Colombo Telegraph

What The Hell Is Going On?

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

In a previous column I raised the issue of what, if anything, some of the recently-appointed members brought to the Sirisena/Wickremesinghe Cabinet and its subsidiaries.

While some of those appointments were obviously driven by the political compulsions of a broad coalition, many of them were inexplicable in the context of a government laying claim to any degree of democratic morality and supposedly dedicated to cleaning out the Augean stable of violence and corruption that they had inherited from the Rajapaksa rabble.

Already, the man who had a well-documented track record of being purchasable for the occasional air ticket – John Amaratunge – has effectively proven that he should NEVER have been appointed to any position of prominence. Will the Sirisena/Wickremesinghe cabal even now divest themselves of this guy, when, of all things, he stands accused of being involved in thuggery of a kind that was the very forte of the Rajapaksa bunch and the elimination of which was the avowed intent of the new government? I know that what is invoked every time a suggestion of this kind is made is the tired old saw, applied particularly to criminal conduct, that a person is innocent until proven guilty. However, given the moral foundation that the current government lays claim to, I would suggest that if there is even the hint of unacceptable conduct, those so accused should stand down, at least temporarily, until the issue is resolved. This is not some revolutionary principle that some Sri Lankan genius invented. It is a time-honoured practice that has proven its worth over and over again in countries that practice the governing practice called democracy.

*There are at least a couple of glaring examples in Australia, one of which was simply an attempt to salve the hurt feelings of a woman jilted by one of the Royal Family, the exercise requiring accommodation (and designation befitting an experienced diplomat) for, not only herself, but her family as well!

And Faizer Mustapha? The man, who had the always-lurking ability to embarrass a government opposed to all that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s gang stood for, has now succeeded in doing so with a threat to resign, allegedly because he was prevented from appointing his father as head of Sri Lankan Airlines! Talk about a weird sequence of events: a member of this government is able to embarrass it for not doing what its predecessor did so consistently and in opposition to which it was elected to govern!

Then you have another turncoat with the one-time illustrious name of “Senanayake” letting the late unlamented Defence Secretary off the hook when he was found in possession of two baby elephants, one of whom was apparently “granted” to him by a “Sannasa” from his monarch of a brother and the other of which he was “looking after.” There appears to be no provision, even in the monstrosity of a monarchical constitution that Mahinda Rajapaksa created, for him to bequeath a baby elephant to anyone, leave alone a brother who might well have intended to use it in the manner that Kandula was used to breach Elara’s defences by an illustrious Sinhala king. This needs particular attention since the Rajapaksas (and Mervin Silva) claim descent from that very king!

As for the second elephant calf, the erstwhile Defence Secretary had apparently claimed he was looking after it for “someone.” There didn’t appear to be any evidence forthcoming as to who that “someone” was and in what manner the animal came into Mr. “Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s tender care, leave alone from where this animal was obtained. I rather doubt that it was found wandering around Colombo 7 and that it had followed some banana- or pineapple-bearing, large-hearted human being into the afore-mentioned Mr. Rajapaksa’s garden where it had been persuaded to join the rest of the exotic menagerie there for “safe-keeping.” Interesting indeed and provoking the thought that if one were to commit a bank robbery and be found in possession of the loot, an appropriate defence might be that what resided under one’s bed was there for “safe-keeping.”

A little footnote to all of this might be the fact that the Minister of Wildlife during the time all of this “safe-keeping” was being performed, Vijithamuni De Zoysa, has stated, unequivocally, that no President had legal authority to “grant” animals, domesticated, feral or wild to anyone because that authority rested with the Minister responsible for the Wildlife Department. As for the baby elephant deemed to be in the care of Mr. Rajapaksa by Minister Vasantha Senanayake, the suggestion from that same ex-Minister was that this animal would not be on the national register maintained for such pachyderms.

The simple question is, “Why the hell was this particular Senanayake given such a position of responsibility and why, after a display of this kind, has he not been removed with the utmost dispatch?”

Then you have the fact that a plethora of blatantly political appointments to what was euphemistically referred to as the “Diplomatic Service” have not been reversed. There are at least a couple of glaring examples in Australia, one of which was simply an attempt to salve the hurt feelings of a woman jilted by one of the Royal Family, the exercise requiring accommodation (and designation befitting an experienced diplomat) for, not only herself, but her family as well! The other is a case of a man who serves as an appropriate rebuttal to those who invoke the names of Lakshman Kadirgamar, Jayantha Dhanapala and Kumar Sangakkara as examples of the illustrious alumni that Trinity College, Kandy produced over the years. Has this character not been recalled in an attempt to avoid the pollution of Sri Lankan streets or those in the less-savoury parts of Europe where he was reputed to have been “rolled” (on more than one occasion!) after a night on the town? The gossip in political circles in Sri Lanka was that the man until-recently our President, had issued an edict that this “diplomutt” was not to be brought out from Down Under under any circumstances because he had potential to be a huge embarrassment to the Rajapaksa Regime if he returned. Think of that: someone who could embarrass the Mahindarajistanis being left to sow his particular brand of Sri Lankan wild oats Down Under at our expense! If it was legitimate to recall a retired head of the Senior Service (the Sri Lanka Navy) from his ambassadorial posting in Australia, surely the rest of the despicable flotsam and jetsam should have been recalled from all over the world? If that was too time-consuming, couldn’t the Sri Lankan government simply have informed the host countries of the withdrawal of their status as members of the Sri Lankan diplomatic service, leaving them to an appropriate fate, sans accreditation of any description? I know this might have provided that most unsavoury of Commonwealth leaders, Tony Abbott of Australia, with a tad of embarrassment given his support of Mahinda Rajapaksa, up to and including giving his buddy gunboats, but what the hell…. You can’t win them all!

It is undeniable that there are some very significant and valuable first steps that the new President and Prime Minister have taken such as having the guts to appoint a eminently-qualified Tamil as Chief Justice in spite of the sinister message of the drums of racism and xenophobia which continue to be beaten by Mahinda Rajapaksa and his cohorts, drums which still have significant resonance among a large part of the voting public. However, the concept of the “curate’s egg” comes to mind in these circumstances because being “good in parts” only means that the rest of the egg is unfit for consumption.

This government has to begin cleaning house NOW if it is going to sustain the claim on the basis of which it was elected to govern this country. Otherwise, there is going to be no extension of the “Hundred Days” and we, as a nation, cannot and should not have to endure the return of anything resembling the Rajapaksa Regime.

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