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Monday, October 15, 2007

Politics In The week : The Nation

The ravages of police politics, and Ranil’s dilemma!

The independent media and the government media agencies are at logger heads, accusing each other over the issue of media freedom.
While the independent media claims there are many impediments in its way, the government media outfit has the audacity to brand some of the media men who do not support the government in its (government’s) campaign against the LTTE, as traitors.
The Media Centre for National Security has, for a moment, forgotten that the country is fighting a section of its own people and bringing misery to their lives.
Terrorism is not a thing that anybody would condone, but the legitimate rights of the people cannot be overlooked or suppressed in the name of fighting terrorism.
The media is there to expose such shortcomings on the part of the government and on military excesses, which does not augur well for a democratic type of administration.
Human rights violations take foremost place in a country that fights a separatist war for decades, and Sri Lanka is no exception. Human rights are being violated by both the government and the LTTE.
People see these things happening almost everyday but keep silent out of sheer desperation. Motorcades carrying so called VIP’s, who are being maintained by tax payer’s money, have become a sore point for motorists who adhere to the highway code.
In this country, traffic laws are a mockery. The law doesn’t apply to the more privileged class who flout the law at their whims and fancies, while the cops turn a blind eye. There is another class who take the law into their own hands when they are on the road; they are none other than the private bus driver fraternity who do not have any respect for the other road users and break the laws with impunity.
The traffic police are not at all effective and they are on the road to harass the legitimate road users rather than helping them. The other day, senior DIG Bodhi Liyanage addressing the senior policemen said that the Police have so far failed in their duty to protect the citizenry.
What the people see today is not a people friendly Police but a Police department that is out to harass them while protecting the so called VIP’s at the expense of the general public.
Police politics
However, there are exceptions to what is mentioned above. There are policemen who discharge their duties efficiently; who are aware of the travails of the people and act accordingly to create a friendly bond with the Police. There are yet others who implement the rule of law to the very letter, irrespective of the social standing or the status of the person concerned.
One such policeman is Sub Inspector Anura Chandrasiri, who is facing the guillotine now for having done his duty properly. The Sub Inspector in question booked the son-in-law of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) for drink-driving.
At the time of his routine beat, when he booked the IGP’s son-in-law, SI Chandrasiri was not aware of the powerful connections the suspect had until later, when an officer of the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police called at the police station seeking the release of the person concerned.
A Deputy Inspector General of Police hurled verbal abuse at this officer over the phone for having booked the Police VIP’s son-in-law, which, according to this righteous DIG, is against the ‘law.’
The officer, SI Anura Chandrasisri, was transferred out of his station at Rajagiriya following this incident, while the SSP Nugegoda, Deshabandu Tennakoon, is now making several other allegations against this officer—probably to curry favour with the hierarchy in the Police Department.
In the meantime, police officer Chandrasiri sought the intervention of the Police Commission for redress against the injustices brought upon him, while the IGP was busy issuing strict instructions to all Police divisions on the dissemination of news to the media.
IGP suppressing media
By standing order 06/2007, the IGP had addressed all Police divisions on the subject of releasing information to the media. He drew the attention of all senior officers to two earlier circulars issued by the IGP on August 2, 2006 bearing No 1932/06 and circular no 1373/97 dated October 27, 1997 and clause 6 of chapter XLVII of the second volume of the Establishment Code.
The IGP says that although specific instructions and guidelines have been issued as to how officers should act when dealing with the media, there had been instances in recent times where senior police officers and the OIC had deliberately disregarded these guidelines when disseminating news to the media.
Since such instances have been reported recently; the IGP has instructed senior officers that these practices should come to an immediate halt, and emphasised the need to strictly adhere to the provisions stipulated in the circulars mentioned above.
In addition to this, the IGP directed all officers to release information to the media in consultation with the media spokesman Senior DIG Jayantha Wickrameratne, and take note that information can only be released through him, or, as per his directions.
The DIG’s in charge of all divisions have been told to implement this order to the very letter of the law to ensure that nothing adverse leaks out to the media. The circular had been signed by Senior DIG N.K.Illangakoon in charge of Range IV.
The IGP seemed to be cheesed off over the recent media exposures regarding the Police, and, more recently, about his son-in-law’s drink-driving episode. At a time when the people are clamouring for transparency in government departments (especially in the Police department, which has a reputation for high profile corruption among other misdemeanours) and when the media is lobbying for legislation that will enable free access to information, the IGP appears to be on a different footing altogether by trying to suppress the media.
What the IGP should realise is that he should work for the greater good of the people instead of hiding behind his uniform for petty advantage. He should be aware that all of the powers he now enjoys, exist only for the time he holds the top position. There is no point trying to be the most ideal policeman Sri Lanka ever produced after retirement. Therefore, it is imperative for the IGP to be fair to all in discharging his duties, bearing in mind that he, as a public officer, has a responsibility to the general public.
Government’s economic impotence
Besides this, the political landscape in the country seems to be changing once again with Arumugam Thondaman and his party members taking oaths as Ministers and deputy ministers in the present set up, which will further push the UNP’s plan to defeat the government during the November budget. With the CWC joining the government ranks, the equation in Parliament has changed to 117 members for the government and 107 members for the opposition with the scale tilting more towards the ruling party.
Although Thondaman was not too happy with the portfolio he received, he accepted the same old subject allocated to him on the promise of a better portfolio in an impending cabinet reshuffle some time after the Budget, or in early January.
The President is making every effort to see that his government is stable despite the claims made by the main opposition that it is shaky and would fall at any moment, owing to the present status of the government’s economic management.
It is true that the government is facing a severe economic crisis and trying to find ways and means to overcome the problem. The Marxist JVP on the other hand, is criticising the government for its economic impotence, while the government is making a passionate plea for them to join hands with them at least for a year. President Mahinda Rajapaksa made these remarks at the Vapmagul ceremony held in Nikaweratiya recently.
However, the JVP’s Lal Kantha was more sarcastic in describing the government and its programme of work when he said that the President was doing everything other than governing the country properly and putting the economy on the right track.
It appears that the government is clueless on the economic front, unlike the UNP, and has absolutely no idea how they should improve the national economy; this phenomenon has dragged the country into a grave economic crisis. On top of all of this, the President is resorting to popular measures, such as increasing the wages of estate employees, when the tea economy has not done so well in the past few years.
Notwithstanding all of the above, the immediate need of the President is to see that the UNP does not do anything untoward during the Budget, which would compell the President to dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections, although now it is very unlikely the UNP could do anything given the present position of the party.
No confidence in ‘no-confidence’?
The UNP’s decision to move a ‘no-confidence’ motion against Minister Milinda Moragaoda was faced with opposition as some of the members had not shown a keen interest in doing so.
It was Magala Samaraweera and Sirpathi Sooriaarchchi who had come forward to settle the dossier against Moragoda. In fact, Moragoda had asked for an earlier date to debate the matter and finish it off.
During the initial stages, the UNP leadership found it difficult to convince some of its members to support the matter. Some were of the view that by doing so, they were distancing the members of the UNP democratic group whose support would be essential for the party at a crucial stage. One person who openly advocated the re-entry of the democratic group very recently was none other than the one-time main critic of Karu Jayasuriya and his group, Vajira Abeywardene.
However, in this instance, seniors such as Jayawickrama Perera, John Amaratunga, Joseph Michael Perera, and Amara Piyaseeli Ratnayake were not too happy over the move and the credentials of the people who have been chosen to move the resolution in the House.
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe did not mind all that but, all the same, did not want to let the matter go before the Secretary General of Parliament with only the signatures of the two defectors from the SLFP. He wanted to add some UNP flavour to the resolution and got Dilip Wedaarchchi from the Hambantota district, to support the move in the House.
Wickremesinghe knows that Dilip is a close associate of Sajit Premadasa. He may have wanted to check the pulse of Sajit too when he selected Dilip Wedaarachchi. Wedaarachchi immediately fired a call to Sajit from Wickremesinghe’s office to ask Sajit whether he should sign the’ no-confidence’ motion against Milinda Moragaoda.
Premadasa, a matured politician, weighed the pros and cons of the situation then and there and told Wedaarachchi to go ahead if the leader wanted him to do so. However, there are misgivings on the part of the UNP parliamentarians over the ‘no-confidence’ motion against Moragaoda since Moragoda himself refused to sign a ‘no-confidence’ motion against Lakshman Seneviratne when he was requested to do so by Chief Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernanadopulle.
What is more interesting is to find out why the UNP moved to initiate a ‘no- confidence’ motion against Moragoda.
Insiders say it was because Moragoda was instrumental in organising a meeting between the President and the business leaders in Colombo, who are more or less UNP supporters and played an important role while Wickremesinghe was Prime Minister from 2001 to 2004.
The meeting was organised some time back, where top businessmen of the likes of Merril Fernando, Eran Wickramaratne, Mohan Pandithage, Nihal Jinasena, Sumal Perera, Shan Fernando, Irwin Weerakkody, Chrishantha Perera, Senaka Rajapaksa, and a host of others were present.
Wickremesinghe made discreet inquires, using mutual friends of the businessmen, and was satisfied that Moragoda was instrumental in the matter and that he was working against the interests of the UNP.
At the meeting with the President, the business leaders brought many matters to his attention, including that of liquor licences not being granted to several boutique hotels including the one located at the Bandaranaike home–‘Tintakel’ at Rosmead Place.
After the discussion was over and when the guests were about to leave, the President made it a point to single out Eran Wickremamratne, Irwin Weerakkody, and Chrishantha Perera and invited them to a separate discussion, where they discussed the current political situation in the country.
It was then the President told them that he was aware of the connection they had with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and that it should not be an impediment to serve the country when the need arises. Thereafter, he explained that whatever it is, he is the President of the country and Ranil Wickremesinghe is fighting his way to reach this position. He also said that the UNP has embarked on a virulent campaign against him at the moment.
The President basically sought their assistance to put the country right in the face of a severe economic crisis.
Most of the insiders of the UNP are of the opinion that the ‘no-confidence’ motion against Milinda Moragoda came into being soon after this meeting, which was seemingly detrimental to the interests of the UNP.
In the meantime, Colombo district UNP parliamentarian M Maharoof has written to the UNP leader that he would not be able to vote with the UNP if the ‘no-confidence’ motion against Moragoda is taken up as intended. Mahroof has ended his letter thus:
“I sincerely hope that we will not be requested to back the proposed no confidence motion against Milinda Moragoda since many will not be supportive of such a move.
Instead of creating more damage to our party by accommodating these two persons (Mangala Samaraweera and Siripathi Sooriarachchi), who in my opinion do not have much political value compared to the seventeen who have left us, it would be better to bring back those seventeen in order to build back party unity and strength so that we could be in a strong position to win a future election.
It may also be a better idea to offer the deputy premiership to a person who has contributed much to the party or consider personalities such as Rukman Senanayake and Sajith Premadasa, whose parents have contributed much of their life time to the UNP.
In finality if the said no confidence motion is taken up, we will be compelled to vote against such a motion, the reason being that Moragoda has been a personal friend and not encouraged political mudslinging on any individual, whereas in my opinion, Mr. Mangala Samaraweera’s credentials are questionable.”


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