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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 »

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Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2019
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