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CapturePresident Sirisena’s query from the Supreme Court as to whether he was 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’etre, 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 he claimed he freely gave 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. Read the rest of this entry »

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RAIt was profoundly ironic that the funeral of Ranjith Atapattu took place the day after the appalling spectacle in Parliament. My attention was drawn to this by the former Secretary General, Nihal Seneviratne, the launch of whose book about better days was one of the last public events that Ranjith had attended. I saw Nihal at the funeral, where we were joined by Mahinda Rajapaksa who had come again to pay his respects. But he was not allowed to stay in the background as he had wanted, given the private nature of the occasion, but was dragged off to sit next to the Prime Minister.

Ranjith was one of the most decent of politicians, absolutely honest, efficient in office, and not tainted by the violence that has possessed so many of the breed. He suffered for this, when he was forced to face a bye-election by his leader after the referendum of 1983.

In changing the constitution to extend the term of parliament by 6 years, JR pledged to clean out the corrupt. So the day he announced the referendum he handed out undated letters of resignation which were collected, as the ‘Weekend’ of that week had it, by his minions led by the current Prime Minister. The message that was given out was that members were expected to win their seats – these were still the days of constituencies – by hook or by crook.

Crookedness predominated, as exemplified by Paul Perera, who won Mrs Bandaranaike’s Attanagalla seat by a massive majority though it had voted for the SLFP candidate at the presidential election just a couple of months previously.

Paul, it may be remembered, is the father of Ronald, who heads the Bank of Ceylon which gave unprecedented credit to Arjun Aloysius, and then failed to bid properly during the next bond scam in obedience to Ravi Karunanayake’s instructions. Not surprisingly, Ronald said nothing at the time, and only shopped Ravi when the Commission of Inquiry questioned him.

Ranjith was incapable of crookedness, and the vote at Beliatta went against the government. The same thing incidentally happened to Ronnie de Mel, but he was parachuted to Matugama when his undated letter was activated. Ranjith received no such favourable treatment. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

November 2018
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