The audio clips recovered from actor-turned politician, United National Party (UNP) MP Ranjan Ramanayake`s home at Madiwela have opened as it were the proverbial ‘can of worms’ if not having stirred a hornet’s nest, implicating various government officials including some in the Judiciary and the Police Department.
These controversial audio clips containing recordings of conversations between MP Ramanayake and a retired female Judge about her promotion and with top CID officers on the then ongoing investigations and with politicians and several others, are now going viral on social media platforms, and he, becoming a liability and an embarrassment to the party, which is continuing to reel from the November 16 presidential election defeat and the simmering internecine leadership struggle. There appears to be no valid reason for MP Ramanayake, other than some ulterior motive or motives to engage in these surreptitious conversations with State officials and to record them on audio clips.
From what had transpired in the aftermath of the recorded conversations, it is more than evident that the ultimate beneficiary from this stinking episode, which some describe as ‘Colombo-gate’ and some others as Ranjan-gate. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) which turned its guns on the audio clips to drown out or dilute last week’s two-day debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s first-ever policy statement delivered in Parliament on January 3, when Parliament met for the first time after a month-long prorogation.
With one audio clip after another being exposed on social media websites, which were soon carried on the electronic and print media, the debate on the policy statement was overshadowed with dark clouds sans any silver lining visible anywhere in the vicinity, gave government members enough and more grist for their mills to make the best use of the scandal without leaving any breathing space to the Opposition, especially the UNP, to counter the arguments in any constructive manner. But this does not hide the fact that a majority of UNP members who do not in any way condone what MP Ramanayake had done and the embarrassment he had caused to his colleagues, was largely visible on their faces, with several UNP MPs urging the party leadership to take action against MP Ramanayake and threatening to quit if not done so expeditiously.
Several government ministers, making the most of the opportunity provided on a platter, hit out at the previous government highlighting the fact that the scandal raised serious questions about the independence of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.
Be that as it may, the UNP said the Government was attempting to use the audio clips to divert attention from the pressing problems faced by the people such as the rapidly rising cost of living, with the price of vegetables pushing them out of reach of ordinary households and the severe shortage of fertilizer which had left the farmers in the lurch.
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa however, made it a point to avoid any reference to the audio clips during the debate and stuck to President Gotabaya’s policy statement. He assured Parliament that the modern Opposition, which he heads would support all people-friendly proposals of the new government and urged it to present the proposals listed in the President’s policy statement in the form of a Budget, instead of waiting to do so after general elections in April or May.
Meanwhile, MP Ranjan Ramanayake was arrested on Tuesday night on charges of interfering in the functions of the Judiciary while the UNP suspended his party membership last morning.
There is no gainsaying the fact that it is not acceptable for a parliamentarian to have such questionable conversations with serving officials of the Judiciary and the Police Department on matters pertaining to ongoing cases and investigations. Furthermore, it is improper or for that matter, unethical for such conversations to be recorded without informing the other party and obtaining his/her permission. Mr. Ramanayake, a people’s representative had recorded his conversations with the State officials at the risk to their professional honour. We roundly condemn his actions and hope the authorities would launch an immediate investigation and those found guilty; whomsoever they may be, would be punished without fear or favour.
One of the truest tests of integrity is the blunt refusal to be compromised – Chinua Achebe