17 January, 2022


Mahendran, Pilapitiya & The Principle Of Culpability

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Well, it is known that when the boss is crooked, it is a license for his/her subordinates to indulge as well. The reverse is more revealing. If the minions are in to picking, the chances are the boss is either incompetent or him/herself corrupt.” – The buck of corruption floats up

The above was what I wrote editorially in ‘The Nation‘ in April 2012. The title of the editorial was ‘The buck of corruption floats upwards’.

The current regime vowed to do things differently than previous one. It would be different too. Is it, though? And is it too late to really get serious about manifesto and mandate? The following article, published in the ‘Daily News‘ (June 9, 2016) addresses these issues.

There is a useful rule of thumb with respect to institutions and corruption. If the person at the top is corrupt, it is a veritable license for corruption down the line. If there is any corrupt individual anywhere in the institution it means that either the person at the top is corrupt or else he/she is incompetent. There are corollaries as well. Foolishness begets foolishness and only a fool will suffer fools. Replace ‘fool and ‘foolish’ with ‘incompetent’ and ‘incompetence’ respectively and the principle still holds. Looking the other way is as bad as active encouragement because it sanctions wrongdoing and emboldens wrongdoer.

This principle of culpability holds for a school, a club, an NGO, a farmer organization, a trade union, a small or medium scale business, a blue chip company or a Government. This is why there are checks and balances, periodical review of the same and amendment of relevant rules. Systemic error is often blamed but it is ridiculous to blame all wrongdoing on institutional flaws. Decent, competent and incorruptible leaders can and do run cleanly even those institutions hampered by such flaws. The ‘boss’ can play a blame game but the boss is fooling no one. The boss has to take the blame in the end. In short if credit flows up, debit should too.

Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya

Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya

Mahinda Rajapaksa is a classic example. He’s been accused of much wrongdoing and so too his confidantes as well as close family members. Charges of financial wrongdoing are currently being investigated and therefore comment on the same has to be reserved for a later time. Nevertheless there was enough skullduggery and gross wastage that do not require investigation. Mahinda had a lot of friends who were thugs. There were many instances of intimidation and assault which did not prompt inquiry or else resulted in investigative processes that were dreadfully slow. If, as the then Chief Executive, credit for defeating terrorism accrues to him, so too all the ills during his tenure, whether it was constitutional tinkering that went against the spirit of democracy, waste and abuse of public funds and other resources, all highhanded acts by politicians and officials loyal to him, fraud, assault and murder.

He had his chances to do things differently. He didn’t take them. Instead he strengthened the hands of the Mervyn Silvas of his administration.

Well, all that is in the past. What of the present? Things haven’t been very different. We saw candidates rejected by the people being smuggled into parliament and then to cabinet. That’s hardly the championing of democratic principles, is it? People with clouds over them for mismanagement and wrongdoing strangely found favor with the movers and shakers of a regime that pledged good governance. Misuse of public funds, nepotism and interference in the affairs of the law enforcement authorities have continued.

Let’s put it all down to the abiding force of a deeply rooted political culture that is rotten to the core. Let’s say that it will take time for people and politicians to appreciate and make use of the 19th Amendment. Let’s say that things will become better once the Right to Information Act is passed. Let’s say ‘it is unfair to demand too much too soon from this Government which is struggling on a lot of fronts due to external factors beyond its control’. Let’s say ‘let’s give them more time’. We can say all that but we must also say ‘if you don’t stop the rot, it means that either you are rotten too or are just too powerless to do anything about it.’ We would have to say, also, ‘If you want to be like Mahinda Rajapaksa, you’ll have to go like him too!’

Let’s flag two issues (among a number large enough to be alarming considering that this Government is less than a year old and this Presidency just over a year old). One is a resignation and the other is about retention of services.

Arjuna Mahendran

Arjuna Mahendran

A few days ago, Director General of Wildlife, Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya tendered his resignation. It was an act of protest at pressure being exerted on the Yala Warden to apologize to a minister for arresting some of his supporters who had killed a leopard. It was a case of one minister standing up for another.

Dr Pilapitiya is known for being competent and for being straight. He always stood up for what he believed was correct regardless of the objections or the name and power of the objector. He had a time of it, according to reliable reports, during the previous regime. Indeed, it appears things we worse. This automatically means ‘things are better now’, but that’s exactly why they should not be allowed to get worse. And worse it will get in this field as well as others if the President and Prime Minister don’t act and act decisively. If they suffer fools (as they have and as have their predecessors), then there are no prizes for naming the biggest jokers!

There aren’t many officials who have the knowledge, experience, courage and integrity of Dr Pilapitiya — all the more reason for quick action to set things right. Do nothing and you encourage, embolden and empower the fools and the goons. Do nothing and you are acknowledging complicity.

Mahinda Rajapaksa weighed marginal costs versus marginal benefits and went for what he thought was politically expedient. He didn’t weight ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’. It cost him. This Government appears to be doing what Mahinda Rajapaksa did. It could cost.

The second case if that of Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran. Yes, the bond issue scandal. The committee of party loyalists hand-picked by the Prime Minister to investigate the Governor he himself had hand-picked, following inquiries, recommended a full investigation into the operations of the Governor’s nephew as well as the Bank of Ceylon. A Parliamentary Select Committee was about to submit its findings on the matter when Parliament was dissolved. Since then the Central Bank has indulged in equally dubious operations with the Governor’s nephew benefitting immensely.

Against this backdrop it is alleged that the Governor wants to have all data related to the last two bond issuances deleted from the Central Bank computers. When someone occupying as key a position as the Governor of the Central Bank comes under suspicion it should first and foremost worry the President and the Prime Minister. It certainly ought to worry each and every citizen.

We have Dr Pilapitiya resigning over what could be called a relatively minor issue (note however that small wrong is also wrong and principles compromised on the basis of magnitude tend to make for further compromises down the road and as such Dr Pilapitiya should be applauded). We can hope that the Prime Minister takes actions against the errant minister(s) or else open himself to the charge that he’s breeding the likes of Mervin Silva.

We have a Central Bank whose Governor is under a massive cloud and a Government believing it’s all blue skies up there. We have a situation where the citizens are being asked to refer to the Principle of Culpability and conclude what the impartial and sober concluded regarding Mahinda Rajapaksa: ‘the top approves and therefore is culpable or else it is incompetent’.

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Latest comments

  • 10

    Wow! Well said, Malinda. For once I agree completely with your view (too little too late, though it may be!).

    You forgot the gross, in your face, appointment of Kumarasinghe Sirisena, almost immediately after his brother ascended to the Presidency, and then the salary enhancing (if true).

    Granted, your reluctance (or refusal, to be more accurate) to indict Mahinda in the past, when he was guilty as hell regarding many of the improper and sometimes illegal practices you have mentioned, painted a partisan portrait of yourself, but one can only hope that some epiphany has illuminated your consciousness.

    Let’s see how it goes – and good luck with getting some objectivity in your views in future!

    • 4

      Mother, your missionary position is boring.

      Perhaps, you should try inverting Malinda’s argument upside down, like in a 69, as I have done below in my analysis of this article.

      • 5

        Keynes – “boring” though my ‘position’ may be, I thought of giving the Devil his due, given that for once, he has included MR in his list of transgressions.

        I thought I made that clear!

        Having said that, I found your analysis to be quite interesting, although your 69 position isn’t quite as exciting as the ‘real thing’!!

        I also agree with your ‘chess’ analogy, as Malinda is unlikely to change his spots overnight, so this gambit must surely be one of his ‘not so unusual’ ploys of playing both sides for cosmetic purposes.

        • 3

          Today there are protests at Barnes Place Colombo 7.

          Mahinda Jarapassa, his sons, brothers, cronies, and Mervin Silva who did their dirty work, stole lands and homes of poor people, slum dwellers who lived for generation in Barnes Place and of minority Tamils and looted lands in Colombo 7.

          Barnes place and Wijerama and Green Path and Alexandra road were particularly focused on. Rajapaksa’s stole lands from small Tamil and Muslim corner shop owners and squatter communities as well in those neighbourhoods – that have rights.

          Hiran Weliwita now owns a huge house at Barnes Place No. 1. He is the brother of Yoshita Rajapaksa’s CSN’s Rohan Weliwita and has since changed his name to Welivitagoda. These people need to be investigated. How did this prime property end up with these people?
          Dammika Perera bought the former Australian High COmmission land, demolished the old colonial house and built a Palace opposite the Colombo museum for Namal Rajapaksa on Marcus Fernando Mawatha…
          The Colombo land registry was burned in order to cover up the lands stolen by Jarapassa cronies.

          FCID needs to investigate all these transactions…

  • 9

    /Well, it is known that when the boss is crooked, it is a license for his/her subordinates to indulge as well. /

    WOW… why didn’t you say louder when your paynaster was in power?

    /Mahinda Rajapaksa is a classic example. He’s been accused of much wrongdoing and so too his confidantes as well as close family members./

    Buahaahaahaa… Where were you when these people were doing this?

    /Mahinda had a lot of friends who were thugs. /

    Examples please! LOTs of thugs, come on now, name them, or wear your chicken suit and hide under the bed.

    /There were many instances of intimidation and assault which did not prompt inquiry or else resulted in investigative processes that were dreadfully slow./

    As a *journalist*, what have you done? You were one of his flag-waving supporters.

    By the way, who killed your fellow newspaper editor, Lasantha? What have you done to raise this issue?

    Are you trying to whitewash yourself, Mr Journalist? You think you could fool people all the time?

  • 2

    Malinda, can’t agree more with your sentiments, I just hope the powers that be, read and agree as well, am not holding my breath though

  • 3

    The Government do not ‘believe’ it’s all blue sky. The prime minister does not want to admit his incompetence. He seems to cover it all up by acting the joker in Parliament. How despicable; ‘breeding the likes of Mervin Silva’ does not fit the colossal financial loss to the country by the bond issue disaster.

  • 4

    Malinda I agree with what you have said.
    However I disagree with you when you refer to the smuggling of the defeated candidates BY MS though I whole heartedly agree that it should not have been done.
    The reason for that was after handing over the party to him Mahinda Rajapakse did the dirty by him using STATE RESOURCES to run round the country attempting to destabilise his regime.He converted places known to be places of worship where we heard Sadhu Sadhu to JAYAWEWA. While MS was trying to build bridges he jumped a communal train with some men in robes like the trade union cleric who leased his temple to be used as his headquarters to create havoc in the country.This necessitated MS to mend his fences and get some loyal to him amongst whom were a few bad eggs too as such men within were better than outside.
    Iam sad that you have never touched on what MR did which brought about this obnoxious practice. It is the considered view of intelligent people that MS would never have taken defeated men if he after getting rejected twice gracefully retired with honour. His greed for power has still not abated and the country is the looser as he is misleading ASSES with the orphans and crooks around him

  • 6

    When writing about Mahinda -“Well, all that is in the past”…

    Malinda forget to add “when I was too much of a coward to write about it on laptop MR gave me.”

  • 9

    Malinda Seneviratne’s write-up is a smokescreen to divert attention from the real causes of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat.

    Malinda claims that Mahinda lost the election primarily because of corruption.

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

    Mahinda got 61% of Sinhala votes in 2005, 68% of the Sinhala votes in 2010 and 58% of the Sinhala votes in 2015. This clearly indicates that there was no large swing in the Sinhala votes for Mahinda and that corruption was a non-issue for the Sinhalese during the elections in 2015.

    The changes in the votes for Mahinda in 2015 over time can be explained by the support withdrawn by green nationalists like Malinda and their parties such as the JHU.

    The reason as to why the green nationalists decided to withdraw support for Mahinda can be explained by game theory.

    Mahinda started the war in 2006 because he had to accommodate the green nationalists who brought him to power. The following video of Rathana Himi at Mavil Aru in 2006 is telling in this regard:

    When the war was started and eventually won, international pressure began building up. Mahinda, thus, faced the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma. He attempted to get out of this mess by creating the Bodu Bala Sena, which he thought would displace the cultural hegemony of the green nationalists. The green nationalists knew that their time will be up if Mahinda won the election in 2015 and therefore switched allegiance by citing corruption!

    The reason why Mahinda decided to call for early elections was because of the upcoming resolution in Geneva in 2015. The corruption card that is being waved by people like Malinda is nothing else but a ploy to distract the polity as to the true cause of Mahinda’s failure.

    The Prisoner’s Dilemma shows why two completely “rational” individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so. In the case of the Mahinda- Green nationalist alliance, the Prisoner’s Dilemma demonstrates why the two partners in war crimes betrayed each other and went for each other’s jugular.

    Has Malinda been checkmated? I guess the answer is a ‘no’ because his way of playing chess is different. Malinda will now come around and claim that corruption is an issue for minorities! Indeed, chessman Malinda’s game is best explained by George Eliot’s imagined chess game in Felix Holt:

    Fancy what a game at chess would be if all the chessmen had passions and intellects, more or less small and cunning; if you were not only uncertain about your adversary’s men, but a little uncertain also about your own; if your knight could shuffle himself on to a new square by the sly; if your bishop, in disgust at your castling, could wheedle your pawns out of their places; and if your pawns, hating you because they are pawns, could make away from their appointed posts that you might get checkmate on a sudden. You might be the longest-headed of deducted reasoners, and yet you might be beaten by your own pawns. You would be especially likely to be beaten, if you depended arrogantly on your mathematical imagination, and regarded your passionate pieces with contempt.

    Yet this imaginary chess is easy compared with the game a man has to play against his fellow-men with other fellow-men for his instruments. He thinks himself sagacious, perhaps, because he trusts no bond except that of self-interest; but the only self-interest he can safely rely on is what seems to be such to the mind he would use or govern.

    Some racist bastard this Malinda is.

    • 3

      Hello Keynes
      You are spot on it takes a genius like you to fathom malinda the racist.
      He was supporting mahinda the war criminal all along and got rewarded.

      • 1

        Thank you for the compliment PROUDMAN. Can I quote you on my CV?

        Please buy Baily tea whenever you can.

  • 0

    Malinda, good one!
    Please also write about Panama Papers and why some Sri Lankans capitalists would need to deposit funds half way around the world when Asia is a growth hub in what Mahendran calls “legitimate uses” of off shore accounts as tax havens?!

    How can the insider traders and bond scammer who leads the central bank investigate the crooks named in Panama Papers?!

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