By Shamindra Ferdinando (Cartoons googled and added)
Major civil society organisations that campaigned for Maithripala Sirisena and the UNP at presidential and parliamentary polls in 2015, have looked askance at the government’s first cabinet reshuffle.
The National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) and Purawesi Balaya said that the cabinet reshuffle was certainly meant to appease some members of the SLFP and the UNP.
Prof. Sarath Wijeyasooriya yesterday told The Island that those who had tirelessly worked for the Rajapaksas’ defeat were deeply disappointed by the Cabinet reshuffle. He said the Cabinet reshuffle was a farce. Calling Yahapalana leaders’ conduct disgraceful, the academic alleged that top UNP and SLFP leadership was only interested in advancing their political agendas.
Prof. Wijesooriya said that the ruling UNP-SLFP coalition had conveniently forgotten that a Cabinet reshuffle had been demanded by the civil society. Prof. Wijesooriya said that they believed the Cabinet reshuffle could pave the way for the removal of those who had been accused of corruption irregularities as well as misuse of their portfolios. Instead of cleaning up the Cabinet, the President and the PM exploited the situation to their advantage at the expense of much touted good governance administration.
“We called for the Cabinet reshuffle about seven months ago. Both the President and the PM were urged to replace five Ministers. Unfortunately, three of those Ministers retained their portfolios. Therefore the Cabinet reshuffle was just cosmetic in nature.
Prof. Wijesooriya flayed the government leaders for rewarding UNPer Ravi Karunanayake with foreign ministry portfolio in spite of a spate of serious allegations against him during his tenure as the Finance Minister. The academic asserted that Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s removal to accommodate Ravi Karunanayake could cause catastrophic situation on the diplomatic front. A section of the yahapalana administration had forgotten that the country was under obligation to implement Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by the government in Oct 2015. The possibility of the change at the Foreign Ministry could have far reaching consequences, Prof. Wijesooriya said, alleging that the government action would lead to chaos in vital sectors. Recalling Samaraweera’s role as regards Geneva process, the government couldn’t afford to move away from its commitment.
Wijesooriya insisted that contrary to statements issued by President Sirisena and various other government spokesmen, Cabinet reshuffle hadn’t resulted in any positive change.
Co-Convenor of Purawesi Balaya Gamini Viyangoda faulted the media for not giving sufficient coverage to views contrary to those propagated by the government.
The media lacked strategic thinking, Prof. Wijesooriya said, pointing out the failure on the part of the Joint Opposition and the media to highlight the way former Attorney General UNP National List MP Tilak Marapana had been brought back to the Cabinet. PM Wickremesinghe had cleverly used the President’s desire to introduce some changes to the Cabinet to bring back Marapana to the Cabinet. Both leaders had forgotten that Marapana had no option but to quit law and order portfolios in the wake of civil society groups demanding his resignation for backing controversial Avant Garde Maritime Services (AGMS).
Viyangoda said that instead of rectifying mistakes, the yahapalana government had caused another major blunder by bringing in Marapana. Perhaps, the UNP had given up ports and shipping ministry to appease the SLFP and facilitate Marapana’s Cabinet appointment, Viyangoda said. The civil society activist pointed out that Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC had stayed put in spite of his overt support to the AGMS. “We wanted the government to remove both Rajapaka and Law and Order and Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayake. They retained their portfolios. Sagala should have been removed on the day he directed IGP Pujitha Jayasundera not to arrest one of his associates.”
Viyangoda said Minister Rajapakse had recently thrown his weight behind Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara much to the disappointed of those who had stood for real yahapalana values,Viyangoda said.
The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) questioned former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for over three hours over the abduction of journalist Keith Noyahr yesterday.
The former Defence Secretary was questioned whether he was aware of the abduction of the senior journalist as he was in charge of the security apparatus at the time of the incident.
The CID also questioned Rajapaksa over claims that he intervened in ensuring the release of Noyahr in the wee hours of May 23,2008.
CID sources said the former Defence Secretary will be summoned for another round of questioning soon. Noyahr who was Deputy Editor of The Nation was abducted
on May 22 , 2008 and mercilessly beaten by an unidentified group and held for over seven hours.
Noyahr wrote critical analyses of Sri Lanka’s security situation in his column “Military Matters” under the the pseudonym “Senpathi then.
The CID arrested six Sri Lanka army personnel attached to the Army Intelligence Directorate, in connection with the assault on Noyahr. A Major of the Intelligence unit is also among the suspects.