Politicians without any sense of shame By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

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Politicians are well known to be economical with the truth but our former president Maithripala Sirisena seems to have taken this exercise to dizzy heights never seen before! It is a shame that he does not seem to understand that by his actions he is disgracing the coveted position he once held. Though I may be repeating what many have stated before, I cannot help but writing this piece after watching a speech made by Sirisena at a recent function held in a church in Polonnaruwa.

Sirisena stated, “It has been rumoured that I left the country in spite of receiving information about an impending terrorist attack. That is totally untrue. I would never have gone to Singapore if the security or intelligence services had informed me that such a threat was imminent. I went for medical treatment and was in a Singapore Hospital for two days. It is further alleged that I was contacted with this information during my hospital stay. However, that is impossible because there were no facilities in Mount ElizabEth Hospital for a patient to be contacted over the telephone or via mobile phones. I conveyed this fact to the Presidential Commission I myself appointed. As a Buddhist, I can fall at the feet of a Buddha statue and vouch that I did not receive this information. Even though I am a Buddhist, I am prepared to swear on the Holy Cross, in this church or any other church, that I did not receive any information. Had I been informed, whilst I was in Singapore, I would have taken prompt action by ordering the security forces to take action and declare a curfew, erect barricades and provide protection” Addressing the parish priest, he continued “Venerable Father, I inquired from the security council in January why Zahran has not been taken into custody but it is a long story. It is tragic that I am being blamed”

Watching this I did not know whether to laugh or cry.

Even if we accept Sirisena’s statement on face-value, there is absolutely no doubt that he is guilty of failing in his duty. After all, by his own admission, he had made no arrangements for covering his prime duty, the defence of the nation, during his absence. I am reminded of many an occasion, during my prolonged career, both in Sri Lanka and the UK, when I had to cancel my planned vacation leave when adequate cover arrangements could not be made. That is called taking responsibility. When terrorists attacked Sirisena was not here; he was not contactable and he had left the country without making any acting arrangements. There was nobody to take control. Is this not neglect of duty? Is he so hare-brained, not even to understand this?

Is Sirisena not contradicting himself when, at the end, he says that he instructed the arrest of Zahran in January but starts his speech by telling he was not aware of any threats? Even if he considered that the threat was very low-level, he was aware of a threat and, therefore, should have appointed an acting minister of defence or made himself available at all times.

Though Sirisena claims that he went to Singapore for medical treatment, I cannot recollect any such mention before his evidence at the Presidential Commission. Anyway, it cannot be for any urgent medical condition as he states that he would not have undertaken the trip had he been informed of a threat. The rumour, at the time, was that he went with his family on a shopping spree, prior to a family wedding. In fact, even after he was informed of the attack, he does not seem to have made any attempt to return early. Though it was shown that previous flights were available, he returned on the pre-booked flight and social media were full of pictures of his family having dinner in a Singapore restaurant prior to return.

The other important question is why he went to Singapore for medical treatment? Even if government hospitals are not good enough for the ‘Goviya’ from Polonnaruwa, there are plenty of private hospitals with excellent facilities in Sri Lanka. When Dr Mahathir Mohamad, during his first tenure as Prime Minister of Malaysia, needed by-pass grafting, he insisted on getting it done locally unlike our hypocrites. Even the yahapalana Health Minister Rajitha, Senaratne, who claimed that the WHO honoured his achievements for uplifting our health services, went to Singapore for medical treatment!

The most laughable explanation of all, was the lack of telephone facilities in Mount Elizabeth hospital! Which private hospital in the world does not provide telephone services? What is the point in going to Singapore, if the hospital cannot even provide a telephone extension? Anyway, to be sure I visited the Mount Elizabeth hospital website where there is a ‘virtual tour’ of the available rooms. There are telephones in every room and maybe they were installed after the failure of communications during President Sirisena’s stay! It is high time Sirisena realised that even fibs should have some degree of plausibility and that the falsehoods he is coming out with are totally implausible. I am sure the vast majority of Sri Lankans would join me in asking him: “Have you no shame, Mr. Sirisena?”

What is important is not for Sirisena to behave like a child, swearing at the foot of the Buddha statue, or on the Holy Cross, but to be a man and face the legal system of the country to prove his innocence. However, his acolyte Dayasiri is already threatening to hold street protests if legal action is contemplated! Why are they so scared if Sirisena is not guilty of neglecting duty?

All the problems created, culminating in Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith now seeking justice through the Vatican and international intervention, could have been avoided had Sirisena been manly enough to take responsibility and apologised to the nation for any lapses on his part. Instead, he made futile attempts to pin the blame on others which has back-fired as the recent acquittal of the former Defence Secretary and the IGP shows. He seems to conveniently forget that it is the commission he appointed that recommended legal action against him!

It is gratifying to note that President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has enabled the full report of the Presidential Commission to be handed over to the Speaker. I do hope he would not delay in taking the next mandated step of handing over the report to the Attorney General so that due legal process would take place, irrespective of status or hollow threats.

Courtesy The Island

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Disclaimer: Politicians without any sense of shame By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view

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