`Entry by boat` is a term used in universities to describe those who gain entry on a special basis after the normal intake known as `entry by ship`. Opposition Leader and UNP Presidential Candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe, an alumnus of the Colombo University decades after he finished his university education, recently went to another university in the cooler climes. It was neither `by ship` nor `by boat`. It was by chopper!
Usually, when a person goes to university, what awaits him is no warm reception. But when Ranil went to the Sabaragamuwa University on Saturday, everybody behaved. Nay, it was not because of the presence of his wife Maithree, who is a university teacher.
Why did Ranil ever go to university all of a sudden? His purpose was neither academic nor political. He was without a choice.
The Sri Lanka Air Force chopper carrying him, his wife and his entourage to Bandarawela, hit a bad patch after it took off from Balangoda, where he had addressed an election rally. Looking for a place to land, it kept on flying towards Wellawaya, when the pilot detected that the machine was low on fuel.
He made a beeline to the Weerawila Air Force camp for refuelling. That done, it took off again in the hope of reaching Bandarawella, where a UNP meeting was in progress. But weather remained inclement and they had to abandon their plans and suddenly break journey at Balangoda making an emergency landing on the Sabaragamuwa campus.
Everybody was taken by surprise. The flying machine with its deafening roar sent the residents running out of their houses to see what was going on. They joined the students who poured out onto the playground, where the chopper landed safely. Out came Ranil, Maithree, Saman (Athauda) and others.
As it was in the air, so was it on the ground??problematic. There was no vehicle. But they were lucky as there was an undergrad (Prabath Mohandiram), who had a van.
In his van, they were proceeding towards Bandarawela in the face of bad weather, when Ranil`s official vehicle came within sight at Haldummulla. They changed vehicles and reached the destination around 7.00 p.m. to a cheering crowd, who were relieved to see their leader and his wife arrive in safety.