By Gamini Jayaweera –
Participating in a recent TV programme, opposition parliamentarian Dr. Harsha De Silva said that the President was not wrong, and he felt sorry for the President’s predicament. He did not believe that the President had ever thought of making such a wrongdoing. (“ජනාධිපතිතුමා වැරදි නැහැ………එයා ගැන මට දුකයි……මම විශ්වාස කරන්නේ නැහැ කිසිදවසක මේ වගේ වැරද්දක් කරන්න බලාපොරොත්තු වුනා කියලා. කල්ලියක් විසින් ඔහුව කොටු කරගෙන……….”)
Dr. Harsha’s statement implies that the President is a prisoner within his inner circle of advisers who are responsible for all the wrong decisions that have been taken by the President but not the President himself. Is it reasonable to assume that Dr. Harsha has made this statement because either he is preparing groundwork for a “political bulti” which is like the one performed by Shantha Bandara or he is not fully aware of the wrong doings which have been carried out by the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his regime, since he became the President of Sri Lanka in November 2019? I have formulated the following information for the benefit of a wider audience to make up their own minds about the validity of Dr. Harsha’s statement.
Appointment of Criminals
When Gotabhaya Rajapaksa became President of Sri Lanka he appointed Lalith Weerathunge who was a convicted criminal at the time, as his Senior Adviser. The President did not wait for the hearing and the judgement of the higher court for the appeal filed by the convicted criminals. When Lalith Weerathunge was serving as the Senior Adviser to the President, the Court of Appeal Discharged and Acquitted the previously convicted Lalith and Anusha Palpita for mis-using public funds for political activities. Anusha Palpita was appointed as the new Secretary to the Ministry of Industries from January 1, 2021, by President Gotabaya.
Duminda Silva was convicted by the Supreme Court as a murderer for murdering Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra. President Gotabaya using his presidential executive powers, pardoned, and released Duminda from the prison. He then appointed Duminda Silva as the Chairman of the Urban Development Authority. I wonder whether Dr. Harsha believes that these are the work of the advisers in the inner circle of the president.
Friends and Family for Top Positions
As soon as Gotabaya Rajapaksa became president he appointed some of his friends in America who used to have sing song parties with him, as Sri Lankan Ambassadors without any previous diplomatic and administrative experience.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed most of his close family members as Ministers and State Ministers. The dual citizenship law was changed to appoint one of his brothers, a citizen of America, as the finance minister. It has been reported that according to some estimates, about 75% of the budget is under the control of Rajapaksa ministers in government. Surely Dr. Harsha, do you believe that these decisions have been made by the advisers in the President’s inner circle?
Tax Concessions & Sudden Tax Changes
A proposal made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019, the Phottuwa caretaker government headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa, announced a heap of tax concessions which included the annulment of Nation Building Tax (NBT), Capital Gain Tax, Withholding Tax, and the reduction of VAT to 8 per cent from 15. At the time, Patali Champika Ranawaka MP stated that the government revenue had been reduced by 30 percent due to these tax concessions. He pointed out that the previous tax policy administered by the “Yahapalanaya” government helped to keep the country from going bankrupt.
Then the sudden Tax changes in importing sugar had allowed a few businessmen to pocket Rs. 15.95bn which had been classified as lost revenue to the government. No checks and balances were made when taking such drastic decisions, demonstrating the ugly side of the President and the members of the government who were opening doors to their supporters to earn unbelievable profits at the expense of government revenue.
It appears that to payback their wealthy donors and supporters, the Gotabaya government ignore these dangers and allowed the treasury lose billions of rupees in revenue. We do not believe that these despotic actions have been taken by the advisers in the President’s inner circle?
Appointment of Retired Military Personnel
During the past two years, President Gotabaya has appointed some of the retired members of Armed Forces without sufficient qualifications and experience, as Secretaries to the Ministries destroying the independent status of these positions. During the same period, President Gotabaya has appointed retired members of armed forces as Chairmen of State enterprises. Most of these retired personnel have not got the required entrepreneurial experience to manage these institutions economically and efficiently, hence making substantial losses. One wonders whether these appointments have been made to run efficient and economic public service and state corporations or to payback friendly members of the armed forces to ensure that Command & Control type leadership would be in place to suppress the workforce and Trade Unions who may fight for their employment rights.
I give below on point form the rest of the wrong doings during the last two years by the President Gotabaya and his regime otherwise this is going to be a very long article. Hope the learned Dr. will get a clearer picture of the reasons for President’s self-made predicament.
- Organic Compost debacle
- Appointment of Ajit Navad Cabral as the Governor of Central Bank
- Appointment of failed Ministers from the previous regime as Ministers
- Turning a blind eye for destruction of the environment by govt. supporters
- Allowing destruction of archaeological sites by the govt. supporters and granting them to build hotels on these sites.
- Appointing his nephew to oversee all the ministries in addition to managing his own ministry.
- Remanding Muslim public figures without evidence for alleged crimes
- No charges against the Good Friday bombers
- Not taking action to bring back Arjun Mahendran
- Allowing his cousin, Nirupama Rajapaksa to leave the country without investigating the Pandora scandal.
- Despite the country is going through economic hardships, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Gotabaya promoted 337 Officers and 8,226 other ranks of the Sri Lanka Army.
- Importing luxury vehicles for govt. ministers
- Approving loans and implementing unwanted road construction programme despite unable to pay the interest of previous loans
- Appointment of his family lawyer as the Minister of Justice
- Not taking actions against perpetrators hence allowing corruption to prosper
- Demonstrating Self-Centred selfish leadership qualities
As I have explained above, despite securing a two thirds majority in the Parliament, the ruling coalition has so far failed to deliver the manifesto commitments to put our country on the right path to prosperity during the last two years. In summary, this regime has failed due to the continuation of the same old failed policies by the same old failed politicians of the previous administrations. In addition, the appointment of murderers & criminals to top govt. positions, practising nepotism & corruption at the highest level, bending the Justice system to suit their needs, poor leadership form Ministerial Levels to the Heads of state institutions, appointment of inexperienced politically biased retired personnel from the armed forces to responsible top govt. positions, implementation of short-sighted & unwanted policies without wider consultation, and taking the advantage of the two thirds majority to act arrogantly and foolishly by the ruling party members from top to bottom are solely responsible for creating the failed state we are in.
Several politicians in the country believe that forming a “caretaker” government from the members of all parties and sacking the President would be the panacea to all our deep-rooted problems. I believe that unless we identify the root causes of the failures of the three branches ie. the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary we will not be able to solve our deep-rooted problems by just creating a “caretaker” government to give a breathing space to these failed politicians.
Independence of the Three Pillars
In 1748 a former French Judge and Political Philosopher, Montesquieu emphasised the importance of independence of these three branches and I quote “When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty… there is no liberty if the powers of judging is not separated from the legislative and executive… there would be an end to everything, if the same man or the same body… were to exercise those three powers.”
This quote illustrates the valiant effort led by late Ven. Madulawawe Sobitha Thero. and other civil societies to oust the very powerful President Mahinda Rajapaksa and form the “Yahapalanaya” government to abolish the Executive Presidency by the incumbent government headed by the former President Maithripala Sirisena and the former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. But the greedy corrupt leaders of the “Yahapalanaya”, played party politics and ignored the mandate given to them by the Late Ven. Thero. and the progressive people in this country to abolish the Executive Presidency. Hence, the country is now experiencing social and economic catastrophes due to a single person exercising his executive powers violating the independence of the above mentioned three pillars of our democracy.
During the last few decades our leaders have systematically eroded the independence of the above mentioned three branches for personal and political gains. Since we have changed our constitution and elected an Executive President, our country was gradually fallen into a failed state due to the behaviour of greedy and power hungry corrupt political leaders and their henchmen.
I totally agree with the Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and the JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake that the very first thing the members of parliament must do is to abolish the Executive Presidency and bring back the executive and legislative powers to the Parliament and make the Judiciary an independent institution. This will give the Legislature to formulate Laws and the Executive to implement them. The independent Judiciary is there to ensure that the checks & balances have been applied when formulating and implementing Laws to ensure that they are complied with the law of the land.
Although I have mentioned the two reasons which may have prompted for Dr. Harsha to say that the President has not done any wrong doings, I personally do not believe that Dr. Harsha, being an active parliamentarian, is not aware of the above-mentioned facts and figures. If so, the public would like to know his motive to state about the President’s innocence on the above matters at this crucial juncture.
We all must get together to improve our economic situation to ensure that the people have enough food, medicine, electricity, and fuel, etc. to survive in the short run. Unless we create an environment for the people to keep their noses above the water to breath, I do not believe that whatever we are demanding is possible to achieve. Our message may not get through to the people if they are suffering from hunger.
We must not ignore our young people of all races Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Burghers and of all religions Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, Anglicans who are currently demonstrating against this corrupt system. We all must collectively use our courage, energy, and wisdom to act decisively and speedily in creating an egalitarian, democratic, compassionate, united, modern, and peaceful Sri Lanka by the advancement of social, religious, cultural, economic, and technological developments which the young people now deserve.
It is my view that even if we are to get the best economist in the world, there is no certainty that we may be able to solve our deep-rooted economic problems soon. The economists can make Predictions for the Future based on the past and the current data. The Predictions may be right or wrong irrespective of the use of currant data because the Conditions related to the data are changing all the time due to many other factors which are beyond our control.
I conclude this brief article with the following for our intelligent parliamentarians who think that they have the magic wand to solve our deep-rooted economic problems soon. Intelligence alone does not get us where we want to go. It is said that “Intelligence is worth little without Wisdom and Experience”. The need of the hour is for the current members of Parliament, to avert the current crisis by giving up self-serving politics and taking prudent decisions in conformity to what the public is now unanimously asking in loud and clear.