Political Entertainers

Spare a thought for Udaya Gammanpila. The man is kept busy these days commenting about anything and everything, ranging from national anthems to the appointment of the Attorney General. He does so enthusiastically too, perhaps believing that any publicity is good publicity.

His latest foray was to ask the government to appoint the Acting Attorney General to the more substantive post. A reasonable request, you could argue. Unless, of course, the matter was being decided on by the Constitutional Council which is not a single person but a body of people chosen, among other things, for the specific purpose of ratifying appointments to high posts.

Gammanpila’s argument is that the Acting Attorney General, as the next in line in terms of seniority in the Department, should get the job. That too is a reasonable premise, except that he didn’t utter a word when there was no such principle in operation for ten long years under the previous regime and Chief Justices were hired and fired at the whims and fancies of the powers that be. At that time, Gammanpila was kept his mouth firmly shut.
There was a time when Gammanpila commanded respect in the eyes of the average voter. He represented a party, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) which, though being part and parcel of the government of the day, regularly spoke out against its excesses.

Come the months leading up to the presidential election, Gammanpila even left the government along with his leader, Champika Ranawaka, both resigning their portfolios at the provincial and national levels respectively. For a few weeks, he was bad mouthing former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and telling anyone who cared to listen why Maithripala Sirisena should be elected President.

That didn’t last long, only about three weeks, to be precise. Suddenly Gammanpila did a ‘U’ turn and began waxing eloquent on why Rajapaksa should be re-elected. His ‘double crossing’, literally and metaphorically, beat even the political gymnastics of the United National Party’s General Secretary Tissa Attanayake.
Now, Gammanpila is firmly in the Rajapaksa bandwagon. He has an opinion and advice about every issue that surfaces in the world of local politics. He was the first to cry foul when parliamentarian Hirunika Premachandra tried to take the law in to her own hands- and rightly so too. But sometimes, his unsolicited advice can be way off the mark.

For instance, he wailed as if Eelam had been granted when it was decided to sing the National Anthem in Tamil at the Independence Day celebrations and trying to make a media circus of the issue, got his facts wrong saying India sings the National Anthem in the language of its majority community. And who else but Gammanpila would ask Sri Lankans to hoist black flags on Independence Day?

Then, he was the first on the scene when Galagaoda Aththe Gnanasara thera created pandemonium at the Homagama Magistrate’s courts. Beaming for the cameras, he appeared to be condoning the monk’s behaviour. Now he is giving directions to the government on who should be appointed Attorney General. All this is well and good because this country is now a democracy where dissent and differences of opinion are tolerated.

We do understand that Gammanpila is on a political journey where he has grand visions for himself. That would explain why he suddenly quit the Hela Urumaya and formed his own Pivithuru Hela Urumaya – after all, he couldn’t be expected to live in Champika Ranawaka’s shadow forever, could he?

So, he now has to make a name himself. And, in order to do so, he has to outshine the rest of the supporting cast in the Rajapaksa camp: Wimal Weerawansa, Dinesh Gunewardena and last but not the least, Vasudeva Nanayakkara. Little wonder then that he has to come up with a gem of a comment every now and then, just to make sure that the masses remember him.

Keep it up, Udaya Gammanpila. Every government has its entertainers. Ranasinghe Premadasa had A. J. Ranasinghe. Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa had Mervyn Silva. Rajapaksa is out of office and Silva has left him but he still has Udaya Gammanpila. Lucky for him!

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