Even by its own standards of popularity, 4000 kilograms of kiribath, the traditional Lankan coconut milk-rice dish, sounds a bit too appetising. The ingredients: 1200 kg of white rice, 300 kg of cashew, 250 kg of jaggery, 1500 coconuts and a group of five-star chefs; enough to feed 65000 people for a couple of days beginning November 17. But then, a historical week calls for extraordinary celebrations.
Not only to relish mountains of kiribath but also to rejoice: Mahinda Rajapaksa will first turn 65 on November 18 and then will follow it up with a befitting ceremony to swear himself in for his second Presidential term till 2016.
Err, you could ask, didn’t he win the election in January? But what could Rajapaksa do if he wanted to make up for the time he lost by calling a Presidential election two years before his first term ended? Single option: delay the swearing-in.
Except a disgruntled few fretting in jails, fuming in gloomy opposition party offices and plotting in INGO glass houses, Sri Lanka is expected to erupt in staggered joy over the next few days.
Preparations are in place. The next few days will be marked by partial public and school holidays and rescheduled exams so that children could dig into kiribath.
Three ships will dock at the new Chinese-made southern harbour, one million trees will be planted and prayer meetings held. Colombo nights will lit up like diwali evenings. Cutouts and posters have been liberally plastered across the country.
Sri Lanka cricket will join in the cheer and hold programmes in Rajapaksa’s home district, Hambantota. Though it wasn’t immediately clear whether the visiting West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle’s blistering triple century was part of the celebrations.
'People’s President', 'ethnic harmony', 'Lanka flies high', and 'unique success against terrorism were headlines used to note Rajapaksa’s first term achievements in a glowing supplement brought out by a government newspaper; its 19 pages had more than 15 Rajapaksa photographs.
So, what’s in store for the second term? The demand list is long: a permanent political solution to the ethnic issue, a decrease in cost of living, freedom of speech, inalienable human rights, less nepotism etc. As for me, I want milk hoppers (appam), not kiribath, before the next swearing-in.