By Rajeewa Jayaweera –
It would appear, Rishard Bathiudeen MP, Minister for Industry & Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Co-operative Development, Vocational Training & Skills Development and leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), a constituent party of the UNF government is more powerful than even some of the senior members of the governing party.
The remaining 224 miserable specimens in the House by Diyawanna are currently embroiled in a tug of war. They are trying to decide if the No Confidence Motion (NCM) against the government or Bathiudeen (RB) is of greater importance.
The government losing the NCM will have little or no impact. Whereas the government will have to resign, the President will have to re-appoint the same lot due to the poisonous 19th Amendment which prohibits the dissolution of Parliament for four and a half years.
The ruling party is keen to conclude a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) investigation into allegations against the minister before entertaining an NCM. A whitewashed report by a PSC dominated by government MPs will weaken the impact of the NCM, based on RB’s alleged links to the suicide bombers of the Easter Sunday carnage. He vehemently denies the charge.
Parliamentarian Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has stated in Parliament that the blood of the victims of the recent Islamic terror attacks was on the hands of all the Ministers and UNP MP Mujibur Rahman who refused to take note of his early warnings regarding the Islamic State (IS) members in Sri Lanka. His warning in November 2016 while being Justice Minister, of 32 Sri Lankan Muslims leaving the island to join ISIS was rejected and ridiculed by members of the ruling party and Muslim MPs.
Muslim community leaders insist they provided early warnings of the jihadist terrorist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), supposedly ignored by senior government officials. Muslim MPs did not support Minister Rajapakshe’s assertions in 2016. Community leaders do not seem to have shared their valuable information with their elected representatives. If not, the MPs have remained silent for reasons best known to them.
Notwithstanding the minister’s denials, some serious charges have been leveled against him by the Joint Opposition, now available in the public domain. Two such charges are;
The minister’s brother Rifkan Bathiudeen has driven past two army checkpoints in a vehicle bearing registration WP KK 3572 with the state emblem and VIP sticker. He was subsequently discovered in a house owned by RB, detained and released without being produced in court due to political pressure.
RB has confirmed he contacted Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake to inquire of the son of Muslim Affairs Ministry Advisor Jainudeen, arrested by the army and handed over to the Terrorist Investigation Division. According to media reports, Muslim Affairs Minister Haleem’s staff had confirmed there had been no Jainudeen in the minister’s staff. An advisor by the name of Moinudeen had resigned in April or May. Was the minister assisting Jainudeen or Moinudeen? Was it a slip between the cup and the lip? RB claims he contacted the army commander on the advice of State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene who seems to be playing politics. He has neither confirmed nor denied the claim to date.
The Minister has stated in Parliament, “I did not pressure the Commander, and never asked the Commander to release any individual either.” Nevertheless, any intelligent person would wonder, why would Senanayake make a statement, “call back in one and half years, as that is the period, I can hold a suspect for.”
Bathiudeen is no stranger to controversy. In 2012, he was accused of threatening the Mannar District Court Judge and Magistrate Anthony Pillai Judeson over the latter’s order to arrest a group of his supporters. As the controversy evolved, a part of the court was set on fire. According to reports, the Judge supposedly received threatening telephone calls from the minister to change his verdict failing which ‘the Mannar court would be torched.’ The calls, allegedly originating from the minister’s mobile phone, was denied and subsequently attributed to his brother. This minister’s siblings seem to have a way with ministerial phones and vehicles. After much brouhaha, the matter died a natural death. RB continued as a Minister. Nothing is heard of Judge Judeson since.
All this happened under the watch of the Rajapaksa administration who failed to rein in the minister, for political reasons. Similar to the situation currently unfolding, it was yet another instance of bowing to the ACMC vote base.
The current ruling party is not in favor of investigating the leader of their constituent partner, ACMC. They claim JO is attempting to avenge his failure to support the October 26 putsch.
RG’s power is such, despite all these happenings, no statement has been recorded from him by the authorities in relation to Easter Sunday bombings and post April 21 developments.
Meanwhile, Bathiudeen has ‘bowled a doosra’ by stating he would resign if requested by the President or Prime Minister.
RB is aware, neither of these worthies, about to contest both Presidential and Parliamentary elections within the next 18 months will make any such request. Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa too has not signed the NCM.
All of them treasure the ACMC vote base over the safety and security of this nation and its citizens.
Resigning till investigations are completed seem to be the stock of the likes of the Marapanas, Rajapakshes, and Karunanayakes.
A different set of rules seem to apply to the Vijayakala Maheshwarans and Bathiudeens.