So now we know, don’t we! We have law makers (and law breakers I dare say) who are ready to confess to their sins of commission and omission as some call them. Rarely do we find such a transmogrification unless of course they are caught with their pants down, or their hands straying into the [...]


When our politicians turn confessors


So now we know, don’t we! We have law makers (and law breakers I dare say) who are ready to confess to their sins of commission and omission as some call them. Rarely do we find such a transmogrification unless of course they are caught with their pants down, or their hands straying into the public purse or some dubious businessman’s undeclared assets.

But in recent days the Sri Lankan public has been treated to two main confessions, the second admittedly more serious and even astonishing than the first. While the first came from a mere MP but a man of such integrity and moral standing that as Sports Minister he had some cricketers about to fly off stopped because they had not received his okay to play pandu abroad.

Dayasiri Jayasekera, this former Sports Minister now languishing in the opposition benches waiting for something to happen, confessed the other day that he had received a one million rupee cheque for his election expenses. It came from a businessman who is very much embroiled in a highly publicised Bond scam and is spending his time right now in surroundings which he is surely unaccustomed to.

How the Dayasiri exposure came about is too well known to need repetition here. Everybody and his second cousin have long known the nexus between politicians and the business community that funds political parties mainly at election time.

What is important is that Jayasekera confessed to receiving the cheque from a company associated with Arjun Aloysius though he seemed rather vague about how the cheque came to him and what happened to the money after the cheque was cashed by his driver or one of his security men.

Jayasekera did not stop at admitting that he had been the recipient of the one million rupees. He went further, saying that there are other MPs who had also supposedly received donations to enhance their campaign funds. He was not telling anything the public did not know. It is an open secret that big business – and even smaller ones – donate money to political parties or to individual politicians in the hope that when the time comes, they will be able to reap the harvest from the seeds they have sown.

Campaign donations, or paying towards wedding expenses here or an event there is what provides the opening for a ‘tender touch’ in days to come when development projects are on the cards. But the Dayasiri Jayasekera indiscretion is a mere blot when compared to the far more significant confession that the country’s head of state made when he walked into a meeting commemorating the birth anniversary of the highly respected Buddhist monk Ven Sobitha Thera, last week.

The first confession that President Sirisena made was that he had not been officially invited for the occasion. That of course is a hell of a thing to say, if my language might be pardoned. It was the Ven Sobitha’s profound hope that a just society would emerge in Sri Lanka.

His persistence in working towards building such a society that would treat all citizens equally and justly that saw some political parties, civil society organizations and sections of the intelligentsia joining hands to form a common front to eclipse the authoritarianism, corruption and lawlessness that had spread across the country.

Maithripala Sirisena as the common candidate to contest the presidential election is a product of that movement which Ven. Sobitha gave birth to and nurtured in the hope of seeing a political transformation in the country and the emergence of a moral society and clean governance.

So when President Sirisena attends the meeting, uninvited if we are to believe his public confession, then it speaks volumes for the yawning gap that has emerged between those who had and still have faith in the hopes and aspirations of the learned monk and Sirisena, a product of that hope but who seems to have jettisoned the credo which brought him to power.

During his speech which could not have been scheduled if he had not been invited, President Sirisena made more confessions that would surely have made many people hold their breath in incredulity.

Sirisena said he did not know who drafted the 100-day programme that was a centerpiece of his plan of action to bring about just and clean governance. There was of course a simple way to find out. Ask. This 100-day programme was not born after a few days of gestation following his electoral victory in January 2015.

Oh no. Perhaps Sirisena has forgotten that it was clearly referred to in his presidential election manifesto. He said he will stabilize the country in two stages. “The first stage is the 100-day programme to solve urgent issues. For that purpose a National Unity Alliance Government will be established for a 100-day interim period.”

To say now, more than three years later, that he did not know who formulated this 100-day programme which he made an important plank of his stabilizing programme, is the kind of admission that makes one wonder whether we have a President fit for the purpose.

Surely he would have read the 100-day programme, a plan of action he expected to implement in that period along with the support of some other political parties and people behind him.

If he had not read it, did not know what went into it but made it his task to carry it through, then the country has been saddled with a President who seems forgetful, to be euphemistic.

In that same speech the President said that he had appointed UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister although he had only 47 seats in Parliament. It seems like an admission that he went out of his way to appoint Wickremesinghe over a more deserving person in Parliament and had therefore done Wickremesinghe a favour.

It seems that Sirisena, buffeted on many sides by political, social and law and order issues has forgotten the manifesto he presented to the people. Here is what the manifesto said with regard to the 100-day programme.

“This programme will be implemented through a National government comprising the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the United National Party, Jatika Hela Urumaya and people’s representatives, all other political parties that are represented in the present Parliament who are willing to join this programme. The leader of the Opposition Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe will be appointed as the Prime Minister of this National Government.”

So Sirisena determined to win over the UNP vote had already pledged to make Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister even though he knew how many MPs the UNP had in parliament.

If the President is too busy travelling the world to remember what he has said, perhaps it would save the presidency and the country much embarrassment if somebody in his Secretariat reminds him of the promises he had made and those that he has failed to fulfill.

After all these years he is still talking about the helicopter that carried defeated President Rajapaksa and family to their home in Medamulana and who gave authority for its use by the Rajapaksas, a matter that should have been dusted and settled a long time back.

Let’s leave that alone and return for the moment to Dayasiri Jayasekera. One is tempted to go far back into history and attach sobriquets to some of our frontline personalities making the news these days.

Delve into English history and one would come across an 11th Century king called Edward the Confessor, one of the last Anglo-Saxon monarchs. He was supposed to have the power of healing the sick by touching them. Had the GMOA a few of these healers, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne might be saved the trouble of importing some of those rubbishy, hardly effective drugs that are now in the market.

One is tempted to name Dayasiri “Siri the Confessor” after his recent performance. But knowing that Edward the Confessor’s father was called “Ethelred the Unready”, Dayasiri Jayasekera would wish to avoid any suggestion that he is unready for anything that might come his way.

But then history tells us that we too had kings with sobriquets that suggested their contribution to the nation. So we had “Parakramabahu the Great” who reigned in Polonnaruwa.

It is true that our present President comes from Polonnaruwa to which he promised to return as soon as his single term in office was over. Yet it would be extremely hyperbolic if one was to name the President “Maithri the Great” like Parakramabahu, or even “Maithri the Magnificent” though it sounds nice.

Perhaps “Maithri the Forgetful” might well fit the bill.

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