By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
“For the future of our country it is imperative that peoples’ power should grow to pr-empt any future innocuous response on the part of the political elite to a gargantuan mass tragedy of this nature”
It is great that we writers domesticated overseas enjoy the natural right of free expression over aberrant and errant developments taking place in the beautiful island we left behind. Somebody has to come out to the open sans fear of being shot down literally or incarcerated. I was part of a band of public servants who prided on our integrity and capacity to work for the people. It had been a different political ethos that prevailed those days when Sri Lanka was still basking [at the fading tail- end though] in the inherited glory that a disciplined British administration had left behind. It was year 1994 when I retired after 33 years of service to be domesticated in Australia.
The Easter carnage that is now, again, the vociferous talking point in the island, is in global terms a national man-made tragedy of the highest proportion. 268 human lives-children and adults- were blasted by a preplanned and preconspired bomb attack in a Catholic Church. Over 500 hundred were injured and are aching in different stages of injury even today. All these were innocent folk at prayer- a situation where they would have least suspected murderous foulplay.
Nothing done; nothing ever will be done
Two years have elapsed but no serious attempt has been made by government to ferret out the culprits and bring them to account. This government, the political beneficiary of that massacre, promised at election time to do just that, but it is clearly not interested in honouring that pledge. The government’s priorities are evidently not here. If this happened in Australia or a Western country the criminals would have been caught within months. With modern intelligence technologies it is no big job to do so. What has been missing in the Lankan case was the absence of political will.
Absence of political will is a key clue
We laymen on the outside can only try and set up a narrative of the events with the available evidence. In that narrative the government’s fake promise to seriously catch up with the events will necessarily give us a clue in constructing the story. The absence of political will comes naturally when the exercise of such will would endanger the ruling political regime. In place of earnest endeavours one observes a myriad of pusillanimous acts of this government to try and erect smokescreens and generate confusion in the minds of the wounded and their families and the concerned public.
The Catholic community is, at last wakening up and is now evidently getting vociferous. We encourage them to build a Myanmar style protest movement that would set up a critical path that would gather the rest of the Lankan community. For the future of our country it is imperative that peoples’ power should grow to preempt future innocuous response on the part of the political elite to a gargantuan mass tragedy of this nature.
We have two bits of evidence impinging on the matter of political will to act.: First, during the previous Rajapaksa government the Defense Ministry had been making payments to fund some extreme Muslim terrorist organisations. It is unclear whether Zahran himself had been a recipient. Second, a massacre of this sort succeeded in creating a public perception that the yahapalana government led by the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot ensure public security; is incompetent and must go. The clear beneficiary of the horrendous event was the defeated Rajapaksa government.
A relevant character trait of Maitripala Sirisena
The defeat of Mahinda Rajapakse and his government in 2015 had been a shocking blow to that regime. The electoral defeat had been the culmination of a movement for good governance started by Revd Maduluwawe Sobitha, a most respected and venerable monk, who unfortunately passed away not long after the Yahapalana government that had been set up. The construction of the political alliance was a deliberate act of Revd Sobitha. At a crucial meeting to select a common candidate the name of Maitripala Sirisena, a recalcitrant senior minister of the then ruling Rajapakse government, came up as someone “willing.” Revd Sobitha, the wise man, is said to have posed a counter question to those present: “Is Sirisena reliable?” Ranil kept silent but Chandrika affirmatively is supposed to have responded: “100 per cent!” This is how Maitripala Sirisena had been chosen as common candidate for presidency. Everyone through in their weight and the “Maitri Yugaya” started.
Innumerable video footages are available showing Sirisena scathingly attacking Mahinda Rajapakse and his government. Sirisena spared no compunction or scruple in slaying his former mates. His tongue did an enormous U-turn. When he eventually won, Sirisena announced that he was spared of going six feet underground! The various video footages are now are part of the lore of public jocularity! But Sira isn’t bothered while everyday is a new life for him-the past deeds going into oblivion like the passing away of mist in the mountain sky. He has got this unique acumen of making U-turns without batting an eyelid and remaking a return U-turn as though nothing in the world has happened. This character trait is relevant for the narrative I present.
The second U-Turn against the Yahapalana government
The specific trait came into play again barely two and half years on the road to yahapalanaya. By this time Sirisena had felt fatigued by the decisive role of his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The 19th constitution Amendment had restricted the powers of the President and, correspondingly, increased the hold of parliament and its Prime Minister. It had been a compromised form of parliamentary government. This had dawned later like the tube light on President Sirisena who, by now had become frustrated. Sirisena wanted to have a second term but the government refused. It was time for a return U-turn toward the Rajapakse camp. In fact the rumour goes that Basil et al had been wooing Sirisena all along to return to the fold. Sharp-eyed Basil knew of the possibility. The mind game had started. Sira was trapped!
At the provincial government elections Sirisena slated his own Prime Minister calling him a ‘samanalaya;’ suggesting that he was a ‘bank robber,’ and so on. The opposition victory wasn’t difficult to predict. The Yahapalanaya government lay weakened and open to further pummelling. Maitripala had by now established a confidence nexus with the mates he had once betrayed even after the hopper feed. He felt he was ‘the same old good boy. Basil et all were jubilant!
Wooing Sajith Premadasa
Sira’s next move was to target Sajith Premadasa knowing that the latter had all along never been close to Ranil Wickremesinghe. Sajith also had the hunch that being Ranasinghe Premadas’s son the leadership of party and government must pass on to him as of right. Ranil had a different measure of the latter’s ability. The conflict was concealed but it had been live and seething.
Our Sira approached Sajith several times and there is video footage of a suggestive close up between Sajith and President Sirisena. Sajith repeatedly had referred to Sira as “athigaru uthumanan.’ Despite this, Sajith was shrewd enough not to fall into Sirisena’s trap. It was premature and he knew he would fail in garnering party support against his leader. The mind game on, Sajith failed to break up the Grand Old Party at that stage but wooing process formulated the germs of discontent that created a faction rift in the UNP and led to the break up of that party much later.
No-confidence motions and the 52-day government
Sira secretly backed the Rajapakse opposition’s attempt to pass two successive no-confidence motions against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. There had been high pressure lobbying.The next was the desperate and illegal ousting of the Prime Minister and the setting up of the infamous 52-day government of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Ranil showed immeasurable restraint and maturity in response. He remained unmoved in Temple Trees and merely sought parliament disapproval of that move, which he received. With this superfine Ranil strategy the Rajapaksas were flabbergasted but the camp lost no heart.
Create a mass tragedy?
In the circumstances wouldn’t the construction of a mass tragedy be an effective catalyst? “Chaos and its chain reaction always defeats order, because it is better organized, ”[Terry Pratchett]. The objective is to develop a collective feeling of hopelessness and a public perception of the government’s incompetence and inability to ensure basic public security. This is a common strategy of protest politics all over the world from the time of the French Revolution. We have noted above how the previous Rajapakse government had put the Islamic terrorists in the government pay role.
In my mind the brains behind the easter onslaught are to be found among the Rajapakse forces then in Opposition and now in government. We may, by this token, never know who precisely they are.
Onus on Sirisena is clear
To sum up, former President Maitripala Sirisena’s midterm alliance with the Yahapalanaya Opposition is established. The Opposition’s repeated attempts to oust the Yahapalanaya government of Wickremesinghe is also clear. That the real figures or ‘mola kaarayao,’ of the monstrous bomb attack will never be found is also clear.
What we know know with some workable clarity is the role of the former president in this grim episode. The obvious thing to do is to focus on Sirisena and hold him to account for his proven lapses in the wake of having been informed of the bomb. He was informed of the attack according to his Defense Ministry personnel although he denies that. He went to Singapore just at this time and for no urgent reason. He did not appoint anyone to act for him. He had deliberately kept the Prime Minister in the dark and blocked the latter from Security Council meetings. All these are palpably serious matters that should be pursued.
It would also be a matter of importance and relevance to check on Maitripala Sirisena’s assets.
Thus, there is enough work in the hands of a responsible government. Ignore the brains behind for the moment and go on with a Sirisena investigation now or never. The prima facie evidence we have regarding him is adequate to base a probe and hand him over to court.