CaptureSome years back, when I thought Ranil was honest, I said he would have been an admirable politician had he entered politics under Dudley Senanayake rather than J R Jayewardene. Though I had welcomed Jayewardene’s opening up of the economy, I was increasingly worried about the authoritarianism he sought to entrench, using violence for the purpose.

The treatment of the July 1980 strikers, the violence in Jaffna and then countrywide in connection with District Council elections, the suppression of opposition during the 1982 referendum (as to which Chandrika has obviously forgotten her husband’s suffereing and also Ranil’s role in collecting the undated letters of resignation from MPs that J R demanded) the pogrom of July 1983, were mounting evidence of his contempt for decency, let alone democratic norms.

I had begun to understand Ranil’s role in all this through a remark of Henry Gunasekera, an old style UNP stalwart, unlike his younger brother D E W, the last representative of the old upper class commitment to social justice exemplified by the original pillars of the Communist Party, S A Wickremesinghe and Pieter Keuneman. The parallel with my oldest and youngest maternal uncles, Esmond who was for a long time J R’s intellectual right hand while Cyril Mathew was his coercive left, and Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe, struck me after I came to know and appreciate D E W’s idealistic sincerity.

But Henry too was sincere and, unlike Esmond, was not willing to go along with the shenanigans of his party when it changed course. He told me, way back in 1980, that there were only two honest Ministers in the UNP. Rather naively I thought he was referring to my two relations in Cabinet, Ranjith Atapattu and Ranil Wickremesinghe. But his response was no: though Ranjith was one of them, the other being Gamini Jayasuriya, he said Ranil, though financially above board, was not honest in that he used thugs.

How true this was became clear as evidence emerged of his connections with individuals such as Gonawala Sunil and Kalu Lucky, who led demonstrations against Supreme Court judges who had found against the government in a fundamental rights case – which I recalled when Ranil’s cohorts decided to demonstrate against the bond commission.

But for a long time I thought Ranil was honest. And even when during his last tenure as Prime Minister it became clear that he had promoted crooks who owed allegiance to him alone, while not giving Gamini Athukorala and Sajith Premadasa and Karu Jayasuriya responsibilities commensurate with their abilities, I still did not think, though sad he was turning a blind eye to it, that he was actively involved in corruption.

But now of course it is clear how deeply enmeshed he is in the plundering that took place, and his pathetic responses to the questions put to him at the Commission make clear how utterly dishonest he is. Whilst making wild allegations against Mahendran’s predecessor, which he fails completely to substantiate (completely dodging the question as to the sources of information he relied on when making his vicious attack on Cabraal on March 17th 2015, as a red herring in response to criticism of what Mahendran had clearly done wrong less than a month earlier), he keeps reiterating that he believed his chosen instruments acted in good faith.

That this is nonsense, unless he is a complete fool, is apparent from the fact that  he continued to defend Mahendran to the hilt, after the first bond scam, and then after the second. And when it became clear the President would not tolerate this, he wanted, while claiming ‘the previous incumbent lacked comparable qualifications and experience’, to appoint a totally unqualified individual, namely his favourite (but his only honest, I still hope) poodle, Charitha Ratwatte.

But in addition to being corrupt himself, he is following in Jayewardene’s footsteps in that he is encouraging others to be corrupt too. The manner in which Sujeewa Senasinghe, who initially seemed as horrified as I was about the initial bond scam, has now gone to seed is very sad – though I will need to explore that and the corrupting of others in greater detail later.

Ceylon Today 28 Nov 2017