An open letter to President Maithripala Sirisena

Wednesday, 6 May 2015 00:59 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

T. Mallawatantri Honourable President, I am taking the liberty to address you as Honourable President instead of ‘Your Excellency’ as we were accustomed to before because you announced in all humility that you did not wish to be addressed to as Your Excellency (Srimath in Sinhala) in future. After completing 100 days in office and looking back, you can justifiably be proud of the achievements so far, particularly in making important legislative changes, the 19th Amendment being the most important. Your Government has also taken some constructive steps to bring in Good Governance in your administration. People can now feel the freedom in the country which is almost visible. Gone are the days when people feared to express themselves and looking over the shoulder to see whether someone is watching and listening or whether their phones were tapped as you mentioned recently. Above all, your Government has recognised the plight of the poor and the middle class wage earners plus pensioners and have brought in some relief to ease their burdens. Though not huge, these are certainly tangible. The reduction in duty on some essential consumer goods too brought relief to the average citizen though it may not meet all expectations. You are leading the country by example with your simple lifestyle and immaculate white dress code in all official functions. I recall the day you were in Kandy where you instructed the security detail to stop for pedestrians on the yellow lines. Your speeches at the inauguration, address to the nation from the Dalada Maligawa precincts as well as the recent one broadcast over the media were eloquent, to the point and never left anything unsaid. It was a treat to the ear. The conduct of the First Family during your presidency is exemplary and it is something that many should emulate. We as Sri Lankans felt proud of the manner in which you welcomed His Holiness Pope Francis to Sri Lanka and were received by world leaders including Queen Elizabeth, British Prime Minister, Chinese President, the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers when you visited those countries. Your stature was accentuated by the conduct during diplomatic visits of foreign dignitaries to Sri Lanka. Personally, I had the good fortune to meet you in Polonnaruwa in the early eighties when I was posted there and what struck me then was that you were a humble but a determined person. After the November nominations, I worked with commitment to ensure your victory along with some professionals in the Colombo District, recognising the risks that entailed with such work and to our relief, joy and exhilaration, you became victorious and we have got rid of a corrupt, nefarious and vicious administration. But, there are certain developments that irk us and at times it is frustrating to note how such things can happen under your watch as President. If I may quote a few examples, an accused in the murder of a prominent SLFP member whose daughter also worked for you at great personal risk to her, is prominent in the SLFP activities where you are the President of the Party. Another SLFP Provincial Council Member in the Negombo area, noted to be involved in drug trade, whose house was raided by the STF a couple of years ago and pacified by the former President on a quick visit by helicopter when the STF was humiliated, is appointed as the SLFP organiser for an important electorate in the Gampaha District. Others involved in the drug trade and illegal import of ethanol still continue to be prominent organisers of the SLFP. The worst report about which many like me are perturbed, perplexed and dismayed is that you are going to meet former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday 7 May at the Speaker’s residence, supposed to be some neutral venue. The Speaker had mostly acted in an impartial manner but we have doubts whether his official residence can be neutral. You have to always keep in mind, as you yourself declared, that you would have been six feet underground if you lost the election. The very same Mahinda Rajapaksa admitted a few days ago that he had allowed wrongdoers to go scot-free and never took action against some. These wrongdoers are not petty thieves or street urchins, they were big time drug dealers and pilferers of State assets. Under his regime, many eminent journalists like Lasantha Wickrematunge were killed, some had to defect to safer countries. He never investigated those crimes or they were covered up. His brother is in remand custody for misappropriation of Divi Neguma funds. These funds belong to the ordinary citizens of the country. The persons arranging this upcoming meeting are not interested in the stability of the SLFP but to cover their own sins of the past and to get protection through you. You also narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on Independence Day according to reports and a security soldier of MP Namal Rajapaksa has now been taken into custody for coming close to you armed with a pistol. A senior security officer is reported to have been eavesdropping when you were having a closed door discussion on the eve of the 19th Amendment voting in Parliament. These are ominous signs you should not ignore. Honourable President, we cannot afford to lose you now. You should not allow a path to open to destroy you. Please use your wisdom and think twice. If you have to meet the former President, no one can object, but there are over 6.2 million to whom you owe a duty to continue this ‘Maithri Palanaya’ and let no one influence or block you under any pretext. I plan to release this letter to the media so that a wider population will be aware of the issues i am raising.