By Dayan Jayatilleka –
The Working Committee and the Parliamentary Group of the UNP disgracefully passed a unanimous vote of no-confidence against Minister of Justice and Buddha Sasana, Wijayadasa Rajapakshe, which said more about those two UNP entities than about Wijeyadasa—and none of it good. The real reason, or should I say, the main reason out of the set of real reasons, for the UNP-NGO lynch mob against Wijayadasa Rajapakshe is not the need to expedite justice and to catch crooks. The main reason that Rajapakshe is being targeted is to shoot through him or get him out of the way and hit the real target. That real target is the Attorney-General’s Department.
Why so? Because the UNP leadership is trying to head-off a Watergate outcome. More specifically, because the officials of the AG’s Department are courageously and independently inquiring into the Bond Scam and the UNP does not want the inquiry to go beyond and above Ravi Karunanayaka, Arjun Aloysius and Arjuna Mahendran. It doesn’t even want the Commission to really go for Arjuna Mahendran. It hopes to save him in the nick of time. But above all it does not want the Commission to inquire into the chain of command that brought Mahendran the Singaporean here, installed him as nothing less than the head of the Central Bank and gave him the patronage to do what he did.
The UNP does not want the Commission to pick up on what the first COPE Report, under the signature of DEW Gunasekara, uncovered. It is when that COPE process grilled Arjuna Mahendran, and he revealed the name and designation of the person who gave him an instruction or green light, that the COPE process was aborted by the declaration of a general election.
It is to protect the same person, whose designation is indicated in shortened form in Arjun Aloysius’ text messages, that Wijayadasa is being targeted. This is because the top officials of the A-G’s Department have to be brought to heel so as to cripple the Presidential Commission. They cannot be brought to heel because the professional independence and integrity of the A-G’s Department is being protected by the Minister of Justice Wijayadasa Rajapakshe. So he has to be either removed from that post (leaving him the Minister of Buddha Sasana and something else) or neutralized and intimidated into silence and compliance.
This is delightfully ironic, though. The Yahapalana administration prides itself on de-politicizing the bureaucracy and the state apparatus in general. However, the A-G’s Department and the Minister of Justice are excoriated by the UNP-NGO bloc for not adhering to the political target menu and going after the Rajapaksas with zeal.
This is obviously hypocritical. It is also quite dishonest. The one word I do not hear from those who want to investigate and prosecute the dubious practices of the previous regime is MihinAir and the one name I do not hear is that of Sajin Vass Gunawardena. Make that two: I don’t hear the name Gamini Senarath either.
So the real targets are the members of the Rajapaksa family and on a separate track, the field commanders, the combat commanders, of the war-winning Sri Lankan military.
The UNP wants to know why the Commission is investigating the bond scam with due diligence but not pursing the previous regime. In the first place that’s not what the Commission was appointed to do and in the second place it is quite logical to start with the most recent crime- which is easier to investigate—and also happens to be the largest and most damaging to the country.
The UNP’s suggestion is that either a special court be appointed or else that cases be fast-tracked and conducted back-to-back. This is dangerous for more than one reason.
It is dangerous to have any kind of special court or special procedure, because that is exactly the model that will be used for war crimes trials. In fact I suspect that the whole issue of a fast track is being suggested not only to swiftly decapitate the Rajapaksas legally and politically, but also to open the channel for the implementation of the accountability component of the Geneva resolutions 2015 and 2017, and prosecute the military through this fast track which will, in effect, be a special court (as promised in Geneva).
The UNP obviously hopes to repeat its tactic of 1982 and win the referendum on the new Constitution thereby abolishing the executive presidency and federalizing the state. In case the reader thinks I am on thin ice when I say “federalizing’ I would refer him/her to a recent article by Ana Pararajasingham which states that “On 15 May 2015, during a televised debate with the TNPF’s Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, TNA’s Mathiyaparanam Sumanthiran, revealed that the TNA had an ‘understanding’ with the Sri Lankan President to provide the Tamils with a measure of autonomy ‘outside the unitary constitution amounting to federalism in substance’.”
When the referendum of December 1982 was held, the UNP had removed Mrs. Bandaranaike’s civic rights two years earlier, jailed Vijaya Kumaratunga on charges of being a Naxalite (i.e. a Maoist revolutionary, no less) and locked up Ossie Abeygoonasekara for allegedly forging a rice ration book. The fast-tracking of the multitude of cases against the Rajapaksas is intended to decapitate or cripple and divert the Joint Opposition while the local and provincial elections are held and much more crucially, when the Referendum is held and federalism sought to be introduced while retaining the unitary label.
The UNP Working Committee and Parliamentary Group have absolutely no problem with their colleague Mangala Samaraweera who tied up Sri Lanka with the Geneva resolution in 2015 and 2017. They do however have a huge problem with Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe, and passed a resolution against him, notwithstanding the support he has from the Buddhist hierarchy. This is a throwback to the insensitive, out of touch, rootless cosmopolitan UNP of the 1950s, of “Bandung booruwa” and the “Mara Yuddha” cartoon. Remember what happened to that UNP in 1953 and more decisively in 1956? Also, think of what carnage would have befallen the UNP in 1988 if the dissident populist-patriot Premadasa had been hounded out and not been available to save the party and government?
So here we are. A terrorist rammed his car into walkers along Las Ramblas, the famous street in Barcelona, one of my favorite cities, killing 13. Remember the Pettah and Maradana bombs and the Central Bank bomb? Those were far worse than the terror attack in beautiful Barcelona. The reason we no longer suffer from such horror every month is simple: Mahinda Rajapaksa, supported by Gotabhaya, decide to win the war for us and did so. And now the UNP wants special processes to prosecute them and the members of their family and hounds their own Cabinet Minister who is reluctant to do so, while we watch and wait passively. What will history say of the UNP and what will history say about this society– about us?