Are these minor crimes?
Posted on January 9th, 2020

By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana Courtesy The Island


A regular contributor to this newspaper has written the following, in a piece printed on 7th January titled “Uniformity in governance is important for development”:

“Although the recent arrests of leading members of the opposition UNP are being justified as law and order measures, they come across as being targeted measures to weaken the main opposition party in the run up to the general elections. The common factor behind the arrests of former Ministers Champika Ranawaka, Rajitha Senaratne and Ranjan Ramanayaka is that they were in the frontline of campaigning for the UNP at the presidential election and are among the best public speakers that the party has. The second common factor is that the charges levelled against them, for which they have been arrested, are relatively small as compared to the alleged crimes of others in both the government and opposition against whom charges are not being pursued with the same degree of interest.”

Perhaps, it is not surprising for someone, so dedicated to Yahapalanaya, busy writing, repeatedly, how to save the Yahapalana regime even in its terminal stages, to make such comments but attempting to trivialise crimes with a view to apportioning blame on Gotabhaya Rajapaksa administration is laughable, to say the least.

Are the charges levelled against these three leading members of the Yahapalana project minor, as he claims? Let us examine facts:

He states:

1.”The charge against former minister Ranawake concerns a matter that was dealt with legally and in court over three years ago. It involved a vehicle accident in which a racing motorbike hit his official vehicle from behind on a regular road that such racing motorbikes are banned from travelling on.”

If that was the case, why was the ex-minister’s driver, who claimed to be driving at the time punished and the riders of the motorcycle not charged?

As far as I could gather from media reports, the ex-minister was taken into custody as there are complaints suggesting that he has perverted the course of justice by sending his driver, later, to the police, after having identified himself as the driver at the scene. More seriously, there are allegations that three people had to leave the country because of threats. They have returned to the country after the defeat of Yahapalanaya and are willing to testify against him.

If there is any truth in these allegations, surely, the ex-minister is guilty of misuse of power in addition to been guilty of perverting the course of justice. In the circumstances, it is the duty of the police to take necessary action, which they did. He was subsequently bailed by the magistrates and there is no evidence of any political interference to keep him in remand, unlike what Yahapalanaya did to its’ opponents.

2. “The charge against former minister Senaratne is that he organized a media conference where two persons testified that they had driven vehicles that abducted and killed people and also engaged illegally with the LTTE. “

At a crucial juncture in the presidential election, ex-minister Senaratna held a press conference with two camouflaged ‘White Van’ associates, who claimed they had committed grave crimes at the behest of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, which could have dealt a fatal blow to GR’s campaign. Fortunately, our voters are not as gullible as politicians think and, fortunately, this press conference did not have the desired effect.

An important aspect of this episode is the display of the total lack of understanding procedures by the ex-minister. If a criminal act, throwing people to crocodiles is certainly a serious one is admitted, surely, the minister should have advised them to report to police than arranging a press conference to declare criminality!

After the election was lost, they had confessed that they lied for money and the very fact that the two ‘White Van’ associates being granted bail confirms that they are not guilty of murder.

All concerned, including the ex-minister who walked to a private hospital to be admitted to an intensive care unit to avoid arrest and his associate who is supposed to have funded the project, were granted bail. Due process has taken place.

Considering these facts, does not trivialising this crime makes a mockery of the good governance these do-gooders preach?

3. “The charge against former minister Ramanayake is the most trivial of all, and is that he had not renewed the licence of the firearm provided to him by the government for his protection. During the search of his house, the police also discovered several tapes of conversations with police officers in regard of corruption issues members of the present government were allegedly involved in when they formed the government prior to 2015.”

Though the ex-minister attempted to give the impression that he had been taken into custody for not renewing the firearm licence, the police search was to collect the CDs the ex-minister had of his telephone conversations. It is interesting that the writer gives a twist to these CDs, that they pertain to misdeed of those in power now, but what has been broadcast over media, since, belies his interpretation.

If what are broadcast are not fakes, the exposures made, certainly, would make history as our own ‘Wiki-leaks’! Even the judiciary could be shaken to the core and Yahapalanaya the joke, would become the worst political disaster we had.

Is this so trivial as the writer contends? I had a hearty laugh at his comment that Ramanayaka is one of the best speakers the party has!

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the first non-career politician elected to be the head of state, has shown in a matter of six weeks, that things can change for the better. I would not go into details, as much has been written about his achievements, but would mention only one episode: the Swiss Embassy affair. He showed the Swiss what diplomacy is, what they totally lacked. In spite of all agitations he resisted knee-jerk reactions, bringing credit to our country.

It was interesting that New York Times fell prey to this fake news whilst the Swiss and some NGOs started blaming our media. I cannot better what the political editor of The Sunday Times stated, in the political column on 5 January:

“Those who blamed the local media, including some foreign governments and select NGOs, will now have to eat their words. Of course, such NGOs will have to sing for their dollars and fall in line with interests of their donors and not of this country.”

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