PRESIDENTS TEN YEARS-
AN EXERCISE IN POWER OR SERVICE TO THE NATION?
By Shyamon Jayasinghe,
writing from Melbourne
Her Excellency Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge, the President
of Sri Lanka has just completed ten years in her position. She does
treat this as a matter for self-congratulation. That can be understood.
However, the important thing is for her to assess how much she has achieved
for the country. History will treat her solely on such an assessment
and not for her sense of self-glory.
We are afraid that little can be said in her favour so that her presidential
exercise will, as it goes, turn out to be a mere exercise in power.
I do not know whether any of the Lankaweb readers can educate us on
this matter. What has CBK the president done for the economy? For peace?
For putting her house in order and managing the country properly? Mr.
Kodituwakku who wrote for Lankaweb recently had a lot to say from customs
experience. We would like to be advised whether any of those allegations
of personal corruption have been wrong.
One thing positive about a powerful presidential system as that prevailing
in Sri Lanka is that considerable example can be sent down and diffused
all over from the centre of power. Likewise, the negative example will
equally be followed by those all over the administration. The top can
set everything right or it can set everything wrong for the country.
It can be said about President Premadasa, despite his many faults, that
he did achieve an effective spread effect as far as keeping the administration
tight, efficient, and responsive throughout the bureaucracy. The negatives
of his personal example he successfully hid from the public during his
tenure. This showed that he was personally committed to the idea of
running a good administration and that was great.
The incidents having adverse spread value are, unfortunately, so many
in the case of the present incumbent-CBK. Almost every day something
new is surfacing. For our purpose it seems pointless and depressing
to enumerate all these events. Our deep concern is that CBK is not concerned
over the rot taking place around her and is in fact contributing to
it with an adverse spread effect. She is not bothered even to hide it
under the carpet. For the benefit of your readers we shall reproduce
below an extract of a searching report from Frederica Jansz appearing
in last Sundays Leader. Why we like this report is that it appears
not slander but factual. If one reads the report in its entirety one
will note that verifiable details are given-with dates, names of persons,
venues etc. I am sure that Lankaweb editor will be broadminded enough
to let this be published. The report is justiciable and can be challenged
for accuracy at any level. Premadasa would have gone the whole hog to
tackle such a report and show that it was not correct, if it was not
correct. However, CBKs concern for even making a good appearance
seems absent altogether. This is our worry. The report is about a meeting
CBK had arranged with OICC of the police department on the 6th of March
this year. Here is the extract:
The clock had struck 8.30 p.m. by the time Kumaratunga breezed in to
chair the meeting. A stickler for form when necessary, Kumaratunga asked
each of the officers around the table to introduce themselves, which
they dutifully did. Hardly waiting for them to finish however, the President
launched into a tirade. "There is intolerable violence (bheeshanaya)
in your areas," she told them. "I cannot stand (pennanna ba)
these four OICs. There was mayhem in these areas in 2001 also. (PA candidate)
C. B. Ratnayake's house was set on fire."
At this point OIC Ragala quietly piped in, "Your Excellency, that
is not correct. No houses were burnt or set on fire in 2001. Some stones
were indeed thrown, and 17 people have been charged with that offence.
These include the (UNF) chairman of the Pradeshiya Sabha."
"Nonsense," retorted the President, "No cases have been
"Actually they have," came back the OIC firmly but respectfully.
"In fact, the case number is 19246 in the Walapane Magistrate's
Court. The next hearing is set for June 11."
At this stage the IGP and DIG Wickremaratne both chirpped in that the
cases had indeed been filed and the prosecution was in progress. Not
deterred by having been shown to be a liar in front of minor officials,
Kumaratunga went on: "People can't go on the roads in Ragala. S.
B.'s(Dissanayake) father is a lunatic (pissek). His brother is madder.
S. B. has robbed the people. In 2001, his wife came and fell at my feet
and asked for forgiveness for what her husband was doing. C. B. Ratnayake
had to hide and do politics
Again, the lowly OIC Ragala came back firmly, looking the President
in the eye. "No Madam, I cannot accept that. There was no such
terror in my area."
Stepping in to support his junior colleague, ASP Jayalath stated that
there had been only one incident in Ragala during the past few days.
At this point, former Secretary to the President Balapatabendi proved
his mettle by entering the debate. "Quite right," he said.
"People should attack the police for their behaviour."
Lankaweb readers would be intelligent enough to judge the ramifications
of this report. We would like the Presidential Secretariat to react
if the matters stated are incorrect. It is of fundamental importance
to our country to be assured of the personal commitment of our president
with regard to her responsibility for matters of state. The report does
not bear that out. On the contrary, it is frightening. It has been said
that the image of a king tumbles before his throne. Is this happening?
One never knows.