Almost all weekend newspapers reported that 11 joint opposition MPs are hoping to join the coalition government. According to those newspapers, they will do so at the upcoming SLFP anniversary or later. Simply said, they will abandon the Rajapaksas and join the Maithri faction, or ‘will strengthen Maithri’s hands’ as said in the past. But, what actually will happen is not the SLFP or Maithri becoming strong, but their falling into a trap, political analysts say.
Almost all of those who are going to join the government are accused of fraud, corruption or murder.
The first to join is MP Keheliya Rambukwella. The entire country knows he faces many accusations, including a court case over having forced the State Printing Corporation chairman to pay a telephone bill for more than Rs. 200,000 although he was entitled as the media minister at the time to a phone bill of only Rs. 40,000. Another case is over the purchase of GI pipes for Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation during the last presidential election. Keheliya falls in love with Maithri in such a scenario, and in return has demanded the media ministry. Since that ministry belongs to the UNP, the president promised him the Mahaweli development ministry.
Trigger-happy Janaka & Choka Malli
Also at the top of the list are Janaka Bandara Tennakoon and Premalal Jayasekara alias Choka Malli, both of whom stand accused of murder. Janaka has a case over a killing in 1999 and Jayasekara in connection with the gunning down a person during the 2015 presidential election campaign. Due to the deathbed statements of the victims, the duo has no escape from the law. Hence, they come to remember Maithri.
Accused of bribery, corruption
Another is S.M. Chandrasena, who is accused over a fraud in the distribution of maize seeds when he was the economic development deputy minister in 2014. There are many charges against Mahindananda Aluthgamage, the ex-sports minister, including embezzlement of money, money laundering by buying assets overseas, criminal misuse of trade union money and a land belonging to the Railway Department. As he is about to be exposed, Mahindananda is ready to embrace Maithri. Johnston Fernando has a case against him over having caused a more than Rs. 40 million loss to the state by using 153 CWE employees in election campaigning when he was the cooperatives minister. There are many more accusations against him. All these corrupt are near an abyss with no return.
I too, will crossover – Mahinda
The JO is the unofficial party of Mahinda Rajapaksa. The crossing over of 11 of its members will not happen without his knowledge. If someone says to the contrary, that is an insult to his unique abilities at deception. He has told the 11 of them to go to the president and get some concession over the accusations against them, accept whatever is given them, and to bide their time.
At a recent alms giving, Mahinda said all those present to hear, “If a good offer comes, I will send Namal to the government, and I too, will join later.” That was no joke.
Attacks from within
The JO is not in a strong position now. But, Mahinda still commands considerable popularity. Therefore, it should be politically considered as to why 11 of its MPs are given away to the government. The damage is bigger when attacked from within, rather than from the outside. The Rajapaksa camp is sending 11 of its men to the Maithri camp to attack the government that will begin with criticism over its having accepted them. The government is into its second year due to the Maithri-Ranil agreement. Neither can hold on to power without the other. The JO wants to sabotage this agreement and weaken both by creating trouble from within.
SLFP leaders, advisers and journalists close to Maithri well know that embracing the corrupt and murderers of the JO is a trap set by Mahinda that will not benefit Maithri or the government, and what actually will happen is ruination for both. But, they remain as if they don’t know anything due to the fear that they will be sidelined from Maithri’s ‘good book’. What Maithri should do as a party anniversary nears is not accepting killers and thieves, but getting closer to the real SLFP supporters who have been unfairly treated for 40 years since 1977.