Hulugalle (center) at the MCNS in 2010.
Every now and then you get a soap opera without turning on the TV. In this case, what seems to be an affair between a government catcher and the wife of a businessman has blown up into 23 transferred police officers, public letters to the papers and the dissolution of the Media Center For National Security (MCNS).
Sri Lanka is generally laissez-faire about public figures and their sexuality. Duminda Silva had a serious case of statutory rape, Ranil Wickremesinghe is widely acknowledged to be gay, and it seems to be the default for politicians to have affairs. These things are not really reported on. On one level this is good, as dragging human foible into what should be a job sometimes keeps talented people out of that work. On another level, however, the tolerance for rape and abuse of power is abominable and we only see the tip of the iceberg there.
In this case, it’s not really whether Lakshman Hulugalle and Sudharma Neththikumara had an affair. That’s, quite frankly, their business and I only mention their names because it’s already all over the papers. The issue is, however, that Hula (as he’s being called) seems to have ordered 23 police officers transferred for raiding an illegal Neththikumara gambling den. The more salacious details emerged in a letter from Gamini Neththikumara, the husband, alleging that Hula’s security would basically occupy his house. Mahinda’s response to this mess has been to dissolve the MCNS, even though (as Ravaya pointed out), it has been allocated Rs. 24 million in the 2014 budget.
The press has really only blown this open since the opposition brought it up, which I think is ultimately a good thing. Hulugalle has conducted a fascinatingly terse interview with the Nation while Gamini Neththikumara has blown it all up in the Sunday Times.
It is also, of course, blowing up in the gossip columns, but – the romantic scandal aside – it is good to see someone finally getting pulled up for abuse of power. For a while it seemed that anyone was immune to anything, as long as you were loyal. Now it seems there are limits to loyalty. Of course the traditional Sri Lankan loop after this sort of scandal is to lay low and eventually come back. Still, it is nice to see the undeservedly mighty laid low, even if only for a time.