By Emil van der Poorten –
By a strange quirk of fate, one of the major news stories in the international media was the inclusion of the word “Aiyo” in the newest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary at the same time as the “aiyo” used adjectivally on our current President seems to be gaining more credibility!
Not being one of those who subscribed to the pillorying of Maithripala Sirisena as “Aiyo Sirisena” shortly after he assumed office I was chagrined to find that I was being forced into joining that chorus by his most recent fulminations on the subject of the manner in which justice and its many committee and commission arms were to be treated by his dispensation.
What brought all of this to mind were two seemingly disparate events: the violence of which the President’s son, Daham, was a part in a Colombo nightclub and Mr. Sirisena’s fulminations about the alleged harassment of the “battle-field leaders” of those who destroyed Prabhakaran’s horde.
He obviously did not see the contradiction contained in his widely-reported speech that ex-commanders of some of the armed forces and a Defence Secretary who controlled virtually every facet of our lives until the defeat of the Mahinda Rajapaksa horde were being “harassed” by various commissions of inquiry appointed by the very government he heads and that he would “do something” about what had suddenly become a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. That he included investigations into the Eknaliyagoda “disappearance” in his blanket disapproval was unfortunate, to say the least, particularly given what Sandya Eknaliyagoda has gone through for several years. This combination of statements suggests that there is, again, to be one set of laws for us common folk and another for a select group in society.
And here I was living in a fool’s paradise where I believed that non-interference by politicians in the administration of justice had been established with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and that due process of law administered by professionals, without regard to station in life, would be the norm and not the exception under the Maithripala/Ranil (MR2) dispensation!
The conclusion that any logical person would come to with regard to the matter of justice and equity before and after Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rule is that the quantum change that was, justifiably, expected is not to occur after all.
The question that is also being bandied about is whether this is a diversionary strategy to deal with the less-than-acceptable conduct of the President’s son, Daham. A while back, he and/or a group of his “security” similar to that associated with the nightclub brouhaha, assaulted the son of a Deputy Inspector General of Police on the beach at Passekudah. How did the victim qualify for the roughing up? By objecting to some of the goons providing the current President’s son with “security” taking snapshots of the victim’s swimsuit-clad companion. I also recall newspaper reports of our current President languishing on a bench in the police station at which the investigations of that particular act of thuggery were being conducted until the matter was, presumably, “settled” and disappeared from public view at a time when murders, assassinations and “white van disappearances” had taken centre stage.
That Maithripala Sirisena has specifically objected to the interrogation of our erstwhile Defence Secretary and several past commanders of the air force gives, as the old term has it, “pause.” The common connection there appears to be the now-infamous MIG-purchase deal because all of the senior officers being questioned had headed up the air force.
Let me place on record, for the benefit of those of failing memory such as myself, a few incidents connected with that bit of controversial (and very contentious and expensive) purchase of military hardware.
The purchases occurred during the tenure of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Defence Secretary and, allegedly, included the involvement of a “diplomat” relation serving in the Ukraine at the time.
Frederica Jansz who was highlighting the discrepancies in the purchase agreement had to flee Sri Lanka into political exile in the United States of America from which country she is most unlikely to now return. Once burnt, twice shy as they say.
Mandana Ismail Abeywickreme suffered a “house invasion” because it was rumoured that she had taken “some sensitive documents” home with her because it wasn’t considered safe to store them at her place of work, The Sunday Leader,” where they could have been subjected to torching as was a fairly regular occurrence before that paper came into the complete control of a Rajapaksa minion. It is my understanding that she too fled to North America as well and only returned when it was thought safe to do so. Incidentally, whatever happened to the investigation into the shoot-out where a 119 police detail (mistakenly?) killed one of the intruders who happened to be a serving member of one of our security forces as well?
Investigations into this same MiG purchase are widely believed to have contributed to the demise of Lasantha Wickrematunge’s in the manner in which if occurred. The subsequent disappearance of vital evidence connected to that event can hardly be considered coincidental in the circumstances, either.
The $64,000 question is: why is Maithripala Sirisena now of the opinion that the various commissions of inquiry are exceeding their authority to the point when it merits his direct intervention?
One can but hope that the old slogan Justitia omnibus (justice to all) has not lost its currency in Maithripala Sirisena governance and that he will cease and desist from ill-considered attempts to “oversee,” legitimate inquiries into events that are clearly deserving of investigation by the committees/commissions of infinitely higher quality, appointed by his government. This is particularly so when one compares the agglomerations of nincompoops that Rajapaksa put together from time to time when Sirisena served as one of his lieutenants. A footnote to reports from those committees/commissions is the fact that on the infrequent occasions on which they were, allegedly completed they disappeared into the deep, dank hole that was the Presidential Palace.
If the committees/commissions are exceeding their remit, there is ample opportunity to effect the changes needed without recourse to publicly discrediting them and their work.
If attempts at these kinds continue, the Oxford English Dictionary will have to be further amended to accommodate the application of “Aiyo” as an adjective applicable to Presidents with pretensions to infallibility.