MSD bodyguards for ministerial brats


Even as the results of the provincial council elections were rolling in on Saturday night last week, a drama was unfolding at the JAIC Hilton that would mar the convincing victory that the government was about to win. The whole of last week the newspapers have been full of the news that Mervyn Silva’s son Malaka and "Mano Wijeyeratne’s son" Rehan Wijeratne along with some Ministerial Security Division personnel had brutally assaulted an Army major and taken his service revolver, mobile phone and gold chain. This incident had occurred when they were returning after a party at the JAIC Hilton.  This has placed the government in a quandary. On the one hand, Malaka is the son of a minister in the government and Rehan Wijeratne is the son of Bharathi Wijeratne, the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Turkey. On the other hand is the victim an army Major. Because the army is involved, there is an outcry from the public and the media but the government is hogtied because the sons of two members of the government were involved.

In addition to all the problems that the president is having in forming a provincial administration in the east, appointing chief ministers, tackling the university teacher’s strike etcetera, etcetera, comes this unwanted problem. The first thing to note is that this is not some cooked up story. This incident actually happened and Malaka Silva and Rehan Wijeratne were in fact involved. This is not the first time that Malaka Silva had been involved in this kind of incident. The first question that comes to mind is how is it that Malaka Silva was still going around with MSD personnel to parties and night clubs even after all his previous escapades? These ministerial brats get the courage to pick fights because they have MSD personnel with them. If not for these MSD personnel, they would not pick fights however high they may be on alcohol or whatever else they imbibe at these parties and clubs. Through the fog of inebriation their survival instincts would tell them that picking a fight was not feasible. So what we see happening is that taxpayers money is being spent to enable ministerial brats to terrorise Colombo.

Even when the war was in full swing, neither Mervyn Silva nor Malaka Silva needed any protection. Even if they went and presented themselves to the LTTE in Kilinochchi, the LTTE would have sent them right back to Colombo saying that Mervyn and his son was their best bet to finish off Mahinda Rajapaksa and therefore they are too valuable to be killed. The opposition as a whole generally values Mervyn and his son too because they are the only two individuals who can finish off the Rajapaksas.  President Premadasa did a lot for this country from the time he was prime minister but due to the political mistakes he made once he became president, people forgot all the good he has done for this country and the vast majority just wanted him out no matter how. The Rajapaksa’s are not damaging themselves the way Premadasa or  Chandrika did and that is what makes them so resilient. But what the Rajapaksas are not doing to themselves is being done by Mervyn Silva and his son. They are successfully turning whole segments of the population against the Rajapaksas and they are doing this with patronage from the Rajapaksas themselves.


Dangerous ground

 Today, no one but the Rajapaksa brothers some senior ministers and the armed forces officers involved in the war need any protection. Why then do we still have even the degenerate offspring of ministers moving around with bodyguards paid for by the state?  There is no conceivable need to get the MSD to surround members of VIP’s families except in rare instances where this is deemed necessary by the security establishment. In any case someone like Malaka should not be having any MSD personnel at all given his past record.  They get the courage to pick fights only because of the presence of these MSD personnel who are supposed to protect their person. Without these taxpayer funded guards, they’d be as quiet as poodles.  The first thing that the government should do is to ensure that MSD personnel are prohibited from providing security to family members of ministers unless specifically told to do so by the security establishment.

Youngsters who get into scrapes at nightclubs and parties don’t all turn out badly in the end. Some grow out of it. Years ago during the Chandrika Kumaratunga regime S.B. Dissanayake’s two sons were terrors just like this, fighting in night clubs in Colombo. But today, the eldest son is a university lecturer in econometrics and the second son is an aeronautical engineer.  So perhaps some of these terrors should be given a second chance. But there is a limit. If you are fighting in night clubs and at parties in your early twenties, you can be called a wild youth. But if you are still doing it after 30 then you are a degenerate.  Malaka apparently is closer to forty than he is to thirty and is very clearly a degenerate.  Rehan is now over twenty five and that places him on the borderline between being a wild youth and a degenerate .

This is very dangerous ground that everybody is treading on. This is the second time that MSD personnel have had a brush with the army. The earlier occasion was in Jaffna when an MSD officer assigned to a Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian had spoken rudely to an army officer. In that instance, the MSD man got off with just a few thundering slaps. But here is an instance where an army officer was beaten up well and good by a group that included MSD personnel. If the government does not handle this very tactfully, you never know where this will end up. In 1981, there was an altercation between the soldiers in the Sinha Regiment and the Fort police which left the police station wrecked. The culprits were never found. The army had to resort to collective punishments to impose discipline. Because the attackers could not be identified, the soldiers in the billets closest to the police station were all dismissed from the army.

Twenty five years after this incident, the Sinha Regiment celebrated their 50th Anniversary and in the commemorative volume published on this occasion, they still look back at that incident as an instance where the government of the day was unfair to them.  This is why these things have to be handled carefully.  The army is not an institution that can easily tolerate being challenged. And the army in 1981 was very different to what it is today. At that time, it was just a ceremonial army. Even by 1981, the army had hardly got involved in the war against terrorism and the police probably had more ‘combat’ experience than the army. But today, this army is a battle hardened outfit that has proved itself to the whole world.  In such circumstances for an army officer to be assaulted by the likes of Malaka Silva would be seen as a mortal insult.


 Rehan’s scandalous involvement

 This issue which has been making it to the headlines and even editorials is close to home for the present writer. Everybody knows who and what Malaka is, but Rehan Wijeratne is less well known. Rehan is the grandson of the late Lofty Wijeratne who was a pillar of the Sri Lankan tea industry in his day.  Lofty’s elder brother was Ranjan Wijeratne and that makes Rehan Ranjan’s grand nephew. Rehan is the son of Lofty’s eldest daughter Bharathi and Sujith Jayawickrema who is a nephew of the late UNP Montague Jayawickrema.  Mano Wijeyeratne married Baharathi later and that made him Rehan’s step father. After this incident occurred, Rehan was described in many newspapers as "Mano Wijeyeratne’s son" and Mano’s family has been scrambling to tell the public that no son of Mano’s was involved in this incident. And who can blame them for that?

What do people think the situation in the Wijeratne homes is? That Bharathi calls her baby boy every evening, gives him a big umma, puts Rs. 20,000 in his pocket and tells him to go and bust it in a night club with that nice aiya Malaka who will teach him how to have fun and that she herself never had any real fun at his age because Lofty was such a strict old man who ran a prison house for females? Is that how people think it is? Believe me, that was not the situation in the Wijeratne home.  Bharathi, had only one thing to say about this whole sordid episode - "I’M ASHAMED!". The Wijeratne family is as horrified as anybody else.  

The only thing that can be said in Rehan Wijeratne’s defence is that he is the grand nephew of Ranjan Wijeratne who was a volunteer army officer holding the rank of Lt Colonel in the army and who was posthumously promoted to the rank of General. Before Gotabhaya Rajapaksa appeared on the scene Ranjan Wijeratne was the most formidable leader that the Sri Lankan defence establishment had. And like so many other army officers, Ranjan Wijeratne too lost his life in the war against terrorism.  So even if Rehan Wijeratne did fight with an army officer it’s still a home and home match - a ranaviru family member against an army officer. A further mitigating factor is that it was not Rehan who started the fight. The army Major did not start the fight either. Then who started it? Guess who!  The other mitigating factor is that nobody in that group knew they were beating up an army officer.

If people think that Rehan’s association with Malaka and the things that they have been doing are condoned in any way by his family they are wrong. Nobody can understand how this unholy friendship even came about. Mervyn Silva has been a friend of Bharathi Wijeratne’s for decades. Her first husband Sujith, who is Rehan’s father was the SLFP organiser for Weligama and Mervyn Silva was an organiser in the Hambantota district and they knew each other well on that account. Later, Mano Wijeyeratne and Mervyn were both in the UNP and in parliament together. Even though Bharathi has known Mervyn for a long time, they belong to two different social levels. The fact that Bharathi knew Mervyn does not explain how Rehan got involved with Malaka.

There is an age gap of more than ten years between the two. Rehan is in his mid twenties while Malaka is closer to forty than thirty. The remarkable thing is that both father and son seem to be psychologically behind their chronological age by about twenty years. Mervyn Silva is nearly seventy and has almost reached the biblical three score years and ten and yet he behaves like a thuggish buffoon. The son is well over 35 and his behaviour scandalises the whole country. Even though we have been talking about ‘brats’, this is no brat - he’s a man-brat fast approaching middle age and following ably in daddy’s footsteps.  Rehan’s involvement with this disreputable lot is the stuff of scandal and in fact we notice that the websites have been concentrating on Rehan and not Malaka since Malaka has no pedigree to talk about.

Rehan comes from an impeccable background with Lofty Wijeratne for a grandfather and Ranjan Wijeratne and Montague Jayawickrema as grand uncles. His father was an SLFP organiser, His mother the Turkish Consul General in Colombo for many years and is now the Sri Lankan ambassador in Turkey. His grandmother Mrs  Mable Wijeratne, his aunts, Janine, Ventitia, Indhi (the acting Turkish Consul General in Colombo) are all fine respectable, down to earth people and they don’t deserve what’s happening to them. Three top political families the Wijeratne’s, Jayawickrema’s and the Kandyan Wijeyeratne’s are running for cover because of one individual With the Wijeyeratne’s very keen to emphasise that he does not belong to their stock even though they are related by marriage. 

But what the Colombo elite should realise is that this can happen to their families as well. At one point Rehan was sent to Australia but he came right back. Then he got himself a job as the Press Secretary to Mervyn Silva not because he needed the money –that was his career choice. Lofty’s grandson and Ranjan’s grand nephew as the press secretary to Mervyn Silva! Poor Ranjan must be turning in his grave and Lofty’s ashes must be churning in its urn in the marble floored mausoleum that Bharathi built in the family burial ground. A big shot in the government who was probably scandalised by this as much as everybody else, offered Rehan a different job but he refused. The secretary to another minister tried to offer Rehan another job and he refused that too. One day, I went to see Bharathi and Rehan saw me and went "Aiyo uncle, mawa iwara kara." This was because a few days earlier, I had written a blistering critique of Mervyn Silva in this column and my Divaina column as well.  Rehan was embarrassed by the fact that a journalist who is always in and out of his house had lambasted his employer – a fundamental failing on the part of the press secretary!


 The party has to stop

 There is no rational explanation for this odd friendship between Rehan and Malaka.  It was a good thing poor Lofty died before all this nonsense started. He wouldn’t have been able to take it. As for Mrs Mable Wijeratne, the matriarch of the family, what I said to her was that the Wijeratne’s have been having a good run for decades, her husband made his money while earning the respect of the whole tea industry. She has four fine daughters - all very respectable ladies, modest, unassuming, and restrained in everything including their manner of dress. Bharathi is an institution by herself. The family has not really experienced a down side except perhaps the early deaths of Ranjan, Lofty and Mano. Rehan’s friendship with Malaka is another downside, and there is nothing that can be done except to grin and bear it.

As for Rehan he has already said that he is not going to snitch on Malaka because he has been a loyal friend and that he will go down with him without making a separate peace. Well, good on him. At least he does not let down his friends and in the middle of all these untoward happenings, he has not lost his sense of honour and is willing to take the consequences of being in bad company like a man.  This Army major was beaten up outside the JAIC Hilton without knowing that he was an army officer. We know for certain that they did not know he was an army officer because they would not have the guts to assault an army officer.  As we said earlier, they get the courage to pick fights, only because of the MSD. The MSD personnel too would not have been aware that he was an army Major, otherwise they would not have kept his personal weapon with them until they had to hand it back. If they knew he was an army officer they would have handed it over to the nearest police station immediately. In any case, even if they took this army officer’s pistol, what conceivable need was there to take his mobile phone? The fact that they took his mobile phone seems to lend credence to the accusation that they took his gold chain as well.

This brings us to the crux of the matter. The night life culture in Sri Lanka is such that it merits a travel advisory by foreign nations warning foreigners never to visit a Sri Lankan nightclub or even house parties. Even in the 1990s, these night spots were a danger to the lives and limbs of patrons with a foreigner being shot dead outside a casino.  Once again the main suspect was the degenerate son of a politician. Not only are these places frequented by gun toting idiots surrounded by bodyguards, they are places where cocaine and party drugs are freely available and the Colombo elite is being slowly destroyed by this culture. To be sure there is recreational drug taking in foreign countries as well. There is also binge drinking and casual sex and all that. But in those countries, nightlife does not pose a danger to the lives and limbs of patrons whereas here it does. In other Asian countries, even the red light districts are perfectly safe for local and foreign patrons.

Last Thursday, I got a call from Frederica Jansz who wanted to know how much the Ranjan Wijeratne Foundation released for the book Gota’s War. I told her I don’t have a clue because I handled the book and Bharathi took care of the rest. Then she wanted to know whether Bharathi was involved in raising money for the book which of course was the case. It’s not difficult to guess Frederica’s trend of thought. Bharathi put up a good show for Gota so he is under obligation and hence the delay in arresting Rehan.  Well, I suppose anybody is entitled to make their own inferences.  But it is pertinent to remember that the Ranjan Wijeratne Foundation was formed to commemorate Ranjan Wijeratne and not for any other purpose. Furthermore, the Foundation published Gota’s War to commemorate Ranjan and not to hold the government to ransom over anything. Nobody in the government owes anything to the foundation for publishing the book or to me for writing it because writing books is what I do and the foundation got involved only to perpetuate the Ranjan Wijeratne name and to give the foundation itself a boost.


 Exterminators of the Rajapaksas

 Bharathi’s sisters Janiene and Indhi have both badgered me long before this incident saying that that we, the media, is not doing anything about this nightclub and party culture in Colombo and that people are snorting cocaine and taking party drugs and that it’s the sons and daughters of wealthy families who are all going down the drain pipe and that if something is not done about this, there will be nothing left of the elite families in Colombo. Indhi especially is on pins because she has a young daughter who goes to an international school and is therefore in the category most vulnerable to exposed to this culture. She has nightmares not knowing what the future holds for her daughter.  What has happened to the Wijeratne’s today can just as well happen to any family in Colombo and before gloating over their misfortune everybody should be mindful of the fact that they too could end up with a similar problem.

Last Monday morning, the present columnist got a call from Herman Gunaratne who told me that he had just spoken to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. He had been wanting to speak to the defence secretary over complications relating to the transfer of a gun licence and did not know when Gota would be back from overseas.  Last Sunday evening after the election results were out, his son, Vishwa, a Middle Temple Barrister,  who had come out for his regular constitutional to the parliamentary grounds and had seen Gota inspecting the construction work going on there had phoned his father to tell him that the defence secretary was back and Herman made his call the next morning.  On Monday morning, everyone was analysing the election results and Herman, told the present writer that his son Vishwa had seen at first hand why the government is winning and the UNP losing. Even on the day of the election victory when you would think everyone in the government and especially the Rajapaksas would be celebrating, they were at work.  But whatever work they do is being undone by the Silvas, father and son – the exterminators of the Rajapaksas.

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