By Upali Cooray –
The exclusive T.V interview of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) by “SIRASA” TV few days ago can only be called vituperative and boastful in that, the total substance was Mahinda bashing and claiming credit in toto for the political maneuver in making Maithripala Sirisena the President. We have not seen Chandrika appearing in electronic media for some time and this was the first for many years. There doesn’t appear to be any change in her demeanor that of aristocratic arrogance and pretense.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, the all powerful President a little over a month ago is now the whipping boy of all and sundry. True, he and his regime mismanaged the country to the extreme that people got frustrated and fed up with him despite having the opportunity of becoming the greatest post worldwar (11) Sri Lankan leader who brought prosperity and peace to his country. He was digging his own grave by bad governance. The writer is not attempting to white wash or extend any sympathetic consideration whatsoever for all the MR wrong doings. As the saying goes, even the Devil should get it’s due. The TV anchor pointed out to CBK at the end of the interview, hadn’t there been any good done by MR? According to CBK it’s almost nothing !
According to CBK, seventy five percent of the war was won by her; MR did only the balance twenty five percent. So, she reluctantly gave a crumb of a credit to MR for finishing the war. The nation heard and saw on the 4th of February President Maithripala Sirisena in his address to the nation was gracious enough to credit the former President Rajapaksa and General Fonseka for the war victory. The Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe too was not reluctant to mention it was MR who ended the war, while addressing the media subsequent to taking oaths. It is now public knowledge that Ranil has told MR when he met him at Temple Trees in the wee hours of 9th January that “we have to protect you for what you have done for our country”. That says everything.
What CBK knows but ignores in her favour is that one of the most ignominious defeats of the Sri Lankan forces happened during her leadership. While the Norwegians were purportedly trying to work out a peace accord, in April 2000 the LTTE launched parallel attacks on the most fortified Sri Lankan Army camps in Elephant Pass and Ayakachchi and overran those overnight, killing over one hundred SL army men. So much for CBK‘s claim for winning the war.
She failed to mention at the interview about her wisdom of PTOMS and her offer to hand over the rule of north and east to Prabhakaran for ten years. Perhaps it was convenient to ignore those subjects.
If it was not for Mahinda Rajapaksa’s single minded mission to defeat and eradicate terrorism from our land ,the democratic political change that occurred in January 2015 would not have been possible. However much efforts are taken by political rivals such as CBK to demean it ,this fact will be solidly embedded in the annals of Sri Lanka for the rest of it’s history.
Considering the axis of Chandrika-Ranil-Sampanthan now in operation, a reconciliation process based on the implementation in full,the 13th amendment is in the books. Be that as it may, R. Sampanthan and his TNA proxies of the LTTE diaspora including Suren Surandiran of the GTF who is leaving no stone unturned to bring Mahinda Rajapaksa before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague on charges of genocide, will not give up their mission to have a federal state in the north and the east which would be the stepping stone for cessation.
According to recent media reports, a decision has been taken to allow the public to see the Temple Trees to show the alleged luxury life the Rajapaksas’ were living at the expense of the public. It is also suggested that the governing party take a little effort to clear the over grown scrub on the left side of the Parliament complex so that it would bring to view a foundation of a Presidential palace laid for a lavish Rs.700 million CBK project, which was abandoned by MR after public outcry. Also just before retirement she attempted to gift herself a block of prime land near the parliament complex through a cabinet paper submitted by Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.
The lust for power is very visible at the interview. President Sirisena would have had no chance in contesting the presidency had there not been a legal impediment for CBK in contesting. She was fined three million rupees by the Supreme Court for involvement in the sale of land at water’s edge. Her cronie Ronnie Peiris obtained for his company this 224 acre land for a song to make it a golf course. CBK was found guilty of abuse of power by the supreme court. People living in the Kotte and Kaduwela Municipality areas are ever grateful for this court decision because the decision paved way for the MR government to completely resurrect the water retention network of canals and lakes in the area while developing recreation areas and walk ways. One should remember even the Parliament got flooded during heavy rains.
The deals done by Ronnie Peiris,the CBK crony, is far too many to mention in detail. The Katunayake expressway project was previously awarded to Keangnam Ltd. during CBK presidency and it is alleged that the deal was manipulated by Ronnie Peries. The JHU and the JVP which are lambasting MR now for being surrounded by deal makers should also look into whether CBK’s deal makers are back in business.
One would remember the daily power cuts over three hours; the country faced during the previous UNP regime. The church in Puttlam did everything to stop the construction of the proposed coal power plant and as a result the country was facing dire consequences by not having adequate electricity. Neither Chandrika nor Ranil had the back bone to counter these disruptive elements. It is MR who took the bold decision to go ahead despite the protests. Similarly upper Kotmale was also launched despite protests from the environmental lobby. Norachcholai coal power plant may have had its initial teething problems but it now bears the major part of the load of power needed by our country.
Neither the Mattala Air port nor the Hambantota harbor were fancy projects of Mahinda Rajapaksa as claimed by his detractors. As per international air safety rules, a country like ours should have a second air port in the event of closure of one air port. We experienced this draw back during the war when Katunayaka had to be closed many times and planes diverted to Chennai or Maldives costing extra fuel to Aircraft. The idea did not originate from MR .He only implemented it and the present location was selected when many other areas close to Colombo were given up on account of objections from people. A Character like Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu could even prohibit Sri Lankan planes landing in Chennai in an emergency. There is no assurance that this would not happen in the future and it is no fantasy.
Similarly the port at Hambantota was a concept which prevailed for last four decades on account of the it’s ideal location, being close proximity and halfway in the busy east west shipping lanes. Singapore is having a virtual monopoly as a bunkering port. Annual traffic on this route is around 36000 ships and 4600 tankers. The busy shipping lane is just 12 miles off Hambantota port. The Sri Lankan government first offered the project to India but they were smart to decline since it would have affected Indian ports such as Mumbai and Chennai. What is now required is a concerted effort to market the port by giving better services than other ports such as Singapore and lure the ships to the port than looking for scapegoats.
Hambantota is the one of most economically backward areas in the country. The effort to develop the area is worthy of credit. It was a hotbed of militancy in the past due economic deprivation and social injustices as the cast system. MR being born in the district may have had a special bond with the region in him but other areas of the country too ,specially the war torn north saw immense benefits extended to the war weary population in raising their standard of living.
The standard of the net work of the roads was raised to unprecedented levels during MR regime.Reducing the distance between people, markets, services and knowledge – or simply ‘getting people connected’ – is a great part of what economic growth is all about.
Although virtual connectivity has become increasingly important today with the emergence of new communication avenues, a good and reliable transport network remains vital. There is a very strong positive correlation between a country’s economic development and the quality of its road network. The criticism that this is not a priority in Sri Lanka is coming from those who have no vision or else they just require MR vilified claiming these road projects are grandiose.The alleged corruption on these road projects are not a reason to vilify the vision. Those allegations are needed to be investigated and proved. Let’s not throw away the baby with bath water. The Colombo Jaffna and Colombo Kandy highways should be given priority in the economic program of the new government. Who gets the contract for the projects is immaterial. The reconstruction of the rail road to Jaffna is a project done by MR with foresight.
It was reported in the media that this government has the intention of probing the human rights violations that happened in this country during the last phase of the war through an internal probe as an alternative to the UNHCR probe. It is the most welcome thing to do rather than allowing UNHCR to do it. However, investigations should not be limited to the short period of last phase of the war only. This is a trap laid by the Diaspora and the so called international community. The probe should cover the entire period of the war against terrorism.
The prevention of Terrorism act implemented in 1983 during the JR regime led to unbridled torture of citizens not only in the north but in the south as well. Nearly thirty thousand Sri Lankans in the prime of their youth perished after capture by Sri Lankan forces. Most of them found dumped on the road sides tortured and killed. There are large number of people specially parents and wives still seeking justice for what happened to their dear ones under the JR regime. The infamous Batalanda torture chambers come to one’s mind. It was the “Abu Ghraib” of Sri Lanka. The commission which investigated the issue was very specific that RW was aware of the chambers existence. The report states “Wickremesinghe and the SSP Nalin Delgoda, are indirectly responsible for the maintenance of places of unlawful detention and torture chambers in houses at the Batalanda Housing Scheme”. The commission strongly recommended to government of CBK to bring the wrong doers to book. It was strongly believed Douglas Peiris the Policeman who was in charge of the torture chambers were given amnesty for his testimony against RW. The irony is that MR who is now being accused of human rights violation during his rule was a human rights campaigner who went to Geneva, to place before the UNHCR the situation in Sri Lanka at that time.
To mention just one of the numerous scams done by RW regime in the two year period they were in power 2001/02; Yasasiri Kasturiarachchci the strong UNPer and businessman who obtained a loan of 4.1 Billion from the People’s bank was given a crooked bail out formula by then RW adviser and famous fixer Paskaralingam through DR. Wickrama Weerasooriya another RW fixer to declare that the outstanding amount is not Rs.4.1 billion but 100 million and Kasthuriarachchi to pay an amount of Rs.10 million from this outstanding amount and given below is what CBK the President at that time had to say the Chairman of Peoples’ Bank Lal Nanyakkara.
“It is extremely unfair for a State Bank to extend privileges to an individual, however politically powerful he may be which are denied to others, less influential.
I consider such patronage to be a travesty of justice. I categorically state that the privileges not extended to others should never be extended to Yasodha Group and any violation of this practice will be investigated into.
I also learn that your Board is considering reaching a settlement on the basis of the recommendations by this third party investigator”.
As the Head of State, I severely warn you to desist from any unjustifiable settlement and any steps taken by the Bank, which lacks transparency, will be subject to a special inquiry and dealt with severely.
It is in your best interest to strictly adhere to legal process through the Court of Law.” (Daily News – February 2, 2004)
Prime Minister RW‘s attempt to send Navy Commander Karannagoda for a two weeks foreign trip so that two LTTE ships bringing arms for the LTTE deliver the goods safely was thwarted by CBK during the time the CFA was in operation.
Another astonishing thing that baffles many people is that an important portfolio, if not the most important, Minister of Finance is held by someone indicted by the Supreme Court for money laundering of Rs. 390 million. While it is correct that one is not guilty unless proven, a person with such allegations should have been kept out from any responsibility until the verdict is given. Besides, Ravi Karunanayake’s past record as the trade minister does not warrant a higher responsibility to be given to him. He has become famous for unmaking of institutions such as SATHOSA. It baffles me why a person like Dr. Harsha De Silva was not considered for this all important post. He is young and fresh blood devoid of dark clouds hanging over him. For that matter, Eran Wickramaratne would also have been a choice.
RW should actually have done an MR by dumping the out dated senile seniors such as John Amaratunga, Joseph Michael Perera, Jayawicrama Perera Et Al. as senior ministers.
John Amaratunga should resign before the no confidence motion, if the governement is serious about god governance.
These are random thoughts which come to one’s mind when politicians in power talk of good governance. Seeing on TV news the other day, CBK getting a courtesy kiss from her childhood friend RW one cannot but conclude to what brazen levels our politicians go to gain power.
These are the custodians of “good governance”