YAHAPALANA AS A PUPPET REGIME Part 7
Posted on December 18th, 2018

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Part 1.

President Sirisena speaking to the Sri Lanka Foreign Correspondents’ Association (FCA) at his official residence in Colombo on 26.11.18 said that the political unrest that occurred in the country after October 26 is not something sudden. The removal of Wickremesinghe was a result of several incidents that stretched over a long period of time. The President reiterated that he would never reappoint Ranil Wickremesinghe to the post of Prime Minister.

Following is the full text of President Sirisena’s speech: The appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister and removal of Ranil Wickremesinghe from the post of Prime Minister. This was not a sudden occurrence. It was the result of several incidents that stretched over a long period of time. I assumed duties as President on January 9, 2015. Immediately afterwards, Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed Prime Minister even though he had only 41 members of Parliament. This had done after removing D.M. Jayaratne from the post of Prime Minister when he had 162 members out of a total membership of 225 in Parliament. I offered Ranil Wickremesinghe all facilities and privileges to enable him to function as Prime Minister. (Daily News 27.11.18 p 2)

Within the first week itself, namely, the third week in January 2015, a disagreement occurred between the two of us about our work plan. It was about the appointment of a Cabinet of Ministers. My election manifesto clearly stated that according to the Yahapalana concept, a Cabinet of Ministers would be appointed according to a scientific basis.

The speech continued, This was in keeping with a report formulated by a three-member committee of university dons chaired by Prof. Hettige. I gave this report to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and said Ministers should be appointed according to it. But Wickremesinghe ignored it and divided subjects between Ministers in an arbitrary manner. An example was the Higher Education and Highways Ministry. When I visited foreign countries within the first year of office and held discussions at diplomatic level to reach development agreements, they questioned me as to whether Higher Education and Highways were in tandem.

Sirisena continued,” From 1947 state banks had functioned under the purview of the Finance Minister. For the first time in history, Wickremesinghe took state banks away from this Finance Ministry. The Central Bank had always been under the Finance Minister. But the Prime Minister took the Central Bank under his wing. Then the Cultural Ministry was bifurcated and one of its sections was created as Internal Affairs and Wayamba Development. Certain institutions were linked to the Education Ministry. Ministers were not divided in a scientific basis. This was the first clash.

Then came the appointment of the Central Bank Governor. When he proposed the name of Arjuna Mahendran, I told him that Mahendran was not a Sri Lanka resident. But as Economic Policy and Planning Minister, Wickremesinghe insisted on appointing Arjuna Mahendran and pleaded with me to appoint him as Central Bank Governor. Finally I acceded to his request and appointed Arjuna Mahendran as Governor against my wish.

But as you know, just three months after I became President and he became Prime Minister, the first Central Bank fraud occurred and it was a grave one. Another Central Bank fraud occurred just three months afterwards. A Presidential Commission was appointed to look into it and evidence was heard. Arjuna Mahendran is the first defendant in this case and he is in hiding today. Ranil Wickremesinghe knows Mahendran’s whereabouts, because he was his good friend. An international warrant has been issued for Mahendran’s arrest. Wickremesinghe did not show any interest in getting Mahendran to surrender to court.

This was the biggest and the largest robbery of state funds which led to mass protests. It was to calm down the situation that I appointed a Presidential Commission to probe the Central Bank bond scam. When protests against the bond scam heightened, the Central Bank’s functions got disrupted. Arjuna Mahendran, instead of resigning from the post, went on leave. Around 8 am in the morning, I spoke to a Central Bank Deputy Governor and said I will come over around 10 am. When I got ready to visit the Central Bank, an employee informed me that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had arrived to see me. Wickremesinghe never visited me unannounced. But on this day I saw that he was restless and under deep mental stress.

I asked him why he had come suddenly. Then he asked me whether I was going to the Central Bank. I told him I had decided to go there to calm down the situation since the employees there were unsettled. As I got down from my car near the Central Bank, Arjuna Mahendran, who was on leave, came and received me with a sheaf of betel leaves. I didn’t not care about it because Mahendran was an accused by then. When I moved a few feet forward, I came across Ranil Wickremesinghe. He must have got Mahendran to come and receive me. I spoke to the Central Bank staff and told them to be calm and start work, promising an investigation to settle all problems.

Sirisena continued, I hope to appoint a Presidential Commission to probe fraud and corruption committed during the government from 2015 to October 25, 2018, when Ranil Wickremesinghe was Prime Minister. More startling facts may emerge when it starts investigations. Another extremely corrupt deal of recent times was the EAP transaction relating to Swarnawahini which belonged to the Central Bank. Ranil Wickremesinghe without informing the Cabinet called for tenders through his economic management committee to sell EAP (Private) Ltd.

Sirisena said, “The highest bidders were local businessmen who quoted US dollars 65 million and 70 million. But EAP Ltd was sold to a Singaporean company for US dollars 35 million incurring a large loss to the government. Large sums were given as pay offs to several local politicians. The Hilton transaction was another corrupt deal.  Then the proposed Lands (Special Provisions) Act and the Land Bank were not approved by the Cabinet. I halted both because they were against indigenous principles.

Sirisena said, The situation became more serious when the alleged plot to assassinate me came to light. The individual who gave the information also submitted a tape. The informant also named a Cabinet Minister. The IGP before conducting any investigation said the allegation was suspicious. Two months had passed after beginning an investigation into the plot, but to date Ranil Wickremesinghe has not asked me anything about it. Social media networks friendly with the Prime Minister were ridiculing this alleged plot as a mere comedy. Against such a background I could not move forward with Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister.

Sirisena concluded, Appointing a new Prime Minister, removal of the former Prime Minister, dissolution of Parliament, proroguing of Parliament, and dissolution of the Cabinet of Ministers have all been done in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution. All these actions have not been challenged in court except the dissolution of Parliament. I will never appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister again in my whole life. I have told them not to bring Ranil Wickremesinghe to me along with them even if they show a majority because I will never reappoint him. This is not a personal clash, but a clash of principles. As I see it, Ranil Wickremesinghe does not seem to love his country. He loves neo-liberalism.  (end of speech)

Part 2

The appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister was completely legal. That is why Ranil Wickremasinghe did not challenge the appointment in court. The appointment was  greatly welcomed by the public. Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council says he was in Anuradhapura in November 2018. The manager of the hotel he stayed in had told him, when asked, that the people were happy that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had been shown the door and they were also happy that former president Rajapaksa had been appointed in his place. During his brief time in office, the highly experienced Mahinda Rajapaksa and his cabinet took decisions which  helped the public such as the reduction of fuel price.

Following is the text of the speech delivered by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Prime Minister’s Office:”What we did on the 26th of October was to form an interim government that would have lasted only until the conclusion of the general election that has already been declared, but temporarily put on hold by the courts. We never had any intention of running an administration through the government that has been formed at present. The whole country can see that only a few members of the Joint Opposition hold office in this government. That is because this is only an interim arrangement. I have been stressing ever since I took oaths as Prime Minister that our foremost aim was to go for an election in order to establish a stable government. However the objective of the other side is to revive the previous government and to rule the country for as long as possible without holding any election at all. That is the reason for the present political situation. (Island 26.11.18 p 4)

“Some people ask me why I accepted office when there was less than 18 months to go for the next elections. I have heard members of the UNP saying that if I had been patient for another 18 months, I could have won the ensuing election with a two thirds majority. We did not form a government to continuously administer the country but to hold a general election. The President explained in his address to the nation that he appointed me as the Prime Minister only after things reached a stage where he had absolutely no other option. When the government is entrusted to me in such circumstances, I cannot in all fairness, shun the responsibility. This was not a question of political power. The fate of our country and the future of our younger generation were at stake.

“Furthermore if after everything was said and done, it was still we who would have to assume that responsibility anyway, there was much to be said for assuming office before further damage was inflicted upon the country. The President dissolved Parliament and paved the way for a general election. But the UNP filed action in courts and got the elections put off. If things had gone according to the gazette notification issued by the President, by now the elections authorities would have started accepting nominations. The UNP will continue to engage in disruptive activates until the Supreme Court decides whether anyone’s fundamental rights had been infringed by the declaration of a general election.

“The former finance minister claims that the economy is on a downward trend because of the change of government. The President invited me to take over the government precisely because of the collapse of the economy during the previous government. In such circumstances, what any democratic country would do is to hold a general election and have a new government elected to power. Because the President was in our government he knows how we handled difficult situations. We managed to find the money to fight the war. We managed to complete a large number of major development projects that no previous government had been able to get off the ground. We did not allow the people to feel the effects of the 2007 world food crisis. Even though the worst global economic recession since the 1930s took place in 2008, the people of Sri Lanka were not even aware that there was such a worldwide recession.

Even though the world prices of crude oil rose to levels never seen before or since during those years, we managed to minimize the fallout from the global oil crisis as well. Within a period of nine years, my government increased the US Dollar per capita income of the country threefold. The average economic growth rate during those years was 7.4%. The exchange rate was Rs. 131 to the US Dollar. The debt to GDP ratio was 70%. On the 9th January 2015 we handed over to the new UNP government an economically stable country. Four years later however the country is now in a perilous state. The most serious aspect of the economic crisis facing this country today is the foreign currency debt burden.

When I assumed office as President for the first time in 2005, there was a war in the country. However the economy was not in such a bad state as it is now. At that time too, the debt to GDP ratio was 90% but the proportion of foreign currency debt was not as high as at present. I made it a point to inform the people from time to time in writing, of the foreign currency loans that the UNP government was taking through various sources such as Sri Lanka Development Bonds, Sovereign Bonds, Syndicated Loans, Currency swaps etc., because I knew that once we were back in power, this debt burden would be the biggest problem that we would have to face. Within a period of about three and a half years, the Yahapalana government had taken a total of more than UDS 20.7 billion in foreign currency loans alone. Due to this debt burden, it will take a while to turn things around. It should be plain to everyone that those who are trying to revive the previous government and rule without holding elections, are incapable of turning this country around. It was they who destroyed the stable economy that we had created. This is why they are so reluctant to hold elections.

“In 2006, after the war with the LTTE resumed, the people of this country, the trade unions, consumers, professionals, businessmen and all sections of the population made it a point to refrain from doing anything that would disrupt the war effort. It is because of that public support that we were able to end the war that no one else was able to bring to an end. I wish to request the people to extend to us the kind of support they gave us during the war, in order to get this country out of the economic crisis it is now in. This is the last opportunity we have. If our effort fails, this country will end up like Greece.

“We will have to work on the assumption that there is a situation of national calamity with regard to the economy. We will have to put a stop to burdening the people with taxes on the one hand and then spending lavish amounts on importing vehicles for ministers, spending money on ceremonies and excessive amounts on foreign travel as the UNP government was wont to do. I have to make it clear that after the next general elections, we will have to appoint a suitable number of ministers so as to be able to have a stable government. Before everything else, this country has to have a stable government. However that new government will have to keep expenditure under strict control.

“The President and the people of this country know that only we can extricate this country from the crisis it is in. After we assumed power in November 2005, we had to face many challenges. When we obtained a loan of USD 500 million from the HSBC in 2007 at the height of the war, the UNP surrounded the bank and told them not to give us that loan and if they did, the money would not be repaid under a UNP government. In April 2009 when the war was in its final stages, an IMF loan to which were entitled as a member state was delayed.

“At that stage, I spoke to a friendly Middle Eastern country and obtained a pledge of USD 500 million and we were able to work around that obstacle. Soon afterwards, Prabhakaran died, the IMF released the loan and we never had to take the USD 500 million that had been pledged by the friendly Middle Eastern country. The former finance minister says that the credit ratings agency Moodys has downgraded Sri Lanka. It would have been surprising if they didn’t. In 2015 when we handed the country over to the UNP, all those ratings were going up. They started coming down only after 2015.  “I have to say that there is a subtle political element in these ratings as well. In 2009, immediately after the war when our credit ratings should have gone up, we were downgraded. But the markets had complete confidence in our government and no one took any notice of the downgrade.

The President entrusted the country to us because he knows that we have the capacity to meet such challenges as well. The UNP too is well aware of that fact – which is why they speak to foreign journalists and diplomats on a daily basis in a campaign to convince the outside world that it is undemocratic to hold a general election. They know that if a general election is held and a government led by us comes into power, we will solve all these problems. The government that we will form together with the President will be a powerful and people oriented government.

“It is now barely a month since the change of government on 26 October. What we have now is only an interim government. When a downward trend manifests itself, it is difficult to turn things around in a month or two. As the general election which would have enabled the people to elect a stable government has been delayed, it will take some time for a stable government to be formed. During this interim period, I request the people to stand by us and to participate in the effort to restore economic stability to this country. The people will remember that during our period of rule between 2006 and 2014, we took every measure possible to avoid imposing heavy burdens on the people. This is why we reduced the price of fuel and some essential foodstuffs soon after assuming office on October 26. We reintroduced the fertilizer subsidy and reduced taxes on agricultural incomes so as to reduce the burden on the people and to increase production.

“The people living in this country are aware of the difference in the situation that prevailed before 2015 and after 2015. The Cabinet Spokesman of the previous government has publicly stated on numerous occasions that in 2015, the people had not voted for a change of government due to any lack of food and clothing. He said that the people voted for a change in 2015 for the sake of democracy. But after that change of government, the people ended up without democracy, without the right to vote and without food and clothing as well. Is that not what happened? The endeavour that we are engaged in now is Sri Lanka’s last chance to come out of the crisis it is in. Let us all join hands to defeat the forces that seek to destroy this country by perpetuating their rule without holding elections.” (end of statement)

Part 3

The Yahapalana puppet regime, received another shock when in November 2018, President Sirisena dissolved Parliament and set a date for a general election in January 2019. But to Yahapalana’s great relief, Supreme Court declared in its judgment of December 2018 that this action was irregular. Yahapalana government could continue. Mahinda Rajapaksa must resign.

Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned from the post of Prime Minister. He did so with unexpected aplomb, before television cameras. This shows that at long last, the Rajapaksa group has become image conscious and media savvy. The resignation was choreographed. The sangha chanted pirit. There was also a blessing by a Hindu religious person and an Islam religious person, followed by a speech on the lawn with Rajapaksa showing greater confidence and poise than  before.

The media reported, ‘On Saturday morning, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa recorded a speech to the nation announcing his resignation from the position of Prime Minister on the lawn of his residence in the presence of a crowd of SLPP and UPFA politicians. The video and the text of the speech were released to the press immediately under the title “Our pledge to the people.”

Here is a full translation of his resignation speech. Today however, I wish to speak on the political implications of not being able to hold the general election that had already been declared. We are now in direct confrontation with a group of political parties that have continuously engaged in various subterfuges to avoid facing elections. When this group of political parties tried to get the local government elections postponed indefinitely by petitioning courts over the delimitation of wards, we were able to hold the local government election only because the Chairman of the Elections Commission intervened and declared that he would hold elections at least in respect of the local government institutions that had no delimitation issues pending before courts. If not for that intervention, the people would not have got even the local government election. (Sunday Island  16.12.18 p 5)

Elections to Provincial Councils have been delayed by more than one year and three months, but no one has an inkling of when those long overdue elections will be held. The law has been manipulated in such a way that those elections will be put off indefinitely. In September 2017, when the Attorney General said that a two thirds majority will be necessary to pass the law designed to postpone the Provincial Council elections, the then government kept Parliament going till night time and with great effort, mustered the necessary number of MPs to get the law passed. So desperate were they, that when some smaller political parties said they would not vote for the law unless the proportional representation quota was increased from 40% to 50%, the government agreed to that demand in the corridors of Parliament so as to get the required number of votes. They had to perform demeaning contortions to get the provincial council elections postponed.

It was only on 12 December when a resolution was passed expressing confidence in Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe and requesting that he be appointed Prime Minister that the people of the country were able to see the real state of things. A total of 117 MPs voted calling for Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe to be appointed as Prime Minister. Fourteen of those votes belong to the TNA. So what has actually happened here is that the UNP which has a minority of 103 seats, has been taken hostage by the TNA. If they do not adhere to the diktat of the TNA, the UNP minority can lose their parliamentary majority at any moment. The TNA now holds the remote control in Parliament.

On 12 December, even before the Supreme Court judgement was delivered, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe spoke in Parliament about bringing in a new constitution. This new constitution has already been drafted and published in the newspapers as well. Under the provisions of that draft constitution, this country will be divided into nine semi-independent federal units. The new constitution will also abolish the executive presidency which means that the presidential election that is due before the 9th December 2019 will not have to be held. The new constitution will also change the system of electing MPs to Parliament which means that the parliamentary election due in 2020 can also be postponed citing delimitation issues the same way that the provincial council elections have been put off indefinitely. That is what they are now preparing for.

After we formed a government on 26 October, the President declared a general election. When I was sworn in as Prime Minister on 26 October that was to form an interim government that would last only for about two months until the conclusion of the general election which was scheduled for the 5th January 2019. A President cannot stand by and do nothing when the whole country was facing destruction at the hands of the people running the government. When the main opposition force which is in effect the alternative government is invited to form an interim government that will last until the conclusion of a general election, such a request cannot be turned down either. Furthermore, a minority government would more than suffice to run things till the conclusion of a general election.

What we are confronted with now, is an attempt to rule the country without holding any kind of election. Since a general election can no longer be held, we cannot implement any of the measures we had planned to take to prevent this country from becoming another Greece. The UNP government borrowed 20.7 billion US Dollars in foreign currency loans alone within a period of three and a half years, and we have no idea as to how much more they will borrow in the coming months. The UNP brought our economy to the brink of collapse through such foreign currency borrowings. Even though some have expressed the view that it will be possible to minimize the damage done by the UNP because the President is no longer with them, we must realize that there is much that the UNP-TNA coalition can do without informing the President.

We should bear in mind that back in 2002, the then UNP government signed a cease-fire agreement with the LTTE without informing President Chandrika Kumaratunga. After the 26th October, we were able to reduce the pressure on the people by bringing down the price of fuel and some essential food items and restoring the distribution of school uniform material. We restored the fertilizer subsidy and reduced income taxes on agricultural incomes to encourage agricultural production. We were also able to take certain measures to address the concerns of  young professionals in this country over the Sri Lanka – Singapore Free Trade Agreement entered into by the previous government. Even though a general election will not be held, it must be said that the events that took place after the 26th of October have benefitted the public in other ways.

 The most important thing that happened during this period was that the two thirds majority in Parliament that was available to the UNP to be used at will, is now no longer available to them. Therefore it is now possible to prevent the passage of the new constitution that has been drafted by the same individuals who turned this country into an ungovernable mess through the 19th Amendment. Furthermore it has now become possible to end the totalitarian system that prevailed in Parliament over the past four years, with partners of the government taking over the position of opposition leader and chief opposition whip and masquerading as the opposition while supporting the government. As a result of that dangerous perversion, the Constitutional Council which recommends candidates for appointment to high office, was made up of representatives of one political persuasion. Consequently all appointees to high office over the past four years belonged to the same group. The whole country is now suffering the consequences of that situation.

 Since I have no intention of remaining as Prime Minister without a general election being held, and in order to not hamper the President in any way, I will resign from the position of Prime Minister and make way for the President to form a new government. When I was sworn in as Prime Minister, on 26 October, a feeling of optimism swept through the country. The All Share Price Index which had declined after 2015, suddenly picked up on expectations of a change of government. The LMD-Nielson Business Confidence Index recorded the sharpest increase after 2015 in November 2018. Despite the political turmoil in the country after 26 October, tourist arrivals had increased by 16% in November 2018 when compared with the same period in 2017. Those trends which took place despite the political instability in the country after 26 October are a clear indication of what the people’s hopes and aspirations are.

The change of government that the people expected has now had to be put off. But the people will definitely get the change they desire. No one can prevent that. The coming together of the Joint Opposition and the SLFP group that was in the government has now created a power block that commands around 54% of the vote base. To this will have to be added the votes of our allied political parties in the North and East and the hill country. What is now gathering against the enemies of the country is a country wide political force that no one can stop. Our main aim in the immediate future will be to hold the Provincial Council elections which have already been delayed by more than one year and three months. The main challenge facing us in the interval between now and the formation of a people’s government will be to minimize the damage that can be done by the destructive forces that are now seeking restoration to their former positions. There is no doubt at all that the people who stood by us since 2015, will continue to support us in the future as well. We will bring the forces opposed to the country down to their knees by organising the people. ( end of speech)

Part 4

After Rajapaksa resigned, a chastened Ranil Wickremasinghe took office  once again as Prime Minister on  15.12.18.   The event was not open to the media. But something far more interesting happened after the swearing in.

President Sirisena sat the UNP group down and made a lengthy speech in which he repeated all the charges he had made against Ranil Wickremasinghe at a Pohottu function. He said so in the hearing of Ranil Wickremasinghe. He even said he was going to write a book and put into it all the things that Ranil Wickremasinghe had done. The camera focused on Ranil Wickremasinghe face at this point. Ranil grimaced. The UNP group listened to this  speech silently, with long faces, but did not dare walk out. The event was  videoed and  televised .  The cameras were ready. This meeting is, in my view, a rather unique occurrence  . It may qualify for a Guinness record.  Has such a thing happened anywhere else.

Here is the President’s speech in full.  The source is http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2018/12/17/sirisena-says-itll-be-very-hard-to-go-on-a-collective-journey-with-a-corrupt-unp/

The January 08, 2015 Presidential election was an extraordinary people’s victory achieved through a challenging election campaign. In that victory, the people of the country had many of their hopes and expectations. As of now, with the completion of almost four years, we have had several achievements as a government that have a significant place in history. At the same time, there were many disastrous acts, corruption and disturbing incidents as well. We are pleased that we fulfill some of the aspirations of the people during this period. At the same time we could not take the country to the level the people expected us to take. Now, I do not know how far we will be able to achieve those expectations.

From the date of the victory of 2015 election, the promises of our election manifesto have floundered since the date of the swearing-in of the Cabinet of Ministers. According to our Election Manifesto, ministries had to be allocated on a scientific basis. Not only that, a team of experts had been appointed for that responsibility and necessary document was prepared. But, I do not know, if that document was even looked at.

In the past, most of us have witnessed most unfortunate situations. When it comes to progressive results, I see the establishment of democracy in the country and the freedom of the people, the 19th amendment and the establishment of independent commissions. I see only those steps as progress in the country. On the other side, today I only see a huge political crisis. It is uncertain to me whether the appointment of independent commissions and selection of some persons to positions under the 19th Amendment to Constitution were done impartially. The Constitution Council has to appoint the Chief Justice, the Attorney General and the Inspector General Police. The main thing I noticed was when the names of senior most judges were submitted for the judiciary appointments, they were rejected.

There is an allegation among the judges in the judiciary service that I do not give appointments in accordance with seniority. I should clearly state that I have sent every single name of those who level those charges against me, but the Constitutional Council has rejected those names. In that situation, there has been injustice to those who hold seniority in the field of judiciary. Therefore, the question arises as to how impartial the Constitutional Council has been when appointing of Judges.

As a result of the previous government’s serious misdeeds President Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated, which was the first time a President was defeated, and I was elected as the President by 6,250,000 people voting for me. What was opposed in the previous government was corruption and fraud. But the new people’s government that was elected by the people, plundered the Central Bank within three months. In the two cases reported in 2015, our fight against corruption was destroyed. So, Yahapalana (good governance) political concept has been destroyed. The citizen’s Yahapalana (good governance) expectation has been destroyed.

I spoke to the Central Bank Governor this morning by telephone and asked him as to where was the Forensic Audit, which was a major recommendation made by the Presidential Commission. Until today nothing has been done. As such the total financial loss to the Central Bank robbery cannot be estimated. The Commission Report says this fraud has happened over several years.

Then, economic experts told me about this last week and told me that this massive robbery had been over Rs 1,000 billion for many years. And, in this issue, Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe clearly knows that I was opposed to the appointment of Mr. Arjuna Mahendran. But, I did not want any conflict with Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe and I appointed Mr. Arjuna Mahendran because of his strongest demand. Therefore, I too came under the allegation that I should take the responsibility. The fraud that has taken place under Mr. Arjuna Mahendran has ignited the country like a wildfire. Mr. Arjuna Mahendran is missing today. The plan for his arrest was not implemented properly. The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and other officials who assisted the Presidential Commission on Central Bank robbery were threatened. There were pressures and some of the officials came under various investigations.

On 26th October, I appointed Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. Four days before that an amendment to the Bribery and Corruption Commission Act was presented to Parliament in order to punish the suspects who plundered the Central Bank. This was recommended by the Attorney General’s Department but the proposed Amendment, which was first sent last year was in a cupboard for more than five months. I reminded about this to the Minister of Justice Thalatha Atukorale and Minister Kiriella several times. Finally, with great difficulty, I could get Minister Kiriella to submit it to Parliament. But eventually, the debate on its amendment was postponed indefinitely. Because of this delay, the Act could not be changed. Now it will not happen and the Central Bank robbery that cost billions of rupees for over 15 or 20 years will not be investigated and the guilty are not being punished. Money cannot be recovered. This is a serious issue today.

‘The CCEM that was established with a decision of the Cabinet. However, the CCEM has led to the rise of many issues. In reality, I have been too grateful to the Prime Minister, that he actually enjoyed the powers of the President. I did not ask about his conduct. He acted in this same manner in dealings with international leaders and trade agreements. Mr. Wickremasinghe sued powers that he had not been vested with by the 19th Amendment.  But I waited patiently as a man with gratitude. I appointed a Commission on the Singapore trade agreement. I received its recommendations last week. According to that, there are lot of weaknesses. I am not going to explain them in detail at this moment. Particularly, in one paragraph mentions how the agreement has been entered into without concurrence of relevant agencies such as trade, ports, industry and finance. Therefore, the Singapore trade agreement is a major problem today. I suppose is that it should be suspended temporarily by government .I am not sure if this agreements needs to be amended or completely revoked after seeking the opinion of experts. We must be correct in the future.

I must tell you another matter. Within the past four years, in matters of eradicating bribery and corruption, I told, and as I always said there are certain very strong and powerful forces related to religion, customs, language etc. Mostly, it is those cultural forces, than political forces, that make or break governments. I clearly pointed out in the recent past in the matter regarding filing cases against Bikkhus need to be done carefully. There were no elephants for the Perahera from temples or Dewala and that amounted to a huge socio-religious and cultural resistance over this. As such, I asked to study the legality and release the elephants. Over this issue, we lost the whole Bhikkhu community.

I must also clearly mention about imprisoning the members of the Tri forces. I asked not to imprison our soldiers who have fought in battles and defeated terrorism; but nobody listened to me. Today, they ask us to punish our soldiers, from all over the world, yet there are  no punishments for the people of Prabhakaran who have destroyed our country. Even today, there are bigger hands of L.T.T.E. freely roaming around in the world. The same international forces point fingers at us, but they are the ones who committed all these wrongdoings. But they still demand conducting enquires against our forces. They accuse us of violating human rights and international laws.

But , they killed nearly one lakh members of our tri-forces, police, civil security forces as well as a President of this country. So where is a programme to find and bring to justice those who have committed all these gross violations and now hiding in various parts of the world? The international community is silent about it. Not even anyone in the country talks about it.  If the members of our security forces are to be punished, they should also be punished. If not, both sides should agree to remove those punishments. Here, I clearly hold a firm idea that the forces should be freed after discussing with the international community. There is a request that Tamil prisoners should be released. We held several discussions. If the Tamil prisoners are to be freed, then our soldiers too.

During the recent incidents, your debaters said that I will be dragged and be murdered like Kaddafi. Some of your MPs said, I will be also burned in my own house with my family. The NGO operatives who were holding press conferences also said so. Why do they say that? No state leader in this country had been called like this. There were severe issues in the country during the tenure of President J.R. Jayawardena who was considered as a very strict ruler. I was imprisoned since I spoke against J.R. Jayawardhana’s government.

Even J.R.Jayawardena was not addressed like this; President Premadasa was not called like this. How many misdeeds were committed against Chandrika Bandaranaike? Nobody talked to them like that. Nobody said Mahinda Rajapaksa will be dragged like Gaddafi. I was called like that since I am the only person who would silently watch upon such acts. If the former leaders including J.R. were called upon like that nobody will be able to save their lives. But they know that the house of a man like me could be burnt down and person like me could be dragged liked that.

Just as there are good people, there are criminals and underworld gangs. It was those evil forces that made those barbaric pronouncements. I did not see anyone of you make a statement about the conspiracy to assassinate me. The conspiracy has not yet been proven, but it has certain details that should be clearly addressed. Since the police are running under me these days, there is a big progress in these issues. Yet the biggest misery is that the murder conspiracy against the President of the country was taken up in the courts, there was no single person of the Criminal Investigations Department to be found in the premises.

When I issued some gazette notifications recently, I did so with the advice of expert lawyers and constitutional experts. All what I did was done with utmost good faith. I didn’t do any of those acts with any malefic thought or with an intention of violating the constitution. The country was in a huge political turmoil. The best solution to solve the problem was to enter in to an election. It was only 122 members of Parliament who signed this letter. But there are 155 lakhs of voters in this country. I know the power of all these 15.5 million voters is much stronger than 122 members of the Parliament. That is why I reached that decision. If I am to be punished for such pure intentions or if an impeachment is to be brought against me, then it is a different issue.

Nevertheless, the truth will be written in the history as words carved in stone. Even though the courts delivered such a judgment, my intention was to empower the 15.5 million people eligible to vote. I know the citizens of this country are stronger than the number of 122 Parliamentarians, who refused an election. Hence, I have no worry about giving any punishment to me. I am a person who has been nearly killed five to six times in my political career. First, I was almost killed in 71, when the Principal of my school gave my name to the authorities, even though I have no connection with JVP, they labeled me as Che Guevara follower, and after beating me, they put me in the Batticaloa Prison. That was the first instance when God saved me.

When all these started in 1971, I was only 19 years of age. At present my age is 67 years. Since the age of 19, I have been living with a bonus opportunity. It is God who has saved me five times. Thus, persons who wish to assassinate me like Gaddafi can fulfill their wish. I have no objection to that. I will not take action to shoot them by deploying the Army and S.T.F. I will remain silent at any time if such an incident occurred. I will open the gate when I get to know that they are coming for me. I will order the Army and S.T.F to leave the place. I will clearly state all, including the NGO persons and all your MPs who threatened to kill me to come and kill me and set fire on me and my house.

Taking into consideration all of these incidents, we must seriously think how things will unfold in the future, and how this government will move forward. Some of your MPs over the phone or when they meet me,  said that we must move forward together, but I can’t see what the guarantee for such a collective journey is. I don’t want to create conflicts. At every turn of this conflict, it is the country that will fall back. The prevailing corrupt situation is very strong. There are some extremely corrupt politicians in the Parliament. When we consider our Cabinet there are some corrupted individuals, the promise of good governance, which we gave to our people, has been completely violated. I clearly state that I am not the person who responsible for this calamity. I made all the sacrifices toward achieving good governance; however, all those sacrifices were destroyed.

‘The majority of respectable members of the UNP who voted for me, do not know about this rotten and corrupted political system. If they did, I do not think they will get together in shouting, marching and in other activities.

‘We say that this is a blessed country. Yes, it is truly a blessed country. But, how many politicians are there to build this country, to free this land of corruption? We need the assembly of such politicians to build a better country, and achieve our development goals. We need them to establish an administration free of corruption and to establish good governance which has failed. The countries in the world have developed by respecting their core values and traditions in their respective societies as well as honoring their religious and cultural values. Therefore, there is a question before me as to where such individuals are to take up the responsibility to build this country. This is a task which cannot be done by one person or two, to achieve this target we need a group of leaders to provide leadership to the public.

People may tell that I said that I will not reappoint Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister even if he received  the consent of 225 parliamentarians. The social media will target on me in this regard. That is my political view. I made that statement based on my political view. In this situation all of you went to the Parliament and by signing 117 MPs showed me the majority of the House.  There is no any provision in the constitution that the Parliament could dictate or order the President that a particular person should be appointed as the Prime Minister, for my knowledge event the courts cannot make such an order. That power is clearly vested with the Executive President.

Nevertheless, as a person who values the Parliamentary tradition, when 117 MPs requested to appoint Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, accordingly, I decided to appoint him. My personal and political view, that even the 225 MPs signed to request the appointment of Mr. .Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, I will not appoint him, has not changed and it remains unchanged at present too. But, I respected the Parliamentary tradition and decided that the post of Prime Minister should be given to Mr. Wickremesinghe. I see this as a characteristic of a democratic society as well as a society that values ethics. (end of speech)

This is not a satisfactory record of  President Sirisena’s speech. We  saw this on television. He  said much more and with greater effect. He went on at length about the bond scam and Singapore FTA. He  defended the gazette regarding the  dissolution of Parliament. He said he did not issue this gazette in a thoughtless manner. It was prepared by a group of highly respected lawyers. He only put his signature to it.

Sirisena also gave an interview to Sunday Times in November 2018. Inter alia,  he said that he did not want Arjuna Mahendran as Governor of the Central Bank.  There were others who were more suitable, but Ranil Wickremasinghe insisted and he gave in. Corruption was high in the Ranil Wickremasinghe cabinet and it continued.  I do not want speak at length about it.  One example was the EAP Edirisinghe Group  deal which was given to a foreigner who had quoted much less.  A Sri  Lankan had made a higher bid. It was a corrupt deal. What forced you to take a hurried decision to remove Ranil Wickremasinghe as Prime Minister, asked the interviewer. it as the conspiracy to assassinate me and Gotabhaya, replied President. A cabinet minister’s name has transpired.

Part 5

This return to Prime-Minister-hood was  certainly not a triumph for Ranil Wickremasinghe. It was pointedly observed that this was his fifth time as Prime Minister. Pohottuwa said Ranil Wickremasinghe took office three times during the present Yahapalana rule. After the first  swearing in came the first Bank scam, after his second swearing in, came the second Bank scam, and now after the third swearing in,  there may be a third Bank scam.

It was not a triumphant return for Yahapalana either. This was not the great victory for democracy that it was made out to be .Yahapalana still remained an unpopular government which had managed  to prevent an election.  The public wanted an election. Island editorial said, The UNP-led government will not be same again. It is like a weightlifter recovering from a spinal fracture. It is no longer capable of doing what it used to do by mustering a two-thirds majority in Parliament; it, now, has a powerful Opposition and a hostile President to contend with.

Island editorial continued  The UNP’s biggest problem will be that it cannot claim debt servicing as the reason for its inability to grant the public economic relief and carry out development projects. Before Oct. 26, the UNP had the public believe that the Rajapaksas had run away, unable to pay back the loans they had obtained, and it had been burdened with the task of repaying debts. This slogan will no longer be valid in that the Rajapaksas, having formed a government on Oct. 26, undertook to repay the loans. Why didn’t the UNP let them stew in their own juice?

The Sirisena-Rajapaksa government also granted some relief to the public by slashing fuel prices and offered tax cuts and subsidies. Whether those relief measures that administration adopted, out of desperation, to win over the public would have been viable in the long run may be in doubt, but the people will expect the new UNP administration to do likewise. Attempts to reintroduce the fuel pricing mechanism and increase taxes will cause the UNP to lose votes.

Island editorial concluded  The new government will not be able to justify the postponement of the Provincial Council polls further. The SLPP has suffered a political setback due to its undisciplined adventurism, which backfired, and its reunion with President Sirisena and the SLFP rump. But whether the UNP will be able to capitalize on the situation and better its electoral performance remains to be seen. .

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe delivering a brief speech at Temple Trees following his swearing in as Prime Minister. He  stated that their first task will be to bring the country back to normal and establish the status quo. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also said that he is proud how the Supreme Court and Parliament acted when democracy was in jeopardy. The Prime Minister extended his gratitude to the Supreme Court, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Parliament for their steadfastness in protecting democracy in the country.

He said that the first thing they will look to achieve is to restore normalcy in the country and kick start development activities. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe promised to provided better living conditions and a to create a prosperous economy for the people despite the serious economic repercussions that the country had to face due to the political crisis.For three years, our people went through a number of hardships to bring the country to a stable level. When we were about to reap the benefits of these hardships, we were thrown into this conflict situation. However, we promise our people better living conditions soon. Development activities in the country came to a standstill in the last few weeks. This was very unfortunate. All of us want to lead normal lives. We want development,” .Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also extended his gratitude for those who fought relentlessly for the establishment of democracy in the country, including protesters, social activists and UNP supporters who carried the struggle to all parts of the country.

I said on that day our fight was for the sake of democracy; justice; to protect the Constitution; adherence of the rule of Law and civilized and moral conduct of society. And I also said that at the end, we would win the fight.”

There was support from the state owned Daily News . Daily News said, Yesterday marked a Red Letter Day for democracy in this country of 21 million people where the attempts of dark forces of anarchy to trample on the free will of the people were resoundly defeated, restoring their sovereignty and independence.

Daily News of 17.12.18  devoted five pages to him, two full pages of photos of his triumphant return ( p 10, 12 ) and three other pages which praised his return, (p 1,3.5). Daily News on 18.12.18 focused positively on the UNP Galle face rally . it was a  sea of heads Daily News  said, and ran two full pages of photos of it.

Daily News wrote at length on the return of Ranil Wickremasinghe.  It said, the people who cherish democracy owe an eternal debt to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was sworn last morning as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, for walking the gauntlet all the way in achieving for them this victory. Had he baulked at the unequal challenge that confronted him since the day he was illegally deposed as Prime Minister on October 26 and allowed the forces of anarchy to prevail it would certainly have spelt the end to democracy and constitutional rule in Sri Lanka. The true democrat that he was, he fought his way according to the rule book and his unflappable demeanour and composure, amidst heavy odds, should be a lesson for all budding politicians who are wedded to democracy.

Daily News  continued He did not sway from his insistence that he was still the Prime Minister of this country and was the rightful occupant of Temple Trees, knowing full well the might of the military and the police were in the hands of the illegal Government. His implicit faith in the eventual triumph of democracy, no matter what peril it was being subjected to, is also testament to his determination not to allow the vitiation of a system that the people of Sri Lanka had been nurtured on since we gained universal adult franchise in 1935.

Daily News said, To Wickremesinghe also goes the kudos of being the symbolic figure who protected democracy which was being assailed from within the system for the first time in this country. Earlier democracy was under threat from external forces. For the first time in the post-independence history of this country democracy was under siege when two insurgences broke out in 1971 and 1989/90 threatening the system. Both revolts were quelled by the Armed Forces. However, post October 26, democracy was undermined by actors who functioned within the system and had a good chance of success given that the Armed Forces, this time, were under the control of the usurpers. It is in this context that Premier Wickremesinghe’s role assumes historic importance.

Daily News continued  Sri Lankans who cherish democracy should also salute the role played by the Judiciary for rescuing the system from what threatened to be its imminent collapse, through its impartial arbitration of matters that came before it. Their Lordships of both, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, certainly delivered their verdicts in keeping with the Constitutional provisions. The unanimity reached by the seven member Supreme Court Bench that held the dissolution of Parliament illegal left no doubt, whatsoever, in the minds of the public that those responsible had acted outside the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the country.

Daily News concluded It should be a matter for gratification for all that the country’s Judiciary has today asserted its independence, removing all doubts that existed on the impartiality of our courts. For this, the credit should undoubtedly go to the former Yahapalana Government for establishing the Independent Commissions which has ensured that no judicial officer could be subjected to intimidation by the Executive, like in the past. Their Lordships have opened a new chapter in the country’s judicial history that will now restore the confidence of the public in the judiciary that was virtually under siege pre-19A. For this, his name will occupy a prominent place among the pantheon of world figures who made sacrifices, risking their lives, in the endeavour of protecting democracy and freedom for their people.  ( continued)

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