It was only the other day that a cobra which had entered the main hall of Parliament through the MPs’ special entrance was captured by a cop. The Diyawanna’s profusion of reptilians have of late taken a keen interest in seeking entry into Parliament.
No small wonder really, when you think about it. Because the Chamber is often equated to a real live snake pit with members gliding, sliding, slithering, hissing and spitting into one another’s aural orifices. I almost forgot the other analogy of their penchant for speaking in forked tongues.
And it wasn’t the first time that Parliament security procedures came under a cloud either. On several previous occasions serpents had been found on the ground floor of the Assembly underlining the characteristic similitude between lawmakers and cold-blooded reptiles both literally and figuratively. Most satirical analysts will tell you that they are both cold blooded and neither has a spine. But the difference is that the snake doesn’t rake in a bombshell of perks and a fat paypacket as well as a lifetime pension after serving five years in office.
While we work hard to pay food bills, mortgages and exorbitant taxes, the superannuated freeloaders of the Diyawanna when in the House demand that everything should be on the House.
In November 2013 a semi-poisonous serpent was discovered in the office of the then Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on the third floor of the building. A two-foot long Forsten’s Cat Snake, commonly known as a mapila, was coiled inside Wickremasinghe’s office. This was in spite of rigorous security checks ahead of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s arrival in Parliament to deliver the 2014 Budget presentation.
To his credit, however, RanilWickremasinghe took the presence of a coiled serpent in his parliamentary office with the typical equanimity he is known to possess. But it basically underlined two salient lessons about the dangers of the political snake pit as well as the perils of hopping into bed with one’s erstwhile enemies. Surely, Wickremasinghe must be aware that he has been surrounded by all kinds of vipers from within his own camp who on several occasions came at him with bared fangs. One thing he will be constrained to admit to for certain is that while snakes usually lie in the grass, politicians lie everywhere.
Without a doubt, Wickremasinghe has been surrounded by all kinds of vipers from within his own camp who on several occasions came at him with fangs bared and dripping with venom. That he has been able to navigate safely with polongas (Russell’s Vipers) virtually in his lounge suit pockets speaks volumes for his survival instincts.
But again one must concede that the man is a survivor of the most redoubtable calibre. Over the last few decades or so, several conspiracies to oust him as party helmsman have failed miserably. The plotters insist that the attempt to displace him as the party chief obviously demonstrates a perceived weakness in both his persona and leadership abilities. In other words, they believe he is unelectable. Still, despite all the hissing and backbiting he has managed to stay alive and kicking.
Now as he finds himself leading a Sri Lankan ministry under an Executive President again and a mish-mash Cabinet which includes several former arch-adversaries, he will have to be on double guard against the pointed incisors from every angle. Members of hybrid coalitions in the name of political convenience are not likely to forget the poisoned barbs aimed at them by erstwhile foes who become fellow bed mates.
The presence of the snake in his office at the time was to draw some bitchy remarks from certain UPFA members. One came when a few UNPers met up with them in the lobby. Minister Rajitha Senaratnewho held the Fisheries portfolio at the time was quoted remarking: “Vipaksha nayakathumage le biwwanam mapilata kalanthe hadei.” Which in Anglo-Saxon would mean: “If the snake had sucked the blood of the Leader of the Opposition, it would have fainted.”
I never cease to wonder why politicians are often likened to snakes. Snakes by far are one of the most demonised and notorious creatures in the world. They are great targets of blame and are extremely misunderstood. In some cultures, they are even thought of as demons and mascots of the Devil! They slither silently and gracefully and move with hardly a rustle. And they do not fight and quarrel with one another, which is more than can be said of the human race. In fact, the malicious nature so often attributed to snakes is entirely non-existent. A snake will often try to get away but will attack if threatened or confronted.
Few people who understand the true nature of snakes must realise they aren’t out to bite you for fun. But I do because I had so many of them, water snakes in particular, as pets in my pre-teens. Speaking from experience I must say that the poor snake is a much reviled creature by people who have never handled or studied them. My endearing pets were often referred to as ‘revolting slimy things’. But contrary to such unfounded beliefs, snakes unlike worms, are dry skinned and indeed almost velvety to touch.
Try touching them sometime. Try moving your palm stroking the serpent’s skin. You will actually revel at its silken smoothness. They represent some of the most elegant creatures ever created in every way. You never find a snake with unsightly angles and corners. The movements of the snake are silent and graceful, they make no disturbing noise, except to hiss a kiss of sorts at times.
So logically, one must concede that nasty, self serving, extortionist and malevolent politicians aren’t the only snakes to be found in the precints of the Assembly. And, please remember that all serpents in their natural environment aren’t as dangerous as politicians. That is why I resent that comparison! How dare you compare these gorgeousreptiles to such vile abominations? In fact, I fear that the English language is currently incapable of demonstrating the magnitude of disapproval towards this category of individuals.
After all, many politicians will tell you that their profession is still a seething snake pit, while refusing to concede that it may be appropriate to analogise it to a human cess pit.