24 May, 2022


Ranil The Caesarist Deals With L’Affair Arjun: Paradox Of Citizen Kane & Gamarala

By Sarath De Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

Carl Sandburg – the Pulitzer winning biographer of Lincoln Carl Sandburg once noted that a politician should have three hats. “One for throwing in to the ring, one for talking through and one for pulling rabbits out if elected”

Soon after the Presidential Election Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe threw his first hat into the ring. On Monday March 17th he used the second to speak through.

No doubt if elected Prime Minister, he will use his third.

Besieged by growing demands for accountability in the Bond trading fiasco Prime Minister Ranil Wiskremesinghe decided that attack was the best form of defense. Sadly his use of bombastic banalities as cluster bombs has not helped him to diffuse the crisis. The charge of ‘Ugly’ governance persists.

His parliamentary performance was intentionally made in English. A few concise amplifications made in Sinhala with colloquial appellations were meant to earn the headlines in the Sinhala press.

සදාචාරය ගැන පාඩම් කියල දෙන්න එනවා.

And then throwing the gauntlet තැන් තැන්වලහැංගී මඩ ගහන්නේ නැතිව මහ මැතිවරණයකට

පැමිණ අප සමග මුහුණටමුහුණ සටනකට එන ලෙස මම ඔවුන්ට අභියෝගකරනවා .

Maithri RanilGiven the furor of the storm he managed a long rambling delivery with hardly an interruption. In our parliament speaking in English is as safe and as effective as the American drone attacks over the Khyber. Hardly effective and definitely counterproductive. It also makes the fundamental error that ‘Gamaralas’ have no idea of bond trading while it may be home turf in fifth avenue Colombo and Manipay Jaffna.

He started off with a moral without a fable – Article 148 of the Constitution. “Parliament shall have full control over public finance.”

In the style of a meandering Moses quite undecided when and where to part the sea he began with the tiring terminology of the Rajapaksa Regime. The Ministry of Highways of the Rajapaksa administration had made commitments and signed contracts totaling over Rs 100 Billion, without any monetary allocation. Funds were needed urgently to meet these payments.  It was decided that Rs. 15 Billion would be required urgently. It was then decided to raise a part of these monies through an auction of Treasury Bonds.  By then, the Central Bank had already advertised the issue of Rs. 1 Billion Treasury Bonds.

He was fortunate. None in the opposition dared to ask ‘Hey, if Parliament has full control over finance, why didn’t you ask us before advertising the issue of Treasury bonds?

Mr. Wickremesinghe knew his audience. Hands clasped behind his back, he bent over and surveyed the house 360 degrees. In the style of Mister Micawber he asked  “Do you know about bond trading? Does anyone here know about Bonds? The sullen silence that our Mr.Micawber was more than macabre.

In moments of naked despair the old literature can be hilariously healing. “Gentlemen,” returned Mr. Micawber, “do with me as you will! I am a straw upon the surface of the deep, and am tossed in all directions by the elephants- I beg your pardon; I should have said the elements.”

The Bull Elephant went on the rampage. He made a specific reference to two heads of private banks and asked how they received the patronage of political personalities. Ranil Wickremesinghe the crusader for good governance asked a no holds barred question. How can Mr. so & so head a Bank given the large number of surveillance referrals made to the Colombo Stock Exchange?

Now that was taking the Bull by its nose string. It demonstrated the zeal of the Prime Minister in cleansing the corporates. Yet doubts linger.

Mr. Dinesh Weerakkody his newest advisor, son in law of Mr. John Ameratunga was elected Chairman of the Commercial Bank some time ago. It was well known at the time that it was with the active support of Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa whose loyal aide Lakshman Hulugalle was then an influential member of the board of the Commercial Bank. Mr.Dinesh Weerakkody is now a director of the Access Group which was and still is a major player in the Road Development projects of the Rajapaksa regime. Bad as they are, they need to be continued.

The criticisms leveled were ill-informed and malicious in intent. Justifying the nomination of three Perry Masons or Kavanagh QCs to probe and report he elaborated on their credentials.

One was an Attorney at Law with 27 years of experience in the bar experienced in the administration of several companies with foreign collaboration. The next was a criminal lawyer. The third was a lawyer who had assisted the then Finance Minister K N Choksy regarding Parliamentary Consultative Meetings. Next came the pathetic Lichchavi declaration which he hoped would amount to a papal bull. “I have selected lawyers who will not compromise their principles and not be got at. They also are respected in the community”

Questioning the competence of the tribunal he said was a deliberate campaign of vilifying the government he asserted and indulged in his own vilification of his detractors and named them with no interruption from the chair. Being Prime Minister has its privileges.

Anybody who has reservations about the panel could seek further details from the Bar Council.

He explained why the probe had to be made by lawyers and only lawyers. Who else could determine whether the bond in question was a transgression of the law? With that brilliant argument that would disarm a Disraeli he confined the ‘Affair Arjuns’ to a matter of legality and not of propriety. The three members of the Panel were respected members of society. They were knights of Siri Kotha.

Then emerged the epochal man. Ranil in the role of Robespierre!

“This is the age of the people –“Mahajanaya.”  I will listen to the “mahajanathawa” not to the “Maharajahs.”  No doubt he knows the common man. Malik Samarawickrema is the quintessential common man whose whispered wisdom he relies on. Then there are other common people. Some of the common people have been appointed to the board of directors of Sri Lankan Air Lines facilitating their travel to the mother country from distant London and Auckland! The concerned Prime Minister speaking on the Bond business lamented loud. “We do not even own a single aircraft. The airline requires 125 million US Dollars to settle Ceylon Petroleum Corporation dues as well as its loan from the Bank of Ceylon.”

The ‘Affair Arjun’ inflamed the gospeller in him. “Take the case of John Keells” he pointed. “The Government’s decision to cancel the casino licenses has resulted in shareholders dumping their shares. This is the only way to show their protest against questionable choices by the management” he intoned in the manner of an ascetic Calvinist. It seemed that Götterdämmerung – the twilight of the gods was at hand for some conglomerates.

Then came an absolutely uncharacteristic piece of double Dutch. He suggested that his detractors in the fourth estate should watch the film Citizen Kane. Even at the time it was made, few got to see it but the discourse that followed helped the legend of Orson Wells. Randolph Hearst refused to see the film and banned its mention in any of his papers. Both Hearst and Wells were egoistic titans. It was feud that neither claimed victory. That said it needs reminding that Hearst assault was largely successful. It was a quarter century later that Citizen Kane was revived and Welles was acknowledged for creating a cinematic masterpiece. In condemned neither man. It entered history as a chronicle of its time. Says producer Thomas Lennon “The fight that ruined them both was thoroughly in character with how they’d lived their lives.”

The irony lies elsewhere. Citizen Kane – the film is now owned by Ted Turner the pioneer of 24 hour TV news.

The Prime Minsters performance in the house is sure to be remembered. “Politicians are like warts on the body of society.” The only thing worse than warts are lawyers!

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Latest comments

  • 11

    What is it with people who write pieces like these? If Alwis needs to criticize the P.M’s speech he should critique it’s content instead of obliquely rediculing the speaker. It is a waste of time reading these articles, which appear to be written in the art of cynical humour to please those few who may find bashing people witty. Is de Alwis some great blameless being?

    • 3

      If anybody listened to RW#S speech would undoubtedly feel that he has worked in compliance with law and order. I am depressed when reading about this kind of pieces – I dont think srilanka has a place for genuine politicians. So sad actually.

    • 1

      Well,only a few people in this country will read Colombo Telegraph but if you ask the majority of the people who voted for MS,they will certainly agree from judging what has been happening so far ,RW is proving to be a scourge to this Nation as much as MR was.

  • 9

    Writer Sarath Alwis. It is a shame on you to spew hatred on the Prime Minister like this. You don’t give any substance but you just keep slandering. Why is CT giving you space? Who are you. From where did you come?

  • 8

    Who is this Sarath de Alwis, another know it all like DJ.

  • 3

    Maybe he has watched Citizen Kane, as suggested by the Premier, and thought he could compare both the movie vs a speech. Sigh, ……..

  • 7

    Sarath de Alwis is another [Edited out] like Dayan De Silva, trying to get publicity for his poppy cock. Where were these buggers during Mara rule? Obviously shitting in their pants unable to open their mouths.

  • 7

    The author is a man of letters no doubt.But this essay is essentially a personal vendetta against the Prime Minister couched in the language of ridicule.

    Perhaps the author must read the GITA again.

  • 6

    The writer asks: “None in the opposition dared to ask ‘Hey, if Parliament has full control over finance, why didn’t you ask us before advertising the issue of Treasury bonds?”

    The simple answer to this is that the Central Bank is charged with executing decisions taken by the Finance Minister upon the concurrence of Parliament. It does not have to refer to parliament every step or process involved with the executing of those instructions – that is left for the management committees and the hierarchy of the Central Bank to look after.

    I was a little intrigued as to whether this writer has a bias against the Prime Minister and the governance structure now in place, but when reading article, I have no doubt.

    This is a shame, for he is clearly a learned man and should have known better.

    • 1

      5.8 million people were indifferent to the call for good governance. There may be an equal number who believe in the omni-competence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The Central Bank is no doubt an independent authority.The Central Bank of Sri Lanka is no different from many other central banks in this region and the world. Corruption exists in central banks. Monopoly power and discretion is the classic recipe for corruption. My suggestion that the Prime Minister could have sought parliament advice before the acceptance of bids was rhetorical counter to his observation of Parliamentary supremacy over matters of finance. I have no personal hatred towards the Prime Minister. He is the son of a man whom I greatly admire. A colossal scandal has occurred under his watch. He must resign from office.

  • 5

    This writer has joined Dayan Jayatilleka and Don Mahindapala as a Ranil hacker.Poor display. Bad taste!

  • 2

    I wonder wether any of the people who have made comments against Mr de Alwis really understand what he has written.
    It is an excellent expose.

  • 0

    Sarath de Alwis reminds us, that more things change, the more they remain the same.

    We don’t have to agree with what he says, yet he flags Citizens concerns over the Bond Issue and subsequent handling of it. Suffice to say, we live in a new era, where all and sundry will buy into a narrative they seem to like, not what a Govt will want them to believe.

    Our Govt must tread cautiously, our people are watching, politically active and will not hesitate to send them home.

  • 0

    Ranil is not transparent in his work. His uncle JR currupted the Ceylon Administrative service by appointing Anandatissa de Alwis.

    The Nephew Ranil plants a foriegn national as the Governor of the central bank.

    Ranil knew Arjun ,ranil knew Arjunas connections. His relationships to the corrupt son in law, and he appoints him.


  • 0

    There is NOBODY more suitable for the job of Governor CBSL as ARJUNA MAHENDRAN .
    Cut the the crap you village ifoots.
    He was A SrLankan citizen , but wAs invited hy the govt of Singapore to take up a citizenship.
    Why, would a man of his calibre refuse, because you bloody gamaralS won’t get a visa to get anywhere.
    Be PROUD, that a SL citizen has got to where he is.
    Why talk of the likes of the dead old coomaraswamys who were backbenchers I’d the Rajapakses, his his sister was a well known mistress of Neelan Tiruchelcam, much to the embarressment of his family .
    Shut your traps get to wor o get Dri lanka on the map.

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