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MR's memory loss

Politicians developing sudden amnesia when confronted with tricky situations has now become a common phenomenon in sunny Sri Lanka. Forgetfulness, to put it in simple English, we thought, was a disease confined to the likes of Duminda Silva. The onetime powerful Monitoring MP of the Defence Ministry professed to have forgotten all the events at the scene of the murder of Presidential Advisor Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra in Kollonnawa on the day of the LG elections. Ditto for ignorance. Former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, giving evidence before the Special Presidential Commission hearing the Central Bank bond issue, pleaded ignorance on who paid Rs. one million rent a month for the luxury apartment he and his family were occupying during the renovation of his own residence.

Then it was the turn of Basil Rajapaksa. Questioned by CID sleuths on the ownership of the luxury bungalows built in Malwana, during the Presidency of his brother, the former Economic Development Minister simply claimed he did not know. Not to be outdone, when journalists asked Namal Rajapaksa outside the court hearing the Hi Corp matter the former first son said he was completely in the dark as to how he received Rs. 30 million to invest in the Company.

The latest to be afflicted with the syndrome is the former President himself. Asked by pressmen outside his Wijerama Mw. residence after he was quizzed by the CID over the Keith Noyahr abduction, if it was true that the journalist was released by his abductors thanks to the intervention of the present Speaker Karu Jayasuriya who contacted him over the phone about the abduction, MR simply said mata mathaka ne Karu Jayasuriya katha kalada kiyala (I cannot remember if Karu Jayasuriya called me).

The Keith Noyahr affair was brought to the limelight once again with the advent of the present government. The investigation was reopened, court proceeding followed and suspects were remanded. It is astounding indeed amidst all the hullabaloo for Rajapaksa's memory to be all that slippery to forget this important telephone call that saved the life of the former Deputy Editor of the Nation, ie. assuming that things happened the way it did.

However, the Speaker has already given his statement on the matter to the investigators and it was thereafter that the CID questioned Rajapaksa. Hence, there is no reason to doubt the episode. Besides, the sequence of events received wide publicity in the media, with the reopening of the case, which was not refuted by Rajapaksa and long enough for him to remember if indeed there was a call or not from the Speaker about the fate of the journalist.

One recalls newspaper reports of a similar abduction and release of the brother-in-law of former Minister Jeevan Kumaratunga after contact was made by the latter with former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Here too, perhaps, like the Speaker's intervention, the influence of the film star turned politician who was then a staunch member of the Rajapaksa camp, saved the life of his brother-in-law, whose abduction it was alleged was an accident- the abductors not knowing the identity of the victim.

Hence there is little doubt that the White Van abductions were carried out at the instance of very powerful personages of the Rajapaksa regime, whatever the protestations of ignorance on this score.

It was expressly stated by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to journalist activists Poddala Jayantha and Santh Balasuriya, when the duo were subjected to an inquisition at the Presidential Secretariat by the former Defence Secretary, that he was unable to protect them from harm they may encounter at the hands of military personnel (This was after the duo led a protest demonstration opposite the Fort Railway Station against attacks on journalists allegedly carried out by the military). This, no doubt, gives more than an inkling of the existence of hit squads manned by military personnel to harm journalists. The two media personnel, not long after this fled the country, with Poddala Jayantha virtually maimed.

Be that as it may, a spectacle was made of the whole affair of the CID quizzing the former President at the latter's residence, with bus loads of supporters ferried to the venue to express solidarity with Rajapaksa some of them shouting slogans and displaying placards. The same scenario was witnessed when, sometime back, former First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa made an appearance at the CID headquarters. On that occasion the bussed in crowds chanted the slogan Viharamahadeviyata jayawewa (hail queen Viharamahadevi) which no doubt evoked amusement in many watching the TV footage.

Apparently the stampedes witnessed at court houses when the Rajapaksas were brought for their cases is now being replicated at MR's official residence. This, no doubt, is a ploy to intimidate the investigating officers. If so, the government should take steps to prevent such “shows of solidarity”, because this is a gross interference in the duties of police officers. We say this because the trend might catch on and crowds accompanying politicians hauled up for financial crimes to express solidarity, will tantamount to a rebuke against the law. 


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