If Razak was arrested in Malaysia, why not Ranil? | Sunday Observer

If Razak was arrested in Malaysia, why not Ranil?

Single issues have caused governments to collapse, and memorably such single issue crises include among others, the Bofors scandal in India, the Watergate affair in USA, and yes, the exit of the first Ranil Wickremesinghe Government in Sri Lanka.

‘The 1986 Bofors howitzer gun deal devastated the Congress Government of Rajiv Gandhi and ruined the party’s prospects of returning to power for several years. The Bofors case revolved around allegations that Swedish defence manufacturer Bofors paid huge kickbacks to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and others for the sale of its artillery guns to India,’ NDTV reported recently.

US President Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal, effectively ending his administration.

The first Ranil Wickremesinghe Government of 2015, ended when Parliament was dissolved prematurely before the COPE Report on the Bond Scam was released in Parliament.

The full details of the sordid affair were not known then, but are known now.

It is shocking how Wickremesinghe could carry on in politics, leave alone leadership positions of the country, having presided over a scandal of the massive proportions of the Bond scam.

The losses from the bank heist amount to trillions and are counted on a daily basis due to the nature of the interventions caused by the scam. Any anti corruption watchdogs in Europe or North America should be blushing, when anybody in their countries call for the return to power, of the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime.

President Sirisena stated last week that he would appoint a special commission to investigate the gamut of corruption scandals that came to light during the tenure of the 2015 to 2018 Wickremesinghe administrations (both of them.)

ICEBERG OF KICKBACKS

The tip of the iceberg in the form of Yahapalana kickbacks was visible last week in the public eye when it was revealed the Dambara Amila (apparently ‘Ven’ Amila) received a Rs 95,000 per month cash emolument from Litro gas, for no reason. That of course was just the small beer, compared to what was rotting at the top.

The payment was certainly not for anything that was done by this person in seeking to ensure a better supply of LP gas, to Sri Lankan households.

More came to light in the form of payments that have been made by Selacine coming under the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media. Those who were paid off include a garrulous TV advocate for Yahapalanaya, and several so called artists, who carried the torch for the Yahapalana administration and its ‘good governance’ efforts.

The corruption and the abuse of power together, of the Yahapalana administration, have to be brought under one rubric, and investigated as egregious excesses of the Wickremesinghe regime.

Abuse of power includes how parliamentary process was subverted to introduce legislation such as the 19th Amendment, by smuggling in various Clauses during the Committee stage, in the dead of night, and of course through the agency of the monumental abuse of power indulged in by the Speaker of the House, Karunaratne Jayasuriya.

How did the latter for instance appoint the leader of the TNA, which had a mere 16 seats in Parliament, as the Leader of the Opposition?

Apart from this being a slap on the face and a stamping underfoot of the JO which functioned effectively as the opposition in parliament, this corrupt practice had the intended effect of providing a pro government member to the Constitutional Council so called, which decided on key posts in the Judiciary and key national institutions. That’s by virtue of the fact that the leader of the Opposition is by law a member of the Constitutional Council.

ABUSE OF POWER RAN DEEP

The cynical manipulation of process was stunning in its scope, and the subversion of institutions led to subversion of it in all likelihood, of all the separate institutions that form the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.

The Constitutional Council so called, which was manipulated in this way, effectively rigged the appointment process to key national institutions in favour of NGO appointees, who have been made to infiltrate key national institutions.

Manohara de Silva, lawyer now turned watchdog in the cause of the preservation of some semblance of sanity and rectitude in the institutional and political sphere, said last week at a pubic forum, that the 19th Amendment saw the subversion of national institutions through the appointment of NGO personnel that were tasked with making important institutional appointments.

Silva is a responsible member of the Bar, a senior President’s Counsel.

His statement has wide implications regarding the propriety of appointments to institutions in at least two branches of State, the Executive and Judiciary.

It’s obvious then that the corruption and abuse of power during the tenure of the two Wickremesinghe administrations ran so deep, that there can never be business as usual under the circumstances.

It is not overuse of cliche to state the self evident, that drastic situations call for drastic measures.

The Wickremesinghe administration, those responsible for the bond scam and the other copious assortment of corrupt actors within the then Cabinet, have all to be held to account, along with the Speaker.

The unmitigated gall of this same set of people being allowed to subvert the corrective process yet again through a sideshow that purports to be an agitation for democracy, is comical at best.

The public needs to know the full list of names of those who profited from the bond scam, and the infamous Aloysius gravy train.

Haul up the UNP Members of Parliament, among others who were the obvious beneficiaries of the Bond Scam largesse. It’s the least the new government can do, in this regard.

CORRECTIVES AND HUSH MONEY

It substantially beggars belief that members of the Wickremesinghe administration who profited with apartments gifted by Aloysius, are now making impassioned pleas in the so-called Parliament, to stop payments to state institutions, which are currently engaged in the corrective task of flushing out the recipients of hush money such as himself, from the bond scam.

‘The inquiry (into corruption) must determine whether elements of state function have been tooled to serve the purpose of wealth-maximisation, while government agencies that represent potential obstacles to it have been expressly disabled,’ wrote Sarah Chase of the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace.

Under the Wickremesinghe administration, all elements of state function were tooled, and indeed maximised to serve the purpose of wealth maximisation.

Ranil Wickremesinghe presided over this corrupt structure, and his overall involvement in protecting and propagating the Bond scam should have, in a normal functioning state, resulted in not just his usurpation from his office — accomplished — but in holding him accountable, under strict scrutiny, under pain of penalty, including of course possible jail time.

A glaring, indubitably water-tight example of his obvious corrupt practices should be his shielding of the mastermind of the Bond scam, Arjuna Mahendran.

No efforts were made by the Wickremesinghe administration to ensure that Mahendran is apprehended in Singapore, or wherever he is supposed to be moonlighting, after having diddled State coffers to the tune of billions.

The pubic demands answers in this regard. Moreover, the majority of law abiding citizens would be scandalized by the appropriation of state facilities such as Temple Trees after October 26, in a classic example of ‘tooling elements of State function for wealth maximisation.’

Wickremesinghe’s web of corrupt practice has been called out, and he has been by fair means or foul, finally held to account. However, he is using a constitutional fig leaf to attempt to hold on to office, just so that his corruption scandals are not subject to the scrutiny that they have to come under.

This attempt at blackmail, is abuse of power in and of itself.

The Former Secretary of PRECIFAC Lucille de Silva was quoted as saying that the (then) Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Min. Kabir Hashim and Min. Malik Samarawickrema, should be investigated despite the positions they hold. “If there is any involvement, they must be investigated”, he added.

De Silva also told a news network, on the attempts to appoint the former Deputy Governor Samarasiri as an adviser to the Prime Minister, saying it is ‘shameless’ as he was the Tender Committee Chairman during the Bond scam.

The former Premier Wickremesinghe was on record saying that he insisted Arjuna Mahendran holds public bond auctions as Central Bank Governor.

His advisor Malik Samarawickrema was present at the infamous breakfast meeting held at the CB, and moreover he shielded Mahendran who said that he had left for Singapore to attend a wedding, and would be back soon.

COMPARE AND CONTRAST

In sum, there is more than a prima facie case to be made against Wickremesinghe for corruption in what could undoubtedly be termed the largest financial heist in the history of the country.

Anyone aiding and abetting Wickremesinghe to say that he has any right to stay on in power, to shield himself against those investigations, are in the light of the above guilty of criminal conduct themselves, by process of partnering someone who is in effect attempting to evade the long arm of the law.

Wickremesinghe has to be brought to book, and he has to be held to account. His presiding over a scandal as large as the 1MB issue in Malaysia, offers a great compare and contrast.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was arrested in a stunning fall from grace, less than two months after losing an election, amid allegations of massive corruption and misappropriation at a state fund he founded. (Reuters.)

No country came forward to shield Razak.

To Razak’s credit, he had not gerrymandered and tinkered with the system to ensure that his corruption is shielded, in a state of indefinite limbo, by ensuring continuity in Parliament by introducing an Amendment that lengthened the tenure of that Parliament, by making it ostensibly indissoluble for four and a half years.

Wickremesinghe did that. He introduced, legislation such as the 19th Amendment, through the backdoor.

 His henchmen who claim on public television that the opposition was blackmailed into voting for the 19th Amendment, have been revealed as being among the recipients from a Selasine slush fund that paid various hangers on in excess of some 27 million in funds, ostensibly to initiate and anti-corruption poster campaign in public transport!

Wickremesinghe has not been arrested. Najib Razak has been arrested. Wickremesinghe on the other hand attempts to cling on to power, with the benefit of the Amendments he specifically engineered, smuggling Clauses into them in the dead of the night, as the Hansard of that time is testimony to. The British Guardian reported that Malaysia’s Razak resorted to ‘tricks” and “downright cheating” in the run up to the general election, after he pushed through a series of laws which allegedly favoured his party, and targeted his critics.

GERRYMANDERING AND FAKE NEWS

‘Over the past week, two pieces of legislation – one which has redrawn the electoral map and the other which cracks down on so-called “fake news” – have been hurriedly pushed through Parliament, bypassing widespread objections,’ Hannah-Ellis Peterson wrote in the Guardian’s op-ed pages.

Sounds familiar? WickremEsinghe presided over, and prime facie, aided and abetted an upwards of a rupee trillion financial scam, the biggest without a shadow of doubt, in the country’s history. After he did that — emphasis on the word after — he abused power, with an unscrupulous Speaker, to push through the backdoor, certain legislation that would help him remain in power in the teeth of such scandal, for at least four and a half years.

When he has been removed in spite of that, and when elections have been called to get rid of him the way the people got rid of Razak in Malaysia, he invokes the Constitution that skews the process of adult franchise, the way Razak did, when he gerrymandered and passed fake news legislation in Malaysia.

The international community, or what generally goes by the description, was determined to get rid of Razak in 2016.The United States Justice Department dropped a bombshell early in the developing saga: A person it referred to as Malaysian Official 1 had siphoned $731 million from 1MDB. Officials privately confirmed that Mr. Najib was the Malaysian Official. The U.S Justice Department’s accusations continued: In total, over $4.5 billion in 1MDB funds was laundered through American banks, enriching Mr. Najib, his family and friends, prosecutors said. (New York Times.) Sri Lankans should look to foreign governments, particularly, the government of Singapore, to ensure that those who presided over the largest heist in the history of state coffers, are brought to book.

The New York Times and the British Guardian should forthwith document how in the way that Razak did, Wickremesinghe first broke the bank, and then tinkered with the system so that he could get away with it — not to mention how he to this day uses the manipulations made in this manner, to attempt to cling on to power as a means of keeping a lid in his corruption scandals, and avoid possible jail time, as Razak faces now.

A TALE OF IMPUNITY

It’s not merely incidental that it’s a blot on our country’s political culture that we are unable to call out this type of egregious and flagrant corruption, and abuse of power, and hold perpetrators to account, through the power of the ballot. That we are unable to do that, is testimony to the fact that our system has, at least in major part been tampered with and hijacked by crooks.

What would have happened if Razak was able to pull it off, and if his gerrymandering and free press suppressing legislation was able to keep him in office?

This writer could tell you what would have happened. He would have attempted to stay on, as Wickremesinghe does in Sri Lanka. His 1MB would have been a scandal covered up, as Wickremesinghe’s is a bank heist covered up. Where is Justice for the Sri Lankan people? It ought to come via the ballot as it has in Malaysia. It’s incumbent on the President of this country to ensure that he delivers on his promise to expose the egregious, corruption with impunity of the Wickremesinghe administration as he has promised to do.

The powers that be have to be cognizant of the fact that there was clear abuse of power to tinker with legislation, so as to suppress elections. Indeed this position is corroborated by the fact that other elections such as Provincial and Local, were postponed without just cause.

It’s hoped the President is able to deliver on his promise to ferret out Ranil Wickremesinghe’s pathetic tale of corruption, cronyism and coverup.

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