How do you solve a problem like PalithaThevarapperuma?
That Thevarapperuma is no angel and is fast becoming the ‘Mervyn Silva’ of the so-called ‘yahapaalanaya’ government is well known. But there are some significant differences.
Firstly, this government claimed it was nothing like its predecessor. Therefore, while Mervyn Silva’s antics were tolerated and discreetly swept under the carpet by the previous regime, Thevarapperuma needs to be dealt with promptly and decisively.
Secondly, in a short span of time Thevarapperuma has proven to be worse than Silva. For all his gung-ho, Silva didn’t stage a ridiculous mock suicide in front of impressionable schoolchildren who will now think that hanging by a ceiling fan is the way to get ahead in life.
Some may argue that following the latest drama, Thevarapperuma has been dealt with because he has been arrested. We beg to differ.
This is not the first instance where Thevarapperuma has erred. Some months ago, he committed the same indiscretion: he barged into the Principal’s office at Kalutara Vidyalaya, media in tow, and intimidated the Principal into admitting a child who had been rejected by the routine admission procedure. The hapless Principal, probably fearing for his job, wilted under the pressure exerted by the principle-less politician.
That was no secret. It was relayed on mainstream media and the incident went viral on social media, earning widespread condemnation. Were there any consequences of significance for Thevarapperuma, when he should have been charged with obstructing the performance of duties of a public officer? None!
At the time he was the Deputy Minister for Internal Cultural and Wayamba Development. He still is, even after last week’s antics of trying to commit suicide, watched by an audience of dozens of men, women and children. Why a parliamentarian from the Kalutara district is developing Wayamba is also a question that comes to mind, but then, that is a different story!
If the ‘Yahapaalanaya’ government was worth the paper it printed its manifesto on, Thevarapperuma should have been shown the door many moons ago. If for some reason that is not possible because he is an elected representative, he should have at least been dealt with in a manner that discourages flamboyant, playing-to-the gallery conduct that suggests impunity and immunity from the law.
Surely, the United National Party (UNP) which nominated him must have known what he is like. He is a man who even lunged to assault Ranil Wickremesinghe at a UNP parliamentary group meeting when Wickremesinghe was the Leader of the Opposition. Coming events were surely casting their dark shadows.
Soon after President Maithripala Sirisena’s election victory in January 2015, Thevarapperuma was in the limelight for allegedly attacking Mahinda Samarasinghe’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) office at Agalawatte. Again, nothing much happened except, of course, being promoted a deputy minister a few months later!
Where then is the problem? Thevarapperuma is clearly part of it but we would have to be either very naïve or very optimistic to believe that he will correct himself. The questions we find difficult to find answers to are, why is he being tacitly encouraged by both the UNP and the SLFP?
Why did the UNP not take decisive and deterrent action against Thevarapperuma when he first stepped out of line? Why did SLFP leader President Sirisena then elevate him to deputy ministerial status when there are many others who deserve to hold such office and do not behave like buffoons in their spare time?
Worse still, although Thevarapperuma goes about dispensing what he thinks is ‘justice’ in a bull-in-a-china-shop manner, there is a growing section of the public who follow him believing that he is their Messiah. We saw a similar phenomenon with Mervyn Silva too. The government has done nothing to quell this cult following.
There is only one way to solve a problem like PalithaThevarapperuma. The government needs to show him the door. First, it can show him the doors of Parliament and throw him out of it. Secondly, it can show him the doors of the prison and throw him into it.