17 October, 2019

Blog

Karu Jayasuriya – A Man Besieged

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

He’s the man on the spot. Right now. He’s the boss in Parliament. He’s required by the dictates of his office to remain neutral. He is required to know the distinctions between the executive, legislative and judicial arms of the state. He’s experienced enough to know all this.

He may have got caught off-guard when President Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26, 2018. That’s fine because the entire country, almost, was surprised by the move. Initially he decided that Mahinda Rajapaksa, the newly appointed Prime Minister would sit on the seat reserved for the post.

All of a sudden he had a change of heart. All of a sudden Karu the Speaker became Karu the would-be executive. The contentious move by Sirisena to dissolve parliament probably impacted his thinking, but only he would really know. All we know is that once court gave petitioners who filed against dissolution leave to proceed, Karu shed all notions of neutrality.

At some level, Karu can be forgiven. He can be forgiven because Sirisena did the dirty on everyone, especially those who voted for him in January 2015, by sacking Wickremesinghe and worse, replacing him with Rajapaksa. He can be forgiven because MPs supporting the new alliance between Sirisena and Rajapaksa were utterly disgraceful in the way they conducted themselves. There were fisticuffs (and yes, the UNPers were also guilty of hooliganism). Objects were thrown. Karu had to enter Parliament with a police escort. It would have been hard for anyone to maintain any degree of composure. Karu did his best.

And yet, there are matters where Karu was way out of order. He decided to play executive. He decided that he can decide who is Prime Minister and who is not. He decided that standing orders can be shoved in the proverbial wastepaper basket. He decided that it is fine not to entertain complaints from Members about other Members brandishing knives in Parliament. He decided that he could ‘count’ votes in the House by checking out loudness of shout. He decided to accept dubious affidavits signed by Members of Parliament.

Let’s discuss the man in the larger context of his life and the political moment.

Karu. Karu Jayasuriya. Deshabandu Karu Jayasuriya. Deshabandu Karu Jayasuriya, the 20th and incumbent Speaker of the Parliament. He has an impressive curriculum vitae, having served as a Commissioned Office of the Sri Lanka Army and serving on dozens of boards in the corporate sector. By all accounts and from what I personally know, he has conducted himself with dignity and has remained humble to a fault, both in his public and private lives.

Karu is identified as a man who has the courage of his convictions. He crossed over to the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) to support the Rajapaksa regime’s drive to eliminate the terrorist threat. He crossed back to the United National Party (UNP) when that story ended, explaining that he could not condone the various wrongdoings of the government. He stood against his leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, accepted defeat gracefully, accepted also, later on, the leadership of the UNP’s ‘Leadership Council’ and campaigned fiercely to bring down the Rajapaksa regime. He was unanimously elected Speaker on September 1, 2015.

No one is perfect. His detractors could point out his criss-crossing as being prompted by the possibility of personal gain and even a certain political fickleness. Let’s get to the flaws later. For now, let us applaud the man.

Back to Parliament. Karu would be tested, naturally. He stood his ground, taking hits from all corners. That’s admirable. And he, unintentionally of course, helped certain diplomatic missions and diplomats, mostly Western (no surprises there!), trip over their own convoluted and laughable notions of democracy.

Let’s start (and end) with the US Ambassador, for that post has, in practice, been voice not just for the United States of America but her political allies in all crimes of omission, commission, rank ignorance and political subterfuge.

Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz took office on November 1, 2018, less than a week after Sirisena surprised all his backers, the US Embassy included. On November 6, she met Karu ‘to discuss the importance of Parliament reconvening to put an end to this political crisis’ and said these democratic institutions should serve the people of Sri Lanka.’ She insisted that elected representatives have their say.

On November 9, she waxed eloquent on ‘democracy’: ‘Democracies rest on rule of law. Sri Lanka’s constitution provides the framework for resolving political disputes, just like ours does.’ The waxing continued for on November 10, she said ‘The US is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved, further deepening the political crisis. As a committed partner of Sri Lanka, we believe democratic institutions and processes need to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity.’

All this sudden interest in democracy is fascinating, coming from the representative of a country that is struggling to come up with the basics of representational democracy and bombs other countries to the middle ages in the name of democracy.

The use of words and terms such as ‘democratic institutions and processes’ is also interesting considering the fact that the prompt came from dissolution and because the word ‘people’ has been thrown in as well. Well, if it’s about democracy and representation, and if people count, what’s wrong in an election? Why is she is worried about letting the people decide?

Ms Teplitz hasn’t been here long, but I’m sure she’s been briefed. She would know that the US Embassy and the State Department have interfered with the democratic process in the country by funding political campaigns. She would know that neither the Embassy nor the State Department showed even an iota of interest in democracy (institutions or processes) when a) Ranil Wickremesinghe was illegally appointed Prime Minister in January 2015, b) when parliament was dissolved on the very day that the parliamentary report on biggest financial scam in history was to be presented, c) when local government elections were repeatedly postponed, and d) there’s no sign of postponed provincial council elections would be held.

And yet, the good Ambassador was worried about democracy. She was so worried that when Parliament convened on November 14 following the Supreme Court stay order on dissolution, she went to watch democracy unfold, first hand.

Here’s her tweet: ‘Honored to attend reconvening of Sri Lanka Parliament this morning to see democracy in action. Very lively but glad this institution is once again fulfilling constitutional role.’

Karu Jayasuriya gave her a show to write home about, that much is clear. Teplitz saw how her democratic darlings operated ‘on the floor’ and would have seen much more had she gone to Parliament the following day as well, for on the 15th, the guardians of democracy (sic) were seen brandishing knives. She may have gone, I don’t know, but had she not she would have seen the footage.

Anyway, Karu did the democratic honors on the 14th. The Speaker thumbed his nose at established procedures (minimum period before including motions by a non-cabinet member in the order paper, debate before vote etc), ‘counted’ a vote by noise-levels, accepted a dubious document submitted by the UNP, TNA and JVP in lieu of an official vote count, arrogated exective power on himself by declaring he would not recognize the Prime Minister and in this and other ways, showered disgrace on the office of ‘The Speaker’.

Karu was out of order. This does not mean, let us emphasize, that the way in which the ‘government’ MPs behaved can be condoned. They were acting like rowdies, but then again the likes of Teplitz would not have expected them to behave in any other way. They were not their darlings, after all (shhh….it’s not only the UNP that they love, they adore the TNA and the JVP too!).

Karu didn’t have an easy time. A lot of pressure was put on him. In the rush of things he forgot his office and his mandate. He slipped. It’s not enough to say ‘I was besieged first by the President and then by my party.’

This drama is not over. Karu has, one would believe, ample time to recover composure and be the gentleman he is known to be. Others have done much worse. He scarred himself though. That’s a pity.

Malinda Seneviratne is a political analyst and freelance writer. malindasenevi@gmail.com. www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 30
    6

    Malinda, is there any difference between you and the Kasippu/Ethanol Mafia who were rioting in the Parliament in support of their Godfathers MARA and SIRA? At least they have some excuse: many of them are only Grade 4 graduates. But your writing sinks even lower – to the gutter level. First you should resolve your class issues and come to terms with your personal demons before pontificating about democracy to the world.

    • 12
      2

      Ajay u r wasting your time commenting on the shit penned by Malinda. You could expect nothing better from a worthless journalist in the payroll of MS/MR.

      • 1
        6

        Ratnam,your mum should have corrected you before you became an oik.

    • 3
      4

      Oh man, I am just waiting for those days that I got free rides with MARA on foreign trips. I will say anything to justify him back in power so that I can enjoy some of those journeys again. Please give me a break!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 7
      1

      Ajay:
      Couldn’t agree with you more.
      This indescribable piece of you-know-what should confine himself to concocting accusations of people being paid agents of Great Britain and then claiming that his source was dead when asked to substantiate the lie. That’s the forte of a diseased “intellect” and to think that the literary gurus of this country awarded this despicable character a Gratiaen Prize! Noel must not have stopped turning in his grave yet.

  • 14
    3

    Blame MS not the speaker. All problems come out the MS.

    • 7
      1

      To be fair by him, Malinda does a lot better than the infamous Dayan. I believe he has more of a conscience, but coloured by his particular Sinhala Buddhist nationalist inclinations. Nothing wrong with that, as long as he doesn’t team up with the SB fascists.
      ” He can be forgiven because Sirisena did the dirty on everyone, especially those who voted for him in January 2015, by sacking Wickremesinghe and worse, replacing him with Rajapaksa.”
      A fair comment.
      However,
      “a) Ranil Wickremesinghe was illegally appointed Prime Minister in January 2015”
      Surely Malinda knows that this was before the 19th Amendment, and the President had the power to do this, as Chandrika did. Nobody objected either, because it was clear that Ranil would have won any NCM.
      b)”…………. very day that the parliamentary report on biggest financial scam in history was to be presented,”
      This is sensational gutter journalism. This is not even the biggest financial loss in Sri Lanka. Just the other day, it was revealed that Sri Lankan airlines swallowed up 12 Billion in 2012. That’s a lot more than any loss from bonds.
      Responsible journalists should be capable of assessing the truth, not just parrot what some other idiots keep parroting .

      • 7
        0

        Are you kidding? Malinda is cut from the same clothe as DJ. Malinda is also hoping for a diplomatic post this time since he has been an utter failure at the personal level (no job), living on father-in-laws ill-gotten wealth.

        • 0
          0

          ABM,
          Don’t you agree that ” Sirisena did the dirty on everyone, especially those who voted for him in January 2015, by sacking Wickremesinghe and worse, replacing him with Rajapaksa.” ?
          Have you seen DJ write anything like that at this time?
          Whose side are you on?
          If every body on this forum had the same ideas, CT would be very boring.

        • 1
          0

          old codger,
          I am on nobody’s side. Malinda is probably a better writer by inserting stuff like your quote but read between lines before you vote for Malinda. He wants Karu to rectify his “faults” and “do the right thing” by MaRa. That is what he is calling for in this article.

          By the ways, both DJ and Malinda are Ivy League dropouts of their PhD programs.

          • 0
            0

            ABM,
            “read between lines before you vote for Malinda. “
            If you read MY last lines, you can see that I haven’t “voted for Malinda”.

  • 12
    6

    Malinda how many million dollars did you get form Mahnida’s Tsunami fund to write this crap?

  • 14
    4

    This is a biased view.

  • 10
    4

    since you and dayan write the same kind of stuff and he has wangled an ambassadorial job why
    dont you ask the prez to give you the next available job

    • 7
      2

      nalmen – Sillysena has reserved the next available job for Dr. Laksirispray Fernando!

    • 4
      4

      They are a bit more readable than the filth of Sarath De Alwis, Simon Jayasinghe and a few others who put CT to shame with the rubbish they publish here.

      • 3
        0

        Associate Professor Cooray:
        Who on this earth would want to “associate” with someone who gives such ample evidence of being a village idiot, as you do?
        “Professor” my sainted a…se!

        • 0
          0

          Each his own opinion Emil. I’am sure that the good professor won’t have his opinion imposed and overridden by others,especially paid agents of ………..(source declined).

          • 1
            0

            Malinda:
            Are you (AGAIN) suggesting, sans your deceased (diseased?) previous “informant” that I am a “paid agent” of some “foreign” (or ANY) power.? Or do you think you can resume your LIES, FABRICATIONS and abuse, now that your murderous patrons are back? In case you haven’t noticed, there are still people in this country who can’t be bought with laptops and interest-free loans. Ever heard of the expression, “Put up or shut up?” Considering your extended sojourn in the bastion of capitalism, you should. Try practicing it sometime, even though it wouldn’t, literally, pay as well as your avocation as a stooge.

      • 0
        1

        Thank you for putting me on a pedestal higher than them professor cooray.

  • 3
    5

    Even though, the UNP and LTTE ball sucking commentators here at CT bashing you, you have come up with a neutral piece of write up Malinda. In the first place, MS was a wrong decision by 62 lakhs of Sri Lankans. They stood up against one man without having agenda of dong what next. Be that as it may, the point here is the role of the Speaker. He’s absolutely bias and gone beyond what he’s supposed to do. Does he have a clue of what is in the constitution is the obvious question. All in all, he has become a darling of western ambassadors who’s actions are against the Vienna convention.

    • 4
      2

      Max the toilet of Rajakashe@

      UNP and JVP would not betray the country to TNA or any others, but they all together fight for restore democracy in this country.

      As if a molested child would never see it right, you guys, have been the human shield for Rajakashe RODIYAS to abuse further.
      If I had been in govt during last 3.5 years, first thing I would have done is to put Rajakashes in Jail together with their kith and kin.. i woud not have heard even if any movements stood again.
      There I am furious of UNP today, they did not make GENUINE efforts.
      But looking at the manner BALLIGE putha SIRISENA behaves today, I have no idea , Unp leader was the victim int aht duo.
      All in all, I now respect TNA and other miniroty parties mroe.. since they are into protection of democracy inthis country

      I would be ready even to reveal lot more abou tRajapakshe if HE WOULD HAVE BEEN taken to HAGUE and punish to the core so that we can shed happy tears. I am not supporting him and his men fo rone reason, the bugge rhas done more harm to the nation than any other leaders.

    • 1
      0

      max:
      It says it all when you don’t know the difference between “Vienna” and “Geneva.”
      If you provide us with a mailing address, even with the pseudonym you hide under, we could perhaps send you an English primer. Or would a geography one be more appropriate? Can’t afford both, I’m afraid.

      • 2
        0

        max moron
        Gnanasara’s Amude
        Welikada
        Dr Danister De Silva Mawatha,
        Colombo 01000

    • 2
      0

      max

      “All in all, he has become a darling of western ambassadors who’s actions are against the Vienna convention.”

      You didn’t notice or remember Vienna convention when Dr Rajapaksa frolicked with former U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert O. Blake, Jr in Sri Lanka as well as in the USA?
      You must have forgotten India’s former Ambassador to the United States, China and Sri Lanka and the former Foreign Secretary (India) holidaying with Dr Rajapaksa at his Appa residence.

      Why didn’t you invoke Vienna convention on both occasions?

      Since the saffron thug is in prison who is acting as the permanent b***s carrier to him now that you are outside?

  • 3
    1

    When Karu challenged Ranil for UNP leadership in the early 2000’s somebody planted a story in the Sunday Leader that Karu was an army deserter. Lasantha Wickramatunga who was editor then was a strong Ranil supporter.

    Who planted that mischevious and damaging story ?

    If you can guess the person you can also guess the real nature of that person and the morals of his small support base

  • 3
    0

    RW is under siege at Temple Trees. The ‘happenings’ following RW-sack are ominous – getting ominouser and ominouser by the minute. We hang our head in shame to have to put up with the Horse Market open 24/7
    .
    Whatever the outcome is, we lay-Lankans will lose.

  • 0
    0

    Ladies and Gents,

    I am writing to elevate the dignity of my dear friend. I and Malinda differ in many political idealogies but that has not stoped us being good friends.

    Lets define Malinda first. Hailing from well educated Colombo family who excelled in clasical Western literature, ethos and values, Malinda has rebelled to be a national minded citizen. In national minded value system, he has all the right to argue against the western based laws, systems and values we have adopted as the right way for us.

    Lets take eye for eye rule which prevail elsewhere. But for us its Nahee werena Weranee. That gave us glory and Japan got a life. If it was pure show of hands, the recent world history would be different.

    Malinda learnt from Prof Nalin de Silva about National thinking. Met Champika Ranawaka there. Followed Champika and during that time Malinda’s writings were taken as a pro Rajapakse articles. But none of them differed from Nationalistic idealogy. Later Champika defected gave up his Nationalism. Malinda got stranded. Public still think he is a Rajapakse loyalist.

    I rest my case here.

    I can assure Malinda never wanted to be an ambassador though he is capable of doing a better job at that. His late father-in-law has done a yomen service to the poor of this country and he does not deserve insults. All you guys who read Malinda’s articles will have the right to critically review them, and that is not denied by me.

    In case if you look at Malinda’s articles with Nationalistic view you will see a different perspective. Many in iur country has not adopted western ethis and idealogy. To tjose innocent populace nationalistic idealogy means a lot.

    • 1
      0

      Misunderstood:
      Considering what you write, it is not surprising that you have chosen to hide under the pseudonym you have.
      You obviously don’t realise that this very thinly-veiled defence of your buddy, Malinda, places you in the same camp of vicious fabricators who hide under the privilege that their class/connections/toadying give them.
      On the other hand, defending the indefensible might have its rewards.

  • 2
    0

    Malinda tries to be patronizing, but not successfully.
    He has a funny notion of neutrality.
    The Speaker in his view would have been neutral had he allowed the JO group to run riot and stepped aside and let Sirisena and his prime minister run roughshod over parliament.
    *
    Neutrality is about doing the right thing and not refusing to take a stand between what is obviously right and what is obviously wrong.
    *
    The Speaker had not acted in breach of the constitution or House Rules.

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