By Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha
President Sirisena’s query, from the Supreme Court, as to whether he is entitled to a six-year term, was both sad and silly. It was sad because it suggested that he was anxious to go on for longer than the reduced period laid down in the 19th Amendment, for which he had claimed great credit.
Since his raison d’être, as it were, was reducing the excessive power of the Presidency, he has rather shot himself in the foot by seeming to want to restore some of what which he claimed that he has freely given up. And the move was very silly because the Amendment was crystal clear about the reduction being applicable to the current incumbent.
But though his query was ridiculous, there was some reason for making it given that his sycophants were claiming, publicly too, that he was entitled to go on till January 2021. And just as I have been more critical of the hangers on, who ruined the last couple of years of President Rajapaksa’s term, than of Rajapaksa himself, I feel that Sirisena too is more sinned against than sinning.
There is no excuse for giving in to perverse henchmen but, given the indiscriminate adulation of leaders in this country, one can understand how easy it is to succumb to blandishments.
What is totally unacceptable is the behaviour of the Attorney General, who has again proved himself totally unfit for the exalted position into which he was catapulted. It is said that the President had first asked his opinion, and it beggars belief that he would have ignored the clear assertion in the 19th Amendment that the current President’s term was subject to the limitation. And it was appalling that he had appeared before the Supreme Court to argue the case to back up the President going on till 2021.
When Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa sought similar opinions, they had private counsel appearing on their behalf. That was right and proper, since the Attorney General appears on behalf of the State, and it is not the business of the Attorney General to argue that the President could go on for an extra year or not. In thus formally presenting himself as the instrument of the government in power, Mr. Jayasuriya has made crystal clear his lack of intelligence or of principles or both.
His inadequacies had of course become apparent earlier too, in his abject performance before the Bond Commission. Where his staff, in the form of Messers de Livera and Kodagoda, had shown themselves both objective and incisive, he presented himself as a political dogsbody, unwilling to investigate and expose the despicable role of the Prime Minister in the scam. That Ranil Wickremesinghe is still in a position to hinder the course of justice, and to continue to nurture the scoundrels, who plundered the country, is entirely due to the Attorney General’s anxiety to serve not the country but his political masters, and thus himself.
In this he has shown himself quite unlike the other individual endowed with great responsibility against usual practice. I refer to the Auditor General, who was also appointed, two years back, over the head of the most senior serving officer in the department.
When the staff of that department helped us enormously during the first COPE investigation – which was aborted because the President dissolved Parliament prematurely, under pressure and contrary to his promise to his party – I mentioned to the COPE Chairman the sterling contribution of the then Acting Auditor General.
DEW’s response was that he feared such yeoman service would lead him being deprived of the Auditor General’s post. And so it proved. But my fear is that the handpicked substitute proves him as a political puppet, as in a sharp report he laid bare the wickedness of Ranil’s henchmen, as well as the absurdity of the allegations Ranil still keeps making to draw attention away from his own crookedness.
This is what led Ranil to declare that they would have to get rid of him, and that perhaps they had made a mistake in not appointing the Deputy. The mistake on the contrary is in appointing a servile ass as Attorney General.