By Granville Perera –
Basil Rajapaksa, the former President’s sibling and the powerful ex-minister of Economic Development has been arrested and remanded for the misuse of funds of the Divi Neguma Department during the tenure of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Basil has been charged under the ‘Public Property Act’ and now enjoys the luxury of the Merchant Ward of General Hospital, Colombo, at state expense.
As per the November 2014 Budget, it is reported that the Rajapaksa family had control of 56 cents of every rupee spent by the government during Mahinda’s rule. With this kind of access over the country’s spend, this scandal is probably just the tip of the iceberg, and we are sure to witness bigger things to come. If the good governance promised by Sirisena-Wickramasinghe administration is enforced, many more corrupt individuals of the Rajapaksa regime will be brought to the FCID and other investigating units.
There probably is no doubt that the powers his elder brother vested in Basil was made use either to fill his own pockets or the family coffers during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s iron-fisted rule between 2005 and 2015. Today, all the dirt of the Rajapaksas is being dumped on Basil. It seems that the entire coterie of the UPFA politicians, including legislators like of the foul-mouthed Vasudava Nanayakkara who didn’t even dare to stand straight opposite Basil during his hey days are today seen hurling verbal abuse at Basil continiously. For the unprincipled leftist, a fallen man is easy prey.
Mahinda Rajapaksa has the habit of flushing down all those who have helped and stood by him, when he has no more use of them. Those who were thus discarded include Sripathi Sooriyarachchi, Mangala Samaraweera, Tiran Alles, Sarath Fonseka and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), to name a few. Has his unfaithfulness and greed for power gone beyond his loyalty to his own family, that he is willing to sacrifice his sibling Basil, without whom his first election to the Presidency would have only been a dream?
Basil would probably be indicted and he may spend a lot of his remaining years, not in the luxury of the Merchant Ward, but behind real bars. Is this a strategy of the family to apportion blame on one person and absolve the others so that they could continue to plunder the nation in future? Mahinda Rajapaksa’s attempt to re-enter the Prime Ministerial stakes could be only a part of this conspiracy. The other, of course is the strategy to ensure that the crown prince, Namal Rajapaksa could continue in politics and reach the SLFP throne. Has Basil accumulated enough to buy his way out of prison or is he hoping that Mahinda Rajapaksa will be back in the saddle. Could it be that there are serious conflicts within the family as social media and gossip columns reveal? Under the leadership of Maithripala Sirisena, all their aspirations could be mere pipe dreams.
So should Mr.10%, who turned out to be Mr. 20% or more as Mahinda Rajapaksa’s fortunes ascended, be blamed for all the ills during the Rajapaksa rule? There’s no doubt that Basil was as corrupt as any other or more, but heaping all the blame only on him just does not seem fair. What about collective responsibility of the Cabinet and Government? Isn’t the Executive President, the final decision maker of the country, who had overall responsibility? The Head of the Cabinet and the Nation ultimately should be held accountable.
Accountability doesn’t mean we should discount the credit due to the previous regime for their political leadership in the military victory over the LTTE, while remembering that they alone couldn’t have achieved it without the tri-forces and the Police. Special credit should also go to Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, whose successful military leadership was not acknowledged when he fell out of favor with the powers at the time.
Lieutenant Colonel Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa, RWP, RSP, who retired from the Sri Lanka Army in 1992, took US citizenship and returned to Sri Lanka when Mahinda Rajapaksa became the Executive President. He was appointed as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense and there is no doubt that he was responsible for ensuring that the political leadership gave a free hand to the armed forces to finish off the menace of terrorism. He also supported them with men and materials to fight a high-tech war. Any other public servant would have succumbed to the diplomatic pressure brought in by the international community but the unwavering resolve of Gotabaya Rajapaksa to finish off Prabakaran’s 30-year terror, militarily saw the end to our long drawn violence. The Nation is fully aware that late General Denzil Kobbekaduwa, one of the most respected and brilliant military officers in Sri Lanka history would have finished off the tiger terror in Vadamarachi, if diplomatic pressure was not brought on the government and President JR Jayewardene to withdraw. So, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s role in the military defeat of the LTTE needs to be appreciated and acknowledged.
Further, the war winning Nation would have continued the gun culture if not for the timely strategy of harnessing the military in support of development. Gotabaya and his men turned the flood control programme in the city of Colombo to beautification of the city, which has earned the city the converted title of the “fastest growing city” in the world. The brilliant city planning undertaken by the staff of the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development under the able leadership of Gotabaya Rajapaksa needs to be acknowledged. Yet, with all these achievements, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is tainted with charges of corruption in the floating armoury scandal, the MIG deal, arms procurement and many others. Gotabaya has also been accused of the “white van” brutality, disappearances and murder of journalists and opponents.
Basil Rajapaksa, as the head of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) for the Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province was tasked with the responsibility of resettling 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) immediately after the war. The Manik Farm camp was the world’s largest IDP camp, which housed 300,000 displaced persons. The Presidential Task Force under the able leadership of Basil Rajapaksa cleared the camp within 180 days. A remarkable achievement indeed, that was even acclaimed by Western nations, who were strong adversaries of the Rajapaksa regime. Yet, Basil, apart from the Divi Neguma fiasco that was undertaken to ensure Mahinda Rajapaksa his third term also had countless charges of corruption including the exorbitant costs of the highways projects and every other “mega” deal.
However, the total abuse of power and the impunity they enjoyed on corruption and crime is what has driven them to the predicament they face today with visits to FCID, CID, Human Rights Commission and soon Hulftsdorp.
When the whole nation is pointing fingers at the rule of Mahinda, there is a need for him to save his skin so that he can reemerge in politics. It seems he would stoop down to any level including breach of trust of a brother to sit once more on the throne that he cherished and abused.
He probably knows the fate of President Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines whose loot was recovered and brought back to the country, forced in to exile, and died in exile. Even his body was not allowed back for burial. Marcos’s remains had to be preserved for years before it was brought back to be buried in his hometown under a changed regime. Mahinda Rajapaksa would not want to be buried in Seychelles, Dubai, Monte Carlo or Swaziland; he would want it to be in Medamulana whenever he breathes his last.
These reasons are probably what drive Mahinda Rajapaksa to strive for the Prime Ministerial stakes. Is he really serious about it? If he is, why would he choose the political discards of Wimal Weerawansa, Dinesh Gunawardena, Bandula Gunawardana, Rohitha Abeygunawardene, Vasudeva Nanayakkara etc. to propel him to his objectives? He could have negotiated with Maithripala Sirisena and secured nominations on the SLFP ticket. Upon victory, he could have laid claim to the Premiership.
If he re-enters Parliament as an ordinary MP, what would be his status and perks as ex-president? Will he loose his security contingent, vehicles, and privileges?
Whatever happens, it is yet to be seen if Mahinda makes Basil a Trojan horse, or discards him as a sacrificial lamb?
President Maithripala and company has a moral obligation to inquire in to the misdeeds of the Rajapaksa regime and bring to justice anyone who has flouted the law, whether it is President Rajapaksa, his siblings or family and friends. Failure to bring them to justice would mean that President Maithripala Sirisena has no moral right to continue in office.