By Rajiva Wijesingha –
Have only just seen Mangala Samaraweera’s bizarre assertion of innocence (his name in the old days) regarding his recent visit to New York with a gentleman from his personal bureau. It must have been someone with a particularly whimsical sense of humour who declared of young Sameera, as though it would crush all rumours, that ‘Manahara is the happily married father of a beautiful baby girl’.
Did Mangala realize when he signed off on this that the implication is that, had Sameera been unmarried, there might have been cause for worry about the public funds spent? Did he realize that, had Sameera been married, but not had children, beautiful or otherwise, the country might have thought the New York stay was for ulterior motives?
All this is a great pity, because Mangala has never been hypocritical about himself, and he should have realized that the issue was the money spent, not about whether Sameera is happily or unhappily married. I now begin to understand why
Jayampathy Wickremaratne did not accept my suggestion, when we were drafting the manifesto, that the entire Bill of Rights he so efficiently put together at my urging way back in 2008/2009 be included. The Committee had been set up in accordance with a pledge in the 2005 Mahinda Chintanaya but had given up because I think Jayampathy was by then deeply suspicious of the President. Nevertheless he reactivated the Committee at my request when I became Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights (then too I had what more experienced politicians think is the simplistic view that a government should stand by the commitments in its manifesto).
The draft was good and I tried to get the Minister to put it on the agenda but he was nervous, since the President had also told him to hold back until after the election on the Human Rights Action Plan the Ministry had put together. That, thankfully, was adopted after the election even though the Ministry had been abolished. But there was no movement on the Bill of Rights, even though I asked the President to take it forward. His claim was that there were some things he did not want, and when I asked what, he said the Bill would legalize homosexuality. He declared that he would not allow prosecutions with regard to homosexuality, which seemed a silly position since the problem with the law is the fear and oppression it engenders.
But I was weak enough to suggest that he take out what he did not like and have the rest passed. He was however adamant, and said the matter could be taken up by Ranil. I suppose he thought that there was no chance of Ranil getting into power, but now that the impossible has happened, I hope the UNP at least will support the Bill when it is tabled. Perhaps we can then stop this nonsense about happy marriages, with or without beautiful daughters.
We should be concentrating on preventing waste and ensuring that public funds are spent for public purposes. I have suggested to Karu that the whole idea of a massive private office for Ministers is corrupting, with so many relations being appointed who fulfil no public purpose. But I fear that codes of conduct and streamlined administrative systems are of little interest to anyone else.