Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

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Rajapakse Regime must be held accountable

Posted by harimpeiris on February 5, 2015

Rajapakse Regime must be held accountable

By Harim Peiris

(Published in the Sunday Leader of 1st February 2015)

 

Former President Mahinda Rajapakse earlier this week, issued a detailed statement refuting what he termed were baseless allegation of corruption against him and his former administration. Preceding the former president’s press release, his son and parliamentarian Namal Rajapakse made a statement to media that only his father and he should be “attacked” as he termed it and other family members should be spared. Clearly the issue of massive corruption by the Rajapakse regime and the post election revelations on the same, is an issue which the Rajapakse family is responding to and hence needs to be examined. The former president asks for due process in pursuing the corruption charges and this is indeed essential though it is a pity that Mahinda Rajapakse only values due process when he is out of office.

Accountability is crucial to democracy and the people’s sovereignty   

 

Sri Lanka is a republic, which means the people of the country are sovereign or the highest authority in the land. For this cardinal principal to be meaningful, governments which have control over state power from time to time must be accountable to the people for their actions. This accountability is best expressed on an ongoing basis in a free and open democracy, but under Rajapakse rule, Sri Lanka was one of the most dangerous places on earth for journalists. TheSunday Leader founding Editor Lasantha Wickramatunga was gunned down in broad daylight in Colombo and according to embattled former de facto, Chief Justice Mohan Peiris, only God knows where cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda is, though Peiris openly stated otherwise at international UN forums. So if allegations of wrong doing  in the Rajapakse regime came into the open only in the context of an election campaign and after the removal of Gotabaya Rajapakse as Defense Secretary, few can fault those now making corruption allegations for keeping quiet earlier. None would want to share the fate of Lasantha or Prageeth for stating news, views or opinions.

The Rajapakse Defense

 

Reading through the press statement issued on 27thJanuary by former President Rajapakse, his essential defense is that due process was followed in the design and costing of projects especially the mega projects of the highways, airport and port. The former President also makes the point that funding for these projects were secured partly from multilateral lending agencies such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, which have their own internal processes of international standard and accordingly corruption could not have taken place. However the bulk of the projects are unsolicited, outside tender procedures and funding is from Chinese semi government entities, which are opaque given the non transparency of the Chinese financial system. Moreover the former President or his residual defenders have not really addressed the issues raised by Professor Amal Kumarage, of the Department of Transport of the University of Moratuwa, which clearly pointed out that Sri Lanka has the world’s costliest highways under the Rajapakse’s and the cost was exponentially increasing each year. Also the Rajapakse defense conveniently ignores that where corruption is alleged in the highways, is not with regard to the ADB funded initial sections such as the Colombo to Galle expresses way, but the later Rajapakse added ones of the outer circular highway. The other area of massive corruption was the unsolicited projects by various cronies and opaque unknown entities, generally from China. Sri Lanka did not attract many Fortune 500 companies or any of the global corporate names, we were the playground of wheeler dealers and casino kings.

The Sirisena Administration actually requires advanced forensic financial investigative capability to trace the full scope and extent of Rajapakse corruption and this capacity would be sourced and secured. Further the issue of abuse of power is the other side of the coin or closely related to corruption.

The coup attempt

 

The other major issue, which needs to be addressed and additionally to the former president, both the former defense secretary and Mohan Peiris should explain is what transpired in the early morning hours of 9th January 2015, as the election results were clearly demonstrating that Mahinda Rajapakse had lost the election. The fact that Mohan Peiris was present at 4.00 a.m. on the Saturday morning at Temple Trees is not even refuted by him and such refutation is hard, given the numerous eye witnesses including the Honorable Prime Minister. The other irrefutable fact is the strange troop deployment plan drawn up by Chief of Defense Staff General Jagath Jayasuriya for a post election massive troop deployment and control of state media, the TRC and most of the capital city, including the elections commission. Why in peace time and on whose orders was the Chief of Defense Staff acting when he draws up operational plans which are actually outside his purview, since as CDS he is outside the direct line of command of the three forces. His role as envisaged in the statutory law creating his post, is similar to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US military and is a coordinating role. The Rajapakse’s make a big deal about summoning the Attorney General on the grounds that if something illegal was being planned that AG would not have been consulted. But any extra constitutional power grab requires a thin veneer of respectability and plausibility and the AG was summoned to allegedly  explore declaring a curfew and or a state of emergency. For what reason, no one is able to explain. There was no disturbance, only a quiet ballot box repudiation of Rajapakse rule.

Abuse of power

 

The one hundred (100) day program of President Sirisena’s National Democratic Front Administration is very clear, that it will hold the perpetrators of massive corruption to account. Equally important is the closely related issue of abuse of power. Former Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga must be answerable for all the hundreds of president’s office vehicles which are missing. The issue of out sourcing  coastal security to a private party without due process, political patronage allegedly provided to the illegal narcotics trade, duty waivers for friends, land grants for cronies, nepotism at its worst with government appointments, pay and perks for the entire Rajapakse clan and an inner coterie are all an abuse of the Sri Lankan state for which the previous regime must be held accountable for the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan people to me meaningful.

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