MR supplying fun | Daily News

MR supplying fun

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, now caught up in a major scandal, where, it is alleged, he received US$ 7.6 million as election campaign funds from a Chinese company, as exposed by the New York Times, is busy these days trying to deflect the matter from public attention and in the process is providing light relief to the people.

At a function at his Nelum Mawatha residence, which also saw an induction of sorts of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa into the Presidential race, the former President declared that no other government has interfered with the Attorney General’s Department as the present regime. He also took up cudgels with the state media for highlighting the New York Times expose and found fault with certain state media personnel for supplying information to foreign publications. The state media has no right to act in this manner while being maintained by the money of the tax payers of this country, was Rajapaksa’s contention.

True, Sri Lankans are known to have short memories and this was driven home during the war years, when, after a bomb explosion, and the carnage cleared, after the initial breast beating, everything was forgotten and it was back to square one, until the next bomb. But it is doubtful that the public have forgotten certain happenings during the Rajapaksa years, certainly not the intelligent segments.

One of these relates to the Attorney General’s Department. The AG, it was well known, was at the beck and call of the Rajapaksas, and was made to do as he was told. A drug baron cum rapist was taken off the hook curtsy the Attorney General’s Department, at the instance of Rajapaksa and subsequently made a Monitoring MP of the Ministry of Defence, of all things. In addition, a onetime Deputy Minister, and, Rajapaksa loyalist, had his case, for unlawful assembly and murder, mysteriously closed by the AG who was taking direct instructions from Temple Trees. For the first time in the post independence history of this country the AG’s Department was brought under the Executive, and, needlessly to say, did the bidding of the Executive. The status quo was thankfully restored via the 19th Amendment, giving full freedom to the AG’s department to act independently, and, free of political interference.

This was clearly demonstrated in the manner in which a powerful Government Minister in Yahapalanaya was humbled by the counsel of the AG’s Department during the Presidential Commission inquiry into the bond issue. The grilling was so intense and searching that the Minister concerned cried foul and blamed the AG’s Department for attempting to vilify him. This was in contrast to the free run the offenders in the government had under Rajapaksa.

The former President, who is today blaming the AG’s Department of following the instructions of the government, not only made the AG’s Department an appendage of the Executive, but also went to the extent of taming the Supreme Court. Rajapaksa had the first lady Chief Justice of this country impeached for ruling against his brother’s attempt to use state funds outside the sanction of Parliament. Not only that, government ministers, with goons in tow, pitched camp outside the beleaguered Chief Justice’s official residence, hurling insults at her with the aid of loudspeakers, while Rajapaksa did not raise a finger to halt this abomination, where the country’s highest court was humiliated.

Rajapaksa’s statement, vis-a-vis the state media, is as skewered as his comments on the AG’s Department. He raises issue that the state media, which is maintained with public funds should act independently. If only this wisdom had dawned on him before January 2015, perhaps he would still have been holding the reins of power. It was the gross abuse of the state media that had as much to do with his defeat as the other allegations.

This was most pronounced during both Presidential Election campaigns in 2010 and 2015. On election day, in 2010, state television suddenly announced while the voting was in progress, that Sarath Fonseka was ineligible to contest, since he had not registered as a voter. This, while Wimal Weerawansa’s name too had not been in the electoral register but allowed to contest at elections. It was left to the Election Commissioner to go on air and set matters right, over a private television channel. At the 2015 poll, too, a similar stunt was attempted when Rupavahini suddenly stopped its programmes to announce that Sajith Premadasa had crossed over to the Rajapaksa camp. It was left to the intrepid Mahinda Deshapriya to intervene and virtually threaten the state television channel to retract the obvious falsehood.

Not only that, during the entirety of the campaign, both state television channels were used to character assassinate the Common Candidate, on a very personnel level, while the latter’s paid for advertisements, in the state media, were withheld. On the other hand, there is a case still pending in the courts where Rajapaksa had failed to settle his campaign advertisement bills, running into millions of rupees.

So much for the sanctimonious preachings that the state media, maintained by the tax payers, should be independent.


 

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