The Joke Riders at Diyawanna

“Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live.” – Mark Twain

It really needed a fuel crisis to get our politicians to ride bicycles.

Those who rode bicycles to Parliament are not bikeholics – they are luxurholics, who have thought of riding a bicycle as a pastime of fun politics. In case they thought of getting more publicity than Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera presenting his first Budget, they did not have a good ride. The Budget hit the headlines and the cycle-jokers hit the sidelines.

Having done that short ride on a bike, would these funny riders, including Mahinda Rajapaksa, think of asking that bicyclers be given special privileges through what is called this Blue-Green Budget? Looking at the pro-electric drives in the Budget proposals, there is a very good cause to be made for bicycles to be fully duty-free … and spare parts, too.

Do these politico-riders tell us the day may not be far when there will be a supplementary estimate to provide imported luxury bicycles duty-free to all Diyawanna Members? Why not have such choice bikes to all members of their families, too? It may give them some much-needed exercise, away from the regular luxuries of transport.

That bicycle ride to the Diyawanna Theatre of the Absurd was a good reminder that these riders are the luxury cheats of the nation, who left their four-wheel delights just for a short publicity stunt on a two-wheel display.

Have they forgotten how much they loved, luxury and elevated travel, even for a few miles, when they took helicopters to cross a couple of miles from one town to another? Why did Mahinda Rajapaksa not think of leaving the President’s House on a bicycle, when he lost the poll for the Presidency? He and his team could have done a really good, and politically very effective ride all the way to Medamulana in Hambantota, with the people coming in their hundreds, riding behind him. No. he needed a helicopter for that ride of defeat. He was in no mood to be with the people, as he tried to show near Diyawanna Theatre this week.

The bicycle was certainly not the stuff of politics or performance in the days of the Rajapaksa Regime. When did the last President or any of his close followers, from his family and outside, think of having any popular bicycle show of action, in nearly ten years of power?

That Rajapaksa Riding Team must surely be grateful to the Minister of Petroleum, Arjuna Ranatunga, the Cricket Hero, for making an awful mess of petroleum distribution, and his brother, the Chairman of CPC too, for giving them the chance to make a display of cycling politics, when the people were lining up at fuel stations for even a bottle or two of petrol. Would these JO members and other supporters who have been attacking the Indian Oil Company for the fuel crisis, be grateful to the Indians for this Bicycle Joke opportunity?

Did the politico-bike riders at Diyawanna, do anything to promote bicycle racing when they had a huge opportunity to do so? They never thought of the common man’s bicycle in their days of power. Instead, it was the time of high-speed car racing, with all that fuel consumption and huge air pollution, at Galle Face.

Do we have to remind these cyclist jokers how they had no respect for the views and objections of the Mahanyakes of the Siyam Nikaya, when they organized costly car racing in Kandy? Their minds were full of the Ferrari, Benz and other luxury racing vehicles – that had no links with the common man in the country.

Now that they have done a political ride at Diyawanna, it would be good if they pay more attention to the bicycle in day-to-day politics.

They would have had much more impact if they rode all the way from homes or hostels to the Diyawanna Theatre, with their security personnel, racing behind them (also on bicycles?) to make their protest about the fuel crisis. Instead, they made a bicycle mockery of any protest.

Why not start with taking a bike ride to the towns and villages in the districts and electorate they are a said to represent, to meet the people where and how they live, and really know what they feel of politics and government?

Why not start with bicycle campaigns at the coming local government polls? That would give you the real feel of the people.

Instead, we know you will always keep driving away from the people.

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