27 September, 2020

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Lalith Weeratunge; The Purohithayā

By Rajiva Wijesinha

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Enemies of the President’s Promise – Doc 1

On the old Bibilical adage that, from him to whom much is given, much is expected, the most reprehensible of those on whom the President relied was his Secretary, Lalith Weeratunge. But in addition to his undoubted intelligence and administrative abilities, there was another factor which led to high expectations. This was that, whereas all the others whose influence has been described were exercising this to fulfil their own agendas, with Lalith it was never doubted that he saw himself as only serving the purposes of the President.

An exception could be made with regard to the Secretary of Defence, in that it could be argued his agenda was not intended for his own benefit, as opposed to the other five whose ambitions have been noted. But increasingly during the President’s second term in office Gotabaya Rajapaksa began to see himself as fulfilling a purpose, albeit idealistic, that was at odds with what his brother intended. It was almost as though, having previously claimed that he could win the war but the political solution had to come from elsewhere, he had begun to think that his role was crucial for any acceptable political settlement. So he even directly criticized his brother, for instance by arguing that Northern Provincial Council elections should not be held, or by allowing crude attacks on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission on the Defence Ministry website.

Lalith was different, in that he did not think the President’s essential vision was at fault. Indeed the closest he got to criticism was to declare that those around the President concealed from him what was really happening. His claim then was that he kept his ear to the ground and knew what the real situation was. But, though his primary allegiance to the President was never then in doubt, he too unfortunately failed to provide advice and assistance that would enable the President to pursue the objectives he had outlined in his manifesto, or to fulfil the commitments he had made with regard to pursuing a pluralistic political solution.

Lalith and MahindaThus for instance, he remained passive when the President failed to fulfil his promised to change the Chief Secretary of the Northern Province after the Provincial Council election in which the TNA had won a massive majority, towards the end of 2013. The TNA provocatively and unnecessarily passed a motion in the Council to the effect that the Governor, former General G A Chandrasiri, should be removed. But in conversation with the President the moderate Chief Minister, C V Wigneswaran, a former Justice of the Supreme Court, accepted that this could not be done immediately. It was agreed then that the President would make a change in that respect when Chandrasiri’s current term ended, in July 2014. However he agreed that the Chief Secretary, who had made it clear that her allegiance was to the Governor, rather than the elected Board of Ministers (on whose advice the Governor was meant to act) would be changed at once.

Lalith was instructed to make the change, and this mark of a willingness to compromise was conveyed to diplomats who had been positive about Sri Lanka. They felt betrayed then when action was not taken, and all Lalith could say in excuse was that his hands were tied. Even if this meant that the President had changed his mind, it was incumbent on Lalith to point out to the President the negative consequences of what would seem duplicity, and urge at least a further discussion with the Chief Minister. But nothing of the sort happened. Typically, in July 2014, General Chandrasiri was reappointed Governor for a further five year term.

Another earlier example of Lalith’s passivity, more reprehensible perhaps because it was with regard to a matter that was not contentious, was his failure to move on the President’s commitment to introducing a Second Chamber of Parliament. This had been a key feature of the Liberal Party’s proposals for Constitutional Reform, but I had found that the All Party Representatives’ Committee that met in my office when I was Head of the Peace Secretariat was not at all interested in the idea. The APRC was chaired by Prof Tissa Vitarana, of the old Trotskyist Party, the LSSP, and they looked on the concept in the light of their scorn for the British House of Lords.

In all fairness too the Sri Lankan Senate, that had been abolished by the 1970 SLFP led government in which the Trotskyists were in charge of Constitutional Reform, had been a fairly useless institution. Half of it was chosen by the Prime Minister of the day, and the other half was based on numbers in the House of Representatives, so it was virtually a rubber stamp. Though there were a few exceptional individuals, generally its membership consisted of those being rewarded for service to the party in power, and few of these had the capacity to conceptualize, or to analyse and improve legislation.

The President however had seized on the idea when I mentioned it, and included it in his manifesto. But there was no one with specific responsibility for Constitutional Reform in the 2010 government and the idea lay forgotten. Significantly, the Japanese Ambassador, who was deeply committed to assisting Sri Lanka, asked me after a few months why there had been no progress at all on reforms, and suggested that even instituting a Senate based on provinces would help to make it clear that government was committed to a pluralistic political solution.

I mentioned this to the President, and he asked Lalith why they had not proceeded with the proposal. We discussed it further, and he even suggested numbers, with a basis of equality for all provinces. But, though Lalith nodded sagely and took down notes, that was the end of the matter.

I did not think at the time that he had deliberately ignored the President, but put it down rather to slowness. Having worked together with Lalith in the Ministry of Education some years back, and found him very able, perhaps I was too indulgent to him in the years that followed. My own view was that he was grossly overworked, and I did say this once to the President, and suggested he should take on more staff if he wanted things to move. But his response was that Lalith held everything closely to himself, and refused to delegate.

This I came to realize was true, but it was also true that Lalith was overwhelmed with tasks that were quite unnecessary. We used to meet occasionally during the first few years of the 2010 government, and I told him once that I thought he wasted a lot of time going with the President to various meetings, openings of roads, award ceremonies, functions at temples and so on. That did not seem to me the job of the President’s official Secretary, and he agreed, and said he had decided to refrain from such in the future.

But needless to say, there he was again over the next few days featured in the newspapers as a constant presence by the President’s side at all functions. I teased him about this when we next met, and he told me that the problem was, the President insisted he attend. And I could understand this, for the reason that the President too realized that Lalith was the only person he could trust absolutely, whose involvement in public life was simply to help the President pursue his own political agenda. He was in effect the purohithaya, the trusted confidante of the King in ancient history, and the ruler, knowing he was surrounded by many who only wanted to take advantage of him, needed this principal acolyte at his side on all occasions.

But that, as it became clear from his absolute refusal to rock the boat when it was in the President’s interests, was not his only reason for clinging close. The fact was that he also enjoyed the position he held, and that he wanted to keep it, which meant he had to be wary about efforts to undermine him. But in giving in to his worries on this score, he failed to take advantage of the positive qualities which had brought him to this position and indicated the President’s appreciation of the importance of having a good secretary.

Unlike his predecessor, he was a professional public servant, and one of the best of them, which meant Mahinda Rajapaksa would have found it difficult to replace him. In this Lalith shared the general respect which Premadasa’s Secretary, K H J Wijeyadasa, had commanded, unlike the Secretaries to both President Jayewardene and President Kumaratunga. Both of them had selected individuals who were distinguished only for the personal service they had rendered them in previous secretarial positions, and the result was a complete lack of professionalism – and, sadly, rent seeking, in that both of them had offspring who engaged in arms dealing and were able through the influence of their parents to win lucrative contracts.

Lalith was head and shoulders above such characters, but this was not true of many others who worked for President Rajapaksa, and he therefore had to compete against those whose professional commitment and understanding were minimal. And he had to face constant challenges to his position, not only from others in administrative positions, but also from Ministers. Thus soon after I had entered public life I found that Lalith thought he was under attack from the Foreign Minister, and he confided as much in Dayan Jayatilleka who was then our ambassador in Geneva. Dayan did not see eye to eye with the then Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, and perhaps Lalith thought Dayan would be sympathetic, but the email in which he expressed his worries indicated deep distress.

Early in the life of the 2010 government Lalith faced a greater challenge, when his wife, Indrani Sugathadasa, fell out with a coterie close to the President. This occurred because she, a senior public servant in her own right, had been made Chair of the Security Exchanges Commission, but found that there were blatant instances of Stock Market manipulation. Having tried to put a stop to this and failed, she wanted to resign, but, as Lalith put it, had asked him whether this might embarrass him.

Lalith had told her to do what seemed best to her, and she resigned, but those who resented her probity would doubtless have held this against Lalith. Certainly he seems to have been even less inclined from then on to stick his neck out, or to take any initiatives of his own.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    11

    Rajiv uncle, Things are not looking good for us (at 57.8% to MR and 40% to thaththa).

    I think you should keep all these little anecdotes of discussions you had with the preisdent for your memoirs. You will hae plenty of time after the election when the country will start asking the question Rajiv who?

    By the way, your keenness to not to say anything bad about uncle gta is noted. Looks like you have some intelligence though you were not good enough to enter a Sri Lankan uni and got degree from a London college.

    Boo to you!

    • 8
      0

      My foot
      Even today My3 = 58%
      MR = 40%
      These idiots seem getting it wrong. Across the nation people criticise MR for his abuses. He transport people from a to b to show that he has people. Bu tmost of them are being transported from their CTB buses ( today CTB = Rajaakshe Travels) to show the world that people are on their side.
      But whatever gimmicks thy would do, this time it will not be easy for Rajas.
      They will be eleminated by people by 9th of Jan.

      • 0
        0

        I think Prof. RW has not used the most suitable word for LW.
        It should be not just ” Purohithaya” but ” Agra Purohithaya”. I have seen the man several occasions of lanken TV programs only leaving overwelming talks about his president as if all war victory related credit should be gone to MR. This man LW is not seen as a modest humble person comapred to any other secretaries that the position held years before They all had much in common that many of them never went on only boasting about the current regime. LW dared even to hold political talks which I believe shoudl not be his areas, but the turned banana republic where people are compelled to do what so called rascal leaders have to say – what rights we can speak out further ?

        • 0
          0

          No way, he is a modest, humble person.

          On his private, overseas tours with his family, he occupies the presidential suite – eg. Le Meridien in a gulf state – eye fitness account.

          Misusing the position for personal gain !

    • 2
      4

      Rajiv sahodaraya

      You were feeling sorry about MR’s loss of popularity in the country.
      If you want to see the real situation, have a look at the Ampare rally at this website.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4Navqw6BaQ

      You will feel sorry about yourself and Maaru Sira my boy.

      • 5
        1

        Idiots of your kind are born gandayas.
        Smelly as Mervin and MR really are.

    • 0
      0

      What nonsense. Rajapaksha is losing everywhere.

      Now the rogue family is in panic mode. GR will unleash his thugs.

  • 3
    0

    Haaney Rajiva simpleton baba, isn’t it time you stopped trying to analyse all the orchestrated ‘diversionary tactics’ and consequent intrigue in the inner portals of King Kong’s chambers machan?

    Can you not see that this is a tremendously successful strategy no doubt perfected by someone with brains but zero integrity to say, “wot me Sir? Not I Sir, he Sir”? In business circles, this is called a CYA (cover your arse) tactic, adopted when some cog in the circle of malevolence in the many pieces of crooked machinery goes awry, shield oneself from blame and blow a bit of smoke across the mirror so the true picture is made hazy?

    In my simple mind, there is no doubt that the big schemes are orchestrated by MaaRa and BaaRa in close association with LaWee, and then sent down the slippery road of deceit deploying catchers of various hues and stripes, who are instructed to leave no stone unturned in getting to their miserable targets ( self-aggrandisement, self-enrichment, screwing the people of our dear country with gay abandon, ALL the time.

    Those who object or refuse to comply are shown the famous ‘files’ and voila they do a 180 degree turn through the ‘coercive use of factually alleged documentation’ as that remarkable fellow Chaminda Puswedilla is known to have summarised so well.

    I find it astounding that you (and Dayan J) would continue to talk in such tender tones about King Kong, as if he were an angel being misled by all the devils around him; I really do. It shows you up so well for the person shorn of all integrity that you are, even in this last stage of the battle royal soon to ensue, AND particularly as you have also (at least for public consumption) broken away from the UPFA and claim to be part of the common opposition.

    Or, perchance are you a mole planted there by King Kong?

    • 1
      1

      Truth hurts , mate. All you guys want to hear is what a monster MR is, coming from anyone, even Prabhakran or anyone else.

  • 3
    0

    “Dayan did not see eye to eye with the then Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, and perhaps Lalith thought Dayan would be sympathetic, but the email in which he expressed his worries indicated deep distress.”

    How many of the cabinet minister see eye to eye with the president ?

    Latter will be revealed to the nation in the days to come.

  • 0
    0

    These are not antedotes Rajiv is clearly white washing some tes men in preperation fir iclusion DJ is one of them and this spinekess servent is the other.

  • 1
    0

    It looks that Rajiva has an axe to grind with LW. May I reproduce a vital paragraph in the article:

    “I mentioned this to the President, and he asked Lalith why they had not proceeded with the proposal. We discussed it further, and he even suggested numbers, with a basis of equality for all provinces. But, though Lalith nodded sagely and took down notes, that was the end of the matter.”

    That is excatly a modern public servant is expected to do. Take Notes! and take the flak for unimplemented so called proposals. Amongst all this how many were implemented when the big man really wants. If we use our common sense the big man really was not interested in what Rajiva said and bowled a typical Giruvapattu Googly at a liberal whose father was born in Getamanna!

  • 3
    0

    This picture speaks a thousand words how many degrees a public servant have go bend his back to a dictator!

    I may be wrong, isnt Weeratunga’s wife one Mrs. Sugathadasa had to leave the SEC as MaRa’s money launderers and stock market manipulators was doing such a bad manipulation with the help of the first family the lady who had some conscise left, resigned immediately.

    Alos isnt this Weeratunga’s daughter married to the Laughs gas boss who do many unethical business deals with the help of the regime? or is that Sunimal Fernando’s daughter at Laughs bosses wife?

    I know another daughter of Sunimal Fdo is married to Dialog boss Hans W who was to block the MTV on Dialog TV as instructed by MaRa.

    Whatever, Lalith W should be taken in for custody on the 9th Jan and let him disclose all the Chinese mega projects and how much commissions were accepted that goes upto 2000% of the project estimates and how the black money was transferred out of the country.

    This man can spill a lot beans of where poor masses money went.

    • 6
      1

      The list continues…..

      Weeratunge
      Jayasundera
      Cabraal
      Mohan Peiris
      Hudson Samarasinghe
      Dialog Hans

      These buggers should be whipped in public !

    • 0
      0

      This bugger Lalith Weeratunge bending in two in front of MR is a total disgrace to all Public Servants. Not that other Public Servants are not servile as the CJ who are just errand boys as Sajin Vass. What a disgrace? Naturally buggers although educated still carries their Stigma which is difficult to be rid.

      Is this not the same Lalith Weeratunge whose name was in the Bank Mandate as a signatory to the famous ‘Helping Humbanthota Bank Accout’? Bloody Sons of Bitches.

  • 5
    3

    What a waste of a PhD..

    Instead of doing this Laundry work, shouldn’t this PhD be engaged in offering Policy Advice and good alternatives to protect the Dalits from the Pirhanas who are now parading as patriots who want to destroy and dismember the country and collect commission cheques from new Tenders to re build it.

  • 0
    0

    Steady on, Professori “””….reprehensible of those on whom the President relied was his Secretary, Lalith Weeratunge…”. You could call Lalith many things, but reprehensible? No! methinks not.

  • 4
    1

    The Price Fixing which the Dalits are worried about is what Dudley Sira and his Rice Mafia are engaged in, to shaft the inhabitants

    They couldn’t give a cow poo about smart elite ripping off the less smart fellow Elite, Anglicans and the Vellalas at the CSX..

    May be the ex LTTE financiers , , who now have become investors in developing economies to make a quick buck may be getting done too..

    Whether Sira fixes the Price Fixers in the share market is entirely up to him and his My Three.

    But our Dalits will be pissed off if Dudley Sira continues his dirty practice of fixing the price of our Kakulua rice,

    • 3
      0

      there are more ministers in the govt who are members of the RICE MAFIA.

      But, their names are not mentioned because they in the govt.

  • 1
    0

    Aiyo Prof! this is really getting too much now. This is stuff for your memoirs. As many have said in these columns the buck stops with MR and no amount of whining by you and your pal DJ can change things NOW.

  • 1
    0

    Lalith kneel bit more then you can kiss the king’s feet.
    Subordinate brat. Go for an oil massage to straighten your back or you won’t be able to see sunrise any more.
    You are a shame for all Govt. servants!

  • 1
    0

    Rajeev who could not handle the competitive entrance to the U of Peradeniya (or Colombo) continues to murder the Queen. However, I will not bother you with an analysis of his poor grammar (since he may be thinking that he is a poet like Tacitus undermining Caesar or a writer like Voltaire exposing a prince).

    But look at what he says
    ” This was that, whereas all the others whose influence has been described were exercising this to fulfil their own agendas, with Lalith it was never doubted that he saw himself as only serving the purposes of the President”.

    He too was in this coterie of “others whose influence has been described were exercising this to fulfil their own agendas.

    The writer naively says “he (Lalith) remained passive when the President failed to fulfil his promised to change the Chief Secretary of the Northern Province”.
    Does he mean that Laith raised the matter but the prseident did not heed Laith, and that Lalith should have written to the Colombo Telegraph immediately, and not after crossing over to the oppositon as done by the exemplary “yours truly”.?

    Did it dawn on the writer that Gotahbaya may have objected? Does it dawn on the writer that objecting to out-of-service Military men holding positions is what the Diaspora is doing in Washington, Cape Town, Australia and many other places? Could it be that the President decided that enough is enough? And why does this become duplicity?

    Certainly He seems to have been even less inclined from then on to stick his neck out, or to take any initiatives of his own. The “He” in this could be the writer himself.

  • 4
    0

    Rajiv, please stop whitewashing MR. Lalith Weeratunga or any other public servant can be replaced… but the problem for MR is he needs a passive, subservient, obedient pup who would act on his command with no questions asked…in Lalith this is what MR sees. Gotabaya left the country for US in 1992, having retired from the army, when Sarath Fonseka was waging the war against LTTE. He came back in 2005 when his brother became the President. So his ‘patriotism’ kicked in only in 2005 when his brother became the president. Rajiv.. your attempts to position yourself to be in a favourable position with MR, in case he retains power…is not going to work.

  • 2
    0

    you want to be the purohithaya dont you [Edited out]

    Cheers

    Abhaya

    • 1
      0

      Ballige puthas of your kind will never get it.
      Now entire world is becoming clear how megalomaniac your Rajas have been. We will all join opposition if they win to nationalize the collosal amounts of your Raja and making him a zero man for all the abuses he made to the nation.

  • 1
    0

    Aiding & abetting is also a crime….

    A professional with a back bone will not standby this president.

    And what about his emotional plea on behalf of his master ? Where did that come from ???

    I beg to differ !

  • 4
    0

    Lalith was a Marga Institute director, blocking anything good for the country that we tried to do via MahinadaR. I have a big big personal experience.

  • 2
    0

    If weeratunga is purohithaya, how would you describe balapatabendi?

  • 3
    0

    As respondent Jeremy Ludikins has observed, ‘It looks that Rajiva has an axe to grind with LW’. It certainly does. And to judge from his other recent articles, it would seem that he has an axe to grind with a whole lot of others as well. Two things seem to feature in all of Rajiva’s articles – criticism of the President’s advisers and others around him – but through all of that, a feeble and unavailing attempt to show the President himself in good light, like a ‘honda miniha’ who, alas, is being misled, poorly advised and not told the truth! In so doing, what Rajiva is also doing, wittingly or unwittingly, is to project the President as an inept leader without a capacity for any independent thinking of his own. How can a man being presented as an astute and able politician be, at the same time, a hopelessly mislead and misinformed man? All these men who Rajiva sees as inefficient in the way they advise and inform MR, are MR’s own appointees, and if his appointments have been poor, no one else is to blame.

    I cannot see how Rajiva can try to dissociate MR from what ails his administration. MR is as much responsible for the mess – in fact, more responsible – than everyone else.

  • 0
    0

    Rajiv,

    I think you made a big mistake by joining the opposition, You should have stayed within the PA and campaigned for reforms. Day by day The common opposition looks like the bunch of scorned old women.
    Look at Chandrika : She abused everything available to her including our film stars:) In her time, Rookantha and his family were subjected to inhuman treatments. Do you think people will believe her.

    There has to be a change in MR governing style, But this kanda haliya is not offering a viable solution!
    Good bye,

  • 0
    0

    Withe the 10th Tsunami Anniversary round the corner, one is reminded
    of the part played by this Public Servant Lalith with MR as PM:-
    (He would have been long forgotten had S.N.Silva`s Judgement been honest)
    [Edited out]

  • 0
    0

    What are you a “JADAYA” ?

    Embala Jadaya !

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