Colombo, August 22 (newsin.asia): The Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, met President Maithripala Sirisena late on Monday, and advised him to expel Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe from the cabinet for indulging in anti-government and anti-party activities.
Earlier, the Working Committee of Wickremesinghe’ party ,the United National Party (UNP), decided to sack Rajapakshe after the deadline set by it for him to resign, expired on Monday, and he had not quit.
The Prime Minister’s communicating his party’s decision to the President in effect means that he has advised the President to sack Rajapakshe.
The norm is that the President should go by the advise of the Prime Minister, especially when the matter has to do with a member of the Prime Minister’s party.
However, the Sinhala-Buddhist-Nationalist elements in President Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) want the like-minded Rajapakshe to join them. If indeed he does, he could be an SLFP appointee in the cabinet. The call to join had been given by SLFP minister Dilan Perera.
However, President Sirisena, who is also leader of the SLFP, is unlikely to admit Rajapakshe, displease the Prime Minister, and rock the coalition boat.
Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe is currently a storm petrel of Sri Lankan politics. He has drawn flak from the UNP’s Working Committee for speaking against cabinet decisions flouting the norm of collective responsibility.
He is also accused to delaying investigations and legal proceedings against key members of the former Mahinda Rajapaksa regime facing a total of 87 grave charges of corruption and misuse of power.
Rajapakshe has denied the charges saying that all he had said was that no one could be held guilty unless proven in court and that no one could interfere in the judicial process.
Rajapashe undoubtedly an emerging leader in Sri Lankan politics. A Sinhala-Buddhist-Nationalist, he is aiming to capture the island’s core constituency. The existing Sinhala-Buddhist-Nationalist leaders have drawbacks. Therefore there is a gap to fill.
Sinhala-Buddhist-Nationalist leaders like Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena are in the last stage of their political career having already touched the political pinnacle – the country’s Presidency. Rajapaksa has corruption charges against him which are being investigated now and Sirisena has not given inspiring leadership since he came to power in January 2015.
This has left the field open to Wikeyadasa Rajapakshe, a hardcore Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist who is also known to be a crusader against corruption.
When Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe formed the Good Governance government in 2015, it came under pressure from the international community represented by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to agree to several measures to bring about post-war ethnic reconciliation. These measures including the release of Tamil Tiger detainees and the drafting of a new law to replace the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
While Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera were willing to give in to international pressure if only to save the country from sanctions and get European Union trade concessions, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, as Justice Minister would not give in.
He refused to release Tiger detainees without completion of the legal process. On the issue of reforming the PTA he presented a draft new law which, according to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M.A. Sumanthiran, was worse than the PTA.
Rajapakshe would not allow arrested suspects to be aided by lawyers during their first questioning, though it is in the initial stages of interrogation that torture is used to extract confessions.
By refusing to budge, Rajapakshe was addressing a deep concern of the Sinhala-Buddhist majority – the concern about the return of Tamil separatism and terrorism.
Rajapakshe became active again when the process of drafting a new constitution for Sri Lanka reached the penultimate stage, after the various sub-committee had submitted their reports and the matter was being considered by the Steering Committee of parliamentary parties chaired by the Prime Minister.
Fearing that the Steering Committee was poised to give autonomy to the Tamil minority beyond the existing 13 th.Amendment of the constitution and deny Buddhism the foremost place in the country, Rajapakshe got the Buddha Sasana headed by the three Mahanayakes to issue a statement saying that it is not at all necessary to amend the existing constitution.
This led to President Sirisena himself assuring the Mahanayakes that no new constitution will be adopted without getting their prior consent.
Again, when his own party leader and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe got Sri Lanka to lease out Hambantota port to a state-owned Chinese company for 99 years on payment of US$ 1.12 billion, Rajapakshe publicly stated that he would not rest until he had retrieved the national asset from foreigners.
While this was music to the ears of nationalists, Rajapakshe’s utterances ruffled feathers in the ruling United National Party (UNP). Minister Harsha de Silva rapped him for flouting the collective responsibility of ministers for cabinet decisions. The deal with China had the approval of the cabinet.
Seventy UNP MPs have even threatened to submit a Motion of No Confidence against Rajapakshe.
But Rajapakshe is unfazed, as he has the support of the three Mahanayakes. It is reported that the Mahanayakes have warned that they will oppose the government if there is a No Trust Motion or a resolution condemning him.
Rajapakshe has been a rebel and a fighter against corruption in the past – the last quality being appreciated by the voting public. A maverick, he had refused to take the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs when it was offered to him in 2004. He was also the only backbencher in the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) at that time.
Following the 2005 Presidential elections, President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed him Minister of State Banking Development. But Rajapakshe resigned in April 2006 on a matter of policy. He also resigned from the post of the SLFP Organizer of the Maharagama electorate.
In 2007, when he was Chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) he was recognized as a crusader against corruption in the public sector, regardless of stature and the might of the politicians and the officials involved in such corruption.
In 2012 Rajapakshe was elected President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and in that capacity he supported former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake when she was impeached on account of political vendetta.
Clashed With Muslims
Apart from clashing with Tamils, the Sinhala-Buddhist-Nationalists are clashing with Muslims of also.
After a dispute between Buddhist monks and Muslims over land for a temple, Rajapashe sided with the monks. Earlier he had angered Muslims by saying that 34 Sri Lankan Muslims had gone to Syria to join the Islamic State.
Rajapakshe is now trying to build bridges with the minority Tamils saying that the Tamils’ security and attainment of their aspirations depends on the strength and unity of the majority Sinhalese Buddhists.
(The featured picture at the top shows Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe)