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

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

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

Underlying Basil’s solipsism was his political ambition. He made no bones about the fact that he saw himself as his brother’s successor. Indeed, he had been put into Parliament before the 2010 election, though a resignation of a National List member that was engineered, on the grounds that there had to be a Rajapaksa available for appointment as President if anything untoward happened to the incumbent. And though soon after the election of 2010 Mahinda Rajapaksa introduced a constitutional amendment to remove term limits, so that Basil’s hope of being seen as necessarily the government candidate in the next election was dashed, the President placed no restrictions on him presenting himself as effectively the main decision maker in government.

So, in addition to his work in the North, he set about taking control of developmental projects all over the country. Tourism was brought under the Ministry of Economic Development, which allowed him soon after the government was formed to sell a prime block of land in Colombo to Shangri-La hotels, a crass measure since it made it difficult afterwards to refuse outright ownership to such investors. Fortunately, after a great outcry, the principle that only long leases should be permitted was accepted, but again the move was typical of Basil’s propensity to push through deals quickly, regardless of wider consequences.

While he used to the full his position as patron of international ventures, he also tried to take control of the administration of the country at large. He did this through the Samurdhi programme, the welfare programme that was in place all over the country. Initially started to promote entrepreneurship, it had soon become the main vehicle of government handouts to chosen sections of the population.

Basil decided to use it to expand his empire, with graduates employed in every Division in the country to affirm the primacy of his Ministry. Indeed I was told that there had even been an attempt to appoint Samurdhi officials as Grama Niladharis, the office that was the first point of interaction between people and government. The Ministry of Public Administration staved off this effort, but it meant that for several years Grama Niladhari positions that were vacant were not filled, until finally that Ministry reasserted its control of the position. Indeed a measure of Basil’s unpopularity with his colleagues was the categorical statement, when I told the Minister that he should guard against his responsibilities being encroached upon, that the Ministry of Economic Development was encroaching on everything. Read the rest of this entry »

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I referred earlier to the need to strengthen Committees of Parliament so that they can provide better inputs into legislation, but recent experience indicates that there is much more that should be done to ensure better legislation for the country. I have realized now that we are perhaps the weakest country with regard to formal procedures, amongst those that can claim to have strong democratic traditions. This may well lead to the erosion of democracy that we simplistically diagnose in terms of people, without due attention to the processes that are so vital for democracy.

This danger is obvious if we consider the current common belief that problems with regard to the Chief Justice arose when the initial Supreme Court judgment on the Divineguma Bill was delivered. When the Parliamentary Group met that day, I suggested that this judgment, following on several previous bills of great importance having failed to get through Parliament in the previous two years, indicated that we needed to be more careful about legislation.

This suggestion was repudiated, on the grounds that the Supreme Court was biased, and even the Attorney General under whose aegis the Bill had been drawn up had found, being now on the Supreme Court, that it needed amendment. Given the different areas of responsibility in the Attorney General’s Department, this did not strike me as evidence of inconsistency, and I am happy to say that now Members of the Cabinet have declared that the Supreme Court had suggested some sensible amendments that government should have introduced from the start.

I believe this vindicates my position, that government has been far too careless about legislation recently. This is not always because of haste, given that indeed one crucial measure has had to be dropped for the moment because of delays at the Legal Draughtsman’s Department. I refer to the attempt of the Ministry of Higher Education to encourage private and non-profit tertiary education, something this country urgently needs if our youngsters are to benefit from the economic opportunities our infrastructural development programmes have created. Read the rest of this entry »

 I was told recently by a diplomat that, amongst the worries in connection with the appointment of Mohan Pieris as Chief Justice, was the feeling that he had been put there to subvert any judicial process that might be implemented with regard to War Crimes. This struck me as ridiculous.

But it washttps://i0.wp.com/bit.ly/ZjEKY4.qrcode also indicative of the deep distrust and lack of logic that bedevil our relations with the world. It is based on an obsession with War Crimes that is a creation of two equally pernicious initiatives. The first is the determination of the LTTE rump to avenge the destruction of their hero and the terrorist separatist agenda. The second is the cynical efforts of some Western politicians to use the charge to exert pressure on us.

As the LLRC report indicates, and all actual evidence suggests, if there were abuses, they were committed by individuals, and should and would be dealt with by military courts. Though it is claimed that we have delayed unduly in this regard, that is absurd, and those who complain know this perfectly well, given how long it has taken the British and the Americans to deal with abuses by their personnel. Of course our failure to act with regard to what happened in Trincomalee is another question, and our delay there is unacceptable, but that had nothing to do with the war, and did not involve the military.

Where we are at fault  in not publicizing what we are doing. We should learn from what the Americans and the British did, and perhaps even emulate them in acquitting everyone except one suitable scapegoat – and the Americans avoided doing even that in the celebrated case of the team that cut off the thumbs of their victims.

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The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011 – 2016 ( sinhala & tamil) as well as the full series of  Sri Lanka Rights Watch are available at the Peace & Reconciliation Website.

There have been some rumblings recently about the conduct of the Supreme Court with regard to the judgment it delivered on the proposed Divineguma Bill. Fortunately I have heard little criticism of the substance of the judgment, and this is as it should be. While I believe that blatantly unjust decisions of the Courts should be challenged, and in particular by academics, using reason (not by politicians resorting to prejudice), this does not seem to me to be such an instance. Where the Courts are allowed discretion, that should be exercised independently and, provided good reasons are given for the judgment, the matter should be allowed to rest.

Of course there is a case for allowing appeals from the judgments of the Courts, but these should be only to superior Courts. Given too that even the Supreme Court could reach erroneous conclusions, occasionally blatantly unjust ones, more often ones that arise from carelessness, perhaps because lawyers failed to make relevant points, there should be provision for review by a larger Bench of the Supreme Court.

In the present instance criticism seems to be on a procedural issue. I am not sure that the issue seems to me particularly significant, but I am glad the question has been raised of how to ensure that the Courts follow the procedures laid down by the legislature, even while ensuring that their independence of judgment is preserved. I have drawn attention to this previously, but of course no one takes such matters seriously until they are personally affected, and perhaps I too would not have thought of the distinction had I not been entrusted with convening the Task Force on expediting implementation of the Human Rights Action Plan.

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 By D.B.S.JEYARAJ

Q:Although you say you do not perceive yourself as a “rebel” MP I am sure you must be aware of reports describing you as one. There have also been reports that you were to be moved out of Parliament on account of you being a “rebel”and that your  National list MP slot would be given to Mr. Rohitha Bogollagama. It was also said that Mr. Bogollagama would be appointed External Affairs minister thereafter. Is this a likely scenario?

I don’t think this is on the agenda of the government and, though I have been told by two senior members of government that Mr Bogollagama was behind the stories, I do not believe this for a moment. Though I do not know him intimately, we got on well when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs, and he was always prepared to listen on the few occasions on which I spoke to him on important issues. I should add that he called up out of the blue some months back to express his support for me when I had been attacked in a communiqué from the Foreign Ministry.

I would say then that these reports about Mr.Bogollagama replacing me  are another examples of the technique  of hitting out in all directions and hoping that new animosities can be created. I should add in fairness to Mr. Bogollagama that he was a very successful Foreign Minister and, though I thought that his replacement would do a better job, I was completely wrong.

DINESH
Q:   Given your stated disappointment with the current External Affairs Ministry I want to ask you about another related reference in this sphere. It was    reported  that you had requested an opportunity  to speak on the votes of the External Affairs  Ministry and  also informed  the  Chief Whip that you would be critical  of the Ministry. Thereafter the Chief whip Dinesh  Gunawardena  had reportedly  checked with the powers that be  and stopped you from speaking . Was this what happened?

That again is complete nonsense. I was told that speeches in the Third Reading would be given in terms of Committees of which one was a member, so the idea of speaking on External Affairs never occurred to me. I thought I would be speaking on Education, and I had also asked for the Child Development and Women’s Affairs, a Ministry with which I have been working a lot because of the requirements of the Human Rights Action Plan and because its Secretary was one of the most thoughtful and efficient persons I had come across in the Public Service.

But when I got back from the Conference on Indo-Sri Lankan Relations that I had attended during the last stages of the Second Reading of the Budget, I was told that I had been allocated Resettlement and External Affairs. I told the office of the Chief Government Whip that I would be happy to speak on the former, but I might be critical of the latter Ministry and he might like to reconsider. Since he told me that he had made the decision himself initially, because he thought I would be suitable for this, I had no doubt the decision would be changed, but a week passed before I was told the position, so I prepared speeches over the weekend – as I had done while in India for Education.

” I was also the only Parliamentarian to contribute to the journal that Parliament decided to publish, though perhaps for that reason, there has not been a second volume as yet. I believe the essays I have written on reforming Parliament, though they do not seem to have had an impact on my colleagues, will be useful when we finally all realize the need for constitutional reform “

Sure enough, on the day of the Resettlement debate, one day before the External Affairs debate, I was told that I would not be required to speak, but was also told that this was because there were already too many speakers. This was not at all surprising, and I should note that the Chief Whip was not involved in communicating anything to me.

Q: So there is no misunderstanding with  Dinesh Gunawardena as alleged?

No!  In fact this is again an example of the animosity creating technique, since Dinesh Gunawardena is someone I like and respect very much, ever since the days when we were instrumental in setting up the Democratic People’s Alliance under which Mrs Bandaranaike contested the 1988 Presidential Election. Significantly, I think, he went out of his way to congratulate me on my speech in the Resettlement debate, and this is typical of a very warm-hearted man. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

August 2019
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