A failure of governance Weda Bima to Dada Bima
Posted on September 18th, 2019

By Sanjay Perera Courtesy Ceylon Today

The world has seen many examples of how progressive countries and Nations have become weak Nations, as a result of politically motivated witch-hunts by successive governments. The continent of Africa is a good example of how successive governments have been solely focused on eliminating political opponents, instead of focusing on the country and its citizens, which has led to disastrous consequences. 

One of the prominent 100-day election promises made by the coalition Yahapalana Government during the Presidential and General Elections in 2015, was to investigate and reprimand those in the Rajapaksa Government, including the Rajapaksa family, for fraud and corruption, which included the alleged personal wealth of Mahinda Rajapaksa, amounting to over US$ 13 billion, alleged import of Lamborghini cars by the young Rajapaksas using public funds, and alleged  money laundering, corruption, ill-gotten wealth, amassed by Senior Ministers and officials of the Rajapaksa Government. Despite not having any solid proof, the Yahapalana campaign promise was based on unfounded allegations – trillions of dollars of public funds wasted and scammed by the Rajapaksas and the Government. This election promise had to be made good by the Yahapalana Government – by hook or by crook!

Within a week of Sirisena taking oaths as the President of the Yahapalana Government, Premier Wickremesinghe was afforded the privilege of forming a government, passed a Cabinet Paper appointing the Secretariat established by a Cabinet Sub-Committee under patronage of the Premier, set up in accordance with the Cabinet decision taken by a Cabinet which constituted only one Cabinet Minister from the SLFP. This Sub-Committee was set up at the Premier’s official residence, Temple Trees. On 13 February 2015, just weeks after the Yahapalana Government took office, the Gazette establishing the FCID was issued. It should be noted at this point that the FCID was named as the Fraud and Corruption Investigation Division, and not as the Financial Crimes Investigation Division as known today.

In accordance with the Cabinet Paper presented by the Minister on 21 January 2015, under the topic “Establishment of Fraud and Corruption Investigation Division,” the below mentioned crimes committed in any part of Sri Lanka could be investigated by this Division:

i. Grievous financial crimes, corruption and massive unauthorised projects.
ii. Crimes against public funds and property.
iii. Grievous crimes against national security, public finance, health and environment.
iv. Unlawful enrichment and misuse of official powers.
v. Investigating into the money -laundering, funding of terrorists and illegal transactions.

This Division functions under a Deputy Inspector General of Police and a Director, under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police and, the Division was given the powers to investigate within all the jurisdictions established in Sri Lanka, and the complaints are forwarded to the IGP for investigation by the Secretariat established by the Cabinet Sub-Committee, under patronage of the Prime Minister, set up in accordance with the Cabinet decision and, in addition to that, the special complaints are forwarded by the Cabinet Sub-Committee directly to the DIG in charge of the Division.

It is clear that the priority of the Wickremesinghe Government was to eliminate all possible political opponents, especially the Rajapaksas, via a legitimate witch-hunt, by directly setting up this Sub-Committee under his purview, and at Temple Trees. In order to bring about fear within the security and government establishments, this witch-hunt was not limited to the Rajapaksas and Ministers of the Rajapaksa Government. 

It extended to the security establishments of SL, including individual high-ranking Officers to lower ranks, government and State sector establishments and officials, and even the private sector. This witch-hunt was also for the purpose of pleasing Wickremesinghe’s Western allies, who supported the defeat of Rajapaksa in 2015. Sirikotha has been noted for similar witch-hunts in the past, including against Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1978, wherein JRJ amended the Constitution, to strip Mrs. B of her civic rights, preventing her from contesting in 1982, as Mrs. B was likely to make a comeback, defeating the JRJ Government.

However, Wickremesinghe was well aware that not a single honest and respectable high-ranking Police Officer would investigate allegations of fraud and corruption, sans clear evidence and proof. Hence, the appointment of DIG (subsequently suspended) Ravi Waidyalankara, an Officer with a questionable background as Director FCID. No sooner Waidyalankara took office as Director FCID in March 2015, Muhammed Fazl conducted a one-on-one hard talk interview with him at his office at the FCID. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5vNPS0axBw). In this interview, Fazl questions Waidyalankara about corruption in the Police Department indirectly, pointing fingers at Waidyalankara’s suspect background, and also asking if a radical approach is to be taken by the FCID to arrest as many as possible alleged suspects within the Yahapalana 100-day programme.  A key factor mentioned during this interview is the possibility of arresting alleged suspects based on complaints, arresting these suspects and getting the alleged suspects to prove their innocence. The intention of Wickremesinghe and the Yahapalana Government is made obvious during this interview.

Citizens of SL are limited to information based on Media news reports and Media interviews by Police Media Spokesmen and politicians. In reality, the truth is far from what it seems.

Carlton Sports Network (Yoshitha Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa, Rohan Weliwita) – Misuse of Public Property

In addition to the yet unfounded money laundering charge against CSN, one of the other charges filed by the FCID was the misuse of public property. The only proof to arrest the officials of CSN was a Rs 150.00 (one hundred and fifty) voucher issued by CSN to mend a tire patch of a vehicle belonging to the Presidential Secretariat. No further proof or evidence on misuse of PP has been found or exposed even after 4 years. However, the arrested persons were remanded on the request of the FCID for a lengthy period. Public opinion was created that Yoshitha, Namal and Rohan had used their ties with President Rajapaksa to misuse public property for the privately-owned CSN.

Lalith Weeratunga – Sil Redi

The FCID case against Lalith Weeratunga, former Presidential Secretary, the highest-ranking State sector employee, was a case that instilled fear in the Government and State sector, which has crippled the efficiency of the State sector since 2017, resulting in drastic consequences, bringing SL to its knees, and chaos. In the Sil Redi case, while the decision given by Courts is not challenged in any way in this article, it is a well-known fact in the State and private sector, that handwritten minutes and footnotes on an originated internal memo or external/internal originated letter, which is circulated for action, recommendations, approvals etc. are perceived as a valid mechanism of documentation in an efficient work environment. It is regrettable that these minutes and footnotes on all the correspondence related to the subject were disregarded by the FCID. This case against the highest-ranking State official brought about a ‘cover your behind’ attitude among all file and rank in the State sector, and as a result it is obvious that State sector employees lack the motivation to make decisions within their capacity, and one can clearly note the lack of innovation in a State sector since 2017.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa – MiG deal allegation, memorial museum misappropriation of funds, Avant Garde case  

One of the first overseas fact-finding missions entrusted to Waidyalankara was to Ukraine, regarding the alleged corruption and fraud on purchasing of MiGs for SL. This was done by Waidyalankara almost soon after the revolution in Ukraine ended. As a result of the revolution in Ukraine and the country being in disarray, the relevant documentations on the procurement of the MiGs by the Rajapaksa Government was not available for scrutiny. On his return, Waidyalankara reported to the Sub-Committee that no contract or agreement is available in Ukraine, and assumptions were made that the MiGs had been purchased through a third party, without any tender process or agreements with suppliers, and that large amounts of commissions received would have been the reason for the high rate paid. During the process of the FCID filing the case against Gotabaya and Udayanga Weeratunga, who was Ambassador at the time, the VP of Ukrinmach, Mr. Strudenkin issued a statement through the authorities of Ukraine that he was responsible for the sale of the MiGs to SL, and forwarded the duly signed copies of contracts. Also proven, that the price per MiG was higher than what SL paid in the early 2000s was due to the reason that previously the MiGs were purchased by the previous SL Government on an “as-is condition” basis. However, under the Rajapaksa Government, it was decided to overhaul the MiGs prior to purchase and import. Further, the third party involved in the transaction was proven to be an international funding company who facilitated the procurement of the MiGs, as Ukrinmach was in no state to provide credit to the SL Government – reason for the additional charge. Similarly, in the recent weeks, we have seen Gotabaya being discharged from alleged cases on the Rajapaksa Memorial Museum and the alleged Avant Garde irregularity. However, the adverse publicity given against Gotabaya and others in these cases made the public believe that frauds had been committed with certainty.

FCID cases against Basil Rajapaksa, Gamini Senarath and Johnston Fernando
Likewise, the allegations of Basil Rajapaksa’s violation of the Public Property Act is built solely on the Economic Affairs Ministry transferring flag poles to another government entity – The Ministry of Local Government. No charges of bribery or corruption have been filed in this matter. FCID cases filed against Gamini Senarath, former Chief of Staff to President Rajapaksa, and allegations of unlawful wealth against former Minister Johnston Fernando have been thrown out by the Judiciary. Special note to be made on the Johnston Fernando case is that during the interview in March 2015, journalist Fazl makes special mention of Johnston’s assets, and inquires from Waidyalankara if that is one of the cases the FCID plans to investigate. Despite having no concrete evidence to go by, the arresting of these individuals and remanding them seems to be the PR victory achieved by the Wickremesinghe Government.

It is not just the Rajapaksa family and the Rajapaksa Government Ministers and State sector employees who have been witch-hunted since 2015. The security forces have been betrayed by the Wickremesinghe Government in Geneva, and high-ranking Officers have been arrested and remanded, along with junior ranks, on various allegations, including alleged war crimes. Most of these allegations are based on unfounded, word of mouth witness accounts, as seen in the case of the disappearance of the 11 youth from Dehiwala. Reprimanding and arresting of SL forces rank and file seems to have pleased the Wickremesinghe Western allies and HR NGOs. The detrimental result of these actions was seen when suicide Islamic terrorists killed over 250 innocent civilians on Easter Sunday.

While the objective of setting up a Sub-Committee to advise the FCID, which allegations and against whom to be investigated seems to be politically motivated with the FCID having little or no proof to proceed with most allegations in a Court of Law, the impact of arresting, questioning and remanding Ministers, MPs, State Officials, Police and Security forces personnel, Senior and minor staff of the public and private sector has been the downfall of the Wickremesinghe Government, and that of SL, which was an economically progressive Nation State up to 2014. Following the defeat of the LTTE in 2009, SL prided itself as a sovereign Nation State. The economy grew by leaps and bounds, and the country became an efficient work ground in terms of investments, infrastructure development and private sector growth. The economic boom created an upper middle class sector in SL. Small and medium enterprises grew to an extent that it contributed 52 per cent to the economy of SL. The State sector became efficient, with speedy decision-making by public officers.

This work ground (in Sinhala Wedabima) was converted to a hunting ground (in Sinhala Dadabima) by the Yahapalana Government, resulting in the chaos and calamity within the Yahapalana Government itself, and now even the UNP. With this transformation of SL becoming a Yahapalana hunting ground, came along regular strikes and protests, the slow progress on infrastructure and other developments, the lethargy in the State Sector, and the slow decision-making process in Government institutions. This negative energy spread to the private sector, with the shutting down of over 900 SMEs since 2016, downsizing in the private sector, drop in profits in blue chips, cautious attitude of commercial banks overall resulting in the economic collapse in SL, with a loss of employment to over 600,000, and worst of all the failures in national security mechanism and the loss of over 250 innocent lives.

It has been proven around the world that any government that makes a country its hunting ground for political gain fails, and drags the Nation along with it to failure. The failed States in the world is proof of this. A 30-year LTTE-battered Nation has been battered once again since 2015. Wrongdoers should be punished without doubt. But it should not be politically motivated or based on the sole objective of eradicating strong political competition, or for gaining cheap popularity. It is the hope of all Sri Lankans that the President and Government elected in 2020 will once again transform Sri Lanka from the current hunting ground (Dada Bima) to a progressive work ground (Weda Bima)!

(Acknowledgment C.A. Chandraprema)

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