21 August, 2019

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Leadership Vacuum In Sri Lanka

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

Imran Khan (IK), 67 years old Prime Minister of Pakistan, hails from an upper-middle-class Pashtun family in Lahore and is a graduate of Keble College, Oxford. He captained the national cricket team on the single occasion his country won the Cricket World Cup in 1992. Aged 39,  IK took the winning last wicket. A philanthropist, he raised funds for two state of the art hospitals in Lahore and Peshawar. He also served as Chancellor of the University of Bradford from 2004 to 2014

Pakistan Threek-e-Insaf (PTI or Pakistan Movement for Justice) was founded by IK in April 1996. He led PTI to victory in the 2018 general election and was elected as Prime Minister on August 17, 2018.

As Prime Minister, IK undertook his first state visit to the US from July 21 to 23. He traveled three days on commercial flights to save taxpayer’s money. Meetings were held while on transit in Doha with CEO of Qatar Airways and the Ruler of Qatar. He attended over 15 meetings in America within two days and stayed at the Pakistan Embassy instead of a five-star hotel. He returned to Pakistan at 2 am and held a cabinet meeting at 10 am.   

One of his many engagements while in the USA was a Q&A session organized by the US Institute of Peace (USIP), a non-partisan and independent federal institution promoting conflict resolution and prevention globally. The packed audience comprised of policymakers, persons in and out of government and those who genuinely care for the US Pakistan relationship. IK’s responded to the last question, “what final message would you like to leave as a closing thought” thus.

“My message from my first trip as a Prime Minister to the US. I would like to have a relationship between the two countries of mutual trust. I would like to have a relationship between the two countries as equals of friendship. Not as it has been before that where Pakistan has been wanting aid from the US, and for aid, Pakistan is expected to do certain things. The reason why I am happy leaving the US this time is because we have a relationship not based on a mutual interest, which is peace in Afghanistan. Someone asked will you get these funds.  I hate the idea that we will be asking for funds, not only from the US but from anyone because this aid has been one of the biggest curses for my country (applause from the audience). What it has done is, it has created the dependency syndrome. We have become…….  You know when I went on my first trip to Saudi Arabia, I came back, what have you got from there as if I had gone there to beg for money and I think it is humiliating for a country. Countries rise because of self-respect and self-esteem. No countries rise by begging and borrowing for money. My relationship with the US would be, I would like a dignified relationship with the US where never again should we ever have this humiliating phase. I can tell you as a Pakistani, never did I feel more humiliated when Osama bin Laden was taken out of Pakistan by US troops. Never did I feel more humiliated because here was a country which was supposed to be an ally and our ally did not trust us. So, as a Pakistani, it was, for every Pakistani, it was humiliating. We never want to be in that same position again. We want to have a relationship of friendship. Doesn’t matter you know; one friend can be rich and the other not so rich. So, what, it is about a dignified relationship. That is what I hope to have with the US (applause from the audience).

Views expressed by IK of allies may be misplaced. Pakistan cannot claim ignorance of Al Qaeda leader and chief 9/11 planner Osama bin Laden living with his several wives and children close to a large military installation in Abbottabad for over five years.  2,977 lives were lost and over 6,000 injured in the US. Providing refuge to such a person was not in the spirit of friendship.

That said, in IK, Pakistan has a leader who has finally placed national interests before personal interests. He is equally fluent in his national and official language Urdu as in Pakistan’s second official language English. 

IK released over 500 staff from the sprawling Prime Ministerial mansion and lives in his own house. He also returned 78 of the 80 vehicles including 33 bulletproof vehicles from the Prime Ministerial fleet to be publicly auctioned, retaining only two for his use. He travels in economy class using commercial airlines. His wife is a housewife and does not play a public role. His asset declaration and tax returns have been uploaded in the Federal Board of Revenue and Election Commission websites for public scrutiny.   

Sri Lanka has not produced a leader with IK’s honesty, integrity, clarity of thought process, and eloquence in delivery for decades.   

Vocabularies of Sri Lankan leaders does not contain such words as dependency syndrome, shame, begging for money, self-respect, self-esteem used by IK.

Sri Lanka is heading for Presidential, Provincial and Parliamentary elections even though it is still not clear in which order. Maithripala Sirisena (67), Ranil Wickremesinghe (70) and Mahinda Rajapaksa (73) are the leaders of the main political parties in the fray.  

Voters who placed their trust in our politicians since 1970, including the three mentioned have been let down. They have all squandered their political capital and mandates.

Others in the fray are Sajith Premadasa (52), Karu Jayasuriya (78) and Gotabaya Rajapaksa (70). Premadasa is an untested quantity. If the recent ‘Aryawa Bharyawa’ episode is anything to go by, the country could be in serious trouble under a Premadasa Presidency. Jayasuriya has failed until today to discipline the marauding MPs who caused mayhem inside the Parliament in October 2018. It leaves serious doubts about his ability to govern the country. Gotabaya Rajapaksa proved himself as a highly efficient administrator as Secretary Defense. What is unknow is, will he be his own man or his elder brother’s shadow once installed to the Presidency.

Leaders being fallible are bound to have character flaws (no one is a Buddha, Christ, or Prophet Mohammad). That said, none of them have exhibited IK’s dedication and commitment to national interest over personal interest, honesty, integrity, and zest for hard work.

It is heartbreaking to note the promises being made by Presidential contenders. One has offered to work 24/7 for the people. Every politician promises nonexistent jobs to the unemployed, unaffordable pay hikes to the employed, unrealistic relief to pensioners, and many more. They then try to wriggle out of their promises once in office and end up making right some promises when threatened with massive industrial action or immediately before next elections. The recent 16,800 appointment letters to unemployed graduates to nonexistent government jobs, publicized with full-page advertisements in national dailies is one such example.    

Not one of the contenders tell the voters how they plan to raise funds to make good their promises, once in office. Neither does voters ask. On the other hand, most would accept even a headache for free. 

Not a single contender speaks the language of IK, and I do not mean the English language. Not one of them has uploaded their Assets and Tax Declarations in their official or private websites. Not one of them has stated Sri Lanka has begged and borrowed enough. The need to reduce foreign debt to a manageable level by drastically curtailing external borrowings is not part of their agenda. The need to cut our cloth to suit the purse is not in their equation. 

Such a project would need tightening of belts by all. Voters would support a contender prepared to lead from the front and emulate many of IK’s policies and practices.      

Not one of them has stated the need to regain our self-respect and self-esteem. Few if any of our current leaders even understand the meaning of such words. Therein lies the reason for the ignorance among younger generations, including millennials of such traits. 

President JR Jayewardene, in a complete breach of protocol, accepted a luncheon invitation from the British High Commissioner. It was a BBQ lunch on a Sunday by the poolside. Our first lady suffered the indignity of being seated next to a total stranger and house guest of the High Commissioner. He was clad only in a pair of swimming trunks. 

One time President, Head of State and C-in-C Mahinda Rajapaksa went scurrying to India House when summoned by the Indian High Commissioner Ms Nirupama Rao. She wanted the President to meet with CWC leader Arumugam Thondaman. The latter was threatening to meet with LTTE Political Wing leader SP Thamilselvan and link up with LTTE. India wanted none of that. Thondaman’s main grouse was the replacement of his security contingent of army and air force personnel by two Police constables for the task of protecting him from the LTTE!  

Sad but true, the paradigm of lacking in self-respect is by no means limited to our leaders and politicians. The malaise has affected our men in uniform as well (yes, our armed forces has its share of criminals as with armed forces the world over).  UN peacekeeping assignments, foreign junkets, naval craft discarded by the likes of the US, China, India, to name a few have blinded them. 

Two weeks ago, this writer wrote of the shameless act by the newly appointed Northern Forces Commander paying his respects to the Indian Consul General in Jaffna.  Last week, the newly appointed US Defense Attaché, a lowly Lt. Colonel and his deputy paid a courtesy call on Chief of Defense Staff Ravindra Wijegunaratne, an Admiral. The so-called Deputy Defense Attaché in a dress is a non-uniformed staffer and titled DLO, possibly Defense Liaison Officer. Countries such as the US, UK, Russia, and China notoriously appoint intelligence operatives in the guise of Attachés, sometimes even Cultural and Agricultural!

As we move to elect leaders for the next five to six years, the leadership vacuum in the country and the need for a local Imran Khan is felt as never before. 

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    Long time ago, A Chinese leader had told that Sri lanka is in front of a big mountain and is eating it. Just a few days ago, Chinese ambassador has told, 70 years before China was a Poor country. today, china is one of the highly developed countries.I think what he meant was for 71 years what did Sri lankan Leaders do. they say, they have 50 years, 40 years experience. But, even to date, they say during the next five years they make a Sri lanka a paradise. As the elections are near by they says during the coming months Sri lanka becomes a Paradise. Last few months, they says, they did a lot why don’t they show it. what people says is very contradictory to that.
    Parliamentarians are just a shameless lot and they are all political families who are working to uplift their families. Now, all are there to make their family members a part of the govt elite.

    • 2
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      JD,
      I think that it is very unfair to make a general statement based on a few extreme crooks. In any case, SL is not Pakistan which appoint political leaders with great fanfare only get rid of them with a bullet or a military coup. SL voters are much more decent & intelligent. Imran Khan, like his predecessors certainly may have big ideas. Also, his solution to Afghanistan may be the right one as well. However, if passing 19 A & eliminating the fear of the infamous White Van Culture etc to re-establish democracy by itself couldn’t make SL voters happy without fulfilling the dream of progress (whatever that means) can stand as an example, I doubt very seriously whether Imran can maintain his popularity without solving countries dire social & economic problems.

      I think that Rajeewa is only contributing to “copi kade’ ” talks we commonly hear, without giving much thought to the extremely precarious financial situation SL was in when the Gvt changed in 2015. Like drug addicts or alcoholics can’t stop the urge, Lankans also have a bad habit of demanding everything from the Gvt without ever bothering to wonder how the Gvt going find money to meet voters demand. With such voter-attitudes, I doubt whether a politician even with tenfold charisma of Imran can ever stay popular if he try to implement financially correct measures to restore the economy first. I strongly believe that Ranil’s Gvt is also facing exactly this problem – trying to solve financial mess created by the last Gvt.

      I think that Rajeewa’s essay has a totally different intention: To raise GoRa’s candidacy by raising doubts on UNP candidates. That is why he cannot see fact strait. A writer like Rajeewa shouldn’t have lost the memory in just for short years!

    • 2
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      Foreign aid has been one of the biggest curses for my country . What it has done is, it has created the dependency syndrome.

      Imran Khan is dead right and the opposite of Bondscam Ranil who is so dependent on the US that his Economic Policies are drafted in Washington at MCC to benefit America first and global 1 percent, and asset strip and loot Sri Lanka whose development record and achivements under Bondscam Ranil and his corrupt and clueless butterflies in collusion with US citizens Rajapaksaa siblings is summed up in one word -GARBAGE !
      The Washington Concensus and Japan ADB debt trap that Sri Lanka is in, is a good example of the Aid Curse. Bondscam Ranil must be impeached for enabling the MCC to destroy Land, transport and energy sector institutions and oversight as well as customs, immigration Dept. to import garbage from US – EU an Nato military bases in the Indian Ocean.
      development under Yahapalanaya neoliberal policies is garbage importation. What a Miracle of Modayas

      • 8
        1

        Sri lanka belongs to the Younger Generations and it is time to Ban anyone over the age of 60 contesting elections

        Sajith is the best of a bad lot and at least Not as corrupt as the other dodos named here.

        US puppet Bondscam Ranil and ex US citizen Gota should share the same prison cell for looting Lanka and asset stripping the country in order to turn Lanka into a US military base.

  • 3
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    Brilliant! Sadly there are no Imran Khans in Sri Lanka. If the same politicians come to power in the next elections, we can only expect the same corruption, nepotism and economic disasters.

  • 2
    1

    What about Dr Ranil’s Philanthropy..
    How many do you reckon have become Multi Millionaires with Dr Ranil’s LKR 34 Million Charity Gift to his poor hard working Legislators in Kotte?.

    Not forgetting the other 11 Billion LKR Charity Fund to Dr Ranil’s School Mates and their Family members even in Singapore and the Penthouse for his best ex Finance Minister in Colombo?..

    Our Cricket Hero Khanny had the Dowry to do his Charity .
    Dr Ranil didn’t have such Luck. Did he?.

    I don’t know how this Dude got it all muddled up.
    I saw a picture yesterday of the UNP Heavy Hitter Dr Rajitha in full Kovil Attire , including even a full make with probably a Loreal Foundation, leading the Pooja in a Hindian Siva Temple..

    His Dear Son whom Dr Ranil adopted as his Son too and Shoe honed in to Kotte was in fact in front of the Dad with even better Attire , Head Gear and a smile to to match the Colgate Whitening .
    That was soon after Dr Rajitha announcing the new Coalition of the UNP Dr Ranil Faction, with the Tamil Parties, and all the Muslims Parties in Lankawe and the JVP..

    The Caption was New UNP Coalition’s Presidential Candidate .
    I was sooo happy to see how blessed the UNP Elite Anglican, Vellala and now with the added Wahabi Faction is to have such a distinguished duo to lead them in to the future..

  • 1
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    Rajeeva , what are your conclusions? Are you implying that the dodgy Gotler Gota is a worthy alternative? The Confused

    • 1
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      “Gotabaya Rajapaksa proved himself as a highly efficient administrator as Secretary Defense. What is unknow is, will he be his own man or his elder brother’s shadow once installed to the Presidency.” – Rajeeva.

      There is no confusion. For Rajeeva, Gotapaya is his choice. For White van is a good vechicle to resolve all the problems including the robbery of state money to build Rajapakse memorial and Avante Garde illegal export. Even the white van will not stop at his elder brothers family if necessary.

    • 0
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      The Confused,
      There is no confusion; Rajeewa is advertising Gora! But he doesn’t have the guts to say it directly leading to the apparent confusion. He should contest my conclusion if I’m wrong.

  • 1
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    Dear Mr Rajeewa Jayaweera,
    .
    Although we don’t know in what order the three Elections will be held, it is widely believed that we will have the Presidential Elections first. At those elections, we essentially vote for one of a number of individuals. The figures for the 2015 Elections appear towards the bottom of this Wikipedia entry:
    .
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Sri_Lankan_presidential_election
    .
    There were nineteen candidates; theoretically, they started with an equal chance of winning. Like many others writing on the elections, you have failed to mention that it is possible for each voter to mark Three Preferences. Very few voters are conscious of this possibility, and my guess is that fewer than 1% of ballots are cast in this fashion.
    .
    The winner, Maithripala Sirisena polled 6,217,162 votes. The runner-up, Mahinda Rajapaksa polled 5,768,090. Who came third? Ratnayake Arachchige Sirisena with 18,174 votes. Fourth? Namal Ajith Rajapaksa with 15,726. I conclude that some of the votes obtained by these candidates were cast by confused voters. The last of the nineteen candidates obtained 1,826.
    .
    This was the seventh Presidential Election held under this system, since 1982. As on all other occasions, there was no need to count the Preferences cast by voters for other candidates since the winner had obtained over half of the valid votes cast: 51.28%. How significant a development would it be if, in 2019, the Preferences have to be counted? I believe that when it is announced that Preferences have to be counted before declaring the winner, there will be gasps of incredulity by most of the voters seated in front of about three million electronic devices – mainly Televisions.
    .
    I believe that when the next election is held in 2025, the awareness of the Preferential System will have a marked impact on the electorate. I hope that the author and some readers will comment on this.

  • 9
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    Gotabaya Rajapaksa proved himself as a highly efficient administrator as Secretary Defense.
    Or a highly corrupted murderous war criminal

    • 0
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      A highly efficient administrator as Secretary Defense.
      In the war project Mahinda Rajapaksa was the architect, Sarath Fonseka was the Structural Engineer and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was the Project Manager.

      Soma

  • 2
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    EVEN GOOD LEADER SHIP WHEN THEY JOIN THE GOVERNMENT ARE PUT IN VACUUM SO THEY ARE NOT RECOGNIZE OF THE GOOD WORK AND HIDE THE ABILITIES FOR HAVING BETTER WORK THAT FITS INTO THE SAYING FLAGS DOES NOT WAVE/FLY IN A VACUUM

  • 1
    0

    Our leaders are bad because we; the people are bad.

    Pakistan people are also bad so how can IK be good?

    (Pakistan people sell drugs, arms & ammunition, violate human rights, especially women’s rights, always, there’re reports of bribery & corruption & many times military intervened in politics.).

    • 0
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      Real Revolutionist, useless fellow, the writer says we don’t have a leader with similar qualities of IK.

      A cricketer, World Cup winning captain, educated & a politician – all that match with Arjuna Ranatunga, but can he be an IK of Sri Lanka still?

      • 0
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        Arjuna? Your joking right? He couldn’t even ensure that we get our petrol on time.

  • 0
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    What is the truth. In some countries media manipulates every thing and IT is said Brazilean presidential election was won completely based on media manipulation.
    In sri lanka, my guess is General election should come in five years. the president can stay for six years. Why people are crying out loud for the first presidential election.

  • 0
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    Excellent writing base on facts.Mr Jayaweera please translate this to Sinhalese and try to publish this in Lankadeepa. Divaina may not accept this, as its a slave of Rajapaksha clan.

  • 1
    0

    Vacuum? No way, we are loaded with junk right around from top to bottom. Be it politics, academics, professionals, police force, religious places, all these places are over loaded with junk and garbage and how can anyone say there is vacuum. If there is a vacuum at least we have a chance to fill it with some thing but it is full of junk and garbage and shit then how can we fill it? We missed the bus whole sale unless some young, really educated, saner guys take over, but will the goons allow that? If not for racism they have no national policy to begin with.

  • 3
    0

    Sri Lankan need to understand that they have not had a LEADER for the past seven decades. The current lot in the political arena are incompetent and useless. The politicians are the mouth piece of the mass. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the people who elect them. Do not complain, Sri Lankans.

  • 0
    0

    Age of the existing leaders is an obvious factor. They are largely all past 70. In the old days, this was acceptable in China and India. Why have the same old crooks (including Gotabaya, not only a crook but a killer). There is no young leader of calibre in sight. The JVP has many but they will not be acceptable. So, what do we do? Choose one of our cricketers? They are after big money. They could earn it more easily as politicians.

  • 0
    0

    Mr Jayaweera has made valid comparisons. Sadly, the answer is staring us in the face. Too many old fossils are clinging on to power. Too many septuagenarians determined to go on . . and on . . and on. Long after their use-by-date. Men who cannot go gracefully into retirement. Instead they demand that sprightly 55-year-olds making useful contributions should go. What a laugh!

    Our leadership is old and tired; the same old has-beens determined to hold on to power, surrounding themselves with sycophantic golaya’s, devious drug kudu-karaya’s and assorted thugs and trouble makers.

    The electorate should demand: Where are the young Turks?

  • 0
    0

    Rajeewa Jayaweera’s mindset is very much influenced by the language/religion-divide which was a creation of our vacuous-minded founders. A McCarthy-fear of ‘invasion’ was used to fuel this ‘divide’ and the ‘us & them’ syndrome encouraged. The ‘us’ were portrayed as superior to ‘them’.
    Rajeewa yet again mentions {“……the shameless act by the newly appointed Northern Forces Commander paying his respects to the Indian Consul General in Jaffna……”}.
    This takes the cake {“…..Last week, the newly appointed US Defense Attaché, a lowly Lt. Colonel and his deputy paid a courtesy call on Chief of Defense Staff Ravindra Wijegunaratne, an Admiral…..”}.
    The Thondaman episode is a laugh! The man still brings South Indian Devil-Busters to chase away evils hovering near MR.
    .
    To cut a long story short: Rajeewa is impressed {“……Gotabaya Rajapaksa proved himself as a highly efficient administrator as Secretary Defense……..”}
    Soaking in ‘Culture of Impunity’ he changed the schedules of SriLankan Airlines to bring a Swiss puppy!
    Right now he is a lame duck.
    As President, MR always took an entourage when going overseas. He tried to hijack an SriLankan Airlines flight from London.
    .
    Rajeewa extols the virtuous of Imran Khan. Imran is clearly challenging the Pakistan Armed Services and the bigoted clergy. We wish him ‘Good Luck’.
    We desperately need an Imran. Certainly not an Imran Rajapaksa or Imran Premadasa or whatever.
    .
    An aside Rajeewa: We no have Gnanasara Thera, portrayed as a Heroic Angel by MR family. The Gnanasara BBS_Buddhism is not averse to violence against ‘others’.
    Is he an Imran?

  • 2
    0

    Sri Lankan politicians are greedy and after power by hook or by crook. None of them has the interests of the country at large.
    Recently, I read in the newspapers how Lakshman Kiriella appointed 37 of his cronies as advisors when there was no provision in his Ministry’s budget! For him, the slogan Yahapalanaya is a joke.
    Rajeewa Jayaweera is a tom-tom beater for Sinhala – Buddhist supremacist theories. He sees every problem from that angle.
    After dismissing a whole lot of presidential hopefuls out of hand, his settles on Gotabaya Rajapaksa. But what are his credentials? He retired from the Army prematurely and went to the US in search of greener pastures. He became a citizen of that country forsaking his country of birth.
    Though a government servant, he ran the Defence Ministry like Hitler. He chased the UN staff and the Red Cross from Vanni. He arrogantly claimed bombing hospitals and schools are legitimate military targets. He also claimed there were only 70,000 civilians trapped at Nandikadal when the actual number was well over 282,000, the number that surrendered to the Army on May 17/18, 2009. In other words, Gotabaya denied food and water for the balance 212,000 civilians. His brother had the gall to claim that he is waging a “humanitarian operation with zero civilian casualties.” Nazi Propaganda Minister Gobelles must have turned in his grave on hearing this.
    Gotabaya along with six others have been charged for alleged misappropriation of Rs.48, 563929.06 being amount due to the Treasury in respect of the construction of the D.A Rajapaksa Memorial at Medamulana, Weerapitiya. This was the balance amount due out of the total expenditure of a thumping Rs. 81.3 million.

  • 2
    0

    The Memorial was opened on November 5, 2014. The Rajapaksa family is walking on the streets without a shred of shame or self-respect.
    According to Minister of Finance, Ravi Karunanayake, Mihin Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd. continued to exist as a company until October 31, 2018. Mihin Airways, a pet family project of Rajapaksa family, has incurred a staggering loss of Rs, 15.5 billion and another Rs.18, 000 million as capital expenditure. This eclipsed the much-vaunted Bond scam where the loss was only Rs.10 billion.
    Gotabaya allegedly ordered an airplane used for a July 13 commercial flight from Colombo to Switzerland be switched from an Airbus A-340 to a smaller A-330. The boyfriend of Gotabaya ‘s niece, who is a pilot, was not qualified to fly the larger A-340, and the change would have meant 56 passengers would be told to rebook their travel. Gotabaya was also planning to bring back a dog from Switzerland when the flight returned to Sri Lanka on July 16, 2012.

    When Frederica Jansz raised the issue with Gotabhaya he flew into a rage and tongue-lashed the poor editor of Sunday Leader in raw filth! On another occasion, a plane was sent to fetch his puppy.
    Yet, Rajapaksa family is walking the streets without an iota of shame or self-respect.
    Jayaweera conveniently sweeps all these stinging corruption/scandals under the carpet and tongue in cheek claims “Gotabaya Rajapaksa proved himself as a highly efficient administrator as Secretary Defense.”
    It is a pity the Sinhalese voters continue to vote for those who looted the Treasury right, left and centre and ruined the country during 9 years of autocratic family misrule!

  • 0
    0

    China had the guts to publicly execute a top Party leader convicted of bribery and corruption charges and now a contender as World Superpower. Sri lanka is ruled by corrupt criminals accused of all known crimes a Dictionary can describe. We have had leaders from D.S to MS as accredited contributors to our National garbage.

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