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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2585

Lalin's Column: When does a Prime Minister Resign?

By Major General (Retd.) Lalin Fernando

When PM Wickramasinghe was asked by BBC’s Channel 4 why he had not taken action against ISIS terrorists who had returned to the Island in 2017, his fatuous reply was that it was not illegal in SL to take part in terrorist actions abroad.

The PM has a basic degree in law. He likes to continuously impress his ill educated but fawning parliamentary minions and Colombo’s socialites. But with the Channel 4 man the PM was clearly out of his depth and clearly in fear of personal repercussions for the Easter Sunday massacre. There were 250 dead, almost all Christians, and 450 wounded. A colossal intelligence failure was blamed for it. The PM thought it and anything else was not enough to damn him.

The PM, hoping to impress, casually tossed in the (French) Foreign Legion (FFR) as an example of a terrorist organization. It blew away the interviewer. It stripped any notion that the PM had but the foggiest notion of terrorists. This after being PM 4 times over in a land that went through 26 years of terrorism. Due to his incompetency, global terrorism has been spawned after 10 years of peace.

The Legion is a branch of the French Army raised in 1831.Frenchmen consist only of 24% in it .The others are from about 140 foreign countries. It has an unenviable reputation. The PM’s remarks were a reckless, unforgivable insult to the Legion. The PM’s off the cuff repartees often pass in SL but the BBC man must have wondered if he had heard right.

Pressed further by an astounded interviewer as to government responsibility for the massive security lapse, the PM blithely said defence and the police were under the President. He then quipped that had he been in charge of defence he would have resigned. That was a sniper shot at the head of the President. It also indicated he would not hang himself even if a thousand or more had died.

He may have forgotten how he installed his school friend Singaporean citizen Mahendra as Governor of the Central Bank as soon as he became PM in 2015. Mahendra is accused of being the mastermind behind the greatest ever bond scandal in SL. It ran into Rs 19 billion. The PM wise cracked that ignoramuses had got it mixed with James Bond. The PM was adamant that he had no responsibility for Mahendra’s conduct even though he was the subject minister and appointed Mahendra. He told the Courts that he got the information that Mahendra was innocent from Mahendra himself! He has steadfastly ignored demands to resign on this score too.

The PM must have cast his endearment for legality to the winds when in 2002 as PM he allowed a rendition flight from Australia to use Colombo International airport to ferry an Al Qaida suspect to the mercies of the USA and Guantanamo There was also another suspect living in SL. He was abducted by the Police and extradited illegally to the USA. So much for the PM’s beliefs in law, justice, HR and national sovereignty.

Is it a wonder that ISIS yet targeted SL despite the PM’s shameless excuse for not arresting the ISIS returned terrorists in SL.? According to this incorrigible PM a citizen can go abroad, commit any act of terror including rape, murder and bombings as the ISIS did, and return to SL without fear of arrest or punishment.

He admitted there was a lacuna in the law yet he did nothing to correct it for 2 years allowing these terrorists to roam freely. Is the lacuna in his thinking? Or is it in his head?

An ice cold PM opened the parliamentary sessions following the Easter Sunday massacre. Though a 2 minute silence preceded his address, grief, pain, agony or sorrow did not surface. He had survived 1983, 1988/9 and 26 years of conflict without any excessive heart beats or any thought of mea culpa too. He stammered, stuttered, stumbled and contradicted himself as never before. He was incoherent at times. He was fighting for his personal survival what ever happened.

Did he allow those ISIS returnees to roam freely for 2 years without making any change in the law that had a ‘lacuna’ for legal reasons or because he did not want to lose Muslim votes? His silver speech would not save him.

He had over looked the Prime Minister’s responsibility for government in his very own scrambled egg constitution of 2018. His powers were substantive as he had shackled the President’s. But he lacked the guts to enforce it. He as PM, almost an elected dictator, accepted without a whimper being kept out of Security Council meetings for 6 months.

To downplay the magnitude of his responsibility and the enormity of the tragedy the ice cool PM and his acolytes said the Easter Sunday terrorist atrocities were just a trend in global terrorism. He wants SL to learn to live with that. He wants to survive. Is that is what 250 deaths in 15 minutes means to him?

With countless examples to chose from including SL’s own conflict he dropped another clanger, a singularly ill timed and stupid remark when interviewed by Sun TV. According to him the ‘Falklands’ (war) was an example of a terrorist conflict.

Why he chose the Falklands war boggles the mind. Why he avoided mentioning the LTTE terror, Sambandan and Sumanthiran could guess easily. The Falkland’s war was a conventional one fought between Britain and Argentina with conventional forces. A British nuclear powered submarine even sank an Argentinean aircraft carrier. Three hundred died. Did the PM give this silly example to rope in the British? His uncle JRJ, isolating himself from all non western colonies and the Non Aligned countries, declared for Britain in that conflict.

The PM’s interview with a BBC man of African origin on 27 April blew away any remaining semblance of rationality in the PM. After many responses obstinately refusing to acknowledge his responsibility, the BBC man told the PM he had been in SL for about 4 days. He had picked up that the majority of people think he should resign.

The PM explained that it was a case of collective responsibility at cabinet level and not his fault alone, so there was no need for him to resign. He added that there was a Presidential commission of Inquiry and its report should be awaited. After looking heavenwards, the BBC man asked the PM if he would resign if the commission faulted him. The PM shot back saying it could not find fault with him. The BBC man propositioned that the PM was prejudging the Commission report. The obdurate PM did not think so.

The BBC man said he understood from the people that the PM did not empathize with them. The PM denied it. He said he had visited 2 (empty?) churches later in the day. He was asked what next he did. He said he was not in the habit of visiting each and every one who survived or were affected. So he went back to his office and started working on how to protect the Muslims. He was asked how he could do so when he could not protect the Christians. The ‘whole world’ that the PM never tires of saying that thinks SL is a marvelous place only after he took over, was listening. It must have squirmed.

Answers will have to be given to questions of collective and command responsibility (Geneva type or otherwise) and criminal negligence. Supplicants at Temple Trees, academically sanitized and biased ‘Forum’ members and alternative NGO types may pray with the PM that he will survive. They must hope this, like the Bond and other scams including Sri Lankan will wash away.

It will not, cannot and must not .The price SL paid is far too great to tolerate any more PMs who lead from the rear in greed for power and fear.

SL fortunately had Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and Catholic clergy to lead at this very crucial time. The Cardinal spoke clearly, firmly and without fear. Catholics were told that reprisals would not be sanctioned. Tightly bonded, highly disciplined and God fearing, they listened and obeyed. The country of about 70% Buddhists also listened. They were astonished, amazed and hugely inspired by this response. To the Muslims the Cardinal was a savior. SL will be forever indebted to him, his clergy and the inconsolable, grief stricken Catholics for their singular act of unprecedented humanity.

Thus there was no return to 1983 when SL was leaderless. It was described as a pariah state for many years. The PM was then a minister. He and his party men were just as distant and dispassionate then, but unlike him JRJ pleaded mea culpa.

The peoples’ loathing for all politicians has been reinforced. The PM and incurably venal politicians must know where the buck stops. The people hold them in utter contempt. This tragic calamity and those responsible will not be forgotten or forgiven. There will be no more passing of the buck. Heads must roll.

- Asian Tribune -

Lalin's Column: When does a Prime Minister Resign?
Lalin's Column: When does a Prime Minister Resign?
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