Ranil, Wimal and Jeyaraj
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti Our Lobby
Policies change, people die and history
tends to repeat itself. All of the above
apply to the Sri Lankan legislature like
everywhere else but deaths are more regular
while policy shifts are frequent. Last week
was no different.
A quiet week dedicated to passing a series
of tax bills and expressing the House'
collective grief over the passing away of
two legislators, Ameer Ismail and
Thyagarajah Maheswaran, the week's moot
point was the non appointment of the
Constitutional Council with the UNP and the
JVP breathing fire, demanding its immediate
The plight of the CC went beyond academic
interest or as a good governance concern
with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe
alleging 'foul play' in a fiery outburst
last Thursday (21).
Breach of right
Wickremesinghe accused that the
Constitutional Council issue had gone far
beyond a need to depoliticise public
institutions with top public officials being
transferred out by the President creating
"There is so much of drama today that our
right to appoint representatives to the CC
has been severely breached. When delays are
caused, those of us who have nominated our
representatives have our rights violated and
the spirit in which the CC was created is
forgotten," he said.
Now to top it all, he observed, Director
General, Permanent Commission Investigating
Allegations of Bribery and Corruption,
Piyasena Ranasinghe has also been
"This is incredible. He was chief
investigating officer looking into the
controversial MiG deal and the COPE report
forwarded by parliament. A month ago, the
OIC of the Assets Investigation Branch of
the Commission, C.A. Premashantha was also
transferred," he charged.
Wickremesinghe's attack did not end there.
He accused the government of willfully
delaying the reconstitution of the CC.
Besides the sudden transfers, another
controversy was the ongoing debate about
Former Auditor General S.C. Mayadunne's
willingness to be appointed to the CC. "This
impinges upon our right to have nominees
appointed. So I called him and asked whether
he was reluctant to be appointed to the CC.
He said no," Wickremesinghe told the House.
Before he could sit down, up jumped UNP
senior John Amaratunga. Arms flaying, he
thundered that under Section 60(A) of the
Bribery Act, the President was empowered
only to appoint the Bribery Commissioner and
not to transfer or dismiss him. "Whoever
gave him powers to do politics like this?
Naturally, we assume that the transfer was
effected due to this government's fear of
its corruption coming out when the good
officer completes the MiG investigation. If
you have nothing to fear, why the sudden
transfer just as he begins to investigate
the tainted deal?" thundered Amaratunga.
The CC issue was uppermost on the minds of
the legislators it appeared, with the JVP's
Wimal Weerawansa following the UNPers to
take up the same cause.
The JVP Group Leader fired further salvos
calling the transfer of the Bribery
Commissioner a 'deed most foul.' "We
understand the political desperation. We
realise your haste to appoint favourites to
the Constitutional Council and through that,
to wield control over the independent
commissions. These are desperate and ugly
tactics of an unpopular government with much
to hide. We understand all that," he sniped.
Weerawansa thundered that the government
should not for a moment think that it was
free to make public service appointments the
way it wished. "This government has sought a
mandate to defeat terrorism. To do that,
democratic institutions must function. We
won't allow this kind of terror to prevail
upon us. This is an ugly game to politicise
the public service and further ruin it and
we shall do our best to defeat such
dictatorial and politically driven efforts,"
It was in similar vein that Weerawansa made
an exhaustive special statement on Tuesday
(19) morning when he simply threatened to
take the battle to the streets if the
government fought shy of constituting the CC
and sought to divert attention by entering a
huge debate on the suitability of S.C.
Mayadunne to be appointed to the same as
nominee of the minority parties.
He promised not to allow a dictatorship to
blossom by crushing democratic institutions
to ground using the present situation.
"What we need is strengthening of democratic
institutions to prevent paving the way for a
dictatorship. The President had used the
non-functional state of the Constitutional
Council to make appointments according to
his whims and fancies. The need is to
depoliticise public institutions but look at
the ugly drama that is unfolding. We
pioneered the 17th Amendment through the
'probationary government' and we won't let
it die," he vowed.
He said: "The President has unabashedly used
the non existence of the CC to make ad hoc
appointments. Now hairs are being split over
Mayadunne's nomination. If he is unsuitable,
then let the courts decide. Not the House
and not someone else," he said.
Govt. on the defensive
This little speech put the government on
the defensive with Chief Government Whip,
often batting round the wicket for the
government's sake, this time slipping into
the role of defence counsel and wielding a
His argument was that Mayadunne's nomination
did not find favour due to his engagement as
a consultant to the two parliamentary
watchdog committees, COPE and COPA.
What is more, the Treasury was paying him an
allowance, he said, only to have the entire
opposition joining forces to throatily
accuse the government of trying to prevent
the distinguished public servant from being
"It is unnecessary to debate Mayadunne's
suitability. If he has a guarantee of being
appointed, then he will relinquish the
present post. If there is difficulty in
quitting fast, we can collectively provide
for him to do so within a period of time
without causing the work he has undertaken
to get affected," proposed Ranil
Ask and find out
Minister Fernandopulle's position was that
as a consultant to the two parliamentary
committees, Mayadunne did not wish to resign
his post, and did not appear to accept both
Weerawansa's and Wickremesinghe's assurances
that the nominee was in agreement to quit
his present post when appointed to the CC.
At this point, JVP's Wimal Weerawansa
intervened to add that such arguments would
only complicate matters. "The matter can be
easily settled if the President were to
summon Mr. Mayadunne and ask him whether he
is willing to given up his consultancy or
not. All this is based on a presumption that
he is unwilling to let go of the current
post whereas he has told me that he would
quit," he added.
It was TNA Parliamentary Group Leader, R.
Sampanthan who pointed out that all this
battling only achieved one purpose- -
delaying the CC from being appointed. "We
seem to be losing the real argument. The
need is not to debate but to make the CC
functional," said he, with quiet emphasis.
JVP's India bashing
The JVP's duplicitous stance on
neighbouring India often defies logic
and reason. Not because we love
so much but because the JVP has indeed
benefited from India, particularly when
its current Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe
was fleeing for dear life in the height
of the '89 insurgency. In that sense,
the JVP sure owes the neighbour one big
The recent India bashing by none other
than JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe at
two public meetings came under attack on
Thursday afternoon by the UNP when
several finance bills were being taken
up for debate.
Amidst the economic jargon, there was
UNP's Ravi Karunanayake rapping JVP's
knuckles, pledging the Marxists would
not be allowed to take the country down
the precipice again by whipping up anti
Indian sentiments and to campaign a
boycott on Indian goods.
"You did this once and ruined this
country. You destroyed our opportunity
to annihilate the LTTE with the help of
the IPKF. You insulted the friendly
forces as 'monkey troops.' The present
UNP has maintained good links with India
and does not wish Sri Lanka to
experience any erosion in relations with
the neighbour. We will do our utmost to
prevent that," breathed Karunanayake,
promising any anti Indian campaign by
the JVP would be simply nipped in the