GMOA, FUTA asked why they oppose new tax regime after calling for IMF assistance

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Political commentator Chaapa Bandara recently alleged that having facilitated IMF’s latest intervention here, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) was protesting against the new tax formula introduced at the behest of the Washington headquartered lending agency.

Bandara pointed out that the GMOA couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for creating an environment conducive for such intervention.The civil society activist said so in response to  Dr. Chandika Epitakaduwa on behalf of the GMOA strongly challenging repeated criticism directed at the GMOA over the ongoing dispute over the new tax regime. Dr. Epitakaduwa, a member of the Independent Commission inquiring into President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ouster last year, asked Bandara to retract his criticism of the GMOA.

Dr. Epitakaduwa admitted that a maximum of 10 percent of the GMOA membership supported the protest campaign whereas the vast majority the remained silent. The Commission member justified GMOA’s protest against the new tax regime.Bandara hit back hard demanding to know why the GMOA and the Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) protested the new tax formula having created an environment conducive for the IMF’s intervention.

Alleging that the former GMOA head Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya, too, had been responsible for the current crisis, Bandara asked why the GMOA membership failed to teach their former boss a lesson.Declaring that Dr. Padeniya couldn’t walk freely on the streets, Bandara warned the same fate would befall Dr. Haritha Aluthge, who now spearheaded the GMOA.

The GMOA was also answerable to the developing crisis, Bandara said, alleging the outfit facilitated the destabilization project by crippling government hospitals.Bandara also questioned Commission member and President’s Counsel U.R. de Silva’s appearance on a television programme alongside attorney-at-law Hejaaz Hizbullah, a suspect in the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage.

The lawyer arrested in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in April 2020 received bail in Feb 2022. Bandara asked how the former President of the Bar Association could appear on television with such a suspect while acknowledging that it was a complicated matter.Responding to a query posed by a member of the Commission, Bandara expressed concern over the nexus between the Bar Association and the US. Bandara drew the attention of the Commission to US Ambassador here Julie Chung’s recent address to 2023 National Law Conference organised by the Bar Association highlighted the growing challenges.

Bandara said that in addition to the Bar Association, the Human Rights Commission as well as a section of law enforcement authorities at different levels contributed to the breakdown of law and order at the onset of the protest campaign against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Bandara questioned the conduct of retired Justice Rohini Marasinghe, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission who interfered with measures taken by the government to neutralize the threat.

Recalling how a policeman attached to the Kuttigala police joined the Galle Face protest, Bandara explained the high profile project to weaken the Rajapaksa government. Bandara repeatedly questioned the Bar Association’s role in the overthrowing of an elected President and pursuing an agenda harmful to the country.At one point, Bandara asked whether Ambassador Chung was the Bar Association’s mastermind. He also found fault with the Maha Nayake theras for failing to intervene as criminal elements consolidated their position.

Bandara asked members of the Commission whether they had heard of an instance where those protesting against incumbent dispensation were provided with toilets. How law enforcement authorities tolerate those who openly challenged and defied their authority, Bandara asked, warning the Commission what the country experienced was definitely not a normal public protest.

Commenting on countrywide violence in the wake of Temple Trees unleashing goons on Galle Face protesters on May 09, 2022, Bandara said that by then well organized gangs were in position across the country to mount mayhem against government politicians at an unprecedented scale that quickly overwhelmed the Rajapaksa government.  He asked whether the Temple Trees attack had been carried out to trigger counter attacks.