Comedy of Errors

June 25, 2019

The latest drama performed by the Government will be more popular, surpassing even the Shakespeare’s play ‘Comedy of Errors’! This assumption is made considering the collision course between the Executive and the Legislature in this country, which is becoming more and more prominent day after day! This turn of events will undoubtedly have serious consequences in the functioning of  the Government’s day-to-day activities.
The phrase ‘comedy of errors’is an expression usually expended to define a situation, which is packed with blunders and inaccuracies mixed with comedy! What else can be more meaningful, than the Sunday newspapers and headlines, followed by many Monday newspapers.

The Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya, confirms that Parliament has already endorsed allowing access to the Media on the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) sittings, emphasising that it is a common feature in all democracies the world over. In doing so, he has instructed all witnesses, who will appear before the Commission, to refrain from revealing any sensitive data that could be prejudicial to national security. The Speaker’s stance seems to be that ‘it should be left up to the PSC to decide whether sittings should be open to the Media or not’!


However, the original decision to appoint a Parliamentary Select  Committee has been agreed between the Government and  Opposition MPs. Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha MP. In a latest move, he has written a letter to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya placing emphasis on Clause 74 of the Sri Lanka Constitution, and bringing to the Speaker’s attention that Official State secrets have been prohibited to be revealed to a third party either by the Speaker, Prime Minister, Ministers or any Parliamentarian, which is a punishable offence. Highlighting further, Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha has pointed out that Parliament does not have the authority to appoint a Select Committee regarding powers possessed by the Executive, in connection with State security.

President Sirisena was apparently embarrassed by the National Intelligence Chief, former DIG, Sisira Mendis’s declaration to the PSC on 29 May, admitting that ‘a blatant and lackadaisical approach had prevailed among responsible officials in the Government, and the last Security Council Meeting was held only on 19 February 2019’.


Hemasiri Fernando’s revelations implicated the President in dereliction of duty- failing to take pre-emptive action on the intelligence alerts that were available. President Sirisena, who was in India at the time, issued a statement, through the Presidential Secretariat, rebuffing Sisira Mendis and denying Mendis’s claims.

The Inspector General of Police, Pujitha Jayasundara, who was on compulsory leave, alleged that the President wanted him to admit responsibility over intelligence failure of 21 April, and he (Jayasundara) would be exonerated and was offered a diplomatic posting overseas. Jayasundara has said that he stuck to his guns in refusing to surrender to such coercing, on a matter of principle, as he had ‘done nothing wrong!’

Adding fuel to fire, former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando confessed as to why he did not brief President Sirisena on intelligence matters was because the President himself had informed Fernando that he (the President) was receiving such information from DIG Nilantha  Jayawardena, Director of the State Intelligence Service. Such statements, probably would have, triggered President Sirisena to fly off the handle! The enraged President convened a Cabinet Meeting, suddenly, on Friday night at 7.30 p.m. The President appeared to have been in a rather  heated  disposition, when he declared  that he would ‘not  convene or chair any  of the Cabinet meetings in the future, and would put a stop  to any Military or Police Senior Official appearing before the PSC.Apparently, he had been preoccupied with the idea that the entire purpose behind the PSC was to embarrass him, especially at a time when investigations were pending. However, Speaker Jayasuriya had strongly defended by stating that he only expedited ‘the setting up of the PSC.

Mendis Fired

The President’s announcement about firing Mendis from his post, without giving any cause for his termination, was reportedly announced at the meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat on Friday in the presence of all Heads of Police Divisions. In a statement that sounded contradictory to the President’s stance, Sisira Mendis informed the press that he voluntarily resigned due to ill-health! The President’s assertions that the  two witnesses who went before the PSC to give evidence against him were ‘not in service’ was thought to have been to dilute the sharpness of bold statements that caused a caustic effect of humiliation to his honour. But what the President may have forgotten was that Sisira Mendis gave evidence before the PSC, as the Chief of  National Intelligence (CNI), while the President was in India, and when he was very much in service as the National Intelligence Chief.  Pujitha Jayasundara, too was officially and technically in service, but on compulsory leave. Don’t all these add more and more lustre to Sri Lanka’s ‘comedy of errors’drama?

In the present dilemma, the behaviour of the President is said to be an ‘obsession‘ on his part, in the belief that the PSC sittings were organised to pave the way to a possible vote of impeachment on him. This stands to reason when one considers his disapproval of summoning any of the State Intelligence Officers before the Commission to divulge sensitive information. Sisira Mendis’s evidence had directly affected and embarrassed his Excellency, which the political pundits assume as President’s vendetta for exposing his failures.

The President’s statement on banning of the entire carpentry industry, in the rush, has disturbed ruffled a hornet’s nest unnecessarily, adding more problems to the ones already in store. Moratuwa is a renowned town for carpentry, and many are bemused by the fact that such a ban will not only affect carpenters,  but it will affect the whole gamut of industries connected with the wooden industry. Will the future houses only have concrete roofs, aluminium windows, asbestos sheets or even coffins made out of some metallic substance? It simply sounds ridiculous


Going as far back as the Presidential Elections held in 2015, the UNP managed to introduce Maithripala Sirisena, the former Minister of Health in the Mahinda Rajapaksa  Government, as the Common Pesidential candidate, the purpose being to get  rid of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former President from office. Many supported Maithripala Sirisena in such manoeuvres, largely by the UNP, along with several civil, academic and other organisations, and political groups collectively.  The late Maduluwave Sobitha Thera acted as the main hub to the election campaign. Maithripala Sirisena consequently managed to beat Mahinda Rajapaksa’s majority by polling 51.28 per cent as opposed to 47.58 per cent.

Once Maithripala Sirisena was sworn in as the new President of the country, he appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, within hours, as per a Memorandum of Understanding signed prior to the elections with the UNP. Thus, Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka for the 3rd Term under the programme of a Unity Government.

In February 2015, came the first blow to the Unity Government causing much embarrassment and a huge financial loss  to the country due to the infamous ‘oversubscribed Central Bank Bonds scam’. Ranil Wickremesinghe brought Arjun Mahendran, on his own accord, a Singaporean national with Sri Lankan extractions, who happened to be  a close buddy of the Prime Minister, as the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. 

Within a short period of time, things went wrong and became chaotic and the whole country came to be aware of the colossal financial loss to the country because of the Central Bank scam. President Maithripala Sirisena at that moment requested Ranil Wickremesinghe to get rid of Mahendran, but the request from the President fell on Ranil’s deaf ears! That appeared as the beginning of several hairline cracks within the Unity Government. However, Mahendran was allowed to leave the country, to attend a wedding in Singapore, with Ranil’s full consent and a personal guarantee to the Parliament, but  ever since, he has been absconding despite many official attempts to find him.

19th Amendment

Furthermore, moves by the UNP by craftily drafting the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, Executive Presidential powers were clipped considerably where Parliament became more authoritative than the Executive. In doing so, the President was made to appear more or less like a figurehead with reduced powers where all decisions came to the fore from the Parliament.
This made the President most unpopular among the citizenry, and the people to assume he was suffering from amnesia, as what he said in the morning had to be changed by evening due to the Prime Minister overriding some of the President’s decisions.

This drama of comedy of errors has been rehearsed for nearly four years, while those hairline cracks that appeared initially have widened and become major fissures, prior to hitting  the grand finale that hopefully will take place in early 2020!

pic credit: Ceylon Today, Google Pic

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