Brain-dead yahapalanaya has been on life support for the last two and a half years or so and the government keeps postponing elections lest people should pull the plug thereon. That the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration has been practising anything but yahapalanaya (good governance) can be seen from, inter alia, what is being revealed before the presidential commission of inquiry probing bond scams.
Had a presidential probe been conducted into the first bond racket in 2015 following a COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) investigation into it people would have been able to make an informed decision when they voted at the last general election. Unfortunately, President Maithripala Sirisena hurriedly dissolved Parliament before the presentation of the COPE report to the House and people could not realise the sheer magnitude of the bond racket. Worse, the deplorable presidential action paved the way for another mega bond scam the following year.
On Wednesday, former Finance Minister and current Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake appeared before the bond probe commission at long last. It is heartening that the Attorney General’s Department counsel have proved that the country is not devoid of intrepid, intelligent public officials capable of taking on political heavyweights without fear or favour.
A badly cornered Karunanayake claimed that he had not been aware that Arjun Aloysius of Perpetual Treasuries fame made the lease payment for his family’s penthouse. He said his wife had arranged for the lease at issue without his knowledge and Aloysius had been duly reimbursed subsequently. Curiouser and curiouser! Husbands are such an inquisitive lot that they don’t even savour a pudding at home without asking their wives who has made it or brought it.
However, we don’t intend to subject anyone who appears before the bond probe commission to a media trial. The learned commissioners have already made some stinging remarks on Karunanayake’s testimony. The matter is best left to them. Suffice it to say that one can deceive anyone except the person one sees in the mirror. People, having drawn their own conclusions, are eagerly waiting to read the commission report to be prepared in a few months.
It may be recalled that Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the last presidential election mainly because of the very serious allegations his detractors including Karunanayake levelled against his family. They were accused of having amassed huge amounts of ill-gotten wealth. The yahapalana big guns also claimed Rajapaksa’s sons were riding a ‘golden horse’ in cooler climes and driving Lamborghinis and other members of his family had built ‘palaces’.
There have been serious allegations against several Joint Opposition heavyweights who are summoned by the CID and the FCID almost on a daily basis. Some of them have also been remanded. Can they also go scot free by passing the responsibility for the shady deals they are accused of on to their spouses?
The fate that befell the powerful Rajapaksa government shows that what really matters in electoral politics is not the justiciability or provability of an allegation but the public perception thereof. The bond scams and all other wrongs the present administration is alleged to have committed are now before the people’s court, where Citizen Perera, a Daniel come to judgment, wields the judicial gavel. His verdicts make or break governments!
Public opinion, we repeat, does matter more than judicial decisions anent allegations against powerful politicians. That was why Julius Caesar famously said after divorcing his wife for her failure to be above suspicion and reproach: “My wife should be as much free from suspicion of a crime as she is from a crime itself.” Politicians who don’t want their careers ruined must ensure that their better halves heed Caesar’s admonition.
It will be interesting to see whether parliamentarians, especially the yahapalana types, will act according to their conscience, if any, when a vote is taken on the no-faith motion the Joint Opposition has handed over to the Deputy Secretary General of Parliament against beleaguered Karunanayake.