he arrest in Dubai of Makandure Madush and a few others wanted here in Sri Lanka for drug trafficking and murder, first made stories in media giving credit to different persons for the “meticulously planned” arrest.
Since then, not only the mainstream media but social media too, worked overtime to churn out speculative, juicey stories.
Making stories on bits and pieces of information picked from often unconfirmed sources and pieced together and dressed for the gossip hungry urban palate.
Meanwhile, Ranjan Ramanayake and JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake alleged UPFA Matara District MP Niroshan Premaratne is one who is responsible in laundering black money for Madush.
In a Facebook post, MP Ramanayake gave some details of MP Premaratne’s business in Battaramulla and calculated the investment as Rs. 8 billion posing the question:
“From where did he get that money?”
JVP MP Ratnayake claimed MP Premaratne had attended the funeral of Makandure Madush’s father and said, those who attended the funeral should be investigated.
All this prompted MP Niroshan Premaratne the first-time Parliamentarian to make an explanatory statement in Parliament that mainstream media paid little attention to, but drew chilling slanders in social media.
His statement made on Friday, February 8 nevertheless raises many issues that should be placed for social dialogue on a larger political canvass.
The JVP MPs slander people whom they dislike, and hence are sectarian politicians-was MP Premaratne’s conclusion.
The statement made by MP Bimal Ratnayake about MP Premaratne attending Madush’s father’s funeral was such a slander.
Niroshan Premaratne gave a very reasonable explanation as to why he was at the funeral; one born, bred and living in the same village.
“My conscience would not allow me to avoid a funeral in the neighbourhood where I grew up from my childhood, whoever Madush is” said Premaratne.
It is not just one single black guy in a family that matters, but all others in the family with whom one has been a villager that matters.
That was Niroshan’s explanation and I would agree with adding that in this very primitive political culture, politicians never miss a funeral, especially in their own area.
On the ‘Trendy’ business in Battaramulla, while details given by MP Ranjan Ramanayake cannot be consumed in whole, explanation by MP Niroshan Premaratne is also not convincing.
From all that he said about his poverty-stricken family and his siblings still living in poverty, his income as a TV Presenter would not by any length of imagination provide him with the financial capacity to rent a building paying key money and a rent of Rs.500,000 per month.
To keep it closed for six months still paying the monthly rent with no income out of it, demands a clear answer. From what I know of this young and ambitious youth who was employed by ITN recommended by the then Minister of Media Mangala Samaraweera, he was into the business while still an employee of the ITN.
He is supposed to have serviced a chain of small hotels with Vade and handled advertising privately.
Most advertising contracts came from Weerawansa’s Ministry during the Rajapaksa era.
His claim that he obtained a loan to start a business from the Parliament branch of BoC on a conditional transfer of a land deed which was on his name from a friend in Battaramulla is not an impossible task today, in this country.
Being a politician and one who was also a TV Star provide good influencing power in our pitifully dependent soap culture, a privilege the ordinary Citizen cannot count on.
With details provided by him last Friday in Parliament about his shop ‘Trendy’ in Battaramulla, a relevant State authority can and should now begin investigations into his business.
That said, let us also remember what we conveniently forget when it comes to those giant businessmen, who are not seen in politics.
Most ambitious youth use whatever influence they can muster to manipulate themselves into business.
Clean or not, right or wrong, manipulating to get a foothold in business is nothing new in this enormously free and corrupt market economy.
Some crash to the bottom while a few end up as business giants.
We have corporate sector leaders whose beginnings have been far more dubious and mysterious than Niroshan Premaratne’s.
We have men manipulating the stock market, who came to business as sidekicks of another with some social capital.
We have ‘errand boys’ who now run businesses worth billions of rupees a month. None, honest and clean, for sure.
Most now finance political parties and run wonderfully decorated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects too.
None would dare ask them now, from where and how they obtained money to begin their businesses. Nor would they tell their true story.
That is no more relevant and that is what this falteringly corrupt free market economy is all about.
It is the system established on a festering and corrupt open market economy that has turned out the filthy rich since 1978 and would continue to do so.
The underworld and hard drug business is only a part of it with only the tip of the iceberg partly visible. In a system that is wholly corrupt vertically and horizontally, God Fathers don’t parade publicly.
It is within this massive degrading waste dump we demand ethics and morals from MPs on the basis, we as people elected them.
That too when the underworld can be cited and not when the Central Bank bonds, EPF investments, Government tenders for massive constructions and heavily funded projects could have bigger underhand deals.
We don’t want to accept the decency in politics we tout, is fake. This fake political decency does not allow independent, impartial investigations to a finish.
Madush may enjoy that luxury if the trials are transferred to Colombo.
There lies the reason why we need to talk about alternatives to this whole filthy system.
For such discourse, there are important issues in Niroshan Premaratne’s statement that beg social attention but go unnoticed and ignored.
He questions this Sinhala Buddhist society still living with feudal caste divisions. Caste differences are consciously and arrogantly nurtured within Buddhist Sangha Nikayas (Sects), within the Southern trader community and within political parties.
MP Premaratne gives details of how he was insulted and discredited by two leading candidates in Matara District at the 2015 August elections, who put out posters Premaratne said, with direct reference to his caste and posed the question “Do you want to call this fellow Sir?”
In electoral politics, caste is not only played out that way but played out to gain votes too.
As the tirelessly researched publication titled Caste and Family Politics in Sri Lanka by Janice Jiggings documents, caste groups in ruling Governments had used their power to promote “their own interests”.
Since the first Parliamentary elections in 1947 to date, caste has been and is a political factor even the Left political parties accommodated.
Though with a cosmopolitan society in Colombo District, electorates like Colombo East, Dehiwala and Moratuwa have different dominating castes that decide the preferential vote.
From below the Corporate Sector down to the trade associations in most urban towns, they assemble according to caste, not openly spoken about.
They often revolve around a Buddhist temple of their caste and in the area. This reality is consciously left unspoken in society to pretend we are now a modern society.
Visually we are modern in how we dress, eat and use new technology. In content and spirit in how we arrange that life, we are primitively feudal and superstitious too. Obviously, our politics is primitive and feudalistic too.
The other serious question this novice MP Premaratne posed in his statement in Parliament was:
“Why isn’t this Parliament, this society, discussing the reasons for the emergence of underworld criminals?”
He had his own explanation about Madush. The explanation, in short, said Madush comes from a broken family. His mother a JVP activist was shot dead by State Security forces during the 88-90 JVP insurgency and thereafter his father moved out with a second wife, leaving the children homeless.
MP Premaratne thus accused the JVP of their irresponsible-politics that left a broken home.
But the emergence of a brutal underworld on hard drug business is not just about Madush. It is more about unrestricted markets that allow imports and exports for bigger and bigger profits.
About making huge profits that can be both legal and illegal, rarely questioned by society unless there is a scandal to share as a juicey story.
His allegation that this society was not concerned in understanding issues, in searching for reasons for tragedies and working out answers accordingly, is a stubborn fact.
As he said, the war is now over, but the thousands of devastated lives are not being looked into for its reasons.
“No one wants to know why Prabhakaran emerged, what were the reasons for Prabhakaran to emerge, to know how those reasons could be understood to find answers,” he said.
His credibility apart as a member of Weerawansa’s party the Sinhala racist NFF, his allegation remains valid. Southern politicians and Sinhala racists believe, Prabhakaran is the beginning and the end. That needs no reasoning.
Thus, his allegation on social and political irresponsibility remains valid with all issues that urban society is lazy to dissect and search for answers.
That explains our patchwork remedies. Feudalistic mindset and living by the day in a heavily competitive free market that’s corrupt to the core. It is time we wake up with this probing question “How do criminals emerge despite punishments?” Certainly, no one is born a criminal.