Smart Patriotism, Jagath Jayasuriya & The War Heroes Of Rathupaswala

By V. Kanthaiya –

“Nationalism does nothing but teach you to hate people you never met, and to take pride in accomplishments you had no part in.” ~ By an anonymous victim of nationalism

Sri Lankans were being well entertained by the Jagath Jayasuriya “issue’ during the last two weeks. First it was the foreign media who reported it, then the Lankan media picked it up and increased the hype, as if there are attempts (or conspiracies) to take the general directly to Hague, where the International court is located, and right after that to the so called electric chair.

The typical ending for this kind of sensation would have been that the Joint Opposition (JO) trumpeting that ‘Yahapalanaya’ government is betraying the war heroes and Mahinda Rajapaksa jumping up and down saying that he would sit on the electric chair and sacrifice himself (or his butt) for the war heroes and after another week Sri Lankans being entertained by another hyped up news. But what makes life interesting is the unexpected twists it hides from us. Nobody has expected that Sarath Fonseka would make a public statement that he would testify against General Jayasuriya on the war crimes allegations. For the JO this was like getting all four aces in the card game and they really played it well.

The above paragraph is also the summarized version of the future history stating how  Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka became a traitor of the motherland.

Meanwhile in the same motherland, there were four war heroes being tried by the court of law. They obeyed the order from their superior officers and fired upon civilians protesting for clean water in Rathupaswala. But the JO patriots never utter a word about these war heroes of Rathupaswala. Even Mahinda Rajapaksha or Gotabaya Rajapaksa who were responsible for the defence ministry at that time, never say that they will volunteer to be hanged instead of the Rathupuswela war heroes.

Smart patriots Wimal Weerawansa, Dinesh Gunawardena and Udaya Gammanpilla, smart patriotic intellectual Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka and the Maha Sangha, everyone has never expressed their concern against the Rathupaswala war heroes.

Why even the war heroes are subjected to discrimination? Again, they acted against the terrorists who blocked the main road and  undermined the rule of law in the country.

I discussed about this strange phenomena with some patriotic Sri Lankans. They said they too don’t know the reason for this strange phenomena.

No. Everybody knows the answer. The Sinhalese people accept that the army personnel involved in the Rathupaswala shooting which killed three innocent civilians should be tried by the court of law and punished. On the other hand, they don’t accept that the security forces alleged to have committed indiscriminate shelling on civilian concentrations, abductions, extortions, sexual assault and extra-judicial killings of journalists and opposing politicians should be tried by the court of law and punished.

After the war, several Sinhalese friends of mine used to ask me one question. ‘Now the war is over. You can go to your places and live happily’. Why are you grumbling so much about the war crimes?’. 

The answer is simple. Not all those killed are terrorists. There are thousands of people simply disappeared after surrendering to the security forces. Their relatives need the answers. Above all the victims are Sri Lankans, like the victims of Rathupuswela. They need the same justice like the residents of Rathupuswela. Both Isai Priya and Premawathi Mannamperi are Sri Lankans. But why no justice is being delivered to Isai Priya that was served for the brutal rape and killing of Mannamperi? , even though both are Sri Lankan citizens.

Why the legal system of the country is biased? Why the justice is being ignored to the Tamil community of this country?  With the end of the war, the problem of the Sinhalese community, the LTTE has ended. But the problems of Tamils still continue.

Now there has emerged another dangerous precedence. The silence of the international community to the killings of Thousands of Tamils and the subsequent failure to prosecute the perpetrators by the UN have paved the way to the other states  persecuting its own minority communities without much of a hassle. Myanmar, another predominantly Theravada Buddhist state has adopted the same terror strategies adopted by the Sri Lankan State. Initially, it was the mobs organized by the Buddhist monks especially by Venerable Ashin Wirathu involved in the violence against the Rohingyas. Now the Myanmar military itself is directly involved in persecuting the minorities in the name of fighting Islamic terrorism.

What is more horrific is the justification by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize laureate and the present de facto leader of the country denying the atrocities committed by the mobs and the military.  The stark irony is that Suu Kyi was imprisoned by the former Myanmar junta for two decades due to her struggle to bring the democracy to the country. Well, this is why some people say, the devil himself was once an angel.

Both Sri Lanka and Myanmar use the same propaganda to justify their persecution against the minorities that is fighting terrorism. It was much easier for the Sri Lankan regime to brand the legitimate demands of Tamil community as terrorism and separatism due to the atrocities and the terror tactics used by LTTE.  Myanmar government try to justify its actions as war against terrorism, the only reason being the Minorities are Muslims.

Most non-Muslims believe that Islam is promoting violence and hatred, given the number of lone wolf attacks against the civilians in the western countries by the radicalized Muslims. Now the Myanmar state is attempting the use the same brand image that the country has a Islamic terrorism issue. 

Even though, it is the state that persecute the minorities both in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, it is well known that the Theravada Buddhist institution which is behind it.  The acts of several individuals made Islam to be branded as a religion of hatred and violence, despite its claim that it is a religion of peace. In future, it can happen to Buddhism also. Despite its core principles of nonviolence and tolerance, the religion can be branded as violent and ruthless.

Now the question is what is the Buddhist institutional hierarchy trying to achieve through this? Their continued dominance on the politics and the society?, the very own existence and dominance of the religious elite?

The sole achievement by these religious institutions so far is that they have effectively trained the people to hate others for the reason they don’t practice the same religion and take pride in accomplishments that they have never achieved.

Some people may find this article as one sided opinion. Well, the problem with the modern society is that it continues to fail to point out the evil as evil. You cannot treat the victim and the aggressor as the same and ask them to give up violence. You have to ask the aggressor to stop it. However, the society partly blames the victims for the violence, when the try to defend themselves. On the other hand, this helps the aggressors to justify the violence as a fight against terrorism.

The world has witnessed so many massacres and it continues to do so. No matter how much technological advancement is achieved by humanity, until it clinches the religion and nationalism, the civilizations will always be barbaric.

Eradication Of Corruption: Ignoring Harsha’s Warning May Be Catastrophic To Yahapalana Government

By W A Wijewardena –

A lamenting Deputy Minister

Dr Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Development, in an emotion filled intervention during a live television discussion programme, blasted the whole administration system of the country. His charge was that from top to bottom and from one side to the other, known to strategic planners as viewing from a 360̊ dimension, has been marred with stinking corruption, waste and theft of public funds.

 Hurling corruption charges at each other

He has confessed that he had been disgusted with the nauseating politics and the corrupt system that has nurtured it. Instead of using time, energy and resources for planning and implementing policies for the development of the country, everyone is engaged in hurling corruption charges at each other.

One politician is charging another that the latter is corrupt; the latter retorts immediately charging that it is the former who is corrupt. Thus, everyone tries to play the role of the good policeman believing that all others are at error. Harsha says that his intention in entering politics has not been to function as a policeman.

Corruption is everywhere

Instead, he has joined the political force to use his technical capability as an economist for the betterment of people. Yet, what he observes is widespread corruption everywhere, for example, from municipal councils to hospitals to private eating houses. One cannot have a building plan approved, charges Harsha, unless he is ready to pay a bribe to local authority officials. Even at hospitals, if one wants to get preferred treatment, one has to pay a bribe. His position is that this epidemic should be eradicated if Sri Lanka is to develop as a decent nation.

Fighting against corruption

Harsha has observed both the small and big picture of corruption profile of Sri Lanka. In his charge against corruption, he has been both angry and emotional. Angry because he has been such a small keg in the power-machinery of the country that he cannot direct bigger forces for building a clean society according to his ideals. He had been a vociferous critic, both in Parliament and outside, of the previous administration’s supposed to be corrupt deals and practices.

Failure to investigate corruption charges

Now, even after two years in power, these charges have not been conclusively investigated, specifically the losses incurred by the Central Bank on account of the alleged hedging deal and investment in Greece bonds. He had also charged the Central Bank on account of misusing funds belonging to the members of the Employees Provident Fund or EPF by the previous administration. Yet, nothing had happened about making formal inquiries into those allegations.

Expressing dissatisfaction in a public forum

His dissatisfaction was openly expressed when he questioned in a public forum the Governor of the Central Bank, Arjuna Mahendtran, an appointee to that post by his government, about the wasteful investment of EPF funds in the stock market. After Governor Mahendran gave an irrelevant answer, he went on grilling him about the wisdom of EPF owning private banks.

Controlling private banks through EPF

This was a criticism levelled against the previous administration and when the new government came to power, it was expected to be rectified. But Governor Mahendran who appeared to be ignorant of the previous criticisms levelled by Harsha justified the investments in question on the ground that it would increase the return to members, albeit the published data had suggested the opposite.  This writer too in two previous articles called the government to divest the shares owned by EPF in private banks due to the potential conflict which it brings to the Monetary Board of the Central Bank.

Continuing to follow the previous administration

Yet the government continued to use the extraordinary privilege which it had inherited from the previous administration to control private banks by appointing its own members as board members. Thus, instead of ushering an era of good governance, it continued to practice the same malgovernance principles unabated.

Corruption charges against the present government

The present government was brought to power by people to eliminate corruption and create a law-abiding clean society. But its track record during the last two and a half years has been marred with similar corruption charges. Now Harsha sitting on the other side of the debate has been required to answer those charges in public. Naturally, he should be angry about the embarrassing position to which he has now been driven.

An ambulance service coming under attack

Harsha has been emotional not only when he has been too angry at injustice. He has been emotional when the fruits of his labour had produced the required results too. One such occasion has been the inauguration of the Indian government sponsored ambulance service in Sri Lanka. That service was the target of criticism by the Government Medical Officers Association or GMOA which had issues with India on account of the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement, popularly known as ETCA, with that country.

Hence, objecting to everything Indian, GMOA began a campaign against the service that it would pave way for unqualified Indian paramedics to play with the lives of vulnerable and voiceless Sri Lankan patients. It even raised a national security issue for Sri Lanka implying that those ambulances, manned by Indians, could have access even to the President’s residence. Thus, when the first batch of Sri Lankan paramedics was trained and recruited to the service, Harsha became too emotional to deliver his speech.

The exemplary track record of the ambulance service

The track record of the ambulance service since its inauguration has shown that it has indeed been a life saver for Sri Lankans, contrary to the demonic picture painted by GMOA. This writer can vouch for its excellent service with firsthand experience. The occasion arose when his elder sister suffered a massive stroke in the evening of a public holiday when no one was around at home.

With no other alternative available, Harsha’s ambulance service was contacted for help. Within five minutes of calling, an ambulance showed up at the residence staffed by paramedics and equipped with most modern first aid apparatuses.

The paramedics who were all Sri Lankans provided all the first aid necessary whilst in transit including the supply of life saving oxygen to the patient. They were constantly in contact with the hospital about the patient being transported and, therefore, the hospital staff was in readiness to receive her. The driver who was also a Sri Lankan navigated the vehicle expertly to reach the hospital within minutes.

Her life was saved because she could get the required medical attention in time. The central office of the ambulance service had later contacted the niece of this writer to ascertain whether she was satisfied or not with the service provided. Such customer satisfaction and suggestion seeking follow-ups with citizens are totally alien to the other public services in the country.

Institutionalisation of corruption in Sri Lanka   

The problem with Sri Lanka is that corruption has been institutionalised as a normal activity. It is a part of the value system of Sri Lankans. The public sector that includes politicians believes that it is their right to get illegal rewards from the public and pocket out them without disclosing to anyone.

The private sector believes that it is their obligation to award various forms of gratifications to those in power. Thus, touts flock around politicians when they come to power and function as middlemen soliciting unearned rewards from people when they want to get even legitimate services from the government.

If people do not oblige, papers would be unnecessarily delayed or even files would disappear without a trace. Papers would reappear only after the rates of unearned rewards are agreed upon and delivered.

Shadowy bodies around real administration bodies

Many have experienced that at every public sector regulatory body, there is a ‘shadowy body’ too and they have to first go through that shadowy body before their applications could be considered by the real regulatory body. Since time and inconvenience are costly, people choose the easy path of agreeing with the rate of reward to be awarded to the people behind the shadowy body.

At the lowest level, even getting a rates file transferred at a local body requires a citizen to face the reality of the shadowy local body if he is to have his request processed by the real local body. The normal modus operandi is that the citizen would be informed that the file is incomplete and therefore cannot be processed. If it goes on for some time without awarding the requested reward, the file would simply disappear to miraculously reappear once the reward is properly paid out.

At the highest level, many foreign investors have confided with this writer that their applications for approval of foreign investments had to be first tackled at the shadowy approving body before they were to be processed by the real approving body. This system is deeply rooted within Sri Lanka’s culture today. When it could no longer be tolerated, the citizenry changed the government in January 2015 to put a stop to it.

Increase in corruption perception after the new government came to power

However, after the new government came to power, instead of reducing the corruption levels, the overall corruption perception in Sri Lanka has increased over the last two years, according to the Corruption Perception Index being compiled by Berlin-based Transparency International annually.

In the corruption perception, if a country is extremely corrupt, its score is zero out of 100; if it is very clean, it can expect to have a perfect score of 100.

In Sri Lanka’s case, at the end of 2014, the country had scored 38 out of 100; that score had placed it at the 85th position out of 174 countries.

After two years of the new Good Governance Government, Sri Lanka’s score has fallen to 36 out of 100 lowering it the 95th position out of 176 countries. This deterioration has taken place despite the fact that only 20% in Sri Lanka believing that corruption has increased and 49% thinking that the government is fighting hard to eliminate corruption, according to a report published by Transparency International in March 2017.

According to this report, people have perceived that the Police has been the most corrupt institution followed by public bodies that issue permits, public schools, water and power authorities, and the courts system. Government hospitals have maintained less corrupt systems, as revealed in this report.

Don’t be complacent about small gains of corruption perception

Sri Lanka is still better than some of the countries in the region like Pakistan or India. In India, percentage of people who have paid a bribe to receive public services has been about 69% and in Pakistan, it is about 40%. Comparably, Sri Lanka’s percentage has been low at 15%. This is not a reason for the government to be complacent.

Government says it is committed to fighting against corruption

Corruption is still stinking and unless the government takes action to nip it in the bud, it infects the whole society like an epidemic. Sri Lanka is gradually moving to this level and it is not a good sign for a country which aspires to become a rich country by 2025, according to the vision of the present government.

Richness does not come through only an increase in income or material well being. It comes through a culture in which people recognise that seeking unearned incomes from fellow citizens is immoral and unethical. 

When the corruption levels are low, it gives incentives for people to work harder and enjoy the fruits of their labour. That is the system that is conducive for a country to attain a sustainable economic growth.

Thus, Harsha’s lamentation should be followed by concrete action to eradicate corruption. The government’s V2025 document has pledged that it is ‘committed to fight against corruption’ since it negatively impacts the country’s global outlook. This is a fair enough promise, but these words have to be converted to deeds if real results are to be attained on the ground.

Significance Of Vision 2025 Goes Beyond Economic Development

By Jehan Perera –

Much was expected of the government when it came to power in 2015. An immediate boost to the economic growth rate was anticipated but this has failed to materialize. The failure to attract foreign investments has been a notable disappointment. This has been attributed to the uncertain policy environment with the government not being of one mind in creating the necessary environment for foreign investment to come in. The level of public disenchantment with the government has been on the rise due to its failure to deliver on its election promises in other areas too. It is not only in the area of the economy that the government has been underperforming.

The dual character of the government of national unity has meant that the government has not been of one mind in respect of transitional justice with regard to war time issues, constitutional reform and even anti-corruption action. The general public, especially those who voted for the government in the hope that it would change the political culture of the country, and put an end to corruption, had been feeling badly let down by the government. However, it now appears the government is getting mobilized to act with greater unity of purpose. The sentencing of the most influential public official of the past period, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga to three years rigorous imprisonment together with a fine of Rs 52 million in total is an indication of a turning point.

The same punishment has been meted out to the Anusha Palpita, Director General of the telecommunication commission. They have been found guilty of misappropriating government funds for political purposes in the run up to the 2015 presidential elections. The finding of guilty made against the former presidential secretary and head of the telecommunications regulatory authority of grossly and massively misusing government property will send a warning signal to those who have been accused of corruption during the period of the former government. Prior to the announcement of the verdict there apprehension that those accused of corruption would find some way out of the charges against them. Although the main election slogan in the 2015 election campaign was getting rid of corruption, change has been slow in coming. So slow in fact that many thought it would not come at all.

Beyond 2020

In obtaining action that is meaningful, the key issue to deal with has been to get the two main parties that form the government of national unity, the UNP and SLFP, to be of one mind with regard to the problems that need to be solved. Significant developments that have taken place in the past month suggest that this unity of purpose is taking hold, albeit slowly and sector by sector.  The economic arena is the one to which the government leadership has given priority. The combining of the Finance Ministry and Media Ministry under Mangala Samaraweera is an indication of this priority which is yielding the necessary results. The passage of the tax bill which saw major tax reform seeks to expand the tax net and stamp out evasion, though it was opposed by the opposition and those sections who will get within the tax net, was due to the two parties reaching agreement at the leadership level.

The launch of the government’s economic programme for the future, Vision 2025 took place last week in a similar manner. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe launched an eight-year economic development plan Vision 2025 which outlines a series of development programs focused on the entire economy. The plan maps out the development journey of Sri Lanka in the coming years – and over the next three years the government will implement a comprehensive economic strategy to address constraints to growth. According to Vision 2025, the government aims to raise per capita income to USD 5,000 per year, create one million new jobs, increase foreign direct investment to USD 5 billion per year, and double exports to USD 20 billion per year. The launch event of the plan for economic development also had a political dimension as it highlighted the corruption, shortcomings and wrong turns taken by the previous government in this area.

However, the greater political significance of the launch of the government’s new economic programme was the implied message that the President and Prime Minister were thinking of a future together that goes beyond the 2018 deadline of its detractors and even beyond the 2020 target of its supporters. Those who wish to see the collapse of the government are looking for signs that the unity agreement of the UNP and SLFP will lapse at the end of the year and not be renewed. However, both the President and Prime Minister on several occasions have said that they will work together till the next round of national elections are due in 2020. But Vision 2025 to which both of these leaders signed on to suggests a further five years together.

Replicable Model 

The launch of Vision 2025 by the government provides a model that the government can replicate in those other important areas where it needs to be acting in more decisively. The government’s progress in the area of transitional justice and implementing the promises it made in Geneva to the international community has been slow. In October 2015 and again in March 2017 the government promised to establish four key institutions—a truth commission, an office of missing persons, an office of reparations and a  special court for accountability purposes. Only the legislation for the office of missing persons has been passed by parliament and gazetted by the president. But to date none of these has been set up, not even the office of missing persons. The government could consider using the Vision 2025 model to take the big picture about transitional justice and dealing with the past to the people.

The problem that the government is having in establishing the office of missing persons is that there is miscommunication about its purpose. This is due to the lack of transparency about the transitional justice process in which the office of missing persons is one element. As in the case of the economy, people need to know what the transitional justice mechanisms are about and how they relate to one another. If they are only presented as single entities separated from each other, it is easy for detractors of the government and of transitional justice to make their own worst-case interpretations of them. Currently the four transitional justice mechanisms are being given a distorted interpretation of being aimed at the punishment of security forces personnel who won the war.

A similar problem holds true of the constitutional reform process. So far the government has not presented the broad framework of the envisaged reforms. It is only giving out bits and pieces of its thinking as articulated by its various spokespersons. This has enabled the opposition to claim that the government is going to do controversial things such as reducing the status of Buddhism or creating a federal state. The government needs to put out its broad frameworks for both transitional justice and for constitutional change on the table. The President and Prime Minister need to join hands as they did at Vision 2025 to explain what these mean to the people. Political leaders who aim to be statesmen should have confidence that people will be prepared for constructive change that they understand.

Eradication Of Corruption: Ignoring Harsha’s Warning May Be Catastrophic To Yahapalana Government

By W A Wijewardena –

A lamenting Deputy Minister

Dr Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Development, in an emotion filled intervention during a live television discussion programme, blasted the whole administration system of the country. His charge was that from top to bottom and from one side to the other, known to strategic planners as viewing from a 360̊ dimension, has been marred with stinking corruption, waste and theft of public funds.

Hurling corruption charges at each other

He has confessed that he had been disgusted with the nauseating politics and the corrupt system that has nurtured it. Instead of using time, energy and resources for planning and implementing policies for the development of the country, everyone is engaged in hurling corruption charges at each other.

One politician is charging another that the latter is corrupt; the latter retorts immediately charging that it is the former who is corrupt. Thus, everyone tries to play the role of the good policeman believing that all others are at error. Harsha says that his intention in entering politics has not been to function as a policeman.

Corruption is everywhere

Instead, he has joined the political force to use his technical capability as an economist for the betterment of people. Yet, what he observes is widespread corruption everywhere, for example, from municipal councils to hospitals to private eating houses. One cannot have a building plan approved, charges Harsha, unless he is ready to pay a bribe to local authority officials. Even at hospitals, if one wants to get preferred treatment, one has to pay a bribe. His position is that this epidemic should be eradicated if Sri Lanka is to develop as a decent nation.

Fighting against corruption

Harsha has observed both the small and big picture of corruption profile of Sri Lanka. In his charge against corruption, he has been both angry and emotional. Angry because he has been such a small keg in the power-machinery of the country that he cannot direct bigger forces for building a clean society according to his ideals. He had been a vociferous critic, both in Parliament and outside, of the previous administration’s supposed to be corrupt deals and practices.

Failure to investigate corruption charges

Now, even after two years in power, these charges have not been conclusively investigated, specifically the losses incurred by the Central Bank on account of the alleged hedging deal and investment in Greece bonds. He had also charged the Central Bank on account of misusing funds belonging to the members of the Employees Provident Fund or EPF by the previous administration. Yet, nothing had happened about making formal inquiries into those allegations.

Expressing dissatisfaction in a public forum

His dissatisfaction was openly expressed when he questioned in a public forum the Governor of the Central Bank, Arjuna Mahendtran, an appointee to that post by his government, about the wasteful investment of EPF funds in the stock market. After Governor Mahendran gave an irrelevant answer, he went on grilling him about the wisdom of EPF owning private banks.

Controlling private banks through EPF

This was a criticism levelled against the previous administration and when the new government came to power, it was expected to be rectified. But Governor Mahendran who appeared to be ignorant of the previous criticisms levelled by Harsha justified the investments in question on the ground that it would increase the return to members, albeit the published data had suggested the opposite.  This writer too in two previous articles called the government to divest the shares owned by EPF in private banks due to the potential conflict which it brings to the Monetary Board of the Central Bank.

Continuing to follow the previous administration

Yet the government continued to use the extraordinary privilege which it had inherited from the previous administration to control private banks by appointing its own members as board members. Thus, instead of ushering an era of good governance, it continued to practice the same malgovernance principles unabated.

Corruption charges against the present government

The present government was brought to power by people to eliminate corruption and create a law-abiding clean society. But its track record during the last two and a half years has been marred with similar corruption charges. Now Harsha sitting on the other side of the debate has been required to answer those charges in public. Naturally, he should be angry about the embarrassing position to which he has now been driven.

An ambulance service coming under attack

Harsha has been emotional not only when he has been too angry at injustice. He has been emotional when the fruits of his labour had produced the required results too. One such occasion has been the inauguration of the Indian government sponsored ambulance service in Sri Lanka. That service was the target of criticism by the Government Medical Officers Association or GMOA which had issues with India on account of the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement, popularly known as ETCA, with that country.

Hence, objecting to everything Indian, GMOA began a campaign against the service that it would pave way for unqualified Indian paramedics to play with the lives of vulnerable and voiceless Sri Lankan patients. It even raised a national security issue for Sri Lanka implying that those ambulances, manned by Indians, could have access even to the President’s residence. Thus, when the first batch of Sri Lankan paramedics was trained and recruited to the service, Harsha became too emotional to deliver his speech.

The exemplary track record of the ambulance service

The track record of the ambulance service since its inauguration has shown that it has indeed been a life saver for Sri Lankans, contrary to the demonic picture painted by GMOA. This writer can vouch for its excellent service with firsthand experience. The occasion arose when his elder sister suffered a massive stroke in the evening of a public holiday when no one was around at home.

With no other alternative available, Harsha’s ambulance service was contacted for help. Within five minutes of calling, an ambulance showed up at the residence staffed by paramedics and equipped with most modern first aid apparatuses.

The paramedics who were all Sri Lankans provided all the first aid necessary whilst in transit including the supply of life saving oxygen to the patient. They were constantly in contact with the hospital about the patient being transported and, therefore, the hospital staff was in readiness to receive her. The driver who was also a Sri Lankan navigated the vehicle expertly to reach the hospital within minutes.

Her life was saved because she could get the required medical attention in time. The central office of the ambulance service had later contacted the niece of this writer to ascertain whether she was satisfied or not with the service provided. Such customer satisfaction and suggestion seeking follow-ups with citizens are totally alien to the other public services in the country.

Institutionalisation of corruption in Sri Lanka   

The problem with Sri Lanka is that corruption has been institutionalised as a normal activity. It is a part of the value system of Sri Lankans. The public sector that includes politicians believes that it is their right to get illegal rewards from the public and pocket out them without disclosing to anyone.

The private sector believes that it is their obligation to award various forms of gratifications to those in power. Thus, touts flock around politicians when they come to power and function as middlemen soliciting unearned rewards from people when they want to get even legitimate services from the government.

If people do not oblige, papers would be unnecessarily delayed or even files would disappear without a trace. Papers would reappear only after the rates of unearned rewards are agreed upon and delivered.

Shadowy bodies around real administration bodies

Many have experienced that at every public sector regulatory body, there is a ‘shadowy body’ too and they have to first go through that shadowy body before their applications could be considered by the real regulatory body. Since time and inconvenience are costly, people choose the easy path of agreeing with the rate of reward to be awarded to the people behind the shadowy body.

At the lowest level, even getting a rates file transferred at a local body requires a citizen to face the reality of the shadowy local body if he is to have his request processed by the real local body. The normal modus operandi is that the citizen would be informed that the file is incomplete and therefore cannot be processed. If it goes on for some time without awarding the requested reward, the file would simply disappear to miraculously reappear once the reward is properly paid out.

At the highest level, many foreign investors have confided with this writer that their applications for approval of foreign investments had to be first tackled at the shadowy approving body before they were to be processed by the real approving body. This system is deeply rooted within Sri Lanka’s culture today. When it could no longer be tolerated, the citizenry changed the government in January 2015 to put a stop to it.

Increase in corruption perception after the new government came to power

However, after the new government came to power, instead of reducing the corruption levels, the overall corruption perception in Sri Lanka has increased over the last two years, according to the Corruption Perception Index being compiled by Berlin-based Transparency International annually.

In the corruption perception, if a country is extremely corrupt, its score is zero out of 100; if it is very clean, it can expect to have a perfect score of 100.

In Sri Lanka’s case, at the end of 2014, the country had scored 38 out of 100; that score had placed it at the 85th position out of 174 countries.

After two years of the new Good Governance Government, Sri Lanka’s score has fallen to 36 out of 100 lowering it the 95th position out of 176 countries. This deterioration has taken place despite the fact that only 20% in Sri Lanka believing that corruption has increased and 49% thinking that the government is fighting hard to eliminate corruption, according to a report published by Transparency International in March 2017.

According to this report, people have perceived that the Police has been the most corrupt institution followed by public bodies that issue permits, public schools, water and power authorities, and the courts system. Government hospitals have maintained less corrupt systems, as revealed in this report.

Don’t be complacent about small gains of corruption perception

Sri Lanka is still better than some of the countries in the region like Pakistan or India. In India, percentage of people who have paid a bribe to receive public services has been about 69% and in Pakistan, it is about 40%. Comparably, Sri Lanka’s percentage has been low at 15%. This is not a reason for the government to be complacent.

Government says it is committed to fighting against corruption

Corruption is still stinking and unless the government takes action to nip it in the bud, it infects the whole society like an epidemic. Sri Lanka is gradually moving to this level and it is not a good sign for a country which aspires to become a rich country by 2025, according to the vision of the present government.

Richness does not come through only an increase in income or material well being. It comes through a culture in which people recognise that seeking unearned incomes from fellow citizens is immoral and unethical. 

When the corruption levels are low, it gives incentives for people to work harder and enjoy the fruits of their labour. That is the system that is conducive for a country to attain a sustainable economic growth.

Thus, Harsha’s lamentation should be followed by concrete action to eradicate corruption. The government’s V2025 document has pledged that it is ‘committed to fight against corruption’ since it negatively impacts the country’s global outlook. This is a fair enough promise, but these words have to be converted to deeds if real results are to be attained on the ground.

The (Official) SLFP, Devolution & The Constitution

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Three cheers for the official SLFP’s written proposals for Constitutional change. They are not merely desirable; they are the only changes currently possible.

The SLFP has rejected the abolition of the executive Presidency, more especially in the context of devolution. It has upheld the unitary state, rejected the amalgamation of Provinces and the abolition of the powers of the Governor and/or their transfer to the Chief Minister. The SLFP has agreed with the implementation of the 13th amendment and the proposal of a Second chamber. In short the SLFP proposal is for a constructively modified 13th amendment, which is both 13 Plus (Senate) and 13 Minus (de-merger).

These proposals constitute the common ground within the ‘Unity’ government. If they are rejected, the UNP will have to go it with the TNA and the JVP. Ranil’s old wager that Mahinda Rajapaksa will be vulnerable to the temptation of the abolition of the executive Presidency is obsolete, a non-option, due to the grassroots anti-UNP surge which is carrying the JO-SLPP forward at a much faster growth rate than any party after SWRD’s SLFP in ’55-’56 and JRJ’s UNP in ’76-’77.    

 So the choice for Ranil is simple: risk the fracture of the bipartisan coalition and switch to the TNA, or stick to the common denominator with his Southern mainstream coalition partner.

The SLFP’s position paper does not take the line of Chandrika, i.e. of the ‘package’ of 1995 and 1997, which could not be implemented even in its time, when she was at the height of her popularity, not simply because Ranil’s UNP objected but because there was a groundswell against it which the UNP decided to ride.

Instead, and interestingly, the Sirisena SLFP’s position paper on the Constitution is almost exactly the stand that Mahinda Rajapaksa took in his second term when in April 2011 he instructed his negotiators to talk to the TNA. The discussion was at a working dinner at then Foreign Minister Prof GL Peiris’ residence and I was present as an active participant. That effort fell through because the TNA overshot the mark, refusing to take the implementation of the 13th amendment as the baseline and framework, and as a result, Mahinda was manipulated by his more unscrupulous negotiators such as Sajin Vass Gunawardena into pulling the plug on the process. In the event Mahinda reactivated the Northern Provincial Council holding elections to it, but did not deliver on the civilianization of the Governorship, thereby inadvertently providing time and space for the Diaspora-driven radicalization of the new Chief Minister and the Council.

If the Constitutional reform agenda sticks to the SLFP’s moderate centrist position, then it will be very difficult for the mainline JO to oppose it because it echoes Mahinda Rajapaksa’s own line during his Presidency. If on the other hand the discussion on reform pushes outside the SLFP’s parameters, the effort will be targeted from all points of the compass.      

The SLFP document represents the ‘middle path’ between those who wish to go beyond the unitary framework and the 13th amendment and those who wish to repeal or amputate the 13th amendment. If one were to avoid a time wasting debate on desirability and stick to feasibility, the SLFP’s stand is the only viable one. Why so?

 Yahapalana civil society ideologues such as Dr. Kumar David argue strongly that a referendum on a new constitution can be won. In the Island’s sister Sunday edition he writes as follows:

“Even 60% of the Sinhala-Buddhist vote is 42% nationally (0.6×0.7). Where is he [Gota], or the hypothesized referendum, going to find the other 8%? Even 65% of the S-B vote (which makes the unsustainable assumption that the UNP, Sirisena-SLFP and JVP together can muster only 35% of S-Bs) falls short of 50% by nearly 5%…I don’t understand why S&R and their retinue of clowns are opaque to simple arithmetic. The constitutional referendum can be won – period!”

(‘We Must Keep Unrelenting Pressure on S & R’, Kumar David, colombo Telegraph Sept 10th 2017)

The problem is not only that he has taken only the Sinhala-Buddhist rather than the Sinhala vote as his baseline (he obviously hasn’t kept up with Cardinal Ranjith’s recent pronouncements on neocolonialism and noticed the Catholic clergy on Gota’s platform) but that in his old age, Kumar David has forgotten his hero Trotsky’s excellent point about the distinction between simple arithmetic and higher algebra in serious politics! As governments have been finding out throughout the world in the past few years of global economic crisis, at a referendum the electorate does not vote only on the merits and demerits of the issue at hand or on party lines. The issue itself cannot be kept quarantined. It is invested with the mood and meanings of all the other concerns of the people. It becomes a lightning rod. People transcend party lines at a referendum and generate a protest vote which becomes a wave.

I should be cheering and egging the loony left Kumar Davids on, so as to shatter the Government at a referendum, but this would be no ordinary referendum. It would leave behind a bitter trace of heightened ethnic polarization—which is why the Diaspora driven Tamil nationalists are pushing for a referendum even at the risk of losing it.

The SLFP’s position paper has the merit of being sufficiently moderate and pragmatic so as to avoid the need for a polarizing referendum. What it does is delimit the discussion to those reforms that can achieve an all-parties consensus: the implementation of 13 A within the unitary framework; negotiation over the Concurrent list and agreement on swaps of powers while retaining the list; a second chamber which further entrenches the North-South consensus and constituency for devolution of power within a unitary state.    

The Sirisena SLFP’s document is also a rejection of the hardline Sinhala Buddhist position which targets the 13th amendment itself—and not merely any attempt to go beyond the 13th amendment. It is clear that the bulk of the JO, its parliamentary group and its leadership are in no mood to either attack the 13th amendment or countenance any moves beyond it. Therefore it should be possible for the SLFP and the JO to take a congruent or parallel position on devolution and its parameters, or for the JO to take an agnostically silent position on it.

No serious political party or player can take the 13th amendment head on, while they can – and must–credibly argue against going beyond it. There are many reasons for this, none of which have to do with right and wrong or desirability and undesirability, but with reality. The reality is that no Tamil political party will agree to abolish, truncate or not implement the 13th amendment. Even Douglas Devananda’s position is that it is not necessary to go beyond 13A, and therefore unnecessary to have a new Constitution. No one can govern this country with only a pan-Sinhala consensus—and not all Sinhalese are extreme nationalists. There has to be some Tamil ally or the other, for the simple reason that the Sinhala Buddhists are not alone on this island and the Tamils are not alone on this island with the Sinhala Buddhists but have co-ethnics next door.

The next reality is that the resplendent island of Sri Lanka is not alone in the region, still less the planet, and there isn’t a single country, including among our staunchest Asian and Eurasian friends and allies, who would endorse an abolition, truncation of or reverse movement on the 13thamendment.   

The third reason is that any attempt to reverse existing devolution almost inevitable gives rise to a neighboring power supporting the disaffected minority at the periphery which speaks a language or shares a religious belief which the neighboring power some part of it speaks/shares. It is not just an imperialist, neocolonial or hegemonic practice but is the response of non-imperialist and anti-imperialist neighboring powers too—take Georgia and the Ukraine, and Russia’s responses, which I fully understand.

Having survived the disastrous Bosnian war, the end of Yugoslavia began with the Serbian majority Socialist party reversing in Parliament, the Tito Constitution’s provision which accorded a semi-autonomous status to the province of Kosovo.

The political illiterates who call for the abolition of the 13th amendment rather than limit themselves to anything that goes beyond it, are ignorant of the fact that one of the members of the Darusman Commission was Stephen Ratner, a former US State Department policy planning official and Professor of International Law, whose specialization is the borders of new states carved out of old ones when a mother state revokes the autonomous status of units within the old state. He redevelops the old doctrine of Uti Possidetis, and argues that if and when a government of the old mother state unilaterally revokes the autonomy of existing regions/provinces, a newly emergent state shall have as its borders, those that belonged to the pre-existing provincial or regional demarcation.

So if we try to roll back the 13th amendment or are perceived internationally to be trying to do so, we shall fall victim to a set-up and trigger this doctrine, just as one triggers a claymore mine. The 13thamendment however flawed, issues from and is organically linked with a bilateral accord, however coerced. No bilateral accord can be unilaterally altered, especially if there is a huge asymmetry of strengths – a massive strategic imbalance–involved. If the Indians come in this time, they won’t leave. 

Devolution on this island cannot be avoided except by a drastic change in the nature of the state which abolishes all special privileges and renders it a secular republic as in the USA, France, India and China. That is simply not possible, given the historical-civilizational reality of the uniqueness of the organic Sinhala Buddhist tie to the island as manifested in the furor about Article 9. It will take a Frontline Socialist plus JVP government to make us fully equal and equally integrated citizens of a society devoid of discrimination. That is a task for the younger generation and a socialist Left.

Until then, the only worthwhile debate is on the degree, timing and conditions of devolution. Even under a communist-led government granting a measure of autonomy will probably be unavoidable. “…Implementing regional autonomy in areas where ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities is a basic political system of China” says the document issued by the State Council of Information Office of the People’s Republic of China entitled “Historical Witness to Ethnic Equality, Unity and Development in Xinjiang”. The Chinese Constitution embeds and enshrines the ‘system of regional ethnic autonomy’. It was initiated by Chairman Mao. Now that can hardly be a separatist and/or imperialist plot.

Transferring Weeratunga And Palpita To Hospital: Remove Prison Doctor – Activists Tell Government

A number of civil society activists has written to the Secretary of the Ministry of Health demanding the transfer of acting Chief Medical Officer of Welikada Prison Dr. Nirmalie Thenuwara considering her behaviour regarding former Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga and former Director General of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, Anusha Palpita.

“Her actions regarding the two men, i.e. sending them to prison hospital immediately after they were sent to the prison, was against the procedures and highly problematic,” a letter signed by seven prison rights activists including Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake, Executive Director of CHR, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, and human rights lawyer and former IUSF convener Udul Premaratne and Senaka Perera stated.

They state that when an individual, sentenced to rigorous imprisonment, arrives at the prison he or she is given a prisoner ID. Then the prisoner is sent to the medical center of the prison after his or her photograph is taken. However Thenuwara has met the two men before they were even issued a prisoner ID and transferred them to prison hospital.

“Such an incident has not taken place in Sri Lankan history. Because of the significant criticism levelled at this move the two men were not admitted to Prison Hospital but Thenuwara remained in prison hospital till 9 PM. However she reported for duty the following day before working hours and transferred prisoners V 18069 and V 18068 to the prison hospital. This is a gross violation of established procedure,” the letter read.

After the Minister of Prison Reforms issued a directive stating that at least three doctors need to certify the health of a person before they are transferred to the prison hospital, Dr. Thenuwara has teamed up with three other Drs. Tirani, Sujeewa and Waruna Jayathilake to manipulate this directive.

“Dr. Thenuwara has received transfer orders to the Colombo National Hospital this year however this order has not been implemented due to the influence of a trade union and the mediation of an official, who is connected to South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM). Given her behaviour and her lack of qualifications to hold such a position, we ask you to transfer Dr. Thenuwara from the Prison Hospital,” the statement read.

Former Secretary of Nursing Officers’ Association of the Colombo Remand Prison, Mahinda Kodagoda, Secretary of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, Attorney at Law, Senaka Perera, Attorney at Law Namal Rajapakshe and journalist Kasun Pussawela are the other signatories of the letter.

The Sunday Leader Reverts To Pro-Rajapaksa Camp – Paper Not Printed For Third Consecutive Week

With the fall from glory in sight for the Ravi Karunanayake–Arjuna Aloysius empire, the curtain may be finally coming down regrettably, for The Sunday Leader, which had not been able to print its edition from August 27 to September 3.

Asanga and Mahinda

Sources at The Sunday Leader told Colombo Telegraph that with the removal of the portfolio from the infamous Minister, who in 2015 June took over the effective management of The Sunday Leader, had no choice but to abandon newspaper company started in 1994 by its slain Founder Editor-in-Chief Lasantha Wickrematunge, barely two years after the management takeover; allowing effective control to pass back to its pro-Mahinda Rajapaksa owner and Namal Rajapaksa’s rugger coach Asanga Seneviratne and the latter’s schoolmate and ex-SLAF officer Nalin Jayatilleke.

“More than anyone, Ravi Karunanayake(RK) must take responsibility for the dire straits both The Sunday Leader and its Sinhala sister paper – Irudina are in now. Although many tried to shut down these two papers during the height of the Rajapaksa regime, through bomb attacks, arson, attempted murder and finally murder of its architect – Lasantha himself, all these attempts failed. Even the final takeover of management by Asanga from Lasantha’s brother Lal Wickrematunge could not turn tables fully around towards Rajapaksa’s interests. So RK did to what he himself termed as his close friend- Lasantha’s brainchild within two years what Mahinda could not achieve even in a decade. However it is indeed regrettable that these are the final few hours of such a great newspaper!” lamented a close confidante of its Founder Editor, on grounds of anonymity.

Colombo Telegraph learns that with the latest developments – Seneviratne’s schoolmate and ex- SLAF officer Nalin Jayatilleke, who was the CEO of Leader Holdings is likely to order that RK’s appointees not be taken into the premises as the ex-Minister had failed to keep his part of the deal for the last two years.

“He has further informed the staff that the present employees would be absorbed into a new company – Leader Publishing Group of Companies on a freelance basis and with a 50% wage cut. However he has expressed his willingness to print the September 17 issue although with the situation the company is in, it is nearly impossible to print the paper,” he added.

In mid 2015, RK’s advent saw the introduction of the now defamed Arjuna Aloysius newspaper business and the appointment of Mandana Ismail as its Editor. However the appointment of a one-time defamed Chairman of MBSL – Ruwan Gallage as Consultant with full and effective control along with Barush Akbar who was said to be an uncle of Mela Karunanayake, as Director; things went from bad to worse. Infighting among the three factions, namely pro-MR camp led by CEO Nalin Jayatilleke, RK’s camp represented by Gallage and Akbar and Aloysius’s camp, saw Ismail exiting to take up her new position as Chairperson of Peoples Power Media (Pvt Ltd) which publishes Sathhanda at the behest of its promoter and her long time friend – SLFP General Secretary and Minister Duminda Dissanayake.

Later on one-time ITN news anchor Mahesh Senanayake was appointed as General Manager in late 2016 but he too left Leader Holdings utterly disappointed with Aloysius ceasing to be a promoter of the paper.

Last August 2, Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Treasury Bonds proceeding revealed that SMSs were sent by Ruwan Gallage to RK referring to a payment of Rs three million allegedly promised by Arjun Aloysius. “Leader employees refuse to work and you promised to release funds six weeks ago,” said one SMS.

However Former Minister Ravi Karunanayake denied the SMSs stating that he had got nothing to do with the newspaper. When initials ‘RK’ were pointed out by Assistant Solicitor General Dappula de Livera, the Ex-minister stated that he was unaware whether he was referred to as ‘RK’.

Sources say that the management including its Accountant Nadith de Alwis, who too was interdicted from MBSL Insurance for embezzlement of company funds and reportedly was asked to be fired by RK several times but managed to save his neck due to cover up by Gallage; are painting a picture of financial troubles to employees, reportedly to avoid making statutory payments. Though Arjuna Aloysius is said to have injected millions of rupees into Leader Holdings continuous sabotage by Gallage and his henchmen left him frustrated and ultimately led him to start his own newspaper company – Integrated Media Network which currently publishes – Janayugaya.

The fate of the two papers turned for the worse with Editor of Irudina and former Ravaya columnist Wimalanatha Weerarathne’s employment was terminated in March 2017 for allegedly raising up concerns about frequent interferences into the editorial matters by the management and continuing to take Gallage to task for failing to deliver his promises to employees.

“No one knows what happened to all that Aloysius’s money along with our EPF and ETF contributions, which although have been deducted have not been paid to the government. Furthermore rumour has it that part of the property has already been sold for nearly eighty million rupees but the management is purposely hiding this mistakenly believing that taxes, debtors and statutory payments such as EPF, ETF etc would not have to be paid. Our question is what happened to all that money? It is so sad that Lasantha must be rolling in his grave seeing what his so-called friend RK had done to his papers, which he safeguarded even sacrificing his own life!” lamented an employee.

Monks In Politics Should Avoid The Three Poisons

By Shyamon Jayasinghe –

Shyamon Jayasinghe

Buddhist monks have by, now, been accepted or at least tolerated by our society as simultaneous political players. Soon after the assassination of SWRD Bandaranaike by a Buddhist monk and the revelation that high profile Sangha like Buddharakkita were behind the conspiracy, Sri Lankan society began to openly repudiate the very idea of the saffron community being seen on the political stage. Buddharakhitta’s incursion into the political power game is to-date regarded as a kind of reductio ad absurdum of Sangha involvement in the political power game in that it demonstrated graphically its absurdity and its danger. For many years after that tragedy, monks shunned the political platform. On the other hand, today Buddhist monks have re-emerged with the cloud of guilt blown away out off their halo.

The formation of an officially recognised political party for monks, the JHU, took place in the year 2004. The fact that the JHU or The National Heritage Party succeeded in winning as much as nine seats in Parliament became the signal of a general popular acceptance of a political landscape dotted by the Buddhist clergy. The JHU is still a significant force to be dealt with as its influence spreads beyond the numbers.

There isn’t any scriptural reference that can be interpreted as barring Buddhist monks from politics. On the other hand, Human Rights laws will frown on any disallowance of monks from political participation of any kind.

The issue is, therefore, not a legal one. The involvement of Buddhist monks in Parliamentary politics constitutes an unfinished item in religious discourse. Nobody can avoid politics but the question as to whether it is appropriate for a monk who by definition is a mendicant who has abandoned worldly life in favour of pursuing a spiritual attainment, can get embroiled in the power game that politics is, is still a valid question. Furthermore, the absence of a formally organised establishment that can make dictates to Buddhist monks has made political entry easy. This is unlike the Christian priesthood ,which does have a controlling body to exercise a code of organisational conduct. The Sanga, typically, is like the proverbial barber saloon where anybody can come in and go away.

The upshot is that we still do observe extreme cases of Sangha political behaviour displayed from time. We saw the BBS going on rampage burning Muslim places of worship and beating Mussalmen. Recently, we saw videos on social media where a monk in Batticaloa was castigating a Tamil Grama Sevaka in racial terms and jumping toward him to have a meritorious (or ping) go.

The general public expectation, particularly the response of the Buddhist public, is the only determining and restraining leach. This public expectation is that monks should conduct their political role unswerving in line with the spirit the spirit of the Dhamma. Unlike the lay adherence, the adherence of the Sangha is mandatory according to public opinion. This also is consistent with the general spirit of the Vinaya Pitaka that scripturally governs monk conduct. It is in this Dhammic spirit that Buddhist monks of the past were said to have advised Kings and so on. The ethical behaviour created a respected link between King and monk. That had been a healthy relationship and a productive one, too.

The fundamental Buddhist ethical admonition is that Buddhists (particularly monks) should avoid the three poisons of Lobha (greed), Dosa (hate) and Avijja (ignorance). Fundamental to the three is ignorance or delusion. Buddhist monks must at all times cultivate this three-fold ethic. They have a special responsibility to do so in their political role. Ordinary people do not expect monk-politicians to behave like greedy and lying secular politicians. The distinction in political role play is apparent. Verse 251 of the Dhammapada spells these three pegs of moral underpinnings:

Nathi ragas aggi (There is no fire like passion or greed)
Nathi dosasamo gaho (There is no grip like ill will or hate)
Nathi mohasamani jalam (There is no net like ignorance)
Nathi thanhasamana nadi (There is no river like craving)

The fourth line is an emphatic first line. The Buddha preached this in the Jethavanama Monastery.

Since the operative nature of greed and hate are typically hard to measure, we will focus on the fundamental poison or papa karma that is ignorance. Now, it is admitted that in the specific Buddhist context Avijja refers to ignorance of the Four Noble Truths. However, we take the liberty to extend its application to all forms of ignorance. There is justification for this in that monks engaged in secular politics are expected to evince a critical sense and to make an effort to comprehend issues of the wider jurisdiction of a secular society if what they articulate is to be respected. Monks taking to politics, if they are to be respected as Buddhist monks, should be mindful of the truth of what they say. The public expect monks not to be foolish or superficial but to be endowed with truthful wisdom.

On the contrary, how many times have we observed our political monks in the political playing field displaying their ignorance on matters relating to secular society? Just take two prominent recent examples. We had Revd Athuraliye Rathana Thero, while participating in the Committee Stage of the 2017 budget, making an uncompromising stand on banning chemical fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides. He has even formed a movement called,”Wasa Visa Neti Ratak,” (A Country without Poisons). His idealism is praiseworthy. On the other hand, as someone expected to be endowed with learning and wide understanding, Athuraliye Rathana Thero should have been cautious about the complexities of the issue he has chosen to deal with. The practical effect of banning chemical fertiliser will be a collapse of our agriculture and economy. Organic farming is very expensive and 25 per cent less productive than conventional chemical farming, which is the predominant form of agriculture all over the world. Organic farming will, therefore, bear a direct economic cost by way of reduced production. Consequently, the entire economy would be damaged by flow-on effects. Employment loss and the decrease in agricultural exports would surely result. Besides all this, it is important to recognize that there is no black or white status in the debate about organic farming and conventional farming. Organic farming must also use chemical pesticides.

Our second example is from a Buddhist Nayako Thero who occupies the very high pedestal of Mahanayake of Bellanwilla Raja Maha Viharaya-the right Revd doctor. I watched a video where this monk, on the 27th January, spoke counselling President Maitripala Sirisena at no other place than the Abhayarama Temple-Mahinda Rajapaksa’s’ favoured ground. This Nayake Monk who was unspoken and dumb during the whole maladministration era of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ten years appeals in an urgent tone to the current President Maitripala Sirisena to take urgent action against what he alleges as the corruption of the present administration. The Bellanwila monk referred specifically to the Bond issue, which he stated was one the most massive and unprecedented corrupt deals of any government. “Even a school kid,” the Mahanayake exclaimed, can see how corrupt this deal has been.” Hinting that Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister, was behind this, the Bellanwila monk concluded that President Sirisena is a good man but that his hands are tied. The monk encouraged President Sirisena to be bold and act according to his powers. “Why have Presidential commissions? This is all a cover up,” the Nayake monk accused.

The tone adopted was aggressive. The monk was confident of his facts. But does he understand how the bond issues took place all the ten years of the Rajapaksa government? Does he understand how this particular bond issue took place? He, obviously, was blissful in his ignorance. Here is a Chancellor of a University! How could he have assessed the quantum of any claimed loss in a deal like this? I will shorten my criticism of the Nayaka Thero by pointing out that the World Bank (WB) has given a report on this much hyped bond issue. WB has clearly stated that there are no known international practices by which an expost bond issue like this could be calculated for potential loss to the government and country. The bond issue was a longterm one repayable in thirty years and how could one assess the benefit or otherwise that can accrue to government during such a long period? It all depends on volatile market conditions and on other market opportunities made available. One cannot go to the performance trends of previous bonds because they were issued on private placement on an agreed value and not on market value. Hence the Yield Curve of the past is no guide as that had been artificial. This particular issue had been made on an auction – price where all bidders were free to participate whereas the previous issue under Governor Cabraal had been awarded to preferred selected cronies on agreed bases. Arjun Aloysius was one of the past beneficiaries.

Why didn’t the monk bother to understand these complexities? Perhaps one can point out if the COPE guys couldn’t understand how could this monk be expected to know. The problem was that the Bellanwilla monk followed up with another assault that seemed to have let out his true motives. The monk looked at the President and charged: “two years have passed but nothing has happened.” What an uncharitable remark! More than that, what an unstudied accusation! Law and order which under the previous regime had been privatised to Ministers, MPs and Pradeshiya Sabha cronies has now been firmly been returned to the public realm. People are free to protest unlike the Rathupaswala days and no White Vans are seen. The judiciary is free and court cases are no longer determined at Temple Trees. The 19th Amendment has been passed curbing Presidential powers. The Right of Information Act has been passed guaranteeing transparency in government. The run-away national debt situation has been restrained. Solid plans are afoot for the economy.

The public will not expect one-sided assessments like this from a supposedly erudite monk. From Buddhist monks in politics people are entitled to expect wise words and balanced judgments. In the particular instance of Bellanwila Thero one can, perhaps, smell some guilt about the other two poisons or Papa Karma. It was a true Abhasingharama style speech that would have delighted the incumbent resident monk.

*The writer can be contacted at [email protected]

Colombo Telegraph

CBK Drops Bombshell, Says No Need For War Crimes Probe

Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts appeared to face more setbacks, with former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga dropping a bombshell and ruling out the involvement of courts to probe war crimes committing during the final stages of the war in 2009.

Chandrika

Kumaratunga, who is also the head of the Office for the National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) said that what is urgent now is to bring in a new Constitution and to establish the Office of the Missing Persons, and therefore due to these initiatives there won’t be a necessity to have courts to probe war crimes.

She made this statement in an interview published in the Daily Mirror today while answering to a question about the present position with regard to the government entrusting her with building national reconciliation. “It is successfully carried out, in the face of opposition and a handful of extremists, activities are continuing with the blessings of the majority. Reconciliation means a lengthy activity. What is urgent now is to bring in a new Constitution and then comes the establishment of the Office of the Missing Persons. With these in place, there would not be any necessity to have courts to probe war crimes.”

She also criticized the recent report released by Attorney At Law Manori Muththettuwegama which reportedly stated that foreign judges must be included to probe the issues during the final stages of the war. “They have no right to comment in that manner. The committee was entrusted to obtain the views of the public and submit its report to the government. That was the responsibility of the committee. Their own ideas too had been incorporated in the report,” Kumaratunga said.

Last year, the government appointed a 11 member Special Task Force consisting of representatives of civil organizations to get the views of the public on the Geneva Human Rights proposal. The task force was headed by Muththettuwegama. The Task Force was tasked to work under two phases. Under the first Phase, views was obtained through all languages using websites. Then the task force met with the public to obtain their views in the second phase. The views were obtained from children, members of the security forces and the public who suffered from the war.

The former President however heavily praised incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena in her interview saying he has good knowledge, he reads well, explains well and is also a good listener.

The office headed by Kumaratunga is mandated to lead, facilitate and support initiatives related to national unity and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The ONUR mandate broadly covers the 8 focus areas we have listed in our website and all initiatives related to Accountability mechanisms are coordinated by Justice Ministry and Foreign Ministry in consultation with the offices of His Excellency the President and Hon. Prime Minister. The ONUR will be assisting if any request for assistance is made in such initiative from the respective ministries.

The coalition government has been giving out varying views over the involvement of foreign judges to probe war crimes. In February last year, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera contradicted a statement by President Sirisena and said that international participation was necessary in bringing justice to the victims of war crimes. “What the President has expressed is his own opinion, and in Sri Lanka there are various thoughts on how this matter should be handled,” Samaraweera said, when questioned on Sirisena’s rejection of an international investigation to probe alleged war crimes committed during the final stages of the war against the LTTE during a Q & A session at US Institute of Peace, Washington DC.

Colombo Telegraph

MR’s opportune return

Ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa will no longer be hiding behind his couriers of the joint opposition (JO). Last week, he emerged from the shadows of Abeyaramaya to boldly announce at a rally in Nugegoda that after coming to power, he would recover billions that have allegedly been looted by the incumbent government. His rally at Nugegoda was said to be a very expensive affair: going by the expenses incurred for the number of buses used to transport protestors from distant places to Colombo, their pocket money, ‘bath packets’ and generous flow of booze to keep everyone fired up, his financers had to foot a hefty bill. It was his second coming party, so it ought to be a grand one. It was not so much about the numbers in attendance, but the maximum effect and appearance. Otherwise, why would organisers pick a place that got overcrowded even for a Vesak Bakthi Geetha show? This Nugegoda joint overflows with just a couple of thousand people, causing maximum traffic jam, chaos and inconvenience so that the entire city feels the protest vibes. Unemployed graduates knew the trick and now the former president is putting it to good use.

 

“Listening to xenophobic garbage in America and Europe, Mr. Rajapaksa at times looks like Mother Theresa, only that he was accused of white vanning in the past”

 
Time has never been better for Mr. Rajapaksa’s momentous return. Regressive populism has made a comeback with a vengeance everywhere. Demagoguery has become the standard form of politics. Bigotry, racism, xenophobia are no longer frowned upon. His art of politics has prevailed in more stable democracies, recently. Then, why not Sri Lanka? In fact, listening to xenophobic garbage in America and Europe, Mr. Rajapaksa at times looks like Mother Theresa, only that he was accused of white vanning in the past.
However, why Mr. Rajapaksa has got a new lease of political life is because the incumbent government has failed to live up to even the most basic promises it made: people think it is more corrupt than its predecessor, according to the latest Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International (According to CPI, Sri Lanka has dropped 12 slots in one year to 95).
The Rajapaksa regime was phenomenally corrupt, but compared to its predecessors, it was efficient. It did not negotiate for years to finally come up with some shoddy deal that could well be suspended again for a review. Instead, it entered into shoddy deals all at once, and completed the projects before their deadlines. Finally, at least you have some infrastructure put in place, even though at an inflated cost.
In contrast, the incumbent is plagued by the paralysis that was so commonplace in the two terms of Chandrika Kumaratunga administration.

Then, Mr. Rajapaksa did not promise to end corruption. He thought it was perfectly normal. His relatives, goons, acolytes, cronies, all of them had an opportunity to get rich. Whereas, this government pledged to fight corruption, and haul corrupt doers to court and recover billions that have allegedly been siphoned from the country. However, now it seems to be doing a Rajapaksa, even more egregiously than the latter did. The level of high-level corruption blamed on the incumbent government such as the Central Bank bond scam would put Basil Rajapaksa to shame. The government has suddenly developed an unholy interest to dig into bond deals dating back to 2008, only after the mega bond scam that took place right under its nose was highlighted by the Auditor General. The government’s tactics are a ruse to distort and distract the public opinion on the bond scam, which is by far the mother of all scams that ever happened in this country. Thus, the problem is not just corruption, but impudence with which corruption is whitewashed.
President Sirisena has belatedly appointed a Special Presidential Commission to investigate the bond scam. Unfortunately though, he spent too long pondering over his action — or perhaps waiting for the opportune moment, i.e. forthcoming local government elections, to score a point. However, by then, the damage will be done. Still, better late than never.
Also, Sri Lanka seems to be lacking laws to tackle sophisticated financial crimes, which the President himself implied when he revealed that the bond deal was being investigated under the civil law, whereas it ought to be treated under the criminal law. Sophisticated and politically-connected crooks exploit those loopholes to empty the government’s coffers.

“The Rajapaksa regime was phenomenally corrupt, but compared to its predecessors, it was efficient. It did not negotiate for years to finally come up with some shoddy deal that could well be suspended again for a review”

There was a stock market mafia that thrived under the former regime; Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe even read in Parliament a list of names of individuals who were implicated in pump and dump deals in the Colombo Stock Market. As expected, no follow-up action was taken. Now we have a bond market mafia. Mr. Wickremesinghe would not be reading names for the obvious reason. However, that would not negate the existence of the problem.
The election of President Sirisena and the unity government were once treated as a revolution. Revolutions, through the ballot or street protests, could only take a country so far. Sri Lanka at present may hold some distressing similarities with Ukraine, where several years back, mass protests toppled the pro-Russian Kleptocracy of Viktor Yanukovych, and brought to power the pro-European opposition. Now it appears that the latter is pilfering the State’s coffers more efficiently than its predecessor did, in addition to provoking a ruinous war with its powerful neighbour Russia.
Corruption, both real and perceived, would erode the appeal of recent democratic gains and endanger the future constitutional reforms that are intended to address the national question. Some time back, TNA MP Sumanthiran prophesied that if any it would be corruption that would derail a new Constitution. His prediction is menacingly coming closer to become a reality. High-level corruption would swallow up all the goodwill of this government and create a vacuum that would be filled by opportunistic charlatans who offer very simple solutions to complex problems, and govern the country by sowing divisions. That is where Mr. Rajapaksa comes in.

-Daily Mirror