By Amrit Muttukumaru –
Among the current crop of politicians in Sri Lanka Mangala Samaraweera in relative terms stands tall on matters of integrity despite some perceived blemishes, on competency despite criticism of being a ‘mere fashion designer’, secular credentials, communication skills and social niceties. Of course this is not saying much of the caliber of politicians in Sri Lanka today. Nevertheless, his suitability to hold public office particularly that of Finance and Media Minister has to be questioned in the context of the harm he does on a regular basis to his own credibility.
This includes (i) his allegation that the Rajapaksa family may have “siphoned off” as much as US$ 18 Billion from the coffers of the country during the MR presidency (ii) his strident allegation at a press conference few days ago claiming “personal knowledge” that Sri Lanka’s top dealers in illicit drugs are not those languishing in jail but some of those holding high posts in social service organizations such as some Presidents of Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs and Buddhist organisations.
A day or two later Samaraweera in a press statement selectively and conditionally clarified matters inter alia as follows:
“Inadvertently, I also mentioned Rotarians and Lions Clubs, which I deeply regret.”
Readers can listen to his words in the above video (3:27 onwards) and decide for themselves whether there is any likelihood of “inadvertence”?
There was no “inadvertence” from Samaraweera as far as ‘Buddhist organisations’ were concerned.
It is curious as to why after claiming “personal knowledge” he has singled out “Rotarians and Lions Clubs” for an apology while effectively confirming his damning allegation against ‘Buddhist organisations’? The silence of ‘Buddhist organisations’ and even “Rotarians and Lions Clubs” is deafening. It must be emphasized that Samaraweera has on his own volition unilaterally softened his stance on the Rotary Movement and Lions Movement.
One wonders whether strong bonds of ‘friendship’ have influenced Samaraweera to selectively soften his ex cathedra edict which he asserted is applicable to Rotary and Lions? This is the man who stridently made the allegations with “personal knowledge”!
It must be noted that Samaraweera, now Finance Minister has neither taken any credible action in the public domain to recover the US$ 18 Billion he alleged was “siphoned off” under the Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency nor offered an apology to Mahinda Rajapaksa. As to why the Rajapaksa camp have not filed a defamation suit against Samaraweera remains a mystery.
Silence of Rotary & Lions
It must be noted that although Samaraweera now states “Inadvertently, I also mentioned Rotarians and Lions Clubs, which I deeply regret.” he has not completely let them off the hook when he asserts:
“There may be some individuals in society that join various organisations for such reasons. “
To date neither the Rotary or Lions leadership have issued any press statement. Why?
For the credibility of Rotary and Lions which over the years have done commendable social service and have had and still have decent well meaning persons as members, should not its leaders (i) Demand that Samaraweera forthwith identify those he claimed with “personal knowledge” holding high posts as “Presidents” were allegedly “Sri Lanka’s top dealers in illicit drugs”? (ii) File a defamation suit against him if he fails to identify the “Presidents” concerned?
Their failure to do so will result in immeasurable harm to the credibility and respect of the Rotary and Lions organisations. The Rotary movement in particular owes it to the youth of the country who are members of the Rotary fraternity through its ‘Rotaract’ and school-based ‘Interact’ clubs.
The silence of the parties concerned has the potential to encourage people to surmise there is a vestige of truth in Samaraweera’s allegations.
Is it not incumbent on the parties concerned – Rotary Movement, Lions Movement and Buddhist Charities (i) At least now to issue a strong press statement demanding an unqualified public apology from Samaraweera? (ii) if he fails to so to file legal action for defamation?
Although hackneyed it is relevant to cite the quote attributed to Edmund Burke:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”