At the onset of a new year when the existence of a CD collection containing private phone conversations between film actor turned politician turned one man one shot rogue buster Ranjan Ramanayake and his coterie of unsuspecting phone pals secretly recorded and stored by the actor himself, came to light following a court authorised  police [...]


Will the Ranjangate tapes get the full monty or be expurgated?

Speaker’s decision to be reviewed again by party leaders

THE RANJANGATE TAPES: Secret recordings of phone conversations get a new airing in Parliament as the new look bald actor is further remanded

At the onset of a new year when the existence of a CD collection containing private phone conversations between film actor turned politician turned one man one shot rogue buster Ranjan Ramanayake and his coterie of unsuspecting phone pals secretly recorded and stored by the actor himself, came to light following a court authorised  police raid on his house, it sent tremors through the establishment, the court houses, parliament, fashion houses, beauty salons and film studios and had the nation’s who’s who quivering in their shoes or stilettoes, wondering whether their indiscretions were also trapped on tape.

The alarm took a shrilling tone when a couple of tapes made an unauthorised advent into the social media domain where insatiable public appetite for social gossip devoured  it whole and demanded more.  And there were plenty more from whence it came.

It soon transpired that the few dynamite sticks lit in public so far were only those lying at the top of the crate which contained 127,000 dynamite sticks of conversation clips. What dark secrets they held if exposed to public air and ignited and whether it would blow the whole social, political and legal order if tested in a bonfire of uncertainties lay beyond the scope of the most fertile imagination.

If the proof of the pudding lay in its eating, so did the proof of the dynamite’s potential  to cause maximum and collateral damage lie in lighting the crate wholesale at the risk of hell breaking loose. Understandably, it was a risk those with loose tongue who had had phone chit chats with Ranjan feared to take and were set on having it shut out from public ears.

THE HON SPEAKER: Gives valid reasons for his decision

The majority of them need not have worried. As the days passed and more and more Ranjangate Tapes mysteriously emerged, they proved to be nothing more than the sleazy meandering the straight talking, fast walking, shoot from the hip, bicep bound and black wigged actor held with an assortment of actresses, salon assistants, models and prostitutes each one demonstrating the frequency with which filth was fluently used.

Apart from a few conversations he had with three members of the judiciary which gave rise to some legitimate public interest, the rest did not rise mentally higher than the one had with the former female Bribery Commissioner where he bragged how he was God’s gift to women in need and how he unfailingly obliged them whenever they called for his services.

Thus the first live stream trending in the social media brought no major upsets; and it was soon discovered that the dynamite stick were all damp squibs, at best a harmless ‘nila’ spurting sparks for public entertainment. And once the novelty of hearing slanders uttered in vulgar lingo had worn off, the box office hit for a week failed to make good its original promise of being one set to run for months.

But yet the question remains. The tapes released so far by some mysterious force for some mysterious reason have followed a certain pattern.  A few tapes revolve around one infamous case and the phone conversationalists are all participant of it. A few others cast the judiciary in bad light with a view to possibly lowering it in the public esteem. The rest are obsessed with the sexual peculiarities of fashion designers and starlets expressed in choice filth.

Thus it must be asked whether it is a carefully directed trailer designed to downgrade whatever damaging stuff the rest in Ranjan’s Collection may contain? A cunning decoy presented with the singular sinister aim to pre-empt its potential and to put the public off the scent which would otherwise have, possibly, led to the main quarry?

But, like the pudding test which dictates it must be eaten to prove its taste, to test the validity of this conjecture, the rest of the tapes had to be given an airing to determine its importance and value. At least the 19 tapes that Ranjan, on his second appearance in Parliament after his arrest, presented to the House as the quintessence of his collection, with a special request to the Speaker that they be tabled.

Shortly thereafter, the Speaker summoned a meeting of party leaders to discuss the matter and to decide whether the tapes should be tabled or not. Earlier this month, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that Parliament Library would allow MPs to access CDs, containing phone call recordings handed over by UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake, after obtaining party leaders’ approval.

But thereafter, party leaders had suddenly entertained second thoughts and decided that the MPs or the public, through them, should not be allowed access to it even with an X-rating or ‘adults only’ tag slapped on the racy Ranjangate Tapes. Instead they had decided to submit it to a four-member committee to examine and expurgate them and present a ‘suitable for family viewing’ harmless version of the tapes.

These were the new developments facing the Honourable Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s attention  when he arrived in the chamber to commence the business of the House this week on Tuesday 18 February.

At the outset he stated. “There are various views as the recording refer to names of MPs. I decided to allow the MPs to listen to the recording as they have to clear their names. However, more than gossip, the recordings contain mostly filth.”

The Speaker stated: “The MPs made a request to allow them to listen to these recordings and the party leaders were notified of this. Based on the agreement of all party leaders, it was decided to release these recordings to the MPs after editing these recordings. Accordingly, a four-member committee was appointed to listen to these recordings. Moreover, there is a set of accepted traditions and course of action followed by this House in terms of documents that are tabled. Such documents are tabled only with the approval of the Speaker. Similarly, the document that is tabled should be included in the MP’s speech in the House. As soon as the speech is completed the document should be placed on the desk. Thereafter, once this document is tabled, it is not an accepted tradition to edit a document which is tabled.

‘However,’ the Speaker continued,  ‘based on the request made by the MPs and the agreement reached at the party leaders’ meeting, it was decided that it is best to edit these recordings prior to making them available to the MPs, but I wish to reiterate that this practice should not be a precedent for the future.’

Speaker Jayasuriya urged all MPs to exercise their right to freedom of speech accorded to them through parliamentary privileges in a responsible manner without jeopardising the reputation and deference of parliament. The Speaker warned that in the event the MPs fail to follow proper procedures when tabling documents in parliament, he would be forced to reject such material.

There seemed to be many MPs in the House who did not wish the tapes to fly from Ranjan’s Pandora Box but to remain shut in along with the world’s other ills and evils which as the legend relates escaped nevertheless at the end. The MPs had their own reasons why they feared its release.

Minister Wimal Weerawansa, whose own wife had already made her audio appearance in the tapes, wondered whether someone was playing politics with the tapes. His grouse was that if the decision was made to release the CD, someone could make political gains out of it. “We like to know the contents of the CDs so that it will be possible for us to determine whether anyone is trying to gain political advantage out of it,” he said.

The Speaker’s answer to his query was to assure him that there was no politics involved in this matter and these recordings had to be edited due to the crude language contained in it.

MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said there were no provisions to release the CDs under standing orders and that a CD could not be considered a document. He queried as to how the contents of these tapes received rights under parliamentary privileges and powers.

In response, Speaker Jayasuriya said, “There is no provision and this cannot be considered a document. There is no use to society from these either. There are varying viewpoints on this matter, but this should not be taken as an example for the future.”

Mr. Rajapakshe said he would not criticise the Speaker because the party leaders had decided that the CD should be released to the MPs.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said the CD has been released without the consent of the party leaders and that releasing the CD would not be a healthy move because it contained statements which insulted certain countries. “Imagine, the consequences which Sri Lanka would suffer if the CD is released,” he said.

How a private telephone conversation between featherweight Ranjan and another politicians could cause a serious diplomatic incident is beyond one’s ken and is laughable unless one is privy to access the tapes and decide for oneself, rather than simply go on the say so of another politician, however senior. Excuses of this kind to suppress what one hates to see divulged are dime a dozen and is part and parcel of the repertoire of any self-respecting politician.

But not all MPs wanted the tapes bowdlerised or banned.

JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s bee in the bonnet was whether holding back the CD would also create a bad precedent as an MP will have to seek the permission of the House and the ruling party when tabling a document in the future. Both he and colleague Bimal Ratnayake insisted that the MPs had the right to access all the recordings tabled by Ranjan Ramanayake.

UNP MP Harin Fernando, who is also alleged to be featured in the tapes, championed Ranjan’s rights and said that to hold back the CD would be unfair as long as Mr. Ramanayake is concerned. “Some of Mr. Ramanayake’s conversations have already come out in the media without his consent. It is time to allow Mr. Ramanayake to release the conversations with his consent.”

And, of course, the most vociferous critic of the move to prevent tabling the tapes or censoring the contents of the tapes, it was Ranjan Ramanayake himself. Ramanayake said that he had tabled the recordings so that people would be aware of the extent of corruption in the country. He had not included only those concerning national security.

Ramanayake said: “We came to catch crooks but we didn’t. This was my way of trying to do something.  Now in prison I am next to Udayanga Weeratunge and Kapila Chandrasena. They are in for corruption. I am in for fighting corruption.”

He said that none of his phone recordings or conversations tabled in the House contains unparliamentarily language.

‘Media had reported that some MPs have mentioned that these recordings contain unsuitable language during a discussion about allowing MPs access to these recordings on Tuesday. The language of these recordings is also pointed as a reason for barring MPs access.

“However none of the recordings I tabled contains vulgar language. There are two recordings with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, one with former President Maithripala Sirisena, State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera and wives of Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Wimal Weerawansa. Will the Presidents tolerate if I used filth during my conversations with them?’ he questioned.  Speaker Karu Jayasuriya assured that he would look into the matter.

Ranjan stated that people of the country need to listen to the recording so that they know the behaviour of those they voted into power. The Prime Minister said a commission needs to be appointed to look into these recordings. I am also counting my fingers until that happens.’

The matter was postponed for another day. The Speaker is expected to announce the decision  after the party leaders have met again to discuss the issue and review their earlier decision.

They might consider a decision to ban it altogether from the House or censor the tapes out of existence by leaving only the dullest scraps on it. It may well preserve Parliament’s decorum but would not stop its proliferation.

Nay, aided and abetted by the peculiar frenzy of interest a banned document or tape or film generates, it will create its own demand in the underground market and traversing in the public domain untrammelled by spurious arguments or vested interests may well find a place on a public forum that demands it be given a seat in a court house as a receptacle of incriminating evidence or be held by the same public forum as one that should be flung into the dustbin of history.

How Lanka’s tender loving care saved island’s first corona victim

THE MASK CAN’T HIDE THE SMILE OF THANKS AND THE TEARS OF RELIEF; Lanka’s first coronavirus victim is given a clean bill of health after waiting weeks at death door at the IDH

The mask couldn’t hide the smile that beamed straight from the heart of Lanka’s first (and hopefully the last) coronavirus victim after doctors on Wednesday certified her as being corona cured and discharged her from their care. With clasped hands held in traditional eastern style that said a resounding thank you, she expressed her undying gratitude to the doctors and the nursing staff of the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Mulleriyawa who had nursed her back to the pink of health with naught but tender loving care from the deadly jaws of the bat borne virus for which there’s still no known cure and which has so far claimed over 2000 lives in its unstoppable rampage throughout the far flung regions of China.

A KISS OF THE ALL CLEAR: A nurse who had lovingly tended her gives a warm embrace to show she’s completely virus free

The unnamed 43-year-old Chinese woman had arrived in the island in early January as a member of a Chinese tour group. The ordeal began for her when she developed corona symptoms and tested positive. While she was immediately kept and treated in isolation at the IDH, the nation was understandably horrified that a coronavirus victim was existent on its soil. Chinese tourists who had been most welcome a few weeks earlier were suddenly turned into pariahs and viewed as walking corona carriers of death.

Many were refused entry at restaurants as the sudden entry of one caused the rest of the clientele abandon their meals midway and flee the site leaving unpaid bills. Many hotels, too, refused to accept Chinese nationals as their guests and shut the door on them, provoking the Chine Embassy to issue a strongly worded statement condemning this insensitive racial discrimination.

While paranoia fed panic roamed the streets and lurked at public places, an angelic group of nurses and doctors were day and night tending to the coronavirus victim, braving death by going beyond the call of duty to save her life, which   they did.

And when the happy occasion dawned when she was declared completely cured and free of the coronavirus and could return home to her loved ones, guess who turned up to partake in the golden photo opportunity? Why, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, of course.

After a nurse who had tended to the victim with love and care had fondly kissed her goodbye Pavithra couldn’t help but show the full set of her ivory and pose for a selfie with her, whilst news camera’s flashed to capture the moment.



UNP’s internal duel over symbol 
Had the nation’s main opposition party, the United National Party been involved in lengthy discussions over the country’s present tax structure and were deliberating whether the radical reforms on the table were of sufficient soundness to present it to the public in their election manifesto as the party’s official fiscal policy, the inordinate time taken in its distillation could, perhaps, be forgiven.

But when, on the threshold of a major general election, a general election that could possibly decide what residue of democracy would be left in the country for the next five years, it is deadlocked for weeks on end over choosing between the elephant and the swan as the symbol under which they will battle the hustings, it is a demonstration of irresponsibility that verges on the criminal.

Especially when the choice stares them in the face.

There on the one hand, the UNP can unleash the old familiar mighty elephant that has been jealously tethered in Ranil Wickremesinghe’s backyard for the last fifteen years without a single outing as sole star  in a major polls perehera carrying the party casket loftily on its back and only had a stroll in the company of symbols of lesser parties. It’s the elephant that had been kraalled into the UNP fold by the founding fathers of the party  It is the majestic mascot that has led the party triumphantly  in many an election battle. One does not need the sword of Dutugamunu when one has his Kandula to lead the forces from the front to trumpet the UNP arrival.

Or, on the other hand, the UNP leadership can opt for the graceful elegant swan which swiftly sailed Sirisena to the presidency but drowned Premadasa’s ambitious hopes of finding Excalibur; whilst enabling the UNP leader to continue clinging to the Holy Grail of which he has been the proud but ineffectual custodian, grossly failing to make any use of it for the last twenty five years.

But, in the deadlock, what does this rift-torn party   members do? Do they even flip a coin and let Lady Luck settle the issue once and for all and proceed attending to other important matters that await any party contesting a general election only weeks away.  No. They appoint a committee to study the matter as if to delay it further by chewing acrimony and regurgitating it over and over again gives them a curious joy.

The difference and the galvanizing success of the SLPP is that it shows it is a  party of action, whereas the hallmark of the UNP in recent times is its pronounced vacillation. And as for internal feuds, the SLPP settle theirs behind closed doors. The UNP hangs its dirty linen in public and repeatedly wrings and washes it without ironing out the wrinkles.

Of course, the UNP’s Ranil led faction say they have no objection to giving the elephant to the party’s use but objects to giving it to the alliance of which the UNP will be the main constituent party. The Sajith faction smells a ransom demand and refuses to kow tow for control of nominations will slip from his hand to the old guard. For the mahouts who control the elephant will decide who gets aboard for the election ride.

Both sides may have their just reasons. But isn’t it too late in the day to stay stagnated squabbling.?  Isn’t it time to move on to more pressing strategic matters? The United National Party has a higher duty to the 5 million people who voted for it at the presidential polls. Nay, as the better or worse half of the two party system  of democracy in Lanka – depending on the colour filter of the eye glass one is presently looking through – it has a sacred duty to the entire electorate. A duty to present to the people a credible alternative choice. If it cannot rise to the challenge to do so, far better to tear up its party constitution now. It won’t be needed for a long time. It would have succeeded in turning the nation into a one party democratic state.

In the meantime, it’s best to heed an old Sinhala maxim:, Should a sword meant for war be kept at home to cut jak? Or a powerful elephant meant to win election battles, be tethered in a private backyard left to eat jak leaves?


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