By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
“As a creeper overpowers the entwined Sal tree, he whose impiety is great reduces himself to the state which his enemy wishes for him.” -Attavaggo, Dhammapada.
The meeting of the present President, Maitripala Sirisena (MS) with the previous President, Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) was held yesterday (7th of May 15) in Parliament. From the sources we have, it is clear that the meeting flopped. One newspaper report stated that when MR at one stage threatened to walk out Maitri had stated that he could do so if he wanted to. One gets the impression that MR had acted like a bully trying to coerce the hand of MS into granting unreasonable demands. According to sources he had asked to be named as Prime Ministerial candidate from the SLFP. Refused. He had requested MS to detach himself from the UNP. Refused. He had wanted a stop to ongoing corruption investigations by the FCID. Refused. Of course MR must walk out. But he didn’t.
Pretty cheeky and brazen, I thought those reported demands were! Typical bullying tactics. The brawniness of a suburban macho and the polite shrewdness of a simple village peasant was in display in this narrative. One newspaper cartoon showed MS offering hoppers to MR. “Ganna ko!” (“take will you!”)
The surprising electoral defeat has not taught Mahinda a lesson. That is clear. His post- electoral behavior makes this self-evident. The strident efforts of those around him who have lost perks, benefits and illegal windfalls have given Mahinda a boost from outside. There was Nugegoda. There was Kandy. There was Ratnapura. And, today, there is Kurunegala. Although diminishing returns are seen in these successive bring-back rallies MR cronies are not deterred in what appears to them as a life or death struggle. Such bliss these cronies enjoyed; such power to order and to control; such money to come by. How can they lose all that? In countries like Australia, where I live, defeated pollies have ready-made exit avenues in the private sector. But what avenues do vanquished and incompetent cronies have in Sri Lanka where they acted as parasites on society-eking out of it rather than giving to it. Besides, many of them hardly sleep dreaming of the FCID knocking at their doors.
MR hasn’t realized the extent of corruption that played under his watch. It is hard to think that he had no personal hand in the financial crimes of his team. MR even visits them in prison like a troop leader giving support to his injured troops. The latest to be visited was Johnny. MR even visited a convicted criminal a few months back. For a person who held “His Excellency” post to behave in this manner is a worrying question to discerning people on both sides of the divide.
Corruption was never an issue for President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Even in a perfunctory way he never once publicly spoke against corruption. Even Mugabe frequently made rhetorical attack on the corrupt deeds of his men. In the case of MR the latter enjoyed keeping in his safe the files of the sleazy and the venal. It was an opportunity for MR to hold on to power by having a deadly trap on the strongmen around him. During the election campaign, MR famously made a threat to release the files of those who leave his fold. Mahinda Rajapaksa did not enjoy the company of the moral. He was plain and simple amoral in whatever he did. This is dangerous for a ruler to be.
So we see, every day, complaints flowing in of huge corrupt deals allegedly under the former regime. Sri Lanka hasn’t the machinery to handle such a copious volume. Maybe we will need a special prison in time to come as all cases are investigated. MR’s former powerful sibling, Basil Rajapaksa is held in detention. Johnston Fernando is also “in” or “Athula,” as the Sinhala expression goes. We wonder, everyday, who will get into athule! It is like a scoreboard that we keep. Lots of serious complaints against Mahinda’s wife, his siblings and his kids-all waiting in the line.
Yesterday’s Ceylon Today gave, yet, another report of financial fraud that I shall quote as an illustration to dramatize, for intended effect, what I say here:
“Additional Magistrate of Colombo Nishantha Peiris ordered the Financial Crimes Investigation Department (FCID) yesterday to investigate the alleged financial fraud which caused a loss of US$ 122 million (Rs 16,230 million) to the government in the construction of the Kerawalapitiya Thermal Power Station.
The Anti-Corruption Committee Secretariat told Court that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) could have built the Thermal Power Plant at a cost of US $ 210 million but they rejected that offer. The CEB then spent US $ 332 million constructing the 300 Mega Watt Thermal Power Plant in Kerawalapitiya, thus causing a loss of US $ 122 million to the government. The police informed the Court that a statement from K. L. K. Chandana Wijesinghe, the Director of the Ministry of Power and Energy was also recorded in relation to this investigation.
Although this Thermal Power Station had been initially planned to be built by the government at a cost of US $ 210 million, the construction was handed over to the Wesco Company which was an affiliate of the government to build the plant at a cost of US $ 332 million. The police also informed Court that Chandana Wijesinghe had stated that once construction was completed, the Ceylon Electricity Board had arranged to purchase power from the completed project.
Police told the Court further that, Wesco Company had completed construction of this 300 Mega Watt Thermal Power Station in Kerawalapitiya and that the Ceylon Electricity Board is purchasing power as had been agreed upon. Construction had been completed on a basis where after a lapse of 25 years the Power Plant ownership will revert to the government, the police said.”
This is the ongoing narrative about the Rajapaksa regime. Mahinda Rajapaksa is ensured of a fair hearing for his cronies since the new-look judiciary has already given confidence to the public. Until then, as a former Head of State he should behave more responsibly when these various allegations are been investigated. Calling a halt to the enquiries will not put him under good light. Over his ten years, President Mahinda Rajapaksa let financial fraud, corruption and abuse grow and foster around him. He cannot escape the wrath of their consequences. On the other hand, he can redeem himself to some extent only by cooperating with the investigations and genuinely turning a new leaf. Bravado rhetoric and bullying tactics cannot hold his defenses against the avalanche of accusations.
Jonhston Fernando held his handcuffs high before the camera and cried mockingly, and disdainfully, “this is Yahapalanaya!” Of course it is!