There has been an unexpected reaction to my article last week titled “Rajapaksa dynasty and their education qualification saga”. A State controlled Sinhala daily carried a front page news item last Tuesday (10) which claims this writer is living in exile in New York and runs a website with NGO help and pays money to some people living in Sri Lanka for false information which he in turn spreads.
The news item further said; State Intelligence Service has identified this writer’s motive is to tarnish the Government of Sri Lanka in front of the international community. The very same story was reproduced on Swaranavahini’s “Mul Pituwa” program which is hosted by the Chairman of the state owned Lake House group and was also reproduced by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.
I rang the editor of the Dinamina Mahinda Abeysundara and asked, “what is the motivation behind this news?” He said even he did not know about it until it was published, but it could be because of my article on the Rajapaksas’ education. He then asked me, “why are you writing for The Sunday Leader?”
The same evening the Government Information department carried a slightly different version of the Dinamina front page story, which I reproduce here.; “The Intelligence Units have found that those who held various posts in the Free Media Movement and those who have fled the country are working from foreign soils to misinform about the country and defame the image of the country, particularly among the western nations. It has been found that these anti-national elements sustained on foreign funds have sent about 700 petitions calling for the suspension of the GSP+ facility to Sri Lanka. These petition programmes has been carried out by persons such as Sunanda Desapriya, Poddala Jayantha and Uvindu Kurukulasuriya who have used financial resources of the free-media movement for their personal benefit. It has also been found that a person calling himself as the convener of the free-media movement has discreetly gathered information for this petition together with a politician of the United National Party, and these activities have been carried out by staying in a house at the media village. The intelligence sections have found that these persons who fled the country with the killing of the terrorist leader Prabhakaran are still carrying out various conspiracies against Sri Lanka.”
The irony is that these are the people who teach Journalism ethics and ban websites claiming that those websites are unethical.
I categorically deny all the allegations made by the Sri Lankan government. This clearly shows the mindset behind repression. In my article on the Rajapaksa dynasty and their education levels, I only asked two questions. I wrote; there are plenty of political leaders who do not have proper educational qualifications. So why should Rajapaksa? Yes, it not a problem. But, on one hand does the public know about their ruler’s education?Does he admit his school results, if yes, then it can be a great example of courage and determination. On the other hand someone like him needs good educated advisors. What about his chief advisor?
I made another observation on heir apparent Namal Rajapaksa. I wrote; Namal Rajapaksa had been accommodated separately in an air-conditioned room with internet enabled computer facilities to sit for his Law College examinations. Sadly President Rajapaksa managed to place a black mark on his young energetic son and heir apparent Namal Rajapaksa’s face.
If the Rajapaksas are an educated, cultured and civilised family they should have either admitted their educational qualifications or denied it making public their school certificates. Instead of doing that they are proving former president Chandrika Kumaratunga’s claim that, “the Rajapaksas are uneducated and uncultured rascals”.
Starting smear campaigns against his critics shows the mindset of Rajapaksa. Maybe this is the mindset, which he proudly claims, of his southern village roots.
US Ambassador Robert O. Blake wrote in a “SECRET” cable on December 2007;
“The President proudly pointed out a statue in the town center of his father who had served as an MP for the district 1945 to 1960. These roots in a southern small town clearly drive the President’s thinking and self-image. One MP who has worked with the President for three decades told us the President is very conscious of his lower class roots from a village in the south that contrast with the upper class urban roots of many in the UNP such as former UNP Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.”
The Ambassador and his family were invited by Sri Lankan First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa to be chief guests at the annual music pageant for the Carlton primary school in the southern town of Tangalle. After the meeting Blake wrote, “This was a somewhat disjointed but nonetheless useful conversation between second and third grade musical and dance performances. The President was at ease and mused that he was happy to have someone to talk with during what he jokingly described as ‘this annual agony’ that he loyally attends to recognize his wife’s efforts.”
Another classified “CONFIDENTIAL” cable details Presidend Rajapaksa’s decision making process. The cable was written on May 15, 2007 by the US Ambassador to Colombo Robert O. Blake. Under the subheading “Rajapaksa Trio Powerful, But Isolated” the Ambassador wrote, “The recent cabinet reshuffle, which left Sri Lanka with one of the largest Cabinets of Ministers in the world, perversely has contributed to the centralization of power in Rajapaksas’ hands because many ministers have overlapping or undefined responsibilities. The resulting confusion has meant that the most important issues are handled by the President and his advisors, not by the ministers. The President himself holds ministerial portfolios including Finance, Defense, Ports and Aviation. He thus directly supervises over a hundred government departments and administrations. Together with discretionary Presidential spending powers, he personally controls over 60 percent of the national budget.”
“The President also has bypassed the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which says the President should appoint the heads of key commissions and certain senior government officials on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council. His personal appointment of these officials calls into question their independence, and means there is little oversight of his decision making. The constitutional changes that his SLFP put forward in its ‘devolution’ proposal would, rather than decentralizing power, actually tend to increase the President’s prerogatives. For example, he would appoint two-thirds of the new Senate members under the SLFP draft.” he further wrote.
Ambassador Blake also wrote, “At the same time, the Rajapaksas are increasingly isolated. The President both fears and despises what he disparagingly refers to as the “Colombo 7 Crowd,” Colombo’s western-educated, wealthy elite (most of whom live in the 7th district of the city). He has not included them in his inner circle and is not in touch with their views. In addition, his brothers lived out of the country until just before the election in 2005. As a result, they have a limited understanding of the Sri Lankan public’s concerns and few contacts within the country’s elite. This isolation has meant that almost all important decisions are made by a small inner circle with limited exposure to input and ideas from the country’s public or elite”
Another US Ambassador to Colombo Jeffrey J. Lunstead wrote as a Prime Minister Rajapaksa freely admitted he had only limited knowledge of some issues. For instance he wrote in a “CONFIDENTIAL” cable on November 21, 2005 “Our discussions with Rajapaksa during his term as Prime Minister revealed an affable, pleasant and obliging interlocutor who seldom had anything of real substance to say. Kept out of “hard” issues like the peace process and tsunami reconstruction by his jealous President, Rajapaksa freely admitted to us and the visitors we brought to meet him that he had only limited knowledge of these issues–and no wish to run afoul of Kumaratunga by wandering out of his depth.” (Read colombotelegraph.com for full cable)
So why can he not be “affable, pleasant and obliging” now and explain his school educational qualification, instead of carrying out smear campaigns against his critics? Has Mahinda Rajapaksa really failed maths in his GCE Ordinary level exam? I am curious because he is not only the President, he is Finance Minister too!