Probe into GR’s ouster:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

An Independent Commission inquiring into President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ouster was recently told that ongoing externally backed efforts to do away with the JRJ’s Constitution would cause the disintegration of the country.

The whole project should be examined against the backdrop of alleged moves to take over land and water resources through the implementation of high profile projects. Specific reference was made to MCC Compact-one of the three agreements the US wanted to finalise as part of its overall agenda meant to bring Sri Lanka under its thumb.

Appearing before the Commission at the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) premises on Bauddhaloka Mawawatha, commentator Chaapa Bandara explained how political parties represented in parliament and other interested parties contributed in different ways to do away with the country’s unitary status. Referring to the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reform headed by Lal Wijenayake and Romesh de Silva’s nine-member committee tasked to produce a Draft Constitution, Bandara warned the abolition of the executive presidency would be catastrophic.

Alleging that the ACBC, too, played a significant role in the foreign funded project to replace the country’s Constitution, Bandara urged the Commission to examine the think tank Pathfinder Foundation founded by Milinda Moragoda, current Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in New Delhi and the Advocata Institute, Sri Lanka pertaining to their strategies. Bandara went on to mention the names of several persons involved with the two organisations.

Retired District Judge Pearl Karaliyedde heads the 21-member Commission. Other members are Prof. Nimal de Silva, Prof. Malini Andagama, Lt. Gen. (retd) Jagath Dias, Mohan Samaranayake, Maj. Gen. (retd) Vijitha Ravipriya, U.R. de Silva, PC, Manohara de Silva, PC, Suren Abeygunasekera, Dr. Dulip Palihawadana (Secretary to the Commission), Gamini Munasinghe, Pani Wewala , Dr. L.M.K. Tillekeratne, Dr. Harsha Wijeyawardena, Chaminda Karunaratne, Senior DIG (retd) Lalindra Ranaweera, Shenali Waduge, Dr. Narendra Pinto, Dr. Chandika Epitakaduwa, attorney-at-law Samitha Kalhara and Roshan Maddumage.

At the onset of his evidence, Bandara emphasised that in spite of the election of Ranil Wickremesinghe as President in July last year to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term, the country remained leaderless. Towards the tail-end of his appearance before the Commission, Bandara and Prof. Andagama exchanged words over the legitimacy of Wickremesinghe’s appointment. Bandara questioned the Commission whether Wickremesinghe’s appointment could be accepted though it being in line with the Constitution against the backdrop of unconstitutional removal of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Prof. Andagama insisted that Wickremesinghe’s appointment is consistent with the Constitution therefore Bandara’s assertion invalid.

Bandara essentially argued that what was widely referred to as a peaceful protest called Aragalaya (struggle) was in fact outright terrorism and couldn’t be accepted under any circumstances.

Soon after Wickremesinghe’s appointment, the project moved to the next stage with Sri Lanka securing the services of Clifford Chance and Lazard legal and financial advisors respectively. Declaring that the two firms were paid USD 5.6 mn, Bandara said that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government actually spent taxpayers’ money on the disintegration project. Last April Sri Lanka announced the suspension of servicing of $ 47 billion external debt.

Responding to the first question posed by the Commission, Bandara asserted that US, China and India strategies were equally harmful. Referring to the US approach, Bandara said that the eradication of the conventional LTTE challenge had been taken into consideration in preparing post-war plans and in spite of change of governments the MCC project was intact. Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

Bandara said that yahapalana Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka issued an extraordinary gazette notification that paved the way for the MCC project to go ahead regardless of change of governments though not under that title. The success of the long term project the US expected to reach fruition in 2050 largely depends on total fragmentation of the Sinhala vote, Bandara asserted.

Bandara briefly discussed the impact and implications of the Chinese economic reforms, including the ‘One Belt, One Road initiative’ launched in 2013 had on this region.

Alleging a wider conspiracy that led to Wickremesinghe receiving executive power, Bandara referred to an inquiry conducted by a three member team led by Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda into the lapses on the part of the military, police and intelligence services pertaining to protest at Pangiriwatte, Mirihana and May 09 violence and counter attacks. Bandara also questioned the circumstances of the X-Press Pearl maritime disaster that took place in May/June 2021 during retired Army Commander Gen. Daya Ratnayake’s tenure as the Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed the Karannagoda Committee in late May after his government announced suspension of debt repayment.

Bandara questioned whether a critical phase of Sri Lanka disintegration project was brought to a successful conclusion with Gotabaya Rajapaksa paving the way for Wickremesinghe amidst deepening political-economic-social turmoil.

Bandara found fault with Prof. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan who headed the Presidential Inquiry on MCC Compact for ignoring certain related developments such as the role of the Pathfinder Foundation and the then Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka’s gazette that dealt with the MCC project. The Gunaruwan Committee thwarted the MCC project.

Commenting on 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, Bandara said that those around the then President Maithripala Sirisena who also served as the Defence Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, got him to leave the country a few days before multiple suicide blasts. The President was probably tricked, Bandara alleged. Sirisena was in Singapore on a private holiday after visiting Tirupathi temple in India when the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) mounted unprecedented terror attacks.

Bandara explained how Pathfinder Foundation exploited selected groups of persons, including the clergy and artistes to pursue its agenda on multiple fronts. Even the ACBC knowingly or unknowingly contributed to the same agenda.

The abolition of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution would facilitate their final objective to take over land. Reference was also made to the Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP) of India working through CWC’s Jeevan Thondaman, a minister in the current dispensation.

Bandara said that a selected group of film producers and even television stations shrewdly targeted the Constitution. They underscored that repealing the Constitution was the panacea for the country’s ills. Referring to an award winning film, Bandara alleged that ‘Work’ was meant to create a caste issue and that too was blamed on the Constitution.