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
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
"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
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
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!