Weerawansa’s deafening silence when things go wrong | Sunday Observer

Weerawansa’s deafening silence when things go wrong

Weerasangilige Wimal Weerawansa has never been shy of controversy. Clearly, the man believes that any publicity is good publicity. That is why he strives to be in the limelight even when it would have been prudent for him to simply shut up.

Of late, Weerawansa has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. He was recently ordered to pay compensation to the General Secretary of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Tilvin Silva to the tune of millions for violating the Intellectual Property Act with his book Neththa Venuvata Aththa or ‘The truth Instead of Lies’.

Ironically, the title of that book should have been Aththa Venuvata Neththa or ‘Lies Instead of the Truth’ because it turns out that the indefatigable Weerawansa was only publishing the JVP’s political opinions presented to the party’s central committee, claiming to be his own thoughts.

That is not surprising, since Weerawansa’s literary genius is such that he once attended as the chief guest of a state literary festival and, in an effort to display what an erudite man he was, proudly proclaimed that he reads books such as ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ authored by Guy de Maupassant, when even a student studying for the Grade Five Scholarship examination knows the author is Ernest Hemingway.

We have no problem if our elected representatives regularly make asses of themselves- then, the masses can have a regular laugh at their expense. However, we do have an issue when Weerawansa tries to take on the justice system and launches into a scathing attack on the judiciary, from within the safe confines of Parliament.

Weerawansa reportedly told Parliament that “the Supreme Court has become a den for a certain religious sect” and alleged that the Constitutional Council had approved only the names of persons from a certain religious sect for appointments to the Supreme Court.

Obviously, this is blatantly false but as someone who abides by the Aththa Venuvata Neththa dictum, that does not matter to Weerawansa. He knows that by saying so, he can get some cheap publicity, if not in the mainstream media, at least in social media where dozens of websites which operate at the behest of his political masters will try and give the story some airtime.

Weerawansa must be still smarting from the historic verdict of the Supreme Court against the constitutional coup late last year which bestowed on him- albeit for a very brief period of fifty-one days- the title of Housing Minister. When that verdict was handed down, with it went Weerawansa’s ministerial privileges.

That must hurt. Recently in Parliament, Weerawansa tried a little game of one-upmanship with his successor, Sajith Premadasa.

Weerawansa inquired into the recruitment practices of the Ministry of Housing.Having answered his specific question, Minister Premadasa went on to say what he had not done, providing a list of close relatives to whom he had not given houses for free. The inference was obvious.

It is unlikely that Weerawansa will hassle Minister Premadasa with his silly questions again.

The coward that Weerawansa is, he does not dare to do anything outside the confines of Parliament for he knows that he will be hauled up before the Supreme Court on contempt of court charges- and a fate that is worse than what befell his newfound ally, S. B. Dissanayake could await him.

However, this is not what is most sordid about the latest Weerawansa saga. When the Colombo Commercial High Court delivered its verdict ordering Weerawansa to pay compensation to Tilvin Silva for breach of intellectual property rights, what followed was an appeal by a section of the Buddhist clergy.

These bhikkhus were saying that they would launch a pindapaatha (collecting alms) campaign to collect money, so Weerawansa could pay his penalty! One could argue that this raises more questions than the dispute over the book Neththa Venuvata Aththa.

Weerawansa has been tried by a court of law and was found guilty. If he is aggrieved by that decision, he has the right to appeal.

In fact, he has already indicated that he would be doing so. Even if he thinks otherwise, Weerawansa, like any other citizen in this country, is subject to the law of the land and if he is in breach of that, must face the consequences. There can be no exceptions. Equality before the law is the bedrock on which democracy stands.

For some bhikkhus to come before the media and appeal to the Buddhist clergy to launch a pindapaatha campaign to save Weerawansa’s skin is firstly, to cock a snook at the judiciary’s decision. Secondly, would it not denigrate all the accepted principles of Buddhism?

Weerawansa is being punished by the courts of law because he has broken two of the five precepts or pansil. He lied in his book, violating the fourth precept. He made money by selling something that was not his, violating the second precept.

So, do these persons who call themselves bhikkhus simply because they don a saffron robe, now want us to contribute money towards paying penalties incurred by someone who has violated the basic teachings of Buddhism? Is this the level to which religion in this country has been politicised?

Then, there is the issue of why Weerawansa cannot pay the penalty. If a section of the Buddhist clergy wants the general public to contribute towards the cause, one must naturally assume that Weerawansa himself cannot pay the fine imposed on him.

That raises even more questions. What are his assets? Is he on the verge of bankruptcy? If the public is called upon to donate on his behalf, it is only fair that the public are informed of what his assets are and what his bank balance is, so they can part with their hard-earned money on Weerawansa’s behalf.

In all of this, Weerawansa, the man who screams the loudest from public platforms, the man who, during the 2015 presidential election ridiculed the President saying ko me Sirisenaya? Aiyo Sirisena, has remained silent.

At a time when the nation is waiting to hear from him, Wimal Weerawansa’s silence is deafening indeed.