By Emil van der Poorten –
Let me open by apologising to readers for the words I’ve used following “unmitigated” when the commoner and more accurate colloquialism would have been far more appropriate. Ah, well… this is a publication for public consumption so I will stay with “horse feathers!”
It says something about the “Miracle of Asia” that perusal of the alleged scandal sheets on the ‘web’ is likely to yield several nuggets of knowledge, while one has to sift and sort before getting anything of even minimal interest or value out of the local print media. The reason for this is not difficult to find: all of the English print media is controlled by a) major politicians, b) their acolytes or relations or c) is under complete government control. If you don’t believe me, check the ownership information that is in the public domain and tell me where I’ve erred. As for there being any difference between those now officially in the opposition camp and those in power, let me fall back on that old phrase coined by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna: “Unuth ekai. Munuth ekai.” Or, more politely put in English, “Six of one and half a dozen of another.”
While this is bad enough, what makes it sound like an even deeper conspiracy is the fact that they are, more often than not, “on the same page” in matters so controversial that such a feat is either miraculous or is simply a gift from above to those obsessed with conspiracy theories.
“The Avant Garde affair” is probably the best example of there being something (very) rotten in the state of Denmark.
While all the information that has leaked out to the general public suggests that there is need for an extensive and thorough investigation of the whole business of quasi-government entities trolling the high seas, armed to the gills, while not being accountable to anyone but the “management” of the company, the evidence that has arrived, primarily thanks to the “Kaley Paththaras” is that a group of the powerful in government are seeking to push the whole fetid mess under the carpet. Needless to add, leading that particular charge are those whom I’ve identified in previous columns as seeking to buy “insurance” from the previous regime’s leadership. Currently, there are allegations that there is yet another category – those who appear to be financial beneficiaries now of the very regime removed by the people of this country then.
Any dissident opinion is met with a) loud denials, b) the advancement of the most specious of “reasons” for the conduct of the accused, or c) tomb-like silence. Oh! And, I almost forgot yet another category: truly humungous claims for damage to their reputations filed by those who have taken umbrage at their very names being mentioned in the vicinity of Avant Garde.
As far as the general membership of the “Yahapālanaya” lot is concerned, except for a small minority of individuals, you’d be justified in thinking that they had applied a collective Nelsonian telescope to their collective Nelsonian eye so that there is no possibility of their seeing all of this, thereby enabling them to justify their silence.
As for that legal eagle who has, I am told, a most intriguing professional and political past, the Hon. Tilak Marapana, Minister of Low and Odour, as one wag had it, I would suggest that a politician of his substantial experience, both in and out of cabinet, should not have waited until his fat was well and truly in the fire before he observed one of the “basics” of liberal democratic practice and resigned. There appeared to be clear conflict of interest relative to his conduct in the Avant Garde affair because he had, while still holding the previously-mentioned portfolio declared a person still not exonerated by the inquiring authorities, innocent. In fact that person was, by all accounts, still under investigation by the authorities. What was even worse was that he had done so while holding a brief from that very person and while, therefore, a “client-counsel relationship,” with all that entails, existed. Apart from the statutory principle involved, does it not run contrary to every tenet of “Joint Cabinet Responsibility” to get up in the highest of political forums – the House – and say what he did for the record? I hardly believe that any dotting of “i”s and crossing of “t”s on my part is required to advance this discussion one whit. Not to mince my words and equivocate: Tilak Marapona should have been sacked and if Ranil Wickremesinghe did not do so he should be held accountable for dereliction of duty as Prime Minister.
At the risk of being sued for more money than I’ve had in my entire life and that I’m likely to accumulate during what is left of it, let me ask our recently-anointed MR2 (Maithri/Ranil #2), what they have to say about the whole Avant Garde affair. God knows they are quick enough to mouth empty platitudes about everything else that is happening to and around us! I believe this is particularly urgent given the fact that the man designated (when last I looked) as the Official Spokesman of the government has stated, very simply, that the recent statements of two (senior) members of Cabinet on this very subject, do not constitute the official government stand on the Avant Garde business. Since Marapona has now resigned one doesn’t have to be a mathematical genius to arrive at the conclusion that there is yet another member of the Cabinet who is as guilty as he (M) was. Isn’t it incumbent on the MR2 to dismiss that individual from Cabinet?
Is this an example of mass confusion in the ranks of a hodge-podge of a government or does all of this confusion simply signal a return to the old MARA strategy of sowing confusion by having every Tom, Dick and Harry in their ranks voice opinions which varied from one to the other before His Majesty tested the wind and decided on which to place the seal of “official?”
Even if they are constrained from “coming clean” for reasons that are becoming increasingly suspicious, our MR2 owe us, at least, one of their platitudinous excretions.
The problem with all the insurance buying that seems to have taken over the national stage, with light entertainment in the form of politicians taking turns in playing “cops-and-robbers” (Hora/Polis), is that to deny that there is a fire of some magnitude behind the pretty dense smoke becomes not only untenable but inexcusable, particularly when claims of innocence are advanced before so much as completion of an inquiry.
The deafening silence of the Leader of Mr. Marapana’s party, the Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, on this burning issue cannot but give anyone with half a brain pause. In most democratic jurisdictions, the Prime Minister would have given Marapona, guilty, at minimum of a penchant for injudicious phraseology, the standing sack. Here he received not so much as a rap across the knuckles nor one of those pronouncements that “there was some kind of misunderstanding” in the expectation that we would all go back to bed and dream sweet dreams of Arjuna Mahendran. Instead of any of this, Mr. M is permitted the kind of exit that would usually result from the devolution of significant family responsibilities on the demise of someone near and dear to the subject.
Also, what the most recent turn of events is seen as providing is the opportunity to pretend that there are no other co-conspirators in the Avant Garde cover-up, thereby avoiding the necessity of either removing those fifth-columnists or forcing their resignations.
At this point, let me make a most serious request of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe: Even at this late stage, would you please enlighten us, the great unwashed of this country, as to what the hell is going on with the investigation into Avant Garde?
I cannot resist a closing editorial comment that what we appear to be experiencing is eerily reminiscent of a return to the days of “might is right” and “apey miniha” with only the actors being changed in the same rotten “shape” play.