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Ranil gets his foxes and fowls in a twist

By Lucien Rajakarunanayake

(March 20, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) It took much observation of JR Jayewardene’s many years in politics for him to be known as the Grand Old Fox of Sri Lankan politics. He spent many years watching his opponents, plotting their downfall, as
a fox would do, until he reached his goal of absolute power, with a five-sixth majority in parliament and a constitution that he framed largely to suit his own political aims; and also amended so many times as he saw all his aims not covered by its first issue in 1978.

It will surely take much more than dyeing his hair black and lustily singing "Delilah" at the Battle of the Blues for his nephew Ranil to come anywhere near his uncle in the foxy role of politics. He often runs with the hares and hunts with hounds in politics, but is very often found out by both the hares and hounds before he has any success in the hunt.

But to give him due credit he never gives up. A loser 13 times in electoral races, Ranil is always ready for the next fight, and as it often happens, the next fumble or guffaw in public. Twice in recent times he told his voters to go to the polls on the wrong date, giving dates that would help his opponents in the campaigns. His attempts to woo voters with the offer of gold chains and bracelets, and to bait rural youth with designer jeans, are now part of the record of outstanding failures in the electoral politics of South Asia, and possibly in the whole world.

Now, as he leads his own battered brigade, having really outfoxed Sarath Fonseka, by making the later believe he was in for a shoo win at the recent Presidential Election; Ranil appears to have take his foxy capabilities too far. His recent statements are typical, of a leader who doe not expect to gain power. He is hiding any worries about losing for a 14th time running, by warning people against giving Mahinda Rajapaksa a two-thirds majority.

One needs to ask whether Ranil thought he was being foxy like his uncle, when he carried out that lukewarm campaign to elect Phony Fonnie as President, with the promise of the immediate abolition of the Executive Presidency. How did Ranil and Fonnie, or either of them expect to change the constitution on such a fundamental issue without two-thirds? Hardly smacks of the cunning of the fox.

And, going beyond the realms of possibility, just in case he wins, will he be able to change anything in the Constitution, without the same two-thirds majority that he warns the people not to give his rival; which he will certainly get if we had the old first-past-the-post system of elections in place, which Ranil’s foxy old uncle changed, and with Ranil’s consenting vote too.

The fear of two-thirds on the other side is worrying Ranil so much that he is even getting twisted in his foxy proverbs. The other day when addressing a meeting he urged the people against giving two-thirds to the UPFA, with the warning that to give it would amount to setting the fowls to guard the fox run – "Kukullunta Nariyava baara dunna vagey". Ranil had often shown many difficulties with his thinking in Sinhala, but this is a slip for all time. One needs a massive leap in wonky thinking to make a slip like that – when the good old proverb is the exact opposite. "Nariyata Kukullu Baara Dunna Vagey". But that is Ranil’s poor foxy style today.

It’s as bad a slip as changing Dorothy Parker’s famous twist that those who live in glass houses should not remove their clothes; to say that those who live in cloth houses should not remove their glasses.

There are many other stories in our folklore and in Aesop’s Fables too, that talk of how the fox has been outfoxed in many ways. With Ranil’s obsession over the 2./3 majority issue, one is reminded of the tale of the fox and the grapes, It was eager to get at it; mouth watering at the tempting sight of the grapes hanging above it, the fox jumped as high as it could but failed to reach it. Just as Ranil has failed in the many jumps he made even to grab power in the provinces. More recently he failed in his proxy bid at being Prime Minister through a Phony Fonnie Presidency. With his dreams of even a simple majority and the PM’s hat fast receding, Ranil’s mental twist of the adage about the fox and the fowl run must be how he tells us that the unattainable grapes of power indeed taste sour today.

Another piece of foxy lore is about the fox that put on a lion’s skin and frightened all the other denizens of the jungle to come to it, and went on enjoying a meal of one of them each day, until it came to the full moon night. Habits dying hard and genetic compulsions dying even harder, the sight of the full moon made the fox to give its loud howl, thus exposing and ending the charade it was carrying on in the guise of a lion. As for our own clumsy fox, who is now riding the elephant that he recently discarded for the swan, each time he slips up in public utterances amounts to a huge howl, and with so many slip it’s becoming more like full moon every night.

Whatever foxy dreams in politics that Ranil Wickremesinghe may have, they always seem to end up is in a painful howl of defeat after each election, and also causes many a hoot directed towards him and the rump of green elephants that are still with him.

It’s hardly surprising that Ranil gets his fowls and foxes mixed up as he addresses public meetings today. Those who miss the wood for the trees in politics can hardly be expected to know the difference between foxes and fowls.

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