28 October, 2020

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No Justification For Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe To Remain In Cabinet

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

It is becoming extremely difficult to trust politicians whether it is Ravi Karunanayake, Tilak Marapana, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe (WR) or Rajitha Senaratne. The latter is stuck to SAITM, while others have exposed various other abusive business links. Many other dubious characters from the SLFP side are at present lying low as they don’t hold much of the reins of the present government. Among all the issues, the present key one is undoubtedly about WR. 

There is no question that the way the discussions were held at the UNP meeting against WR cannot be condoned. In addition to the aggressive manner that he was cornered and questioned, he was not probably given a fair chance to express his views. The Deputy Minister Ajith Perera should take the main blame for this hostile behaviour as reported in many newspapers. If he is incapable of controlling his temper he himself should leave politics. He has demonstrated this character many times in open TV forums before. What is at issue here is internal democracy of political parties without coercion.     

No Confidence

However, in view of the no-confidence resolution unanimously passed at the UNP Working Committee and its parliamentary group, there is no justification for the Minister WR to remain in the Cabinet any longer. He is in the Cabinet only as a member of the UNP in the national unity government. If the party does not have confidence in him, more so is the country or the people. Only some members in the Joint Opposition would like to keep him there to create trouble to the government. On many of the current issues in the country, his views have become very close to or supportive of the ousted Mahinda Rajapaksa regime.    

WJ has been a controversial minister for some time now. His major business implication was related to the Avant Garde affair, along with Tilak Marapana, who was the law and order minister of that time. Marapana resigned but WJ didn’t, although Marapana is now appointed as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Although WJ denied any connection to Avant Garde chairman, Nissanka Senadhipathi, there were many reports confirming his close relationship with the person and possibly the company.

WJ earned some popularity and liking being the Chairman of the parliamentary watchdog COPE. However, even that time there were some criticisms that he was rather soft peddling on some issues while pursing others. Nevertheless, his resignation from the Mahinda Rajapaksa government in 2006 and his support for Shirani Bandaranayake against the impeachment in 2012 earned him a reputation as a rebel politician. During that time, he was also serving as the President of the Sri Lanka Bar Association. In that capacity, he was instrumental in mobilizing the public opinion, among other civil society organizations, which culminated finally in the dramatic political change in 2015 that is popularly named as ‘yahapalanaya’ both truly and sarcastically.

As a Minister

After he was appointed as the Minister of Justice and Buddhist Affairs, he became controversial as he advocated the reimplementation of capital punishment as a deterrent against increasing crime in the country. While occasionally the President himself had expressed similar views, WR’s views were more vociferous and consistent in insisting the implementation. On this and many other matters, his views were quite conservative and detrimental to the internationally accepted norms on human rights and justice issues.

He was vociferously clamouring against crime, but not against corruption. Similarly, he was soft peddling on torture. It is true that the issues of torture, administered particularly by the police, came directly under the Minister for Law and Order. However, as the Minister of Justice, the cases against torture could have been expedited under his supervision or advice, and not interference. This is a matter that he has expressed a strange ‘hands-off’ attitude which effectively makes him redundant as the Minister of Justice.

WJ has recently revealed that he is still a practicing lawyer apart from his duties as a minister. This is a matter which is not acceptable for good governance. Apart from conflicting priorities and time constraints, there can be serious conflict of interest. A minister should be full time, and not part time or pastime. 

It is possible that he has done a good service as the Minister for Buddha Sasana. That could be one reason why many monks are behind him even on the present controversy. This is apart from the most political Asgiriya prelates. WR has had a habit of making most of his controversial pronouncements before the Mahanayakes. It is because of these close links that one could suspect that even the recent Sangha reaction against a New Constitution is something that he has instigated. 

Corruption Investigations

It is a well-known fact that corruption investigations against the persons in the last government are unnecessarily delayed. A similar situation exists in respect of major crime investigations such as Lasantha Wickrematunge assassination or Thajudeen killing. It is difficult to say who was intentionally delaying these investigations and there can be many reasons for the delays. Obviously, the Attorney General’s Department is overwhelmed by many complicated cases and prosecutions in addition to the High Courts. The Department also can be under resourced. 

There have been accusations that the present government is also not very keen in pursuing these cases for various reasons. There are ministers who were members of the last government who could be directly or indirectly complicit in some of these corruption cases or abuses. There are accusations even against the Prime Minister, according to reports, who do not like to completely discredit the Rajapaksas both for personal and political reasons. He would, it is alleged, like to keep the rift between the SLFP alive for his own political benefit by the next elections.

But from a citizen’s point of view, WR’s utterances and role as the Minister of Justice on corruption matters have been quite dubious. There was no reason otherwise for him to repeatedly say that ‘the President, the Prime Minister or him as the Minister of Justice cannot ‘interfere’ with the independence of the Judiciary or the Attorney General’s Department.’ No one has been asking him or the government to interfere with the judiciary. That is completely out of the question.

However, he is the Minister who is supposed to oversee the AG’s Department. If there were new laws required, he should have been the person who should have initiated them. In Australia, the title Attorney General itself for the Minister. In both Australia and Sri Lanka, AG is the chief legal officer to the government. As the website of the Department (in Sri Lanka) explains, “The Attorney General is the Chief Legal Advisor to the Government.…He conducts prosecutions in criminal cases and appears on behalf of the Government.”

Of course, under Section 111C (1) and (2) of the Constitution, interference with the judiciary is an offense. Independence of the judiciary is also guaranteed by Section 107. However, AG’s Department is not the judiciary. Even there is no special place given in the Constitution for the Attorney General, like for the Auditor General. This is said without any prejudice to the present AG or his Department. What the country wanted was a reasonably speedy procedure for the corruption cases and it was up to the Minister of Justice to look into the matter.   

There were constructive ways that this could have been done, or still could be done. The Attorney General’s Department is structured with several divisions and units. Some of the divisions are on civil, criminal, supreme court, state attorney’s etc. Similarly, there are units on public petitions and child protection. What the Minister could have ‘persuaded’ the Department (if he was so concerned about interference!) was to open a division or at least a unit for corruption cases and expedited the matters. He has not done so. Instead he has been politicking on the subject quite detrimental to the public expectations.

Hambantota Issue and WR’s Future

It is possible that the stand that WR took on the Hambantota port issue, after an agreement was signed between the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the Chinese company, approved by the Cabinet, was completely a ‘goodbye’ to the government. On this matter, he came very close to the Joint Opposition and the other Rajapaksas.

There is no question that the Hambantota port has been a controversial issue not only under the present government but during the past government as well. It was obvious that when the port was constructed, its main rationale was placed within the ‘one belt one road’ project of China. There is nothing principally wrong in Sri Lanka linking up its development efforts with both China and India. The concern however should be not to undermine the country’s interests to the interests of foreign countries or companies. Mutual benefit or a ‘win-win’ situation should be the objective. Foreign investments or projects should be in a moderate fashion and to the benefit of the country and the people. If someone is arguing that Sri Lanka should develop itself without any outside assistance, investments, aid or trade, that is quite primitive to say the least.

I have not seen WR expressing his views when the deal was being discussed in the country quite openly. The mistake on the part of the promoters was both conceptual and factual. When it was said that it is a ‘debt-equity swap,’ it was conceptually wrong. Based on that mistaken premise, when over 50 percent shares were given to the Chinese company for 99 years, it was practically disadvantageous. However, these are matters that there should be some bipartisan policies as much as possible.

As the agreement is now signed, what the country should try to achieve is the best possible outcomes through the present deal pragmatically. It could be hoped that the newly appointed National Economic Council could look into this and similar other matters. Therefore, in that context even WR’s opposition to the Hambantota deal cannot be considered genuine or beneficial to the country. To oppose or sabotage the Hambantota project would be against the interests of the country and the people. 

WR has openly stated that he knows many of the ministers in the present government indulging in corruption. Therefore, he is duty bound to expose them for the benefit of the country and good governance. If he has left or rebelled against the government on that basis, he could have come out of the government as a people’s hero or as a progressive. However, his record has been to undermine the corruption investigations and not to promote them. Therefore, he remains extremely an unreliable political character.

As his party, the UNP, has resolved no confidence in him, as an appointee of the UNP in the national unity Cabinet, he should gracefully resign. He has no other (birth) right to remain in his ministerial position. Otherwise, he would be making a mockery of democracy. Only if he is stubbornly refusing to do so, the President would be compelled to remove him.     

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Latest comments

  • 7
    3

    Hope Wijedasa will resign today. He simply cannot continue.

    Would like to know the stand to be taken by the Maha Sanga who opposed his removal. Hope going forward they keep out of political issues and governance matters since they have no clue about them. Best that they try to control their own monks whom they have no control at all without speaking on matters outside their domain.

    • 8
      4

      simple put a muslim minister in charge of buddhist affairs.

      • 4
        3

        Don’t you like Swaminathan?…….

        • 1
          1

          This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

          • 3
            0

            K A Sumanasekera
            why do you and ct dislike your neighbour pakistan when the island loves?

      • 0
        0

        Fukushima
        And put a non-Muslim in charge of Muslim affairs? What will happen to the triple Talag?

        • 0
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          Where is Gandhāran Buddhist?? There is nothing at Lumbini as confirmed by the Japanese government. Excavations will begin after Trump brings sense.

    • 1
      0

      “Hope going forward they keep out of political issues and governance matters since they have no clue about them.”

      What do you suggest we do with Rathana and Amila?

  • 5
    0

    Set a thief to catch a thief comes to mind.
    Hora vs Police!

  • 3
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 3
    1

    Let me recall around the Shirani B. sacking by MA-RA, it was GO-RA send his death squads to throw a hand grenade around WI-RA household and it did damage a bit around the garden and this was the same time that the secretary of the JSC was beaten around STC in Mount Lavinia by the same gang.

    Then after he got the minister of Justice., this lowyer WI-RA did not have any balls to ask the police to catch the culprits who threw the grenade as he know very well it is his new Govigama masters from Medamulana and did protect them to the core.

    What kind of justice the we fellow citizens of the isle will have with the Minister himself protecting the goons?

  • 7
    1

    At the end of the day, the buck stops at the PM’s door.

    He has shown himself incapable of leadership.

  • 6
    2

    Yahapalana Professor might open a Bottle of Spumante tomorrow………..And invite Yahapalana Uncle Shaymon…….

  • 1
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 4
    3

    It Politicians are thieves for the entire life of the parliament. when Pethouse Ravi says Lalitha Athulatmudali was devouvering whole ships (I heard it is a lie), the implication he was not that kind of thief, that has lot of weight in it. Anyway, they – UNP – successfully are diverting the country’s attention from the four thieves and party leader who are the Central bank day light robbery. Laksiri Fernando writes because it helps his camp. IF Rajapakse’s have wronged as Mangala Samraweera says, Why Mangala samaraweera look like an arch enemy of Mahinda Rajapakse now, did not find any loot that he is talkig about.

    • 4
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      Jimsofty,
      I ve been watching you. how are your gay friends?
      undoubtedly he writes to help his camp. i dislike him because i caught him lying on 2 occasions on ct. I make no mistake as I have no stake while you know the blog and the mengele affair- how sad no?
      mangala may be afraid of sooriyarachchi sickness. anyway how did the familial get sooo very rich soo very quickly? tsunami hora was the beginning.

      • 1
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        Laksiri Fernando:: why Ranil should not resing. See how many blunders. Ranil knew all thilak Marapana, Wijedasa Rajapajse, Rajitha Senarathne and more are conenct to the Avant Guard case. So if any of them are conected to the AVant Guard case, they oppose it. It is the Ranil who support corrupt people not only that in thehistory he had appointed Rapists as Justice of Peace. Ranil is comfortable with thieves. why is that. [Edited out]

  • 1
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    Why only Wijedasa Rajapakse? There are very many “Big Fish” in the Cabinet who must go. WJ is mainly accused of failure to maintain “Collective Responsibility”. Then what about Rajitha – the “Chief Spokesman of the Cabinet” who blatantly violates making FAULTY announcements and “mislead” the public. In one instance, I remember even the Prime Minister making an announcement in Parliament stating what Rajitha said at the media briefing was not true. He (Rajitha) has made this “Media Briefing” a JOKE. Why the UNP, SLFP, Opposition, JO do not want to bring a “No Confidence” OR REMOVE him from the position of “Chief Spokesman” and the Cabinet? Then what is the “Reason” and the “Morale” of bringing back Marapana who resigned once due to clash of interests into the Parliament and appointed as the Minister of Foreign Affairs? What has the “Head” of Yahapalanaya, the President got to say of that “Principle”? In my opinion, this is the WORST of any Governments that we had since Independence. All the ROUGES fight during the day on a “Road Show” and SLEEP together during the night to wake up in the morning to perform that “BORU SHOW” again.

  • 2
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    Initially, Ranil’s appointment of Wijedasa to Justice portfolio is a simply silly act. As WR very partial to Rajapaksha family from the beginning, Ranil should have gone for a strong personality as the Justice ministry should play a vital role against the previous regime’s culprits for a strong punishment.

  • 0
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    According to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “Good governance is ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law; strengthening democracy; promoting transparency and capacity in public administration.” To implement this, the UN goes follows eight principles

    Participation – People should be able to voice their own opinions through legitimate immediate organizations or representatives.

    Rule of Law – Legal framework should be enforced impartially, especially on human right laws.

    Consensus Oriented – Mediates differing interests to meet the broad consensus on the best interests of a community.

    Equity and Inclusiveness – People should have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being.

    Effectiveness and Efficiency – Processes and institutions should be able to produce results that meet the needs of their community while making the best of their resources.

    Accountability – Governmental institutions, private sectors, and civil society organizations should be held accountable to the public and institutional stakeholders.

    Transparency – Information should be accessible to the public and should be understandable and monitored.

    Responsiveness – Institutions and processes should serve all stakeholders.

    None of the above principles are followed by the government and other institutions. Because there only a few educated men representing in those institutions
    When the country is ruled by uneducated men and women and when corruption and abuses takes place randomly without any justice, the country cannot prevail. Country will go bankrupt, people will suffer and the country will suffer as a whole. Those days electoral representatives who were elected by the people represent in parliament but now those who lost in elections are nominated to parliament. The corruption starts here.
    The Sinhalese cannot rule the country and Tamils too cannot. Then what is the remedy??

  • 0
    0

    Laksiei: Things happened between the few hours of your article and now.
    Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe is gone – pushed or not is trivial.

    Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe was not comfortable in the GoSL for in “The Sunday Island of 20 August” he criticised President Maithripala Sirisena’s coalition government yesterday saying it had failed the nation…”

    WR urged Buddhists monks to lead a campaign for political change.
    He indicated that he was championing Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. He added
    “When I speak about the problems faced by the Sinhala Buddhist majority, they call me a racist, they say I am a ‘gothrikaya’ (a tribal), but when minorities talk about their issues, they are patriots.”
    No doubt WR has Presidential ambition. Another spanner in the works?

  • 1
    1

    Leaned Dr (professor) Laksiri Fernando in his wisdom omits to mention biggest scandal in the history of this country, that is the central bank bond fraud is perpetuated by Mahendran, close friend of the Prime Minister, and his appointee. Three future generations will suffer as a result.
    Erudite professor says that if the cabinet approved the 99 year lease of Hambantota port and 14,00 acres of land is something any conscientious minister had to keep silent about, this man , Laksiri is at best trying his best to mislead us. This is an affront to the common senseof any ordinary citizen.

    • 0
      1

      I think the erudite Professor think that a contract means it is given away for ever and the contract can not be abrogated.

  • 1
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    CT (or Colombo Telegraph) is the forum for suckers of the neocolonialists. They do their utmost to distract the readers from the rampant corruption of the leaders of this government.

  • 1
    0

    Before Wijedasa…..Ranil should resign. Can Laksiri (if he has balls) argue a case for Ranil’s resignation? Ranil has no moral authority to ask WR to resign or to be sacked. The good thing is fissures in majarapalanaya are widening.

  • 1
    0

    Is WR the only minister to violate collective responsibility in this govt? Why WR’s case so special? Whose tune Laksiri is playing? Bond masters?

  • 0
    0

    The collective responsibility of Cabinet is political word of hipcoracy .There nothing related to governances since 2015 January.It has corrupted very top to bottom of politics leadership of UNP from Ranil Wicks that support by MS and CBK since 2015 January 8th.
    While they retain the political power of UNP by an elected MS-President the country faced uncertainties of Economic triangle ?
    1 Selling all key National Wealth to foreign countries and foreign Capital at lowest cost, Or 99 years lease.
    2 Back to all austerity measures reduces percentage -GDP for Education & Health. Removed all Subseries to Framers and small holders of exports Crops as well.
    3 Job cutting of SOC and Govt. services employees. While increased the CB Interest RATE>
    That UNP is what is being played out in Sri lanka. . As the people of Sri Lankan run out of options.
    Political and Economic choice are loosing. Our Nation disappearing the respectable after foreign powers humiliating us, that we have been suffered at the hands of IM, World Bank & ABD of Global Finance by CB Bonds scam of UNP leadership lost Trillion of Rupees as the core man is accountability by Ranil Wicks..

  • 0
    0

    This is of course in retrospect, a fantastic piece, by Laksiri. An incisive analysis of former Minister WR, from many perspectives.

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