There were no bohemian air, no party jollity, no ‘open house’ invite to dip into snacks and chats, no time for long showers, dabbed with generous splashes of after shave, no time for selfies and, definitely, no kisses for the arresting cop who handcuffed him. This time the mood was sullen. The atmosphere cold. Last [...]


Ranjan’s kiss-and-tell tapes continue to top the hit parade

JVP calls for all 121,000 conversations to be aired and the entire CD collection to be preserved for posterity

There were no bohemian air, no party jollity, no ‘open house’ invite to dip into snacks and chats, no time for long showers, dabbed with generous splashes of after shave, no time for selfies and, definitely, no kisses for the arresting cop who handcuffed him.

NEW BALD LOOK: Arriving in Court on January 17th to attend postponed firearm case, Ramanayake repeats ‘I went to catch rogues and got caught’. Pic by Chathur S. Kodikara

This time the mood was sullen. The atmosphere cold. Last Saturday the 4th of January, the offence for which he had been taken in had been his failure to license his firearm issued to him by the Government for his protection.  It was, to a certain degree, much to do about nothing and the policemen, too, could scarce forebear to join in the melodramatic mood and showed they were game for a laugh. Even the magistrate showed leniency and freed him on bail on Sunday.

But that was before the police had a chance to decipher the contents stored in his CD collection which numbered 121,000 secretly recorded phone conversations spanning a period of four and a half years. It was before a choice sampling of this collection was sneaked and aired to the public. It showed him in a different light.

Thus when the police swooped on his home on January 14, there was no room left for antics. The Attorney General had ordered the Colombo Crime Division to obtain an arrest warrant from the magistrate and bring Ranjan in. The magistrate duly granted the police request and thus duly armed with the arrest warrant, the police arrived at the actor cum politician and MP’s door.

This time the show was short-lived. Finding that the media had not been allowed entry to film the inside scenes of his arrest, he hastily switched on his Facebook to give a streaming live cast of that momentous event.  Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris was to tell the magistrate the following day when he produced Ranjan before him in court that the suspect MP Ranjan Ramanayake had behaved in a manner that undermined the judicial due process when the Police attempted to execute the court order for his arrest.

‘His behaviour at his residence when Police were trying to arrest him on an arrest warrant was contemptuous and disrespectful towards the judicial process. He was behaving like he was about to go to a wedding, in front of the camera. This type of practice would undermine the public confidence in the judiciary. The court should take into consideration these kinds of things as well, in order to secure the public confidence in the judiciary,’ DSG Peiris added.

Ranjan Ramanayake  was charged, as per the Attorney General’s instructions, under Article 111C(2) of the Constitution which states that, if a person interferes with the judicial powers without legal authority or the functions of any judge, he/she is liable for an offence punishable by the High Court for a period of one year imprisonment with fine. In addition, he/she will be disqualified for a period not exceeding seven years from the date of such a conviction from being an elector and from voting at a Referendum or at any election.

The crowds and the gallant UNP parliamentarians who had thronged his home in droves at the time of his arrest on January 4 to give him moral support and who had on the following day gathered on the door step of the court when he was released on bail to give full throat in song to ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ were conspicuous by their absence both at his residence on the 14th and at his cameo court appearance when he was remanded until the 29th of this month.  Suddenly the birds had flown. And the song they had sung lay stilled in their flight. It was the day the music died.

As he was led away to the waiting Black Maria to be taken to the Welikada prison compound where the magistrate had ordered him to be remanded for a fortnight, Ranjan Ramanayake exploited the last few breaths of his freedom to exercise his freedom of speech by holding he was the living embodiment, the self-evident proof, that doubtless showed freedom of speech had been damned out of existence without realising the selfsame Constitution provides safeguards to prevent it from turning into the freedom of the wild ass.

He also protested that he had been arrested for the same offence twice. He did not realise his first arrest was due to his failure to have a valid licence for his gun. The reason for his second arrest was the charge of ‘interfering with the judiciary’. His third ground of protest was that ‘no judge has complained’. But in criminal law, offences, even though aimed at the individual, are offences against society, which is why the Police do not wait for a murdered man to return from the borne of the dead to file complaint before starting their police investigations.  His fourth objection was that he had been arrested and remanded without it even being confirmed that it was his voice on the tapes — tapes that were in his own custody. It is a matter of routine for people to be taken into custody on grounds of suspicion and to be remanded until investigations determine whether the prima facie suspicion is well founded or not.

But away from the Courts and whatever legal judgment may fall on him at the bar of justice, moral degradation that attends him has damned him beyond the pale of redemption. The handful of tapes that have so far surfaced to the public gallery are secretly recorded conversations from many walks of life. The people he talked to are people who implicitly and sometimes explicitly trusted him with their jobs, with their reputations and even with their lives.

Little did they know that while he often conveyed that the trust would be returned and was mutual, he was secretly recording the whole conversation and thereafter proceeding to store it on CDs for any thief armed with a knife to steal it at will or a cop armed with a search warrant to impound it: In short, to store it in permanent form at the risk of it being easily taken and its contents exposed in public for all to hear.

For all intents and purposes after his first arrest and release the following day, Ranjan was a national folk hero. After the discovery of his diabolical tapes and the airing of the sleazy dynamite in it, his controversial whistleblowing has turned him overnight to Lanka’s number one pariah.

But not all see only the dark cloud brooding overhead bursting at the brim to rain down a flood of filth on a landscape already drenched with a surfeit of seasonal muck the monsoons brought in.

In the dark harbinger the JVP discerns the silver line; and knowing well, and in advance, that when the ominous cloud bursts its seem, it will rain on them too for they are the first to admit that they have talked to Ranjan on the phone and the first to be so bold to say they are not unduly worried.

Holding a special press conference on Wednesday to give notice to the public and prepare them for whatever untoward thing the rains, like the cat, may bring in, the JVP leadership took up the position that the Ranjan tapes comprised the good, the bad and the ugly.

Going down the Marxist road with its sign post writ large with the Lenin maxim, ‘The end justifies the means’, JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake told the media at the JVP’s Pelawatte office that ‘even though Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake’s recording of phone conversations was immoral and unacceptable, it revealed the true nature of the country.

He said, “There are two sides to Ranjan’s matter. He had adopted unacceptable and immoral methods which cannot be expected from a recognised person. The other side is, it has revealed the deteriorated and corrupt nature of society, including the corrupt nature of top hierarchy of the key sectors”.

“These key sectors,” he said, “such as politicians, officials, judiciary, religious organisations and the business sector were corrupt and spoilt,” and added that leaked phone recordings revealed the falsehood of these sectors.

He said, ‘Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had also done the same thing to reveal undemocratic actions but they adopted proper and acceptable methods to do it whereas Ranjan did the opposite. If Ranjan had done it in an ethical manner after forming a peoples’ movement, it could have been a public campaign such as of Snowden and Assange’.

And, guess what? The JVP wants more. It seems they can’t get enough of it. And here is the reason why. Bimal Ratnayake says, “There could be records because we as politicians speak to fellow MPs, but one thing for sure is that we have nothing to fear because we know what we spoke of.  We never spoke of underhand deals or of getting culprits released from prisons. None of our MPs have talked to anyone to protect thieves. So, we are not afraid while many others are shivering”.

Now consider the extent to which the JVP are prepared to make the nation go merely to prove they are above board. According to Bimal Ratnayake, the JVP position is that all the tapes – that is 121,000 conversation clips – should be aired in full. Ratnayake says, it is better to keep all the clips at the Public library or publish them through a recognised institution such as the Government Information Department so that people can know how corrupt the society is.  Does the JVP also want Ranjan’s unwarranted sacrilegious reference to the DNA get up of Prince Siddhartha’s wife, Yasodhara Devi, which hurt the sensitivities of millions of Buddhists in the country also preserved for posterity to imbibe?

What next? Does the JVP want an unabridged transcript of it added to the next addition of the Mahavamsa? But yet, are the Ranjangate Tapes so damaging, its inherent destructive power so awesome that it threatens to shackle the very foundations of Lanka’s social edifice? After the first frenzied fits of curiosity and excitement over what the tapes may disclose have subsided, after all the hullabaloo has died a natural death, after returning to the scene of crime and reviewing the scattered clues strewn indiscriminately, after taking in the broad picture in the cold stark light of reality, perhaps it’s time to press the pause button and ask ourselves the question: Are we making a mountain out of a molehill? Is it much ado about nothing that we did not know of before? That something is rotten in the state of Lanka?

According to government MP Mahinda Aluthgamage, only a handful of conversation clips have still been aired.  It is only the tip of the iceberg – an iceberg of 120,000-odd conversation clips. Unless those who shout the tapes will rain ruin and hail damnation on Lanka and destroy every hallowed pillar of democracy have heard the unreleased bulk of the tapes themselves, judgment must be made and has been made by many on the released tapes alone – not on the imagined content of what the unreleased bulk may hold.

Going on the basis of what has been revealed so far, canard has spread and has been echoed by the JVP too that the tapes have shown that the Lankan Judiciary is corrupt. It has done no such thing. True, it has led to the interdiction of one Magistrate and the naming of a sitting High Court judge and a retired High Court judge. It has led to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interdicting the Baddegama Magistrate Dhammika Hemapala. After receiving his explanation the other sitting High Court Judge Gihan Pilapitiya’s explanation has been forwarded to the President under Article 111 – 2B of the Constitution for necessary action. It is reported that the JSC does not have powers to act regarding retired High Court Judge Padmini Ranawaka.

Even if these judges are found guilty, does it mean that the Lankan Judiciary is tainted with corruption? Can the alleged conversational intercourse they have had with Ramanayake tar the entire Court edifice? Do three swallows make a summer?

Another controversial subject is conversations with senior police officers, namely, DIG Shani Abeysekera and CID Inspector Nishantha Silva. DIG Abeysekera has already been interdicted as a result of the tapes, while Inspector Nishantha is beyond Lanka’s jurisdiction having already sought asylum in Switzerland long before the existence of the tapes were revealed. But what do those conversations really show? It is worth revisiting them and hearing them and determining for oneself whether there was any real genuine attempt made by Ranjan to force them to put his choice picks behind bars.

The rest of course, and this forms the vast majority of what the tapes contain, are Ranjan’s sleazy chats with film actresses, prostitutes and women of dubious character who show they are on the same wave length when the conversation turns to their favourite topic. The tapes focus on Ranjan’s sexual proclivities, his sexual predilections and the sexual acts he has performed with other girls and would like to perform with the girl he is speaking with and what she must dress in when she comes to meet him.

These are the so called explosive stuff, it is claimed, that will rock Lanka and rip the social fabric into shreds. The stuff the JVP would love to see preserved whole in the Public Library for future generations to sneak a peek. But it will not be an insight into the corruption of society at large that they will get but more of a revelation into a decadent lifestyle of a permissive few. Far better, once the last ounce of interest in the existing tapes has been squeezed dry, the tapes and its engineer to be dumped in the loony bin of history. And the lid closed.

Can there be two Popes in one world?

Ex Pope Benedict backs down after breaking silence with new book

In the recent film ‘The Two Popes’ dealing with the retirement of Pope Benedict and the ascendency of Bishop Bergoglio to the papacy, Pope Benedict played by Anthony Hopkins confides in Bishop Bergoglio played by Jonathan Pryce of his intention to retire as Pope.

The conversation goes like this:

Benedict: I’m going to resign.

Bergoglio: Resign from what?

Benedict: The papacy. The Chair of St Peter. The Bishopric of Rome. I’m going to renounce all of them.

Bergoglio: Popes can’t resign.

Benedict: It’s not without precedent. Celestine the V resigned, 1294. Didn’t you know that?

THE TWO POPES: Ex Pope Benedict, 92 and his successor Pope Francis, 83

Bergoglio: Holy Father, you think that people will not be shocked because this happened once before 700 years ago?

Eventually, Pope Benedict has his way and setting a new precedent, resigns. And the new conclave of cardinals elects Benedict’s choice, Bishop Bergoglio as the next Pope. But how can there be two Popes in one world, has been the perennial question asked by Catholic theologists and canon lawyers. Others have warned of the potential confusion in having two Popes.

For starters, they live side by side in the Vatican. One reigns whilst the other is retired. One is the Pope, the other calls himself ‘Emeritus Pope’. Both wear the same uniform: the White cassock of the papacy.

To prevent any possible mishaps and confusion in the future, Pope Benedict agreed to remain ‘hidden in the Church’. Whilst the Ex-Pope Benedict has duly recognised Pope Francis as ‘the successor of Peter’, the Ex-Pope has never forgotten that he has been ‘a successor of Peter’. The peace lasted for just over 6 years. While Pope Benedict initially stuck to his promise to live a life of quiet contemplation and pursue his interest in academic research, he has since expressed his opinion on the issues off clerical sex abuse and whether catholic priests could marry.

This week Benedict’s contribution to a book on celibacy was seen by some as a strategic attempt to undermine Pope Francis.

The book, titled ‘From the Depths of Our Hearts’ and co-authored by Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Robert Sarah, has been seen as a challenge to Pope Francis who has been considering allowing the ordination to the priesthood of married deacons to address a priest shortage in a remote region of the Amazon.

But this week Emeritus Pope Benedict backed down. It was announced that Benedict wanted to remove his name from the next edition of the book.

But then Pope Francis seems to have been infallible when he predicted that there can’t be two Popes. True. There can’t be two Popes in the world or two Presidents in one country, or three leaders of one major opposition party.

At the pinnacle, there is only room for one.

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