By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
“Come senators, congressmen please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it’s ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a’ changin’!” – Bob Dylan
The quote is aimed at President Sirisena and the corrupt who have managed to pressurise him to make that disastrous speech castigating the FCID, Bribery Commission and other anti-corruption bodies set up as Independent Commissions under the key legislative expression of the ‘revolution of January 8th.’ Many are gathering ‘to stand in the doorway,’ and ‘block up the hall,’ as stated by Bob Dylan. (By the way, Bob has fetched the Nobel Prize for Literature this time.)
I am still wondering why President Maitripala Sirisena took that step. For one thing, it is senseless to flay the personnel in these institutions who are already feeling the heat of the powerful corrupt block who belonged to the previous regime when corruption was enthroned. That block is mostly outside-within the ranks of the so-called “JO.” However, there isn’t any denying that parts of that cabal are inside Sirisena’s fold and hiding within the National Unity Government, waiting to give a hand to the disgraced Royal Family if and when the need arises.
Why senseless? Because if His Excellency thinks these Commissions aren’t working right he has the legal right to summon them and brief them. He may not exactly have the power to give directions and God bless for that; but he does have the lawful privilege of talking to them. In turn, the latter have an ethical obligation to listen to the President. Letting out his critical barbs against them in public like this is something that doesn’t fit in the scheme of things as far as Yahapalanaya concept goes. If a school principal is not happy about the ways of his staff he does not go out to the media and attack the staff? Admit, this analogy may not be one to one but it is near enough to emphasise a substantive point.
Again, if any if these institutions take wrong decisions or if they are, as the President himself charges, acting according to political agendas well there is recourse possible in court for anyone aggrieved. The President should leave all this to the justice system and not illegally attempt to subvert that system.
Second, the speech of the President is also damaging to the image of these institutions and it is his responsibility to guard that image. No institution can sustain itself in any society when its public image is publicly sabotaged by anyone in authority like the President of the Democratic republic of Sri Lanka. The Opposition can pick up from the President and go to town in order to further destruct the institutions. President Maitripala Sirisena has given a massive boost to the Opposition campaign to undermine the working of the anti-corruption agencies. The JVP and its leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake has already made this point in a public statement.
Third, the speech is questionable with regard to factual content. Why does The President want to privilege anybody – Gotabaya or any of the former Forces Commanders? How does privileging fit in with the fundamental concept of law and order that is ingrained in yahapalanaya? If, only hypothetically and for the sake of argument, Gotabaya is guilty of the massive corruption charges levelled against him over the MiG deal how come we block action against that ? If, hypothetically again, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is implicated in the murders of Lasantha Wickrematunge, the Sunday Leader editor, and of Wasim Thajudeen the young ruggerite, how come we block investigations? One cannot privilege any person, however big that individual may be if one is serious about the enforcement of the law. That had been, in fact, how law and order simply went to the dogs under the previous regime.
The ordinary public had been enraged by the open violation of the justice system under the Rajapaksa regime. This was why the Revolution of January 8th happened in the first place. President Sirisena has evidently backflipped on that campaign that brought him into power. Isn’t this a severe let down?
Our only hope is that in making this speech the President is really playing a game. Even so, I think it is a bad game that will badly backfire and eventually consume and disgrace him. Instead of making such utterances president Sirisena should put his personal house in order by restraining his son, Daham, from his quixotic and controversial Night Club adventures. Is Maitripala feeling the heat from Daham Sirisena’s behaviour?
Whatever may be, the President should leave the administration of justice severely alone and attend to the work well within his own province. If he stands in the doorway, like in the Dylan lyric, he will be swept away by gathering storms who are already impatient with the slow progress of the investigations.