The Fifth Column

15th September 1996

Growing old graciously

My Dear Seeya,

I am writing to you after a long time, because you are in the news once again, simply because you are celebrating your 90th birthday.

Seeya, what does it feel like to be ninety? Do you ever regret some of the things that you did when you were king? Knowing you, I am sure you will say no to that.

I know, Seeya, that you must be having the last laugh, remembering all those people who criticised your Constitution and promised to abolish the Executive Presidency. They are now using that same Presidency to survive, because they know that if the Presidency is abolished, they would be out of power sooner, rather than later.

But, Seeya, even you must be having some regrets. Do you, for instance, still approve of stripping Mrs. B. of her civic rights? Or, allowing the July 1983 riots to drag on without trying to intervene for three or four days? Or, the Accord with India that was ultimately not worth the paper it was written on? Or, asking for undated letters of resignation from your MPs?

You will realise that most of us have still not forgiven you for some of those acts. Whatever good that you did - mostly in

opening the economy - pale in comparison to these acts and that is why everyone is still debating your role in our history.

Of course it maybe of some consolation to you that your successor was even less popular towards the latter part of this era, but that period clearly proved to all of us that the Executive Presidency would be a catastrophe for the people of this country, if it fell into the wrong hands.

It seems a strange irony, but if you now ask ten people who the best Executive President of this country was, nine would probably say, D.B.W.! Now, that doesn’t say much about how CBK is handling the affairs of state either....

Despite all this, Seeya, you can count yourself lucky just to be around when you are ninety. But it is sad for our country that a whole generation of your political proteges - R.P., Lalith, Gamini and Ranjan - were brutally eliminated from the political arena, leaving your Ranil to shoulder a hevy burden.

Seeya, do you still believe that the only thing the President can’t do is to charge a man into a woman? If you ask me for one other thing that four Presidents of this country were unable to do, that would be to capture Prabhakaran....

Anyway, Seeya, you must be tired after your long innings of ninety; so we wish you well and hope there would be many happy returns of the day!

Yours truly,

Purnchi Putha.

PS - They say that it is not the ninety that you scored but how you played the game that counts! What has the Old Fox got to say to that?

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