Posted on September 11th, 2017

Random Notes with Ravi Ladduwahetty Courtesy Ceylon Today

“In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
― – Principal author of the US declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson

Today, this columnist debates the role of the public servant in a powerful bureaucracy and the degree of compliance that he/she is expected to perform along with his/her discretion in that role.

This debate comes hot on the heels of senior civil servant Lalith Weeratunga who as Secretary to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and former Director-General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Anusha provided Rs 600 Million worth of Sil Redi (the white attire which is used in the practice of observing and reflecting the eight precepts on Poya Days) off State funds as a part of the 2014 Presidential Polls Campaign and for the promotion of the then sitting President Mahinda Rajapaksa and who are now serving a jail sentence of three years each where they are rigourously imprisoned, for serving the orders of the boss (Read President Mahinda Rajapaksa)

Of course, we very well know that Lalith Weeratunga was following the directions of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, that the former President did not gift the sil redi to gain merit for his next life time, to be eligible to be born as a human being! That was purely electioneering and also to boost his public image and ego. That also went the same way as the thousands of people whom he got dined and wined at State expense and also with the tax payer’s money, again not to gain merit to be born as a human being in the next life time!


This is in sharp contrast to the response and the attitude of the former Secretary to the Ministry of Media and Parliamentary Affairs Nimal Bopage (now Additional Secretary to the President heading media and Chairman of the Geological and Mines Bureau) who flatly refused to sign the documents which was to approve a Rs 600,000 monthly rental each for Members of Parliament (who were not Cabinet Ministers or Deputy Ministers) who did not have vehicles and for whom the Government did not give vehicles. Whatever the theories are and were, this amount could also be debated as one would have had to spend a maximum of say Rs 200,000 monthly, even for a Montero or a Prado!

The basis of former Secretary to the Ministry of Media and Parliamentary Affairs Nimal Bopage refusing to sign was and the argument that the tenders for the vehicles were called by the Ministry of Finance (before the Media was also tagged to it as it is now) and that the documentation should have been also approved by the Finance Ministry under the circumstances. He indignantly asked as to why he should be merely the rubber stamp as the signatory to the agreements when the tenders were called by the Finance Ministry! He said that it would have been a different story had the original tendering for the vehicles were done by his Media and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry! So, in contrast, the heart of the matter here is a classic case of a senior public servant who stood his ground like a vertebrate!


Now, comes the conjecture. Lalith Weeratunga may have complied with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s orders. But the discretion of following the directive or not, was Weeratunga’s. He could not have said, I did it on behalf of the President and I was under orders and that Rajapaksa should also be implicated as he was the cause of the theft!

That excuse is as lame and could be akin to this columnist saying that he robbed to feed his family and that the family should also implicated because the crime was committed on behalf of the family! One does not see that type of crap even in comic books!

Anyway, for all his political opponents who are still under the blissful impression that Rajapaksa should also be serving a prison sentence, they should also be aware that President Rajapaksa could not be tried or charged or sued in a Court of Law under Article 35 of the Constitution! That is to be sued for crimes committed in retrospect. However, if there are other accomplices in either his family or friends, they could be sued. That is the legal aspect of it. But, the ethical and moral aspect of the entire exercise is a different matter.

However, Weeratunga and Pelpita have one safety net. That is whether they have been asked to proceed with the transaction details and the distribution of the sil redi and cloths under duress. It could be that Weeratunga and Pelpita would have been told under pressure. For instance, there has been no evidence that Weeratunga’s Attorney has told Court that he was asked to proceed with the transactions or that a White Van would have been sent to his house or that he would have been terminated from his job! That also has not happened.

So, both Weeratunga and Pelpita committed the crime, irrespective of the fervour of the Sil cloths, did it under their discretion and they have to face the punishment as well.

Now, comes the biggest jokes of the century. This is where MPs Gammnapila and Bandula Gunawardena are fighting to have the Rs 50 million fine each for both Weeratunga to be paid by the members of the public! There are also derogatory posts on Facebook and other social media that moves are afoot for the collection of the Rs 50 million each to redeem the duo from the extension of the three-year jail sentence. But, one thing is for sure.

They have to pay the Rs 50 million fine. Cynics also say that they have to pay the fine as well after allowing the duo to fleece Rs 600 Million , which could have been put to more productive use like repairing some school classrooms and others.

This is indeed a good lesson for all public servants. They should always be aware that they need not always be servile to do the bidding of the Master subject to their conscience. All this is a part of the Second Republican Constitution in 1978 which enabled the Executive to appoint public servants.

Prior to that, it was the Public Service Commission which appointed and or removed all members of the Public Service and they were in a respectable work environment, not serving as doormats for politicos to wipe their feet on!

This columnist could be contacted at ravi.ladduwahetty@ceylontoday.lk


  1. Dilrook Says:

    The lesson is public servants must not follow illegal orders of their political masters.

    The implication is others that are in remand custody or out freely but interrogated over Lasantha, Thajudeen, Siriliya Saviya, Tharunyata Hetak, etc. are in panic. Their families are also in panic. They know the fate of Lalith and Anusha awaits them unless they “pass the buck”. As a result, they will pass the buck than suffer prison terms. This is the real deal.

    This is why Udaya, Bandula and others in the JO are in panic.

  2. Senerath Says:

    It is known that SIL REDI Maha Pinkama was conducted even before the Prez election, that is during UVA Palaath Sabha elections. There is a letter written by the elction comminsioner to SLFP ( inlcudes current PResident’s name) warning it. SIL REDI could be a idea of SLFP secratary that time Mythree Paala.

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