Pohottuwa, misses the wood for the trees! | Sunday Observer

Pohottuwa, misses the wood for the trees!

The entire country is waiting for Gota, or so the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) wants us to believe.

The SLPP, or the ‘pohottuwa’ party as it is more commonly known, claims that the civil cases filed against former Defence Secretary and potential presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the state of California in the United States is a witch hunt that is being aided and abetted by the Government, because it fears Rajapaksa contesting the forthcoming presidential elections.

This week, they released photographs of former Northern Provincial Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran and government parliamentarian Sarath Fonseka seen separately with Roy Samathanam, the Canadian citizen of Sri Lankan origin who was one of those who filed a case against Rajapaksa, the other being Ahimsa Wickrematunga, daughter of slain editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunga.

The photographs, which merely show Fonseka and Wigneswaran with Samathanam, is confirmation that the Government is orchestrating moves against Rajapaksa, the SLPP claims. Let us examine the merit of these claims, shall we?

Firstly, the standard of proof required by the SLPP must send shivers down the spines of its own leaders. If two people are photographed together, that means they are conspiring in a sinister manner. So, what do we make of Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa being photographed recently with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe? Maybe they are conspiring to prevent Gotabaya Rajapaksa running for the Presidency too!

Then, anyone who is even vaguely familiar with local politics would know that former Chief Minister Wigneswaran does not act in cahoots with the Government. If anything, he has been a thorn in the Government’s side, criticising most of its decisions and defying government directives leading to many political headaches for the Government in the North.

That he would suddenly gang up with the Government to try and bring Gotabaya Rajapaksa to justice defies logic. If the ‘pohottuwa’ party is fishing for a reason as to why Wigneswaran allegedly wants to stop Gotabaya Rajapaksa from becoming President, they can examine the fact that his son is married to the daughter of Vasudeva Nanayakkara, leader of one of the parties in the ‘Joint Opposition’, who has publicly opposed Rajapaksa’s candidacy at a Presidential election. Now that is some food for thought, isn’t it?

Let us then examine the photograph where parliamentarian, former Minister, ex-Army Commander and Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka is seen with Samathanam. A close look at that photograph reveals another person’s photo in the background- that of President Maithripala Sirisena!

That can only mean that the photograph was taken somewhere at a public institution in Sri Lanka, where it is customary to have photographs of the Head of State displayed prominently. What it means is that Fonseka encountered Samathanam at a public place and not at a hush-hush closed-door meeting. That is hardly the stuff that conspiracies are made of, is it?

Having examined the two photographs which are the basis of the SLPP’s claims that the Government is conspiring with overseas agents to have Rajapaksa go on trial in the United States, let us look at the bigger picture, shall we?

One of the few people who made public statements after papers were served on Gotabaya Rajapaksa was Yasmin Sooka, the executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP). Remember her? Sooka was on the infamous panel appointed by then United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to inquire into alleged war crimes committed in the last stages of the Eelam war.

The report of these so-called ‘panel of experts’ was scathing in its criticism of the Sri Lankan Government and Sooka had made several pronouncements against Sri Lankan authorities thereafter. She would hardly be the ‘go to’ person, if the Government wanted to hatch a conspiracy against Rajapaksa.

To be fair by Rajapaksa, we won’t buy in to the theory that these lawsuits being filed now against him just when he is about to embark on a presidential election campaign and ten years or more after the incidents in which he has been allegedly implicated, is pure co-incidence.

During his tenure as Defence Secretary, Rajapaksa made a lot of enemies. It is readily acknowledged that some of those enemies were made in the course of his duties as Defence Secretary coordinating the war effort. He can count Yasmin Sooka as one such enemy.

Those who detested Rajapaksa for his actions have bided their time and struck when it had the greatest impact. That is a strategic course of action they have decided to pursue. It could even be called malicious. However, that does not suggest or prove that the present Government of Sri Lanka is colluding with these individuals to stymie Rajapaksa’s presidential ambitions. That is where the ‘pohottuwa’ got it wrong.

It must also be noted that at least in the Lasantha Wickrematunga killing, the judicial process in Sri Lanka has failed to serve its purpose. Ten years after the event, we are no more closer to the truth than we were at the time of his assassination.

Rajapaksa’s name has also been mentioned in incidents involving the death of ruggerite Wasim Thajudeen and the abduction and assault of journalist Keith Noyahr. None of these investigations have reached decisive conclusions. So, can Ahimsa Wickrematunga be blamed for trying her luck at having her father’s death investigated elsewhere, for what it is worth?

When news that Rajapaksa had been served with papers hit social media platforms, the first reaction from the SLPP- and from Namal Rajapaksa on his Twitter account, no less- was to deny it strenuously. Then, when they were forced to acknowledge that the event had indeed occurred, the ‘pohottuwa’ party resorted to floating theories of a Government conspiracy.

Now, the SLPP says that Rajapaksa has not even been declared the party’s presidential candidate. Maybe the SLPP could come clean first and announce that Rajapaksa is indeed their candidate, unless of course, they have now got second thoughts because of what has happened in the United States.

The underlying question in all this is, who is afraid of Gota? The answer tells you a chilling story: who isn’t?