Colombo, May 31: Feeling politically isolated and badgered by all and sundry for alleged non-performance since he became President of Sri Lanka in January 2015, Maithripala Sirisena has hit out at friend and foe alike in an unusual public display of anger against his detractors,writes P.K.Balachandran in The Citizen. .
Barging into a function here to commemorate the 76th birth anniversary of the pro-democracy campaigner and Buddhist monk Ven.Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero here on Wednesday, the President said: “Parliament should have been dissolved immediately after the Presidential election in January 2015 and fresh elections should have been held to test the mood of the people.”
He said it was wrong to have called upon the United National Party (UNP) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to form the government in January 2015 when the UNP had only 47 MPs in a parliament of 224 members.
“How could 47 seats in Parliament implement the 19th Amendment which the House passed? The best option would’ve been to dissolve Parliament the day I was sworn in as President,” Sirisena said.
He then ridiculed the UNP-led government’s ambitious “100-day program” launched immediately after taking office in January 2015. He said the program was ‘silly’ and ‘unrealistic’.
Referring to the February 2015 LKR 11,154 million Central Bank bonds scam, in which many UNP supporters were involved, Sirisena said that people had not voted him to power to “loot the bank.”
Sirisena said that as President, he had to thwart, in the people’s interest, many of the UNP’s proposals.
“A proposal was made to transfer all the (State) funds in the state banks to private banks. I was against this proposal which was debated for three months. If the proposal was passed, the Bank of Ceylon, Peoples Bank, National Savings Bank and many State pawning outlets would have faced difficulties,” the President said.
Turning to the former President and political rival, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sirisena said that when he won the Presidential election in 2015, the former President had taken all of the brand new vehicles with him leaving only two vehicles for him.
“I traveled for two and a half years in old vehicles. Besides, a security device which could detect an explosive within a 100 meter radius had gone missing. I still do not know what happened to that device,” Sirisena said.
On the permission granted to take President Mahinda Rajapaksa to his hometown Tangalle by helicopter after he was defeat in the Presidential election, Sirisena said that no one still knows who granted permission to the former President to use the Air Force helicopter.
“When I inquired from the Air Force, they said that I had given permission, when in fact I had not,” the President said.
“A daily English newspaper had published about actions taken by the present Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed. The news item stated how Mahathir ordered the arrest of 9 ministers, 144 businessmen, 50 judges and 200 policemen on corruption chargeswithin five days of coming to office. The story also had a picture of mine with a caption: Within three years? “
Sirisena said that he then contacted the Sri Lankan High Commission in Malaysia and inquired about these matters and found out that the details in the story to be false.
“If a country can carry out such indictments within five days, then there is no law and order or diplomatic norms there. These reports are completely false,” the President said.
Sirisena said that he is no pushover and has enough fire in his belly to fight for the people and defend himself against any unwarranted criticism.
“I am ready to work for a fair and just society which the public aspires. I would not back down from any challenge brought against me. If anyone wants more clarification or evidence about these matters, I am ready for an open discussion with anybody in any media,” the President said.
Isolated and Insecure
Sirisena had barged into the function organized to commemorate Ven.Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero only to give the public a piece of his mind. He regretted that he had not been invited.
Sirisena finds himself isolated. His Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is split badly.
A section of the original SLFP-led alliance the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) numbering 95 MPs, are now with former President Rajapaka.
Recently, 16 MPs who were with the President had crossed over to the opposition and are in talks with Rajapaksa to form a united SLFP led by both Sirisena and Rajapaksa.
The President suspects that the UNP has been trying to marginalize him in the government and impose its economic and political agenda on the nation. He also suspects that the UNP leader and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is in cahoots with Rajapaksa to weaken him and the faction of the SLFP still with him.
Bond Scam Web
Adding to Sirisena’s woes, it has now come to light that apart from UNP MPs, many SLFP MPs had taken money from the main accused of the Central Bank bonds scam Arjun Aloysius to fight the August 2015 parliamentary elections ,five months after the LKR 11,154 million scam had come to light.
According to the Presidential Commission which probed the scam, 116 MPs across party lines had taken money from companies run by Arjun Aloysius.
The only top politician untouched by these post-January 8, 2015 scams is former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. This would boost his group’s chances in the Presidential and parliamentary elections due in January and August 2020 respectively.