Sri Lanka in Limbo … A Tortoise on a Fence Post

Citizen Silva, in Sunday Times, 16 June 2019, where the title is “The Tortoise on the Fence Post”

While indulging in my usual musings this weekend, pondering over the happenings in our land over the past few weeks, I was reminded about the story told to me by one of my friends a few months ago.

“I say Silva” he began “do you know that our president’s position these days is just like that of the famous tortoise on the fence post?”

I looked at him quizzically. “What tortoise? I cannot remember you telling me that particular story of yours. Remind me – I am all ears.”

Warming to my encouragement, he went on “Sometime ago when I was stationed in Minneriya, I was peacefully driving my old Morris Minor along a narrow country road. In those old days as you remember, long before these new expensive highways were built, you had to drive pretty slowly and carefully in our shock absorber-less vehicles to avoid being shaken up by hitting the potholes on those rural roads. Suddenly while driving, I spotted something unusual on the top of a fence post by the side of the road — so I stopped my car to have a look.

There I found, to my surprise, that on top of the flat fence post was a Kiri Ibba – one of those exotic star tortoises that nowadays have become prey to the illegal pet trade and can fetch a thousand dollars or so if smuggled into western countries.

Anyway, having stopped the car I walked up to the fence post and discovered the poor tortoise precariously balanced on it. He was still alive and feebly waving his flippers.

Wondering what to do – I had some vague idea that it was illegal to take the tortoise with me — I noticed a wizened old villager standing a short distance away, looking at me. I hailed him, showing him the tortoise pathetically perched on the fence post and asked him if he knew anything about it.

“Sir” said the villager laconically, “I also spotted this when I was walking towards this place. This is a Kiri Ibba and he cannot get down from the top of the fence post.”

I was about to greet this offering of blatantly useless information from the villager and sarcastically tell him that I knew it was a helpless Kiri Ibba, when the old man went on “Some cruel children must have put him up here”.

Then he paused, looked at me and said, “You know, sir, this Ibba is just like some important people who get into high positions”

Intrigued, I asked him why he made that comparison.

“Why”, he explained “it is obvious that this creature did not get up by himself to where he now is. He definitely does not belong up here and he hasn’t a clue as to what to do while he is up here — because he has been elevated way beyond his ability to function.”

Recounting this story, my friend continued, “So Silva, I was reminded about the Minneriya villager’s explanation about the tortoise on the fence post when I listen to the thoughtless things our president is doing these days. Don’t you agree the comparison is appropriate? Moreover, just thinking about the poor Kiri Ibba which has been elevated beyond its capabilities and has no idea of what to do next, people like you and me are now thinking: “What kind of idiotic people put him up there in the first place?”

I could not help agreeing with my friend.

Just this past month, the president with the admirable intention of protecting our nation’s natural environment (which has had its forest cover drastically depleted by human activity) decided that he would prohibit not only the import of chainsaws and tree cutting machines but also the maintenance of carpentry shops.

Excellent intention – pity about the futility of its planned implementation!

Notwithstanding the terrible events that took place in our country on April 21st, the president, sparing little thought for the feelings of those who tragically suffered as a result, got what he felt were his priorities correct. Soon after the tragedy when so many lost their lives, he celebrated his son’s wedding in a five-star hotel.

He then decided he would indulge in some useful overseas trips that would have been extremely beneficial to our country – first to attend the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations in Beijing China and now to Dushanbe the capital of Tajikistan to attend a Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia.

His visit to Tajikistan – a 98% Muslim country where the administration has suppressed Islamic expression, even banning beards and hijabs — will give him the opportunity of meeting its president Emomali Rahmon, who has held that office for the past sixteen years. One can only speculate on the reasons for visiting President Rahmon.

***  ***

Question: How did Maithripala Sirisena become President in January 2015?


1. USA caressed his ego and girded his loins with a Howard Fellowship to USA in 2013…..

2. CBK brokered an arrangement with Ranil and the UNP to make him their Presidential candidate vs Mahinda Rajapaksa — so that Sirisena became a turncoat and potential President –at an election held earlier than required …..

3. …. because Mahinda’s Astrologer told him the January date was a good day for him

4..   ..and, on that fateful day, the a goodly section fo the Sinhala people, supported by most  Tamils and most Muslims, opted for Sirisena as President and set up the pillars for a government deemed “Yahapaalanaya”

Ehamai noveydha Kiri Ibba!!!

…. with thanks to Dr Sanjiva Wijesinha for linking the kota uda cartoon to our political scenario and Citizen Silva’s piece



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