Government was trying to sweep the controversial Avant Garde probe under the carpet – Sobhitha Thera’s wish and Marapana’s fate

Sobhitha Thera’s wish and Marapana’s fate

Before Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera fell ill he accused the government of not apprehending the culprits involved in corruption. He charged that the government was wasting time while the iron was hot to make use of it. The main charge made by the thera was that the Government was trying to sweep the controversial Avant Garde probe under the carpet. While the thera was breathing his last, Law and Order Minister Tilak Marapana was trying to give saline to the Avant Garde issue by trying to protect that company. When Maithri and Ranil requested Marapana to quit the ministerial portfolio, the thera had left this world. Marapana resigned last Monday.

Who is this Tilak Marapana? After the 1994 UNP’s defeat at the General Election, Ranil appointed the Attorney General of the D.B. Wijetunga Government to the United National Party (UNP) Working Committee. In the early days of the UNP Working Committee meets, a UNP member asked a pertinent question from Marapana. “The story goes that you misled President Wijetunga to hold the general election prior to the presidential election. Is it true,” he asked? Marapana sported a mischievous smile and said it was done on astrological predictions. “There was an astrologer whom President Wijetunga and I knew. He pushed the President to first hold the general election stating the UNP could win,” Marapana has told. “We were defeated because we first held the general election,” the member hit back. “Yes… those things happen that way. Even if we went for a presidential election we would have been defeated. No one can change the destiny,” Marapana quipped in lighter vein. Contrary to Marapana’s astrological prediction, Ranil was of the view to first go for a presidential election to be the UNP candidate. He had already made that arrangement with the then Opposition Leader Sirima Bandaranaike. In that scenario if Chandrika was not the Sri Lanka Freedom Party presidential candidate and had Ms. Bandaranaike who was in a wheel chair contested, the Wijetunga candidate would have won. Then there would not have been a change of Government in 1994. It was Marapana who misled Wijetunga on astrological predictions and sent the UNP home in 1994.
Though Marapana was in the UNP Working Committee in 1995 he was never critical of the Chandrika Government. When Gamini Atukorale launched the Janabala Meheyuma against Chandrika’s Government in 2001, Tilak Marapana stood by the position that the UNP should go for a National Government with Chandrika. When Gamini Atukorale led the UNP from the front, Marapana was silent. Later, he obtained a National List slot in the UNP. When Ranil planned to appoint Marapana as Defence Minister, Gamini was very angry. He met Ranil and objected to that move stating that a person who does not know the pulse of the people should not be offered such a high and responsible position. Gamini cautioned Ranil not to get the UNP Government destroyed by giving high positions to Marapana. When Gamini met with a sudden death, Ranil handed over Gamini’s Transport and Highways Ministry to Marapana. Ranil’s Government fell as a result of the continued Railway and Transport services strikes that were not practically resolved, pinning hopes on astrological predictions. Marapana also handled the Defence Ministry in a lethargic manner. He never attempted to remove the ‘LTTE Label’ that was fixed on the Government by the Opposition.
However, in 2004 Ranil did not accommodate Marapana on the National List as Marapana’s inefficiency led to the fall of Ranil’s Government. Even in 2010, Ranil did not offer a National List post for Marapana. It was Marapana who disrupted a UNP Impeachment Motion against the then Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva. Sarath Silva misled the UNP Leader promising that he would not contribute towards any action to topple Ranil’s Government in 2001. However, when Sarath Silva upheld that Chandrika’s grab of three ministries under Ranil’s Government was legal, Marapana slipped away. Marapana is a lawyer who upholds and protects the interests of his profession. Hence, he did not want to hurt the then Chief Justice. When former President Mahinda Rajapaksa brought an impeachment motion in 2013 against the 43rd Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, it was Marapana who advised Ranil to play a low profile on the issue. That was to allow Mahinda to appoint his (Mahinda’s) Chief Justice of his choice. The aspirant Mohan Peiris was a close friend of Marapana.
Advisor to the Prime Minister
Ranil may have appointed Marapana on the National List this time to cover up his sin of not doing so in 2004. Prior to the August general election, Ranil appointed him as an Advisor to the Prime Minister. It was after accepting that appointment, Marapana accepted the position of instructing Counsel for Avant Garde. Chief of Avant Garde Nissanka Senadhipathy decided on Marapana, being aware that the latter was the Advisor to Ranil as Premier. At the National Executive Committee meet of the Yahapalanaya Government, JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake asked whether there were government ministers behind the move to release the passport of Senadhipathy which was impounded by Court. There it surfaced that Marapana had been instrumental in getting the passport released being the instructing Counsel for Avant Garde chief. Later it was revealed that Marapana had quit the post of Advisor to the Prime Minister. Thereafter, when he was made the Law and Order Minister under whom the Police came, not only Anura Kumara but also the entire country focused eyes on that issue as the Police probed the Avant Garde issue.