Colombo, October 17 (NIA): The resignation of the Director General of the Sri Lankan Commission on Bribery and Corruption, Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe, following President Maithripala Sirisena’s public outburst last Wednesday against the “politicization” of the commission’s working, is the result of the on-going clash of the political agendas of the coalition partners, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP).
The UNP-SLFP coalition, which was formed to defeat former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015 and to run the government jointly thereafter, is now showing cracks thanks to clashing political interests and agendas.
The UNP is keen on destroying the Rajapaksa faction of the SLFP by forcefully pursuing cases of corruption against it without regard to the political fallout for its partner, the SLFP lead by Sirisena. But Sirisena cannot act blindly against the Rajapaksa faction as that faction still has a hold on the party machine and the voter base which the President can ill-afford to ride roughshod over.
Unlike the UNP and its leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the SLFP led by President Sirisena has to be careful while dealing with the armed forces, their war-winning commanders and the war-time Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who also happens to be a sibling of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The army is a holy cow for the SLFP and its voter base in a way it is not for the UNP and its voter base.
Bribery Commission Director Gneral Dilrukshi Wickramasinghe, appointed in February 2015, is generally believed to be the choice of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. President Sirisena was incensed when the Bribery Commission hauled up three former Navy chiefs and former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Sirisena felt that this would do his government great political harm as the personalities hauled up are heroes of Eelam War IV. Sirisena felt that at a time when the Sri Lankan armed forces are facing flak from the UN and international human rights lobbies, it would be adding insult to injury if their top officers are humiliated at home too. The least he expected from the commission was to be informed about the action to be taken against former defense officials, as he is the Commander in Chief of the forces and Defense Minster to boot.
Sirisena also felt that the Bribery Commission, the Financial Crimes CID and the CID ,are working to UNP’s political agenda. While the Bribery Commission is independent ,the FCID and CID come under the Police Department which is in the hands of the UNP.
Taken aback by the President’s public outburst. where he made it a point to declare that he would never let down the armed forces, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe agreed to the formation of a joint SLFP-UNP committee to oversee policy matters in regard to all important national issues. Both the President and the Prime Minister will be part of this committee.
Given the formation of the coordinating committee it would be interesting to see if President Sirisena will accept the bribery panel chief’s resignation when he comes back from India after attending the BIMSTEC summit in India. His decision will indicate the future course of the coalition government.