“Sakala Sirin Piri Siri Lankave….,” – In Sri Lanka, a Cornucopia for all Senses…
Scurrilous Documents similar to Kavikola of the old times had vanished from our soil over the past few decades. However, the politicos will never allow those age old cultural habits to die naturally. They come forward to revive them occasionally. Kavikola was the vocation of the wandering village minstrel, who recite the verses loudly at sub-urban weekly fair or bus terminal, and sell printed sheets of verses or ‘Kavi Kolaya’, composed based on local topics or some unusual happenings, and the uniqueness is that every sheet written in any part of the island, and by different poets; the first line is an invariable...“Sakala Sirin Piri Siri Lankave…”
‘Kelepattara’ is a scurrilous document, which is abusive, vituperative and derogatory of an individual or a body of persons.
In an interview with a Daily Mirror journalist, the then minister SB Dissanayake spoke on his views on political issues. Let me produce some excerpts from the interview published on June 17, 2015 issue of the paper.
Q How is it that you have started writing kelepattara (scurrilous booklets)?
SB: What you are referring to is not a kele pattaraya. It is a publication brought out through the collective effort of several ministers.
Q But UFPA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha described it as a kele pattaraya.
SB: That is his personal opinion. Several ministers went through the script before sending it to the press. It is possible that Susil had no occasion to read it. We made available a typescript of the booklet to President Maithripala Sirisena too before sending it to the press. Technically it is a booklet brought out by his media division.
Q But the SLFP has no such media division?
SB: I think there is a media officer functioning in our party. In fact, there is a team in the SLFP handling media affairs. Susil is the UPFA General Secretary.
Q SLFP General Secretary Anura Yapa also said he knew nothing about the booklet?
SB: Thilanga Sumathipala was also present at the media briefing where Anura Yapa said that he knew nothing about it. But Thilanga admitted that it was a party publication. I remember we sent a copy of it to Anura Yapa also before sending it to the Press. If he says that he didn’t see it, we have to accept his word. I am the author of the booklet. It was written with the knowledge of our party leader President Sirisena….”
Sumanaweera Banda who lost his home-based parliamentary seat after shifting loyalties from MR to Sirisena, contemplated producing scurrilous booklets [kelepattara] perhaps derogative of his former boss in an attempt to flatter the new boss. [SB along with a dozen of voters rejected candidate from SLFP, UNP and JVP and entered the house through the back door thanks to our leaders of ‘five star’ democracy. Writer’s efforts to trace this document, which the author said was sent to print media, have failed].
Premier stakes of 1952
66 years ago, a Kelepattara titled, ‘Premier Stakes’ the full document that mainstream print media ignored, appeared in an English tabloid run by LSSP.Theja Gunawardene, the editor received a copy from a colleague working for a national newspaper. ‘Premier Stakes’ in which Dudley Senanayake was subject to slander was ghost written by a senior journalist hired by Sir John Kotalawala.
DS Senanayake, the father of the nation, and Prime Minister was ailing from unrevealed complications in 1951. SWRD Bandaranaike, the Leader of the House and second in command of UNP has left the party and the government to form a new political movement styled SLFP. Sir John Kotalawala who held the number three position in hierarchy became second in command of the party and Government.
By the end of January 1952, Prime Minister DS Senanayake was 67 years of age. His health deteriorated. His heart had been weakened and he was diabetic. The medical team treating the PM warned the family and his close friends, that he has just a few months to live. His close circle that included, Lord Soulbury, the Governor General, decided to make an indirect query about his successor. But who will bell the cat? G-G volunteered to come forward. He skillfully hinted on the topic as he spoke to DS in hospital bed. DS was prompt, he said,
“Lionel (Sir John, the second in command) cannot win elections; Dudley of course can, but he is my son, so I do not wish to talk anymore.”
"The current dirty blame game continues among parliamentarians who even requested for enhanced security for themselves; it has degenerated into vituperative Kelepattara stage, while the general public remains nervous, parents are anxious and worried as schools are not out of danger zone"
His son, Dudley, the youngest member of the Cabinet, Minister of Agriculture was only 41.
Being out of the hospital a month later, and on March 20th morning, as usual, he was taking a ride on the Galle Face Green with IGP Richard Aluvihare. PM suffered a stroke lost control and fell off police mare. Don Stephen Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Independent Ceylon passed away on March 22, 1952. Sir Hugh Cairns, brain specialist was due to take off at Abington to fly to his bedside.
Shortly after DS Senanayake’s death,Sir John was ‘knocked-out’ from the ring by the devious conniving within UNP, and Dudley was sworn in as new PM and he succeeded the father.
Immediately after the new Prime Minister, Dudley formed his government in end March 1952, ‘Premier Stakes’, a slanderous document was in circulation in the echelons of power and within print media.
The beginning of the enmity
The bombshell by Lord Soulbury, the G-G created an uproar in the UNP and governing circles. The Governor-General’s decision to call upon Dudley to take oaths as new PM, raised many eyebrows. They suspected it was a plot to deprive Sir John Kotalawala, the next-in-command of the premiership. A desperate man Sir John made several frantic moves to influence Dudley not to accept it, but the pressure put forth by senior colleagues including JR Jayewardene and Senanayake relatives was too heavy.
‘Premier Stakes’ was subsequently leaked out; it was an anonymous kele-pattaraya like the letter Ministry of Public Enterprises at the World Trade Centre in Colombo recently prepared with defamatory remarks on President Sirisena. Adding to the chaos, the LSSP’s Tribune, an English tabloid, carried the full script in parts. Sir John being a member of Dudley’s new Cabinet, steer clear of participating in the storm, and he took wing to Canada on ‘official businesses’.
Dudley loyalists pushed for disciplinary action against Kotalawala, for it became obvious that he was behind this clandestine move, though they were short of substantial evidence as proof. The PM was halfheartedly obliged to remove his erstwhile colleague from the Cabinet; a letter featuring circumstances was conveyed to Sir John in Ottawa through the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka’s. An infuriated Sir John, true to himself, crushed the letter in the presence of the diplomat and retorted, “I say, tell your Prime Minister that his letter found the place it deserves” and chucked it into the dust bin and did not even bother to reply.
However, on his return to the island, Sir John met Dudley and the matter was amicably resolved. Later it was revealed that Sir John hired a ‘journalist’ to ghost-write ‘The Premier Stakes’ and arranged for its distribution himself. Dudley dissolved Parliament seeking a fresh mandate from the people and won comfortably. He became PM for the second time which tenure lasted little over a year when he volunteered to resign handing over the reins to Sir John.
Hugh Fernando’s ‘The Inside Story’
Hugh Fernando, MP for Nattandiya served in both the SLFP and UNP governments as Deputy Speaker and Speaker. He once fell out with Sirimavo and released a somewhat defamatory document called ‘The Inside Story’.
The current dirty blame game continues among parliamentarians who even requested for enhanced security for themselves; it has degenerated into vituperative Kelepattara stage, while the general public remains nervous, parents are anxious and worried as schools are not out of danger zone. Head of the government and of the Cabinet are at logger-heads with each other, inter party and intra-party clashes go viral in social media.
A non-functional government?
Returning from school in late 1950s, the village minstrel was carrying a pile of leaflets under the clock tower, each of the size of A3 paper and sold at 10 cents. He was reciting a tale about the middle-aged, wealthy village headman’s pretentious and extra-ordinary seven-day wedding ceremony, and the minstrel’s disclosure of what transpired a few days later. “Sakala sirin piri Siri lankawe…” recited the man louder than usual when he related why the bride returned to her parents after realizing the new hubby was manipulating events so as to avoid going to bed. Well this has no parallel to pompous claims of elimination of the narcotics menace in six months or converting half the island, from Trinco to Hambantota into one huge economic zone under megapolis programme, but both factions combined botched efforts to send the IGP out of office!
What options are we left with?
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