Conversations with Sarath N Silva

Sarath N SilvaSarath N Silva


These are moving-around days.  There’s talk of people crossing party lines.  There are people plotting regime-change.  There are people getting ready to counter such moves.  People are talking to people.  We have the Constitution Abolishers.  We have the Constitution Amenders.  Then there are people trying to cobble together parties and other political groups as well as prominent personalities in a grand coalition that would support a ‘Common Candidate from the Opposition’.  These same people are also busy trying to find a ‘Common Candidate’.

These are talking days.  Some people are smelling blood.  Others smell something else, but thinking it has to be blood, are salivating.  Still others are not taking chances and are focusing on closing ranks.  They are keeping partners under check even as they try to woo key members of the other side.  Others are watching.  Some are listening.

Even the biggest talkers must have a breather.  During a break in a long discussion that had already taken half a day, a man called Sarath N Silva found himself in a parallel universe called ‘Humility’.  He was not alone.   Those present had been discussing the Constitution, its inherent ills, its significant positives and the virtues of amending or abrogating the same.  But in this calmer and less loquacious place, no one wanted to ‘continue the conversation over a cup of tea or coffee’ as one of the key organizers had suggested.  They spoke of other things.

‘Why did you do it, Sir?’ a green-eyed MP from the Opposition asked the ex Chief Justice.

Before the man could respond, a man red-eyed from sleep-lack on account of thinking too much about a blunder made in 2005 blurted out, ‘he always played politics!’

‘Yes, first with the lady and then with the gent!’ murmured the head of an NGO currently under a massive cloud due to allegations of fraud.

‘Come, come, let us not quarrel here…we have to focus on the objective and we have to put aside our differences.  We can’t afford to dwell on the past.  We must look to the future.’  That was a bikkhu who some thought might be The Answer but others felt could only be a weaker SF.

‘But we are on a break right now,’ the green-eyed one protested.

‘I’ve already said that I was in error.  What more do you want?’

‘In error?  Are you serious?  You’ve not only ensured that the Opposition gets weaker by the day but made sure that whoever wins can turn a wafer-thin majority into a two-thirds majority!’
‘Oh that?  I thought you were talking about Helping Hambantota!’ the ex-judge said.

‘That’s history.  I am talking about people crossing over and how the ruling you gave facilitated it.’

‘Yes, yes.  So what was your question again?’

‘Why did you do it?’

‘Well, our rathu sahodaraya, was correct.  Deep down I am a political animal.  Like anyone else.’

‘Oh no.  Don’t flatter yourself.  There have been many CJs who remained untouched by the dirty and crass of politics.’

‘Good for them.  I am a connoisseur of this thing called “The Art of the Possible”.  I did my bit. Indeed that’s what I am doing now too.  People objected when I determined when Chandrika’s term ends.  People objected to the Helping Hambantota decision.  People even objected to my ruling on MPs crossing over.  Look around you.  Most, if not all of these objectors, have either benefited from my decisions or else have become fond of obtaining my advice.  You people should know that there are no permanent enemies or friends.    It’s the same for political positions.’

‘But we expect more from someone like you, Sir!’

‘I didn’t flatter myself, so why are you trying to make out that I ought to behave in a way that is flatter-worthy?’ Silva raised the obvious question.

‘It’s this.  We are confused.  We don’t know who is who.  He or she who is with the Government today may be with us tomorrow, but it’s more likely that the person who we call comrade and with who we plot and plan to oust the regime will be on their side the day after.  We just can’t trust anyone.  It’s ok being in the opposition.  If we have to wait for six years, we will.  But there has to be some basic kind of predictability.  You’ve done away with that!’

‘Son, let me tell you a secret.  People think and I let them think that for all my expertise on constitutions and separation of power, and indeed my self-proclaimed deep study of the scriptures, I remain a creature fascinated by the political.’
‘Go on..’

‘It’s a cover!’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I did all that and do all that I do now because I am at the core a very lonely person leading a humorless life.  I did all that and do all that I do now because I need some entertainment!  Your agitation amuses me.  As for your confusion, what do you think I am laughing off as I roll on the floor when I get home?’

‘Break over!’ the bikkhus said.

‘Ehey haamuduruwane,’ the others said in unison.  Sarath N Silva was grinning.  The others were not.

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