SIRISENA – FIGHTING THE ENEMY WITHIN


WINSTON DE VALLIERE

It's obvious that neither Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe nor President Maithripala Sirisena ever gave a thought to sustainability of a unity government when the numerous forces which engineered Sirisena's common candidature for the presidency came together in a desperate attempt to bring an end to a run-away de facto dictatorship that was run with a rubber stamp Cabinet of Ministers.

The desperation was born of the need to swiftly end the spate of abductions and killings of politicians and journalists as well as sundry dissenters...and as we know from latest probes, the fanning out of that State-impunity assured Military- Navy-Police apparatus into abductions of a no-political nature such as those of the 11 students, Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala, for the express objective of ransom. That this last slew of abductions were also swept under the carpet by the Rajapaksa regime is proof...if proof was ever wanted...of the open-cheque impunity under which the hands of lawlessness showed signs of reaching out from beyond political parameters into the ordinary lives of our citizens, so horrendously beginning with the unspeakably heinous abduction of children from wealthy homes, for ransom. That this was also afforded State impunity was seen by those forces which promoted the candidacy of Sirisena as the point at which something drastic had to be done with utmost urgency. There was no time then to look at wider issues such as sustainability or to even consider how men in desperation will seek to destabilize the unity government that was born of that presidential candidacy. The need of the moment was to end that frightening swathe of impunity that was to kill far too many good politicians and men of integrity in the media. As we know from evidence led in cases before Courts of Law, all those crimes were committed by Armed Forces men, including the Police.

They are all still at large, with Courts amazingly deciding to acquit and discharge most of the victims. They are all moving about freely in society, still available to do their masters' bidding. This of course defies any rationale if only because of the huge security threat they pose to anyone that their masters even today feel inclined to take out!

Sycophants of that regime are in today's Cabinet of Ministers, as I've said a dozen times before, moles intent on socio-political and economic destabilization. In addition is the all-powerful Maha Sangha that has effectively thwarted any effort to introduce constitutional changes either by amendment or by a new Constitution, to facilitate a reasonable package of power devolution to the Tamils and thus emasculate the powers exercised by the TGTE and the LTTE rump within the Tamil Diaspora over the TNA and the wider Tamil populace in the North.

Additionally, perhaps the PM and their backers here and abroad also had not time to consider the extent to which trade unions of professional and non-professional bodies would be used to destabilize and derail the government from day one of its formation. That's because of the external regional geo-political threats perceived to their economic and security interests by India and the US and the wider dimensions of the Rajapaksa pro-China foreign policy choices which also imbued Japan and other nations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region with similar fears.

A long-term military foothold

In this cauldron of fear relating to huge security fears entertained by these countries, there naturally would have been more pressure on those behind the promotion of the Sirisena presidency candidature from the diplomatic missions of those countries in Colombo. Hence, lest China gets a long-term military foothold in key coastal areas around the country – in the North, Colombo and the South - haste was of the essence in the immediate months preceding the presidential election, with India and the USA specifically seeking Rajapaksa's ouster and installing a regime in Colombo that could hopefully hold its own and ensure the Rajapaksa brothers and sons and their sycophants are safely behind bars on sundry murder and other criminal charges.

But they reckoned, without the fact that such a unity government had to necessarily include Rajapaksa loyalists whose votes would be needed in Parliament to push through a package of constitutional reforms.

In January 2010, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, proposed to make changes, to the Constitution, via an urgent Bill. The changes, known as the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, sought to remove the two term limit on being elected to the office of the President and the Constitutional Council under the 17th Amendment. As required under the Constitution, the President referred the urgent Bill to the Supreme Court which heard the Government's arguments and the arguments of six intervening petitioners on Tuesday 1 September 2010. These changes were not discussed in the public domain and they were sought to be made in secret.

It is important to note that even at the Supreme Court hearing the intervening petitioners were only given copies of the proposed changes after the government started making its submissions.

The men of the SLFP in today's Cabinet of Ministers were whole-heartedly ardent supporters of that Bill. They never had any intention of trading away their loyalties to Rajapaksa in exchange for a portfolio. Sirisena now realizes that. Against this backdrop it's not hard to understand why the various commissions of inquiry into murders and bribery and corruption have been apparently dragging their feet on getting these cases to Court and pressing for prosecutions and punitive long term sentences against the culprits. The simple answer to that quiz is that such prosecutions will see Sirisena risking the loss of more than just a dozen or so Deputy Ministers and State Ministers. It is with the objective of freezing those cases that we had these minor ministers threatening to quit the government by end of September....as well as to pressure Sirisena into holding the long delayed LG elections. Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne admitted as much when he said last Wednesday that the GMOA, CPC strikes etcetera were staged in desperation to topple the government because it was on the verge of bringing the Rajapaksa era crooks to justice.

The public of course will not believe that until they see it accomplished for the simple reason that one stops believing in justice when criminals behind bars are suddenly set free and murder and corruption cases keep dragging on endlessly.

Pulse of the nation

TALK IS CHEAP AND EASY. If the President and Premier have their eyes wide open and are feeling the pulse of the nation, they will know that the groundswell of support that elected them to office has now dissipated ...which is perhaps why the LG elections continue to be postponed over one reason or another. The rationale is perhaps that the longer they are delayed the longer they can delay their fears of losing control of LG bodies coming true...and hence preventing Rajapaksa's JO candidates using that as a launch pad to ride to victory at the next Presidential and general elections. Essentially then, the delays in LG elections is now all about preempting the beginning of a pro-Rajapaksa swing that began when the Central Bank Bond scam scandal was blown open and now threatens to overwhelm the Unity Government with indications of evidence surfacing of Minister Ravi Karunanayake having a politically compromising relationship with former head of Perpetual Treasuries Arjun Aloysius, with the Joint Opposition claiming that this perhaps suggests there is a basis for presuming the former Finance Minister was not without knowledge that the scam was being committed when he held that portfolio.

It would now appear that President Sirisena could well be ruing the day on which he appointed the Bond Scam Commission.

The Joint Opposition is learn to be preparing cases to be brought before this same commission as well as Court, relating to alleged scams aggregating to Rs 131 billion by ten top men in this government.

The impact of the CB Bond Scam has been such that even a wild suggestion such as this from the Joint Opposition is now not so readily dismissed by dozens of people of some importance that I've been speaking to. The bond scandal has in other words done more to seriously dent the public trust in...and goodwill for... this Government, than its less than perfunctory lip service to address and prosecute meaningfully the crimes of the former regime.

After the dust has settled on this massive scandal, unless the government has been able to find a scapegoat, I'm afraid it's the UNP that will be burnt in effigy long before it is rejected at the next general election.

I would on the basis of what's known to date, suggest that the UNP's second string of leaders such as Sajith Premadasa brace themselves for a huge polls backlash and pick up the pieces to reawaken the former ethics and principles, the integrity and honesty which were hallmarks of that once proud Party.

As Louis Mencken put it succinctly, "Honour is simply the morality of superior men".

If the regime under Rajapaksa fell far, far short of that ideal, it must be sadly recorded that the Unity Government has failed in its honour. One fails to see anyone in it, perhaps excepting the President, who falls into that category of 'superior men'.

If I am financially or otherwise indebted to a man of inferior moral and ethical standing, I can hardly lay claim to being a superior man, and hence am devoid of that quality of personal honour born of an inner spirit of morality in all things. If I am counted as being among the friends of a thief, I can hardly lay claim to honour.

President Sirisena, it would seem, lacks the support of honourable men. He hence cannot win against similar forces without when within there's corruption of the same depth.

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