So why did the chicken cross the road?
3 March 1999
We have all heard about that one about the chicken that crossed
Recently a smart Alec who relentlessly operates in cyber space sent
me this one. It is the most funnily precise statement on political
attitudes on the eve of the crucial provincial polls " though a few
may frown upon such insertions which may not go down well with their
presuppositions about the kind of solemnities which should inform a
So why did the chicken cross the road?
*. It was a result of the 17 year rule of the UNP. I will
appoint a commission to look into that matter.
*. The UNP as a national party will oppose any such move by any
chicken to cross roads. We will hold a Satyagraha, and file a
violation of fundamental rights case in the supreme court!!
*. The chicken didn"t actually cross the road. I can prove this
to you by using statistics released by the Central Bank. There
have been such instances in other developing countries as
well.... This shows very good economic growth.
*. The chicken crossed the road to end the 17 year old curse of
bribery, corruption, and terror... Upon reaching the other side
of the road, the chicken will ensure a new era of prosperity....
and a real difference.
*. There aren"t any chicken crossing any roads. It is a
deliberate lie woven by the UNP to defame the government of her
Excellency Chandrika B. Kumaratunga.
*. The road will be crossed within a matter of months. (after
four years): The chicken has crossed 96% of the road, the rest
will be crossed within a couple of months.
*. The chicken crossed the road so that it could be in the
*. Ask the chicken to come back immediately. Otherwise we will
withdraw all support to any chicken...
Finding a political solution to the ethnic conflict in this
country has long become such an exercise, resounding emptily with
futilely divergent pronouncements.
As we categorically predicted in these columns when the package
carnival was in full swing, ultimately for our politicians the
question is how to win elections and not how to solve the national
In hindsight the peace process looks almost a cyclical rigmarole. JR
convened the all party conference, negotiated with the armed Eelam
movement at Thimpu, imposed an economic embargo on the north, tried
to strike the final deal with the Tigers and bequeathed a
political-military mess on his successor.
President Premadasa had peace talks, an all party conference that
continued after the Tigers went to war, then a Parliamentary Select
Committee to draw up a proposal for amending the constitution for
devolving power to the minorities with a parallel plan for
militarily overwhelming the Tigers. President Premadasa"s latter day
policy on the ethnic conflict was known in Tamil political circles
at the time as the "speak soft and hit hard policy".
President Kumaratunga has followed the same path. She started ad hoc
negotiations with the Tigers, discussed peace with the Tamil parties
while hitting the Tigers hard in the north (certainly harder than
Premadasa). Then she got the Parliamentary Select Committee going
under Minister G.L Peiris, promising to constitutionalise a
And now when one beholds the zeal of Jayalath Jayawardena to visit
the Wanni, one is inclined to feel that the UNP under the leadership
of Mr. Wickremesinghe may also begin the whole process again talk to
the Tigers, have an all party conference or consultation, start a
Parliamentary Select Committee.
This again will be a repeat of the peace "show", the package
In moments of a seemingly gnawing compunction the Tamil parties in
Colombo are heard to observe ruefully that the SLFP and the UNP will
never agree on finding a political solution to the conflict but are
always expressing their solemn consensus on the need to wage the war
successfully and relentlessly.
The peace cycle that I speak about here has inexorably reinforced
the belief among the recent generation of Tamil youth that the only
solution to the ethnic conflict is war either one fights and goes
down honourably or survive to be a second class citizen,
precariously ruling a few powerless local government bodies.
The Tamil parties are well aware of all this; and they have become
deplorably cynical. Securing an acceptable solution to the conflict
is the last thing on their agenda today; they have even stopped
paying lip service to the matter these days.
The hope of reviving the northeastern provincial council seems to be
lost for good too. See what the controversial Perumal is doing now.
It is understood he has discussed with his cronies in Batticaloa on
Sunday a strategy for facing the local government polls that may be
held in the east and Vavuniya this year. (The EPRLF leader finally
made his position on Perumal clear yesterday. He said that the
ex-chief minister had no authority to re-organise the party.)
The PLOTE hopes that the army will soon drive the LTTE out of the
Wanni (this is what it argues in its colourful propaganda paper) and
then allow it to run the region politically (that decapitating
people may not help it much in this direction is another matter).
The EPDP thinks that all the other Tamil groups will decay due to
natural and extraneous causes and that the LTTE will be reduced to a
minor nuisance in due course because India will never permit the
creation of a sovereign Tamil state. So the group is only keen to
make itself acceptable to the Tamil people by behaving nicely until
the TULF, PLOTE, TELO, LTTE and the EPRLF fade into political
insignificance. (this is why it wants the guns and not the uniforms
from the army in Jaffna).
The peace cycle is futile; the Tamil parties seem irredeemably
cynical; the UNP and PA want to win elections first and think about
national issues later. The chicken meanwhile, just wants to cross