Prime Minister will have to go

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella

Prime Minister, Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Jayaratne, will have to resign from his position, if he is found guilty of being involved in the case pertaining to the largest haul of heroin detected in South Asia, the government said yesterday.

“This is a very serious issue and the Prime Minister will have to take appropriate action at the appropriate time,” Government Spokesman and Media Minister, Keheliya Rambukwella, said at the weekly Cabinet news conference, held at the auditorium of the Media Ministry, yesterday.

The minister was responding euphemistically to a question from Ceylon Today as to what action the Prime Minister could take if he was found guilty, following repeated claims by him in Parliament and outside that, he could not comment as the issue was being probed, and that he would comment only when the investigations were over.

The gravity of the situation was also pointed out by this newspaper, given that Jayaratne is not only the second citizen of Sri Lanka, but specifically he is also the Minister of Buddha Sasana, and in a country whose Constitution gives pride of place to Buddhists and Buddhism, and whether he was or not, morally obliged to resign under the circumstances. Asked by Ceylon Today, whether he and the government feel that the Prime Minister should resign under those circumstances, Rambukwella said, that all these questions would be recorded and aired over television in the night! “I cannot at this point give the details. All I can do is to give you journalists the details of the investigations. But it is not right for me to say yes or no,” a visibly embarrassed Rambukwella told the local and the Colombo-based international media.

Pressed further by this newspaper whether the investigations would be impartial or whether this probe, like many others in the past, would be swept under the carpet, the minister said that it was not fair to point fingers at the government and instead wanted us to point out which investigations were swept under the carpet.

It was then pointed out to Minister Rambukwella that four long years had passed since the killing of the founding Editor of the Sunday Leader and the government had not made an official statement on the incident to date.

The minister said that it was only a media affair and there were reports of 67 cases of killings of journalists worldwide. However, he did not explain why the government had not announced the details of that crime or how the probe on the Prime Minister would to be conducted impartially.

The news conference kicked off with a journalist querying why the government was not taking action on a series of sordid affairs by the members of the government. It was also pointed out why the government had not taken any action against MP Duminda Silva and Minister Mervyn Silva, and now it was the Prime Minister. “Minister, you are embarrassed, having to answer all these questions on a weekly basis due to the embarrassment these ministers and MPs are causing the government,” the journalist said, amidst ripples of laughter across the auditorium.

Rambukwella also said that any minister or the Prime Minister was personally responsible for the staff they hire and what was more important was the action they would take, and added that nothing has been done or could be done as the investigations were underway. On being questioned why the Premier was not resigning, Rambukwella said: “May be the Prime Minister had not thought of it until now.”

Asked what the opinion of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other Cabinet ranked ministers were, on this sordid affair, he said the investigations were on and therefore he was gagged. He added that an impartial inquiry would reveal all.

Ranbukwella also said, the Prime Minister, on being told there was a suspect container, had directed that the container should be released only after the inquiries were over.

He went on to say that he believed the quantity of heroine was for transshipment and that the drug lords were elsewhere. When asked by this newspaper whether he thinks that the quantity was too much for Sri Lanka amidst ripples of laughter from journalists, Rambukwella said that the quantity would be too much for this country. Asked about heroin being found in Hikkaduwa, he said there was a possibility of boats carrying the contraband to Australia.

He however said, the government would make every effort to rid the country from the menace of drugs and narcotics, for good.

(Courtesy: Ceylon Today)