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Opinion

Have you given up, Mahinda?

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By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

Undoubtedly, you are the leader of the Rajapaksa pack, though you are not the eldest or the one holding the highest office. You are also the politician closest to the hearts of the ordinary folk in Sri Lanka. So, why do you seem totally inactive when things are apparently getting from bad to worse; when Pohottuwa seems to be sinking in an ever widening and deepening quagmire, mostly of its own making? I do not have to remind you that it would be you who stand to lose the most. It makes it all the more puzzling why you are apparently withdrawing into a cocoon; or is this forced on you?

If the inaction is forced, it has to be by something internal, probably the family; not outside forces, as in the past you have demonstrated amply that you can stand up to even the strongest foe. Though I dedicated only half of my working life to Sri Lanka and have been living abroad for over three decades, my heart is in Sri Lanka and the blood that rushes through my arteries and veins is Sri Lankan. It is hard to describe how my heart swelled with pride when I learned how you insulted, albeit in a very diplomatic manner, the Foreign Ministers of the UK and France who came to rescue the leader of the most ruthless terrorist outfit the world has ever seen. That attempt was the culmination of numerous hypocritical acts committed by the West, which whilst condemning terrorism, would do their utmost, even help terrorists, to secure votes!

You, aided by your brother Gota and our brave security forces, were able to defeat terrorism, which you achieved against all odds, defying the predictions of so-called experts! Sri Lanka should have earned a unique place in history but the jealous West denied us that opportunity. Unfortunately, you succumbed to the machinations of the West by removing some of our diplomats who defended our honour, very successfully initially, in forums like UNHCR, the cesspit used by the West to tame those who do not toe their line. It transpires that these were carried out on the basis of representations made by parties with sinister motives. Of course, the Yahapalana traitors connived with the US and made matters even worse subsequently, but it is another story.

Though Sri Lankans hailed you as the ‘uncrowned king’ after the ‘war victory’ it was not to last, as six years later they sent you home unceremoniously. Well, this is nothing new; after all, Churchill won the war but lost the subsequent general election! However, you need to take responsibility, too, as it was your behaviour, as well as the behaviour of your fellow parliamentarians, which led to your ouster. Though any other politician would have buried his head in the sand and, perhaps, opted for retirement in such humiliating circumstances, you showed that you are a man of true grit. Your friends and family rallied round, your brother Basil organising, very successfully, a new party for you.

Yahapalanaya

headed by Sirisena, who betrayed you, was a disaster. Unfortunately, impatient for power, you got dragged into a coup by Sirisena which demonstrated the worst behaviour of our parliamentarians. Notwithstanding the temporary increase in Ranil’s popularity due to this blunder, voters of Sri Lanka placed their trust in your family, first by electing Gota to presidency and subsequently, at the general election, many members of your extended family to the parliament from different areas of the country. Gota started very well and it looked as if the vistas of prosperity may be a reality, at last, but things started going wrong pretty soon. The unexpected two-thirds majority was used to bring a constitutional amendment which included the ridiculous clause that allowed a dual citizen even to become president! The corrupt lot among your supporters soon showed their true colours by doing everything possible to make money. Though voters endorsed them in the hope that they were reformed by defeat, it looks as if politicians are truly an incorrigible lot!

Though many blame, unfairly, the misdeeds of Yahapalana going unpunished, there is enough reason to blame Pohottuwa for equally heinous frauds. I said unfairly as Yahapalana misdeeds have yet gone unpunished because Pohottuwa left it to the normal judicial process, in contrast to Ranil’s notorious operations from Temple Trees for selective punishment! However, the blunders of Pohottuwa are far too numerous for a short piece like this, but as a consummate politician you are well aware of these, no doubt.

It is rumoured that a Cabinet reshuffle is in the offing, and it is incumbent on you to have a word with Gota to ensure that it does not turn out to be the farce the last one was!

If it is used to get rid of the ministers who spoke against the ‘shady’ Yugadanavi deal, it may turn out to be the last nail in the coffin of Pohottuwa. It is a questionable deal on many counts; it was signed without following the accepted tender procedure; there is a conflict of interest on the part of the minister with US citizenship, and it was rushed through the Cabinet without being presented to the Parliament.

In fact, it was left to the leader of the JVP to present the agreement to Parliament. When it was presented, the shameless mouthpiece of your brother declared that anybody could have got it from the courts. Does he think that Sri Lankans are the biggest idiots in the world for him to give such lame excuses? It should have been presented to Parliament by the minister who received the power portfolio at the last reshuffle. The only valid inference that could be drawn is that the change of portfolio too was a part of this shady deal.

I know blood is thicker than water and that Basil helped you a lot to regain power. As much as he was the creator of Pohottuwa, it is increasingly apparent to many, including your ardent supporters, that Basil’s actions are driving your supporters away from you in droves. It is pretty obvious that the contested clause in 20A was for Basil’s sake. Before his entry to Parliament, his mouthpieces waxed eloquent about the benefits of his presence in the legislature. He snatched the Finance Ministry away from you to perform miracles, they said.

Basil presented his first budget but was absent during most of the discussions and escaped to his ‘second home’ soon afterwards. Cartoonists have a field day portraying that as the first lamp was fake and that Basil had gone to get the genuine Aladdin’s lamp! Perhaps, you ought to persuade your Malli to remain in the US and enjoy retirement. That would be the first step, if you do not wish to be disgraced twice!



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Opinion

Priority need to focus on Controlling Serious Economic Crimes

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Open letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The Ministry of Defence has advertised five vacancies for the “Recruitment as Reserve Assistant Superintendents of Police to the Ministry of Defence, affiliated to the Sri Lanka Police, skilled professionals to become proud members of the Ministry of Defence, dedicated to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka as well as to public safety and to play a superior role for the nation. These recruits will function as Cyber and Forensic Analyst, Geo-Political and Strategic Analyst, Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism Analyst, Economic Analyst and Statistical Analyst (the last two covering security perspectives regarding national security)”. Any justified decision to strengthen the knowledge and skills based professional capability of existing human resource of the state is a welcome move, so long as the recruits have in addition to the specified qualifications, requisite commitments to best practice professional standards, ethics, correct attitudes and values.

The caring civil society fervently hopes, in accord with your stated commitments in the manifesto and the several public pronouncements that followed your election as the President, that you, with the support of your Cabinet colleagues and the top officials of the executive, will similarly focus on the essential priority need to focus on controlling serious economic crimes, which can easily debilitate the financial integrity, fiscal and monetary stability and solvency of Sri Lanka; and if allowed unabated will destabilise the economy and prevent the realisation of the goals of splendour and prosperity.

The optimum operational environment to assure financial integrity minimizing serious economic crimes is by having effective laws, regulations, policies, systems, procedures, practices and controls, with efficient and effective independent oversight mechanisms, enforcements, investigations and prosecutions, followed by independent justice systems with penal sanctions and recovery of proceeds of crime. The critical drivers of such a system are independence, capability and professionalism of supporting human resources in the entire chain. It is however quite evident from many case studies that the systems controlling financial integrity of Sri Lanka fails to meet required standards of effectiveness, due mainly to the lack of competent and committed professionals in the chain engaged in independent oversight mechanisms, enforcements, investigations and prosecutions. Due to this incapacity the independent oversight control, enforcement, investigation, prosecution and punishment of offenders of money laundering, transfer pricing, securities offenses, bribery, corruption, financial fraud, organised crimes, drug trafficking, smuggling, and avoidance of taxes/ excise and customs duties are ineffective; and more importantly the recovery of proceeds of these crimes eventually fail and are thus unable to restore the state revenues leaked and state assets stolen or defrauded.

Civil society looks to you as the President, to take early action to strengthen the structures, systems, laws and regulations along with the capacity of the resource persons engaged in the independent oversight control and enforcement of mechanisms; and thereby minimise serious economic crimes system wide and facilitate successful recovery of proceeds of crime. In the above context it is suggested that you pursue the undernoted strategic action steps under your direct leadership supervision:

* Seek Cabinet approval to set up an Enforcement Directorate similar to that of India under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police, reporting to an Independent Public Commission made up of three members, comprising of a high integrity competent retired Appellate Court Judge, a retired Senior Officer of the Auditor General’s Department and a retired Senior Officer of the Central Bank.

* Enforcement Directorate to be entrusted with the mission of minimizing the identified serious economic crimes systems wide; enhancing oversight mechanism and controls system wide and where suspected that any such crimes having taken place professionally investigating and prosecuting, optimizing recovery of proceeds of crime

* Seek technical support in setting up the Enforcement Directorate from the Financial Integrity Unit of the World Bank and its affiliates Financial Action Task Force, UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative with extended human resource training and development support from bi lateral supporting countries and other specialized agencies

* Recruit competent and highly professional staff for the Directorate, similar to the staff recruited to the Defence Ministry; and support them with requisite resources, knowledge, skills, systems, data bases, best practices and technical and investigation assistance linkages

* Enact essential legal and regulatory reforms, commencing with the early enactment of the Proceeds of Crime Act draft sent to the previous regime for cabinet endorsement

* Enhance the capability of the prosecutors of the Directorate to successfully prosecute serious economic crimes and judges to effectively support the judicial processes connected therewith

* Make it a compulsory requirement of all state remunerated persons to adopt the ethical standard to report to the Directorate any known or suspected non compliances with laws and regulations

Trust you and your advisory team will give due consideration to this submission

Chandra Jayaratne

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Opinion

S.Thomas’ Class of 62 and O/L 70 Group celebrates 60 years Nexus

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By Rohan Mathes

Once again the old boys of the Class of 62 and O/L 70 Group fraternity of S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia gathered last Saturday (22nd), under one banner to celebrate their 60 th anniversary of their association and loyalties with their prestigious Alma Mater, long way down from 1962, whence they were admitted to the school by the sea.

This rendezvous was of paramount importance to the membership near and far, inclusive of those domiciled overseas, who had turned up in their numbers to enjoy the long-awaited fellowship, with their comrades, despite the prevailing Covid pandemic restrictions. Nevertheless, those who could not make it, had been amply served by the provision of a Zoom link. Kudos to the organisers who had painstakingly and meticulously planned all the nitty-gritties of this epoch-making celebrations, however with less pomp and pageantry, compared to their fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 2012.

Following the service at the Chapel of the Transfiguration, the Thomians spend the day within the precincts of this hallowed institution which had undoubtedly imparted a unique, state-of the-art and wholesome education to them. They took this rather rare opportunity to joyfully tour around their old school, of course reminiscing their nostalgic memories of their childhood. They were simply overjoyed by viewing the latest developments and modifications done by the school authorities, utilising the charitable donations and contributions made by the old boys, parents and well-wishers of the school, in numerous ways, throughout the years gone by.

At this event, the Group also assisted the college in their project to install “Smart Boards to every class room”, by handing over a cheque to the Sub Warden Asanka Perera, to the value of Rs.400,000, collected from its membership. Esto Perpetua!

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Opinion

Why cry for Djokovic – a reply

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I strongly object to the remark Dr Upul Wijayawardhana (Dr U W) made in the first paragraph of his Opinion, in The Island of Saturday 22 January, titled  ’Why Cry for Djokovic?’ critiquing Cassandra in her Friday 21 Cassandra Cry.

Dr U W writes: “Cassandra uses her column liberally to criticise our politicians for giving special treatment to their kith and kin.” I, Cassandra, have two reasons to object to this damning statement. I have never criticised politicians for “giving special treatment to their kith and kin”. I have criticised politicians on various other issues such as what they have done, but not on this particular accusation. Hence Dr UW deliberately, or carried away by his writing eloquence, placed me in danger of reprisal. Such is not done.

Please read me in Cassandra Cry on Friday January 28, where this matter, and some others  the doctor has written regards Cassandra will be refuted,

CASSANDRA

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