By Hilmy Ahamed –
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will do well to remember the deceit of Madame Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunga in April 2004. The current President Maithripala Sirisena could repeat history as pressure mounts on him to save his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP-M).
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Maithri Faction), as per media reports has connived and has decided not to abolish the Presidential system. They have proposed to forward President Maithripala Sirisena again for a second Presidential term at the next elections. Maithripala Sirisena vowed, before and after winning in the January 2015 elections that he will not contest again and that the executive presidential system would be scrapped or reformed to provide for a presidency that would be answerable to the parliament. Can the President’s words be taken seriously as he is beginning to break all the pre election promises.
President Maithripala Sirisena betrayed the Yahapalanaya commitments immediately after his swearing in, by bring in to his government the undesirables and corrupt from the Mahinda Rajapaksa dynasty. In August 2016, he nominated the losing seniors in the SLFP on the national list, contrary to good governance principles. He partnered with the UNP to save his skin and the SLFP and called it a coalition for good governance. He didn’t dare to invite the Rajapaksa family in to the coalition, but everyone else who campaigned against him was Kosher. What a tragedy for the regime changers who risked their lives to send Mahinda Rajapaksa and his SLFP vultures’ home. President Maithripala Sirisena who contested as the candidate of the common opposition in one of his early speeches said “I may not be among the living if I had lost”. Just imagine the fate of the ordinary civil society activists and the grassroots supporter’s plight if Mahinda Rajapaksa had won or remained in the presidency through some other means. Most of them would have been fed to the vultures or white vanned. The international community would have come forward to rescue Maithripala Sirisena and his political elite.
The unprecedented corruption, nepotism, political assassinations and violence were the main campaign slogans of the Yahapalanaya in the run up to the Presidential elections in January 2015. Upon President Maithripala Sirisena’s outstanding and hard fought victory in the rainbow revolution, the country demanded that the corrupt during the decade long rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa be brought to justice and the loot recovered. The Maithri-Ranil campaign spoke about the trillions squandered by the Rajapaksa family and their cohorts, some of whom have now fled the country. Others have spent a few days in custody and are enjoying the fruits of their ill-gotten loot. No truckload of money has been recovered or none of the big sharks netted. Is it because of the high tech deception of the money trail or has the loot been shared as was alleged with the LTTE trillions held by KP (Kumaran Pathmanathan).
The bond scam and other excesses by government ministers equal or surpass the scandals that beset the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration. The Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe hereto Mr. clean, has been tarred with allegations of complicity in the bond scam. His attempt to save his guru and former diplomat Charlie Mahendran son Arjuna Mahendran, the sacked Governor of the Central Bank along with his son in law Arjun Aloysius turned out to be the biggest political blunder in the Prime Ministers’ political history. Where did the proceeds of the bond scam go? Was it to fiancé the outstanding bills of Maithripala Sirisena’s January 2015 Presidential campaign or the UNPs August Campaign? The country needs to know. The Prime Minister’s brilliant Googly of sending it to the Attorney General was the best way to divert attention and buy time to let the memory fade away from the peoples mind, but the ghosts would remain and will wake up at the appropriate time.
The most respected venerable Sobitha Thero spearheaded the civil protest against the Rajapaksas. He died a disappointed and depressed man. Millions of his followers are disillusioned and probably will not forgive the Yahapalanaya at the next elections. His untimely demise is a blessing for Yahapalanaya or he would have the majority on the streets, demanding action against the undesirables.
The Yahapalanaya promise of a ten thousand-rupee increase in salaries for the non-productive and lethargic state sector employees was honoured but is seen today as an ill conceived political bribe to woo voters against the Rajapaksa administration. To address this folly, taxes have been increased, driving the cost of living sky-high, and the farming community let down. The rupee has plummeted to its worst and has forced the government to borrow as much as the Rajapaksa’s or more. The stranglehold by China has increased.
“Saffron Robe To The Fore” concept of the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration and currently endorsed by the President himself in against the minorities proved to be a disaster in Hambantota last week when the Ruhunu Development Project was inaugurated. The monks who were coaxed to lead were all red, dripping with blood when suspected thugs imported to Hambantota from Mattakuliya stoned them. Imagine if the Tamils in Batticaloe or Muslims in Aluthgama had stoned the Buddhist monks? The government ignored the saffron robe brigade when monks led extremists went on rampages against the minority communities in recent months. Thank God, Hambantota did not become the Rathupassala of the current government.
The sellout to China, the entire districts of Hambantota and Monaragala, the deceit that was been portrayed as the investment by Volkswagen and probably many other lies has given a boost to the joint opposition and Mahinda Rajapaksa to stage a come back. The President and the Prime Minister are confident that they can weather the storm and lead the country towards prosperity, but there is a serious threat to stability and peace.
As a private citizen, and someone who believed in the January 2015 silent revolution, I have questions that should have been answered yesterday.
Where is all the loot that was promised to be brought back?. Billions in dollars or trillions in rupees were said to be in bank deposits in many countries, including Dubai and Seychelles. It was alleged that they even set up a Bank of Ceylon branch in the Seychelles Islands to launder their loot. If there was any, the current government should have access to that information, even if the Dubai banks refuses to provide details of Sri Lankan bank accounts. Where are the expensive real estate supposedly held overseas by the Rajapaksa sons and siblings? Have they been traced and questioned, and why are they not being investigated and charged.
What happened to the Avant Garde scandal?. Ministers Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and Vajira Abeywardene of Yahapalanaya were suspected of protecting the corrupt deals of Avant Garde. Many senior retired Navy and other defense personnel are suspected of being employed/ involved. Why is it that the key stakeholders of these scandals are not arrested and taken to task? Was this a fabricated canard to discredit former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and win elections?
The much talked about Wasim Thajudeen murder during election campaigns is a forgotten case now. Wasim was an innocent popular rugger-rite and a brilliant sportsman who enjoyed life. The Yahapalanaya campaign claimed that the Rajapaksa’s killed him, probably over a love scandal. His remains were dug up and a new autopsy performed in time for the Muslim community to vote the UNP at the August 2015 parliamentary elections. Even his original autopsy reports and samples had gone missing. The OIC of the Narahenpitiya police and the infamous Rajapaksa stooge, Senior DIG, Anura Senanayake who is accused of covering up the murder of Wasim Thajudeen has been in remand prison for a long period. Quite often, there are leaks to the media that senior DIG Anura Senanayake was going to spill it all out and justice would be served. He may have revealed all to the investigating officers, and the government may be holding it as ransom for Shiranthi/Mahinda Rajapaksa obedience. Nothing is going to happen to this lovable compassionate kid because the killers are known and needs to be protected to ensure that President Sirisena’s SLFP would not split. Wasim Thanjudeen’s ghosts will catch up soon to haunt Yahapalanaya. A split SLFP would mean that the SLFP (Maithri wing) would stand no chance at any electoral contest. Make no mistake, The UNP, even though not as popular will still command its block vote and lead the list. The Mahinda clan with its ultra nationalist and racist groups will come as a close second. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has a good chance of coming third, especially at the local government elections driving President Sirisena to the 4th position. Herein lies the main reason for the postponement of the LG elections by many months under a government of good governance.
Hate Campaign Against Minorities
The hate campaign against the minorities has started again after President Maithripala elevated the butcher of Aluthgama, Ven. Galagoda Atete Gnanasara thero to the same level as of the Asgiriya and Malwatte Mahanayakes. Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, while being a UNP member of parliament is suspected of providing the cover for racists to target minorities, to ensure his Maharagama Sinhala Buddhist vote. He is also suspected of destabilizing the current government to ensure a smooth win, should former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa enter the fray at the next presidential or parliamentary elections. The support for the hate campaign by Yahapalanaya is reward provided on a platter for the Muslim and Tamil communities for making the regime change in January 2015.
During the Rajapaksa era, Ven. Gnanasara and his bunch of racist hooligans created violence against ordinary mortals, but now they have elevated it to insult almighty Allah, our beloved prophet and the holy Quran. There were 538 incidents of hate, violence and intimidation of Muslims during the Rajapaksa presidency, which allowed them to target the minorities with impunity. There have been over 140 incidents reported under Yahapalanaya and is increasing by the day. The Yahapalanaya has allowed the extremist Buddhist monks to harass the Muslim and Eastern Tamil communities with impunity. No arrests have been made even though over 50 police complaints have been registered against racists. The government also has allowed Facebook warriors to threaten and intimidate Muslims. Dan Priyasath saga is a good example of how this menace could be controlled.
The Muslim Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Minister Rishard Bathiudeen, a close confidant of Mahinda and Basil Rajapaksa during their decade long rule crossed over risking his life to the common opposition and joined the fray to support Presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena. He brought along 62 Local Government members, 6 Provincial council members and two 2 parliamentarians. His demand was that the Muslim IDPs should be resettled in their former homes within the shortest possible time. Regretfully, even the little that Basil Rajapaksa as head of the Presidential Task force for Northern Resettlement did from 2013 is being revered now through presidential orders. Some environmentalism have joined extremist Buddhists to deprive the resettlement of over 100,000 Muslim IDPs who were evicted in 1990 by the LTTE in the worst ethnic cleansing operation in Sri Lanka.
The scorecard looks gloomy and the future prospects look scary, especially at the thought of a parliamentary coup that could be staged by Mahinda Rajapaksa and the joint opposition to take over the government. Prime Minister and the President will need to look at their old notebooks to ensure that ethnic tensions are minimized and reconciliation fast tracked so that they need not go to Geneva as often as the previous administration did.