17 April, 2024

Blog

Losing Faith In Sri Lanka: Is Wickremesinghe Corrupt? Are Our Judges Fair?

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

A Little Personal Background

After working in the US, I returned to this land that I love in 1995. Despite wailing over the exodus of qualified folk, it took the country till 1999 to get me a permanent job. At Peradeniya, by working with Elmore Perera and the Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG), I exposed the fact that most promotions to professor are by cheating. Charges were filed against me and that was used to deny me confirmation and promotion to Senior professor. CIMOGG took up my case and I was promoted and confirmed at the Court of Appeal and awarded Rs. 50,000 in damages, a huge sum then. I was quite proud of Sri Lanka, especially of its judiciary. 

I worked and published a book on human rights (having been trained at the Rene Cassin Institute for Human Rights in Strasbourg, my studies being funded by the Dutch Government) getting chapter contributions from Justices Mark Fernando, Shirani Bandaranayake and Dr. R. B. Ranaraja.

My dream was to contribute to and from Jaffna.  I had expressed doubts about the leadership of the LTTE so when I applied for the Vice Chancellorship in Jaffna, the LTTE opposed me but the University Council voted me in as part of the slate of three, just a couple of votes behind the first two, from whom the President would pick one. I was picked as VC in March 2006 based on my qualifications and felt proud and gratified that the University of Jaffna Council voted for me. But I received death threats and fled Sri Lanka. That was exploited by the Peradeniya Mafia to sack me saying I was given leave to be VC Jaffna and I had gone abroad without informing the university although as VC I was under the UGC and kept it informed and left only after obtaining leave.

After the demise of the LTTE I returned in 2010 and was put in charge of establishing Jaffna’s new Engineering Faculty. I fled again after Douglas Devananda trumped up charges that I fomented riots among his Kayts supporters when I exposed his election rigging in District Council Elections. I fled again in 2011. The Magistrate in Kayts was a terrible woman and issued a wanted notice. Douglas Devananda wrote to my American employer, Michigan State University, claiming that they are sheltering a fugitive from Justice. Fortunately for my emotional well-being, I knew about his letter only when the university cc-ed to me their reply. They were well-informed and stated that they are aware that Douglas is wanted for murder in India and that in America dissent is celebrated.

The new government was returned in August 2015, in summer, the only time at which leave may be granted. I took leave of absence, arrived in Colombo, and immediately took a bus to Jaffna and surrendered to the Kayts, Magistrate, a new person who went by the book and released me on bail. After long delays as the police kept saying they are investigating, the judge said he saw no evidence of an investigation and did not believe there ever was one. So saying, he threw out the Douglas Devananda instigated and fabricated police case.

Hope

I was full of hope, based on promises of the new government to clean up. I must confess to my personal biases from my Anglican faith then in Ranil Wickremesinghe. His maternal uncle The Rt. Rev. Laksham Wickremesinghe was a close family friend. I recall my father driving us from Jaffna to Colombo many times via Kurunegala and stopping to visit the Bishop. I had, accompanying my father, met the Bishop many times at functions like the consecration of a Bishop. He has visited us at the vicarage in Jaffna. He would throw out Latin phrases that I would assiduously memorize, figure out what they meant, and use them for effect. Moreover, Bishop Lakshman was sympathetic to Tamils and our plight.

Ranil being such a great man’s brother’s son, in my mind, could never be very wrong. He read a lot and that too meant in my mind that if he strayed, it would not be too far from the straight and narrow way. 

Dashed Confidence

The first crack in my Ranil edifice, alas, was when he made a speech in reopening and giving to Sinhalese the many Tamil traders’ shops gutted in the Pettah after July 1983. A historic wrong by the Bandaranaikes favoring Tamils was rectified by the riots seemed his theme. Then there were credible stories of Ranil’s peeking into the torture chambres of the Batalanda Detention Centre for enjoyment.

Through it all I thought, “May be Ranil has his Comte de Sade side but with his wealthy family background, he will never be financially corrupt.”

The pedestal on which I had placed Ranil in my mind suffered huge cracks in 2000 when he opposed Chandrika Kumaratunge’s constitution. Worse, there were reports that unsure of Palani Digambaram’s loyalties, he had sent him on a paid vacation to Singapore to ensure that he cannot vote or the 2000 constitution. 

There were other newspaper reports diminishing the judiciary – of how the Chief Justice openly said he favoured one side in the Hambanthota case, how he was caught in the night near parliament in his car without trousers and a female companion, etc. I heard lawyer friends laughing over how a Justice flashed a cleaning woman in the Supreme Court Building, how another regularly brought an empty toilet roll and exchanged it in the mornings for a full roll, how a Justice asked a District Judge to vacate his quarters so he could entertain his mistress, etc. With such widespread allegations, my faith in judges became difficult to sustain.

After the 2015 government took office, I just could not understand the impunity Ranil had granted murderers, and politically and financially corrupt ministers including Douglas Devananda who is accused of many murders. In short, Ranil did little to restore the rule of law.

Today – the IMF, World Bank and More Loans

Today there are reports that Sri Lanka is being assessed for progress to determine if the next tranche of loans should be released. We the people would need to pay it back. Therefore, the financial integrity of the government is central to the issue of giving us more funds and whether how they are invested would help us stand up and be financially independent again. A corollary of that is whether the money would be stolen again putting us in deeper straits. 

I can mention innumerable examples of corruption, all of which implicate Ranil at least in the context of  his “command responsibility” as head of state and head of government. I will stick to three examples showing that there is no law and order in the country on Ranil’s watch. Today there are well known crooks and murderers in Ranil’s cabinet. Some of the murderers hail back to the 1983 riots and later terrorisation of Tamils through murder. Perhaps the IMF does not care and is mainly interested in financial integrity to ensure that its money is returned. So I will not dwell on the murderers in government of whom there are many including the murderers from two places in Trinco, Jaffna and the deep South.

Ali Sabry Raheem

State Minister Ali Sabri Raheem who smuggled in telephones and gold walked away with hardly a punishment and continues on Parliament’s Ethics Advisory Committee of all places as if he is a renowned ethicist. His namesake, a full Minister, somehow got the Election Commission to bury the charge I brought against him on threatening violence on Muslims who did not vote for Gotabaya Rajapaksa. I even provided video evidence. After that, my EC position was not renewed, while the other Ali Sabry became Foreign Minister and defends Sri Lanka on upholding human rights. That is how we Sri Lankans are ruled by the law.

The game is this. If you have government connections, you smuggle. If you are not caught you make big money. If caught, there is little damage. 

Consider the document signed by Director General of Customs. A man is caught smuggling large quantities of jewellery at BIA. The relevant goods are confiscated, and he is fined. He runs to his friend Wajira Abeywardhana, the present leader of the UNP under his buddy Ranil. Abeywardhana orders the Director General of Customs. The confiscated goods are released and he is taxed only for what he would have paid if he had declared the goods.

This is what will happen under our IMF deal. We who earn a pittance would be taxed mightily. People like Abeywardhana’s cronies will make big money and pay little tax, whether income tax or import tax or any other tax.

Shedding light on what we may expect is the bill that Parliament passed to help launder black money. The Bill titled ‘Finance’ permits the transfer of any black money including drug funds, funds that belong to terrorist organisations and the wealth accumulated by various other fraudulent means, on payment of 1% tax to the government even without disclosing the names of the persons who own such ill-gotten wealth. Justice Priyantha Jayawardena was the presiding judge who had approved the Bill. He himself was Basil Rajapaksa’s personal lawyer and sits hearing cases were the Rajapaksas have an interest. What justice can we expect from this system?

Little more needs to be said about impunity for criminals in government and the lessons they set our children by example. Shame is a useful commodity that keeps us ordinary folk on the straight and narrow path but criminals, politicians and even Supreme Court Justices lack in Sri Lanka.

Ranil Wickremesinghe and Litro Gas

Activist Lawyer Nagananda Kodithuwakku on 06.07.2022 urged the Court of Appeal for issuance of an interim order preventing Litro gas from buying gas at USD129 per metric ton from OQ Trading Ltd. because the cabinet appointed Procurement Committee had approved the tender of  Siam Gas Trading Co. of Singapore whose bid at USD 96 was approved and communicated by the Ministry of Finance to the successful bidder on 04.05. 2022. That itself should have been enough not buy the gas at USD 129 from OQ Trading. 

It is claimed in the papers filed in the Court of Appeal by Kodithuwakku that Ranil Wickremeshinghe intervened and asked Muditha Peiris, appointed to the office of Litro by Ranil Wickramasinghe to cancel the Siam Gas tender to offer it to OQ trading. 

However, sensing perhaps what Ranil wanted, the Court of Appeal did nothing for over a period of a year. Your guess as to why is as good as mine. As a result of the delay in the issuance of the interim order by the court (strange but to be expected in the country where the lawmakers and possibly even judges do not respect the rule of law) the Litro Chairman Muditha Pieris was permitted to buy LPG (200,000 metric tons) at the exploitative price of USD 129. The World Bank loan was effectively abused by Litro to buy LPG incurring a heavy loss of public funds. 

On each metric ton, the loss was USD 33. The total stolen from us by this government is USD 33×200,000 = USD 6,600,000. I believe Ranil is responsible through his buddies in the system. 

I think this is the way the tranche from the IMF/WB loan was abused.  

440 adulterated Palm Oil Shipments Imported by Sena Mills

This story is about 24 containers of 480 metric tons of adulterated Palm Oil from Malaysia – importation of which is prohibited by the Food Act. It has been impounded at customs since March 2016 for over a period of 8 years. Strings are being pulled to get the 480 metric tons of adulterated ’crude palm fatty acid’ shipment released. An intermediary posing as a public interest activists fighting to  defend consumer rights persuaded activist lawyer Nagananda to let them be the Petitioner in the case filed by him, and later made an attempt to withdraw the case, which attempt however, failed as Nagananda withdrew the Petition filed in the name of the consumer rights activists group and at the same time reinstated the matter initiated by him to appear as a Petitioner and also the Counsel.

National List Appointments Challenged

I am involved as Petitioner with Rev Pagoda Janthawansa Thero challenging the the people whose names did not appear in the original national list published under Article 99A as there is no law approved by the Parliament permitting defeated candidates to enter parliament through the National list. Recently Mr. Kodithuwakku was approached by a media house that once interviewed me to withdraw our petition promising us Rs. 10 million for any law project that we may establish initiating public interest lawsuits. Of course, we declined the offer.

Conclusion

Welcome to Sri Lanka, led by Ranil Wickremesinghe and bankrolled by the IMF for which generations of our children will pay while we starve to death even as our leaders and judges, in whom we have lost confidence and trust, feast on our carcasses. You judge how clean Mr. Wickremesinghe is and how much we may trust our judges.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 16
    0

    Leaving the others to comment on the various issues raised by the Professor, I will comment on only one point as it appears to be overlooked by everyone.
    That is, there is still one area and the only area in which all the governments of Sri Lanka have treated the Sinhalese and Tamils in an absolutely equal and indiscriminating manner.
    Corrupt and murderous Sinhalese politicians and corrupt and murderous Tamil politicians enjoy the same kind of protection, impunity and privileges so they are able to continue their odious practices until they are bedridden or drop dead (they never seem to retire from politics!).

  • 8
    1

    Politicians in SL belong to an exclusive club. Entry barriers are high for outsiders. The gatekeepers are members of the judiciary, high ranking military & law enforcement officers & former influential party members. Membership, invariably, is for family members of excising politicians & cronies who climb up the ladder from party activists to provincial councils, those who can intimidate voters or buy votes with ill gotten wealth. Politicians in SL need one quality, the gift of the gab, to convince gullible voters, the larger vote base, which can be easily done by stirring up racial & religious sentiments & the usual promises that are never meant to be kept because we have short memories.

    We have heard of mega corruption, mismanagement & abuse of power but, as it is considered innocent until proven guilty, they remain as allegations or even considered as ‘hearsay’, which, obviously, do not warrant even an investigation, whitewashed at that. I hope the current political landscape can be changed by civic minded educated people with integrity, like the author & Naganda Kodithuwakku, who, after a successful career of their own, are now in a position to contribute to improving the country of their birth.

  • 9
    0

    Dear Readers,
    .

    Loss of faith in Sri Lanka: Is Wickremesinghe corrupt? Are our judges fair?

    I’ll put it that way.
    .
    Loss of faith in Sri Lanka: Is Wickremesinghe fair?
    .-
    Aren’t our judges corrupt?

    Should Ranjan Ramanayake be jailed as the verdict was given?

    At the same time, is it a fair judgment to allow Mahinda Rajapaksa, the king of big crime and fraud, to live out of prison?

    Why on earth do Rajapakse’s judgments seem inactive for major crimes?

    What happened to the COURT case filed against Gampaha “Basil’s alleged land property case”? Even school going children don’t question it twice but know that Basil and his wife looted government money to build “their future palace Gampaha”. The Auditor Generals and other accountants were never raised, and the media sleuths did not do their job of informing the people who were subject to the Rajapaksa thuggery.

    • 6
      0

      I know of an FR petition heard for over 5 years from 2011 and apparently concluded on 2016. However, there was no verdict for over 5 years. The delay was brought to the Notice of the Justice Minister, Attorney General, and other judicial offices. But there was no reply. Subsequently, it was referred to the RTI to ascertain the reason for the delay. However, before the RTI could intervene properly, the hearing was reopened and delayed due to coronavirus. Finally, the hearing was concluded and judgment was reserved on February 22. Another 18 months have passed as of September 23. But No verdict has been given. Altogether over 12 years have elapsed at the Supreme court.

  • 11
    24

    Professor Hoole, why did you leave out the Mahendran fraud ? A certain bias ?

    Can you imagine what would have happened if Sajith Premadasa appointed his close associate ( Mahendran , the Singapore based fund raiser for Ranil who was previously appointed Chairman BOI by Ranil ) as Ranil appointed Bank Governor who sold all the Government Bonds to his own son in- law ?

    Premadasa and his Governor by now would be in jail.

    Because all of you suffer from this Ceylonese mentality- you cannot assess a guy who in your own silly mind-set is declared an “elite” .That is why you assumed that a relative of this so called Bishop is naturally a honest man ! Today in the West many high officials of the church are being exposed as corrupt and even sexual deviants. Our elite have escaped because there are no investigations ! ( just investigate Esmond’s life style) Your attitude is like saying that son of Gary Sobers will be a star cricketer. This ” father to son”, ” special family genes” or “respectable people” are all Ceylonese nonsense. It is very unlikely your own son would also end up as a professor in a small university in the Third World country ! Is your thinking a reflection of caste based thinking ?

  • 9
    20

    So many ‘Ceylonese’ have put thumbs down to my comment ! !

    Look at them individually , how pathetic !

    Look at the society these ‘Ceylonese’ have created ! One of the worse in the world !

    Since so many of them don’t like my comments, I must be right !

  • 23
    4

    I watched a clip just now with a great measure of horror in the lawlessness facing Tamils.

    A man I believe to be Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam is on a decorated vehicle with the statue of Thileepan going towards Batticaloa.

    They are waylaid on I think the Trinco Batticaloa road and beaten up by a mob if unruly Sinhalese in front of an STF camp.

    The police instead of arresting a woman and other rowdies hitting Gajendrakumar with stick, pacify the rowdies who do not heed the police and continue to chase after Gajendramumar and lawyers from Trinco with him.

    I do not like the politics of Gajendrakumar or Thileepan or the LTTE. But they are entitled to the protection of the state.

    If the state will not protect us, we are entitled to opt out of the corrupt state.

    • 4
      0

      It was not Gagendran Ponnambalam but Selvaraja Gajendran.

      • 2
        0

        Thank you.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.