UPFA Parliamentarian Rajiva Wijesinha, former Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, addressed a letter to all party leaders regarding the audit report on the refurbishment of the official residence of the Permanent Representative in Geneva on Tuesday.

Professor Rajiva Wijesinha elaborated on the matter on our special segment Newsline – 22 Oct 2014.

http://newsfirst.lk/english/2014/10/genevagate-audit-report-prof-rajiva-wijesinha-elaborates/59397

sleepy 4Enemies of the President’s Promse: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Sleepy (Part 1)

Enemies of the President’s Promse: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Sleepy (Part 2)

Enemies of the President’s Promse: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Sleepy (Part 3)

Meanwhile GL was also making a mess of the other task that had been entrusted to him, namely negotiations with the Tamil National Alliance, which had done well in local elections for the North, and could credibly claim to represent the Tamils. The main components of the Alliance had seemed to support the Tigers during the war, but this was obviously because they were fearful of what would happen to them otherwise, given that the Tigers were ruthless in eliminating any Tamils opposed to them.

However, while careful not to engage in overt condemnation of the Tigers, its principal leadership made it clear after the war that they were not unhappy the Tigers had been destroyed. In this context they were able to hold discussions with the various groups that had opposed the Tigers, and almost all of these now joined the TNA.

The Tamils of Indian extraction whom the British had brought over during the colonial period were an exception. Though the Ceylon Workers Congress, the main party that represented them had been part of the Tamil United Liberation Front, that had contested the 1977 election as a united group, it had soon afterwards joined the Jayewardene government. Its exceptionally able leader, SauviamoorthyThondaman, had won for his people much that they wanted and needed and, after the UNP lost, he had joined the SLFP led government led by Chandrika Kumaratunga. After his death his grandson took over the leadership of the party, and remained with government, though with nothing like the effectiveness of the older Thondaman.

The principal exception with regard to the TNA of Tamils from the north of the country was Douglas Devananda. Sadly he and the other Tamil groups that had been opposed to the Tigers had not got on, and government failed to build up a solid alliance either before or immediately after the war. Perhaps enmities lay too deep, but given Douglas’ dependence on the government, and the brave stand taken against the Tigers by the others, some serious effort would surely have produced dividends.

Unfortunately, caught up also in its own electoral agenda, government did not expedite negotiations with the TNA immediately after the war, while conversely the TNA explored other options, including support in the 2010 Presidential election for Sarath Fonseka. This was not conductive to trust between them and the government. Given the general approach of Fonseka to Tamils during the war, the message this move sent out was that the TNA was implacably opposed to the President.

Despite this, agreement to negotiate was reached by the beginning of 2011. The government team consisted of the Leader of the House, Nimal Siripala de Silva, former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wikramanayake and GL. Added to these was Sajin Vas Gunawardena, ostensibly to maintain records, a task he singularly failed to accomplish. Instead he was seen as an influential member of the team, given his close relationship with the President. Certainly the others were nervous of him, and GL clearly assumed that he knew the President’s mind. Read the rest of this entry »

presidency 21There has been much exultation in some quarters in Sri Lanka about the conviction of Jayalalitha, but I was glad to see that at least some articles also noted the need for stringent measures in Sri Lanka too, to combat corruption. One article however missed the point, in citing as an example of what needed to be dealt with firmly the Ceylinco case.

The failure to deal with that swiftly, and provide compensation to the victims of the scam, is indeed appalling. But that failure has to do with the delays, not necessarily arising from corruption, of our judicial system. Certainly we also need measures to make our courts move and it is sad that those have been forgotten. Though it is featured in the Human Rights Action Plan, as far as I can see no one has bothered about that plan following my resignation as Convenor of the Task Force to implement its recommendations.

But that is a different issue, and what we are talking about in Jayalalitha’s case is the corruption of politicians. Now this is nothing new, and it also happens all over the world. I remember the scandals in Local Government in Britain when I was a student, more recently we had the horrors of the Bush administration dishing out contracts in Iraq to agencies in which senior officials had interests.

Nearer home however aggrandizement seems to be excessive. The Jayalalitha case is about disproportionate assets, and in Sri Lanka too it is the inordinate greed of those who are plundering the state which has skewered development plans whilst also contributing to the increasing unpopularity of the government. And sadly government seems to be conniving at this corruption, given the mechanisms it has set up this year, with no transparency, to spend public money. Read the rest of this entry »

Lakbima Newsවිදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය හා විදේශ සේවය පිළිබදව පසුගිය සති දෙක තුළ විශාල ආන්දෝලනයක් ඇතිවිය. ඒ විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයේ අධීක්ෂණ මන්ත්‍රී සජින් ද වාස් ගුණවර්ධන හා බ්‍රිතාන්‍යයේ සිටින ශ්‍රී ලංකා මහ කොමසාරිස් දොස්තර ක්‍රිස් නෝනිස් අතර ඇතිවු ගැටුම නිසාය. ලංකාවේ විදේශ සේවයේ වෘත්තීයභාවය ගැන වැඩි අවධානයක් යොමු කරන පාර්ලිමේන්තු මන්ත්‍රී මහාචාර්ය රජීව් විජේසිංහ මේ ක්‍රියාදාමය පසුගියදා විවේචනය කළේය. විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය ගැන ඔහු දක්වන අදහස් පිළිබදව මෙන්ම විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය තුළ ඇතිවී තිබෙන තත්ත්වය හමුවේ ලංකාවට ජාත්‍යන්තර බලපෑම් තීරණය වන ආකාරය ගැන මහාචාර්ය රජීව් විජේසිංහ සමග ලක්බිම කළ සම්මුඛ සාකච්ඡාවකි මේ.

ලංකාවේ තානාපති සේවය වෘත්තීයභාවයකින් යුත් තානාපති සේවයක් ලෙස හැඳින්විය හැකිද?
තානාපති සේවයේ දුර්වලතා රැසක් තිබෙනවා. ලංකාවේ විදේශ සේවය ආරම්භ වන විට ඔවුන්ට නිසි පුහුණුවක් ලැබුණේ නැහැ. එහෙත් විදේශ සේවයට හොඳ පිරිසක් එක්වීම නිසා එය සාර්ථකව ඉදිරියට ගියා. ලංකාවේ විදේශ සේවය ආරම්භයේ සිටම හොඳ තානාපතිවරුන් ලෙස කටයුතු කළේ විදේශ සේවය තුළ සිටි තානාපතිවරු නොවෙයි. විදේශ සේවයට පිටින් පත් කළ අය තමයි හොඳම තානාපතිවරු ලෙස කටයුතු කර ඇත්තේ.

ශර්ලි අමරසිංහ, නෙවිල් කනකරත්න, ක්ලෝඩ් කොරයා වගේ නම් රැසක් මට ඉදිරිපත් කරන්න පුළුවන්. 1948 සිට 1980 වෙ තානාපති සේවයෙන් පැමිණි හොඳ තානාපතිවරු සිටියේ එක් අයෙක් දෙන්නෙක් පමණයි. එයට හේතුව වන්නේ විදේශ සේවයට එක්වන අයට නිසි පුහුණුවක් නොලැබිමයි. අපි නිසි පුහුණුවක් නොදීම නිසාත් ලංකාවේ විදේශ ප්‍රතිපත්තියක්  ස්ථිරව පවත්වාගෙන නොයෑම නිසා විදේශ සේවය තහවුරු වූයේ නැත. ජේ.ආර්.ජයවර්ධන ජනාධිපතිවරයා විදේශ ප්‍රතිපත්තිය වෙනස් කරන විට විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශ ‍ලේකම් ධුරයට පැමිණි තිස්ස විජයරත්න ගමේ ළමුන් විදේශ සේවයට බඳවාගත්තා. ඉංග්‍රීසි භාෂාවට වැඩි අවධානයක් යොමු කළේ නැහැ. මේ නිසා විදේශ සේවය පසුබැස්සා.
මෙහි වාසිය ලබාගත් ජේ.ආර්. ජයවර්ධන ජනාධිපතිවරයා තානාපති කාර්යාලවල දෙවැනි, තෙවැනි තනතුරු සඳහා දේශපාලන පත්කිරීම් කළා. මේ නිසා තමයි විදේශ සේවය දේශපාලනීකරණය වුණේ. වත්මන් ආණ්ඩුව යටතේත් මේ දේශපාලන පත්වීම් සිදුවෙනවා. මේ දේශපාලන පත්වීම් නිසා විදේශ සේවයේ වෘත්තීය භාවය බිඳවැටුණා. ඒ වගේම දැන් විදේශ අමාත්‍යාංශයේ සිටින සමහර අය ආණ්ඩුවේ ඉහළ අයගේ ඔළුවට දමා ඇත්තේ තමුන්ට පමණක් ඉංග්‍රීසි හැකි බවයි.

Lakbima Sinhalaවිදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයේ නිලධාරීන්ගේ වෘත්තීයභාවය වර්ධනය කිරීමට ඔබ මැදිහත් වුණා. එය ඉදිරියට ගෙන නොගියේ ඇයි?
විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයේ නිලධාරීන්ට නිවේදන සකස් කිරීම ගැන පුහුණුවක් ලබාදීමට මම සූදානම් වුණා. ඒත් එය ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීමට අවස්ථාව විදේශ කටයුතු ඇමැතිවරයා මට ලබාදුන්නේ නැහැ. මේ ගැන මම ජනාධිපතිවරයාගෙන් විමසුවා. එවිට ඔහු කීවේ මහාචාර්යවරයෙක් තවත් මහාචාර්යවරයෙක් දැක්කාම බය වෙනවානේ කියලයි. ඒ කියන්නේ ජනාධිපතිවරයත් විදේශ කටයුතු ඇමැතිවරයාගේ හැසිරීම දන්නවා.

ඔබ මේ කටයුතුවලට මැදිහත්වූයේ නියෝජ්‍ය විදේශ කටයුතු ඇමැතිකම බලා‍පොරොත්තුවෙන් නොවේද?
ජනාධිපතිවරයා බලයට පත්වීමෙන් පසුව විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍ය ධුරයට පත් කිරීමට අයෙක් නැති බව මා සමග පැවැසුවා. ඒ වෙලාවේ මම කීවේ මට නියෝජ්‍ය ඇමැතිකම දෙන්න කියලයි. ඒ වෙලාවේ ජනාධිපතිවරයා හිතුවේ මමත් සාමාන්‍ය අය වගේම තනතුරු ගන්න හදනවා කියලයි. එය එසේ නොවන බව මම ජනාධිපතිවරයාට පෙන්වා දුන්නා. මම ඒ තනතුරු ගැන කතා කළේ විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයට කවුරුත් නොමැති බව පැවැසූ නිසයි. එසේ නොමැතිව තනතුරු බලාගෙන නොවෙයි.

විදේශ සේවයේ සිටින දක්ෂ නිලධාරීන්ට තමන්ගේ දක්ෂතා පෙන්විය හැකි තානාපති ධුරයන් ලැබි තිබෙනවාද?
බ්‍රසල්ස්වල පී.එම්. අම්සා, ප්‍රසාද් කාරියවසම්, චිත්‍රානි වාගීෂ්වරී වගේ දක්ෂ තානාපතිවරුන් විදේශ සේවයට පත්වී සිටිනවා. විදේශ සේවයේ සිටින තවත් දක්ෂ නිලධාරීන් තානාපති තනතුරු ලැබෙන තුරු බලා සිටිනවා. ඒ අතරවාරයේ පිටින් තානාපතිවරුන් පමණක් නොව අනෙක් තනතුරු සඳහාද පත් කරනවා. මේ නිසා විදේශ සේවයේ වෘත්තීයභාවය දියුණුවීමට අවස්ථාවක් ලැබුණේ නැහැ. තානාපති කාර්යාලවල දෙවැනි තුන්වැනි තැන්වලට විදේශ සේවයට බාහිරින් පත් කිරීම් කළ යුතු නැහැ. දයාන් ජයතිලක, තමාරා කුගනායගම්, ක්‍රිස් නෝනිස්,  අසිත පෙරේරා, සරත් කෝන්ගහගේ වැනි විදේශ සේවයට බාහිරින් පත් කළ තානාපතිවරු විශිෂ්ට සේවයක් කළා. ඔවුන් තරම් විශිෂ්ට නැතත් නාවලගේ බෙනට් කුරේ වැනි තානාපතිවරු පවා නරක නැහැ. ප්‍රශ්නය තිබෙන්නේ මොවුන්ට සහය දීමට විදේශ සේවයේ දක්ෂ කාර්යමණ්ඩලයක් නොමැති වීමයි. විදේශ සේවයේ සිටින නිලධාරීන්ගේ පරිපාලනය හරිම දුර්වලයි. ප්‍රසාද් කාරියවසම් වරක් මට පැවසුවේ තමන් ජනාධිපතිවරයාට යවන ලියුම් ඔහුට නොලැබෙන බවයි. ඔහු විදේශ සේවයේ තානාපතිවරයෙක් නිසා තමන් යවන ලිපි යැවිය යුත්තේ විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය හරහායි. Read the rest of this entry »

downloadEnemies of the President’s Promse: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Sleepy (Part 1)

Enemies of the President’s Promse: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Sleepy (Part 2)

Mahinda Samarasinghe was asked to chair an Inter-Ministerial Committee to implement the Human Rights Action Plan, and as usual I had to do much of the work through convening a Task Force to expedite implementation.

I resigned however in 2013 when I found that, though there was much goodwill from many Ministries, and we got a few things done, no formal coordination of activities and initiatives was possible. I realized that it was impossible without proper authority to expedite decisions and action. I told Samarasinghe in my resignation letter that he should request that a Ministry be set up. While he was the obvious person to be Minister, I told him he should suggest the President take over the portfolio and be his Deputy. This upset him, even though I pointed out that he would still be in the Cabinet with his existing portfolio of Plantation Industries.

He ignored the letter, and simply declared that he would not let me resign, but did nothing further about the matter. So, after my resignation, hardly anything happened, with Mahinda Samarasinghe uncertain too about his own position, being often asked to go to Geneva at the last minute for Council sessions. By 2014 he was talking about resigning himself, but characteristically he held on to the position, though in effect doing nothing to promote the Human Rights Action Plan.

Human Rights were grossly neglected by the Foreign Ministry, with no invitations to any Special Rapporteurs, until they were forced to interact more positively from late in 2013. Contrariwise, we had tried to engage with them constantly, and had indeed had invaluable support from the Special Representative on the Rights of the Displaced, Walter Kalin, who came to Sri Lanka three times during the conclusion of the War. But there were no visits after that until the High Commissioner herself came in 2013, followed by Kalin’s successor.

All this was of a piece with Peiris’s failure to recognize, or unwillingness to convey, that the Human Rights situation was worrying for Sri Lanka. Unlike in the days when the dedicated Ministry under Mahinda Samarasinghe coordinated responses to critiques, writing and disseminating the most effective ones, there was now no concerted response to attacks on us. As a result, the impression gradually developed that we could not answer the many allegations against us.

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 Most pernicious for Sri Lanka was the failure to deal consistently and coherently with the UN on what were termed accountability issues. Well before GL  became Foreign Minister, the President had agreed, in a joint communication with the UN Secretary General, to address such issues. Nothing was done about this, and there was no response too later in 2009 to an American query about possible violations of law. This was very politely worded, and included material that would have helped us rebut any serious charges, but the President simply appointed a committee chaired by an octogenarian lawyer, which never met. My constant reminders to members of the Committee, and to Mohan Pieris who was Attorney General, and seen as the front man on such legal issues, achieved nothing, though Pieris kept assuring me that he understood the seriousness of the problem.

With nothing done for nearly a year, the Secretary General appointed his own panel of experts, headed by ‘Kiki’ Darusman of Indonesia, and including an American who had previously suggested that Sri Lanka was a genocidal state. Though members of government demonstrated against this, there was no formal response from the Foreign Ministry, which GL by then headed. The impression created was that this was not a serious issue for the country, but simply an opportunity for politicians to score brownie points by establishing their patriotism. Read the rest of this entry »

downloadSeveral papers, though interestingly enough not all, carried accounts last week of the failure of Vasantha Senanayake to propose the Constitutional Amendment that stood in his name on the Order Paper of Parliament on September 25th. It was not however registered that he had not withdrawn the motion, which was to introduce statutory limitations on numbers in the Cabinet. He merely postponed it, while meanwhile requesting government to set up a Committee to go into that and other constitutional amendments he had proposed.

It seemed to me a pity that he had not gone ahead with the motion, not least because of the enthusiasm with which government members had greeted it on the day. One government MP came up to congratulate him, and was deeply disappointed to be told that he would not be proposing it that day. Even more surprisingly, a Cabinet Minister, albeit a particularly honest and honourable one, told me it was a very good idea. And the enthusiasm of the opposition also took the form of recognition of their own inadequacies, for Ravi Karunanayake, who had proposed something of the sort through a Private Members Motion, granted that it was much more effective to put forward a Bill.

Ravi indeed has contributed to the contumely in which Private Members Motions are held, by proposing hundreds of varying importance, which has contributed to Fridays becoming a day to avoid Parliament. And it is a mark of the lack of awareness about Parliamentary practice in those who pass for senior Parliamentarians that it was a first time member who registered the importance of putting forward a Bill, instead of adding through a Motion to the tedium of Fridays. That day in Parliament is now largely the preserve of Ravi and of his great rival Buddhika Pathirana, along with legions of the dead (obituaries being the other main subject of discussion on Fridays, apart from the motions of the dynamic duo).

The assumption in the press was that Vasantha had been pressed by the UPFA leadership into withdrawing the motion. This had indeed happened earlier, for he had put forward the Bill some months ago, but on that occasion the President had spoken to him and, in talking about his bright future, persuaded him not to put it on the agenda. I suppose it is because I do not have a future that I would have sought some sort of commitment from His Excellency to encourage debate and discussion on the matter, but I can understand someone of Vasantha’s age believing that that would not be the end of the matter. Read the rest of this entry »

6 ඔක්තෝබර් 2014 අවසාන වරට යාවත්කාලීන කළේ 14:28 GMT

බ්‍රිතාන්‍යයේ හිටපු ශ්‍රී ලංකා මහ කොමසාරිස් දොස්තර ක්‍රිස් නෝනිස්ට පහරදීමේ චෝදනාව සම්බන්ධ පරීක්ෂණය පැවැත්වීමට ප්‍රථම සජින් ද වාස් ගුණවර්ධන මන්ත්‍රීවරයාගේ වැඩ තහනම් කළ යුතුව තිබුණු බව ආණ්ඩු පක්ෂ මන්ත්‍රීවරයෙක් පවසයි.

විදේශ අමාත්‍යංශයේ ලේකම් ක්ෂෙනුකා සෙනවිරත්නගේ නමද සිදුවීමට සම්බන්ධ වී තිබෙන බැවින් පරීක්ෂණය අවසාන වන තුරු විදේශ ලේකම්වරියගේද වැඩ තහනම් කිරීම ජනාධිපති මහින්ද රාජපක්ෂ විසින් ගතයුතුව තිබුණු ඥානාන්විත පියවර බවද පාර්ලිමේන්තු මන්ත්‍රී මහාචාර්ය රජීව විජේසිංහ බීබීසී සංදේශයට පැවසීය.

පසුගිය සැප්තැම්බර් 24 වැනි දින නිවුයෝක් නුවර පැවති සාදයකදී විදේශ අමාත්‍යංශයේ ලේකම් සජින් ද වාස් ගුණවර්ධන මන්ත්‍රීවරයා තමන්ට පහරදුන් බව හිටපු මහකොමසාරිස් දොස්තර ක්‍රිස් නෝනිස් සංදේශයට පැවසීය.

ඒ පිළිබඳව තමන් එදිනම ජනාධිපති මහින්ද රාජපක්ෂට දැනුම් දුන් බවද දොස්තර නෝනිස් සඳහන් කරයි.

Read the rest of this entry »

sleepy 2Continued from Enemies of the President’s Promse: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Sleepy 1

GL’s appointment as Minister of External Affairs in 2010 was generally welcomed. Bogollagama had lost the election, which made the President’s task easier since, given his complaisant approach to those who supported him, he would have found it awkward to replace Bogollagama. The only other serious candidate was Mahinda Samarasinghe, who had peformed well as Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights. The Sri Lankan Ambassador in Geneva, Dayan Jayatilleka, who had done a fantastic job in staving off moves against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council, had refused to deal with Bogollagama and instead insisted on the Minister of Human Rights being the main Ministerial presence at sessions of the Council.

Bogollagama however got his revenge soon after Jayatilleka’s greatest triumph, at a Special Session of the Council summoned on a largely British initiative to discuss Sri Lanka. This initiative, generally used only for emergencies, had succeeded only after the Tigers had been defeated. This was fortunate, since clearly the game plan had been to insist on a Cease Fire. Jayatilleka, who had extremely good relations with Sri Lanka’s natural allies, the Indians and the Pakistanis, Egypt as head of the Organization of Islamic States and Cuba as the head of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Chinese and the Russians, and the Brazilians and the South Africans, put forward his own resolution before the Europeans had got theirs ready, and this was carried with a resounding majority.

The ease of the victory, and the widespread perception in Sri Lanka that he was its architect, was his downfall. Samarasinghe was irritated in that his role was played down. Also upset was the Attorney General, Mohan Pieris, despite the fact that Jayatilleka had been instrumental in persuading the President to have him appointed. Pieris had come prepared to speak at the Session but, after Jayatileka made the opening statement, he got me to deliver the closing remarks, given that we had worked together on the Council very successfully, and knew which factors to emphasize. But this did not please the duo and they did nothing to defend Jayatilleka when the knives came out. Indeed they failed even to contact him when he returned to Sri Lanka.

Typically, the President was the first to get in touch, and try to use Jayatilleka’s services again: when the latter mentioned how disappointed he had been that no one had contacted him after he got back to Sri Lanka, the President said that was no surprise, after the manner in which he had been treated. The fact that the President himself had acquiesced in the dismissal was thus sublimely passed over.

It was less than two months after the resolution that Jayatilleka was summarily removed. The President may have been persuaded by the ease of the victory to the belief that any idiot could handle international relations, for that certainly is the view he and the government embodied over the next few years. It was also alleged however that the Israelis had moved heaven and earth to get rid of Jayatilleka, since his intellectual abilities had put him in the forefront of moves to bring the Palestinian issue to the attention of international fora. Unfortunately the Israelis had the ear of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, and also of Lalith Weeratunge, both of whom actively promoted Jayatilleka’s dismissal.

He was replaced in Geneva by Kshenuka Seneviratne, who was perhaps the last official in the Ministry to represent the mindset of the eighties when, under Jayewardene and his Foreign Minister Hameed, it was assumed that Sri Lanka had to be firmly allied to the West. This also involved hostility to India, and Kshenuka certainly embodied this, and was found later to have actively tried to set the President against the Indians, after the 2012 March Geneva debacle when a resolution against Sri Lanka was carried at the Human Rights Council.

Kshenuka had been High Commissioner in London in the days when Britain was bitterly opposed to Sri Lanka but she had done little to counter this. She claimed on the strength of her time there to be an expert on the country, and when her successor, a retired judge, proved ineffective, she took charge of the President’s approach to Britain. Thus, late in 2010, she encouraged him to travel to Britain just to address the Oxford Union, something he had already done. The High Commissioner in London advised against this, as did his experienced Deputy from the Ministry, Pakeer Amza, but Kshenuka’s will prevailed.

She was strongly supported by Sajin Vas Gunawardena, whom the President chose as what was termed Monitoring Member of Parliament for the Ministry of External Affairs, on the grounds that administration there was a mess and someone was needed to sort things out. Sajin was a good friend of Namal’s, and GL naturally acquiesced in the appointment.  Sajin and Kshenuka got on extremely well, and they in effect ran foreign policy over the next few years. Read the rest of this entry »

Presidency 19When I began this series, over four months ago, the title may have seemed excessive. And even my good friend Dayan Jayatilleka thought I was being unduly pessimistic about the President’s pulling power when I said that the UNP would poll at least 40% in Badulla. But the results there have shown that the threat is even more serious than I had thought.

Over the next few weeks I will explore how the threat might be averted. But I suspect that that will serve no purpose, for Basil Rajapaksa, who may be the only one of the decision makers who reads what I write, would by then have dragooned the President into having an early election. He did this in 2009 when, as the President then put it to me – with a hint of contempt I think for what he deemed the amateur nature of our advice – only Gota and I told him not to have the Presidential election so soon.

That haste, to entrench not the President, whose popularity was unrivalled at the time, but his rent seeking friends and relations in power, has been the root of the evils we have suffered. Contrariwise, Mahinda Rajapaksa, if left to himself, would I think have gone ahead with the reforms he had promised. And he can still save himself, and his legacy, if he works on reforms such as those so helpfully suggested by Vasantha Senanayake, which aim at strengthening the effectiveness of the Executive, not its power. But even now, understanding that having the Presidential election soon would be unwise, the rent seekers are trying to precipitate an early Parliamentary election. They ignore the fact that Parliament has a year and a half to go, and the President more than two years, ample time for the pluralist Mahinda Rajapaksa to recreate himself, free of the baggage he has been compelled to carry.

But can he do this? Does he have the will and the ability to assert himself again? Sadly, the way in which he has allowed little things to get out of control, through a combination of indulgence and lethargy, suggests that the will is weakening, even if his abilities are still in good order. I will illustrate this in my column this week by exploring the sort of embarrassment to which he allows himself to be subjected, when he forgets that the leader of a country should not let himself get involved in trivialities or in criminal activities. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

October 2014
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