State capture by the corrupt and drugs lords in Pagalanthaya


(This was written many weeks ago soon after Shamindra Fernanado wrote his essay on 29 August, and lay unattended to. It probably has more poignancy now.)

By Usvatte-aratchi

Over millennia, this land has been known by many names: Tambapanni, Taprobane, Sihaladvipa, Serendib, Ceilao and Ceylon and now Sri Lanka. I propose that we call it, more appropriately now, Pagalanthaya or Briberyland. (In Sinhala grammar such names are classified as anvarthanama, a name to denote the nature of what is named.) You have Thailand, the land of Thais, Finland, the land of Finns, Azerbaijan, the land of Azeris and Briberyland, the land of bribe takers (and bribe givers, some outside this land). That name is entirely fitting, a true anvarthanama. The entire society is foul with bribery and despoiled with drugs. It is those that master these ‘virtues’ (vinasha kale viparita buddhir!) that monopolise power of government, the instrument with which the State discharges its sovereign functions. [It is a part of that cake (rajaye balaya) claiming which the maha sangha took to the streets a few days back.] It is the corrupt businessmen, politicians and bureaucrats and drugs lords that have ‘captured the state’ of Sri Lanka aka Pagalanthaya. Just last week, one of them touted his fitness to hold high office in the state. Now we have true gladiators in the arena: a wanna’be Hitler endorsed by a bhikkhu and a billionaire (at least in rupees and accumulated lately) put up by men in silk suits. Usually, they form allies with one another; it is just probable that this is ‘jasaya and lenchina’ before the curtain rises for the main nadagama of the evening. These groups ‘piss every day in the face [of the public]’ while their (the public’s) ‘leaders’ natter, day and most of the night, about ‘the sovereignty of the people that is one and indivisible’. The sovereignty that belonged to the people has already been stolen from them. The people must be ‘as angry as they can’. A dip in the Kelani may wash off all one’s pav but sovereignty once stolen from you cannot be recovered unless you get as mad as hell. People of the Philippines did that to chase away Marcos and his wife, walking o more than 1,000 pairs of shoes and in Indonesia to chase away Suharto. You saw the phenomena I talked of earlier when Mussolini became a dictator entirely by constitutional means and Hitler similarly followed suit. Disastrous wars, killing millions of people, in which new and vile forms of torture and means of death were invented, had to be fought to restore sovereignty back in the minds of the people. It is your obligation now to get as mad as hell, lest you pay a much higher price later.

On 29 August 2018, in the Island newspaper, Shamindra Ferdinando, an exceptionally well informed commentator, reported massive scale transfers of funds from foreign governments to Presidents Rajapaksa and Sirisena, the latter often speaking of ‘a corruption free administration’, occasionally wielding an imaginary sword. How dramatic! (There were also funds separately transferred to other ministers in the previous administration. Secretary of State John Kerry was quoted as having spent $585 million in 2015 to change governments in Myanmar, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, when Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration was elected to office, replacing Rajapaksa and his government.

China is reported to have given Rajapaksa $7.6 million for his election campaign in 2015. That the voters in a clear majority rejected him and his coterie twice in a year gives hope that voters are mature enough to listen to gammadi haeli (recall Gammaedda) and cast them away as they vote after considering dangers to themselves and their progeny. The Colombo International Container Terminals Ltd. ‘had no option but to accept that it made a donation of millions of rupees away to a private fund linked to Rajapaksa family’ (Ferdinando). President Sirisena revealed that ‘…the Chinese President Xi Jinping offered him Yuan 2 billion (Rs.48,000 million or $ 300 million) for a project of his choosing. … in the Presence of the Chinse Ambassador Cheng Xueyuan and other members of the diplomatic community’ (Ferdinando).

These, not quite unshady, deals raise the following questions. These large sums of money were donated to these two people in their capacity as President of the Republic of Sri Lanka and not because they were Rajapaksa and Sirisena. Then provisions of Chapter XVII of the Constitution of the Republic apply to these transactions. The funds should have been credited to the Consolidated Fund (Clause 149 (1)). There is no legal provision for that money to be available for ‘a project of his (Sirisena’s) choosing’. ‘… no sum shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund except under the authority of a warrant under the signature in the hand of the Minister in charge the subject of Finance’. (Clause 150 (1)) ‘No such warrant shall be issued unless the sum has by resolution of Parliament …. been lawfully charged on the Consolidated Fund’ (Clause 150 (2). It then follows that any money that was given to Rajapaksa and his siblings and Sirisena could have been and not be spent without a resolution in Parliament. The Chinese government may play ignorance of provisions in the Constitution of Sri Lanka but Presidents of this Republic violated the Constitution when they accepted that money ‘for a project of their choosing’. The money should have been promptly credited to the Consolidated Fund. The allocation of money out of the Consolidated Fund for projects is the business of Parliament and not of a Rajapaksa or a Sirisena, even if they were in charge of the subject of Finance. In light of these arguments, how does one classify these transfers?

We do not produce any intoxicant drugs here except a small amount of ganja and it is unlikely to be sufficient to make drugs lords. Poor people cultivated these in jungles for generations and became no less poor than their parents, who also had cultivated them. We do not manufacture any synthetic drugs, either. So all drugs that come here, either for local consumption or for re-export, are smuggled in and smuggled out, as the law does not permit such transactions. Successive governments have been shouting about establishing ‘hubs’ of various sorts. They have succeeded in establishing a hub in trade in intoxicant drugs and none other. And the hub grew because governments failed to enforce the law of the land. Heroin, cocaine and synthetic drugs must all come literally beyond our shores. They are grown and processed in both east and West Asia. Cocaine is grown and processed in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil and other parts of Middle America. Where they are grown, there is no other crop that can give higher returns to land and labour. The prices fetched by drugs in markets in other countries are so high that growers can be well rewarded, that carriers internationally can be handsomely paid, that distributors and street vendors adequately compensated for and a surplus left to bribe officials. So are drugs barons born.

In principle, it looks as if we could keep drugs out of this island. All we have to do is to guard our harbours and airports to keep drugs out. It is true that small boats can use any little cove and land material here. Again as in many other countries, light airplanes can land in and take off from any small strip of road or open space under cover of darkness. We had developed both equipment and intelligence to handle this sort of intrusions when the armed forces fought LTTE. There have been a few instances when small shipments have been detected on the west coast but nothing on the scale that is at times detected to have come in large ships and planes to the main ports and harbours. Some shipments on their way in or out are detected but that they come in regardless is evidence that most are off loaded here and reshipped successfully. The difficulties in detecting these movements are well shown up in the failure of massive forces used in US without total success. Drugs flow in and are distributed and consumed in large quantities, especially in the big crowded cities in US. If only 10 percent in value goes undetected, it is unlikely shippers will risk using our ports. If the insurance is good enough to let goods in and out undetected, then such ports will be used by shippers. Insurance is paid to drugs lords who will ensure that goods have secure passage. It is manifest that these conditions are satisfied here.

Government is captured by the corrupt and drugs lords because the people sleep in comfort while politicians bought up by drugs lords are at foul play. If their sovereignty is stolen from them by force of arms, as it happened in Italy, Germany and Pakistan, restoration may require people to take to streets. In other circumstances, violence is a most undesirable resort and one hopes that reason will prevail.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...