People’s Intellectual Assembly’s growing backlash against ‘Yahapalanaya’

Nisansala Dissanayaka (Daily Mirror)

Experiencing two years of ‘Yahapalanaya,’ those who brought forth the change in government seem to be anxious over a few of its practices, so much so, the People’s Intellectual Assembly (PIA), at a recent press briefing, severely criticised the administration of failing to keep up with its promises.

Postponing LG polls an anti-democratic act
– Srinath Perera – PIA Secretary
Commenting on the local government elections, President’s Counsel and PIA Secretary Srinath Perera said the ruling party was giving excuses to postpone the polls.
“We have been denied the right of selecting politicians. This is absolutely anti-democratic.

As far as we understand, this is done to fulfill the necessities of the ruling party. We request the government to restore Law and Order, and hold local government polls forthwith. It will be a good opportunity to test if the public accepts this government. The government has not met the expectations of the public. We urge the President, Prime Minister, Cabinet and other government entities to stop postponing the election,” he said.

Yahapalanaya was not elected to bust up people’s money
– Azath Salley – PIA Treasurer

“Former MP Namal Rajapaksa allegedly built the ‘Namalgama’ in Wilpattu after uprooting and cutting down all the ‘Karuwala’ trees there, and farmed cashew nut employing Navy personnel; nobody was there to voice out. Now, when the Muslims are rehabilitated in Wilpattu, people have labelled it a racial issue.

The President pledged to wipe out the white van culture, bribery and corruption, and we worked hard for it, but to no avail. Now the Yahapalanaya has completed two years and we still wait for those promises to come true. We couldn’t convict Lasantha’s murderer or those who kidnapped and murdered Eknaligoda. What about the doctor who stole Wasim Thajudeen’s body parts? How many TV channels were attacked? People waited for two long years, hoping the government would charge the guilty, but those issues have not been resolved yet,” he declared.

“It doesn’t mean we speak only about the ill deeds of the government; we note its good qualities too. People are happy about the price reduction of medicine. Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake had said the revenue had risen from 25% compared to last year. On the other hand, what happened to SriLankan Airlines that was making profits? What action was taken by this government? Did they bring MR to court? It is going to cancel what was paid a whopping Rs. 98 million. I have a question; Who gave Minister Kabir Hashim the power to do that? Yahapalanaya was not elected to bust up people’s money,” he added.

Speaking about the drought, he said this government had no plans in preparing for the drought and that they should have made preparations earlier. He questioned as to why people would need a Yahapalana administration if any of those critical issues were unresolved.

Further, he pointed out that people voted with great hope for a change and that President Sirisena was responsible for this. “It is his responsibility to make this a good country for future generations,” he said. Commenting on the elections, he said it was pointless to postpone the elections as this system would be challenged and changed in future.

Govt. has failed to make any progress
– Keerthi Thennakoan – PIA member

“Yahapalanaya has completed two years and it is evident that the words are yet to become actions. The government has failed to make any progress in resolving issues of the former government including bribery, corruption and bringing those who stole public funds to book. By now, the Bribery and Corruption Commission, FCID and other related institutions are conducting more than 180 inquiries about these frauds, and there are 46 files at the Attorney General’s Department lacking the wherewithal to proceed further.

The 13 proceeding cases are very minor ones with little financial issues like the misuse of vehicles. It is clear to everyone that large quantity frauds are kept hidden while minor ones are being exposed. As a result, the accused are protesting, challenging and accusing the government thereby making counter-accusations.

The President and Premier should take the responsibility of any inability to punish those responsible for corruption, bribery and crimes,” he said.

“We have some questions with regard to the jury trial conducted into the murder of our friend Raviraj. Cases of Prageeth Eknaligoda, Lalith and Koogan too seem to be heading in the same direction,” he added.

Speaking about the bond issue, he critiqued that there were no other crimes in Sri Lankan history with this much evidence and the balance sheet of Perpetual Treasuries belonging to his son-in-law was hard evidence.

“Yesterday, the President appointed a special committee to investigate the bond scam and we are grateful for that. The investigations should be done thoroughly with a scientific background, paying attention to EPF and ETF investments, the glitches in the system, conniving officials and political sponsors. And the process should ensure that this kind of occurrences do not repeat. A transparent commission is necessary,” he said.

Regarding the coal issue in Sri Lanka, Keerthi Thennakoan said according to the Auditor General’s report, the coal deal was a fraud which caused a loss of Rs. 4,135 million to the country. He emphasized that they have sent a letter to the President regarding this issue.
“Everybody knows that Maithri Guneratne is not the prime suspect of the coal fraud. The only viable accusation against him is for criticizing the Prime Minister while being a Director of a government office; but that’s an indirect matter. If other directors in government entities can use their political freedom, why make an exception of Guneratne? Anyway, he has filed a human rights petition against Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and his Secretary Dr. Suren Batagoda.

The open market value of coal is 78 dollars per metric tonne and Sri Lanka imports coal at 90 dollars per metric tonne. Buying coal from these ships is a loss of nearly 120,000,000 rupees. The Supreme Court, Auditor General and the procurement committee appointed by the President said this decision was erroneous. If we could stop imports, those twelve hundred million rupees would have been saved. They are ready to bring 18 other ships here.

In the 10th paragraph of Yahapalana agenda, large scale bribery and corruption are said to be stopped. The best start for that is to stop this tender scam happening in broad day light.”

In a democratic country, the public should have power
– Chrishmal Warnasuriya – Lawyer and PIA member

“We are here to look back at the past two years of Yahapalanaya. We took to the streets at a time when we were followed at night and the white van culture was active.

We wanted the ‘change’ for the sake of freedom of speech, and we eventually did succeed. It is true that all people of the country have the right to speak about citizen’s rights. Yet, the public may have to rethink – is freedom of speech alone sufficient for the country?

People have to think if we replaced a rule by a cheating family for one that is a royal friendship. If our efforts have not become fruitful, if the public are dissatisfied and feel this just doesn’t seem right, what is the point of keeping them in power anymore?
We saw social media playing a pivotal role in appointing Yahapalanaya as a large pack of first voters and floating voters voted for Yahapalanaya during last year’s elections. If those voters do not trust politicians anymore, give up their feeling for what is right, keep away from politics and attempt to change this system, then the country is heading towards a disaster.