Another drama ends
Posted on November 6th, 2015

The Island Editorial

The government with both the UNP and the SLFP at its helm  is like a two-headed donkey struggling to move in different directions at the same time only to get nowhere and make a spectacle of itself. What a song and dance some of its top guns once made, a few moons ago, about an ‘illegal floating armoury’ in Sri Lankan waters! Now, we are told officially that there has been nothing illegal about that arms ship.

The Avant Garde floating armoury became one of the main planks of the UNP’s election platform with some of its vociferous leaders claiming that their political opponents had run an international arms racket; they even called for the arrest of the former defence bigwigs including Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. In Parliament on Wednesday, no less a person than Minister of Law and Order and Prison Reforms, Tilak Marapana, who had looked after the interests of Avant Garde as its lawyer, gave the lie to that claim. Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, too, defended that company to the hilt.

Lawyers defend their clients in courts. But, in an interesting turn of events a client has had the rare privilege of being defended by its legal consultants at the national legislature!

Strangely, even the UPFA notables who usually don’t see eye to eye with the UNP virtually on anything chose to go to the mat with the aforesaid ministers. They did not raise any issues such as conflict of interest, ethical dilemma etc. Only JVP leader and Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayake tried to challenge the government’s position, but he was only ‘floating like a bee and stinging like a butterfly’.

Thus came to an end the Avant Garde drama with an anti-climax. Many had lost interest in it long before the final curtain. Some of the government allies have let out a howl of protest against what they call letting Avant Garde off the hook, but what really matters is the government decision.

One can’t help asking oneself whether an ordinary company in a similar predicament, defended by lawyers sans political connections, would have been as lucky as Avant Garde.

Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake has told Parliament that some ministers strike deals with crooks and line their pockets. He has named no names, but struck a responsive chord with the discerning public. This is why we keep arguing that there must be tough laws to ensure transparency and accountability as regards party and campaign finances.

At present moneybags involved in illegal activities can go scot free by parting with a fraction of their ill-gotten wealth to grease the palms of powerful politicians who not only make laws but also bend them to help their crooked cronies. Curiously, none of the champions of good governance have demanded that new laws be brought in to impose a ceiling on campaign expenditure and make it mandatory for all parties and individual politicians to disclose the sources and amounts of funds they receive.

In the end, the blame for making an issue of the Avant Garde arms ship was pinned on the police who, Minister Marapana said, had, in a bid to curry favour with their political masters, blundered by raiding the arms vessel. He drew a parallel between that raid and the now infamous police swoop on the Millennium City army safe house in 2002.

The Millennium City raid which exposed the identities of army long-rangers and their intelligence operatives most of whom perished at the hands of the LTTE as a result, obviously, had the blessings of the then UNP-led UNF government. The long-rangers had been vilified and accused of trying to kill some key Opposition politicians before the 2001 general election and the ground prepared for the subsequent raid.

It is time the police, notorious for their servility, refrained from offering their services as women of easy virtue to crafty politicians who don’t hesitate to betray even their mothers when they are up the creek without a paddle.

The government owes an apology to the people for providing them with misleading information about the Avant Garde arms ship and then making a volte-face which has thrown them into confusion.


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