An open letter to President Sirisena
Dear Mr. President,
Your Government has been reduced to a joke by no less than your Foreign Minister, who has confessed under oath that he doesn’t know anything about what happens right under his nose. When one of the interrogators from the AG’s Department helpfully suggested that he may be lying, he got offended. He declared that he is under oath and he is speaking the truth and nothing but the truth. No, he doesn’t know what happens, when it happens. Maybe much later, when others publicly point it out.
Now that this individual, whom your government had appointed to put his hands in and out of our national purse, has truthfully declared his obvious limitations, and who describes himself as a “Senior Cabinet Minister”, we citizens are naturally inclined to wonder about the mental capacity of the rest of your top team. Forgive our mirth, but collectively will it add up to the size of a pinhead?
An old fable had a preening emperor parading the streets stark naked because his sycophantic admirers gushed at him that he was dressed in the finest livery. It took an innocent little boy to shout out the stark truth, which had the entire street bursting into laughter at the obvious reality. In our country, the not-so-innocent, little-boy-emperor himself has announced it. We must hasten to award that magazine which adjudged him as being the best Finance Minister this side of the Maldives, for their authentic analytical skills.
Mr. President, in late 2014, when, after a convivial hopper-feed one night, you announced the next morning that you were standing as the common candidate to oust a megalomaniacal, nepotistic, narcissistic dictator who had heaped gigantic debts on this beloved motherland of ours to feather his many-layered nests, to the extent that three or four generations to come will be born congenitally-constricted because of the national debt-trap around their throats, we, the majority of this country’s right-thinking sons and daughters, stood up and cheered with admiration, exultation and utter relief. It was an unbelievably bold and courageous stand for a hopper-eating man like you to take, considering the effortless decimation of human beings that your opponent had amply demonstrated his capability for.
On 8 January 2015, when the vote of those right-thinking sons and daughters was counted, you were enabled, because of our vote, I repeat, because of our vote, to rise victorious, and banish the vanquished to the hinterland, from where, you promised us, they would be hauled out by the scruff of their necks, to answer for their crimes. (Even the airport was to be closed.)
A couple of evenings later, we watched, with glowing pride and hardly a dry eye, as you became the Executive President of our beloved motherland, at a simple ceremony. Our relief that that wretched past was behind us, was palpable; our hope for a prosperous future for each and every citizen of this beautiful country, was euphoric. We thought the fetid days were over; a fresh, crisp promise was in the air.
That was two-and-a-half years ago; our euphoria didn’t last even a few days. Very rapidly, your government has managed to dispel, as quickly as water douses fire, the fervent hopes we had of change for the better, and for the better part of the past two years, we are holding our noses all over again.
It actually started a few days after your oath-taking ceremony, when the cabinet was announced. An individual who carried more garbage than Meethotamulla, was allocated the Finance Ministry. I was watching the cabinet-appointing ceremony on TV, and I recall how my mouth dropped open at that appointment, and how in sheer disgust, I switched off the TV.
The infamous Raj Rajaratnam had been thrown into jail in the USA for money-laundering (during which process it was also alleged that he had funded the LTTE); but the man to whom he sent three million US dollars to Sri Lanka, purportedly for purchasing shares in a bank, but who didn’t return that money even after the ‘deal’ didn’t work, was being appointed as the Finance Minister of this country! And while there still was an on-going case against him in the courts with regard to that issue bordering on money-laundering! And that case was only the visible tip of a stinking mountain, as the common man already knew!
Honour and integrity were blown to the winds with that brazen appointment by your government, which did not even await the conclusion of the legal suit, as basic moral standards demanded. His subsequent acquittal, very quickly after his appointment as Finance Minister, yes very quickly, was based on a legal technicality regarding the manner in which the case had been filed, and not because he was innocent. The appointment of such an individual to a top-notch post in the Government, with a wink and a nod, opened the well-oiled flood gates. He and those of his ilk, knew that despite their soiled backgrounds, they had been given the ‘green’ light (yes, green) and they grew bolder and greedier, by the day. But more of that, later….
That totally unacceptable appointment was followed by the appointment of a Governor at the Central Bank, whose sole credential was his cosiness with your Number Two, and who was not even a citizen of this country. The jobs he had held were not even worth talking about, leave alone being the basis for becoming the Governor of a country’s Central Bank. But it was hazy honeymoon time, so you gave your nod to that too.
Heartened, your Number Two quickly followed with the appointment of other cronies and buddies to top positions (SriLankan Airlines flies barely above the horizon today) because he is comfortable only with loyal mediocrities; not for him the exciting and self-improving challenge of working with competent people of proven calibre, whom he may not know but who may know better than him. (And you recently cut a cake with him celebrating 40 years in politics; we the average citizens of this country were bemused. What was there to cut cakes about losing 29 elections? Can a captain of a team cut a cake for losing 29 successive matches? And presently being in power only by hanging on to your shirt-ends? And promising pie-in-the-sky about what a paradise Sri Lanka will be in 2025 but shooting us in the foot almost on a daily basis in the meantime? But then there is so much we mere citizenry do not understand about you politicians, even though you are appointed by us, to be our servants…)
You thought you may as well slip in one or two of your own while the post-nuptial going was good, and in came your brother as the Chairman (of was it Telecom?), and your son’s flight to the UN might have led to other, higher flights, had the public din not been so deafening.
Then followed the explosive bond scam, with defiant, hilarious (in our view) defence of it from your Number Two and of course the then FM (!!) and other seniors in the ‘party’, including two professionals who must hang their heads in shame for putting party loyalty before professional integrity.
Not to be outdone by the greens, you then invited politicians who had been rejected outright by the people, to come in through the back door and still ‘represent the people’ via the National List.
While all this rot was knowingly allowed to set in, the respect that masses had had for you, evaporated as quickly as acid in the open air but it left a burning sensation in our nostrils. Simultaneously, seasoned, corrupt, wheeler-dealers within your ranks saw a golden opportunity to make hay while the sun shone, while preaching good governance and shedding crocodile tears on behalf of the masses which the previous lot had ground to the ground.
As I said earlier, the flood gates were opened. As often is the case with the powerful, little realising how transitory that power is, the wink and the nod emboldened them by the day, and dizzy with power, and daily media adulation, they didn’t even bother to cover their tracks, unlike the previous lot who had been so slick that not much of this nation’s wealth that had been ferreted away, can even be traced. Or so we are told.
The penthouse deal was just one of the many that was concluded while in those dizzy heights.
The late Anuruddha Ratwatte, as I recall, was hauled before the courts for having secreted Rs. 40 million in his safety locker; now, the former Finance Minister of this country, and present Foreign Minister of this country, has his wife and daughter being directors of a company – from which his resignation was purely cosmetic – which had Rs. 165 million stashed away in their safety locker, and all of you behave as it is the most natural thing in the world! Is it Mr. President? Is it the most natural thing?
And Mr. President, given the trend, it’s likely that one of these days, a bank, maybe even the one with the dripping diaper, chirpy as they are with the pat that they got instead of a kick for their profuse public leak last month, may even do one better and by pressing a button, publish for the whole world to see, the daily goings-on in their safety vaults, as captured by their CCTV cameras! It’s definitely possible, even though ‘accidental’. In that event, your top guys can truthfully confess that it’s not them but look-alikes. But I digress…
To get back to the original topic, we, ordinary as we are, perceive the latest fan-hit like this; the bond scam exploded and the vital cover-up required the strong connivance of the man in charge of the subject portfolio. Being who he is, he milked the opportunity dry to get the perpetrators to fill his seamless pockets, with each unfolding episode of the scam increasing the intensity of the squeeze on the cow’s udders or, as in this case, the bull’s balls.
The way we see it, the two issues – the bond scam and the penthouse deal – are separate, in as much they are inter-linked. On the one hand, the bond scam investigations (forgive me for continuously referring to it as a scam when your Number Two insists there is no scam, maybe a sleight of hand!) will hopefully be allowed to reach their natural conclusions, and we can then hang the guilty before the hangman lets them loose. On the other hand, the penthouse deal was an open-and-shut case of soliciting a massive bribe, and the punishment does not have to await the conclusion of the bond scam investigation, although your shooting-in-the-foot Number Two insisted at a function in the east yesterday that a ‘transparent’ enquiry must be concluded and for the media to please shut up. Does he mean as transparent as the fabled emperor?
The “Senior Cabinet Minister” who is now dripping with stuff from the fan, used his leverage for defending the bond scam perpetrators at a future date, to line his pockets, now. Sorry, not his pockets; his wife’s and daughter’s, (who do not know anything of what goes on around them, living as they do, above the penthouse clouds), while he was looking the other way. For us simple folks, it’s plain and simple bribe-taking. And it’s we simple folks who cast votes come election time.
Mr. President, two-and-a-half years ago, a few days after you became president, you addressed the nation. The next day I wrote an open letter to you saying that your manner of addressing the nation lulled me to sleep because it sounded like a somnambulist preaching a sermon. I implored you to please infuse a commanding voice by even going for speech training as Margaret Thatcher did, implant a ramrod stiff backbone, develop iron fists in velvet gloves, and inject testosterone into those two sacs, if you are to be a match for the impresario we had just thrown out.
Here is the moment Mr. President, for you to show us that you have got what it takes to honour the mandate that we gave you: to tap our huge, latent potential and deliver a corruption-free, well-governed country where all citizens are equal, and live prosperously, and where today’s youth can look forward to giving of their talents and capabilities to their own country, without having to emigrate to greener pastures. Here is the moment Mr. President, for you to regain the respect we had for you, and which you frittered away while you and your number two scratched each other’s backs. Here is the moment Mr. President for you to stand tall and be counted in the annals of this country’s history, by bequeathing upon unborn generations their natural birth right: to be honourable citizens of a respected nation on this earth. Mr. President, in the name of all that is decent and right, don’t nudge him to resign, crack the whip and fire him!
Fire him, Mr. President and the masses will salute you. Fire him, Mr. President, and the masses will harbor hope again. Fire him, Mr. President, and the children of this country will again learn the meaning of honesty and integrity. Fire him, Mr. President, and we can hold our heads up again in the international arena.