By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
“Our struggle is to restore healthy and functional systems and we believe that systems will more often than not restrain individuals in high position in their instinct for abusing power.”
Campaigners for yahapalanaya, like me, are happy we prevailed over former Foreign Minister, Ravi Karunanayake. We salute Ravi for his decision, which (even reluctantly done) was the most honourable thing to do.
Yahapalanaya activists like us are not there to fight for personalities or parties. We fight for good governance in our country for the simple reason that law and order and accountability on the part of political and other critical players in the public domain is the fundamental precondition for economic and social progress and for a decent, civilised community life. We fought the Rajapaksa regime because it is that regime that brought in the law of the jungle and enthroned the power of shamelessness. Our struggle is to restore healthy and functional systems and we believe that systems will more often than not restrain individuals in high position in their instinct for abusing power.
The factor of people and civic power is vital to push politicians toward our goal for yahapalanaya. I quote from a previous article I wrote for Colombo Telegraph as follows: we the people are the transformative leaders. Since the revolution of January 8th we face a transformative era in the life of our country. Said Alfonsu Montuori of the California Institute of Integral Studies,“in this transformative moment, everybody contributes to, and in fact co-creates, the world we live in, whether conscious of their agency or not. Every choice, every action, every discussion, every interaction is a reflection of how we are leading our own lives.” Revd Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero had the quick vision to see this and he took the great initiative to launch the civil movement for yahapalanaya. Revd Sobitha saw that politicians cannot be trusted to launch in radical new systems.
Ravi being out of the way-at least for now- we have to turn our radar to other possible betrayers of the movement. Revolutions are often betrayed by insiders. In this sense, we are rather bewildered by some of the reported doings of the Minister of Justice, Dr Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe (WR). Let us watch this Minister. I was taken aback by WR’s recent statement to the Lankadeepe and reported by Daily Mirror (10/8/17). The report states as follows: “Minister of Justice and Buddha Sasana, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, said the sale of Hambantota Harbour – a public asset-to the Chinese was a wrong and assured the public that he would not rest until he regains its ownership on behalf of the people.”
I believe WR’s statement does many wrongs. Firstly, he undermines cabinet collective responsibility. WR is in cabinet and the cabinet examined the full proposal regarding the Hambantota project mooted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Cabinet unanimously approved the project firstly, as a practical attempt to relinquish unpayable gargantuan debts to China incurred by the previous regime; and secondly, to bring in positive foreign direct investment to the island economy, which is now in the doldrums.
Second, WR’s statement is irresponsible. Direct investment is crucial if we are to turn over our country from an import-dependent, broke, economy. Since 1977 Sri Lanka has never known what a trade surplus is. Every government has been creating jobs in government offices or driving desperate young women to save in the Middle East for a pittance. The economy does not grow enough to look after the needs of the people. The cake isn’t getting any bigger for sharing. Hence, poverty sharing has largely been the strategy. From one broke year to another. WR should know the good reasoning behind the vision of this project. He knows but condemns.
Third, and worst of all, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe is lying: The land in the area is not given to China as freehold. It is only a lease. Hence, the people still own the land and Wijayadasa has no role to play in a planned heroic struggle to “hand back to the people.” When during the last regime freehold title to valuable land assets had been given to China, we didn’t hear of WR’s heroic attacks. What a hero in the making he now is! Sri Lanka has had a surfeit of heroes like Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who “fought for the country (meaning Sinhalese.)” Or fought for the people. We do not need anymore plastic heroes. Sri Lanka needs honest men and women in public life who can plan well and deliver the goods. I am afraid WR hasn’t yet demonstrated any such potentiality.
The Daily Mirror report also states that Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe pledged to “fight corruption.” At best, I am not sure of WR being a “pivithuru (clean) man,” who is ideally qualified for that battle. WR did not figure too well when in Parliament when he defended outright the Avant Guard operation. Social media went viral with images of WR spending personal social and family camaraderie with Avant Garde CEO, Senadhipathi in (I think) a foreign land. WR also did not look quite right when he stated publicly that he will never have Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrested as the latter was a ‘national hero,’ who “helped save our land.” The most pressing complaint of the public is that although 88 cases of serious fraud and corruption by the former government have been finalised by FCID the Ministry of Justice has not displayed anything but a lukewarm response to take it from there. I have seen a recent video TV interview where Deputy Minister Ajith P Perera evidently expressed dismay about delays in the justice ministry in finalising these cases. His body language seemed to accuse the Minister of Justice.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org