Republic Next Logo
PresPoll2020

Ghosts of Gota’s alleged victims haunting Ranil

By Arjuna Ranawana

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Housing Ministesr Sajith Premadasa rivals for UNP candidacy share a laugh during a recent UNP Rally in Ranala/ Prime Minister’s Media photo

For many of those who suffered the loss of family members, friends and colleagues during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime the most spectacular flaw of the Ranil Wickremesinghe – Maithripala Sirisena government has been the failure to bring those accused of crimes to book.

Failing to prosecute the Rajapaksas, particularly for the alleged murders and enforced disappearances have left a bitter taste in the mouths of the grieving and enraged people who risked their lives and voted in large numbers against the Mahinda juggernaut.

But it is sweet for the Rajapaksas.

Mahinda, after anointing his brother Gotabaya as the Sri Lanka Podujana Party Presidential Candidate, made this declaration about all the allegations of corruption and other crimes against his family:

“කාලය විසින් අපිව නිර්දෝෂී කරලා ඉවරයි, රටට නිර්දේශ කරලත් ඉවරයි.” (Time has exonerated us, and also recommended us to the country”).

Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa wave to the crowd after the younger brother is chosen the SLPP Presidential Candidate at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium on Sunday 11 Aug/SLPP handout photo

The Prime Minister in response to Gotabaya’s campaign launch asked whether the former Secretary to the Ministry of Defense would “apologise to the country for the death of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickremetunge’s death,” at a speech at Ranala on Monday 12 Aug.

Today 13 Aug in an open letter to Wickremesinghe, Lasantha’s daughter Ahimsa castigates the Prime Minister for his inaction in exposing and punishing her father’s killers and asking the question.

In the letter, first published in themorning.lk, Ahimsa writes “Let me put your mind at ease. No. Gotabaya Rajapaksa will never apologise for my father’s murder. In television interviews over the last 10 years, he has made no secret of the fact that he was proud of it. He has made up his mind not to apologise. But have you, Prime Minister? Will you apologise for spending the last four and a half years protecting and cavorting with the man you today call a mass murderer?”

She points out that Wickremesinghe invoked her father’s name to win votes. “My father’s murder was a prop in the 2015 presidential and parliamentary election campaigns that made you Prime Minister. You brought President Sirisena to power and won control of Parliament for the UNP, all by promising justice for my father’s murder.”

She accused the Prime Minister of being soft on the Rajapaksas. “The police, which came under the direct purview of your Chief of Staff, did not bring Gotabaya Rajapaksa to justice. Proving the MiG Deal is a critical part of proving why my father was killed. But on your watch, a corrupt officer in charge of the FCID botched the MiG Deal investigation and kept Gotabaya’s name out of it.”

“Because it is election season, you are publicly attacking him as a killer. But even as you do so, your Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake and other ministers are visiting him and spending hours at his residence, your government is allegedly issuing him irregular identity cards and passports and your senior aide and niece is openly promoting Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s campaign propaganda on social media” she said.

Other well-placed sources have told RepublicNext that Wickremesinghe has cautioned officials against “embarrassing the Rajapaksa family.”

Temple Trees has not publicly or otherwise responded to Ahimsa’s statement. It is not known whether Wickremesinghe has replied privately to her.

But there is no doubt the doughty long-time leader of the United National Party is under pressure from both within and outside his party not to stand as a Presidential Candidate.

The strong challenge that he is getting from the Housing and Culture Minister Sajith Premadasa cannot be ignored.

On Monday 12 Aug Premadasa addressed a packed Wills Stadium in Badulla where he laid out a long term plan to develop the country from the grassroots up putting the poor and middle class foremost in his sights.

This was an echo from his father former President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s attitude towards development. The speech, ranging from international relations to ethnic tensions Premadasa positioned himself as a caring leader intent on uplifting Sri Lankans and ensuring security.

The rally attended by UNP MPs from the Uva Province as well as some from Colombo who have openly supported Premadasa and carried live on-line and on-air attracted an enthusiastic response.

But despite that multiple sources have confirmed that Wickremesinghe remains convinced that he should be the candidate for the UNP led Alliance temporarily dubbed the United Democratic Front.

The first attempt to launch the UDF had to be aborted as there were strenuous objections to the proposed Constitution of the alliance from the UNP.

Tonight the UDF leaders are due to meet at Temple Trees and discuss the constitution and find middle ground to launch the alliance to take on the SLPP machine which is already rolling.