DEMOCRACY, GOVERNANCE: THE LANKAN WAY!
Posted on August 14th, 2017

with Ravi Ladduwahetty Courtesy Ceylon Today

“I will not agree with what you say. But, I will defend to death, your right to say it. I will not agree with what you write, but, I will make every room for you to write”

– VOLTAIRE

Voltaire was the nom-de-plume of Frenchman François-Marie Arouet (21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778) who was enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his attacks on the established Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and separation of church and state. He was a versatile writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets.

RESIGNATION DRAMA

So, Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake has resigned at last on Thursday for the sins and crimes he has allegedly committed during his tenure as Finance Minister.

He made a very emotional farewell speech following his resignation as a Member of the Cabinet of Ministers and sitting in the rear seats in the Government benches. But the merits of what he said in his special statement, merits conjecture.

He stressed that he resigned on a matter of principle and in the name of democracy and good governance and that history will decide his place in it. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also echoed sentiments of ushering a new era in principled politics in Sri Lanka by Karunanayake’s resignation and all the jazz and the diatribe which went with it !!

This columnist begs to disagree on both counts with both Karunanayake and Wickremesinghe. Did Karunanayake not resign as he had his back to the wall under the circumstances with the daughter of business magnate Nahil Wijesuriya going public on the Monarch apartment?

Had Karunanayake not resigned, even though he was back to the wall, what would have happened had Speaker Karu Jayasuriya proceeded with the No- Confidence Motion? Then, Karunanayake and the Government would have realized the hard way how many friends he had both in the two major parties, the UNP and the SLFP!

Now, we have the news of Minister of Development Assignments. He was a former Minister of law and Order, Prison reforms serving from September 2015 to November 2015, but resigned on the grounds of the Avant Garde.

He resigned on the grounds of the Avant Garde case which is still in Court. This rings a bell! Ravi Karunanayake was sworn in as Finance Minister also at a time when there was a serious Court Case bordering on money laundering

If Karunanayake is still singing hosannas of the virtuous stand that he has taken in resigning, then he should have resigned soon after his name was embroiled in the Monarch Apartment controversy. That should have been Yahapalanaya or Good Governance.

There are countless examples of resignations of Cabinet ranked Ministers for far lesser reasons. There was an Australian Foreign Minister who promptly resigned when he genuinely forgot to declare at Customs a radio that he had brought from overseas for personal use! Seemed to be so trivial! Each time there has been a train derailment in neighbouring India, the Indian Railways Minister who is a Cabinet ranked Minister, resigns. That is democracy and good governance. Not what the unadulterated rubbish and tripe dished out under the incumbent Yahapalanaya dispensation.

There is also the speculation of three other frontrunners to the post in Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake, Minister of Law and Order and Southern Development Sagala Ratnayaka and Deputy Minister of Policy Planning Dr. Harsha de Silva who was Deputy to former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera. If the thinking is that the slot has to be allocated to the UNP, then it is a different story.

But just as much as Ports and Shipping was given to Mahinda Samarasinghe of the SLFP, and if merit and performance was the sole criteria, then one of the best choices would have been Dr. Sarath Leelananda Amunugama, incumbent Minister of Special Assignments. After all, he has the maturity and the insights, having international exposure, having founded and having served as Founding Director of the International Programme for the Development of Communication, a Paris based UNESCO organization. It is also moot to note that his slain Cabinet colleague and fellow Trinitian Lakshman Kadirgamar was also the Founding Director of the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Also, with his vast knowledge on local and international finance, being independent Sri Lanka’s 16th Finance Minister and also later as Minister of International Monetary Cooperation, he could liaise with the two Brettonwoods Institutions the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Whatever the theories and the hypotheses are and were, there were the salted derisory jibes all over the social media on both Karunanayake and Wickremesinghe! With Karunanayake spelling out to the special Presidential Commission on the Bonds Scam that he had forgotten about the Monarch deal! Now, there are postings on Facebook that he has already forgotten that he has resigned as Foreign Minister!

Then, there is also another “salted” barb on the Prime Minister. The anecdote goes to say that the Premier had gone to get a brain scan. The Neurosurgeon who recommended the scan and the Radiologist who did the report have told Sri Lanka’s second citizen that they have some disappointing news for him in that there are two sides to his brain. When the Prime Minister indignantly and innocuously told the Radiologist and the Neurosurgeon that it was the natural case with every human being, the two medical specialists have told him: “Mr. Prime Minister, the issue here is that your brain has something quite different from the normal and average Sri Lankan’s. The issue here is that the left side of your brain has nothing right and the right side of your brain has nothing left!!

The anecdote by itself is humourous and mirth provoking indeed, but indeed a sad reflection and public perception of incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who, (inter alia) has the unique distinction of being the only Sri Lankan Prime Minister in independent Sri Lanka to be a graduate of a Sri Lankan University!

However, if the Prime Minister is talking about returning to the Lichchavi rule and if he is still talking of the good old days of the Parakramabahu era, and if he is taking such high moral ground on all these, he should have resigned first following the Central Bank Bond Scam. After all, it is he who brought the Central Bank under his aegis and purview for whatever the reasons best known to him!

This columnist could be contacted on [email protected]

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