Speaker Confirms American Meddling in Sri Lankan Regime — Dirty Hands Exposed

Prof. Nalin de Silva, in his latest article, shared on social media, underscored the need to thoroughly examine what he called grave disclosure made by Speaker Abeywardena, pertaining to Western and Indian role in ousting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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US Ambassador Julie Chung with Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena

Having comfortably defeated the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) moved against him on the late afternoon of March 21, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, MP, disclosed the direct role played by a section of the international community in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s removal.

Obviously, Speaker Abeywardena was referring to the US role, as previously alleged by parliamentarians Wimal Weerawansa and retired Navy Chief of Staff Sarath Weerasekera, in his capacity as the Chairman of Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security, as well as by award-winning author Sena Thoradeniya.

Both Weerawansa and Thoradeniya in ‘09: The Hidden Story’ and ‘Galle Face Protest: System Change or Anarchy?’, respectively, implicated US Ambassador Julie Chung in the regime change project. However, ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘The Conspiracy to oust me from presidency’ didn’t implicate Ambassador Chung in the high profile project by name though he made several references to interventions made by various foreign envoys.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa launched his book exactly two weeks before Speaker Abeywardena’s bombshell statement, which many thought he would never make out of fear. Against the backdrop of Speaker Abeywardena’s declaration, we can now examine how a toxic combination of domestic and international factors forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa out of office.

Speaker Abeywardena’s declaration that a section of the international community spearheaded a despicable project meant to destabilize the country, the way they brought destruction upon Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, didn’t receive the public attention it deserved. Political parties and the media, too, largely ignored that unprecedented statement. Is it because they were complicit in some way in the international vile plot?

The Speaker didn’t mince his words when he declared that conspirators threatened to harm his life over his refusal to take over the presidency, contrary to the relevant provisions in the Constitution. Perhaps, Speaker Abeywardena should launch his own book to discuss the issues at hand from a different angle. However, Speaker Abeywardena’s disclosure exposed a gaping hole in ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘The Conspiracy to oust me from presidency.’

Why did Speaker Abeywardena wait so long to confirm specific claims of the US role in Aragalaya? But even then he does not name the chief foreign conspirator outright, though it is obvious to everyone from what others like Wimal Weerawansa, Sarath Weerasekera, et al said. Did he consult the executive, the Premier or any other senior member of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government before confirming the accusations regarding external interventions? Let me stress that the SLPP never raised the contentious issue of foreign involvement in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ouster though some members did in their individual capacity?

Former Minister Weerawansa alleged US involvement in his original book (Sinhala version) launched on April 25, 2023. Lawmaker Weerawansa launched an English and Russian translations of that book on Oct 13, 2023, at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI).

Thoradeniya launched ‘Galle Face Protest: System Change or Anarchy?’ at the National Library and Documentation Services Board, Independence Square, on July 05, 2023.

Now that Speaker Abeywardena confirmed international interventions with his personal experience at first hand, the government, the Opposition, the civil society and the media should make a genuine effort to examine the developing situations. With the country expected to go for a presidential poll later this year, political parties, represented in Parliament, cannot, under any circumstances, turn a blind eye to external meddling.

Speaker Abeywardena’s decision to set the record straight, at last should be appreciated. But, the Galle District MP certainly owed the country an explanation as to why he remained silent for so long. The veteran politician cannot absolve himself of the culpability for not speaking the truth when SLPP MP Chandima Weerakkody raised a privilege issue in Nov 2023 over Sarath Weerasekera accusing Ambassador Chung of interference. Unfortunately, Speaker Abeywardena chose to remain silent at that time. Then, what really prompted him to confirm the US role nearly one year after the launch of Weerawansa’s book? Was it because the related conspirators tried to put a noose around his own neck with a no-faith motion despite his silent compliance with most of what the international conspirators did?

Did GR offer the presidency to Yapa?

Speaker Abeywardena made another stunning revelation? According to him, the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, after having reached Singapore ,had offered him the opportunity to exercise executive presidency though he politely declined that suggestion. Interestingly, the ex-President, in his memoirs, didn’t mention the matter at all. Perhaps Speaker Abeywardena misconstrued the telephone conversations he had with the ex-President or the former leader chose to leave that out as he didn’t consider it important or because up to the vote of no-confidence the Speaker had chosen to keep silent.

However, the writer tends to accept Speaker Abeywardena’s version. Speaker Abeywardena has explained that he declined the then President’s offer as he feared that he couldn’t ensure the appointment of a new President within a month of assuming executive powers, and the country could disintegrate with small groups taking control of different parts. Abeywardena insisted that in his capacity as the Speaker of Parliament he lacked constitutional authority to address the developing situation.

Perhaps, the situation would have been different and the country in chaos today if somebody else had served as the Speaker. Whatever his inadequacies, Speaker Abeywardena should earn the respect of all for not taking advantage of the situation. Speaker Abeywardena really deserved national honours for taking a principled stand on a matter of utmost national importance.

However, that shouldn’t exonerate Speaker Abeywardena from accusations pertaining to his manipulative conduct in Parliament to help the government in power, as alleged by the Opposition. Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris recently declared that Abeywardena was the worst Speaker and his conduct couldn’t be tolerated under any circumstances.

The inordinate delay on the part of the Speaker to confirm US intervention should be examined also taking into consideration Yahapalana President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to suddenly break his silence on the Easter Sunday massacre mastermind. Speaker Abeywardena and MP Sirisena proved how irresponsible those who held high positions can be. Both Abeywardena and Sirisena were elected to Parliament on the SLPP ticket. SLFP leader Sirisena should be ashamed of claiming, in Kandy, on March 22, that he knew the mastermind but would only reveal the conspiracy to the judiciary on the basis of an assurance that nothing would be revealed to the public.

MP Sirisena should explain whether he was aware of the Easter Sunday mastermind when he appeared before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that probed the Easter Sunday carnage and the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) during his tenure as the President.

Soon after ex-President Sirisena’s still unsubstantiated claim in Kandy, Anuradhapura District SJB lawmaker Rohana Bandara questioned the accountability on the part of the SLFP leader for suppressing information. On behalf of the SJB, Gampaha District MP Kavinda Jayawardena lodged a complaint with the CID demanding an impartial investigation whereas Public Security Minister Tiran Alles directed IGP Deshabandu Tennakoon to initiate a fresh inquiry into the former President’s claim. Interestingly, IGP Tennakoon is one of those senior law enforcement officers who had been faulted by the PCoI for their failure to thwart the Easter Sunday massacre.

MP Sirisena’s latest claim reminded us of former AG Dappula de Livera, PC’s declaration in May 2021 that the Easter Sunday carnage was a grand conspiracy but he declined to assist the probe on the basis police investigation would undermine his privileged status as an ex-AG. The police never recorded his statement regarding his astonishing grand conspiracy claim.

July 13, 2022 developments

Wimal Weerawansa, Sena Thoradeniya, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Speaker Abeywardena dealt with the situation on July 13, the day large groups of protesters marched on Parliament.

However, a comprehensive inquiry is required to establish what really happened on that day as the situation rapidly deteriorated near Parliament. With President Gotabaya Rajapaksa taking refuge overseas and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa under the protection of the Navy in Trincomalee, the government seemed unable to resist the mobs.

The party leaders, who met in Parliament under Speaker Abeywardena’s leadership, were of the view Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe should resign. That was the demand of Aragalaya, too. Having seized the President’s House and set ablaze Premier Wickremesinghe’s private residence at Kollupitiya, the protesters were poised to overrun Parliament. Mobs storming Parliament seemed inevitable and unavoidable when the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Shavendra Silva intervened to arrange a meeting in Parliament to discuss the developments.

JVP and Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) had been among those present on that occasion. Wimal Weerawansa, Sena Thoradeniya, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as well as Speaker Abeywardena, hadn’t sufficiently explained about the party leaders’ meeting in Parliament on that fateful day.

In addition to AKD, Mano Ganesan, Rauff Hakeem, Gevindu Cumaratunga, Lakshman Kiriella, Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Gayantha Karunathilake had been present on that occasion.

On behalf of the military, General Silva has sought the approval of the political leadership to deal with those trying to reach Parliament, whereas some lawmakers pushed for Premier Wickremesinghe’s resignation. Gen. Silva has emphasized that they were late in taking countermeasures, and clear instructions were required. Cumaratunga has pointed out that destruction of Premier Wickremesinghe’s residence on Fifth Lane, Kollupitiya, near Royal College, should be taken into consideration. Finally, when they failed to reach a consensus on government response, Ganesan and Cumaratunga told Gen. Silva and other senior officers present there that they should deal with the situation.

Gen Silva, at one point, in response to a query posed by AKD, has said that they would open fire depending on the situation. Gen Silva received a call from Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka where the latter insisted that the Army shouldn’t open fire. However, in the wake of the declaration that those advancing on Parliament would be firmly dealt with, troops used force to break up the protests.

The Western threat to drag security forces top brass before international courts to face war crimes allegations made by the Tamil diaspora that backed the LTTE terrorists and Western vultures covertly supporting them, with the help of peace mongers’ propaganda paid for by the West, did stand as the proverbial Damocles’ sword over their heads. This was especially made to look so, with many Western countries already having taken measures against retired Sri Lankan security forces’ officers for their alleged role in war crimes without even having any form of inquiry. Ironically, such actions came from countries like the USA, Canada and Australia despite their hands being tainted with so much innocent blood of the first people of those lands, shed in those domains violently by their white usurpers.

The law and order debacle

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa asserted that the pressure caused on Gen. Silva as a result of measures taken against him and his immediate family by the US over alleged war crimes accusations, the differences between Gen. Silva and Defence Secretary Kamal Gunaratne and the failure on the part of the police and the military to implement specific counter measures approved by the Attorney General in the face of mounting pressure campaign, led to the collapse of his government.

A proper investigation is required to ascertain the collapse of government defences, beginning with the violent demonstration near the President’s private residence at Pangiriwatte, Mirahana, on the night of March 31, 2022, the incidents at Rambukkana, on April 19, 2022, incidents outside Temple Trees, Galle Face, and other parts of the country on May 10/11, 2022, and finally violence during July 09-14, 2022, period.

Without doubt the arrest and remanding of SSP Kegalle Keerthiratne, over the opening fire on a mob that tried to set a petrol bowser ablaze in Rambukkana town, influenced the police and military. That was the only occasion the police or military fired at violent mobs during the 14-week long protest campaign.

Now that the former President has asserted that both the Defence Secretary and CDS and Commander of the Army had been affected by international action, examination of Sri Lanka’s pathetic response to the Geneva challenge is a must. It would be pertinent to mention that at the time President Gotabaya Rajapaksa vacated the President’s House Gen Silva hadn’t been even in the country and the acting Commander of Army was Lt. Gen. Vikum Liyanage, who finally took over the post on June 01, 2022.

By the time Gen. Silva landed at the BIA in the afternoon on July 09, 2022, President Rajapaksa was on his way to Trincomalee in SLNS Gajabahu, formerly of the US Coast Guard.

The responsibility on the part of Parliament to respond to the Geneva threat, too, should be examined. Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security, Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera questioned the US Ambassador’s role with the focus on a number of incidents, including the Rambukkana shooting on April 19, 2022. The US deprived MP Weerasekera an opportunity to join a parliamentary delegation by refusing to issue him a visa. Out of the 17 Chairpersons of Oversight Committees chosen for a 10-day study tour of the US, organised by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and USAID, in late October, 2023, only Weerasekera was denied a visa.

Weerasekera retired in late 2006 after having served the Navy with an unblemished record for well over three decades.

The US, in another high handed act, asked Parliament to name an MP representing a minority community to replace Weerasekera.

Both Weerasekera and Weerawansa said that they were quite surprised by Speaker Abeywardena’s admission after having remained mum for so long. Whatever the reason that prompted Speaker Abeywardena to confirm an external hand in the hitherto never seen toppling of a President by an entirely staged environment, facilitated by foreign interests, it finally exposed the US in an embarrassing position. The Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government, too, is in a dilemma. So is the SJB and the JVP. No one dares to antagonize the US.

Last year when the CIA Boss Burns made a clandestine visit here and travelled to Colombo in a secret motorcade, after closing the Katunayake –Colombo Expressway to all other traffic, in the dead of the night, there wasn’t even a hum from the usually very patriotic comrades, but now compromised to the hilt, let alone any form of protest.

Those who usually issued statements at the drop of a hat conveniently remained silent on Speaker Abeywardena’s declaration. No one sought the CID intervention to probe the Speaker’s statement nor did the Public Security Ministry direct the IGP to initiate an inquiry, though ex-President Sirisena’s quite silly claim received the attention of the powers that be. Is he going to repeat the claim made by interested parties that Zahran Hashim and his band of terrorists carried out the Easter terror attacks to help Gatabaya to come to power?

Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, in his present capacity as Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice, roared like a brave lion and demanded an immediate investigation into Sirisena’s claim but conveniently tucked his tail behind his back and remained silent on the Speaker’s confirmation of external role in Aragalaya. None of those who rushed to condemn ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for alleging foreign hand, though he, too, didn’t mention the US’ role, stayed silent on the Speaker’s statement.

Karu Jayasuriya, who served as the Speaker before Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, must have the courage to take a stand on his successor’s disclosure. The former Speaker cannot remain silent, under any circumstances, though during his time Jayasuriya entered into USD 13 mn project (Rs 1.92 bn) agreement with the US to enhance good governance and accountability.

Shamindra Ferdinando

Shamindra Ferdinando is a Deputy Editor of a Colombo-based daily newspaper, The Island.

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