Resignations, probes and reality
Posted on June 5th, 2019

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Wednesday 5th June, 2019

One of the main reasons the Muslim ministers gave, on Monday, for resigning from their posts en bloc was that they were accused of interfering with investigations into extremist activities. They said that they would not hold ministerial positions pending investigations. One is confused. That allegation has been levelled against only one of them and why others chose to resign is the question.

Are these politicians trying to have the public believe that after their dramatic exit from the Cabinet, the non-Muslim ministers will not interfere with investigations into the allegations against the likes of Rishad Bathiudeen? On the other hand, even as ordinary MPs, they can leverage their votes to influence the government leaders. Their aforesaid argument simply doesn’t hold water in that the government’s save-Bathiudeen campaign is already underway for all practical purposes.

One may recall how the parliamentary select committee process has been abused to further the interests of governments in power. The Rajapaksa government appointed a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to ascertain whether there were grounds for impeaching the then Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, who refused to give in to its dictates. It was packed with UPFA MPs loyal to the ruling family, which was out for her scalp, and the UNP members thereof, seeing through the government strategy, pulled out in protest. The PSC predictably found the CJ guilty as charged, and based on its decision she was impeached.

The yahapalana government, which annulled Dr. Bandaranayake’s ‘impeachment’ ab initio, declaring that the select committee process had been abused to launch a political witch-hunt, now, stands accused of doing something similar to get Bathiudeen off the hook. So, it defies comprehension why the Muslim Ministers resigned en masse. Their action will not pave the way for any impartial investigation.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem was spot on when he told the media, at Temple Trees, on Monday, that what was necessary was a CID investigation into the allegations at issue. But the police are notorious for their selective efficiency; they get cracking only when suspects happen to be ordinary citizens or persons connected to the Opposition. They give kid glove treatment to pro-government suspects.

As for ministerial resignations and investigations, one may recall that Ravi Karunanayake resigned as Finance Minister when it became too embarrassing for the government to defend him owing to a host of damning revelations made by a presidential commission of inquiry, which probed the bond scams. It was claimed that he had stepped down to allow an impartial investigation to be conducted. But nothing of the sort happened and he was reappointed a Cabinet minister, late last year, because the UNP came to be dependent on him to retain its majority in Parliament vis-à-vis an abortive power grab. The Attorney General’s Department admitted in courts recently that investigations were still going on and Karunanayake would be prosecuted once they were concluded. Given the tardy progress in investigations into the bond scams and allied matters, we bet our bottom dollar or rupee that by the time they are concluded all of us will be pushing up daisies. The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption has also been dragging its clumsy feet on a key bond probe commission recommendation that legal action be instituted against those responsible for the bond scams.

Tilak Marapana had to resign as Law and Order Minister over the Avant-Garde controversy, in 2015. He is also back in the Cabinet. So much for ministerial resignations and impartial investigations!

The reason all MPs give for demanding ministerial positions is that they want to serve their electors better. The Muslim MPs have given up their ministerial positions, which they could have used to serve their community, at this hour of crisis. Bathiudeen must be laughing up his sleeve because their resignations have come to be seen as an act of getting their wagons in a circle to defend him.

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