19th Amendment, a showpiece for the public - Minister Rambukwella | Sunday Observer

19th Amendment, a showpiece for the public - Minister Rambukwella

19 January, 2020

Government Spokesman and State Minister of Investment Promotion Keheliya Rambukwella referring to the leaked audio clips of UNP Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake said that obviously the entire UNP machinery had been involved in tampering and influencing the judiciary to suit their own requirements but not in keeping with Ranjan Ramanayake’s whims and fancies. The State Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said that the 19 th Amendment was only a showpiece for the public but they have been dubiously manipulating it. Actually, “I don’t wish to single out Ranjan Ramanayake for this since it is the entire UNP machinery which has got involved in this drama, “he said.

State Minister Rambukwella said that after his appointment the then IGP had the audacity to tell the public “you can’t break the law but you can bend the law” It has now been proved that “you can bend the judiciary” as well. So it was an organised, systemised tool that they had placed in Temple Trees under the guise of the then Prime Minister.

Q. How do you look at UNP Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake’s ‘audio clip drama’?

A. I don’t wish to make any special comment on it. The whole country knows how things have happened within the past five years of the Yahapalanaya. I think what is important is that they brought in the 19th Amendment and showed the public that the judiciary is independent and the National Police Commission had been setu up. You see, they said nothing can go wrong and everything is in place. Democracy is at its best and there is no interference whatsoever with any institutions but unfortunately it was completely contrary to that. The 19 th Amendment was a showpiece for the public but they had been dubiously manipulating it. I don’t wish to single out Ranjan Ramanayake alone for this. It is the entire UNP machinery that had got involved in this issue. Certainly, some may have got involved and their involvement may be at different levels.

The names of the then Prime Minister, President and Ministers are mentioned. So, obviously the entire UNP machinery has been involved in tampering and influencing the judiciary according to their requirements but not in keeping with Ranjan Ramanayake’s whims and fancies. After his appointment the IGP had the audacity to tell the public that “you can’t break the law but you can bend the law”. It has now been proved that you can bend the judiciary as well. So it is an organised, systemised tool that they placed in Temple Trees under the guise of the then Prime Minister. It is not only the then Prime Minister but there are others such as Rajitha Senaratne, Champika Ranawaka and Anura Kumara Dissanayake. They are the people who really manipulated the FCID. The complaints emerged from Temple Trees where they decided against which individuals action should be taken or not. They had the support of people such as Ranjan Ramanayake, Ajith P. Perera and sometimes somebody from the AG’s Department. It was like a ‘cult’ as to who should be taken to custody, locked up or remanded! All that was manipulated and in fact, Ranjan was the front. Although I would emphasise the fact that Ranjan was only the front, it was really the Yahapalanaya machinery that they used to control and demoralise the then Opposition, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.

Q. What is the political fallout for the UNP by Ranjan Ramanayake’s audio tapes?

A. Again I am saying, it is not Ranjan alone but the entire UNP machinery discredited the Opposition. They simply used people like Ranjan Ramanayake to realise their narrow political gains. But I am sure there could be somebody else also. But as we are aware they created the FCID through a Cabinet paper. The FCID mechanism worked and there were so many other people involved in it like Ranjan Ramanayake, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Rajitha Senaratne and Champika Ranawaka who operated from Temple Trees. I think surely the people will make the right decision at the next election. I am quite sure we never had a set of people like this who governed the country from the time of independence in 1948.

They grouped together at Temple Trees and manipulated the entire Judiciary, Police, law enforcing groups and everything else.

Even the election campaign of the former UNP led Yahapalana Government was the most humiliating political exercise they carried out in this country. Politicians such as Rajitha Senaratne had the audacity to introduce some people as those behind the ‘white van drama’. It was a shameless campaign on the part of the UNP which completely affected their election results. I suppose right-minded UNPers who inherited the UNP principles of D.S.Senanayake would have definitely looked back and wondered that this is not the UNP that they used to be proud of but it is something to be ashamed of!

Q. As revealed by the ‘conversations’, what kind of pressure has been exerted on the Police and the judicial bodies by the former Yahapalana Government?

A. The people of this country have themselves witnessed it. They have listened to it with their own ears. I am quite sure they have even tried to manipulate some murder cases as well. They have manipulated so called financial fraud cases and administrative processes. They have manipulated technical issues like that of MP Fowzie where they have taken a vehicle from one to another and the then Minister Wimal Weerawansa giving (a or the vehicle?) to somebody else. All those cases were completely manipulated to make sure that those groups who were actively working against the Yahapalana Government are locked up and exert pressure on them?

Q. As per Ranjan Ramanayake’s alleged audio clips, do you think that some of the investigations conducted by the previous Government were political witch hunts?

A. That is exactly what I have been saying. Those were complete political witch hunts and not only witch hunts but it had been going even beyond that. It is strange to call the judges and say, “lock him up and release him.” Sometimes, you were not too sure whether this is actually true! Because they have worked it up to such an extent to influence judicial activities. It shows how they have got directly involved in and calling for their promotions and speaking to the President and the Prime Minister. In fact, these are unbelievable, to say the least.

Q. Ranjan Ramanayake’s audio clips have also revealed some of his alleged connections with former CID Director, Shani Abeysekara. Could you explain?

A. I suppose the whole story around it is centered on as to how they tampered with the judiciary and law enforcing agents. So, basically, all decisions that were taken during that time are in doubt. There is serious doubt that they had caused in the mind of every single citizen of this country particularly those who have had some kind of sentences imposed by the judiciary. Naturally, they will have reasonable doubt whether justice was meted to them.

Q. What is the best method to probe the contents of Ranjan Ramanayake’s audio recordings? Some have called for a Presidential Commission?

A. There can be a few mechanisms. One is that the Judicial Service Commission of which the Chief Justice is the Chairman should hold an inquiry on this and deal with the situation. Similarly, the AG’s Department and the Police Department need to initiate inquiries in this connection. Of course, a Special Presidential Commission is another instrument that they can make use of.

Q. Ranjan Ramanayake’s audio recordings also prove that he is not fit to be a parliamentarian. What can be done to prevent such people getting elected to Parliament?

A. That is of course, left to the people of this country to decide whether such people should be elected to the national legislature at all. The Party Leaders should also know whom they should give nominations to and not. That should be something that is of paramount of importance to ensure that the right people are elected to Parliament by the voters.

Q. How do you plan to rectify the damage caused to the judiciary, independent commissions, public service and the Police by the previous Yahapalana Government?

A. Honestly, that is a very difficult question to answer. The Only way is by proper administration and I am sure President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is going in that direction. Accordingly, we can keep our hopes that there will be some degree of discipline and methodology in place. Already, the people are talking of a system change and that will help streamline the whole process.

Q. Do you think that this issue will be a further advantage to the Government at the General Election?

A. I think the people were fully aware of the direction in which the previous Yahapalana Government was heading for disaster. That is why the people reposed their confidence in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and thereby he could secure nearly seven million votes at the Presidential Election.

The outcome reflected by the Presidential Election result was that the majority of the people realised that the former Yahapalana regime was most retrogressive and inefficient and what they did in the context of national security, economy, agriculture and education was a dismal failure.

The people will definitely affirm that their decision on November 16 was timely and most appropriate. I am sure there will be more people who would muster their support for the Government at the next General Election. Every ‘revelation’ of this nature in Ranjan Ramanayake’s audio clips is going to be an advantage to the Government because the people decided in their thousands on November 16 that the Yahapalana Government should go out. Doubtless, they will reaffirm and reiterate that their decision was quite right and it will be definitely of considerable assistance to us to increase our vote base.

Q. There is an allegation from the Opposition that the Government is playing up the Ranjan audio tapes to shelve problems such as the high price of rice and vegetables and also to sweep the bond scam report under the carpet. Your comments?

A. That will never happen. As far as the cost of living is concerned, we keep vigil constantly on it. We are just two months old in office. We are definitely making arrangements and we can assure that within the next two weeks or so, we will ensure that the prices are adjusted to reasonable levels to provide relief to the masses. So far as the bond scam is concerned there is no question of sweeping it under the carpet and it will come out. We are also working with the Foreign Ministry to have one of the accused extradited. So, it will be given top priority.

Q. Has the SLPP and SLFP reached a final consensus for contesting the next General Election under a common alliance?

A. We are working on it. So far no final decision has been arrived at. I am sure both parties will be able to reach a consensus. Both are left oriented parties and we are all together with left oriented political elements.

Not only left oriented parties, some of the UNP groups and some of the parties who have been working with the United National Front will definitely rethink their political strategies because with these revelations it might be a shame for anybody to be a party to the UNP any longer.

Q. Will Parliament be dissolved before March and will the Government call for elections in March as scheduled?

A.The elections will be held in March. The President will take a decision on March 1st or 2 nd . If the Government secures two thirds majority, Parliament can be dissolved at any time. I don’t think the UNP is prepared to do that. They are always scared of elections. They purposely postponed the Local Government Elections and they indefinitely postponed Provincial Council elections. So, they will want to postpone elections as long as possible because they fear people and their mandate.

Q. What is your state of readiness for the General Election?

A. We are ready for it. We finished one election and achieved a resounding victory. We fought the Presidential Election tooth and nail and got more experience than before. We have a definite plan to secure a landslide victory at the forthcoming General Election. The people of this country wanted a change, a real change and they voted for it. It is a real, practical change in which every voter irrespective of caste or creed voted for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Q. The President appointed a Presidential Commission to probe the Easter Sunday attacks. Do you think justice will be meted out to the victims and the culprits brought to book?

A. I am sure and that is the sole rationale behind appointing the Commission. I am confident that they will perform their task to everybody’s satisfaction.

We also requested the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith to nominate a person to the Commission so that they will know exactly what is happening and how fast they are acting.

Q. Any new initiatives on your part to enhance foreign investment in Sri Lanka in accordance with the President’s Policy Statement?

A. Yes. We have already taken into consideration the strategic development projects which will enjoy some advantage in terms of their investments, tax holidays and various other concessions. So, obviously, we are working hard on those projects.