Sri Lanka President Outlines Reasons for New Government, Prime Minister
As per Colombo Page, Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena today justifying his sudden political maneuver said the only alternative he was left with to establish a new government was to appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. Addressing the nation on Sunday, the President categorically stated that the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister was totally in accordance with the Constitution and on the advice of legal experts. He totally rejected that charge that his action was a violation of the Constitution. The President said this crisis situation has emerged due to Ranil Wickremesinghe’s stubborn decisions and the fundamental differences between him and Wickremesinghe. “There was also a policy conflict between Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe and me, during the last three and half years. Apart from a policy differences, I noted that there were also differences of culture between Mr Wickremesinghe and me. I believe that all those differences in policy, culture, personality and conduct aggravated this political and economic crisis.”
Full text of the President Maithripala Sirisena’s address to the nation:
I have decided to address the nation today in the context of the recent political developments in the country, I thought it was essential to clarify the path we have to take in the future and to describe the reasons and the background, why the current political change was necessary. Today, we are at the dawn of another year. On January 08, 2015, it was with so many expectations what nearly six million and two hundred thousand (6.25 million) people of my country chose me as your first servant and the leader of this nation. I wish to pledge that I will always fulfil the expectations and honour the trust and faith you have placed on me, even at the cost of my life. Politicians like us who are committed to serve the people, should always look at what is right for the people and will usher prosperity to the nation, instead of one’s political affiliations. I believe that you remember the circumstances under which I became the common candidate in 2014 and the dangers I had to face in consequence.
It was a risk and a challenge that no politician in the history of the country wanted to accept. I faced this challenge despite the dangers to me and my family. I hope you will believe that the decision I took on 26th of October 2018, is a decision that is far more challenging and risky than the decision I took in November 21, 2014. I must state with respect, honour, and humility that I took both those decisions for the sake of the people and the country. However, Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s political conduct was unbecoming of civilized politics and belittled the victory achieved risking my life in 2015. I believe that Mr Wickremesinghe and his group of closest friends, who belonged to a privileged class and did not understand the pulse of the people conducted themselves as if shaping the future of the country was a fun game they played. I feel that Hon Wickremesinghe grossly violated the very principles of good governance we pledged to uphold.
I am sure you remember that on the evening of January 09th, 2015, moments after taking oaths as President, I appointed Mr Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka although he had only 47 members in the Parliament. However, I am sure you know that Mr Wickremesinghe destroyed the concept and the noble expectations of good governance by his actions during the last few years. Corruption and fraud spread widely in the country. Thereby, he destroyed the pure and noble expectations of the 49 political parties, organisations, trade unions, and civil society groups including the UNP, who signed an agreement in support of the common candidate. I hope you remember a statement I made recently at a Senanayake commemoration event. The political visions of great leaders such as D.S. Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake, J.R. Jayewardene, and Ranasinghe Premadasa made the UNP a mighty political party, enriched with indigenous thinking, our cultural heritage. They stood for the national identity and territorial integrity of the country.
They were committed to protect everything what could be called ‘ours’. It is my sincere hope that the present leadership of the UNP be blessed with the wisdom of those great leaders to embrace a vision with noble objectives that can take our country to the new world. Once in the government, Mr Wickremesinghe arrogantly and stubbornly avoided collective decisions, and tended to take individual decisions. This behaviour led to many conflicts. Due to his lack of collective decision making through discussion, our country had to face harsh consequences when he used to take decisions with a group of his very close associates. I must state that, there was also a policy conflict between Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe and me, during the last three and half years. Apart from a policy differences, I noted that there were also differences of culture between Mr Wickremesinghe and me. I believe that all those differences in policy, culture, personality and conduct aggravated this political and economic crisis.
When many senior leaders were around, I have suggested to him to work together and work collectively. I suggested to him that we should take our decisions after proper discussion to achieve the goals of good governance. However, he ignored the aspirations of over six million and two hundred thousand people. I am very worried about that. I accepted the leadership of this country to ensure creative governance upholding the principles of good governance and that is free of corruption or fraud. I always tried to bring in past experiences to understand present challenges and build a better tomorrow that in terms of our noble expectations. I committed myself to them fully. However, I had to take a few steps back many times. As you have seen, I had to speak somewhat aggressively from time to time during the last three years. On such occasions, you may have blamed me, called me immature, or getting too aggressive. However, it is my conscience that best knows how much patience and tolerance I have practiced in the internal discussions and at Cabinet meetings.
I made all those sacrifices for the sake of the people of Sri Lanka. However, you know how those noble expectations of the people who espoused the concept of good governance were betrayed even before three months elapsed since we were elected. The robbery of the Central Bank dragged our country into a deep crisis. As you know, we had not heard about such a big fraud of public finances in the history of Sri Lanka. The Central Bank robbery was an abortion of the pledge of good governance we had given to the people to eliminate corruption and fraud. I remember that there came a lot of resistance and protests from people, opposition parties, political groups, civil society and responsible people in the society, when the Central Bank robbery was committed. That led to a lot of tensions within the government. At that time, Mr Wickremesinghe behaved very impatiently and restlessly.
When I decided to visit the Central Bank and meet the staff of the Bank, I remember, he suddenly came to my residence and asked me ‘the Central Bank belongs to me, why do you want to go there?’ At that moment, I told him, ‘It is true that it has been gazetted under your purview, but as the President of the country, I have the right to visit that place.’ And I told him that I was planning to go to the Bank in a while anyway. Mr. Wirckremesinghe left immediately. When I got there, Mr. Arjun Mahendran, who has been sent on leave pending investigation, came to welcome me with a bunch of beetle leaves. I was surprised to see how he had got there all of a sudden. I saw how disturbed, restless and panicking they were. This shameless robbery led to a serious economic crisis and a political crisis. Then, I appointed a commission to investigate into the Central Bank issue in response to people’s demand. When the Commission was carrying on the investigations independently, leaders of the UNP started pointing fingers at me.
They asked why I appointed this commission. They considered this move was a disgrace to the UNP. But I assured them that the appointment of the Commission was necessary to clear those who are not involved and to bring to book those who were culprits. As you know, this robbery has dragged our country into deep economic crisis, from which it is difficult come out. I believe that the result of the Local Government elections that was held last February was a warning by the people to correct the course of this government. At that moment, I called the Mr Wickremesinghe and other leaders of UNP and explained ‘People have taught us a lesson about the way we have governed, and we must correct ourselves now’. And I told Mr Wickremesinghe ‘You have acquired my powers to do what you did, and I silently gave you that power in gratitude as you took leadership to bring me to power.’ As a result of my gratefulness, which is a noble human quality, the country had to suffer very bad consequences. That was because I allowed him to conduct freely, sometime even acquiring my powers.
I do not wish to go into a detailed account of the negative consequences of his tenure. I wish to explain those consequences to you from time to time. I would now like to explain the most proximate and powerful reason that made me appoint the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister and remove Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe from the post of Prime Minister. My political life is now spans over 51 years. Recently, a person called Namal kumara came before the media and disclosed about a plot to assassinate me and Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. I handed over the task of investigations to Criminal Investigations Department. However, Inspector General of Police did not assign the investigations to CID. Instead it was given to another division. Then I realized that there was an issue of trust about the investigations. Within 48 hours of the disclosure made to the media by the person called Namal Kumara and investigations could be commenced on the plot, Inspector General of Police made a statement stating that there was a doubt about the voices in the tape recording provided by that person.
I would like to raise the question, with respect, is it suitable for a Police chief to behave in such a shameless manner and express doubts about the recording, without seeking any technical expert advice on the tape recording, when there was a revelation that a plot was hatched to assassinate the President of the country? The reports provided by the CID and other investigating authorities including the Intelligence Bureau showed that this is a very serious matter. In this plot, there is a wide range of information which has not been disclosed to the public. There is also an involvement of a Cabinet Minister in this plot to assassinate me. Furthermore, there have been tremendous pressure on investigations. There were instances of some responsible officers of the Attorney General’s Department evading the investigation duties. Under these political problems, economic troubles and the strong plot to assassinate me, the only alternative open to me was to invite former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and appoint him as prime Minister to form a new government.
I extend an open invitation to all 225 honourable Members of parliament to join the new government. I do this with the pure intention of taking the country out of the present political crisis and economic problems. Now, the political crisis has been somewhat declined. I appeal to everybody to extend fullest cooperation to the new government formed by me with Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime minister to strengthen democratic governance, freedom of the people, human rights and fundamental rights and media freedom and take our Motherland towards prosperity and make a better and decent society. While referring to past bitter experiences, I wish to reiterate here that Mr Ranil wickremesinghe must take the responsibility to bring Mr Arjuna Mahendran to Sri Lanka and produce him before courts. That is because, as everybody knows, Mr Arjuna Mahendran is a very close friend of Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe. Local industries of the country were weakened in the last few years and for them to recover, the blessings from the government alone are not enough.
In the last few years, the economic policy kept the trust merely on foreign investments and that weakened our local industries. On one side, the there were these weaknesses of the economic policy. At the same time, I ask you to examine what has happened to the amendments presented last week to the Commission I appointed to probe Bribery or corruption to bring to book those who are guilty of Central Bank Bond robbery. All those legal experts, Attorney-General’s Department, the members of the Commission on Bribery or Corruption and those who made investigations informed me earlier this year that it would take at least 15 years to punish the perpetrators of Central Bank Bond robbery under the existing laws in the country.
Legal experts explained that more than 15 years will take to prosecute and punish the guilty and recover the money stolen by them. The Commission on Bribery or Corruption and Attorney-General’s Department recommended to make some amendments to the Commission Act, so that the guilty persons could be sentenced within one year and recover the huge amount of money they had stolen. Accordingly, we have drafted the amendments to the Act at the Presidential Secretariat and sent to the Parliament six months ago. However, the amendment was not submitted for five months. It got buried in the Office of the Leader of House. I made serious inquiries into this. I asked the officials of the Commission on Bribery or Corruption. I asked the officers in the Attorney-General’s Department. Finally, the Amendment Bill to Act on Commission on Bribery or Corruption was presented to Parliament.
I am sad to say that the Parliament postponed the approval of the Amendments Act indefinitely. Why was it deferred? For whose benefit? Due to pressure from whom? This will result in the country losing a large sum of money that belongs to the people. It would take 15 to 20 years to mete out punishment to the guilty persons. That is why the Amendments Act was postponed indefinitely. You must have seen in media about the monetary deal of EAP company. That company was given to a foreigner. That deal was done fraudulently without calling for tenders. There will be a thorough investigation on this in near future. Many valuable assets were given to foreigners without tenders. Construction awards were also given without tenders. The emergency cabinet papers were presented to award such tenders and massive construction awards were given despite objections at the cabinet. One such example is the Kandy Highway project. Another is the Land Ordinance Special Act, which was presented to Cabinet last week.
Then there was the paper on establishing a Land Bank. I lodged strong protests and postponed those cabinet papers. Majority of Cabinet Ministers were against these proposals. If the last week’s Land Ordinance Special Act was passed by the Cabinet and then by the Parliament, all the lands of our Motherland could be bought outright by foreigners without any difficulty. All the agricultural settlements established by honourable leaders like D S Senanayake, Bandaranaike and Gamini Dissanayake will be destroyed. This bill presented under the political and economic vision of Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe to adversely affect the land rights of the country must be totally blocked by us. I must also tell you that the committee set up by Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe to manage economy was totally fraudulent. The decisions taken by that committee were fraudulent. It was a major challenge to abolish it. As an alternative to that committee, I have established the National Economic Council.
Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken everything possible to weaken that Commission. The monthly emoluments for the economic expert, who was appointed the head the Commission was paid by an international monetary institution respected by all of us. On Mr Wickremesinghe’s advise, that payment was stopped. Mr Wickremesinghe took steps to prevent the Commission from functioning. I clearly state that this crisis situation has emerged due to Mr Wickremesinghe’s stubborn decisions. Because of all these issues, the only alternative I was left with was to establish a new government with Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. Mr Ranil wickremesinghe and the UNP complain that the establishment of a new government and appointment of Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister was contradictory to the provisions of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. I categorically state that the appointments were made totally in accordance with the Constitution and the on advice of legal experts. No constitutional violation was done when appointments were made and removal was enacted. With all respect, I completely reject the charge that what was done was a violation of the Constitution.
I wish to thank the people of the country, public officials, Police, security forces, Army, Navy and Air Force and others for the support extended to me by strengthening law and order, strengthening democratic structure and facilitating the day-to-day needs of the people. While concluding the speech, I appeal to UNPers who made a broad commitment to make me President to jointly commit ourselves to achieve that beautiful vision for our Motherland. I am confident that if a leader with a vision, who values what is local, who understands the common man’s feelings, values the vision and policies of Senanayakes, Jayewardene and Premadasa becomes the leader of your UNP in the future, we will be able to achieve those noble objectives. Finally, I appeal to the Mahasangha, other religious leaders, politicians, all the publc servants, and all the citizens to give your blessings and support to the political decision I have taken on behalf of the country and the people to end the economic crisis and political turbulence and build a prosperous economy and a decent, spiritual, enlightened society. THANK YOU.