Ex-Minister Mangala Samaraweera has lashed out at President Mahinda Rajapakse. He has issued, so to speak, Ten Commandments to the latter. Mangala says if the President did as he said in his much hyped epistle to him, he would consider `coming back.` The 17-page letter, which he has released to the media in keeping with the SLFP tradition?according to which SLFP leaders communicate with one another through the media!?sheds some light on the causative factors of the internal strife of the SLFP.
He has frowned on the mega cabinet, of which he was a member before being sacked. He demands that it be reduced to 35 ministers. We disagree with him. This country is too small to have even 35 ministers. The cabinet mustn`t have more than 20 members. However, let`s leave a big margin for Mangala and settle for 35 ministers. When he says the cabinet is too big, the implication is that he believes some unwanted politicians have got into it. What are the names that he would recommend for his dream cabinet of 35? What about the number of deputy ministers? How many of them does Mangala have in mind? And who are they?
Mangala tells the President that his government must pursue a political solution to the conflict. Isn`t he preaching to the choir? We thought President Rajapakse also thought along similar lines as evident from the JVP`s insistence that he declare total war on the LTTE without toying with the idea of a negotiated settlement! Mangala`s statement smacks of prevarication in that he doesn`t say whether or not the on-going war effort should continue. He says he has been instrumental in purchasing arms for the country and isolating the LTTE internationally. Why did he help the government procure weapons to fight the LTTE, if he is all for a political solution, as he claims? How would he reconcile his contribution to the war effort on the one hand and his advocacy of a political solution on the other? Is he advocating something like Chandrika`s `war for peace,` which finally led to disaster with many military installations in the North and the East falling like a pack of cards? Or, is it that he wants the kibosh put on the on-going successful military operations inspired by his bete noire Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse? Why should Mangala, at this particular juncture, lock horns with Gotabhaya, who has socked it between Prabhakran`s eyes, as never before, that the LTTE is not invincible?
Mangala wants the SLFP-UNP MoU revived. That is salutary but the question is what to do with the Reformists who are now in the government. The UNP leader won`t settle for anything less than the return of the Reformists for the MoU to be revived. Nor will the JVP extend its support, which Mangala wants the President to secure, unless the Reformists are shown the door. So, it is clear that Mangala is calling for the removal of the Reformists from the government. Even if the Reformists were sent whence they came, would the JVP return to the government fold? Mangala has chosen to remain silent on the fact that the JVP wants the government to abrogate the CFA and defeat the LTTE militarily. Unless the President undertakes to meet those two conditions, the JVP will remain independent of the government. Is Mangala, who wants the JVP back, amenable to the abrogation of the CFA and total war? Since the JVP has thrown its weight behind Mangala, it will be interesting to know the JVP`s views on his advocacy of a political solution.
Mangala calls for establishing friendly relations with India and the international community. We thought President Rajapakse already had very close relations with India. Didn`t he even visit former Indian High Commissioner Nirupama Rao`s residence in breach of protocol? When Mangala refers to the international community, what countries does he really mean? And what are the ways and means of improving relations with them, if they have turned sour?
Human rights and media freedom, Mangala says, must be safeguarded. How can anyone have quarrels with him on that score? But, in the same breath, he speaks very highly of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, under whose rule serious violations of the media freedom and human rights occurred. Wasn`t Mangala a powerful minister of the Kumaratunga government, when the Sunday Leader press was sealed for political reasons, its editor Lasantha Wickrematunga and his wife were roughed up, and their house was bombed by government goons? It was during the same period that Editor of the Satana tabloid Rohana Kumara was gunned down. Popular artistes Rukantha Gunathilake and his wife Chandralekha were assaulted and bathed in petrol by pro-government thugs, who threatened to cremate them alive in the presence of their frightened children, when Mangala was a kingpin of the Chandrika government. He was also Chandrika`s Media Minister for a long period. Why didn`t Mangala fight for for media freedom at that time? However, that such incidents occurred during Chandrika`s watch is no excuse for the present government to act in a similar manner.
Among other proposals, Mangala asks that an end be put to bribery, corruption and waste. He also urges the government to implement the COPE recommendations. We couldn`t agree with him more on that pressing need. But, if he is so averse to bribery and corruption, why didn`t he resign from the cabinet without waiting till he was thrown out? He should have at least refused to be sworn in before President Rajapakse after the recent reshuffle. Most of the findings of the COPE have to do with irregularities under the Kumaratunga administration and Mangala is full of praise for Chandrika! He is on a campaign to stop government waste as well! Will he kindly reveal to the public how much he has spent as a minister so far, including the funds he expended on refurbishing his offices foreign jaunts etc?
Now that the dissidents have spoken, it will be interesting to know the President`s response.