By Gamini Hettihewa
A Sept 26 newspaper carried a response from Denish Dharmadasa, Corporate Affairs Director of The Ceylon Tobacco Company, stating categorically that the company never tried to offer money to the Minister of Health or to any other individual/organisation to stop the issuance of the above-referenced special gazette notification.
Some have offered bouquets to the minister congratulating and saluting him for his great public spiritedness. But to a discerning observer, the minister’s recent statement raises more questions than it answers or reveals. Why did the minister keep this information to himself for so long? Why drop this bombshell now? Why on earth did he not make a complaint to the Bribery Commission immediately or at least before one year had lapsed after the purported offer of this huge bribe was first made so that the Bribery Commission could have taken action? Is not that what any decent and upright citizen would and should do? Is not, therefore, the calculated long silence of the minister deplorable?
The question then arises as to why the minister revealed this information belatedly? To what purpose or end has he done so? Sources close to the government say that the minister has an ulterior motive. That he wishes to earn brownie points by appearing to be Mr. Clean. Perhaps he wants to prove that immoral and unethical conduct does not run in the whole family and that he is strikingly different from his brother who has blotted his copybook and soiled his hands! There is also the possibility that the minister’s efforts at self-promotion may stem from the current “Premier Stakes’. It is an open secret that ministers Maithripala Sirisena and Nimal Siripala de Silva are in hot competition to succeed incumbent Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne should he step aside or is incapacitated further and is no longer able to serve in that capacity.
It will be good for all concerned if Maithripala Sirisena makes an unambiguous statement even belatedly informing us as to who precisely offered him the bribe and letting us know exactly how much this vast sum enough for 14 or 15 generations is. Such a statement will not only clear the air and be fair to entities like The Ceylon Tobacco Company and others involved in the tobacco industry, it will also prove wrong those who interpret the minister’s statement as part of a veiled and devious attempt to promote his candidacy for the post of prime minister. It might also be useful for an opposition MP ask the minister a question in Parliament thereby compelling him to answer. In case he continues to remain silent, we will then know that the minister was not sincere and merely playing a cheap trick on all of us.
A screaming headline on Wednesday, 25th September read: ‘Maithripala reveals tobacco industry attempt to bribe him’. The news item quoting Minister Sirisena goes on to tell us that the tobacco industry had attempted to bribe him in order to block the issuance of the special gazette notification which sought to make it mandatory for companies to print pictorial warnings covering eighty (80) per cent of the principal display area of each packet of cigarettes. It appears the bribe on offer was no ordinary one. According to the minister the amount was big enough to enable ‘fourteen (14) generations’ to live, happily ever after we presume, ‘in a first-world country’ no less. The particular news paper went one step further in its front page headline of the same day, (25/9). It claimed that the bribe offered would have been sufficient for fifteen (15) generations!
Mr Maithreepala Sirisena is opportunist of the highest order! Any law abiding politician (????) would have have complained to the relevant authorities immediately! Grama Seva Niladhari thuma wnts to become the Agramathya thuma it seems.
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