That Temple Trees Trial

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s meeting with a group of warring Rupavahini workers at the Temple Trees on Monday had the trappings of a trial by the Executive. While trade unionists present there were hurling allegations against Minister Mervyn Silva in absentia, the President hurriedly summoned him, according to press reports.

The President may have done so in good faith, but Mervyn’s presence must have had an intimidatory effect on the workers like that of a cat let loose among a flock of pigeons. It is surprising that none of the workers at the meeting ran for cover as he made his dramatic entry. Who would have dared tell Mervyn the Terrible to his face that his boys were giving the Rupavahini employees the works? Who wants his head crushed or back slashed?

The President need not have summoned Mervyn to know his version of the story. Even a tyke knew he would never own up to unleashing goon squads on Rupavahini workers! He pretended to be ‘Dr.’ Jekyll before his political boss and concocted a conspiracy theory. He blamed the attacks at issue on a third party bent on bringing him into disrepute and pitting Rupavahini workers against the government! Has he taken the people of this country for a bunch of suckers?

If it is not Mervyn who is behind the attacks, then it must be his astral body!

However, Rupavahini representatives agreed to put their trade union action on hold after the President gave them an assurance that the government would ensure their members’ safety. But, we are no believers in political assurances. Proof of the pudding, in our books, is in the eating. We only hope that there will be no more attempts ‘to bring Mervyn Silva into disrepute’ at the expense of the poor Rupavahini workers!

What will the government do if attacks continue?

We have been pointing out repeatedly in these columns that with the likes of Mervyn in its ranks, the government needs no enemies to engineer its downfall. During the past few weeks Mervyn has done to the government a far bigger damage than the Opposition has during the past several years.

The Vermin Saga has damaged the government’s image—or whatever remains of it—irreparably. It is intriguing why President Rajapaksa, who listens to so much of Dhamma, has not heeded the consequences of associating with those of Mervyn’s ilk. Ven. Dutuweve Lankananda thera recently reminded him of the Buddha’s advice—asenavanacha balanan... It is said that ‘a man is known by the company he keeps’. But for a presidential faux pas, the government wouldn’t have been embroiled in the present imbroglio. President Rajapaksa blundered badly last December in Matara by allowing/inviting Mervyn to make a speech at the opening of a new bridge. Mervyn, true to form, made an ass of himself by insulting SLFP dissident Mangala Samaraweera in a bid to impress the President. He ordered the State-owned TV to telecast his speech but in vain. Later, he stormed Rupavahini and one of his thugs roughed up News Director T. M. G. Chandarsekera, triggering a massive protest, which left him the worse for wear and bleeding profusely.

"If you sleep with dogs", it is popularly said in this country, "you have to get up with ticks". So, the President has no one to blame but himself for the mess he and his government have got into. Mervyn may be his pet but he is as dangerous as a mad monkey with a razor.

Everyone is said to be equal before the law. But, our experience is that some people are ‘more equal’ than others. Deputy Chairman of the Sri Lanka Cashew Corporation Priyanath Mahiman Peiris, has been sentenced to one year RI recently for having assaulted R. M. Jayewardene, Bibile correspondent of our sister paper Divaina and a police constable K. M. Jayasuriya (2845) on July 13, 2003. This is in stark contrast to the Dec. 27 incident where Mervyn’s men assaulted Rupavahini News Director obviously at the behest of Minister Silva. The swashbuckling police high rankers are wetting their khaki pants, unable to question Mervyn. Those worthies would have made mince meat of any other person for a lesser offence!

It is not only the Executive President who enjoys legal immunity. His coterie of clowns also has the same privilege. A few weeks ago, IGP Victor Perera roared at a meeting with senior police officers and ordered them to go for sharks instead of sprats. But, today, the brave IGP has cut a very pathetic figure, unable to question a political shark let alone catch it.

It was only the other day that IGP acted swiftly on a ministerial order and transferred an OIC for having a catnap at a meeting attended by several ministers. What does the IGP propose to do with his officers and men who are in a slumber over the Rupavahini incident? Will they also be transferred?

The government must seriously consider promoting the OIC punished for his forty winks to the rank of IGP immediately so that more and more ruling party politicians will be able to run amok with impunity. If they get into trouble in the process, by any chance, the President can always turn the Temple Trees into a court, hear cases and settle them.

Once the late President J. R. Jayewardene summoned a senior VOG to his Ward Place residence and asked him to withdraw a case he had filed against a thug of Galle, who had assaulted him while on duty. When the good doctor told JRJ he was intent to have his assailant punished according to the law, he was asked by an irate President whether, in such an eventuality, he would look after the thug’s family! The poor doctor had to give in eventually and thus JRJ got the goon off the hook.

Executive Presidents of this country have always been on the side of lawbreakers!

Rupavahini workers have returned to work for want of a better alternative. The government may consider it a solution, however temporary it may be. But, the Temple Trees Trial has left a very bad taste in the public mouth.

The only way the government can control damage is to sack Mervyn and arrest his goons. There is no other way!


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