SRI LANKA: The agony of political lies

| by Nilantha Ilangamuwa
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.” – Viktor E. Frankl1
High level military officials were rushed towards the political office of the Former Chief of Army who led the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and contested the presidential election from opposition as a common candidate, General (Rtd) Sarath Fonseka, after they received orders from the top. Within moments the military officials were in the office, manhandling the General and dragging him by the ankles into a military vehicle; an act designed to cause maximum humiliation and embarrassment. He was detained in a special room at the Navy Headquarters which was organised by the Ministry of Defence.
A few days before General Fonseka’s court martial under the Army act (51 ( A))2, the normal setup of the military and other important institutions of the country changed in order to suit the President. It was obvious to all spectators both in Sri Lanka and abroad that the arrest and court martial was nothing more than a political vendetta. Sarath Fonseka has now been in prison since February 08, 2010.
What we are seeing today in the country in terms of the institutional setup is the result of the cynical manipulation by the President and the members of his family. Indeed, they may be attempting to change the entire history of the Nation. Their attitude is simple. If you kneel before us then you are a patriot of the Nation; if you do not you are traitor. The situation is black and white with no gray areas to cause confusion. What they are forcing us to accept is that Rajapaksha is Sri Lanka and the Nation is Rajapaksha. In other words, if you against the Rajapakshas, you are against Sri Lanka. This is simply the reason why the Former Army General is still behind bars while many killers, rapists, thieves and other criminals never even face arrest never mind trial and this is done at the President’s pleasure.
No prestidigitation is there in his Independence Day speech but the same lies have been told once before to the people. At the end of his insidious ‘tricksy’ speech of President Mahinda Rajapaksha on Independence day (February 04) he quoted the Buddhist saying, “Let an angry man be conquered by love; an evil man by goodness. Let a miser be won over by liberality; and a liar by truthfulness”.3 He continued, “Let this thought guide all in making the freedom of our motherland meaningful.” 4 Is this what he has proved to us in his governance since 2005? In his arrogance the President actually believes that the people are blind enough to be conned into accepting his cant.
The President has shown his true face to the citizens and he is now doing so again in different places. In the more than six years of his presidency there has been no discernable change in approach or his attitudes and ideas that he expresses. This kind of Machiavellian politics has no ground unless you are highly undermining the common sense of the public. This is what the President is doing in term of his “ Mahinda Chinthanaya.” First he used the war against the LTTE as a pretext to manipulate every institution and now he is using the victory of the war as a pretext to undermine the basic rights of the people. In his flippant speech on the Independence Day he claimed, ‘acting against public opinion using executive power is not democratic. We are committed to parliamentary democracy as well as to the country’s law, independence of the judiciary and good governance.’ 5 This of course is theoretically correct and very much the need of the hour but the problem is that the President has no intention of delivering. He pays no attention to the cries of the citizens against the lack of justice which is the result of his abuse of power. He has flagrantly denied independence to the judiciary? Good governance has gone by the wayside.
Sri Lanka is today a country in social crisis where every institution including policing, judiciary, health, education, administration, are corrupted and dysfunctional.
It has been revealed very recently that the President’s own brother, Basil Rajapaksha, the Minister of Economic Development and also an adviser to the President, disclosed to the former US envoy Mr. Robert Blake in Colombo in 2009, that the Special Task Forces executed an five unarmed Tamil students in Trincomalee on January 2 2006. This case gained international attention at the time. According to the Wikileaks diplomatic cable, “Speaking with surprising candor, Rajapaksa explained the GSL’s efforts to prove that members of the Security Task Force (STF) murdered five students in Trincomalee in January: ‘We know the STF did it, but the bullet and gun evidence shows that they did not. They must have separate guns when they want to kill someone. We need forensic experts. We know who did it, but we can’t proceed in prosecuting them.’ ”6. Sadly, Wikileaks cables is not acceptable in a court of law but this declaration is reason enough to cause serious doubt as to the true intentions of the President when conducting proper investigations on particular incidents.
Dr. Manoharan, the father of one of the victims filed a civil case against President Rajapakse for Command Responsibility in the killings. His affidavit submitted to the District Court of District of Columbia as part of the complaint to the case against Rajapakse, that he “personally believe[s] that these murders were carried out by the STF [Special Task Force] under the supervision of Superintendent of Police [SP] Kapila Jayasekara.” Now the President’s brother has disclosed who the killers are, but no one can even think that the President will come forward to order to order a proper investigation into the incident and find justice for the victims. One can see the same thing happening in the way that the government is dealing with this issue, the killing of Bharatha Laxman Premachandra, who was one of advisers to the President and the former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka. Truly, the question needs to be asked: is this an example of an independent judiciary, Mr. President?
The breakdown of the Rule of Law has become a catastrophe for the freedom of the people in Sri Lanka. Fully understanding this situation is of the utmost importance. In his writing Martin-Baro7 analyses the society where common sense has been murdered referring to the situation in El- Salvador. “The Social Lie as a determining factor is nothing new; it is part of the structural order of the country. It consists in constructing a reality that is ideologically compatible with the interests of the dominant class. It sets limits on how far the collective consciousness can move in any given situation, thus putting a ceiling on the growth of social consciousness,” 8 Martin-Baro noted. Further he went into the situation and nature of the society, “In El Salvador this has had at least three consequences: the country’s most serious problems have been systematically hidden from view; the social interests and forces at play have been distorted; and people have internalized the alienating discourse as part of their personal and social identity. The problem does not lie in the credibility or lack of credibility of the Official Discourse, for Salvadorans are obviously quite capable of understanding that what they are told does not correspond to how they live. They know there is an imbalance between the realities of their experience and the “realities” of the discourse, even when it applies to situations where they have no personal experience and they have to work from a position of ignorance or suspicion.” 9 He also noted the core issues of the problems in the Society saying that, “The problem is that the Salvadorans are unable to see themselves and their circumstances reflected back to them, and, kept from these reflections, are handicapped in building a realistic personal and collective identity that would foster growth and progress.” 10
“Problems can hardly be overcome when their causes are relegated to the Will of God and the demands of human nature (fatalism), or when the behaviors of the leadership are attributed to their personal peculiarities, or when the reality of what is happening is denied, plain and simple,” 11 he factually analyses that which we can also see in the present situation in Sri Lanka. The authoritarian regime is trying to systematically hide the main problems from public view while promoting their personal agenda as the country’s needs through their propaganda machinery. There are only a few developments programmes which have the real need of the public in mind. The others “major development” projects conducted by the regime are targeted to gain personal benefits rather than given opportunities to the people. The President is trying to hide real breakdown of the public institutions while showing major developments projects conducted by the China, India or other foreign nations or organisations.
The recent political developments in Arab countries and the Occupy Wall Street protest in America have been revealed that the public is more important than one family or the man at the top. This is a good lesson that any of authoritarian tyrant should learn before they instigate a blood bath for the innocents. If we go back to Sri Lanka and compared this situation, not only on the situation of Sarath Fonseka, but hundreds of other cases prove that political vendetta still exists in the Country. So in these circumstances talking on Buddhism and saying, “let an angry man be conquered by love”, is nothing but laughable.
What Sri Lanka needs today is the strengthening of the public institutions such as the police, courts and legislation. Nothing will happen in terms of development when institutions like the Parliament becomes like a pre-school; or when the police stations have become torture chambers or when the courts become fish markets. Talking about the history and what has gone before is not enough to retrieve freedom of justice and of the public. Unfortunately the President might have think vulgarism is best way to stay in power indefinitely but are we still foolish to trust his words? He cannot permanently close the Pandora’s Box that he has opened with half cocked political ideas. The solution must come from the bottom to the top. What is evident before us today is that killing the real meaning institutions is worse than killing the people. Who will have hope for the best future of country when these are common factors of our daily lives?

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Notes:

1. Viktor Emil Frankl (1905- 1997) was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. He is the author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”.
2. Army act: an act to provide the raising and maintenance of an army and for matters connected therewith. http://www.defence.lk/main_pub.asp?fname=armyact
3. President’s Speech at the 64th Independence Day celebrations at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka http://www.priu.gov.lk/news_update/Current_Affairs/ca201202/20120204independence_day_speech.htm

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Presidential advisor Basil Rajapaksa speaks frankly about human rights and Karuna faction – http://www.wikileaks-forum.com/index.php?topic=8231.0

7. Ignacio Martín-Baró, a social psychologist, was one of the six Jesuits murdered in 1989 at the Central American University in San Salvador.

8. Writings for A Liberation Psychology – Ignacio Martín-Baró ( Page 188)

9. Ibid

10. Ibid

11. Ibid

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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