Sri Lanka’s post-independence political landscape has certainly moved into the surreal. Since the inception, it has being the ruling party which called the shots, while the Opposition lay in submission. The government was placed in the role of the hunter, while the Opposition was the hunted.
But things appear to have changed- drastically so. The government which had the Opposition in its grip, and placed in the role of the hunter, has today become the hunted. Not by the Opposition. BUT BY THE GOVERNMENT ITSELF.
First it was Ravi Karunanayake - the powerful Foreign Minister in the Yahapalanaya Government. Yesterday it was Messrs. Malik Samarawickrama and Kabir Hashim, the Chairman and General Secretary of the UNP, the dominant partner in the Unity Government. They had one thing in common. All three of them had to abjectly submit themselves before the most searching probe by the Attorney General’s Department, read, the Legal Advisor to the government, before the Bond Commission. RK., perhaps, was subjected to the most intense, and, one would venture to say, the most humiliating ‘inquisition’, as it were, of the trio. The fact remains that three powerful stalwarts of the government, bowed their collective heads before the law of the country. None of them put on airs and assumed important postures. RK, in particular, dealt with the salvos hurled at him by the President’s Counsel of the Attorney General’s Department, without pulling out his rank.
Their conduct was a ringing endorsement of the Yahapalanaya government’s commitment to uphold the rule of law. It was a clear indication that the law applied, across the board, to all the country’s citizenry, - the high and mighty, ensconced in the seats of power, as well as the humble soul. This is what the citizens of this country expect from a government. To ensure that the rule of law prevails, and applied with equal force to all and sundry.
And the long arm of the law, indeed, is reaching out to its targets with a monotonous regularity. It is not just the Malik, Kabir, RK trio who had felt its ample reach. High ranking members of the Yahapalanaya government, those who risked their lives working for the election of the Common Candidate, are also feeling the heat. Both Chairmen of the two State Banks were summoned before the Bond Commission, to spill the beans of what they knew of the alleged Treasury Bond scam. The former Central Bank Governor, appointed by the Prime Minister, no less, was specially singled out for a roasting by the Attorney General’s Department. The latest to be hauled before a court of law is the very individual who ‘loaned’ his political party and its symbol, the ‘Swan’, to the Common Candidate.
But the undisputed evidence that the law applies indiscriminately, without respecter of persons, starkly presented itself in the form of the arrest of the President’s brother, who was involved in a fatal accident, where the police refused to grant him bail.
Rewind the scenario to pre-January 8, 2015 and what did we have? A country where law and order was treated with contempt and where the minions of the Rajapaksas held sway, cocking a snook at the very law enforcement establishment (the grabbing of a policeman’s cap by a mob led by Wimal Weerawansa, after a phone call was made to Gota, the scene going viral on social media). Individuals such as Mervyn Silva and Duminda Silva virtually functioned as the de-facto law enforcement, the latter having his rape case withdrawn by the AG’s Department, curtsy the benign intervention of Mahinda Rajapaksa ,and the outlaw subsequently made a Monitoring MP, in charge, of all things, defence.
Not a single official, let alone a government minister, was brought before a court of law, or commission of inquiry (the only exception being the Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman, and that too due to the close watch on the case by the British authorities - the victim being a British national). There were ample instances where the law should have been enforced in its full force, such as when Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in London was assaulted by Sajin Vas Gunawardena, a Rajapaksa factotum. On the contrary, the law was confined only to the textbooks and any attempt to implement the law and ensure justice was met with resistance. The fate that befell the country’s only lady Chief Justice, who delivered a verdict that went against a Rajapaksa sibling, is only too well known and needs no elaboration.
Sections of the pro-Rajapaksa media have today worn blinkers and putting out screaming headlines about the predicament of those in the dock, in the alleged Bond scam. Did any of these print or electronic media have occasion to report even a single instance of a government minister having to answer similar charges, under Rajapaksa. Isn’t this concrete evidence that democracy, which was yearned for by the people, prior to January 8, has been fully restored, where even powerful government ministers are hauled over the coals?
Daily News, October 13, 2017