20 June 2016

A double-crossing regime arrests a double-crosser

Udaya Gammanpila is a politician.  That’s as bad a character certificate that one can get.  He is a pompous, self-righteous politician whose principal edge is the ability to justify any position (even the total opposite of the one taken a day before) with a turn of phrase, random examples taken out of context and pure and simple gumption.  

He’s a man or immense ego and one so large that he himself doesn’t know when he goes overboard with it.  He called himself ‘Clean and Clever’ when he contested the Western Provincial Council Election.  ‘Clever’ is not necessarily a positive virtue.  There are clever pickpockets, clever car thieves, clever manipulators of the share market, for example.  ‘Clean’?   Was he saying that he has never been guilty of wrongdoing?  Well, there are all kinds of wrongdoing and not all of them are related to money. 

Regardless of what one’s political preferences are, his somersaults just prior to the last General Election showed him to be nothing more nothing less than a two-bit politician.  Just days after lambasting President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Government when his party (Jathika Hela Urumaya) left the ruling coalition, Gammanpila rubbished the positions he himself had previously defended and ran into Rajapaksas arms.  That’s not crossing, it’s double-crossing!

True to form he defended both moves and did his best to paint virtue all over his choices.  That is what politicians do, no big deal.  We are not talking here about parties, coalitions, objectives and ideologies.  They matter very little to politicians.  He is not the first to switch loyalties.  His claim to crossover-glory is the fact that he could double-cross within a few days – unlike, say, Ronnie de Mel whose life-expectancy of party loyalties usually ran into several years. 

There are two questions.  One is about being clean.  Money-wise.  That’s debatable.  There’s an allegation.  There’s been an investigation. One can hope that the relevant case is heard quickly and he’s given a fair trial.  He’s innocent until proven guilty.  

The second is about timing.  Dayan Jayatilleka has posted an FB comment on the arrest:

I just heard (at the airport) the appalling news of Udaya Gmmanpila's arrest . Even when I have disagreed with some of his views, I have always known Udaya as a decent, educated, civilized and honorable young gentleman.

“How to explain this timing and this escalation? Is this meant to be an example of reconciliation? Is this arrest an attempt to divert attention from the Arjuna Mahendran affair, and to provoke the Joint Opposition? Is it because Udaya is a close supporter of Gotabhaya? Or is Udaya being targeted to prevent him from challenging the federalist Constitution in the Supreme Court?

"As the possibility of a Referendum over the anti-unitary Constitution is on the horizon, is Udaya's arrest only the first of a series of Oppositionists due to be locked up in the same way that an earlier UNP Government arrested Vijaya Kumaratunga on false charges, before the infamous Referendum of 1982?”

Educated, yes, but ‘decent, civilized and honourable’?  I will reserve comment on those attributes.  Still, Dayan may be right on the rest.  And that’s serious stuff.  But let’s put it down to Dayan’s current outcome preferences and therefore outcome anxieties.  It’s the issue of timing that is interesting and worrisome, regardless of the reasons for what clearly appears to be a politically motivated move on the part of this so-called Yahapaalana Government. 

Today, almost a year after the Yahapaalanists came to power and a year and a half, almost, since a Yahapaalanist President was elected, there are few who will call this Government squeaky clean.  From the Maithripala Sirisena appointing his brother as Chairman, Telecom just days after being elected President to shady operations in the Port, this Government has turned ‘Yahapalanaya’ into a joke.  We’ve seen the celebration and rewarding of nepotism, mismanagement, theft and thuggery. We’ve seen woeful foot-dragging on pledged constitutional reform.  They have showered perks on themselves while taxing the poor.  The Port City is not scrapped, it is back on track.  And the cabinet gets bigger all the time (courtesy the 19th Amendment)!

These people were supposed to be different and supposed to do things differently.  Political victimization, for example, was to be a thing of the past.  About a year ago, the first time that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met heads of media institutions, he was asked whether all financial wrongdoing would be investigated or just those that are alleged to have taken place during the previous regime.  It was pointed out that selectivity cannot be healthy.  Wickremesinghe said, “we have to start somewhere and anyway, it is hard enough finding the documents and other evidence from even recent years”.  Dodgy, but one could go with it. 

Today, with Gammanpila’s arrest over something that happened 19 years ago where he is only a suspect, in the context of clear evidence that authority has been abused by the Prime Minister’s blue-eyed Governor (and of course other pranks by fellow-travelers), we have to ask ‘are you serious, dude?’   

If charity begins at home, there are people in his cabinet who should have been arrested before they were appointed.  In fact in the first place they shouldn’t have been offered nominations, shouldn’t have been smuggled in through the National Lists and certainly should not have been offered portfolios. 

So let’s call it as it is. 

This Government doesn’t know the ‘Y’ of ‘Yahapalanaya’.  This Government is nothing like it promised to be.  It is not different.  It is the same.  It is corrupt and vindictive and it is a BIG JOKE that such a bunch of jokers are actually talking about ‘reconciliation’!  Forget that! 

Udaya Gammanpila can’t really cry ‘foul’ considering his recent choices of bed-fellows, but every single individual who voted for Maithripala Sirisena, the United National Good Governance Front (sic!) or any of the crooks, bandits and jokers in this Government needs to wake up and acknowledge the fact that these people are the pits.  Of course this doesn’t mean they need to back the Joint Opposition or campaign for the ouster of this Government.  But if it was about ‘meaningful change’ it is high time they admit, ‘we were short-changed’.  If it was about not liking the Rajapaksas for whatever reason, then of course there’s no problem as long as you don’t toss around fairy stories about good and bad, clean and corrupt and so on. 

Udaya Gammanpila is a double-crosser and an unabashed one at that.  This government, however, has double-crossed every single individual who believed in the lies about good governance and decency.  That’s far worse, isn’t it?

 Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer.  Email: malindasenevi@gmail.com.  Twitter: malindasene