All women tend to lie about their age. But not all women get landed in the slammer for it. Sashi’s – or is it Shehasa’s or is it Shirja’s’s — alleged mistake was to have falsified her name and age on documents tendered to obtain a diplomatic passport, an offence which carries a sentence of [...]


‘Send in the Clowns’ ruse to gloss crackdown fiasco


All women tend to lie about their age. But not all women get landed in the slammer for it. Sashi’s – or is it Shehasa’s or is it Shirja’s's — alleged mistake was to have falsified her name and age on documents tendered to obtain a diplomatic passport, an offence which carries a sentence of one to five years in jail or a fifty thousand to two hundred thousand rupees fine or both.

She allegedly used this diplomatic passport made out in the name of Randunu Mudiyanselage Shehasa Udayanthi, age 44, which grants specified privileges and immunities to its user, to fly to Dubai for a week’s stay on April 10, 2011, and to fly again in 4 weeks to Dubai for 3 days on May 21. She also used it to fly to Mumbai just for an overnight stay on October 20, 2011, to fly to Singapore for three days in April 2014 during the Sinhala New Year; and to fly on a SriLankan Airlines flight specially chartered by President Rajapaksa to an undisclosed destination on June 25 last year for five days.

Also known as Sashi, she is the wife of Weerasangili Panikkiyalage Wimalasena alias Wimal Weerawansa, also a man of two names. Her earlier passport carried the name Ranasinghe Randunu Mudiyanselage Shirja Udayanthi, age 48.

Last Sunday, two days after having gone missing, she was arrested at a private hospital in Malabe. On the 25th she was further remanded till March 4th which would have made her stay at the Welikade Hospital, a little longer than her week’s sojourn in Dubai twice within a month in 2011. On Friday, however, she was granted bail.

Though news of her possible arrest had been in the air for over a month with the police appearing to drag their coppers’ feet, she would still have been a free bird today, red rouged in the pink of health, had it possibly not been for her husband Wimal Weerawansa crassly shooting his mouth off and turning her into a hot number, spurring the CID to give her the chase.

Wimal’s taunts at the Nugegoda rally on February 18 against the CID officials for not coming for her, hit the sleuths in the libido and made them rush to manacle her where they would otherwise have tarried.

Wimal Weerawansa made a dash to state that the ‘Yahapala’ officials had got unnerved by the Nugegoda rally. He claimed his wife was completely innocent and the courts will reveal the truth. He further stated that “they will also make allegations against our children too in the future”; and to make sure the children were not left out of the frame, dragged them into the picture to pose with Sashi on her private hospital bed the following day.

It was one of those terrible moments when the mawkish mush becomes too much to bear and makes one instinctively reach for the sick bag to find nauseous release. Much to the relief of the stomach’s tender linings, what a different and welcome picture Sashi presented when she stridently did the courtwalk on the 25th attired in a radiant red jacket and a floral pink and white sari, with a bright yellow handbag to match and her hair tucked up to form a crowning bun on her head.

COURTWALK: Sashi rises from sick bed to stand in the dock

It has also been no mean feat, as have been said, on the part of the police to arrest her after a complaint was made to them on January 23 that she carried a diplomatic passport obtained by allegedly submitting forged papers. In fact it had taken exactly a month.

According to the police spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana, who seems to have slipped back into his old familiar role with all the ease of a master spinner, “we faced a huge challenge in ascertaining her actual date of birth as both departments did not have documents related to her birth.” He then went on to say, “investigators had to depend on the Central Registry at Maligawatte and records at her school to ascertain her date of birth and this process delayed the investigations into this complaint,” describing the process and final result that would have done the Thompson and Thomson twins spiffingly proud.

So much for the Sashi saga which is fast becoming the comic farce of the year, a sort of ‘sending the clowns’ to keep the crowds content whilst the much publicised knife throwing and the human cannonball acts — which the people had come to the circus to see — are still kept on hold with no reason offered for the no-show.

Let’s face it. However entertaining it maybe, and expect plenty more episodes, the masses did not elect the Maithripala Sirisena Government merely to see this forty something painted siren hauled over the coals and a song and dance made over a diplomatic passport allegedly obtained by her on forged papers hailed as evidence of the Government’s relentless crackdown on corruption and fraud. When the police spokesman says that it took one month for the police to check Sashi’s birth records at the Maligawatte Central Registry and at her school, it speaks volumes of the authorities’ apathy to pursue acts of corruption it vowed it would pursue with vim, vigour and gusto regardless of position. But has that happened? Not in the least. Even in the case of Sashi, it was only after Weerawansa breathed fire and placed the cops in heat that they went after her. Else it would have been another case of ‘proceeding with inquiries’ and no arrest.

As Cabinet spokesman Minister Rajitha Senaratne charged on Thursday, “the police are deliberately focusing action against the small fry who have committed minor offences instead of giving priority to crack down on those responsible for large scale corruption.” As a major stakeholder of the new government, it behoves him to take the necessary remedial measures and ensure the Government’s goodwill and credence are not damaged beyond repair. In other words, sending the clowns to humour the public because the circus is not going well is simply not good enough.
Take Colombo District UPFA MP Duminda Silva, already on bail for the murder of fellow UPFA colleague Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra. With the fortuitous arrest of self-confessed drug baron Wele Suda in January, details emerged of his alleged connections with a prominent, though unidentified, Colombo MP. On January 27, the MP was identified as Duminda Silva. A Court Order, based on a statement made by ‘Wele Suda’ was obtained to probe the 82 accounts he held in local banks and financial institutions. Not the secrecy guaranteed Swiss bank accounts but accounts at Lankan banks and finance companies which are legally bound to obey a court order and provide the police with all details. As SSP Ajith Rohana will no doubt explain one day, maybe this too is a huge challenge to the cops, as arduous as checking for birth certificates at Maligawatte Central Registry and at Sashi’s school, for their findings have still not been made public.

During this last month, Duminda Silva has been questioned by the CID for over twenty hours, three days running. According to the policeman spokesman, a further 21 people suspected of facilitating fund transactions between Wele Suda and Duminda Silva have also been summoned and questioned. Another 160 people have also been questioned in connection with the investigation. But still no arrest.

Isn’t this in stark contrast to instances where alleged drug dealers are summarily arrested merely on tip offs? Where they are first taken into custody and then remanded before the evidence is collected and their guilt established? Or have the police now changed their modus operandi where an iron clad case is first built before an arrest is made, even though it leaves the suspect free to produce an iron clad alibi at his leisure? Or even offer him the opportunity to conveniently get rid of the incriminating evidence including witnesses by the simple process of elimination?
Some high profile members of the Rajapaksa regime have been questioned and given notice that they may well be questioned again. Are the police merely on fishing expeditions purely to satisfy the public demand that those corrupt must be brought to justice? Any delay in either arresting them or exonerating them is also unfair to those questioned for they are thus being denied an opportunity to clear their name.

Consider Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Sajin Vaas Gunewardena. Both have been grilled by the CID and await another roasting. But unlike Aluthgamage who has kept a low profile, Sajin Vaas cockily dared to venture out to open a new petrol station in Kosgoda on Thursday. But hardly had he spoken a few words, his confident corpus got cold feet and he turned tail and took to his heels the moment a crowd in the audience began to rage in anger at the very sight of him on stage. As Vaas’s car sped away, the crowd declared angrily to television cameras: “This is the man who has plundered the country. This is the man who pelted our beloved President Maithri with stones when he came here as the opposition candidate. He should not be free, he should not be attending ceremonies, he should be behind bars and we appeal to the president to take legal action immediately and see that he and the likes of him are put where they belong — behind bars, jailed.”

In that respect Weerawansa’s wife has been lucky. Rather than be forever branded with the allegation she lied about her age and forged documents to get a coveted diplomatic red passport to fly the world with impunity, she has every chance to clear her name now that she has been arrested. She can now await a fair trial by an impartial judge and not risk summary justice dished out by an enraged public. As Wimal Weerawansa, who himself faces a CID grilling over his ‘two dates of birth’, said, “we will prove our innocence and we will now get justice in court.”

Not only do the public earnestly wish him to receive that which is appropriate to his actions or behaviour but, far more than that, also wait to receive the promised justice for the plunder of the public purse and keenly crave the much pledged crackdown on the thieves in Ali Baba’s den, the prospect of which seem to be fading as fast as the fifty sunsets have done since election day.

Yoshitha rides the waves’ crest

Sunday Punch 2

During the days when the British ruled the waves and waived the rules, the enticing slogan used to recruit seamen was ‘Join the Navy and see the world.’ It still is.

YOSHITHA: East, west, home best

But for any young Lankan tar the lure of the catchy phrase does not apply. Given the size of the Lankan navy and its modest limited reach, he would be happy if he caught sight of the southern tip of India while chasing after Tamil Nadu fishermen; and that, too, only if or when the present ban on the sport of hook and release is lifted.

But though the Lankan navy may not have much to offer the common naval rating in the way of exotic ports of call, the varied opportunities it offers any enterprising seaman to ride the crest of the wave even in choppy waters or stormy seas have not been lost on Sri Lanka Navy Lieutenant Yoshitha Rajapaksa, former President Rajapaksa’s second son.

True. After the Rajapaksa flag had been hurled down from the nation’s mast and the colour purple nailed on it had blackened in disgrace and had been discarded swiftly to the winds of change, it had not been the best of times for the ex-skipper and his family crew that once lorded the deck. The new Government had initiated a worldwide hunt to track down the Rajapaksa treasure trove of 5.6 billion US dollars equivalent to over 700 billion rupees, alleged to have been pirated from the nation’s coffers. The World Bank, the IMF and India had joined in the global search and were pooling their resourses to find in which remote island the bounty containing over five billion blistering barnacles of stolen dollars was buried.

But while the people of Lanka were impatiently playing the long waiting game and planning on the length of the plank for the buccaneers to walk on, a surprise decision by the new captain and crew has sprung a leak in the ship’s hold. It was a decision that surprised, puzzled and irked many and nearly made the JVP stage a mutiny on board.
Three weeks ago, Navy Lieutenant Yoshitha Rajapaksa, applied for three months leave from the Navy and received it. He then left the country and flew to Dubai.

Even though an inquiry is underway to determine how he joined the navy and how he obtained the necessary wherewithal to be trained at Britain’s prestigious naval college, and despite the JVP having lodged a formal complaint against him, he left the island without any let or hindrance. His elder brother Namal told reporters that his brother had gone on a private visit, sparking rumours as to why the young man had gone to the international financial hub Dubai, considered to be the Swiss bank of the Middle East.

A few days ago it was revealed that a further request has been made to President Sirisena and to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe by Yoshitha to be assigned to his father’s security detail instead of performing his normal naval duties, tasked by the Navy Headquarters. On Wednesday, the unusual request was approved. And thus Yoshitha would no longer have to take his orders from superior officers but only have to listen to his doting father, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Furthermore, being in charge of the security contingent, he will also be able to surround himself with the same body of men to guard his person as well, and can step out in style with the old status symbol of having a security convoy. Just like the good old days.

The question on the people’s lips accompanied by anger in their hearts is this:

Why is the Government, while it strives to paint the Rajapaksa’s with the blackest tar by holding them responsible for the plunder of Rs. 700 billion of the people’s money, and promising the nation that they will soon be brought to justice, bending over backwards to accommodate every Rajapaksa whim and fancy emanating from Medamulana, as if the man, once denounced as an ogre, must still be appeased, though vanquished? Is it something to do with the files he once claimed to have or is it to persuade him to remain in the backwaters of Hambantota and not come forward to claim the premiership?

In the name of good governance will it not go a long way to calm the disquiet of a people, already enraged by the lack of action against corrupt politicians, if the government displayed more transparency and gave convincing reasons as to why the Rajapaksa fiat still runs in some quarters of the new power structure, with their personal wishes treated as commands? And why, though they no longer rule the land and the surrounding waves, they can still get the rules waived when to come to their flesh and blood?

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