Scrupulously honest Lalith never pick-pocketed a cent from another’s purse. Where did he fail?
- His weakness was to enjoy beyond tolerable limits the privileges available to a public official and nearly usurping those of politicians
- Was he angling to be the Minister of Education? Stupidly he never thought it would carry thus far
- A rational man incarcerated in a prison hospital bed has the time to give thought to the good and the bad, in and out of office alongside the judicial pronouncement
- Last true intellect of the Mahinda regime, Lalith stood true to his President in his difficult days; it was stimulating to toss an idea to him and listen to his sensible responses, in an office, where most subjects were discussed anecdotally
- MR was scared to meet heavyweights unless Lalith was around to back him. Suited him
Among the merry pack at Temple Trees in the final days of the Rajapaksa regime, on whom would you place an honest gentleman’s tag! Say Lalith Weeratunga, a worthy recipient.
The image of a ‘gentleman’ is hard to locate but once found, grows in stature to acquire another, the honour of ‘Mr. Clean”
To this day he can be certified as an honest gentleman, in a diminishing world of such kindred spirits. Wrongs have no complexions and its solitary colour is just that of a wrong. Deemed a small city lad, entered a big city school (Royal College).
Known to be unsophisticatedly suave, a reputation Lalith earned in the cherry company he kept at school: alas, the crowd he moved around in his final days in office was not the same – accelerated the path to his undoing.
Life at the top made it difficult for Lalith Weeratunga to live a life between two contrasting worlds and maintain equilibrium. Lalith fell instantly to a trap of over socialising and enjoyed every moment of it. Lalith should have stayed at home and done the undone homework left in office to gather dust. In retirement he would be assured of a bedroom in his home than a hard bed in a cell.
His weakness was to enjoy beyond tolerable limits the privileges available to a public official and nearly usurping those of politicians [Was he angling to be the Minister of Education?]. At work, his performance was beneath the level of bearable efficiency.
Remand is the place to reminisce on past failings. In his fall he gained no financial gain but it was a plain cover- up for serial acts of inefficiency that was blatantly transparent; effort was to overcome the lapse without being subject to a vituperative onslaught by not the President.
Stupidly he never thought it would carry thus far. Try to understand Lalith’s point of view. He is punished while those with intention to rob and did rob, girdle the globe.
A rational man incarcerated in a prison hospital bed has the time to give thought to the good and the bad, in and out of office alongside the judicial pronouncement.
Two public servants committed to the prison hospital on being found guilty was found fit and well at home, has caused a mini controversy under rightful medical care. Why seek privileges without being genuinely official!
Lalith Weeratunga, icon of the public sector, held office till near his 65th year, over- stayed his welcome; had he retired at 60 years would have gone off in glory but high office carries perquisites on which he thrived and found it hard to relinquish.
Refinement came from his home background; born in Matara owes much to his splendid linguistic Buddhist (father) – Christian (mother)
Lalith should have stayed at home and done the undone homework left in office to gather dust. In retirement he would be assured of a bedroom in his home than a hard bed in a cell.
Talented parents passed their genes to the only child brought up with love and affection. He did wrong, previously too - trusting it will pass unnoticed. Never thought he could be held accountable and in dizzy moments entertained visions of graduating up the political ladder; provided he kept the First Family happy: Thought wrongs would never surface against a man deemed clean.
Last true intellect of the Mahinda regime, Lalith stood true to his President in his difficult days; it was stimulating to toss an idea to him and listen to his sensible responses, in an office, where most subjects were discussed anecdotally.
MR was scared to meet heavyweights unless Lalith was around to back him. Suited him; helped his endeavours in keeping men of ability out of the reach of the President.
Lalith Weeratunga, in my book, is the mainstay among those public officials that brought down the Rajapaksa administration by his gross inefficiency, lack of imparting timely advice to Rajapaksa and playing the role of prime advisor by keeping all others of ability out. It made the President captive and made Lalith’s position in office more secure.
Within him he knew his inadequacies but kept up a pretense. From personal experiences, on issuing a caution to Mahinda Rajapaksa [MR] - he took me seriously, did what was told to him to do, in matters relating to terrorism often revising silly directions given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
MR was a manageable President whom Lalith failed to provide valuable inputs and never told him to his face any ugly truth.
MR would take anything well from Lalith his source of intellectual sustenance but that was not forthcoming. Poor MR carried plenty crap because of Lalith’s supreme indifference and ineffectiveness in times of dire need. The directions by the then President, six in number, were related to functions concerning the Presidents Fund [such as distribution of devotional cloth to devotees] at a time elections were not contemplated. The President is lawfully entitled to give orders relating to the utilisation of funds in the President’s Fund.
If the objective was morally or ethically incorrect, his Secretary Lalith, the principal public officer in charge of the Fund, was obliged to tender advice to the President calling for the necessary rectification or abandonment. Was any such advice proffered? Were directions given by the President not towed by Lalith? Boasted he knew the wavering mind of the President at work and therefore did little to execute the President’s vision for the moment stating the President may change his mind most likely. It sounded a terrible excuse for doing nothing.
The order for implementing the distribution of ‘sil’ cloth was effected much latter during the election period on the directions of Weeratunga, the Chairman of a Statutory Board that was made the vehicle for providing the funding for the project without the knowledge of the Board members and was authorised subsequently in a covert operation; No funds were available to service the order in the President’s Fund and therefore Lalith utilised funds from the Statutory Body where he Presided without the sanctioning of the Board to the Buddhist laity during the election time, which was out of public funds.
Probably again he may say he knew best to read the President’s mind. The Mahinda Rajapaksa did carry out the campaign with a queer astrologer and a Phantom Secretary, if so.
Lustfully searching for too many good things in life at fun times and failing to keep his boss on the correct track, with effective controls that public servants are paid for- asked for a judicial pronouncement that previous holders of his office like K. Wijedasa, Bradman Weerakoon or M.D.D. Pieris would have lived in shame if pronounced by a judge in the calibre of Gihan Kulatunga, a man of unimpeachable character as was his father on the Supreme Court bench.
Lalith is a typical Public Servant of the now generation, bound hand and foot to politicians.
When his weaknesses surfaced he was exploited by the inner circle of the Rajapaksa camp. Lalith never lost his head or had a temper but at all times felt insecure in his job that he treasured.
Lalith Weeratunga is/was an enigmatic figure.
Mindful of economic conditions prevailing in the country, Lalith maintained a 21st century lifestyle that few civil servants of the 20th century could afford: dancing the cares away late into the night; living in style beyond the reach of public servants that needed a slice off on a fat dowry that did not come his way if to supplement the meagre earnings of able public servants: evenings were of quality music at parties where the mike reached out to him searchingly amidst encores: striking media in hit magazines of socialites. He was not in the court of [local] Sir John or [alien] St. James but in with a ‘Yes, Mr. President”- who was unambiguously simple and stark.
Last of the jolly tribe lived in retirement when Ronnie De Mel [ex civil servant] was a Government Agent in the Provinces, doing his canny under-arm top - spin service in the style of Pancho Segura; he beat most of the best at provincial tennis. Few of civil servants came to court on summons and went home singular and poorer, unlocking matrimonial bonds, if at all, with a head held high and the hand cuffs was never in sight and would have scoffed if brought into contention; entertained no fears, as they, faithfully adhered to the ARs and FRs of the day
Lalith came an era too late when his assistants (ceased to be cadets) spoke fluently only the vernacular and they held in esteem and awe, public servants of bi-lingual/tri-lingual competency.
Lalith felt he lived a world apart, preferred to live in isolation away from the noisy staff of Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees. President’s Secretary sat in an office in a building away in isolation from the hoi poloi including a down to earth character that he called graciously “His Excellency”.
Lalith played with distinction the role of English prompt to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s court to counter the inadequate knowledge of English and was loyal to him but undid him because much of his directions to be effected were never carried out and was conveniently placed in the back burner to be forgotten.
Lalith had a side that stood firm for him. He never pick-pocketed a cent from another’s purse at time many other acquired such reputations.
He was indeed scrupulously honest.