Opposition’s Attempt to Flog President’s Advice into a Death Threat
By Shivanthi Ranasinghe
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa visited the rural village, Lathugala in Ampara recently. While addressing the villagers, he deviated from his policy and commented on Harin Fernando’s speech in Parliament. This was most unusual, as the President, even during the height of the elections, never criticised or commented on the remarks or actions of his opponents.
His comments, interpreted as a threat on Harin Fernando’s life, have sparked protests in streets and on social media. The Opposition Leader, too, joining the protests. has defended Harin Fernando’s speech as his right to free expression.
This raises the question as to what was it that Harin Fernando expressed in Parliament that could possibly have provoked the President to issue a threat publicly – if indeed the President did make such a threat.
Harin Fernando spoke in Parliament for 20 minutes. He spoke of various issues but was unable to make much of a logical argument out of any of it. Though he made a show of referring to notes, he appeared to be saying whatever popped into his head.
For instance, he says that before the Easter Attack he was not a churchgoing man, but now he is, without giving reasons for this transformation or relevance to the contents of his speech. He blames everyone for the atrocity without taking any responsibility for his inaction. Then he proceeds to curse everyone for various “conspiracies” including the Easter Attack, for which he blamed “Sir” by whom he implied President Gotabaya.
More contentiously, he tried to whitewash the conduct of State prisoner Ranjan Ramanayaka and former CID Director Shani Abeysekera, who conspired to victimise their opponents. Abusing his Parliamentary privileges, due to MPs to speak in Parliament unchallenged, Harin Fernando tried to establish the falsehood that the infamous telephone conversation between the former MP and former policeman took place after the judgment was delivered. He inadvertently admits that had it been prior, it would have been wrong.
If the judgment was already delivered, then there was no earthly reason for Shani Abeysekera to plead with Ranjan Ramanayaka to keep his mouth shut. The stage is set, was Shani Abeysekera’s basic message as he pleaded with the former MP to not to upset the apple cart. It was also clear that this framing and influencing had been taken in a concerted manner.
These are not State secrets. In fact, the whole nation heard of this conversation and knows the truth. Therefore, Harin Fernando’s attempts to cover the facts should be condemned by all and not excused as his right to expression.
Harin Fernando, in his long verbose, also referred to the case of Hejaaz Hizbullah. It is noteworthy that there is more evidence against Hejaaz Hizbullah than any of the military intelligence officers who were incarcerated for months on end to please the Tamil Diaspora and a western agenda. Hizbullah’s school, or the fact that many of his schoolmates are in Parliament, or that he played volleyball are immaterial. Contrary to Harin Fernando’s claim that no one from the Madrasa school had been interviewed by the investigators, students have identified him as the principal partner in the school. With such evidence that connects him to the Easter Attack, to claim that he will be made the scapegoat as he is a Muslim is condemnable.
In short, the country did not gain anything from his speech. Using language of an illiterate, picking on gossip, twisting facts and incoherent logic Harin Fernando was simply on a mud-slinging mission.
This kind of politics is not acceptable to the people was the remark the President made. The reason for people to vote out the Yahapalana Government was precisely this kind of character assassination by fabricating false cases against political opponents, President observed. However, this basic fact is still not grasped by the Opposition, commented the President.
Further elaborating on the specific comment made by Harin Fernando, President noted that both his names, ‘Nandasena’ and ‘Gotabaya’ are solid Sinhala names. Just like his two names, he also has two characteristics, said the President with wry humour.
Though a number of the venerable Sangha is asking him to be the tough Defence Secretary Gotabaya, the President said he is not ready to work with politics at the forefront. If the situation warrants it, as in the case of Prabhakaran’s aggression, he can be tough, assured the President.
However, the President’s main goal is to work for the people, he said. He noted that the problems faced by the villagers are different to the response by the officials and the interpretation by the social influencers in Colombo. “These are the anomalies that we must solve,” emphasised the President.
Any rational mind can see that the President did not issue anyone any threat in any format. It is thus curious as to the reason for Harin Fernando and his leader Sajith Premadasa to interpret it as such. Surely, Harin Fernando is not planning on any extremist or terrorist activity to warrant the same treatment as metered out to Prabakaran.
In fact, President Gotabaya, as a man without political ambitions but with national interests, actually offered good advice to the Opposition. He rightly pointed out that people are not impressed with the kind of mudslinging campaign and distortion of facts for political gain. Sajith Premadasa as presidential candidate offered massive handouts and yet was defeated by an unprecedentedly large percentage. This should drive home the point that the kind of politics to dupe the people or incite anger amongst each other is ineffective.
If he can defend Harin Fernando’s remarks as a right to expression, then Sajith Premadasa should not agitate over President’s comments for the President too was then only exercising his rights. However, the more important point is, as a leader Sajith Premadasa must understand that rights can only be exercised with responsibility. Most unfortunately he too is deliberately twisting President’s observations in a bid to discredit him.
Many a time the venerable Sangha too had advised Sajith Premadasa not to oppose everything. Ironically, he is now protesting over a very good piece of advice from which he stands to gain a lot.