By Tush Wickramanayaka –
The Executive President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has set a new precedence by inviting public officials to his office and publicly reprimanding them under wide media scrutiny highlighting to the nation that aggression and oppression are the key features to implement the Presidential Task Force to build a Secure Country, Disciplined, Virtuous and Lawful Society in accordance with the powers vested in him by Article 33 of the Constitution – hallelujah!
I am the Co-convener of ‘Jathika Handa’, an independent Civil Society Organization that hosts ‘Yatharthya,’ a nontraditional trilingual political show, presenting the first time candidates of the forthcoming General Election to highlight the knowledge, honesty, responsibility and accountability of the new generation of politicians that we should vote for. The three professional females who moderate ‘Yatharthaya’ are Soraya Marikkar Deen, Lawyer and International Award Winning Activist, Manu Tissera, Communications and Advocacy Specialist and I, Physician and Women’s and Children’s Rights Activist.
The guests on the special episode of ‘Yatharthaya’ on 27th June 2020 were four nominees of the National lists of the leading parties – Ali Sabry, PC (SLPP), Dr Harini Amarasuriya (JJB), Dr Mahim Mendis (SJB) and Dr Rohan Pallewatte (JSP).
I respect Sabry, whose family I know well, for his sensitivity on issues relating to children and injustice. However, I was shocked by his outburst during the show and his unapologetic behavior that has left me utterly disillusioned about the accountability of a Parliamentarian and hope this will clear the cobwebs for those who have appealed to me for clarification. I reiterate, this is NOT a personal vendetta against Sabry but a true reflection of the expectations of the citizenry, which I represent.
Let the case of the Parliamentarian vs Citizen begin…
The Parliament of Sri Lanka comprises 225 members: 196 (87%) are directly elected from the 24 districts while 29 (13%) are indirectly elected as National List MPs.
The purpose of having an instrument such as a National list is to enable professionals, academics, and any such eminent persons to enter parliament, without being disadvantaged by their lack of pre-established constituencies and networks due to not being professional politicians. It’s meant for valuing and drawing into parliament those who have made important investments in learning and professionalism, in ways that do not accrue popular political recognition.
In addition, on 12th March 2020, all Political Party Leaders and Chairman of the Election Commission signed the agreed eight point recommendations presented by March 12 Movement and PAFFREL Sri Lanka endorsed by all religious leaders on Criteria for Selection to Give Nominations to Candidates at forthcoming General Elections. Recommendation No 3 is – “A person who is not legally or socially accused of bribery or corruption and who has a character accepted by society.” This is clearly beyond the judiciary procedures and emphasizes the ethical and moral conduct of a public representative.
The first question posed to Sabry during ‘Yatharthaya‘ challenged the selection of nominees to the National List of Podujana Permauna, which is in direct violation of the above. His response included a complete denial of knowledge of the Agreement signed by his own Party Leader and his disagreement of such, an explanation on the accepted norms of the judiciary process albeit the Parliamentary Candidacy was beyond a court room practice, justification of selection of such nominees, questioning the right of society to make a judgment call on character and reaffirming that Media falsely manipulates the public view. Sabry challenged us to name the individual. Because ‘Yatharthaya’ does not condone naming and shaming individuals during the Live Show, we refrained from this exercise. However, I can confirm in our opinion, the person unsuited on the National List is the same individual who is currently on bail facing a long history of criminal charges accused of Rs 645 million fraud at Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA) , the same individual who has admitted to having liaisons with members of the ruthless terrorist organization LTTE and the same who owns Publishing Company/Mawbima and Ceylon Today newspapers contributing to the offense that Sabry alerted about false media manipulation – I rest my case, my Lord!
The Citizen – Client Charter of 2007 published by Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs dedicates the services of public representatives and protects the rights of citizens. It reiterates the Public Representative’s responsibility to high quality of service, accountability to the citizens, especially while being maintained by public taxes, ensuring to be honest and law abiding and empowering the citizens to question the conduct of public representatives.
During the first question to Sabry, Soraya Deen further highlighted a point where a blanket refusal to accept the obvious is not always a wise choice and continued to reflect on previous conversations of Sabry with the Muslim community, re-endorsing that as a National List Nominee one must be free of any form of accusations without any cases pending and be of impeccable character. The ensuing verbal abuse from Sabry was shocking and completely unacceptable. His spine chilling attack vehemently denied the previous conversations, questioned my colleague’s right to speak on matters of national interest and accused her of inciting racism in our country. His callous disregard to uphold democratic governance, harassment, verbal abuse and public slander was the typical imitation of his Master. Can you expect the baby crabs to walk straight when Daddy crab walks sideways? Who says we must remain on ground zero to care about the country of our birth ripped apart by lunatics?
His chilling attack:
“You are living somewhere else and creating this racism in this country; you all are the people responsible for this!” – Over rule, hear say, my Lord!
At the threshold of every election, all politicians and parties use our children as bait with the common slogan, “save the country for its true beneficiaries, save the country for your children” but they never save the children from the country. Children have no vote and remain the voiceless and defenseless victims of society; they are now pawns of the political mafia. National security without child protection is a National crisis!
Sabry praised the Presidential Task Force for nabbing drug dealers and dealing with “massive” crimes. Is there a greater crime than murder? On the final question on the hypocrisy of the Presidential pardon of a cold blooded child murderer who was convicted for life following a lengthy judiciary process and the virtuosity of the message The First Citizen is transforming to his people that it is perfectly acceptable to kill children and destroy our future, Sabry was paralyzed without an answer. His concluding observations were that he is clueless about the appropriateness of the functions of the Special Task Force, especially the blind measurement of maintaining a Virtuous Society.
I clutched on to the fine hope from Sabry’s final comment that we should investigate why The President took such a decision. I hope and pray, the man I invited to the forum, who lost his cool will regain the respect by having the courage to give us an answer within six months of him entering Parliament, Inshallah – Leave to proceed, my Lord!
*Dr Tush Wickramanayaka – Co-convener of Jathika Handa, Founder Chairperson of Stop Child Cruelty Trust