By Amrit Muttukumaru –
It is intriguing that the ‘Aragalaya’ which has bravely done a magnificent job with much sacrifice to oust Gotabaya Rajapaksa from the office of Executive President, Mahinda Rajapaksa from the office of Prime Minister and brought the entire political establishment – particularly the 225 parliamentarians to their knees have seemingly withdrawn into their shell after Ranil Wickremesinghe took office as ‘Acting President’. Even the courageous Hirunika Premachandra who was the catalyst for the ‘Aragalaya’ is now missing in action!
I am amazed. Here is a person who got a drubbing at the August 2020 parliamentary election failing to secure a seat being a serious candidate to replace an individual who less than three years ago obtained a whopping 6.9 Million votes! Although the votes obtained by Wickremesinghe was not released in the public domain, it is widely perceived to be less than a measly 20,000 votes! Is this not PERVERSE?
Does not Wickremesinghe who rarely misses an opportunity to tout his purported commitment to democracy where he often refers to ‘Latimer House Principles’ which relate to transparent and responsible governance have any SHAME? Also shameful is that after leading his party (UNP) to parliamentary oblivion at the August 2020 general election, he is depending on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s SLPP to fill the balance period of Gotabaya’s tenure. On 12 July his maternal uncle Ranjit Wijewardene owned ‘Daily Mirror’ had on its front page the caption “Govt .should work according to Constitution, no one can dictate to P’ment from outside: PM” where Wickremesinghe is said to have stated “I am here to safeguard the constitution”.
Even his parliamentary membership on the ‘National List’ has been plausibly questioned on the basis it is inimical to Article 99A of the Constitution. This is due to the alleged failure of the UNP General Secretary to submit his name to the Election Commission as its nominee on the ‘National List’ within the specified 7 days after then Chairman of the Election Commission – Mahinda Deshapriya had requested the General Secretary to do so.
BASL – ‘Double Standards’?
1) The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) which “urges all parties to respect party leaders’ decision” and upholding “democratic values” in electing “a successor” to Gotabaya Rajapaksa (‘Daily Mirror’ 16 July 2022) does not utter a word about the SUITABILITY of Wickremesinghe for this position. This is in the context of the General Secretary of Gotabaya’s SLPP stating that the SLPP will support Wickremesinghe at the election in Parliament.
The ‘Daily Mirror’ which published the BASL ‘statement’ has glaringly IGNORED the letter from FUTA (Federation of University Teachers’ Associations) addressed to Acting President Wickremesinghe. The FUTA letter inter alia DEMANDS from Wickremesinghe (i) “You consult with the speaker and the parliament and take the appropriate steps to resign from office immediately.” (ii) “Pledge to the people of this country that you will not offer yourself as a candidate when the parliament meets to appoint a new President on the 20th of this month.”
2) The BASL which was reportedly “deeply disturbed at the occupation of the Prime Minister’s Office at Flower Road” apparently showing no such distress when protesters occupied the President’s official residence in Fort and the presidential office at the old parliament building. Ref. “BASL calls on protesters to return Prime Minister’s Office to authorities immediately” (‘Daily Mirror’ 14 July 2022)
BASL & WNL in Cahoots?
The BASL and the country’s dominant newspaper company Wijeya Newspapers Limited (WNL) acting in cahoots to promote Wickremesinghe’s candidature to fill the balance period of Gotabaya’s tenure and even beyond seems CRYSTAL CLEAR from the mischievous ‘Editorial’ “THE ARAGALAYA MUST RETURN TO GALLE FACE” in WNL owned ‘Daily Mirror’ dated 15 July 2022. It inter alia states:
1) “These protesters- to date- have received the backing of lawyers. Till Wednesday (July 13) these lawyers gave the impression that they’ll back the protesters in most of what they’ll get involved in. But the latest advice from the lawyers to the protesters is for them to hand over the Prime Minister’s office back to the authorities; and that they should do it immediately.“
2) “Aragalaya is now pushing the country’s peaceful protest to a human disaster. The Prime Minister has urged the security forces to defeat a fascist movement which is setting foot in this people’s struggle.”
3) “The protesters are at their safest when they are at Galle Face” (How very CONSIDERATE of WNL!!)
The portion in the ‘Editorial’ referring to “The Prime Minister has urged the security forces to defeat a fascist movement which is setting foot in this people’s struggle.” must be read in conjunction with “RW calls for defeat of ’Fascist’ takeover” in the ‘Daily Mirror’ of 14 July 2022 where ‘Fascist’ is printed in RED!
The President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) – Saliya Pieris PC was the inaugural chairman of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) established by the Yahapalana government in which Ranil Wickremesinghe was Prime Minister. Pieris was also a Member of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka during the Yahapalana years (October 2015 to March 2018).
The country’s dominant newspaper company Wijeya Newspapers Limited (WNL) is owned by Wickremesinghe’s maternal uncle (mother’s brother) Ranjit Wijewardene. It is apparent that the real MOTIVE of WNL to go out of its way to promote the disastrous political track record of Wickremesinghe is to carve out a political future for Wijewardene’s laid-back son Ruwan who was given out of turn appointment as UNP Deputy Leader by first cousin Wickremesinghe. This is all part of DYNASTIC politics. The next in line Upali Newspapers Limited (UNL) founded by Wijewardene’s late cousin Upali Wijewardene is now controlled by Upali’s widow Lakmani who is the daughter of Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s late brother Dr. Seevali Ratwatte. Both WNL Chairman Ranjit and UNL founder Upali are cousins of J. R. Jayewardene who brought his nephew Wickremesinghe into politics. UNL’s ‘The Island’ not to be outdone had a front page caption on 14 July “Ranil vows to fight ’Fascists’”!
The Trillion Dollar Question is why the ‘Aragalaya’ has gone into hibernation?