22 March 2019
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I am not the politician the country wants now but may need some day

shaween bandaranaikaFormer Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake’s son Shaveen Bandaranayake Kariyawasam recently came into THE LIMElight when he made a comment on a Facebook status posted by MP Namal Rajapaksa regarding his mother

Shiranthi Rajapaksa being questioned by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID). In his comment, Shaveen reminded Namal about the harrowing times that he went through during his own mother’s impeachment. In an exclusive interview with the Dailymirror , Shaveen Bandaranayake spoke in detail about the time of the impeachment of his mother and what followed after and explained what compelled him to take on Namal Rajapaksa on a public forum.

Q: To start off, could you briefly introduce yourself?

I am Shaveen Bandaranayake, studied at Royal College, Colombo 7 up until I completed my Ordinary Level Examinations in 2006. Soon afterwards I started my degree in Computer Studies, specializing in multimedia at APIIT. After completing my degree in 2010, I started my company Asenshal (Pvt) Ltd, a purebred advertising agency. I then got a scholarship to study for my LLB at the University of London externally through the CFPS academy. I completed that in 2013. Along with that I started my MA in Film Studies which I completed last month. Currently, I am the Founder and Executive Director of Public Relations at Asenshal (Pvt) Ltd. So, that is me in a nutshell.

Q: Your mother Shirani Bandaranayake was the Chief Justice of the country and went through a turbulent time period. Do you remember the time period when she first assumed duties as the CJ?

She first took oaths as a Supreme Court Judge in 1996. When she assumed duties as the CJ, she was the most senior Judge in the Supreme Court. What most people don’t know is, that even though she was appointed in 2011, she was overlooked for that position once before in 2009.

When she assumed duties as the CJ, it was a surreal moment for me as well as the family. We are a very tight-knit family because it is just myself, my mother, my mother and my aunt and uncle who are living in Australia. It meant a lot for the five of us. She was not only the first female Judge of the Supreme Court, she also became the first female CJ.

Q: Did powerful people of the regime try to influence her from the very beginning or did it start later?

I don’t know exactly if there were attempts to influence her when she started. I cannot give you an opinion on what she went through during her tenure as CJ. But knowing the kind of person she is and knowing what happened with the impeachment, I am sure that even if there were attempts to influence her, she would not have bowed down to them.

Q:Can you tell me about the events that transpired from early November 2012 to mid January 2013, just before her impeachment?

My mother is a very private person. Everything that transpired during that time period before the impeachment was very harrowing not just for her but for the whole family. I always thought that she was the ideal role model for the post of CJ because she was not a socialite. She kept to herself which gave her the integrity to adjudicate on matters without anyone being able to point fingers at her being connected to any person. So suddenly having to see her on papers every single day during those two months - with all sorts of charges and allegations being levelled at her - was very hard. To see her being harangued, for me, as a son, was quite unnerving. So many people had so much to say but what was most damning was that they were being said as if they were true; they were stated as facts.

On top of that, during that time period I was preparing for my final law examination. At the time we were living at the official residence in Wijerama Mawatha. Outside our house, not even 100 metres away, various parties had put up stages and placards and had loudspeakers on 24/7, and were blasting over and over again that my mother was a liar, a cheat and a rogue. To hear that repeatedly while you are trying to study, takes its toll on you no matter how strong and independent you might be. We also faced threats that these mobs would jump the fence and come inside. We were warned not to go towards the area where the protesters were. There was also a fear of leaving home as well because on more occasions than one, we were followed; even when we went out of Colombo. Having that running through your mind it was unnerving and that is the most vivid memory I have of that time period.

Q: Can you tell exactly when this ordeal started and what led to it?

I cannot pinpoint to one exact reason or cause. She has always been a very steadfast person and was always on the right side. It might seem cliche for a son to say this about his mother, but I think the events that took place proved it in a way. For a Government or individual to impeach a CJ, that must mean that person was not willing to do what was asked of her. It is a very blank truth, especially in a country like Sri Lanka. That itself is a testimony to the fact that she has always been steadfast in her judgments.

Now a lot of people know about the previous government and the kinds of acts that they engaged in. This is not just me saying it but anyone can see that in the actions that the current government has taken against the former government. This shows that whatever judgments that were given against the former government would have culminated together to build up this need to impeach her.

Q: During the period of this fiasco, what did you and your family do?

I was running my company and we had difficulties in doing that because there were people posted outside my office in the morning when I arrived and in the evening when I left.
During that period, my mother was still working as the CJ. My father was not employed at the time and it was manifestly clear that his employment was barred by someone so that whenever he tried to get employment, he was hindered by certain individuals. So he was forced to stay at home.

Q: During this time, did your family receive any threats to your lives?

Not personally, but she did in her official capacity, of course, none of which she brought home. There was a time when we were travelling to Kandy during the impeachment process, we got a tip-off that they were trying to manifest an accident near Kadugannawa.

For our protection, we had a media van following us just to mitigate that threat. Besides that, there were no serious threats.

Q: During that time, did you receive any police or military security?

We did not have anything more than the usual allotment of security personnel any CJ was given. The intriguing fact though is that we lived in a High-Security Zone where normally even a car parked would prompt a policeman to raise questions, but during that time they allowed more than 100 people to post themselves and hold placards and set-up stages. It was only when we were leaving that they posted more police officers.

Q: It was your mother who was at the centre of it all and how did she react to it?

She was always very calm about it, which was somewhat unnerving for me. This was something that was blown out of proportion. But to see her in a calm light, made the rest of us calm down as well. She is a more staunch believer in Buddhism than I am. She always felt that time and nature would do her justice. I believe that is what happened two years down the line. I think that particular notion made things clearer to her, that everything was cyclical and justice would be served. Everything that she had done had been opportunities that had come her way; she sought nothing out. I think she always believed that justice too would come her way.

Q: Can you tell us about the day she was impeached?

I was at CFPS, at a lecture. She had gotten the proclamation. As soon as she got it, she called me and I knew that it had come through. I excused myself from the class to take her call and then went back to finish the class. A few minutes later, most people, including my lecturer started getting news alert texts on their phones about it. My lecturer looked at me and I smiled at her and she realized that I was going to finish the class, so she continued on.

It was a surreal moment, everyone getting to know and to realize that the battle was finally over. It was a fight – it was a David and Goliath moment. It was one woman against various forces coming against her. It was something that I would keep for the rest of my life. And from that day to this, there is not a single moment that I have been afraid or ashamed to walk on the streets or go anywhere with my head held high because of the stand she took. It is not just for me, but for generations in my family because we can always be proud of the stance she took. That was the defining moment of her career.

Q: So after the impeachment, what was life like for you and your family?

It was quite difficult for both my mother and father because they were suddenly out of employment. For me, I owned an ad agency which was based on relationships. It helped us realize who our real friends were. During that period, we lost clients but there were also people who stuck with us throughout it all. There were close friends who dropped us immediately. This happened from my father’s side as well. My father was a busybody when he was working and his phone would ring off the hook. The first thing he noticed when this matter came up was how silent his phone became. After January this year, the first thing we noticed was how often the phone started ringing again.

During that period, both my parents were not working; my father was prevented from working because of the incumbent government. In the case of my mother, how could she work anywhere else? She held the office of CJ to such high esteem, she felt that if she were to work anywhere else, it would degrade the position she held. At that time, I was the only breadwinner of the family.

I did not get to see my aunt and uncle for a long time because they could not come here because we feared something would happen to them if they were to come down. Although we maintained communication with them, it was very disjointed because they were worried from that end; from this end both my parents’ passports were – and still are – impounded so that they could not travel. It was a very difficult time, and a lot of people don’t know that because we were very quiet during that time.

We had a lot of people telling us to take this in front of the international community; to an international Court of Law. The reason we decided not to was because this was an issue between individuals. It was not the country, or its people that were doing this to us, but it was just one particular family and certain individuals. If we took it to an International Court, that would have defamed our country. I think my parents did not want the country to be defamed in that way.

QAfter a two-year period, in January this year, the things turned around for your family. How was that experience and what do you feel now?

A lot of people were happy and were waiting for this moment. When she resumed duties, it was like a God-send. We could not go out for about a week because people were flocking around us; at one place we even got applause. The day after the elections, we felt like the day we won the war, almost – like another battle won, personally and to the country on the whole.

Q: Before the Presidential Elections this year, was she approached to become anyone’s political slogan or did anyone try to make any deals with her in exchange for her support for the elections?

Not that I know of.

Q: Now that the regime has changed, is your family planning on taking any legal action against the previous regime for the ordeal that you went through?

We are not vindictive people. We are not that kind of family, and part of the reason for that is that our family is educated to realize that this is not how things should be. In our minds, what happened was due to a personal vendetta against us. So, I don’t think we will go after them and I believe justice will prevail.

Q: Let me be very frank and ask you whether you or any member of your family was closely acquainted with anyone in the Rajapaksa family?

Absolutely not, a lot of people say that she was made CJ because she was ‘aligned’ with the Rajapaksas and that it was a political appointment. Constitutionally, the CJ is appointed by the President of the country up to this point. In that case then, every single CJ is a political appointment. At the time she was appointed as a Judge by the former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge; they said because they were both Bandaranayakes (even though the spelling was different), that was the reason she was appointed. That was also not true. The fact of the matter is our family has no connection with the former government or the Rajapaksa family. The reason people say that is because they want to create a connection to explain what took place. But that is not the case. We are not politicians. I want it to be very clear that there was no connection between the former President or the President before that.

Q: Are you friends with the former President’s sons?

No, I have never met or spoken to them.

Q: What compelled you to comment on Namal Rajapaksa’s post on Facebook about his mother?

There is a reason. I am usually very silent on Facebook or any other public forums. It is because of the unfortunate fact that whenever I say something, it is construed as coming from my mother – that because she doesn’t talk, she speaks through me. However, I am my own individual and I have my own opinion.

The reason I made that recent comment on Namal Rajapaksa’s post was because Mr. Rajapaksa might not have had a sense of what happened during their tenure. I don’t blame him. In fact, I empathize with him, as a son, for what he must be going through. The reason why I mentioned was that because after the shift in January, that it might have numbed him to everything that must have happened before and it might have been surreal for him just like it was surreal to me when the impeachment was happening. He should realize at least from my perspective, that this was the same feeling I felt two years ago. I only mentioned myself and my family in that comment.

Q: Has Namal responded?

No, he has not, and I don’t think he would either because the appropriate response would be an apology but that would not come.

Q: Do you have any plans of entering into politics someday?

Not at this time. I am not the kind of politician that is accepted in society now perhaps. I am not the politician that this country wants right now but may need someday.

Q: Do you have anything else you would like to add?

My parents are not going to talk publicly. At this point of time, while justice has prevailed, in terms of their cases, those are still pending. The reason is because it is probably not as easy to finish something as it is to start it, specifically when it comes to a Court of Law. And knowing the type of people my parents are, they don’t want to go through the backdoor and get it finished off. They want it done properly and there are procedures that need to be followed. But to expedite them would be brilliant. My parents’ passports are still impounded and because of this we cannot attend my graduation in UK in July. So while justice has prevailed in the public light, there is still unfinished business. In some ways, for us personally, it is still going on.

 - by Sihara Maduwage - Daily Mirror

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