The Truth Came All The Way From Padukka To Colombo

When I went past Lipton Circus around 2.55 pm on Tuesday January 28, 2014, I noticed a few pockets of protestors.  There were some near the entrance to the old Accident Ward.  There were some near the church.  I called a UNP Working Committee member and he said he was at Hyde Park with two friends.  He said he had heard that ‘the general had brought quite a crowd’ (there were supposed to be three processions that afternoon.


When I came back a few hours later I saw people in that’s-done mode, making their way home, I assumed.  I heard that ‘the general’ had his own party and did not exactly commune with the ‘joint opposition’.  I went past Hyde Park around 6.15pm.  Didn’t run into crowds.  Saw some posters though, and among them one that stood out purely for reasons of gumption.

Niroshan Padukka is considered a young and energetic organizer.  He handles the Homagama electorate for the UNP.  He didn’t make it to Parliament but few would claim that his political future, at least within the party, is anything but bright.  The poster had too many elements in it and looked a bit crude. He was piggybacking on the MTV ‘News First’ logo to begin with.  Bad move, if he wants to tap non-party voters. There was another pig that he probably thought would take him a couple of miles along the road to political success.  It was (yet another) spin on the catchy signature line of a popular song featured in a popular film and here, please note, we don’t intend to insult pigs, lyricist or filmmaker.

The following is the original: ‘Mata mage novena magema aadarayak thibuna’ (I once had a love that was mine and mine alone and yet did not belong to me – watch Samanala Sandviniya or ‘Butterfly Symphony’ if you want to get a hang of that line). 

Niroshan’s spin went this way: Mata mage novena apema pakshayak thibuna.  Here’s the translation: ‘There was once a party that was ours and ours alone but which did not belong to me’.

altAnd right there, intended or otherwise, Niroshan Padukka captured the overall identity crisis of the United National Party.  Many, like Padukka, see the UNP as their party. 

They identify with party color, symbol and name.  And yet they don’t feel belonged.  They are alienated.  It is as though the leadership has called all members and supporters to turn up at a rally but forgot to arrange a meeting place.  It is as though there’s a massive stage capable of holding tens of thousands of people but so solidly guarded by killer dogs, a moat with crocodiles and a thick wall lined with cut-glass.

Perhaps Niroshan should have made the point somewhere else and in some other way.  Maybe he should not have gone public with his discontent.  Maybe he has tried to reason and failed.  Maybe it’s just his frustrations that are getting splashed on the walls. Maybe he is confident that the party needs him too badly to discipline him for airing dirty linen.  Maybe he thinks the Leadership Council would forgive and forget. 

The ‘maybes’ don’t really matter.

He has hit the point and that’s what counts.  And that is as good a starting point as any.  As the wise say, you begin by identifying problem. Padukka has.  I am not sure if anyone in the UNP cheered him, but someone ought to pat him on the back.  For the guts, if not anything else. 

Some true words were spoken by Padukka.  The question is, did Colombo 7 hear them?

(Malinda Seneviratne is the Editor-in-Chief of 'The Nation' and his articles can be found on )