By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“Is it always the same Spring
Who reprises her role forever?”
Neruda (The Book of Questions)
Why were the police slower than slow in acting against marauding Parliamentarian Palitha Thevarapperuma?
Wasn’t this tardiness due to the fact that the alleged miscreant is on the governing side? Does it not demonstrate that as far as the police are concerned nothing very much has changed?
If a UNP politician attacked a UPFA politician just a month ago, the police would have arrested him in the blink of an eye. When will the police learn that their job is to move against all wrong doers and not just wrong doers who are on the ‘wrong’ side of the political divide?
Palitha Thevarapperuma incident is a test case. If the new government fails it, Yaha Palanaya will become an empty slogan, a joke, a forgotten footnote, like the Dharmishta Samajaya of 1977. Instead of the rule of law, law of the rulers will continue to reign; different rulers, same impunity.
Why did Gotabaya Rajapaksa open a separate account to deposit monies obtained from selling the former Army Headquarters?
Did he not know that according to Chapter XVII of the Constitution all revenues of the republic must be credited to the Consolidated Fund?
149 (1) The funds of the Republic not allocated by law to specific purposes shall form one Consolidated Fund into which shall be paid the produce of all taxes, imposts, rates and duties and all other revenues and receipts of the Republic not allocated to specific purposes.[i]
Mr. Rajapaksa has claimed that he opened the account with cabinet approval. Did he not know that such separate allocation requires parliamentary approval/knowledge?
151 (1) Notwithstanding any of the provisions of Article 149, Parliament may by law create a Contingencies Fund for the purpose of providing for urgent and unforeseen expenditure.
(2) The Minister in charge of the subject of Finance, if satisfied –
(a) that there is need for any such expenditure, and
(b) that no provision for such expenditure exists,
may, with the consent of the President, authorize provision to be made therefore, by an advance from the Contingencies Fund.
(3) As soon as possible after every such advance, a Supplementary Estimate shall be presented to Parliament for the purpose of replacing the amount so advanced.
Mr. Rajapaksa claims that the money was credited not to the Consolidated Fund but to a separate account for the purpose of constructing a new headquarters for the army. Why did he feel the need to bypass the Consolidated Fund entirely? Was it to escape parliamentary oversight? Since Mr. Rajapaksa neither obtained parliamentary approval to open the account nor kept the parliament informed about account-operations, wasn’t he acting in violation of the constitution?
Did he knowingly act outside the Constitution? Did he think the Constitution mattered not?
Will the new government end up with as large a stable of ministers as the old one?
The new government seems to be acquiring new ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers, one day at a time! Does it think that by increasing the number of ministers gradually it can hoodwink the populace? Has it not learnt from Rajapaksa mistakes?
Who made the decision to privatise the two armouries maintained by the Sri Lanka Navy in Colombo and Galle and why?
Until 2012, the Navy was in charge of maintaining these weapons stores for merchant vessels plying pirate-infested waters. In 2012, the storage facilities were handed over to a private company called Avant Garde.
What were the reasons for this act of privatisation? It could not have been lack of profitability because it was reportedly a very profitable operation. The Navy could not have been overstretched, because the war was over.
What was the logic in getting the Navy to run tourist hotels, maintain the Floating Markets and clean the Vihara Maha Devi Park while an important and profitable security related task is given over to a private company?
According to media reports, the Navy suffered a loss of revenue amounting to Rs.300 million due to this privatisation[ii]. Is this true?
This deal, like so many other deals which had nothing to do with national-security, was shrouded in secret. It needs to be held up to public scrutiny. The public must know why the Rajapaksas implemented this act of privatisation, to the detriment of the Navy and to the benefit of Avant Garde.
Was this curious transaction another indication that the Rajapaksas were building a military-commercial complex, under their control, for their politico-economic benefit?
Will the practice of singing the National Anthem in Tamil be restored?
This practice was banned by President Rajapaksa, in a petty act of revenge, after Tamil-Diaspora protests caused the cancellation of his second Oxford Union lecture in December 2010. The LLRC recommended its restoration as a necessary step towards national reconciliation. Will that recommendation be implemented? When?
When will the new government move to reclaim the monies owed to the state by heavyweights of the previous regime?
- 30.49 million for the use of the commercial service of the Air Force, just from December 1st 2014 to January 8th 2015. Among those who used this service sans payment for electioneering were Namal Rajapaksa (Rs. 15.08million), Wimal Weerawansa (Rs. 5.98million), Basil Rajapaksa Rs. 4.81million) and Susil Premjayanth (Rs. 2.6million), according to an expose in The Sunday Leader by Nirmala Kannangara.[iii]
- 140 million to the CTB, according to Transparency International[iv]. Half of the operational fleet of the CTB was reportedly used for electioneering purposes.
- 2.03 billion to state and public media organisations, for election ads.
When will the relevant state institutions ask the Rajapaksas and other former power-wielders to pay their dues? Will the state take legal action, if necessary, to obtain these payments?
When will justice be done to Jeyakumari Balendran and other civilian Tamils taken into custody to prove a non-existent LTTE threat?
The same government which informed the courts that it has no evidence against Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP arrested the aged Ms. Balendran on terrorism charges. Ms. Balendran has been fighting to know the fate of her youngest son, a child-conscript who handed himself over for rehabilitation and vanished. Her only surviving child, a daughter aged 12, is in a children’s home in Killinochchi.
When will Jeyakumari Balendran and others like her know freedom? When will Kumaran Pathmanathan’s freedom end?
Will the National Executive Council end the various exorbitant privileges Lankan parliamentarians have allocated themselves, overtime?
Why should elected representatives be entitled to a substantial pension after serving just 5 years while most Lankans do not have a pension or must work for long years to qualify for one?
Will all members of every new parliament have the right to import duty-free vehicles and sell them?
In Burkina Faso, a President of 27 years was forced out of office by a popular uprising. Post-revolution, bowing to popular demand, the country’s parliamentarians agreed to halve their salaries[v].
Can we learn from that excellent example?
Mahinda Rajapaksa and his motley crew of loyalists are waiting, eagerly and expectantly, for the new government to make their old mistakes.