Once Dayasiri Jayasekera, the Elder and Harin Fernando, the Younger, were the best of buddies, soul mates who often met to sing and dance and browse their grouses in the familiar tavern of life found on the same side of the run down street.
There, seated on worn out wooden benches, they would tattle and ride their hobby horses, shed tears on their own wretched states and cast furtive, envious glances at the swinging doors of the high society saloon across the road, watching the goings and comings of the exclusive members only club. So many entered but so few left and they wondered why. Was it because the sun uppers and the sun downers were free, as the story went, for the board at the entrance said, no hard stuff sold? It seemed so easy to get in but so hard to leave. With the world as one’s oyster, none ever wanted to.
But yet they pledged their undying loyalty to their own old haunt where the tab was always presented, invariably with a charge sheet; and swore — if not with blood then with their spirits — they will never betray the old water hole. Come what may, they vowed as brothers of a kind often do, they will endure the dark of the moonless night; wait the dawn for their sun to rise.
One day Dayasiri’s spot on the bench remain untaken. When other imbibers asked Harin where Dayasiri was all he could say was that ‘he will be here any minute.’ He kept on repeating the same until he cast a habitual glance across the street and saw through the saloon window Dayasiri seated at the high table, smiling and waving at him. Then he gave the derogatory middle finger up signal, turned away and thereafter totally ignored him and the old tavern on the wrong side of the street. He had joined the noveau riche club, become the darling of the noveau riche clique.
To Harin, still ensconced in youthful idealism, this was the greatest act of treachery committed since Judas betrayed Christ for thirty silver. And thereafter the hero he had worshiped turned into the demon he despised. That was understandable. His belief in human nature would have been irrevocably shattered by the dastardly deed of his mate who had sacrificed his honour and principles to better himself with sudden flight to the top, to pole vault over the fence to where the sky was bluer and without limit, to leave without the slightest qualm, those who had believed in him, trusted him and stood by him in the leaner years of life, to their sad and wretched lot.
This, however, was nothing new and Harin should have known of it. Dayasiri Jayasekera is a man born for politics. The one true trait in him markedly visible is his naked ambition. And he is driven by it. Having joined the SLFP he crossed over to the UNP in 2001 when Ranil was in the driving seat. His flight to the UPFA exactly one year ago was conceived, planned and executed in the utmost secrecy and announced in a hail of hallelujah. After all, was it not the second coming of Dayasiri to the party?
Much water had flown under the bridge since the day Dayasiri had turned coat. He had received his promised reward from his new political masters and is now the Chief Minister of the Wayamba Province. And while he was basking in the warmth of success’s star, his former protégé and friend, Harin was trying to find his way through the fog of defeat that had dogged and engulfed the UNP for a record breaking number of years. With the upcoming Uva elections to be held in two months he stood on the verge of giving up his parliamentary seat to contest the provincial polls with the intention of becoming, like Dayasiri, the chief minister. But whereas
War of words: Harin Fernando (left) and Dayasiri Jayasekera during the debate on the Derana TV. Pic courtesy adaderana.lk
Dayasiri had joined the winning side in July last year and had given up his parliamentary seat in the fullest confidence of his party’s victory and thus his own, Harin could only face the phantom of his party’s string of failures making a house call on his own fate.
That was the state of play when they met at the studios of Derana TV on Tuesday night to participate in the political discussion programme “Vada Pitiya” and exchanged pleasantries before the cameras rolled.
Whatever may have been the topic of discussion on the agenda, it was clear from the outset that national issues were furthest from the minds of the two pitted in the televised ring and their sole motive was to give public display to their own squally quarrels expressed in the foul language of the ghetto. To those watching in the gallery, it was gratifying fare right up their alley.
The personal accusations which mai5nly deal with their drinking habits and who patronises nightclubs or who sings till dawn interlaced with a few animal names turn nasty when Dayasiri Jayasekera gets onto his feet and Harin Fernando rises to his and the programme meant to deal with public issue climaxes into a reality show featuring a personal physical fight in which Harin claims he was bitten in the shoulder by Dayasiri which he denies. The TV producers turn off the TV camera and prevent the fight from being brought to the living rooms of viewers thus sparing their carpets of being smeared with blood.
On Thursday morning both fight-scarred combatants from Derana’s pora pitya speak to the press and give their own versions of events, delivering their own dispensations. Harin admits calling Dayasiri a frog and claims, “During the TV programme, Dayasiri Jayasekera suddenly removed his mike, got up and came at me. And then he pulled me by my shirt collar. I had to hit him in self defense. Who started the fight? Who got up from his chair first? The answers are clear to anyone who watches the video recording.”
Harin apologises to the public as he should but after giving such a public exhibition of his real nature, he should be wary of raising his hopes of a massive landslide victory in his favour in the forthcoming Uva elections which he hopes to contest as chief minister for the UNP. Has he blown his and his party’s success with his cheap show of bravado and vast vocabulary of zoological terms?
What should have been a bravura performance to sway the Uva electorate has turned out to be a debacle and no doubt he would be cursing himself this morning for baring his buffoonery in public.
As for Dayasiri Jayasekera he says he was called a dog, a donkey and thamuse. “I am not a person on whom one should use such language; I am doing honourable politics. I can’t respond in the same language. I didn’t speak about anything outside politics,” he declares to the press.
“I also asked Fernando why he (Fernando) spoke against casinos, as he visited casinos frequently,” Jayasekera says and adds, “is that not related to politics?
He says Harin acted like a low class man, which is unbecoming of a parliamentarian. But how would he describe himself considering his own physical assault on his opponent. Self defense? Provocation? Losing his temper? Worse, how would he describe his own verbal assault that night on persons not present, not associated with the proceedings in any way but whose names were implicated when Jayasekera dragged their names to attack Harin Fernando?
Consider the nationally televised moment when the heat and pitch of verbal battle rose with alarm with the two gladiators spoiling for a fight, until Dayasiri’s anger got the better of him, and the man went over the top and blew his lid: the moment when, he must have later wished the earth had swallowed him whole, he let slip a vile canard, a calumny of the worst order against the sons of an eminent political personage whose name shall not be traduced here by mentioning it like it was done by Dayasiri on national television.
Addressing not his opponent Harin but the TV show’s host Chathura, he declared in a display of self righteousness: “You know Chathura, I have not come from the UNP to safeguard the Government. I am here to safeguard the three hundred and twenty six thousand UNP and Sri Lanka Freedom Party people who gave their vote to make me the Chief Minister, to be with this government. Therefore I have a right to protect those people. Not only that I have a right to tell what the truth is. Of that, no one has the right to talk.
At this point the TV host Chathura told him that the time allotted to him was over but ignoring the moderator’s announcement, Dayasiri carried on regardless and committed political hara-kiri in the process and declared: “These …. These people have drinks with the sons at night and party till morning…. that is good for them to do.”
Stunned TV viewers watched in shocked disbelief at this totally unwarranted remark made by the chief minister of Wayambe Province, who himself is a member of the ruling party. Coming from the ranks of the opposition it would have been rancid. Coming from the mouth of the Government party’s own member it was positively putrid. And today any member of the public can watch the show on You Tube and see for himself whether there was any justification for Dayasiri to say what he recklessly said.
The sons never figured in the entire discussion, they were not a topic of the debate; they did not even play any cameo role in the discussions. Yet to cater to the gallery, and to spout his venom against Harin Fernando, Dayasiri Jayasekera had to drag their respected and unblemished names into the debate for no earthly reason whatsoever and, by a single ugly aside totally uncalled for, had to slander them whilst they innocently slept in their beds, ignorant that murder most foul was being committed on their good names in a nearby television studio by a member of their own party who had been trusted enough to be made the chief minister of an important province.
This is the kind of character assassination through innuendo that should be condemned most emphatically. When he was questioned by Harin Fernando whether he was saying they drink, Dayasiri tried to worm his way out of it, stating that was not what he meant, that he had meant Harin drank in their company. But whatever he may have meant in his own mind, the damage had already been done. The rolling tongue had rolled out the words and having rolled, rolled on; and not all his claims to have been misunderstood could roll back one word of it nor could all the anti-septic mouthwash in Wayambe rinse one whiff of the stink of his halitosis ridden slur.
What was his game? Was he trying to create the unfair and unjust impression that the sons are a bunch of wild hell-raisers who paint the town red every night with their revelry? And, that too, with a member of the opposition whilst maintaining that he, Dayasiri, as he proudly stated shortly after making his monstrous snide reference, never goes to a night club.
Dayasiri has bitten more than he can chew. He has quite correctly apologised to the public for his behaviour on Tuesday night. But he owes the persons he slandered a grovelling public apology for this unfounded allegation uttered in public. The blow he delivered was not in keeping with the Queensbury Rules. He stands condemned in the eyes of the nation for conduct unbecoming of a chief minister of, as he himself proudly put it at the televised debate, 326,000 people who voted him to high office, for traversing beyond the bounds of fairness and decencies and shredding other people’s reputations in the manner of a soap box speaker at London’s Hyde Park who is traditionally granted immunity from prosecution to fulminate and give release to his complexes.