By Gamini Jayaweera –
“Credibility, like virginity, can only be lost once and never recovered.” – Charley Reese
Mr Harin Fernando, MP from the Samagi Janabalawegaya Party (SJB) has now become a cabinet minister in the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Party (SLPP) government headed by the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He has claimed that the reason for his change of mind and joining the Rajapakse government is to save the country from its current political and economic crisis. Harin Fernando was an up-and-coming young MP in the SJB before joining the Rajapaksa regime. It is important to highlight Harin’s political position to find out whether his claim for joining the Rajapakse regime is credible or not.
Most politicians and the public have considered this young MP as a “loose cannon” because of his erratic behaviour and the short temper he has exhibited during his political career. When he is angry, the use of foul language and his undignified behaviour as a public figure inside and outside the Parliament is shameful and disgraceful. Most recently the public has witnessed the use of his foul language against a father figure like Field Marshal and the Chairman of the SJB, Sarath Fonseka over some minor disagreement. But despite Harin’s questionable conduct, he has somehow managed to convince the public that he is worthy of representing them in Parliament by winning his seat in two general elections. In the last (2020) general election he was awarded a seat in the Parliament as an elected member of the SJB by its Leader Sajith Premadasa.
For the last few years Harin has been very critical of the Rajapaksa clan for mis-using public funds and the way they were governing our country. The day after he and the other deserter of the SJB, Manusha Nanayakkara were chased out by the protestors near the Parliament, Harin stated that he was going to sleep and spend his time at the Galle Face to support the young people who were demonstrating against President Rajapakse. The main demand of these young people at the “GotaGoGama” is that Gota must go before they have any discussions with the government to end their campaign. Harin wholeheartedly then supported the demands of the young people to implement a “system change” to end the corrupt policies practiced by majority of the old politicians. If so, isn’t it fair and reasonable to question the credibility of Harin’s change of mind to join the Rajapaksa regime?
Harin has demanded eight conditions to be fulfilled by the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe before the two of them take up the ministerial positions in the Rajapakse regime. The reply from the Prime Minister has not given any concrete undertakings to almost all the demands requested by Harin. The way Ranil has drafted his response is in a manner which fails to provide any indication of a time frame to implement any or all those eight demands.
For the main demand that Gota must go, Ranil says he will hold discussions with the party leaders over the matter and he will agree to a decision by the majority of parliament. What is patently obvious even to a small child is that the majority decision will always be in favour of the President, since the SLPP still enjoys the majority in the parliament, unless there is a big crossover of MPs from the SLPP to the Opposition. Is Harin expecting SLPP MPs to cross over during the coming three months to oust the President? Has Harin not witnessed the fate of SJB’s female nominee for the post of Deputy Speaker? Is it credible for Harin to join the Rajapakse regime at the request of Ranil who himself has also voted with the SLPP to defeat the SJB’s female candidate? Isn’t there a credibility gap in Harin’s previously expressed thoughts and his current decision making?
Bringing the people who are responsible for the Easter attack to justice, the Prime Minister says an independent police investigation is underway. He does not say anything about What has happened to the Report produced by the Special Commission set up by the former President. I wonder whether Harin or any other Member of Parliament can rely on independent police investigations on any recent incidents because it appears that the police has been politicised by the Rajapakse regime during the last three years.
It is evident from the statement made by the Inspector General of the Police that out of the 184 Police officers appointed to the post of Officer-In-Charge (OIC) during the period of 1 January 2021 to 3 November 2021, by the Rajapaksa regime, a total of 120 had not even appeared for an interview. He further he stated that three officers who participated in the interview and were not recommended for the post of OIC, had subsequently been appointed to the post. Can any decent person join a regime which practices illegal, unethical, and a deceptive way of politicising the country’s law enforcing body? Is it fair to say that the politicians who join and support that kind of a regime have sold their principles and credibility in hasty and ungentlemanly exchanges for ministerial positions?
Harin Meeting The President
After taking oaths as a Minister in the Rajapaksa regime, Harin addressing a media conference with Manusha, stated that he did not even look at President Gotabaya when he accepted the ministerial appointment in utter disgust. But within hours there were photographs in the newspapers showing Harin with a big warm smile on his face looking directly at a smiling President, while receiving his ministerial appointment papers from the President. How can a person shamelessly and unconscionably tell such a big lie in an effort to cheat the public in order to get their support for his underhand deal with the ruling party to become a Minister? Can the public believe you for what you have said in the recent past and what you are saying now? This shameless act reminds me of a famous Sinhala proverb which says that “ලැජ්ජා නැතිකම මහමුදලි කමටත් වැඩිය ලොකුයිලු” (“Being shameless is worse than getting the post of Muddliarship”). This clearly describes how some opportunist politicians sell their moral values for political gains. Is it fair for us to thus assert that Harin has lost his credibility?
Harin and The “Deal Agent”
Most of the population is demonstrating against the whole Rajapakse family for the mismanagement of the economy which has led to extreme hardships especially for the poor and middle-class families. They are demanding that the President and his government must resign and hand over power to an interim government led by the members from all other parties. Instead, it appears that the desperate and confused President Gotabaya Rajapakse has done a “secret deal” with the “Deal Agent”, Ranil Wickramasinghe and appointed him as the Prime Minister, a person who has been rejected by the people during the last general election. In return Wickramasinghe has appointed some same old politicians who served in the last SLPP cabinet but merely changing their portfolios, like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. In utter desperation, as no other party members are willing to serve in a government led by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Wickremesinghe cleverly persuaded Harin and Manusha from the SJB to join his cabinet. This reminds me of the late President of the USA, Ronald Regan’s estimation of the opportunistic politicians’ behaviour, who bury their principles to join another party.
“Someone once said that politics is the second-oldest profession. I’m beginning to think it bears resemblance to the first.” – Ronald Regan
The Aragalaya” has been organised and conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner by very concerned, selfless, and patriotic young people who are demonstrating to change the corrupt system established and finetuned over the years and practiced by the same old politicians in our country. It appears that Harin has betrayed not only the “Aragalaya” but also his party and his political principles. By doing so, has Harin lost his credibility and honour for supporting a corrupt regime and its leaders to continue the same old practices? No wonder then the President’s media unit has released the photo with the President and Harin together to expose Harin’s double standards. I conclude this brief article with the following verse written by a well-known Buddhist priest in the past to remind all those people who support and enable immoral and corrupt regimes to continue their illegal and unethical activities at the expense of destroying our beloved country.
දියෙයි යන දණ්ඩට
පිහිටක් වෙතත් පෙර සිට
දුදනන් හට පිහිට
නොවව් යන බස සැබෑ කලෙ මට
(Although it is deemed fit to rescue a drifting plank in the water, I am convinced that that one should not support immoral and corrupt people at any time)