Who is telling the truth – Malik, Rajitha, Prez or PM

Contradictions galore!

Island Editorial

The government tries to promote itself as a good governance coalition. But, it is, in fact, a coalition of contradictions in that its constituents and leaders keep contradicting one another ad nauseam. What we hear from its top guns on crucial national issues has all the trappings of a babble of voices in a toddy bar; nay, it is more incomprehensible than shebeen gabble.

Cabinet Spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, last Wednesday, tried to defend Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who attended a recent ceremony where a factory was launched by a frontman of the Rajapaksa family, had come to know about the background of that investor only a few hours before the event. But, Minister Malik Samarawickrama contradicted Senaratne immediately afterwards; he said both the PM and President Maithripala Srisena had been quite au fait with the background of the entrepreneur concerned. Now, it is clear that the government is honeymooning with the persons it once condemned as crooked cronies of the former ruling clan!

In the run-up to the last presidential election the UNP and the Maithripala faction of the SLFP promised to abolish the executive presidency, which, they insisted, was the mother of all evils in Sri Lankan politics. President Sirisena declared, upon being inaugurated, that he would never seek a second term. But, now the SLFP has suddenly woken up to the need for retaining the executive presidency and is preparing the ground for fielding President Sirisena as the SLFP’s next presidential candidate much to the consternation of the UNP.

The UNP insists that former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran has not been on the wrong side of the law as regards the bond scams which have caused the state coffers and the Employee’s Provident Fund to haemorrhage colossal amounts of money. But, President Sirisena has faulted Mahendran, denied him a second term as the Central Bank Governor and ordered a presidential probe into the bond scams.

Government pundits have maintained during the last two years that LTTE threat is a thing of the past. Anyone who warns of a possible LTTE comeback is promptly branded a racist. LTTE cadres are being released and high security zones dismantled at a rate. When a former Tiger was arrested in March last year with a suicide jacket, claymore mines and ammunition, some government ministers claimed there was no threat to national security and the media were blowing the issue out of proportion. But, The Hindu newspaper has recently reported that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government has warned TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran of a serious threat to his life. The MP is quoted as saying that the government has shared some specific information about the threat and four persons have been arrested in that connection. So much for the government’s claim that the LTTE threat has long ceased to exist!

President Sirisena keeps saying there has been no agreement to hand over land in Hambantota to foreigners. But, UNP members of his Cabinet say 15,000 acres in areas adjacent to the Hambantota Port will be leased out to some Chinese investors for 99 years. Who is telling us the truth?

President Sirisena has gone on record as saying that his predecessor opted for a snap presidential election because the latter had been at its wits’ end, unable to figure out how to face an impending economic crisis. He has given the impression that Mahinda Rajapaksa ran away, not knowing how to steer the ship of the state to safety. But, the incumbent government claims Rajapaksa was planning a coup to stay in power despite his defeat at the Jan. 2015 presidential election! If he had sought to run away from trouble on the economic front, he could have refrained from seeking a third term or he would not have tried to retain power forcibly!

The UNP pretends to be on a mission to restore the supremacy of Parliament. But, last week, its heavyweights argued in the House in favour of a judicial intervention as regards the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) report on the bond scams. They took on JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake, who pointed out the absurdity of MPs being summoned by a court for carrying out their duties and functions as members of a parliamentary watchdog committee. The Constitution does not provide for post enactment judicial review. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tore into the judiciary some moons ago for allegedly trying to usurp the powers of the legislature anent the Singarasa case. The UNP has also taken pride in the late Speaker Anura Bandaranaike’s historic ruling (2001), which rejected a Supreme Court interim order seeking to prevent him from dealing with a parliamentary resolution to probe the then Chief Justice until the apex court had heard and determined a fundamental rights application before it. As they say in this country a water monitor becomes a land monitor when one feels like eating it.

It is not only the members of the yahapalana coalition who keep contradicting themselves; their foreign allies also do. The present dispensation has received plaudits from the US and the EU for ‘meaningful steps’ it is said to have taken to battle corruption. But, Sri Lanka has, under the yahapalana watch, slipped 12 points on the 2016 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by the Transparency International, which ranks countries according to the perceived level of public sector corruption. Sri Lanka was ranked 85th on the CPI in 2014 under the previous government. How would the defenders of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration explain this mismatch between its claim to have contained corruption and the CPI rankings?

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