For JO culture and Buddhism less important than finance

When JO pots call UNP kettles black (Island Editorial)

Joint Opposition (JO) big guns have trained their propaganda cannon on Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake. He is being raked over the coals for a gazette the government has issued on the controversial bond sales, with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s name thereon, about two years after his defeat in 2015. They are threatening to sue Karunanayake, who is daring them to do so. Never a dull moment!

Minister Karunanayake is not fit to hold the finance portfolio and, therefore, he should be appointed the minister of cultural or Buddhist affairs instead, a JO spokesman has recently told the media. Not to be outdone, Karunanayake has gone on the offensive. Let the JO grandees and the Finance Minister fight it out and we don’t intend to get caught in the crossfire. However, we can’t but point out the absurdity of the JO’s call for stripping Karunanayake of his finance portfolio and appointing him either the minister of cultural or Buddhist affairs.

We neither endorse nor dispute the JO’s contention that Karunanayake is a failed finance minister. It is our considered opinion that most finance ministers under successive governments since Independence have been failures. Else, the national economy wouldn’t have been in such a mess today. We are paying for the blunders they and their political masters have made. If the JO really thinks Karunanayake is a failed finance minister how come it wants him to be given some other important portfolio?One is intrigued. Some of the JO leaders come from the so-called Dharmapala belt in the suburbs of Colombo; they make a public display of their love for Buddhism and culture. They never miss an opportunity to wrap themselves in the flag and declare their readiness even to risk their lives to protect Sri Lankan culture and Buddhism. These knights errant in shining armour are often seen tilting at windmills with gung-ho zeal. Do they want the Ministry of Buddhism/the Ministry of Cultural Affairs to go the same way as the Finance Ministry with a minister who, they say, has failed, at the helm of it? They should be asked whether they consider culture and Buddhism less important than finance.

This cartoon is from Daily FTUntitled-5

One may recall that the vociferous JO bigwigs who have taken moral high ground and are questioning the eligibility of the ministers of the yahapalana government were silent when Mervyn Silva, accused of attacks on media institutions, was appointed the Media Minister of the Rajapaksa government. A wag says they were so scared of the Rajapaksas that they did not open their mouths even for a tooth extraction at that time. We, the members of the so-called Fourth Estate, had to fight quite a battle to knock some sense into President Rajapaksa. Luckily, sanity prevailed at last. But, Mervyn got another ministry in return for his services as a competent bootlicker. The man notorious for his violent disposition and harassing public officials as well as media persons was appointed the Minister of Public Relations!

One is also reminded how the late President J. R. Jayewardene ‘punished’ the errant members of his Cabinet. A powerful minister found himself up the creek and lost his education portfolio owing to his surreptitious moves to help a girl from a wealthy family enter university through the backdoor to study medicine. He was subsequently given the justice portfolio!

Let the holier-than-thou JO heavyweights be told that they also failed as ministers under the previous regime. It was their collective failure which resulted in the defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015. If they had worked hard, kept their hands clean and lived up to public expectations, they would still have been in power.