There are times when one simply cannot believe the attitude of the government. It acts with an impunity never quite before seen and unlikely to be seen elsewhere either. They send out signals to the international community with no apparent care in the world for what our overseas trading partners think.
The case of stripping the former Army Commander of his rank was perceived as nothing but vindictiveness. To rob him off his pension was seen as nothing more than spitefulness. To recall his many awards for gallantry and service was seen as childish.
The fact that he was convicted on evidence mainly led by members of the opposition – two of whom have benefited from the government – showcased nothing more than that Sri Lanka practised a system of kangaroo justice. The former number 3 supremo of the LTTE was being fast tracked to rehabilitation and high position, a junior ranking officer Shavendra Silva was being despatched to the United Nations and General (ret’d) Sarath Fonseka, modern day Sri Lankan hero and former commander of the victorious Sri Lanka Army was incarcerated at Naval Headquarters.
This impunity – this disregard of the acceptable decorum — was not the sole preserve of the government. In Zimbabwe it may well have been and it may have been so during Idi Amin Dada’s Uganda. The Leader of the main Opposition party, Ranil Wickremesinghe was clinging on to power in a disgusting show of manipulative politics and kept the much hoped for reforms at the UNP hanging by its coat tails. Not to be outdone, lest someone stands up and takes notice, a Saudi Arabian family descended to the lowest ever possible depths of depravity by hammering in 24 iron nails into the body of a Sri Lankan maid from Matara.
Something clearly was amiss with the karma of this country and that is perhaps why there is an unhealthy reliance on the supernatural in this co called island of Serendipity. The more that the Sri Lankan government hides its face in the sand, the more mileage the claims of crimes against humanity receives. The international community may well perceive that Sri Lanka’s present actions are but mere confirmations that something, anything, untoward did happen during the final stages of the war. Every action the government is now taking be it regards Fonseka or the IDPs or the handling of NGOs is angled towards the thinking that the government is afraid of being found out. It may well be worth them remembering that it is usually the guilty who are afraid.
The President felt a need to address the burning issues faced by his northern brethren and called a meeting of the various Bishops at Temple Trees. Along with the other senior members of the ruling body were Basil Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Dr. Rajitha Senaratne. The Bishops without exception declared themselves happy at the progress the government was making. They were more than appreciative of the demining process which was all in all, a veritable achievement. Basil Rajapaksa pointed out that in the entire process not a single civilian life was lost, showing that the process employed in Sri Lanka was beyond reproach.
A foreigner – part of the demining team — had died he acknowledged but no civilian casualties. The Bishops were in unison pleased with the progress given the various impediments and wanted Basil Rajapaksa to spearhead various other efforts even though Basil explained that he had his plate full as it was. There was some concern about the progress of the fishing industry in the northern parts.
The President stepped in quickly to explain that the Minister, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne was doing a grand job and that the ministry had a well laid out strategy to open up the industry and to assist fishermen in their return to work. The President said that in Senaratne they were lucky to have a talented and dedicated Minister. The Bishops were greatly reassured by the President’s statement and carried on with the rest of the agenda. The Defence Secretary confirmed that some of the areas around Palaly airport were needed but that a number of other properties would be released. Those that were being taken over or had been taken over would be paid appropriate compensation. At the United National Party there was nothing but chaos. Last week saw Wickremesinghe have his one to one meets with Sajith Premadasa and had agreed before hand that no information would be released to the media until after all the discussions and agreements had been concluded. Premadasa was hounded by many a scribe only to be politely but firmly turned away. A final meeting was planned for Sunday evening at the house of Karu Jayasuriya in Colombo.
However on Sunday morning the chaos was compounded by a story in a weekend English newspaper. The newspaper that is connected to Wickremesinghe carried what turned out to be a one sided leak clearly made by Wickremesinghe judging by the content. Not many in the party believed the Leader of the UNP to keep his word and not leak information. Premadasa nevertheless was seen at Karu Jayasuriya’s house on Sunday evening.
Analysts familiar with Premadasa opined that Premadasa would have been candid in his talks with his Leader – and were under no illusions that Premadasa would have taken the UNP Leader to task for engineering the leak – unfortunately for Wickremesinghe he had used the services of a one time military matters journo to write it all up and it was so much in favour of his own line of thought that there were not many who did not know both the source of the leak and the scribe who wrote it! Later on Monday Wickremesinghe told some of his group that newspapers were notorious for making up stories from titbits and conjecture. He spoke as though he had personal experience of these matters – which he in this case probably had. The long, tall and short if it all was as a UNP Provincial Councillor from the Hill Country predicted some months ago: there will be no change at the UNP. The Councillor acknowledged that there may well be some cosmetic change for the sake of change. What was apparent during these one to one talks that the prince in waiting and his established leader had was that Karu Jayasuriya was almost adamant that he wished to retain his position. The UNP constitution had no room for two sets of deputies and any offer as reported in other media, being offered to Premadasa would have to be voted on at the Working Committee and confirmed at the National Convention. Either that or Jayasuriya would have to step down or up or sideways even, for Premadasa to be installed as Deputy Leader.
Sajith Premadasa was overheard at a dinner to say that he did not wish to have any positions: he merely wanted to ensure that the UNP would make substantial changes in the strategies it is adopting to ensure that the UNP would be victorious at any electoral forum. Perhaps Premadasa was being naïve: it may well be easier for him to lead a wild elephant by its trunk than to hope that Wickremesinghe would so much as make Premadasa’s possible entry to the leadership of the UNP anything other than easy.
Within calamity and chaos there almost always emerges a winner: in the case of the chaos that is going on at the UNP that winner is none other than Ravi Karunanayake. In a very clear case of divide and rule Wickremesinghe has been seen to be propelling Karunanayake to the senior levels at the UNP, ignoring many others who have had a lifetime of political service to the UNP. It shows however that these so-called experienced hands, apart from bleating that they have been yet again left out, do absolutely nothing else.
There has not even been so much as a whimper of protest from any of the other seniors who could justifiably question why Karunanayake is being so propelled. Notwithstanding this however, Lakshman Seneviratne, Dayasiri Jayasekera and Ranjith Madduma Bandara made serious claims regarding the appointment of the National Organiser’s position.
The UNP Leader has been asked to take whatever proposals he wishes to make to the Working Committee and thereafter to the Convention to be ratified. It is unlikely that Premadasa will play ball with Wickremesinghe who is not keen to go to the Convention without having agreed the details before hand. Sajith Premadasa on the other hand is known to want the voting to be extended to provincial councillors and local government members. That in itself is almost anathema to Wickremesinghe who prefers the molly cuddling he receives from the Working Committee.