By Emil van der Poorten –
Even in a country where corruption has become a part of its culture and where there has been, for a considerable time (at least since the reign of “Yankee Dick” Jayewardene) a total lack of anything resembling ethics, morality or principle in political practice, what has begun to unfold during the tenure of the current Yahapalanaya government is bizarre to say the least.
There is no comprehending what this lot, particularly its United National Party (UNP) component, is doing, even if one justifies the most blatant political opportunism. Often, it seems like an exercise in ascertaining how tolerant and/or stupid the Sri Lankan electorate is.
Take the matter of the Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe fiasco.
From the get go this man has proved as politically useful to the ruling coalition as the proverbial “teats on a boar.” He was complicit in the absolutely abusive impeachment of a Chief Justice whose “best before” date had passed insofar as the MR1 (Mahinda Rajapaksa) regime was concerned. Previous to this, subsequent to his residence being “shot up,” he was paid a visit by the earlier-mentioned MR1 at his most solicitous. The result of their conversation appeared to be Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s resignation as head of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka which had been making mealy-mouthed pronouncements on the need for the rule of law to prevail up to that point.
With the ascent of the Yahapalanaya lot to power, this man was made Minister of Buddhist Affairs and, don’t hold your breath, Justice! He proceeded to use the Buddhist Affairs part of his portfolio to fan the flames of a “Mahavamsa-driven, 2500 years of Sinhala-Buddhist Civilization” discourse in an attempt to dominate every element of life in our nation.
Wearing his other hat, as Minister of Justice he made the statement that as long as he held that portfolio, not so much as a hair on the heads of his namesakes in the previous regime would be harmed. This simply amounted to a proclamation of immunity for those who had presided over the most corrupt and violent government in our post-Independence history. The response of a government which had as its policy cornerstone bringing to book those who had raped and pillaged this country in the ten years before? None, nothing, nada.
Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe proceeded to provide tangible proof of his determination to follow through on his promise to his namesakes. He intervened in the Avant Garde investigation, letting off the hook those who sought to establish an extremely well- and sophisticatedly-armed floating paramilitary force off the shores of Sri Lanka under the guise of preventing maritime terrorism in West Asian waters. If you’d guessed the mastermind behind that particular adventure was someone with the last name as our erstwhile Minister of Justice, you’d have been right.
The other man providing the icing on the Avant Garde Flotilla scandal was none other than Tilak Marapana who, at least, displayed some decorum in resigning from Cabinet at the time. However, that retreat from the political limelight and power has proved to be short-lived because he is now back in Cabinet. Even in the annals of unprincipled political conduct in this country it would be difficult to find an act as bizarre and insulting to the collective intelligence of the electorate as Marapana’s restoration to a position of power and prestige.
Given the preceding, it might, at this point, be appropriate to ask whether this government has adopted the ancient Japanese cultural practice of “Hara kiri” in its governance practices because that seems like the only explanation for what it has done and seems to want to do in the future.
This much-publicized recent behaviour threatens to conceal matters of less headline-grabbing import that preceded it. Those actions should not be consigned to the back-burner of discussion, examination and action.
I speak here of only a very few:
1. Why has NOTHING been done to follow-up on Mangala Samaraweera’s formal complaint to the Criminal Investigation Department about the attempt at a coup on the night of the January 15th, 2015 election? That coup appears to only have been averted by Ranil Wickremesinghe travelling to Temple Trees with a Mr. Thuru Nadesan who was not only a close associate of Mahinda Rajapaksa but had, for the time, a huge additional qualification – being married to a close relation of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
2. Why are those with a reputation for being money-launderers of the previous regime being given preferential treatment in the matter of lucrative, government-supported investment in this country and the most senior of politicians placing the seal of approval on such people by projecting themselves as their patrons?
3. Why has the mandate of the single most important body set up to investigate instances of massive corruption during the tenure of the previous regime been permitted to run out? It seems like even the minimal number of cases that have proceeded beyond preliminary investigation will be abandoned and the bandits will go free.
4. When are even a few of the big sharks of corruption going to be prosecuted, convicted and punished? Except for the odd politician from the lowest rungs of the ladder of power, the only ones subject to national publicity appear to be traffic policemen soliciting and/or receiving bribes in the mere thousands of rupees.
The dim distant light at the end of the current tunnel of chaotic governance appears to be (Surprise! Surprise!), Maithripala Sirisena. However, even his behaviour has been characterized by the less charitable among commentators as being driven by the matter of his entire family being under the most serious of threats – death – at the time he ran against Mahinda Rajapaksa.
For those cynics who will fall back on the claim that “voices in the wilderness” cannot bring about change, I will never tire of reminding them of the words of that famed anthropologist, Margaret Mead, when she spoke to the fact that it was only small numbers of people who had effected change in the world. In fact, I would remind those reading this column that it was a handful of political commentators, almost all of them women, who proved the applicability of Mead’s sentiments, that standing up for all that is decent can and will have positive results as happened in the last National elections.