By Rasika Jayakody –
The newly elected government has launched a witch-hunt against Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) Leader Patali Champika Ranawaka.
The Police are hounding Ranawaka on the pretext of probing into an accident that took place in 2016, in which a youth was severely injured and hospitalized.
The initial Police investigation into the incident has already cleared Ranawaka of any wrongdoing.
The youth’s bike had hit Ranawaka’s SUV from behind and it was also revealed that the bike’s engine capacity exceeded the legally permissible limits in Sri Lanka. This is an indication that the youth, who is still recuperating from the accident, is not without blame.
A number of posts on the youth’s Facebook profile that had been posted before the accident clearly demonstrated his passion for high-speed rides in fancy motorbikes. That, to a great degree, indicates the circumstances under which the accident took place.
In an unexpected turn of events, the Police last week obtained a court order banning Ranawaka and his driver from leaving the country in light of the renewed investigation. Pro-government media institutions interviewed the family of the youth aiming to stir public sentiments against the former Minister.
Observers have every reason to assume that the renewed investigation against Ranawaka is politically motivated.
It is now abundantly clear that the political strategists of the current government have earmarked Ranawaka as a severe threat to the political campaign of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, which relies heavily on ethno-religious nationalism.
The results of the last Presidential election made it clear that the UNP’s support base among the Sinhala-Buddhist electorate has sharply eroded, mainly due to the follies of some prominent members of the previous government.
SLPP was able to mobilize the support of the Sinhala-Buddhist community, tarring the UNP’s image with an anti-national brush.
The UNP-led government never made a serious attempt to allay the fears of the majority community in an effective manner. The party had no channel of communication with senior Buddhist monks nor did it have an effective plan for perception management.
The UNP can never think of an election victory at the national level unless the party repairs its ties with the majority community, effectively countering sinister propaganda campaigns and disinformation propagated by the SLPP camp.
Ranawaka, who commands strong support among the majority community in Sri Lanka, is critical to the success of this revival strategy. He is the best option in the UNP’s resource pool to mobilize the majority community around the party’s political agenda.
It is naïve to believe that the Rajapaksa camp is unaware of Ranawaka’s potential in determining the outcome of the next national elections.
The renewed investigation against him is essentially driven by the current government’s apprehension towards Ranawaka’s political activism.
What the government fails to realize is that the perceptible witch-hunt against the ambitious politician aligned with the UNP will only end up strengthening his image in the public eye.
It signals the current government’s “Champika-Phobia” and their desperation to silence him. The politically orchestrated investigation positions Ranawaka as a dominant figure in the eyes of opposition supporters who are currently in need of strong leadership.
The government came to power promising full-scale investigations into a number of alleged scams that took place under the previous government, including the Treasury bonds fiasco.
After assuming office, however, the frontline figures of the SLPP government are conspicuously silent about the “large-scale cases of corruption” involving the UNP-led administration. Moreover, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa even went on to prorogue Parliament, a day before the forensic audit report into the bond transactions between 2002-2015 was taken up before COPE.
Duminda Dissanayake — the occupant of the Agriculture Ministry building, which was at the centre of a serious controversy over a seemingly questionable lease agreement — took oaths as a State Minister in the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration.
There is zero follow-up on alleged serious cases involving members of the previous government, which were talked about regularly throughout the election campaign.
The investigation into the accident involving Ranawaka seems to be the best the government can come up with.
This development speaks volumes of the ‘inferiority complex’ surrounding the incumbent government. The SLPP camp fears that it will fail miserably to appease the Sinhala-Buddhist electorate, which single-handedly elevated Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the office of Presidency.
They are also concerned that the traditional support-base of the Rajapaksa camp will find a viable alternative in Champika Ranawaka.