Minister Mervyn Silva and his son Malaka have always courted controversy. Never out of the limelight, they again attracted attention for the wrong reasons this week; Malaka was assaulted at a clothing store in the heart of the city; Mervyn ordered the closure of a controversial factory in Gampaha.
Malaka Silva was admitted to a private hospital following the assault. His injuries were not of a serious nature and he was soon whisked away, shielded by the glare of the media. Given his track record, he would however have few sympathisers.
Malaka Silva’s history speaks for itself. He was charged with intimidating and obstructing a Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) team conducting a raid at the night club namely ‘My Kind of Place’ at the Taj Samudra hotel on July 24, 2005. Charges were then dropped for “lack of evidence”.
"In a case that made a mockery of the justice system, Malaka Silva was exonerated of any wrongdoing while the officer concerned was subjected to a disciplinary inquiry and asked to explain his presence at the location of the incident"
In a similar incident for which he was in fact charged, Malaka Silva and two of his bodyguards on November 2, 2006 pleaded guilty to attacking PNB officers on a drug raid at a night club in a five star hotel. Silva was ordered to pay Rs. 10,000 as compensation.
In September 2007 an accountant, Chaminda Senasinghe was allegedly hit on the face with a pistol butt by Malaka Silva at the Bistro Latino Restaurant. Senasinghe is the brother of United National Party (UNP) Parliamentarian Sujeeva Senasinghe. Silva was remanded for the offence but little else happened.
On September 9, 2012, an officer of the Sri Lanka Army was allegedly assaulted by Malaka Silva and others at the JAIC Hilton car park. Former Minister Mano Wijeratne’s step-son Rehan Wijeratne was also implicated in the incident.
In a case that made a mockery of the justice system, Malaka Silva was exonerated of any wrongdoing while the officer concerned was subjected to a disciplinary inquiry and asked to explain his presence at the location of the incident.
The latest skirmish involving Malaka Silva is different only because he has been at the receiving end. Undaunted, Mervyn Silva was also in an aggressive mood, storming a factory in the Gampaha district that was at the centre of a controversy over the pollution of ground water, and ordering its closure.
Few remember that Mervyn Silva was a creation of the UNP because he now proudly proclaims allegiance and servility to the Rajapaksa clan. However, it was the UNP that first thrust Silva into national politics, as a candidate for the Hambantota district in 1994.
That was a time when he had crossed over to the UNP from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), with his political mentor, Anura Bandaranaike. Two of his opponents were Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chamal Rajapaksa. Silva, along with Ananda Kularatne was one of two elected UNP MPs.
However, Silva soon changed his loyalties and returned to the SLFP, where he has stayed since. For a while, his maverick nature and his obsequious acts towards the party leadership of the day -be it Chandrika Kumaratunga or Mahinda Rajapaksa - were tolerated by an amused public.
Silva kept a relatively low profile and at the general elections in 2004, contesting from the Colombo district, he emerged last in his party’s list of candidates polling just over 2000 votes and failing to get elected when the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance received over 400,000 votes.
Nevertheless, he was still able to make it to Parliament because he enjoyed enough clout with the then Party high command to have his wife, Mary Lucida, nominated on the much sought after National List. With his spouse resigning, Mervyn was back in the legislature.
Despite a series of petty incidents, it was in December 2007 that he hit the national headlines when he walked into the offices of the state broadcaster, Rupavahini, and assaulted an official. Angry employees held him hostage and assaulted him, the melee being broadcast live on television.
This was followed by the assault on a television cameraman at Kelaniya in August 2008 and the infamous incident where he tied a government official to a tree for not being present at a meeting summoned by him in August 2010.
Though Silva has earned the wrath of the general public and brought the government, the Cabinet and the SLFP into needless disrepute he has escaped consequences, earning only mild reprimands. It was after all these incidents that Silva was elevated to Cabinet rank after the 2010 general elections.
Even after the infamous ‘tree’ incident, Silva was briefly stripped of his post as SLFP organiser for Kelaniya but later exonerated following a disciplinary inquiry by the party and his privileges were restored. No charges were pressed against him, despite the event being witnessed by the public.
Through all his escapades, Silva has survived through a two-pronged strategy: absolute loyalty to his political masters of the day and a reputation of getting a job done - be it building a road or admitting a child to a school, his modus operandi notwithstanding.
Despite his abrasive manner and the vituperative style of public speaking, Silva is also smart at hogging the spotlight. He has appeared as a judge in a reality television show and whether the public loved him or loathed him, Silva made certain that they watched him, week after week.
All these factors undoubtedly contributed to his apparent ‘popularity’ because he polled over 150,000 preference votes in the Gampaha district at the last election, coming third in a list riddled with political heavyweights, less than only Basil Rajapaksa and Sudarshani Fernandopulle.
It has long been rumoured that Silva derives his power not from his links with the masses at the grassroots level, but because of his links to the underworld, organised crime and drug running. Mervyn and Malaka Silva have now come to characterise all that is unsavoury about the ruling party: the impunity with which they act, the immunity they enjoy from the law and the injuries they inflict on their opponents. Sadly, this week’s events will not deter the Silvas; it will only spur them on.
Paul Thursday, 1 August 2013 10:46
"Mervyn and Malaka Silva have now come to characterise all that is unsavoury about the ruling party" Not just the ruling party, but with Sri Lankan politics as a whole!
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Bakathapas Thursday, 1 August 2013 10:54
Fantastic writing on two committal characters brought up by power greediness of some Sri Lankan politicians. What is written here shall not be let to erase form the memory of the voters of SL. Even though big shots afraid of him due to some unknown reasons, these idiots shall be taught a lesson by the general public at least.
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srinath.gunaratne Thursday, 1 August 2013 10:54
THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE
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Sam Thursday, 1 August 2013 11:02
Mervyn Silva is a henchman of the President and he will do what he wants,so will his son.
They are among the "privileged" thugs of the government.
The 'captive' judiciary will cooperate.
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