The Arrogance Of Power

Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,MORE OPINION,Opinion,Popular |

By Friday Forum

The story of a plane, a pilot and a puppy would not ordinarily interest the average Sunday newspaper reader.  Add to this an account of an angry and vicious outburst by a powerful public official and you have an explosion which raises issues that should concern all citizens of this country.

The reported response of the Secretary of Defence Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a telephone conversation with the editor of the Sunday Leader, Frederica Jansz, is, we believe, unprecedented.

Frederica Jansz had her story, and maybe she did not have to make a second call. However, the tirade of abuse that follows was utterly deplorable, coming from a senior public servant.

No other senior public servant has to our knowledge used such vituperative threatening and obscene language in interaction with a member of the public or a journalist.  Public servants are governed by an Establishments Code which contains the norms and standards of conduct set by the Public Service Commission. They are required by an oath of office to conform and abide by the Constitution of this country.

A violation of these norms and standards of behaviour calls for explanations, disciplinary procedures, interdiction, resignation or termination.  Legitimising such violations by excuses such as “provocation” and “harassment” by media personnel, only reinforces the idea that public servants exercising significant powers are not accountable under the law of the land for their conduct, and that the public have no right to question abuse of authority and intimidating behaviour by those who hold high office.

We are all aware that there has been an incremental decline in the standards of public life, including the standards of conduct of some public servants.  Many politicians are increasingly ignoring the law, and encouraging public servants to violate laws and regulations through questionable politicised decision making.  We now have a senior public servant who is a close kinsman of the President, behaving with a politician’s arrogance and disrespect for the norms and standards that should be followed in public service and in administrative decision making.  This is setting a dangerous new trend that can culminate in another level of abuse of authority, also encouraging the public to break the law.

It is ironical that Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa in an interview given to another newspaper last Sunday seeks to justify the use of obscenities and expletives in anger, by saying that these words are used “Commonly in American (USA) in normal usage”. (Lakbima News ; July 15 2012 P.05).  His Excellency the President and persons in public life have frequently exhorted us all to reject Western values, and be guided by our “traditional” and “home grown” cultural values.  If the language used by Mr. Rajapaksa was used by a public servant in a Sinhala or Tamil translation, there would be a reaction of shock, anger and disgust.

Statements made in the interview with Ms Jansz that have received publicity, indicating disrespect for law and the Courts of Law, and ignorance of the constitutional norms on freedom of expression and information, present a frightening scenario of the capacity of a person in high office in Sri Lanka to exercise unlimited power.  The threatening language used is a chilling reminder that death and violence await anyone who dares to question the exercise of these unlimited powers.  Sri Lanka is due to present its report at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council in a few months.  The government’s poor record on media freedom and protection has been already challenged in many national regional and international fora.  Mr Rajapaksa’s angry outburst only reinforces allegations of the growing culture of violence against the media, and the suppression of media freedom, and the almost entrenched culture of impunity for this violence.

If the government is serious in its recent claims that it will not tolerate impunity for violence and abuse of power, it must now “walk the talk”.

The public has a right to ask whether it is acceptable for His Excellency the President to continue to keep in high office a person who demonstrates an incapacity to control his temper, and responds violently when he is angry and under pressure.   Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s role in ending a thirty year brutal armed conflict cannot be taken to mean that he can hold office as a public servant and not conform to the norms and standards that regulate the conduct of public servants.  Legitimising erosion of values in public administration by condoning such conduct is certainly not good governance in the public interest.

 

Jayantha Dhanapala                                                        Professor Savitri Goonesekere

On behalf of Friday Forum, the Group of Concerned Citizens

Mr. Jayantha Dhanapala, Professor Savitri Goonesekere, Rt. Reverend Duleep de Chickera, Professor Arjuna Aluwihare, Mr. Ahilan Kadirgamar, Mr. Lanka Nesiah,  Mr. J.C. Weliamuna, Dr. A. C. Visvalingam,        Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne,  Dr. Camena Guneratne,  Dr. Deepika Udagama,  Ms. Anne Abeysekera Ms. Sithie Tiruchelvam,  Ms, Dhamaris Wickremesekera, Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran, Professor. Ranjini Obeyesekere, Tissa Jayatilaka, Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, Dr. G Usvatte-Aratchi, Professor. Gananath Obeyesekere, Mr. Ranjit Fernando, Mr. Daneshan Casiechetty,  Mr. Mahen Dayananda, Rev Dr. Jayasiri Peiris, Ms. Suriya Wickramasinghe, Mr. Chandra Jayaratne.

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‘Keep Frederica Jansz Safe’, ‘Embassies In Sri Lanka Should Raise Her Case’ – ARTICLE 19

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25 Responses to The Arrogance Of Power

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    This lind of vile thuggish lanquage may be used in the West but only by low-lifes of the worst kind…as in Sri Lanka it would seem.

    Gillian Sathanandan
    July 25, 2012 at 8:23 am
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    You Friday folks are barking up the wrong tree! While all that is said here is quite correct and the statement should end with a demand for resignation of Gotabaya the goon, the fact is that as long as the other anti-democrat, Ranil Wickramasinhe fails to relinquish power in the UNP – THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO RAJAPAKSE. Please therefore start talking to Ranil to find an exit strategy, become a Party senior or mentor (like Lee Kuwan Yew) and pass on the leadership of the UNP to someone who is capable of challenging Rajapakse and who embodies the liberal and pluralist values of the party – Rosy Senanayake for instance. Sajith Premadasa and Karu are really Sinhala nationalists, but would still be better than RW who is destroying democracy within the UNP which able to challenge Rajapakse and thus destroying democracy in Lanka. Ranil is next to Rajapakse the single biggest obstacle to peace and democracy in Lanka and you folks should talk to him and his lovely wife about finding an EXIT STRATEGY!

    Sarinda
    July 25, 2012 at 8:40 am
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      Well said Sir, I absolutely agree with you.

      Saman
      July 25, 2012 at 9:54 am
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      I dont think that we should put the entire blame on Ranil. After all he is not at all corrupt. There he deserves respect as due. It is t he people of this country- should be accountable for the mess that the majority s been going through today. Majority of lankens have short memeories. No matter the ministers stay blind folded – people seem to be waiting until President himself involves in any matters. Ministers seem to be not performing their portofolios in compliannce with ministerials responsiblities. just let forget EVEN crucial issues such as problems remaining to be resolved in above all in the areas of Education and justice/ Law and order. Instead of criticising Ranil, why not the folk IF NOT ALL but significant fractions of the nation try to strenghten RW^s hands to go against any unlawful matter that CURRENT regime seems to be NOT properly handling. Is their any other option than supporting the opportion?

      Anti JAmareFraction
      July 25, 2012 at 11:04 am
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        Anti JAmareFraction Sir, there is nothing wrong with Ranil. The UNP has a constituition and his nomination conforms to this. Let’s rally round Ranil, remove this Family run regime and then we can again, if you wish, moan about Ranil. Ranil for reconciliation and revival of economy and he is the right man for this job.

        Real Peace
        July 26, 2012 at 2:53 am
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      Madam Maitree needs to wake up and stop being a hypocrite – and get her husband to quit! Indeed Ranil is MRs best friend, but these Friday folks, like all the Colombo HR NGOs like CPA etc, are too cosy with Ranil and wife Maitree who claims to be a great feminist! Have not feminists always said that the private is public? By the same coin – the public is private and its time now for Maitree to stop her free riding and kindly quit and ask her husband who is ruinging not just the UNP but Lanka to QUIT.

      Dodo
      July 27, 2012 at 7:50 am
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    DEAR FRIDAY FORUM AND FRIENDS,. THIS Secretary of Defense showed “his own AMERICAN WILD WEST traditional” and “his home grown” cultural values to us . NOT OUR SRI LANKAN TRADITIONAL AND CULTURAL VALUES. NOT LIKE THEM , WE SRI LANKANS HAVE GOOD, CIVILIZED TRADITIONAL AND CULTURAL VALUES

    SERUVILA SENARATH
    July 25, 2012 at 8:52 am
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    Don’t disgrace the west. You will never hear a western secretary of defense speak to anyone (forget a journalist)in this manner for what so ever reason. May be the words used are English, but not the people who hold high posts and so called Gentlemen use such profundity. Unfortunately, I don’t see this stopping till Ranil W steps down from the UNP where a new leader could actually show the mass the negative aspect of this government.

    Rohan K
    July 25, 2012 at 9:22 am
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    ‘Good governance’ ‘public interest’ which country is the FF living in? The rules of the game have changed – we must move on and CREATE new norms stop hanging onto the expired paradigm

    ordinary lankan
    July 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm
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      Ordinary Lankan: That was a very interesting contention and deserves further thought

      Anti-Boru
      July 26, 2012 at 1:27 am
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    Only thing I don’t understand is when a party MP asked Ranil to accommodate SF into the party, RW said SF could join the party as a member by paying Rs:20.00. I don’t know the reason or the facts behind this. SF was the last common presidential candidate and a honest, strong patriot who could bring in more supporters into the party. Only if somebody could explain.Thanks.

    Reader
    July 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm
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    In terms of power sharing within the majority Sinhalese you are right to change some colourful figures in UNP But we have a national troublespot or flashpoint regarding the minorities and NOBODY is ready to come to a compromise Whether you want or not we are a multiethnic multilingual state There is no winner in this war. Chinese have the harbour, Indians the power plants, we are the coolies of globalization, certainly we can not avoid some global changings ( not developements ), but we can share our resources within the country according to ILA or our local workers union standards Our ethnic issue brings and brought our people to condemnation, for a small island like this so many thousands of death, displacement, abductions etc., etc., which still continues I can see from the list of Friday Forum, some of you have changed your opinion about MR´s marode regime and we are happy about this Land distribution and Police under Province govt Army, Navy and Air Force according to the percentage of the population or different regiments like in India All forces should be withdrawn from civil administration Disarming of all homeguards, para military grouphs, Wimal Weerawamsa´s, Pillayan´s, Karuna´s and Douglas´s parties, underworld grouphs who support political parties like Duminda and similar local heroes Then we may have a real ” Sri Lankan” revolution without this Champikas, Wimals, Douglas and all these destructive elements without Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese nationalism and sinhalese chauvinism

    Vasu
    July 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm
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    Leave Ranil Wickremasinghe out. How many of these critics of his, have done anything worth while to show their resentment to all who live of Rajapaksas? What I mean is to boycot functions any of them attending or turn down invitations when they host functions private or public, including the President? Here they attend and pose for photographs with the bandits and in private berate them and blame RW for not taking action to overthrow MR. What is the action they look for, from RW? To march to Temple Trees with the usual UNP party organisers and sacrifice a life or two, while these critics stay at home and view the incidents on TV? I shun being anyware where these individuals, relations or friends who support and acknowledge this corrupt regime.I truely despice any and never hesitate to show it.

    gamini
    July 25, 2012 at 5:22 pm
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      where on the earth – you can see this kind of apathy of an Opposition leader ?. If as many supporters including you yourself, he is genuine, uncorrupt why does not he seem not reacting adequately ? Most of recent past, he s been not dynamic enough.. if he cant, why – not allowing reformists to come forward ?. Right at the moment, if we had a powerful opposition under the lead of a dynamic energetic opp leader, we could save the country from all evils that have been practising by MR thugs. May be all what you have been preaching about him could be correct, but as current Oppo leader in the parliament he has to show genuine efforts not allowing rulers to govern so unanimously. Knowing the situation, rulers seem to be doing whatever they want. As you are well aware, powerful opposition is a must in a democracy.

      Danapala
      August 16, 2012 at 8:27 am
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        He has to apply all tactics to have united the opp. If he cant react accordingly, the folks would curse not only MR but also RW. I know RW can be a good leader with good education, coming from acceptable background as it is what leaders of a country should have apart from political maturity. But what brings if he is not capable of redering what the nation expect him to.

        Danapala
        August 16, 2012 at 9:16 am
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    Gota’s son went to SL and got married. As he had not learned Aamerican Traditional Wild West Language, Gota send the couple to USA learn Wild West Traditions before they settle down in SL. His brother Basil’s daughter went a step further and is engaged to a man from Wild west

    Srilankan
    July 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm
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    Jayantha Dhanapala et al Many thanks, the eminent persons. Please come out in force, provide your good offices to unite the opposition to get rid off this Family run regime once and for all.

    Real Peace
    July 26, 2012 at 3:15 am
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    THE FEAR PSYCHOSIS IS WITHIN THE DEFENCE SECRETARY. HIS NAME SUGGESTS IT. HE WAS NAMED BY HIS PARENTS AS ” GOTABAYA ” ADD ANOTHER BIT AND IT SOUNDS ” GOTABAYA GULLA “

    Desilva
    July 26, 2012 at 10:57 am
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    Jayanth Danapala of bid for UNO Sectrial General some times back. Due his ineffience, incompetance and unqualified for Post of UNO, USA and UK denied to support to HIM. West thinking tank was NOT satisfactory of duty can discharge by Danapala during in UNO high-responsiblie position.Dhanapala has to relized who he was so weak as Deputy Sectaeral Genaral in UNO.

    Dilhan P.B.
    July 26, 2012 at 11:44 am
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      Please dont insult the intelligence of Jayantha Dhanapala or his suitabity to be the secretary General of the United Nations.Your broken English and muddled gobledegook are not worth wasting ones time. Only intelligent people with some learning should comment

      Nisal Amarasingha
      July 27, 2012 at 8:43 am
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        Good response Nisal. This is a cold blooded murder of the English tongue!!

        raymond
        July 27, 2012 at 10:31 am
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    This is a normal behaviour of political culture in Sri Lanka, power and corruptions were always there with our politicians. One of them was capable enough to change even the constitution, he was our first president.

    Merril
    July 27, 2012 at 12:15 am
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    Of course, some people are still angry with Ranil because he did not have the heart to massacre thousands innocent civilians ( I am not talking about the armed LTTE cadres) of his own country with MBRL, long rangs artelleries, cluster bombs, chemical weapons..etc…….when he was in power.

    Real Peace
    July 27, 2012 at 11:34 am
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    Dear Members of Friday Forum, Where were you guys when bombs were exploding in Colombo and elsewhere in Sri Lanka. Gota may be an arrogant public servant, but he got the job done. Look at Colombo today. may be you guys are doing your early morning walks enjoying the freedom. Come on Friday Forum, get a life! De Silva

    De Silva
    August 3, 2012 at 6:14 am
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    These people in Friday Forum ar e all yesterday’s men. Ignored by the government and by the private sector they have become useless to society and in their dotage are trying to attack the government for ignoring them. Jayantha Danapala was so full of himself that he decided to contest the position of Sec Gen UN even though the govt felt that he was not a suitable candidate. Ever since that he has been carrying on a campaign against the govt.The man is just whistling in the wind.There is also a woman by the name Anne Abeysekera who attacked the Govt for destroying LTTE cemeteries but not a word from her when the Tigers massacred innocent Sinhalese villages, the Dalada Maligawa etc.These people have a traitorous agenda and should be roundly condemned.

    Percy
    August 16, 2012 at 6:50 am
    Reply

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