Man Of Letters
pause a while from letters to be wise;
There mark what ills the scholar's life assail:
Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail.
- Samuel Johnson: Vanity of Human Wishes
letters maketh a man, then Thilanga Sumathipala is indeed a man in the
making. Last week, he and his legal advisors sprang into action,
engaging in a correspondence which might have drawn an envious glance
from even one of the more prolific Victorian litt‚rateurs - Jane
Austen, for instance. But there the likeness ceases. Ms. Austen was no
fraudster, common crook or swindler. She did not, for instance, spend
the long winter evenings, knitting needles in hand and telephone on ear,
engaging in idle banter with mass murderers incarcerated in Brixton
so our Sumathi, Sri Lanka Cricket and Sri Lanka Telecom Chairman, as
good a liar, a cheat and a swindler as money can buy. Irked and vexed by
the string of scandalous stories published in The Sunday Leader,
bookmaker-turned-kingmaker Sumathipala sat down to a series of prose
that would have drawn a tear from the eye of his English literature
teacher at Nalanda Junior, whoever that poor soul was. On October 21 he
penned a letter marked 'Urgent / Important / By Hand' to Secretary,
Interior Ministry, M.N. Junaid. In it, he claimed he was a victim of
"grave injustice" that would cause him "to be shunned by
right thinking people in society and cause ruin to my success." And
about time, too.
heart bleeds for Sumathipala. Who does he think he is? The Blessed
Mother Teresa? It was he who took with him to the 1999 World Cup in
London, Dhammika Amerasinghe under the forged identity of Buddhika
Godage, a wanted murderer, paid for by the Cricket Board (of which
Sumathipala was President). Hardly cricket, old boy! But the plot
thickens: he knowingly accompanied Dhammika on a false passport, a
criminal offence. That Dhammika is now languishing in Welikada Prison
awaiting trial for several dozen murders is, to Sumathipala, a matter of
no consequence. That Sumathipala has been in regular telephonic contact
with the paid assassin is, he says, pure coincidence. All this, after
all, is what the ICC, the champion of international cricket, expects of
its directors. And when the Cricket Board's auditors raised a query on
the irregular sponsorship of 'Godage,' Sumathipala voted to write off
the entire consideration. How's that, umpire? Caught and bowled, what?
barely had the ink dried on Sumathipala's letter on October 21 when on
October 22, Desmond Fernando, P.C., sprang into action, pen in hand.
This notable defender of human rights has now popped out of the woodwork
representing Sumathipala. Writing to Attorney General K.C.
Kamalasabayson, Fernando urged him to investigate the "leakage of
information" on the inquiry against his client. Amazingly, Fernando
did not stop to ask his client how it was he committed fraud and then
authorised it to be written off; how he was complicit in uttering a
false passport; and how come he needed to keep telephoning a mass
murderer in prison. Instead, he wanted to know how it was that details
of the inquiry were leaking out. Come, come, Mr. Fernando! This is
rather like a husband being discovered in bed with his mistress and
offering the defence that his wife was wrong to ascertain his
whereabouts. This simply will not do.
on the heels of Fernando came D.N. Thurairajah & Co.,
attorneys-at-law and, to boot, notaries public (frankly, the "&
Co." bit had us worried, for we all know the kind of Co.
Sumathipala keeps). No doubt with an eye on the corporate budget, they
sent their missive by snail-mail registered post, not opting for
extravagant hand delivery as Sumathipala and Fernando had done.
Nevertheless, they did trouble to underline and capitalise the
'registered post' bit, just in case we failed to take note. And anxious
to be noticed, they addressed their letter to the editor, the publisher
and Ms. Frederica Jansz, reporter of The Sunday Leader, copying it also
to an assortment of bigwigs and chalking up in the process a sum total
of Rs. 99 by way of postage to the corporate overhead.
Thurairajah (&, for that matter, Co., notaries public), the livewire
of which outfit is Mr. Radhakrishnan, are men of purpose (in sharp
contradistinction to Macbeth who, if you recall, was according to Mrs.
Macbeth, infirm of purpose). They do not stint. They give their clients
their money's worth. Our startling exposures on the life and times of
their client Sumathipala they thought, arose from the machinations of
"jealous and disgruntled persons." Well, Messrs Thurairajah
(& Co.), hang on to your dentures: we have news for you. If you
think we're green with envy at the doings of a habitual fraudster (viz.
your client), think again. And as to our state of gruntlement, pray let
us be the judge of that. It takes more than a letter from you (even by
registered post) to gruntle us.
cold shivers down our spines, Thurairajah (& Co.) say they are
putting us "on notice." In words calculated to sting and hurt
our finer feelings they claim we are "acting wrongfully and
unlawfully, have intentionally, deliberately and maliciously, with mala
fide intent, caused grave and irreparable loss and damage and
irremediable mischief to our client, for which our client will seek
legal redress." Well, Messrs Thurairajah, be our guests. Just you
go seek legal redress and watch our counter suit. Legal redress,
Thurairajah cohort, whose contribution to literature has taken four
pages to do what Desmond Fernando has done in two (we trust they do not
charge by the page), rather than explaining how it is that their client
came to take murderers on false passports to London for the World Cup at
Cricket Board expense - something the public is no doubt all agog to
know - have hurled vulgar abuse at us, bringing relations by blood and
marriage into the equation. Well, Messrs Thurairajah, come to that,
would you wish us to begin rattling on about Sumathipala's mother, the
venerable President of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress?
is it not amazing that Thurairajah and the company they keep (notaries
public) are the legal advisors to Sri Lanka Cricket? Here is the
President of Sri Lanka Cricket caught with his hand in the till, and
rather than represent the interests of their client, Sri Lanka Cricket,
what do we have? Messrs Thurairajah (& Co.) leaving no stone
unturned in trying to exculpate their new-found client, Thilanga
Sumathipala. You can't serve both God and mammon, Thurai, old boy: no
while Sumathipala, Fernando and Thurairajah gripe about The Sunday
Leader having accessed confidential documents, in his letter to Junaid,
Sumathipala has appended a copy of a letter from Mr. Rumy Marzook, which
is neither addressed nor copied to him. Now how did he get his paws on
that? Sumathipala is not just a liar and a fraudster: he is a hypocrite,
what of young Desmond? Is he without sin? Judge for yourselves, dear
readers. Our worthy Desmond is legal advisor in Sri Lanka to the ICC.
Elsewhere in today's issue you will find us quoting chapter and verse
from the ICC's Code of Ethics, a code it is Fernando's job to see is
upheld. Has his client Sumathipala upheld it by defrauding Sri Lanka
Cricket? Has his client Sumathipala upheld it by engaging in the bookie
business? Has his client Sumathipala upheld it by taking criminals on
false passports into the very heart of international cricket? Whether or
not you think the ICC is getting value for its money in Fernando, we
leave you to judge.
would also urge Fernando and Thurairajah to note that given that they
represent also SLC and ICC respectively, the public will watch whether
they bill Sumathipala for their time. After all, it would not do for
their bills to be paid, if effect, by SLC and ICC now, would it? And
given that Sumathipala has already got caught taking his machangs with
him on globe trots at Board expense, we will be forgiven for drawing
attention to this sordid side of things.
and his legal advisors can write until they are blue in the face, but
facts are stubborn. Like a cornered cat, Sumathipala is baring his fangs
and clawing the air. He could do worse, and indeed we know he has. We
will not be cowed by his threats, or those of Fernando and Thurairajah.
For all the hot air Fernando utters in support of human rights, when was
he assaulted or shot at for his troubles? We have been, Fernando, and
the evidence is steadily coming out as to who paid the piper. There are
those to whom the subject of human rights is a matter of academic
interest, or perhaps even personal passion or maybe even a way up the
international ladder. But there are also those who have defended these
very rights with blood. Ironically, it is the armchair champions of
these rights who now rush to defend the abusers. The Sunday Leader has
no personal vendetta: we have only the public interest at heart. We will
continue to publish, unbowed and unafraid. Not all your threats, not all
your abuse, will stop or stifle us. Be assured of that.