(Text of Speech Made by President Maithripala Sirisena to a Gathering of UNF representatives after swearing in Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister on December 16th 2018)
The January 08, 2015 Presidential election was an extraordinary people’s victory achieved through a challenging election campaign. In that victory, the people of the country had many of their hopes and expectations. As of now, with completion of almost four years, we have had several achievements as a government that have a significant place in history. At the same time, there were many disastrous acts, corruption and disturbing incidents as well.We are pleased that we fulfill some of the aspirations of the people during this period. At the same time we could not take the country to the level the people expected us to take. Now, I do not know how far we will be able to achieve those expectations.
From the date of the victory of 2015 election, the promises of our election manifesto have floundered since the date of the swearing-in of the Cabinet of Ministers. According to our Election Manifesto, ministries had to be allocated on a scientific basis. Not only that, a team of experts had been appointed for that responsibility and necessary document was prepared. But, I do not know, if that document was even looked at.
In the past, most of us have witnessed most unfortunate situations. When it comes to progressive results, I see the establishment of democracy in the country and the freedom of the people, the 19th amendment and the establishment of independent commissions. I see only those steps as progress in the country. On the other side, today I only see a huge political crisis. It is a uncertain to me whether the appointment of independent commissions and selection of some persons to positions under the 19th Amendment to Constitution were done impartially. The Constitution Council has to appoint the Chief Justice, the Attorney General and the Inspector General Police.The main thing I noticed was when the names of senior most judges were submitted for the judiciary appointments, they were rejected.
There is an allegation among the judges in the judiciary service that I do not give appointments in accordance with seniority.I should clearly state that I have sent every single name of those who level those charges against me, but the Constitutional Council has rejected those names. In that situation, there has been injustice to those who hold seniority in the field of judiciary. Therefore, the question arises as to how impartial the Constitutional Council has been when appointing of Judges.
As a result of the previous government’s serious misdeeds President Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated, which was the first time a President was defeated, and I was elected as the President by 6,250,000 people voting for me. What was opposed in the previous government was corruption and fraud. But the new people’s government that was elected by the people, plundered the Central Bank within three months.In the two cases reported in 2015, our fight against corruption was destroyed. So, yahapalaya (good governance) political concept has been destroyed. The citizen’s yahapalana(good governance) expectation has been destroyed.
I spoke to the Central Bank Governor this morning by telephone and asked him as to where was the Forensic Audit, which was a major recommendation made by the Presidential Commission. Until today nothing has been done.As such the total financial lost of the Central Bank robbery cannot be estimated. The Commission Report says this fraud has happened over several years.
Then, economic experts told me about this last week and told me that this massive robbery had been over Rs 1,000 billion for many years.And, in this issue, Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe clearly knows that I was opposed to the appointment of Mr Arjuna Mahendren. But,I did not want any conflict with Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe and I appointed Mr Arjuna Mahendran because of his strongest demand. Therefore, I too came under the allegation that I should take the responsibility.The fraud that has taken place under Mr Arjuna Mahendran has ignite the country like a wildfire. Mr Arjun’s Mahendran is missing today. The plan for his arrest was not implemented properly.The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and other officials who assisted the Presidential Commission on Central Bank robbery were threatened. There were pressures and some of the officials came under various investigations.
On 26th October, I appointed Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. Four days before that an amendment to the Bribery and Corruption Commission Act was presented to to Parliament in order to punish the suspects who plundered the Central Bank. This was recommended by the Attorney General’s Department but the proposed Amendment, which was first sent last year was in a cupboard for more than five months. I reminded about this to the Minister of Justice Thalatha Atukorale and Minister Kiriella several times.
Finally, with great difficulty, I could get Minister Kiriella to submit it to Parliament. But eventually, the debate on its amendment was postponed indefinitely. Because of this delay, the Act could not be changed. Now it wil not happen and the Central Bank robbery that cost billions of rupees for over 15 or 20 years will not be investigated and the guilty are not being punished. Money cannot be recovered. This is a serious issue today.
The CCEM that was established with a decision of the Cabinet. However, the CCEM has led to the rise of many issues. In reality, I have been too grateful to the Prime Minister, that he actually enjoyed the powers of the President. I did not ask about his conduct. He acted in this same manner in dealings with international leaders and trade agreements. Mr Wickremasinghe sued powers that he had not been vested with by the 19th Amendment. But I waited patiently as a man with gratitude. I appointed a Commission on the Singapore trade agreement. I received its recommendations last week. According to that, there are lot of weaknesses. I am not going to explain them in detail at this moment. Particularly, in one paragraph mentions how the agreement has been entered into without concurrence of relevant agencies such as trade, ports, industry and finance.Therefore, the Singapore trade agreement is a major problem today. I suppose is that it should be suspended temporarily by government.I am not sure if this agreements needs to be amended or completely revoked after seeking the opinion of experts.We must be correct in the future.
I am happy that political parties and leaders contributed to resolving this crisis. I thank Hon. Speaker, for discussing to resolve this issue. You all came to this office. Likewise, all of them, including Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the Podujana Peramuna, came together.
I must tell you another matter. Within the past four years, in matters of eradicating bribery and corruption, I told, and as I always said there are certain very strong and powerful forces related to religion, customs, language etc. Mostly, It is those cultural forces, than political forces, that make or break governments. I clearly pointed out in the recent past in the matter regarding filing cases against Bikkhus need to be done carefully. There were no elephants for the Peraharafrom temples or Dewalaand that amounted to a huge socio- religious and cultural resistance over this. As such, I asked to study the legality and release the elephants. Over this issue, we lost the whole Bhikku community.
I must also clearly mention about imprisoning the members of the Tri forces. I asked not to imprison our soldiers who have fought in battles and defeated terrorism; but nobody listened to me.
Today, they ask us to punish our soldiers, from all over the world, yet there are punishments for the people of Prabhakaran who have destroyed our country. Even today, there are bigger hands of L.T.T.E. freely roaming around in the world. The same international forces point fingers at us, but they are the ones who committed all these wrongdoings. But they still demand to conduct enquires against our forces. They accuse us of violating human rights and international laws. But, they killed nearly one lakh members of our tri forces, police, civil security forces as well as a President of this country. So where is a programme to find and bring to justice those who have committed all these gross violations and now hiding in various parts of the world? The international community is silent about it. Not even anyone in the country talks about it. If the members of our security forces are to be punished, they should also be punished. If not, both sides should agree to remove those punishments. Here, I clearly hold a firm idea that the forces should be freed after discussing with the international community. There is a request that Tamil prisoners should be released. We held several discussions. If the Tamil prisoners are to be freed, then our solders should also be freed from different court cases that have been filed against them. That is justice.
During the recent incidents, your debaters said that I will be dragged and be murdered like Gadafi. Some of your MPs said,I will be also burned in my own house with my family. The NGO operatives who were holding press conferences also said so. Why do they say that? No state leader in this country had been called like this. There were severe issues in the country during the tenure of President J.R. Jayawardenawho was considered as a very strict ruler. I was imprisoned since I spoke against J.R. Jayawardhana’s government.
Even J.R.Jayawardena was not addressed like this; President Premadasa was not called like this. How many misdeeds were committed against Chandrika Bandaranaike? Nobody talked to them like that. Nobody said MahindaRajapaksawill be dragged like Gadhafi. I was called like that since I am the only person who would silently watch upon such acts. If the former leaders including J.R. were called upon like that nobody will be able to save their lives. But they know that the house of a man like me could be burnt down and person like me could be dragged liked that.
Just as there are good people, there are criminals and underworld gangs. It was those evil forces that made those barbaric pronouncements. I did not see anyone of you make a statement about the conspiracy to assassinate me. The conspiracy has not yet been proven, but it has certain details that should be clearly addressed. Since the police are running under me these days, there is a big progress in these issues. Yet the biggest misery is that the murder conspiracy against the President of the country was taken up in the courts, there was no single person of the Criminal Investigations Department to be found in the premises.
When I issued some gazette notifications recently, I did so with the advice of expert lawyers and constitutional experts. All that I did was done with the utmost good faith. I didn’t do any of those acts with any malefic thought or with an intention of violating the constitution. The country was in a huge political turmoil. The best solution to solve the problem was to enter into an election. It was only 122 members of Parliament who signed this letter. But there are 155 lakhs of voters in this country. I know the power of all these 15.5 million voters is much stronger than 122 members of the Parliament. That is why I reached that decision. If I am to be punished for such pure intentions or if an impeachment is to be brought against me, then it is a different issue.
Nevertheless, the truth will be written in the history as words carved in stone. Even though the courts delivered such a judgment, my intention was to empower the 15.5 million people eligible to vote. I know the citizens of this country are stronger than the number of 122 Parliamentarians, who refused an election. Hence, I have no worry about giving any punishment to me. I am a person who has been nearly killed five to six times in my political career.
First, I was almost killed in 71, when the Principal of my school gave my name to the authorities, even though I have no connection with JVP, they labeled me as Che Guevara follower, and after beating me, they put me in the Batticaloa Prison. That was the first instance when God saved me.
As Buddha preached: “Dhammo Have RakkathiDhammachari”, I believe one who lives with Dhamma will be protected by Dhamma. The LTTE attacked five times targeting me. That is why I said “Dhammo Have RakkathiDhammachari”.The L.T.T.Ecardres came to attack me. Some of them committed suicide taking cyanide at different times. As you can recall, I have given amnesty as well asreleased a person,who came to assassinate me. The last attack against me occurred in Boralesgamuwa. In this incident four or five innocent people were killed, but they could not attack a single hair on my body.
The Prime Minister and all of you can remember, how we were attacked in the junction where late N.M.Perera’s statue has be erected in Rajagiriya, on our way after voting for emergency regulation. I was trapped in that place, those L.T.T.E carders escaped taking a government vehicle which was parked at a nearby house, it was a vehicle my wife and children had come in. Later, it was discovered abandoned in Malwana area. There are numerous incidents like this.
When all these started in 1971, I was only 19 years of age. At present my age is 67 years. Since the age of 19, I have been living with a bonus opportunity. It is God who has saved me five times.
Thus, persons who wish to assassinate me like Gaddafi can fulfill their wish. I have no objection to that. I will not take action to shoot them by deploying the Army and S.T.F. I will remain silent at any time if such an incident occurred. I will open the gate when I get to know that they are coming for me. I will order the Army and S.T.F to leave the place. I will clearly state all, including the NGO persons and all your MPs who threatened to kill me to come and kill me and set fire on me and my house.
Taking into consideration all of these incidents, we must seriously think how things will unfold in the future, and how this government will move forward. Some of your MPs over the phone or when they meet me, that we must move forward together, but I can’t see what the guarantee for such a collective journey is. I don’t want to create conflicts. At every turn of this conflict, it is the country that will fall back. The prevailing corrupt situation is very strong. There are some extremely corrupt politicians in the Parliament. When we consider our Cabinet there are some corrupted individuals, the promise of good governance, which we gave to our people, has been completely violated. I clearly state that I am not the person who responsible for this calamity. I made all the sacrifices toward achieving good governance; however, all those sacrifices were destroyed.
The majority of respectable membersof the UNP who voted for me, do not know about this rotten and corrupted political system. If they did, I do not think they will get together in shouting, marching and in other activities.
We say that this is a blessed country. Yes, it is truly a blessed country. But, how many politicians are there to build this country, to free this land of corruption? We need the assembly of such politicians to build a better country, and achieve our development goals. We need them to establish an administration free of corruption and to establish good governance which has failed. The countries in the world have developed by respecting their core values and traditions in their respective societies as well as honouring their religious and cultural values. Therefore, there is a question before me as to where such individuals are to take up the responsibility to build this country. This is a task which cannot be done by a one person or two, to achieve this target we need a group of leaders to provide leadership to the public.
People may tell that I said that I will not reappoint Mr. RanilWickremesinghe as Prime Minister even if he received received the consent of 225 parliamentarians. The social media will target on me in this regard. That is my political view. I made that statement based on my political view. In this situation, all of you went to the Parliament and by signing 117 MPs showed me the majority of the House. There is no any provision in the constitution that the Parliament could dictate or order the President that a particular person should be appointed as the Prime Minister, for my knowledge event the courts cannot make such an order. That power is clearly vested with the Executive President. Nevertheless, as a person who values the Parliamentary tradition, when 117 MPs requested to appoint Mr.RanilWickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, accordingly, I decided to appoint him. My personal and political view, that even the 225 MPs signed to request the appointment of Mr.RanilWickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, I will not appoint him, has not changed and it remainsunchanged at present too. But, I respected the Parliamentary tradition and decided that the post of Prime Minister should be given to Mr. Wickremesinghe. I see this as a characteristic of a democratic society as well as a society that values ethics.