speech at Temple Trees, bloodied the barking hounds for sport on Galle Face Green in May last year.

Once a high-flying cuckolding bird in the Mahinda mountain ranges, now a disgruntled wingless dodo, grazing on sparse grasslands, Johnston gave full vent to his bottled anger and frustration when he unleashed his vitriolic diatribe against the President.

Brimming with ire, he railed: “Gota go home, naki mynah go home. That was what they said. They didn’t say that to Ranil. While he was appearing for the Aragalaya in Parliament, they didn’t tell him not to appear for them. Our people were forced to bathe in Beira’s sewage. Now we are being bathed with the same.”

Former Wildlife Minister Chandrasena, laden with hurt, spoke of the moral virtue of gratitude. He cited the example of how the Buddha had spent seven weeks paying gratitude to the Bodi tree that had given him shelter to attain enlightenment. He then contrasted the Buddha’s action with Ranil’s appalling failure to follow suit.

He sulked at Ranil’s failure to offer them ministerships to recompense the toil and sweat, he, and his suffering brethren, had spent to make him President.  The ‘Aragalaya’ had brought Ranil to the threshold of the Presidency. But it was he, and his band of brothers, who had mustered the votes needed to push him across the doormat to that executive office.

They may have built the vehicle but can they drive the car? Can they be let out on the roads without risking public injury? Of course, they’ll be the last to accept it. It did not stop Chandrasena from continuing.

“Gratitude is a quality even a normal person should have. We placed our trust in him. We all spent sleepless nights canvassing for the 134 votes needed to make him President,” Chandrasena said in hurt. “We, in the Pohottuwa, made him President. We gave him 134 votes. We did the same with Gotabaya but when he failed, we sent him off and brought Ranil. But it’s from the Pohottuwa that Ranil derives his strength. The Government is the Pohottuwa. The Prime Minister is from the Pohottuwa.”

Sanath Nishantha’s arrogance, Johnston’s anger, and Chandrasena’s hurt, crammed into one coarse bundle of bitterness was thrown open to public gaze at this SLPP’s Horowpathana branch meeting last week. But in the vomit, in Chandrasena’s spew, was the name of the SLPP’s heir apparent to be found?

There had been many mutterings, grumblings from disgruntled former ministers and MPs who had been sidelined in the past. They have sulked in silence, moaned in private and sometimes taken the occasional swipe at the leadership. Have they now come to the end of their short leash of patience?

Time is running out. The last trump must be played or never played at all. Therefore, they now demand to reap the plum rewards for their toil and their sweat before their SLPP sun finally sets. Having poured their grudges into one cathartic canal do they intend to create a torrent of dissent to be taken at the flood? And in their wild flights of fancy, launched from the sewers of their fates, expect Boralugoda’s Lion Son to roar for them?

On Tuesday former SLPP Minister Wimalaweera Dissanayake threw down the gauntlet. With Chandrasena beside him, he threatened to rain brimstone and fire on certain SLPP buffoons in the cabinet.

He railed: “For five years, I worked tirelessly to build the SLPP. I went from house to house and as a result both my kidneys are damaged today. My grouse is with the buffoons in the SLPP cabinet to whom we have to pray. I came first in my Ampara district and I have to sit as a lone backbencher. I am not prepared to stay like that. I will not be known as good-for-nothing ignoramus. I have my self-respect and honour to protect. I have no desire to further remain on the SLPP benches.”

SLPP MP Lalith Ellawala, who recently crossed over with G. L. Peiris, warned that 10 or 15 MPS have threatened to decamp if their demands for cabinet ministries are not met within 15 days.

SLPP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa is reported to have said that those SLPP MPs who came first in their districts should be given ministerships.

Can it be some disgruntled MPs’ last-ditch bid, their win-or-die ‘Charge of the Light Brigade,’ to stake their claim to the spoils of election victory? Or are they the vanguard to seize lost party ground before the notables in the shadows, creep out from rotting woodwork to regain old offices?

The President in his address to the nation on Thursday, said: “I possessed only one source of strength: my unwavering belief and determination to safely guide our motherland across the arduous rope bridge.”

The arduousness of the perilous crossing had to a great extent been eased by somewhat smooth rides his reform bills have had in the House. This had been largely due to the ruling party’s assured support. But from a high of 134 votes last year, it has shrunk to a dangerous low of 123 at the last vote taken on May 24.

Should these disgruntled MPs cross the Rubicon and dare decamp to opposition banks, then the entire agenda will be in peril, with Lanka back in the woods.

As Ranil totters step by step, halfway across the burning bridge, can he afford to have the ropes cut under his feet midair?

Blasphemies snowball into a spate of arrestsThe sudden spate of blasphemies hurled remorseless to degrade the nation’s icons of steadfast faith, with callous disregard to a people’s strong beliefs, have snowballed into a host of arrests.The open season for religious slander started late last December when a Buddhist-born YouTuber spat a filthy term of vile abuse against the sacred Dalada not once, not twice but thrice on his regular programme and dared the gulfs to wash him down.  They duly did in early January. He was remanded for a month but after coming down from his high-horse and making a most groveling apology he was released with a warning.

STANDUP COMIC NATASHA: Sick joke

Then it was the pastor’s turn whose controversial video went viral mid-May. The President swiftly ordered an investigation but before the police could enforce a travel ban, the religion-bashing godman had miraculously fled the island. In his spurious and delayed apology, he reaffirmed the gospel ‘truth’ of his crass remarks against all four religions and condescended to say to a nation he had offended, “I told the truth, sorry, if the truth hurt.”

This queer apology mocked the people’s intelligence and was no different than to one extended by a knifer to his victim: ‘I was right to have stabbed you – and I do not apologise for that – but I am sorry if the wound hurts.’

Fortunately, it cut no ice with the authorities, and this conceited man of miracles, who claims to have sole rights to the Almighty’s ear, and frequently petitions God to grant divine relief to his cult followers, came tumbling down from high heavens to petition the nation’s man-made Supreme Court, seeking earthy succor to prevent his arrest, should he make his prophesied advent at the airport.

Then last week, a video of an event, titled ‘April Fool’s Day Challenge’ held at a Colombo school auditorium on April 1st, goes viral, showing a standup comic labouring to disparage ‘Suddhodana’s son’. It falls flat and lands her in jail. She is arrested at the airport attempting to flee the country’s wrath, over her sickening, squalid little number to mock Siddhartha’s sacred birth.

A fiery Buddhist monk releases his own videoed outburst of hate, revealing how tenuous religious tolerance is in this mainly Buddhist land. The monk is also arrested and remanded for his reaction. A few days later the YouTube channel owner is also remanded for publishing the standup comic’s disgusting act. All these matters will be taken up at the courts this week.

In the midst of all this, it has been reported that the Government was planning to set up a special ‘religious police’ to crack down on offenders. Thankfully, Police Minister Tiran Alles has denied the report. He said: “This is false news. We will not establish any new unit. Our Police units are capable of handling these matters under the present laws.”

Let us not create a Taliban out of Buddhism and practise an intolerant alien faith that’s totally contrary to what the Buddha preached.


 

Spare the rod for jumping MPs and give them ladders insteadIf last week’s focus had dwelled on the gold-smuggling MP, Parliament this week revisited the curious case of the ‘Guinean’ Chinese who had been detained at the airport to await deportation but had subsequently been freed on a State Minister’s letter.The Minister’s letter that moved mountains and made the Controller General of Immigration waive the country’s entry laws, requested, the Chinese man be allowed to enter ‘without hassle.’ The letter, which the minister made public, also thanked the Immigration Chief ‘in advance for your usual cooperation in this regard.’‘Usual cooperation? What does that imply?

TIRAN: Officials targeted

Has Urban Minister Arundika been a serial offender ‘in this regard’? Has he been pulling strings to get illegals in with the Immigration Chief’s collusion? Did the gravy run dry for the train to hit the buffers? And highlight this regular blimp on the radar?

ARUNDIKA: Spared probe

The Immigration Chief should clarify this ‘usual cooperation’ phrase, lest the fallout stains his uniform.

At the news conference held last Monday, Minister Tiran Alles declared that action will be taken against the immigration officials who had freed the Chinese at the behest of the Urban State Minister Arundika. “They must not act upon wrong instructions,” he said. True.

But as far as State Minister Arundika Fernando was concerned, there will be no probe, he added. “Anyone can call anyone and make requests.” True again.

Though at first glance it may appear that Tiran Alles was trying to shield his own political cronies from governmental probes, there is a certain logic to his “spare the rod for ministers” thesis.

Every Tom, Dick or Harry can request a public servant’s help but not every public servant has to oblige. In the manner soldiers are damned for following all illegal orders, so must public servants be held accountable should they go beyond their call of duty to sate illicit orders, no matter from whence nor from whom they originate.

But does that mean Arundika Fernando should get off scot-free? Should there not be a high-level inquiry to probe not his intervention – which the Police Minister says cannot be stopped – but to probe whether the given reasons ‘to invest funds in housing projects’ stand up to scrutiny or is merely a cover?

As for Minister Tiran’s decision to spare the rod for Minister Arundika, and for others like him who throw their weight about, will it serve to only spoil them further? Unless a non-partisan watchdog on ethics keeps a sharp eye on such errant MPs and Ministers and takes severe action, Tiran Alles’ new policy of granting them free rein, may well end up as yet  another case of ‘giving ladders to jumping monkeys.’

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