Sri Lanka: Justice for Gotabaya, people of Gintota and the Rohingyas

 The charges are, as some charge, trumped-up charges.  The truth is out there to be proven either way.  In criminal cases, the accused is absolutely innocent until the charges against that person are proven by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.

by  Mass  L. Usuf

( December 6, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The talk of the town is about the possible arrest of Mr. Gotabaya Rajapakse former Defence Secretary for alleged misappropriation of State property.  This news has been blowing hot and cold the past few weeks.

The allegations as reported in the media pertains to the construction of the D.A. Rajapaksa Museum and Memorial in Medamulana.  According to Police investigation the museum and memorial was built allegedly using funds amounting to Rs. 90 million from the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation.  The funds of the Land Reclamation and Development Corporation which were under the purview of the Ministry of Defence during the tenure of Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Defence Secretary, had been deposited to the Rajapaksa Foundation for this purpose.  The project had been named ‘Weeraketiya Scheme’.

‘Mada Gahanawa’

On 07 January 2016 speaking to media Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that if he had engaged in acts of corruption, it would not take even a year to figure it out adding that he is being summoned to such inquiries in order to exact political revenge.  The Former Defence Secretary clearly stated that he has not earned a single cent in an illegal manner.

The list of other allegations includes the MiG aircraft deal, Avant Guard, Prison killings, white van crimes and so on.  Gotabaya’s take on all of these is that this is an exercise of ‘mada gahanawa’ mudslinging and political revenge.  His sincere supporters feel that this is an instance of letting down a hero who ended the menace of terrorism in the country.  For the political opportunists diagnosed with ‘verbal diarrhoea’, there cannot be a greater chance to be in the limelight.  Jumping on to the bandwagon of the opinion tide are some of the other folks in the saffron robe.

In the matrix of the various claims, there is a fine line that demarcates mudslinging and political revenge from the rule of law.  One can be acknowledged as a great patriot or a war hero or with any other accolade however, under the rule of law everyone is subjected to the maxim ‘nemo est supra legis’ (no one is above the law).

To be fair by all sides, the constitution in no uncertain terms guarantees in Article 13 (5):

“Every person shall be presumed innocent until he is proved guilty”.

At this stage, the public sentiment of good character evidence is absolutely irrelevant to the law.  At the same time, to make threats and instigate protest actions would tantamount to obstruction of the course of justice.  Therefore, any attempt to scuttle the process of justice by whipping up public emotions even before the trials begins would mean undermining democracy and the democratic institutions especially, the judiciary.

The charges are, as some charge, trumped-up charges.  The truth is out there to be proven either way.  In criminal cases, the accused is absolutely innocent until the charges against that person are proven by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.

Billy Boy 

Following the recent communal riots in Gintota in November 2017, the question often asked by the insecure Muslim minority is what measures are being taken to prevent another Gintota or Aluthgama?

The timing of this question may not be appropriate.  The dominating issue is the imminent arrest speculatively hovering in the air.  In addition, all are engaged in resolving the inter and intra turmoil between and within the major political actors.  However, the timing of a tweet by President Maithripala Sirisena, currently on a tour of South Korea makes an interesting read, in context.  He tweeted on 28 November 2017 as follows:

“I became the President of my country to ensure that we have one Sri Lanka where everybody can co-exist with mutual trust and work towards our own progress and prosperity.”

Responding to the tweet was Billy Boy, who said:

“Sir, I really admire your effort. But there are several areas where injustice happening to the Sri Lankan minority communities. I’m from Gintota and I have lost my hopes about Sri Lanka’s independency anymore after the tragic incident happened in Gintota.”

Billy Boy’s response is in fact, representative of what is voiced by the victims and the fearful residents of Gintota.  The government has miserably failed in its fundamental duty of providing security for the minorities.  The dilly-dallying attitude of the government in reining in the unsocial and criminal elements masquerading as the saviours of the Sinhalese people is becoming too obvious. The content of the Presidential tweet does not in any way have any context vis a vis the prevailing ground situation.  Mere hyperbolic statements devoid of sincerity is indicative of how far racism has gripped this island nation.

Courting Disaster

The ethno-racial conflict in our country is no more covert nor can it be dismissed as sporadic incidents.  The intention of the forces of evil and all those who morally and materially support them have been clearly manifested.  Such deep seated prejudiced on many occasions have also been violently demonstrated.  Dangerously, it continues unabated thereby, holding a quarter of the entire population of 21 million in an anxious state of uncertainty and insecurity.   To procrastinate the resolution of this burning ethnic issue or to pay mere superficial lip service without seriousness will only allow it to fester.  The more it is allowed to dwell in its status quo, this country will be courting nothing but disaster and a bleak future for its people.

Attitude Towards Rohingya

Can the government’s attitude towards the Rohingya crisis be taken as an indicator to conclude if a repetition of Gintota or Aluthgama will be prevented?

Almost all world leaders and other Western powers –  UK, US, France, Canada and Australia etc. had criticised and condemned the inhuman assault against the Rohingya people in the Rakhine Province of Burma (Myanmar) by the military and armed vigilantes.  Theresa May announced that UK would be suspending the training of the Burmese military by the Ministry of Defence “until this issue is resolved”.

The sights of infants plucked from the hands of the mother being thrown into fire; narrations on the rape of women in the presence of the father, brother, husband; the beheading of the old, women, children; the scenes of macabre death and destruction shook the conscience of the people of the world. The United Nations secretary-general had warned that the operations which have made 500,000 people refugees, could verge on ethnic cleansing.

Outright Condemnations

Among the critics were the UN Human Rights Council, Pope John Paul II, The United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, Human Rights Watch, Nobel peace prize laureate Malala Yousafzai

and Nobel Laurette South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu who wrote, “I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya.”

In the light of the rising international criticism and the tepid response by the Myanmar government, many reputed institutions worldwide were reconsidering the withdrawal or suspension of honours or awards conferred on Aung San Suu Kyi. Unison, the country’s second largest trade union, announced that it is to suspend Suu Kyi’s honorary membership.  Bristol University, one of a string of universities that awarded honorary degrees to the Burmese leader was reviewing its award in light of accusations of brutal mistreatment of the Rohingya.  The London School of Economics student union said it would be stripping the former political prisoner of her honorary presidency. Oxford councillors have announced that they may reconsider the freedom of the city of Oxford awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi.

Cold Shoulder

Neither the Sri Lankan President nor the Prime Minister considered it befitting to issue a single statement against Aung San Suu Kyi and her government expressing concern on the humanitarian catastrophe.  Neither did the leader of the Opposition, Mr. Sambandan, who represent a people who suffered similar circumtances nor the former President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Strangely, President Sirisena was swift in issuing statements of condolences or condemnations on other world events.  Presidential message to Vladimir Putin, the Russian President condemning the St. Petersburg metro attack.  Condolence message to François Hollande, the French President on terror attack in Nice on the French National Day.  Message to Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina condemning the terrorist act and hostage taking in the Diplomatic conclave in Dhaka, Bangladesh etc.

Would it be naïve to expect anything from this President and from this Prime Minister or, put together, the government that would guarantee the safety, security and protection of its people, especially, the minorities totalling to more than 5 million?

I am reminded of President Sirisena’s tweet above:

“I became the President of my country to ensure that we have one Sri Lanka where everybody can co-exist with mutual trust and work towards our own progress and prosperity.”

Hyperbolic or, in earnest?

The End.

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

Sri Lanka Guardian has been providing breaking news & views for the progressive community since 2007. We are independent and non-profit.

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