By Harim Peiris
The defeated Rajapaksa regime has a few die hard-cheer leaders, about thirty SLFP Members of Parliament at the last count and leading them are a slightly lesser number of MP’s from the smaller constituent parties of the UPFA, such as the MEP, the NFF and the EPDP.
Unable to accept the reality that their political hero, lost the presidential election, in fact with a much bigger margin of defeat than his razor thin first victory in 2005, these relics of the ancient regime are obstructing the new Sirisena Administration from fulfilling its promised and popularly mandated reform program.
Opposing the 19A is obstructing the people’s mandate
As the son of a founder member of the SLFP, it is appalling to witness sections of the SLFP obstructing the implementation of the one hundred day program of the new government. Everything which the Sirisena Administration is seeking to do, has the moral and political authority of the people’s mandate. In the republic of Sri Lanka, it is the people who are sovereign and the state and its agencies derive their authority from the expressed will of the people, who made their choice quite clear on 8th January 2015 and ended Rajapaksa rule. The 19th amendment to the constitution, especially once amended according to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, is a key aspect of the people’s mandate.
Obstructing corruption investigations
Similarly the ending of unprecedented and rampant corruption in government and the introduction of good governance is another key electoral promise of the Sirisena Administration. A charge leveled against the Government if at all has been that it is slow and dragging its feet on investigating and charging corrupt former government officials and political leaders. The Attorney General’s Department which lost its independence and became an appendage of the presidency during the Rajapaksa era has indeed been slow to prosecute, such as in the Avant Garde case, where a prima facie In offences abound, even to the casual observing public. In that context, the Justice Minister, himself a renowned lawyer as well as the Deputy Foreign Minister, is on record criticizing the decision of the Speaker of Parliament also a brother of President Rajapaksa, for hauling in the Chairman of the Bribery Commission, regarding its ongoing investigations.
The relics of the Rajapaksa regime in Parliament, should be especially careful of anything that smacks of interfering with judicial and quasi judicial processes, as well as public mandated investigation of massive government corruption. The Gunawardena duo, Dinesh and Bandula as well as Wimal Weerawansa should realize, that their previous assault on the judiciary, the purported removal of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, after a flawed process, was accordingly deemed null and void and resulted in the anomalous situation of Mohan Peiris, interloping in the office of Chief Justice for close upon two years. Accordingly it is best to leave the Bribery Commission to do its job without a further assault on corruption investigations. If Mahinda Rajapaksa, his family or political friends are aggrieved by any decisions of the law enforcement, they have access to the appellate and superior courts. Neither the streets outside Parliament, nor the well of the Chamber of that august assembly, are venues for settling judicial disputes.
The rearguard of the Rajapaksa regime is calling corruption investigations, as political harassment. Their claims would at least have some moral authority if they had raised their voices and opposed the jailing of Field Marshal (then General) Fonseka by a military tribunal after his retirement. Mahinda Rajapaksa did not retire, he lost. He is fighting tooth and nail to make a comeback, ashamed at being the only incumbent president to have lost a presidential reelection bid in Sri Lanka.
The allegations of bribery, nepotism and corruption against the Rajapaksa regime is very long, was presented to the people at the presidential election and even the allegations can claim the political credibility of the surprise victory of Maithripala Sirisena over his deeply entrenched rival. There are the instances of (i) the world’s most expensive highways per kilometer (ii) the missing vehicles from the presidential secretariat, (iii) the sovereignty selling giveaway terms of the port city project (iv) a long list of unsolicited projects approved without tender processes (v) floating armouries and unlicensed weapons to private parties (vi) massive corruption at Sri Lankan Airlines, (vii) favored treatment for one special naval cadet (viii) casinos made strategic enterprises, (ix) using TRC funds for the election campaign (x) presidential palaces termed international retreat centers on expropriated private lands and designated as high security zones (xii) diplomatic passports to kith and kin (xiii) fraudulent documents at elections (xi) the white van abductions, assaults on journalists, impeachment of a chief justice, jailing a presidential election opponent, murder of Lasantha Wickramatunga, disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda to name, just some of a long and non exhaustive list of what was wrong with life under Rajapaksa rule. This is what the defeated elements of the SLFP are demanding be not investigated. Really!!
It is actually destabilizing for a society when such horrors are not investigated, the facts established and dealt with. For those nostalgic for a Rajapaksa return, one wonders what aspects of its corrupt, despotic and authoritarian rule, they desire to foist on people again, except perhaps to alleviate their own political orphaned state.