By Emil van der Poorten –
When one sees what is going on in the matter of endless parades of prominent and not so prominent people to the multiplicity of investigating/inquiring bodies set up by the Maithripala Sirisena/Ranil Wickremesinghe (MR2) government and the total absence of anything resembling prosecutions coming out of these investigations/inquiries, the question that I have posed as the heading of this column seems almost redundant.
I have in the days that the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime (MR1) ruled all of Sri Lanka and, like “Britannia,” the waves around it subsequently, referred to that Maximum Leader’s chosen modus operandi, whenever something contentious arose. He let all of his “spokespersons” and goodness knows he had some to spare in that category, express views that ranged from the proverbial soup to nuts. He then held up the metaphorical whetted finger to the breeze, decided which one suited a dispensation that was distinguished by its total and absolute lack of policy or principle and claimed it as the “official” version.
It should, because that is increasingly becoming the rule with the Maithripala/Ranil government (MR2) whose pattern of public pronouncements bears an eerie similarity to what went before. The Avante Garde fiasco in public relations if not in bringing to book those attempting to set up a private army and navy is only one case in point. Here we have a widely bandied-about accusation that probably the most lily-livered of the MR2 gang, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, the MINISTER OF JUSTICE, no less, has played a very interesting role in the matter of a part of the Rajapaksa Royal Family seeking to set up their own private armed force with both a maritime and land wing and the “investigations” that followed. Political talk is cheap and wild accusations even more modestly priced in this country. However, the matter of setting up private armies a la the George “Dubya” Bush model Black Watch in Iraq, is nothing new. In fact, I wrote at some length some years ago about this whole sinister exercise. That journalistic effort seemed only to raise the threat level against me at the time. However, the shilly-shallying by MR2 in investigating this continuing menace, is beyond explanation. At least those who believed that MR2 would, even in minimalist mode, do “something” to prosecute those responsible have to be bitterly disappointed.
If this mess is to be cleared, and it better be without further ado, unless we are to be faced with the return of a resurgent MR1 mob, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena need to get their behinds in gear and move the judicial system to display at least a minimal commitment to such glorified concepts as the Rule of Law. Nothing less will suffice.
Instead, what do we get? The earlier-mentioned Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, at best, not moving a finger to investigate and prosecute the single most dangerous initiative of MR1. Instead, if media reports from a variety of sources are to be believed, his efforts could only have been interpreted as intended to impede any such action.
Someone once said that all you could expect from a pig was a grunt and when one views the conduct of many of the “leading lights” of the current government during the time that MR1 ruled the roost, the truth of that aphorism is self evident.
You have the abomination of the Impromptu Tent Creator prancing around the stage uttering his usual vacuities but, nevertheless, occupying a very important seat in the current MR1 dispensation.
You have a man whose conduct towards Mahinda Rajapaksa, his progeny and his hangers-on was little less than genuflectory placed in the new pantheon of MR2.
You have one of the most reprehensible of “journalists” who was reduced to a “mea culpa” in one of the highest courts of this country for having defamed one of Sri Lanka’s most honourable and respected civil servants appointed as a “media advisor” to the President.
You have a past Prime Minister whose office was directly responsible for enabling the movement of the largest single shipment of heroin in Sri Lanka’s history, all 260 Kgs of it, out of the port of Colombo on the basis of a “letter of clearance” issued by the said PM’s office appointed as yet another Presidential Advisor. Not irrelevant to that whole episode was the fact that the said Prime Minister freely admitted to friendship with the alleged mastermind (now absconding internationally) which included ‘breaking bread’ at the PM’s table and bank-rolling the said PM’s son’s political campaigns.
The role that Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe played in the most significant attack on law and order in this country, the impeachment of Ms. Bandaranayake, a Chief Justice of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s own choice no less, might not merit repetition at any length but should not go unremarked because his conduct as a member of the MR2 regime qualifies for the simple comment that a leopard doesn’t change its spots.
The appointment of a plethora of politicians booted out by their own constituencies, some of the more reprehensible mouthpieces of the previous regime and others who have no business in any entity claiming anything resembling morality or principle, impedes any effort to find a common thread of decency and commitment to simple democratic principles. The excuse that a two-thirds majority was needed in Parliament to effect necessary constitutional change does not hold water in the context of what is going on because the simple question is, “What constitutional change?” In fact, what significant change in public morality of any kind? Period.
Many of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s opponents, from within his own party, documented the enhanced “goodies” that MR1 doled out to him after first depriving him of what he was entitled to as Leader of the Opposition. From famine to feast, as it were. The new “goodies” included significantly more luxurious modes of transportation, massively enhanced funding for his position as Leader of the Opposition etc. etc. It is said that after being hit over the head with a ten pound club, being beaten on the same part of one’s anatomy with club half that weight gives one a sense of well-being! Also, given Ranil’s conventional middle-class upbringing, cosseted against the cold winds of periodic adversity by wealth and “connections,” has this led to a misguided attachment to the concept of “gratitude” which that sector of our population fall back on, only too often, to justify their equivocation and unprincipled behaviour?
Or are we back to the simple Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s claim that “Unuth Ekai, Munuth Ekai” (They are all the same), which they advanced when viewing their political opponents through their allegedly revolutionary spyglass?