As far as political about turns go, Northern Province Chief Minister and former Supreme Court Justice C. V. Wigneswaran scores full marks.
Last week, he was all fire and brimstone, organising a protest in Jaffna, ‘Eluga Thamil’ or ‘Arise Tamils’, calling for the closure of shops and bringing public transport to a halt.
His demands were a merger of the North and East, a federal system of government and a stop to what he claimed was planned resettlement and the building of Buddhist shrines in the North.
Wigneswaran’s antics may have had some support in the North but it did not impress his party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which distanced itself from his comments and the protest itself.
It also saw a massive backlash in the South. There were the ‘usual suspects’ who were blaming the government for Wigneswaran’s deplorable conduct, but most saw the strategy for what it was.
The Chief Minister was roundly condemned for inciting racial hatred and disharmony with his comments. Social media went into overdrive. The reaction was mostly to say, ‘don’t fall into the trap and engage in behaviour that would encourage communal disharmony’
This week, Wigneswaran is a different man. Although he kept away from the opening ceremony of the National Sports Festival he was present at its closing ceremony where President Maithripala Sirisena was the Chief Guest and Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan was an honoured guest.
There, Wigneswaran made a speech, in Sinhalese. He stated that the comments he had made at the ‘Eluga Thamil’ protest were distorted because they were ‘lost in translation’!
Wigneswaran says what he really meant was that any construction in the North should follow the proper procedures and not be done in an arbitrary manner.
Yes, of course, My Lord, we don’t need a retired Supreme Court Justice to tell us that – any Pradeshiya Sabha chairman will know that this is so.
By the same token, you don’t need a protest campaign that closes shops and brings public transport to a halt to tell us that either.
Come, come, Mr. Wigneswaran, why don’t you tell us what really happened – that you took on something that became too hot for you to handle?
Your plan was to emerge as alternative to the more moderate and wiser Sampanthan, so that you could feed off the vote of the disgruntled and more extreme sections of the Tamil community who want more rights and want them now.
You saw in them a vehicle for power which you believed would give you the edge over the TNA. And, ‘Eluga Thamil’ was your way of capturing the imagination of the masses and bringing your agenda into focus.
You succeeded to an extent. Suddenly, you were in the news nationally and internationally. Most people were falling over each other in their rush to condemn you. But then, now being a politician and not a respected Supreme Court Justice, you thought that any publicity is good publicity.
Of course, politicians make mistakes from time to time. You, being as experienced in politics as, say, Sarath Fonseka, will make mistakes. We can forgive you for that. But, if you have at last realised that what you said and did was wrong, we would expect you to come clean.
What we have got instead is a wishy-washy explanation about your comments being misinterpreted in translation. Surely, My Lord, you can’t wish away everything that was said by blaming it on a poor translator or that other convenient scapegoat, the media?
Why not tells us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as you expected your witnesses to be before you when you were on the bench of the highest court of the land?
It is still not too late do so, Mr. Chief Minister. If you do, I am sure the people of both the North and South of this country will have greater respect for you and who knows, you might even get a few more votes!