“Negam Yaama” or the visiting of family, relatives and friends is an important tradition of the Sinhala & Tamil New Year festivity. It helps strengthen existing relations, promotes goodwill, erases enmities and draws new people into the circle of relatives and friends.
With politics, embracing almost all aspects of life in Sri Lanka, it is not surprising that in the past decades, politics did play a major part in the “Negam Yaama” tradition, with political leaders in any area, be they Ministers, Members of Parliament, Provincial Councillors or Pradeshiya Sabha members being at the centre of these events; with a good market for betel leaf that is a necessary part of this special ritual of meeting and greeting for the New Year. Many, who did not bother to visit their close family relatives at Avurudu time, did make it a point to visit to their political sponsors, with sheaves of betel leaf, plenty of traditional sweetmeats, and other gifts that would ensure them more gifts and favours in the coming year.
In the old days “Negam Yaama” saw the carrying of pingos loaded with traditional Avurudu sweetmeats and plenty of other gifts to be shared with the family relatives and friends, and to make up with those one had fallen out with in the past year. It was a lovely tradition, indeed.
There was a big revival in the political “Negam Yaama” at this Avurudu season, with the large number of politicians of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), who are now out of power, making a special Negam visit to their defeated leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, at Carlton in Tangalle. There are no reports of any pingos of special gifts being taken on this visit, but instead there were loads of political desperation, and a large attendance of the media, to take the message of this special Arurudu reunion to the country.
This special “Deshapalana Negam Yaama” or political visiting exercise has given a new boost to the buzz about the future plans of Mahinda Rajapaksa, especially in the context of the coming general election. The fifty plus politicos who made this trek to their defeated leader gave much hope to those who still hope and pray, especially at Buddhist temples, for a Rajapaksa return, at least as Prime Minister, that their prayers would indeed be answered.
An interesting aspect of this political “Negam Yaama” is to know whether those did make the trip had the courage to make some criticism of the Rajapaksa regime that has thrown both him and them out of the pleasures and prizes of office, or whether they remained silent about all the corruption that is spoken about in the country today.
There are some who think it was an effort to seek a return to some positions of power that would help hide their own corrupt practices for even longer, under the great expectation of second Rajapaksa premiership, which would give him much more executive power than what he had as PM earlier.
If they did bring a gift back from his special Negam gathering it was the agreement that the leader of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), Dinesh Gunewardena, son of the red-red Philip Gunewardena who ended with the greens, would be the next Leader of the Opposition. One is uncertain how much of an impact this would have among the people, but it must have been a cause of concern for the current Leader of the Opposition, Nimal Siripala de Silva. He must be now busy trying to arrange a special, even belated, Negam event at his residence in Badulla, to make sure that he keeps this office of little purpose today.
This Negam tradition opens up many interesting new opportunities, especially to those who have fallen out or criticized others in the past to make up for what they must now consider their past mistakes, and build up new friendships. A good case is that of Wimal Weerawansa or Brave-clan, who was highly critical and even called for the removal of the former Secretary to the Treasury P. B. Jayasundera. This is the time to go with a loaded pingo to meet Jayasundera and patch up any differences, especially after the man has been asked to meet people at the Commission on Bribery and Corruption. Many reunions of similar types are said to take place there these days.
Weerawansa could also make a special request from the Government to go carrying a pingo to New York, to meet with Ban Ki-moon and make up with him for that farce of a fast that he performed in front of the UN Office in Colombo, some years ago; when a sip of Rajapaksa juice saw him end a so-called fast unto uncertain death. There are many questions asked about why there were no political Negam events, where members of he SLFP paid Avurudu visits to the leader of the party, President Maithripala Sirisena, and the other patron of the SLFP, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. It would appear that the political realties of today did not call for such Negam events; and even if some of it did take place they may have been with the traditional pingos of goodwill and not with loads of the media.
There is also an interesting and curious silence about any Negam visits to the UNP leader, who is also Prime Minister today. The thinking is that he does not need people, even his own supporters or former critics within the UNP, to come to him crawling or carrying pingos of political alliance, because he has the assurance of the green light of success in the coming months; especially with political “Negam Yaama” to Carlton ensuring a divided opposition in the coming general election.
The weeks and months ahead will see much more of political “Negam Yaama” taking place, having nothing to do with the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.