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Yet Another Swindlers’ List? Ali Baba And His…

[The Sunday Leader.lk, Saturday, 9 January 2010 19:29 One Comment]

By R. Wijewardene

“Do not associate with evil companions. Do not seek the fellowship of the vile.  Associate with the good, seek the fellowship of noble men.”

— Dhammapada

Mahinda Rajapaksa, Mervyn Silva, Keheliya Rambukwella, Douglas Devananda, Douglas Devananda, Sajin Vaas Gunewardena, Karuna and Rohitha Bogollagama It is often said that you can judge a man by the company he keeps and one of the most damning indictments against our incumbent President is that he keeps exceedingly poor company.

Mahinda Rajapaksa may well be one of the most charismatic and successful politicians in the country’s history – however he has, from the moment he assumed office, surrounded himself with ministers, followers, acolytes and stooges of very dubious repute.

Of course all Sri Lankan presidents without exception have at some level cultivated thugs and unsavory allies. However Rajapaksa’s associates have been so brazen with their criminality and corruption and have cultivated such a reputation for villainous excess that they have become a millstone around the administration’s neck, dragging down the popularity of what should, following the historic victory and various significant infrastructure development projects, be a very popular government.

And while Mahinda remains popular among the general public the same cannot be said of his allies, many of whom can be counted among the least popular political personalities in the country.

A vote for Mahinda is a vote for Mervyn

Of course any list of Mahinda’s unsavory acolytes must begin with our own Doctor Doom.

Already known for buffoonery and thuggery the Minister for Labour Relations became a figure of national ridicule when he was filmed assaulting and then being assaulted by staff of the Rupahavini Corporation.

The idea that a government Minister was locked in a room by staff incensed at his foul mouthed threats, is rather amusing and seems to confirm the nutty professor’s role as an effective court jester.

However the more sinister aspect of Mervyn’s character was revealed when those who had dared stand up to his abuse at Rupavahini were later subject to brutal and violent attacks.

Mervyn’s association with underworld figures is well documented and the maverick Minister appears to revel in fatuous displays of his influence and power. He is reported to have publicly claimed responsibility for the assassination of this newspaper’s Founder Editor. And has frequently made unveiled threats against those journalists, politicians and civil servants who have dared question the presence of a known thug in the heart of Sri Lanka’s political establishment.

And while he was once seen as something of an overblown clown most the island’s public now regard the Kelaniya king pin as a dangerous disgrace to the nation.

The fact that the President has not taken any steps to distance himself and his government from this man who revels in thuggery and flaunts his association with criminals appalls even the most ardent Mahinda supporter.

And Mervyn’s presence as a key part of Mahinda’s coterie is a serious deterrent, driving the neutral and undecided voters who will play a key part in deciding the outcome of this election, away from the Rajapaksa camp.

A vote for Mahinda is a vote for Karuna

But if Mervyn was the sole sinister element in Mahinda’s retinue most of the electorate would be happy to allow our President the indulgence of a single court jester.

However Mervyn is just one of a vast coterie of dubious acolytes and advisors.

No slouches in matters of thuggery and terror are messieurs Karuna and Pillayan. These esteemed former terrorists by their sudden/strategic defection played a vital part in the defeat of the LTTE.

However that they have been rewarded for their defection with an effective free hand to pillage and profit from the east; to threaten and terrorise its people and each other, is again deeply disconcerting.

The feuding between the two former allies means that violence, murders and abductions continue to plague the east.

A series of land grabs initiated by both the Pillayan and Karuna factions as they struggle to seize primary property throughout the east has fuelled an epidemic of corruption.

A vote for Mahinda is a vote for Rohitha Bogollagama

The frequently flying Foreign Minister is well known for taking his job a little too seriously. And as Foreign Minister has acquainted himself so thoroughly with things foreign that he spends remarkably little time in this paradise isle.

So keen is he on being abroad that he is now renowned for his lavish junkets and carting dozens of advisors and his own family members to every corner of the world in often fruitless quests to secure aid, trade, and also procure better suits for himself.

On a single official visit to Brazil, Bogollagama was reported to have spent five million rupees and slotted a family holiday in a luxury resort in Rio into his schedule.

Within the Foreign Ministry, the inimitable ‘Boggles’ has consistently overlooked career diplomats and ensured that Rajapaksa relatives and retired army officers occupy as many major diplomatic posts around the world as possible.

Unsurprisingly his eccentric appointments rendered him somewhat unpopular with old hands in the Foreign Ministry and a court case was filed questioning his appointments.

While Bogollagama must be given some of the credit for dealing with the pressure exerted by the ‘international community’ on the government in the last days of the war, in the minds of the electorate, Boggles is a symbol of government extravagance. And his presence in the cabinet is unlikely to do any electoral favours for Mahinda Rajapaksa.

A vote for Mahinda is a vote for Keheliya Rambukwella

The convivial Keheliya has become a stalwart of the regime. As Defence Spokesman Rambukwella has been the voice of the government, consistently, and often successfully, defending the regime’s military solution to the international media.

However the able Mr. K wears a number of hats within the government. And it is in his capacity as Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister that he was found to have committed a series of enormous frauds.

The Sunday Leader reported that Rambukwella presided over a particularly sinister fraud at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment where domestic workers seeking work in the Middle East were compelled to obtain fraudulent and expensive insurance from an unlicensed agent.

Rambukwella was also implicated in the abuse of resources at the state owned foreign employment agency. By appropriating vehicles and assets belonging to a public institution for use by his family and in his political campaigns Rambukwella would provide another example of this regime’s cardinal sin; the use of public assets as personal property. A policy that may provide short term gratification for ministers but has thus far proved unpopular with the public.

A vote for Mahinda is a vote for Douglas Devananda

Another government strong man with a terrifying past.

Now firmly in the government fold, in his day Douglas was a fearsome anti government insurgent who had no compunctions about ordering and participating in the elimination of policemen and soldiers.

While all that maybe in the past, Devananda’s paramilitaries still cast a shadow over Jaffna. And the EPDP’s, reportedly, still armed cadres have been accused by rival political parties of engaging in open thuggery and extortion. And Douglas is reputed to run his strong hold; the Jaffna Islands like a private feudal fife.

A vote for Mahinda is a vote for Sajin Vaas Gunawardena

The man behind the absolute and unacceptable farce that is Mihin Air.

A vote for Mahinda is a vote for S.B. Dissanayake

A man who’s sons are known to have run amok with the protection of their father and a man who has faced repeated allegations of corruption. While he has successfully rebuffed the serious allegation that he misappropriated millions of rupees worth of Samurdhi funds he has been less successful in cultivating an image as an honest politician.

And his penchant for pole vaulting across this county’s political divide or crossing over hasn’t helped him establish an image as a man of principle.

A rousing orator and veteran campaigner with a genuine power base in Kandy, SB has of course been affiliated with every side in the country’s political game. But while he only recently rejoined the Mahinda camp, in doing so he may have given the UNP a definite edge in the current corruption related mudslinging contest.

With SB now locked in the SLFP’s embrace, UNP supporters are able to claim that the party’s years in the wilderness have cleansed it of corrupt and wayward elements allowing it to present a clean slate to the public.

While such claims may rather stretch the truth, there is something disconcerting about the prospect of a Rajapaksa administration with SB as prime minister. The potential for corruption seems staggering even by Sri Lankan standards.

Not that anyone believes that a UNP or rather joint opposition government will be significantly less corrupt in the long term. However this government by being in absolute power for five years has been able to put into place such an exhaustive mechanism for corruption that you can’t help but fear the future, six more years of Rajapaksa rule will bring.

Ultimately, this government has been able to stuff every relevant agency with its cronies meaning that the infrastructure is now in place to bleed the country dry. The UNP which has been struggling in the wilderness for decades will take time to implement as high a degree of institutional corruption.

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One Comment »

  • disgusted said:

    Totally disgusting. A country deserves the government it gets.

    We wiil happily remain a third world country for ever.