30 October, 2020

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Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe: Protector Of The Corrupt Or Anti-Corruption Crusader?

By Siri Gamage

Dr. Siri Gamage

Suddenly, corruption has come centre stage again in Sri Lankan politics at a time when the Yahapalana government led by the UNP and supported by official SLFP is completing two years of governance under an outfit called ‘a national unity government’. Corruption and anti corruption were main talking points of the election platforms in 2015. They were focus areas of civil society organisations such as the one led by Rev Maduluwawe Sobhitha prior to the election. In a society where there is less accountability on the part of politicians elected or appointed to parliaments and the wheels of justice move unjustifiably slowly, majority of people who go after mythical figures invented nationally and provincially, i.e. Gods, to seek justice rather than the courts.

The window of opportunity opened up at the last election was a God send to express people’s true feelings based on negative experiences that the system of governance allocated to them. Little they realised that the rulers they elected had only change of colour and nice words to fit the times pretending to be people’s heroes for a few weeks rather than charismatic figures like Anagarika Dharmapala or Ariyarathne who were genuinely concerned about the plight of the disadvantaged, country and nation. (My article published in Colombo Telegraph in 2015 elaborated the basis on which the political class in Sri Lanka operates irrespective e of any national government.) People’s worst fears are coming true after two years of national unity government and many media contributions in recent months have highlighted this. The latest saga in this unfolding political drama or palace conspiracy is the one related to Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe.

The critical question emerging from this saga is whether he was a protector of the corrupt in the previous regime because the attorney general’s department did not expedite cases about which  files have been submitted by investigating bodies or an anti corruption crusader and protector of the independence of judiciary as he claims after his sacking by the President? The public will examine this closely in due course. Suffice it to say that the credibility of an anti corruption crusader emerges if the person so claiming has a track record of doing so. Though his reference to several cases for which he appeared pro bono and secured results involving state property may be noteworthy, the argument about non-interference in the judiciary as an excuse for not expediting anti corruption cases hangs in thin air in the eyes of the public. His detached approach to this issue until his sacking must have been adopted so with the blessings of the power hierarchy in the Yahapalana government. Otherwise, how could a single minister adopt such a stance for two years on his own when the whole country or at least 65 lakhs of voters and their representatives were demanding action?

Thus this saga reflects a deep-seated malaise within the Yahapalana outfit rather than the failings of one individual, particularly when viewed in the light of the bond scam and Ravi Karunanayake saga. In Sri Lankan politics and for that matter even in Australian or American politics there is this tendency to characterise failings in terms of individuals. But we need to realise that these topics in Sri Lanka reflect systemic failures rather than the faults of one individual. How can one minister assure the independence of judiciary without the backing of his cabinet and be charged about non-interference and undue slowness in expediting of justice on an individual basis?  Cabinet unity applies in this case also.  If the cabinet-the executive- really wanted action, it could have decided so long time ago and the subject minister is bound by such decisions.

Corruption by those elected or appointed to public office assumes significance in a country like Sri Lanka because its economy runs on borrowed money with heavy interest payment obligations in dollar terms. The money borrowed for various PROJECTS by the government not only augment the budget bottom line but also spreads around like hot cakes among those who control such money. It has come to a ridiculous situation that nothing significant can be done in Sri Lanka without borrowed money. This seems to be the modern disease we have inherited and one national characteristic of the patriotic nation. But what happens to such borrowed money and those accumulated by way of taxes is the crucial question? How much of it actually goes to the work or projects and how much is spent on consultants etc are topics in everyday conversations among middle class literati who have some insights on this aspect.

When the payments for interest and paying back borrowed money becomes difficult, a situation arises for the sale or lease of public assets to foreign entities. As a country caught up in a debt trap, Sri Lanka is facing numerous difficulties at this time. However because the POLITICAL CULTURE remains the same with self serving norms and practices that nurture the families of politicians, bureaucrats and managerial class that support them, running the country has become less feasible. This is because the system has to cater to the needs of a political and managerial class whose desires and lifestyles are extravagant and costly, in some cases bordering on corruption, on the one hand and the needs of the majority who demand yahapalanaya by way of socially just and effective economic and welfare policies. A government caught up in an internationally driven debt trap can’t do both. When one side of the scale goes up (with the cost of luxury cars etc.), the other side goes down. Keeping a balance is not easy even by a compassionate President whose hands are tight in terms of the political forces he has to deal with. So the country is facing a classical political conundrum that can be summarised by quoting the popular Sinhala saying: Gedara giyoth ambu Nasi, maga hitiyoth Ma nasi (if I go home my wife will die, if I stay on road I will die. This is a statement by a person who was carrying a backpack with a snake).

If we are to break free from the existing debt trap, the government needs to do more than pursuing corruption cases and sacrificing a couple of ministers temporarily. An economic strategy based on first principles to combat the disease needs to be developed. Simultaneously, a national social strategy to combat dependence on foreign project money needs to be developed. When I was a school going boy in the far south in the 50s and 60s, there was the concept and practice of Sramadana to cut wells for water, build roads, temples etc. This practice needs to be revived. Why not try to build at least one section of the Central expressway with local talent and funds together with Sramadana? Most of all there needs drastic reform in the political culture without which other goals cannot be achieved (Sarah Fonseka was vociferous about this before he joined UNP?). The extravagant lifestyles and accumulation of wealth by politicians, their associates and families need to be controlled before they do so rather than pursuing justice after the event especially when the wheels of government and justice grind very slow when it comes to pursuing those who have charges of corruption. This brings us to the point about legal reform –another sorry story in the country for the last 70 years.

Wijeyadasa saga is not the beginning or end of this national conundrum, even though the way he was sacked is amusing to many. Theatrics in politics raise imaginations and curiosity of the voters momentarily but the show goes on when the drama is concluded. The condition we are experiencing today has far deeper ramifications unless addressed by the more alert segments of society in a systematic way and develop strategies to combat the ill effects as well as causes with equal attention. Most likely Wijeyadasa will reemerge in politics in another way after a few weeks or months. But the large majority who don’t belong in the political or managerial classes will still struggle to meet ends in a system which is unduly biased toward the needs and desires of a few rather than the many.

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    A man of immense greed.

    • 1
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      Ask some respected senior lawyers (not very many going around) about Wijedasa if you want to know his track record !!

  • 3
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    I think everyone is forgetting why he was removed!
    He was removed because he breached collective responsibility, Not because he prevented investigations or interfered with judiciary!

    So without substantial evidence like “My wife and daughter bought it, I don’t know” , You are trying him in the media for avant guard!

    In fact Marapana also said Avant Guard was not wrong (He is back in), Attorney dept say nothing is wrong! So what are you talking about?

    Aren’t there more corrupt in the parliament than WR?

    Is WR the only person who has breached the collective responsibility? What about Dayasiri and other SLFP ministers?

    Getting Thalata, Jesus, ! a two cent attorney to run the justic department! You gotta be kidding me!

    This is all to protect the lokka, is’nt it? or to get the insane new constitution passed?

    WR was doing a good job proteecting Sinhalese Buddhis intrests?

    • 0
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      Patriotism is the refuge of scoundrels. Wisely he has projected himself to be a guardian to Buddhists interests. What are his credentials with the Buddhist racist elements. why were they emboldened recently ?

  • 4
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    Mr. Gamage,
    ” Why not try to build at least one section of the Central expressway with local talent and funds together with Sramadana? “
    Yes, very well -intentioned suggestion. IF it was possible. And why not?
    a. There is not enough money in the country to pay for such a project.
    b. There is not enough “local talent” to man the project. All our young people are more interested in strutting around wearing fancy uniforms or sitting in 3- wheelers.
    A fast buck is the name of the game, not digging up expressways.
    c. Above is why we have to borrow money, and the lenders want things done by their own (efficient) workforce.
    d. If you go around Colombo, you will see even private projects employing foreign workers.
    The answer to all this:
    Do we really need first- world expressways in a third-world country?. All highways seem to lead to Colombo. This encourages every provincial vehicle user to go and clog up the streets of Colombo. We must provide decent rail and bus transport even at a higher cost, instead of fancy expressways. Even India does not have expressways of our type, but their economy is far ahead of ours and they are not in debt.
    Why are WE in debt? Because we prefer to live in fancy air-conditioned buildings and travel in individual luxury cars. There are many ways to design buildings to use less electricity, but all we see are endless energy-guzzling towers.
    Getting our priorities right is the first step

    • 3
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      I met ADB official in 2003 who was in the North on assessment of the damages to bridges ..culverts and the Road network for the approval of a requested loan by the then Govt…
      When queried about Highways …he smiled and mentioned the same as in your comment…
      * when queried about the congestion of the Kandy – Colombo road that ADB developed in the 80’s …” We surveyed to build 6 lanes…the size of the 172 km A2 Layton Cross expressway in the UK …but your Govt requested to develop the existing road with just 2 lanes and to leave 10 mt reservation on both sides for future expansion …today people have encroached that reservation…so who is to be blamed …we do not advise Sri Lanka to construct unaffordable highways of the rich countries…what is needed is a proper management of the existing net work…” ADB rejected our request in 2003 for Galle – Matara…Colombo -Katunayake expressways..
      We went to China for Highways…where are we today …
      * same with the Luxury Towers…it is burning the Country today….the energy crisis is due to that….

  • 4
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    I love it….WR was fired for breaking “collective rersponsibility”

    Ravi K was forced to go due to his “penthouse”

    What a circus Ranil is running!

    • 1
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      @Perriamama do you mean to say that you’d rather Ranil shielded these people?

      I’m not getting you – nor are many in this forum, I’m sure.

  • 2
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    In other news:

    “A court in South Korea on Friday sentenced Samsung’s de-facto chief Jay Y. Lee to a five-year jail term, according to local media reports. The sentencing followed a trial where he was accused of paying bribes to gain government favors for the conglomerate.
    Local news agency, Yonhap, said the court found Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee guilty of giving bribes to get support from ousted President Park Geun-hye. It also convicted him of embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and perjury, Yonhap reported.”

  • 0
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    Ever one is discussing and sensationalizing an issue. They don’t talk about the problem. WR was fired because, if not Ranil and UNP would go down. Now, the new minister start rajapakses again. So, why president is silent.

  • 1
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    The window of opportunity opened up at the last election was a God send to express people’s true feelings based on negative experiences that the system of governance allocated to them. Little they realised that the rulers they elected had only change of colour and nice words to fit the times pretending to be people’s heroes for a few weeks
    There is a saying in Tamil “What way the King is the way Subjects are”. It is for monarch systems. But in a democratic system, the proverb has to be reversed to read from the back, i.e.: “What the way citizens are the way rulers are”. Lankawe is displaying this from the day it was let alone by Britain.
    It is questionable calling the elections in Lankawe as “Windows of Opportunity”. But the reality is, an action does not produce change, in the end, is not worthy to be called “Window of opportunity (to change)”. Thus the elections are, at least in Lankawe, are not “Windows of Opportunity” for citizens. It is only a carrot hanging in front of the cart; the horses can walk to it, but never can reach it. It is beyond their reach, demanding additional intelligence (i.Q) which they cannot come up with it. .

    As part of the Tamil Community which had dealt with Muslim-Sinhala governments for 70 years, we had a different proponent during the January 2015, EP election. Of cause our stand of Tamils leaving the decision making process alone to Sinhalese was the eloquent one. But we had an advice to JVP also. Earlier of CC candidate selection, JVP said it wanted go into educating public during the election, instead taking side on any EP candidate. They, that time, showed the symptoms to Tamils who have the tiredness for SLFP-UNP-SLFP-UNP.

  • 1
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    Though insisted on refraining supporting any party or CC candidate and thus getting involved into the Sinhala election, still we liked to see JVP go ahead on the new venture. In the 2009 election, though Vaiko and Siman did not much benefited for their party, but their stand for educating TN’s crowd forced the elected Jayalalitha to cut off from her past corruptions and lead a better government than TN had for the past few turns. Further, even if Karunanidhi family happened to come back, they too going to be more learned, it appears. That is how the non-opportunity elections turned into a “windows of opportunity” for TN to make the government less corrupt. It should be remembered Jayalalithaa had a pending wealth amass case, but her new government was much different than the earlier ones. Further, we can note here that Lankawe 2015 election process had turned Ranil, the Mr. Clean as the Head of the Alibaba gang. It was the last election that corrupted Ranil much worse than he had been in the past.

    Old Royal wanted to bring Kandy Ayatollahs under their control by splitting Asgiriya. Ranil was trying to bring a new Buddhist law through Deal, in the parliament to manage Buddhist monks. None of them do like Ayatollahs dipping their fingers into their nose, political authority, other than take charge of building new temples in North-East- or convert New Tamils. Deal, in oppose to their stand on that, started own dealings with Ayatollahs. This made him not comfortable with Ranil. Hangbangtota is only a scapegoat.

  • 2
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    It tells how much Modayas the citizens are, when Yahapalanaya had used Hangbangtota and Colombo Pong Cing to topple Chitanta government, Chitanta in turn is preparing to use the same tool to topple the Yahapalanaya government. This is not just closing the talk of the “Window of Opportunity” in the last election; it has already pre-closed the “Window of Opportunity” of the coming election too.

    Unlike India, where Congress educated the citizens to fight for freedom, Lankawe did get freedom by bribing Soulbury. The sense of educating citizens does not exist in Lankawe. That is why we thought Sinhalese electing a person who they like and reaping the mistake or correctness was importing rather than Sampanthar inject him into that and destroying it.

    If we look at things as they are, yes, it is not the citizens lost the last Window of Opportunity, but it was JVP and TNA, who are in the opposition now, forced them lose it.

    During the State Council time Ramanathan and some other Sinhala leaders opposed universal franchise mainly for this reason. What a foresighted thinking from them for that time! If the Universal Franchise had been postponed to 2033, Lankawe might have become the real Asian Miracle now. In Vietnam or China, the people freedom is not there but the economic miracle is taking place. Lankawe could have enjoyed the economic miracle instead of going for Universal Franchise and being transported free by white vans

  • 1
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    A credible answer to Siri Gamage’s question “Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe: Protector Of The Corrupt Or Anti-Corruption Crusader?”, an accurate answer is not possible in the absence of vital information. For example “Did WR know who harboured the fugitive monk on the run?”
    On the basis of gossips, speculations and innuendos, a layman Lankan will conclude that WR is no anti-corruption crusader.

  • 0
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    The author looks like a member of the civil society group who really does not care about there is corruption or not. His only intention is to keep the HORAPALANAYA alive. It is not difficult for you to understand that not only th eMahinda Rajapakse govt HORAPALANAYA is equally corrupt. As lomg as there is a group like to protect the party or the gorup irrespective of what they are doing, poor people have to pay more taxes while those who get devidends or profits from the stock market playing do not have to pay taxes. Rich and the powerful do not pay money whether it is because of tax breaks or thefts or hiding money in tax havens by registering the company in some unknown island as Penthouse Ravi has done. It is all fair game.

  • 1
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    Srinath Gunaratne,
    There were never any collective responsibilities by the major political parties when it comes to taking the country forward. This became very clear after 1956. That is why SWRD said to the Sangaha by aborting his pact we are paving the future war. JVP & LTTE are a product of the major political parties and moral corruption by Sangha which were followed by all other forms of corruption

  • 2
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    Dr.Sri Gamage,
    The answer is already there.
    Both the Rajaoakses ie Mahinda and Wijeydasa have met at Belinwella Maha Vihare near Maharagam / Borollesgama and have got the prith nool tied by the same Ven Priest. This was on the 25 th Aug. It does not matter whether the Rajaoakses met accidentally or coincidentaly or prearranged.
    JVP’S Tilvin has to do a rethinking now.
    Break up of MS -RW marriage at this point will lead to more chaos. JVP has a major role to play in making MR & Bros and WR gracefully retire from politics or make form their own new party.

  • 0
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    ”Both the Rajaoakses ie Mahinda and Wijeydasa have met at Belinwella Maha Vihare near Maharagam / Borollesgama and have got the prith nool tied by the same Ven Priest. This was on the 25 th Aug. It does not matter whether the Rajaoakses met accidentally or coincidentaly or prearranged.”
    Old Royals’ come back is not writing on the wall at this time, as much as UNP’s down fall is written in bright florescent red on the wall of the Colombo streets. I don’t read Sinhala media. You may have better grasp of what will happen if the next election when UNP faces it upheaval.

    People showed confident in JVP in 2005 election. That could be because of its connection to Chandrika. Wimal destroyed it by supporting Old King on the 2006 Budget downfall. This eventually split the JVP and weakened it. But, it is still remaining managed to retain the name of the only party is in the south with a political policy- whether it is desirable or not. Old King never showed strong performance on his own until 2010 election. He had marginally edged the completely unknown and a candidate from his own party, New King, in the 2015 election. That (2010 election) was the one and the only chance for Wimal to build an image of NFF to be recognized as a Party by Sinhalese. Wimal failed with his Sinhala Buddist Extremism but JVP survived by stick on to its polices, within its core supporters.

    Further that corridor, the Sinhala Buddhist Extremism, is now over cowed by lefts and rights like -Gunadasa, Champika, G.L.Gunasekera, Udaya Gammanpila, Wimal, Atturalie Rathana Thero, Gnanam, Malinda Seneviratne(I don’t know how many others are there)… and now Deal too wants to enter into it for him an ID.

  • 0
    0

    Nevertheless that was most dominant and consistent slogan (Sinhala Buddhist Extremism) of the winning and governing political parties from 1948. The biggest challenge is not that corridor is overcrowded, but there is no clear indication that path is yet popularly accepted by Sinhala Buddhist as political path to go. SRWD did not stand on that alone. Yet many are trying to use it as a stepping stone, taking example from SWRD. SWRD showed him as Leftist, poor’s friend, leader of Pancha Maha Pala Vegaya, Friend of Buddhist Extremists, as a better alternate than LSSP for philosophically and morally bankrupted elites of that time UNP…… he presented him as Saiva Kade Sampar to be accepted by all Modayas, not just by the Sinhala Buddhist Extremists.
    Deal came into Yahapalanaya with a name of clean and leaving with the name of corrupted (though not proved at a court) Sinhala Buddhists Extremist. His dependency on Sinhala Buddhist Extremism grew to this level at the end of his carrier, when he started face dismay of taking forward it with clear, outstanding unique ID in Yahapalanaya and on the public eyes. Deal broke his first public trust when he failed to bring out in March 2015, the CB looting of Yahapalanaya. The death bell was rung with the Avant Garde. He failed to revive the carrier with his lately aggressively adopted Sinhala Buddhist Extremism, until he was ousted.
    If we want to take deep look at Deal’s future, we need to leave it at here and look at Sinhala Buddhist Extremism on its original shape and color, and then have to come back to this

  • 0
    0

    In Western Democracies, where we look at the first instance for practical example of democracy, the main elements, Ruling and Opposition, are two prong power shearers. But the uniqueness of Lankawe is with its special feature of three prong power sharing. Lankawe goes by its three prongs, Ruling, Opposition and the Kandy Ayatollahs. Ayatollahs, though equal power sharers with others, are not rulers or opponents. They influence the rulers’ decision and much as the opposition does and they make decisions on policies as much the rulers do. They directly influence the government, but not directly influence the election results. So, unlike for the Sinhala Buddhists Mass, who are interested in “UNP? or SLFP?” question, anything does for them- either UNP or SLFP. They work around it at the government (Especially at ministers) level, rather than at moving the mass’ opinion in elections.

    To better understand this further we need to understand that, who the so called Political “Sinhala Buddhist” is?
    Political Sinhala Buddhists are not one; there are two Political Sinhala Buddhists 1). I identified as Sinhala Buddhists by political process and 2) identified as Sinhala Buddhists by religious process. Just for rough recognition, the politically identified Sinhala Buddhists are laymen or the lower strata of the Sinhala race and the religiously identified Sinhala Buddhists are Buddhism followers in Lankawe, their ID stem from Kandy Ayatollahs. They both are equally active in politics. The politically identified Sinhala Buddhists supports the opposition and the religiously identified Sinhala Buddhists support both opposition and the ruling simultaneously. Politically identified Sinhala Buddhists are never satisfied with governments because of their lower end life which remain with many unsatisfied needs.

    Deal, is at this time, not guaranteed the support of Ayatollahs (religious Sinhala Buddhists) or opposition (Political Sinhala Buddhist, those who oppose Yahapalanaya).

    • 0
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      Ada Dumb Mallaiyuran: You grew up within the Judeo-christian andRoman kingdom ideology which you callwestern democracy. the east had better deemocracy. Even Sinhale was a better democracy long long ago when Sinhala was 100% buddhist country. The whole Asia was like that. You dalits want to establish a dalit kingdom with judeo-christian values. So, first read the history for different eras and countries and hemisspheres and then write. Sinhala doe snot have it’s flag or the name. At present it is a quasi-federal country. Now everybody including Tamils, christians, muslims, and even Malays want their homeland in Sri lanka and they want to make Sri lanka a “Ekeeya” country. So, that is why you all talk about constitution.

  • 0
    0

    Deal can combine the “Sinhala Buddhist Extremism” with other tools like SWRD fooled the mass. But we have to wait and see how many of other techniques are available for him to kick start his re-emerging, combining it with Sinhala Buddhist Extremism. Of cause re-aligning with Old Royals is one of them. But, Old Royals were not a friend of anybody. Champika, Hakeem, Rishard, JVP, Wimal, Kandy Ayatollahs, Deal-himself, Mangala (who brought Old King in 2005).. all are outstanding witnesses for this. Their greed will murder one the other within their family to capture the power. In fact there was an accusation of one Son Prince drawing the gun on one Brother Prince. It is unlikely Deal becoming politically anybody by joining the Old Royals. He is intelligent in figuring out difficult conundrums but not artistically creative to come out with new ideas like SWRD.

    If he fails in combing with other techniques, what will be the end of his travelling on the Sinhala Buddhist Extremist corridor? We know “SLFP”- “UNP” is not political parties’ IDs, after all most of those are in those two parties are bring ups of the other party. “SLFP”- “UNP” is about while one is ruling the other one hanging to Sinhala Buddhist Extremism to topple the ruler. (Further we know Chandrika’s SLFP was more UNP other than JR’s UNP and Richard.P’s presidency time was more of SLFP time even than SWRD’s time – but we ignore the policy matters now in our, this discussion) This is why when UNP-SLFP unity government was formed the formation evolved into Yahapalanaya – Joint Comedy Club format.
    If any political pundits want to predict what path Deal can go or should go, he/she need to be through of the history and the trends of the complexity “Sinhala Buddhist”.

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