After SL Blasts, Why Do Sirisena & Wickremesinghe Still Have Jobs?
After the mammoth security and intelligence blunder that led to the Easter Sunday massacre, both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe have been backed into a corner. They were forced to say they ‘failed’, and that too with reluctance.
Sri Lankan politicians are almost all liars, corrupt, thieves and rogues, some are even accused of murder and assault. These politicians are reluctant to admit their mistakes, faults and wrongdoings. You'd be hard-pressed to find them saying 'sorry' or 'thank you' to voters.
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They managed to find scapegoats in two officials – Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and Inspector General of Police, Pujith Jayasundara. Outspoken and brash Fernando did not resign immediately. There was information that Sirisena had to persuade him to resign, just to save face, since he’d just been appointed five months before that.
Jayasundara point-blank refused Sirisena’s orders. He wasn't Sirisena’s first choice as the Inspector General of Police and the President had had a running battle with him. Ultimately, Jayasundara was sent on compulsory leave.
The Wrong Heads Have Rolled
No politician has yet accepted responsibility, and the Sri Lankan people are deeply unsatisfied. Sports Minister Harin Fernando – who had told reporters on camera that he didn't go to church on Easter Sunday because his father warned him of impending attacks after the Ministerial Security Division (MSD) informed him – is yet to apologise to Catholics for failing to in turn inform the church.
For this unforgivable lapse, he has earned the wrath of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith – and the Sri Lankan people. Sri Lankans living both in the country and abroad are posting on social media the same things that people in both villages and cities are saying – the call of the masses is for President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe to take responsibility and resign.
Sirisena Can’t Dodge This
President Maithripala Sirisena is the Commander-in-Chief of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, and the Minister for Law and Order.
The world has seen in presidential campaigns in the US, that it is the Commander-in-Chief who answers the phone even at 2 in the morning because the security of ordinary Americans are paramount – the President of the United States make those decisions and takes on that responsibility. Sirisena cannot escape telling the public that he saw news of the bombings on Facebook while holidaying in Singapore - he had admitted this to newspaper editors.
When he was finally back in his own country, he temporarily banned social media. I wouldn't know where he got the news thereafter.
Wickremesinghe’s True Colours Are Out
As for Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, he has never cared for Sri Lanka’s national security or even its sovereignty.
Many Sri Lankans, even his own party members, confidentially describe him as a politician who does not feel for the country.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe cried that he wasn't invited to attend the National Security Council meetings, in another attempt to deflect blame.
But a Prime Minister does not need any invitation to attend the Security Council meetings, a fact that was confirmed even by his own party member and Member of Parliament, Sarath Fonseka, a former Army Commander.
He told the PM not to trot out any excuses for his failures. In Parliament, Fonseka also blamed Wickremesinghe for appointing young and inexperienced politicians close to him as Ministers in charge of National Security.
What could be more important than the security of one's country?
Politicians Are Still Shameless
Sri Lanka’s Minister of State in charge of Defence, Ruwan Wijewardane, is yet to apologise to the Sri Lankan public, New Zealand and the world for his false claim in Parliament that the ISIS attack was carried out in retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attack.
Recently, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters hit back, calling it a cheap shot. “It is a slightly cheap shot, I suppose, to try to explain it away. Let's see the evidence,” Peters said in an interview with Sky News. “Sometimes it pays to get the facts first before you beat your lips with an opinion,” Peters went on, adding that there was a “fair chance” that the link had been made just to distract from the Sri Lankan government and intelligence service’s own failure to stop the plot before it had been carried out.
I am not sure if Sri Lanka’s Minister of Defence and Law and Order is feeling ashamed or if he is blissfully unaware of the comment by the NZ Foreign Minister, like he was of the Easter attack.
National Security Held Hostage to Vote-Seeking
Uncouth Sri Lankan politicians have a history of interfering dangerously in Sri Lanka's security matters. They have harboured terrorists, thugs, goons and drug dealers.
Many of them have even been released over the years due to this political interference.
“Those who resist are either transferred or our promotions are delayed," several senior police officers have told this writer over the years.
In the case of Muslim extremists, two things have contributed to the Easter bombings:
The interference of Muslim politicians to protect ‘their people’ – knowingly or unknowingly – from investigation, and Sri Lankan leaders who give in for the sake of votes.
Take the case of the Governor of the Eastern Province, MLAM Hizbullah. Even after the authorities established that extremists had blasted a scooty on vacant land belonging to the Governor at Kattankudy just a week before the Easter Sunday Massacre, Hizbullah moves freely. He is Sirisena’s man.
Hizbullah represents the East where Kattankudy, a Muslim village, has become a hotbed of terrorists. Over the years, Kattankudy has developed its own rules and ways. Tamils and Sinhalese have complained that they are not allowed to even do business in Kattankudy. But Sri Lankan authorities have turned a blind eye to all this in order to please certain Muslim politicians.
Extremist Sympathisers in Government
After the blast, Perumal, a Sri Lankan Tamil labourer from Batticaloa who I have known for many years told me, “Remember I told you, in Kattankudy it was only their rule. They were law unto themselves. No one listened to us.”
In Batticaloa, the Zion church was targeted by the suicide bombers. Perumal and his family were away in the hills and attended Easter Sunday prayers.
The other Minister who is accused by the public of being a sympathiser to extremist elements (though he keeps on denying it) is Rishard Badurdeen. He is close to Prime Minister Wickremsinghe. Earlier, he was close to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother Basil.
I tried to reach former Inspector General of Police, Pujith Jayasundara. One of his mobile phones was disconnected and the other was constantly engaged. I don’t think he or former defence secretary Fernando would speak to the press now anyway.
But for now, Sri Lankan people have no faith in either Sirisena or Wickremasinghe. They both must resign.
But we know they will hold onto their positions until kingdom come.
(Bandula Jayasekara is a former Sri Lankan newspaper editor and former diplomat, and currently hosts a popular political and current affairs programme on News 1st in Sri Lanka. He tweets @bundeljayse.)
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