By Rajeewa Jayaweera –
The media frenzy, following the testimony by Minister for Foreign Affairs and National Lotteries on Wednesday, 02 August before the Commission of Inquiry appointed by you and his claims ‘I did not know’ and ‘I cannot remember’ to the origins of his over a million rupees a month abode for half a year, has been unprecedent.
6.2 million voters took your word and elected you to the highest office in the land on January 09, 2015. The bond scam took place within six weeks of your election to office on a Good Governance platform.
Both electronic and print media besides social media and gossip columns are agog with news reports and comments related to the minister’s testimony. The rumor mills are working overtime. The current guessing game in some sections of the media and political circles of minister concerned being requested by you to resign and his denials is unbecoming.
Despite the difficulty in accepting statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and National Lotteries of not having known the origins of the luxury apartment obtained by his wife and daughter, he, currently must be given the benefit of doubt and considered innocent till proven guilty.
However, his ministerial functions related to foreign affairs necessitates him to meet world leaders, representatives from multi-lateral organizations and a host of opinion makers in the international community. The United Nations General Assembly is due to begin in September and he would either represent this nation or at least be a member of the delegation. To carry out such duties on behalf of the nation while being under a corruption cloud amounts to shaming the nation. Besides, it is unethical.
In developed countries, similar situations would result in ministers tendering their resignation post-haste. Maintaining current status quo is not a viable option.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s newly appointed Defense Minister Sylvie Goulard had to resign from government after a magistrate launched a preliminary investigation into allegations of her party misusing European parliament funds. Similarly, President Macron’s Justice Minister, Francois Bayrou, tasked with promoting a law to clean up politics, a key election pledge by Macron, resigned following allegations of misuse of European Parliament funds by his party. It may be noted, both resignations took place prior to commencement of investigations.
Your indecision to remove former Governor of Central Bank till such time his contract expired earned you no plaudits. Let there be no repetition.
You will recollect, you travelled to London in May 2016 at state expense to participate at the Anti-corruption summit in London, hosted by former British Prime Minister David Cameron. During your address, you stated; “The people reacted strongly against corruption by changing the corrupt administration by the power of the ballot, by changing the government in January 2015 at the Presidential election and again at the parliamentary election in August 2015. The people acting democratically got rid of the corrupt leaders and their supporters”. Let not nature repeat itself in 2020
Your Prime Minister and your good-self erred when you appointed the minister concerned as Finance Minister in January 2015 while he was under investigation for money laundering. He could have been appointed after he was exonerated of charges.
This is an appeal to avoid making a similar mistake. For the sake of what is left of the good name of this country, your government and your name, the minister concerned should be requested to step down till the Commission of Inquiry has completed its deliberations and arrived at its conclusions. He could always be reappointed, if and when his name has been cleared.
I quote once again from your speech at the Anti-corruption summit in London; “The current national unity government, consisting of the two major political parties in the parliament, one under my leadership and the other led by Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, we were elected to office on the policy platform of good governance, democracy, and rule of law. Therefore, we consider it our prime duty to root out corruption from the country.”
Deeds Mr President and not words are the need of the hour.
In conclusion, may I state Mr President, I am thankful to your administration for paving the way for the publication of missives such as this, in the media, since January 09, 2015.