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Old UNPers mourn their own passing at Voetlights

by Rajpal Abeynayake

(December 27, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Some people asked me why a photograph of the Voetlights lawyers’ dinner, held last week at the Cinnamon Grand, was captioned by this newspaper last Sunday as the ‘Dullest ditchwater last gasp of the old UNP.’

Legitimate question.

After all, what has UNP politics got to do with what is essentially supposed to be a night in which lawyers belonging to a society named after an ancient Dutch jurist, come together to signify the end of term with some big laughs and guffaws at the expense of each other?

Well, that’s how it’s supposed to be, ideally.

But not when some onetime UNP wannabes such as Aritha Wickramanayake, or UNP sleepwalkers such as Asoka Samararatne, the instructing attorney with the permanently boozy face, purport to hog proceedings, albeit from backstage as it were - pulling puppet strings from behind-the-scenes.

It becomes the last gasp when such losers who back the perennial loser in the UNP, Ranil Wickremesinghe, attempt to place a straitjacket on the proceedings.

Now, some may say that this is impossible. After all, people such as these were not the organizers, they’d say. Well, lawyers you may be, but if you believe that, you will believe anything - and you need to go tell what you believe to the Marines.


To this day, the old UNP-set, backing the humourless and pathetic Ranil Wickremesighe are the coterie that calls the shots in this rather anachronistic club, where funeral somberness and ditchwater dullness passes off as fun, lampoon, and (supposedly) taking the Mickey out of the inflated over-bloated and the puffed up ...

Who the scribe is — the appointed jester of the evening — for instance, who the year’s Voetlight president is, and other such decisions in this anachronistic institution are taken by one cabal of buddies, who are essentially cut from the same cloth: the old UNP attorney-set, who become more and more insignificant each passing day, as their withering idol the ineffectual Ranil Wickremesinghe progressively passes into the sunset.

It has to be the ineffectual old waning UNP which puts on such a monumental disaster such as this — a night of fun which turns out to be a dead man’s wake.

The affable Chair, Voetlight Anura Meddegoda disported himself with commendable sangfroid and assurance under circumstances in which the said UNP sleepwalkers were orchestrating the proceedings from the sidelines. All kudos to him, for a job superbly done under excruciatingly, almost tear-jerkingly sad circumstances.

Sad, not only because it was a night of uptight frigidity when it was supposed to be one-of comedic light touch and lampoon, but sad also because of the abysmal quality of those whom the old UNP types had propped up to be the key actors for the night’s proceedings.

Take the so-called Scribe for instance.

This year’s specimen took the art of lampoon about which he obviously knows nothing — to the lowest point seen in at least the last full decade of Voetlights events.
He made it obvious to all concerned that the night was a partisan one, for the UNP, by the UNP, and run by the old UNP.

Funny quip

Why so? For example his idea of a funny quip was to say ‘ the dodgy Kalinga Indatissa’ for instance, in a reference to a senior lawyer whose allegiance as everybody knows is to the other side, watching at least from the Scribe’s vantage.

It’s not the seniority, or the fact that the gentleman concerned was a respected former lecturer at Law College, who had taught this year’s Scribe that counted. No complications whatsoever on that count, as this was the night any senior was fair game to be at the butt end of any kind of merciless vilification.

But to characterize somebody as ‘dodgy,’ now is that a joke — unless the joke is on the person who says it?

‘Dodgy’ is no more a joke that ‘clueless politico’ is a joke. ‘Dodgy’ is description.

Lampoon is the art of taking apart with subtlety; telling a person he’s a Joker for instance, in a way that he will look forward to being that.

Calling somebody ‘dodgy’ is no different to trying to get a laugh out of calling somebody ugly — only the crass and unsophisticated would do it.

Now, somebody might try to bring in a detail and say that this year’s Scribe is after all poised against the said Ranil Wickremesinghe in the UNP, which it could be argued, makes it hard to believe that he is an agent of the old UNP sleepwalkers’ set comprising of Aritha, Asoka et al, that by default runs the archaic Veotlights.

Technically, that would be correct. But anybody installed in that party by Ranil Wickremesighe himself, is, well, ‘dodgy’. And this no joke.

All the more reason to believe that this year’s Voetlights was that the dullest ditchwater last gasp of the old UNP — lawyers forming the backbone of that now historical set of moochers and wannabe political dinosaurs.

They thought Voet was an undertaker...

There is hardly a laugh heard from any section of the audience, some British barrister unleashes bromides that fall spectacularly flat, there are elongated lulls in the proceedings in which the sprawling Oak Room of the Cinnamon Grand takes on the air off a funeral parlour, and people peck on victuals with fork and knife as if they do not want to offend the chicken splayed on the bone china.

This was what Voetlights was this year, a night of supposed lampooning and high comedy, in which lawyers and judges (... who are lawyers before they are judges ... ) are supposed to let their hair down, and have a good laugh at the end of the last term of the year.

And my god, if this is how the lawyers have fun, would you imagine how it must be when they are serious?

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