Millennium Post

Past transgressions

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat in this month’s elections has laid bare a decade of corruption, violence and institutional subversion. The family-led establishment had thoroughly eroded the country’s democratic system. From impeaching a sitting Chief Justice for not taking orders to extending a third term for itself, the Rajapaksa-led establishment tore the very fabric of an accountable democracy.

For the time being Sri Lanka can breathe a collective, yet mighty heave after years of authoritarian, unconstitutional and coercive practices by the Rajapaksa clan. Even till the very end Rajapaksa, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, allegedly asked his military subordinates to annul the election, when he realised that the mandate was going against him. Fortunately, for the benefit of the island nation’s democratic fabric, its army and police did not obey illegal orders to subvert the overwhelming mandate of its people. The cupboard left behind by the erstwhile ruling clan has laid bare numerous skeletons, for which they are now being hounded. Government authorities are now investigating a claim that the erstwhile president’s younger brother and former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered the assassination of a high profile newspaper editor in 2009, who had been highly critical of the then ruling party.

Ex public relations minister Mervyn Silva alleged in a formal complaint lodged with the police that Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunga was fatally shot days on  Gotabhaya orders, days before he was due to testify in a defamation case filed by the erstwhile defence secretary.  In his complaint, Silva also claimed that Gotabhaya was the ‘architect of white van abductions’ against several political dissidents, whose bodies were later dumped by the road. Apart from coercing political dissidents and subverting key institutions of its democratic set up, critics allege that Rajapaksa’s tenure was marred by extreme nepotism and corruption. In a bid to support Rajapaksa, Beijing sanctioned $4.8 billion in commercial loans between 2005 and 2012 to his government.

China became the country’s largest foreign investor in 2013, participating in numerous road, port and airport development projects. According to various news outlets, 98 per cent of these investments took the form of soft loans. Many of these projects, however, were excessively cost-ineffective and lacked the requisite financial oversight. A large section of the island nation now believe that the debt accumulated during Rajapaksa’s reign to develop key infrastructure will take many years to pay back, thereby severely comprising its fiscal structure. Allied with above allegations are questions of war crimes that were perpetrated by Rajapaksa’s administration against the Tamil minority during and after its war against the LTTE in 2009. 
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