SRI LANKA: Vox Populi, Vox Del

| by Nilantha Ilangamuwa 
“As your attorney general I’m sorry to have to tell you that the present picture of crimes in the United States is far from good. In fact I would say it is shocking – particularly so in regard to the percentage of juveniles involved in law breaking”.
Tom C. Clark, Former Attorney General of USA (May 5th 1949)
( February 22, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) You can awake a man who is sleeping but you can’t awake a man who is pretending to be asleep. Everyone in the government knows that this is exactly what is happening in Sri Lanka, in terms of governance. Now the government is in not only in crisis but is facing crisis within a crisis. The failure of proper policing has led to the killing of unarmed people were engaged in peaceful protests over mulish management of essential affairs by the ruling party. As this writer has pointed out earlier, the cynical manipulation and unremitting intervention of the regime at every layer of the social structure is continuously damaging to the country’s judicial structure, its independence and even the primary freedom of the public. The government seems to have only one solution for all the problems the people are facing; the use of the military to undermine the people’s uprising and the copious use of Gobbels’ theory and their propaganda machinery to justify anything they do.
For how long more are we are going to take charconite as a valuable gem in a land where real gems are found but are out of reach of the public and declared as the sole property of the regime?
Last Sunday (February 19) President Mahinda Rajapaksha is reported to have raised his voice over a forthcoming “coup” which will try to overthrow the President and his team which was “elected” by the people. According to our source the President is reported to have said words to the effect that, “ We (The Government) have protected all kinds of human rights in Sri Lanka but some conspirators are plotting against the government with the favour of some western countries.”2

“The government has never imposed hardships on the people willingly,” he is further reported to have said. He directly attacked the role of NGOs and social activists who have been forced to flee the country, categorizing them as the main enemies of the country or the nation’s traitors of current times. “People elected me as the President and they will decided how long I should be their leader for; NOT the group that is plotting against me from abroad,”3.

Meanwhile a brother of the President, one of his advisers who is also the Minister of Economic Deployment, Mr. Basil Rajapaksha, instructed his ministry officials to work with UN agencies, INGOs and NGOs on a joint Action Plan of Assistance for the Northern Province in 2012, the media reported today4 (February 22). There are ongoing contradictions between the President and his brother which may be seen through their public statements and reported discussions with diplomats.
We find it amusing that the ploy of attacking people who fled the country due to security reasons, while the main enemies (according to facts known to us) are safe inside the pocket of an Executive who is above the law, are being used by the president to express himself. It must be asked as to how much longer President Rajapaksha will try to fool the public by this foul game? As this writer pointed out earlier, this kind of vulgarism will never guide him to stay in power for long but it will bring him the title of dictator and worthless liar.
It is not a new phenomenon that leaders lie to the people to maintain their authority and cover up the real facts relating to their unlawful activities. Indeed, the same ideas that President Rajapaksha are raising were raised by a former president, the late J.R. Jayewardene, who was the first Executive President of the Country and the master mind of the 1978 Constitution.
“I think the UNP way was truly democratic, for they listened to the voice of the people, for “Vox Papuli, Vox Del”. “The voice of the people is the Voice of God’, it is said,”5 President Jayewardene once told the public. This was after he brutally put down the second uprising of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (The JVP, Sinhalese origins “Marxists” party), when thousands of youths were extrajudicial killed while the Tamil militants groups headed by the LTTE, were expanding their struggle at the International level. President Jayewardene lied to the public as well as to the International Community several times to justify his actions that led to the country falling into an unmanageable and deadly situation. He promoted all forms of crimes in daily life.
“The last two, myself and Mr.Premadasa, were elected under a system of Executive Presidency and elected by the whole country. It is a very difficult task to win; one has to get more than 50 per cent of the votes to be legally elected. If I may say so, all these leaders stood by the democratic process and safeguarded the right of the freedom of speech, the right of the franchise, the right of the opposition and guaranteed the norms of Parliament,”6 former President J.R. Jayewardene said few years after his government led thousands of forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings under the guise of crackdown on so called terrorists. Until today there has been no concern by the government about accountability in relation to those nightmares.
Restored norms of freedom in the society are a smokescreen without proper intervention from the international bodies in Sri Lanka. The hide and seek game should not be allowed in our society. What needs to be realized is that if anyone needs help to genuinely re-structure systems and processes through state agencies it is like playing fiddle to a deaf elephant. This is what the UN and other international bodies do not appear to understand about the problems in Sri Lanka. If you want to paint a corroded iron bar, you need to first remove the corrosion and then paint it. Painting over the corrosion does not make it go away.

The problem in Sri Lanka, as we see it, is that there is no one who is willing to take a responsible action against torture, kidnapping, killing and forced disappearances which have become daily life issues. Instead, the buck gets passed on among the agencies.

An indicator of the level of seriousness is given by the following:
1. Last week there was a serious crime reported when a man who was kidnapped by an armed group in a white van before the Court premises while jailors were providing him security.
2. According to media reports there were seven unidentified bodies found at various places in Colombo and its suburbs.
3. There were reports that an unarmed civilian who was a fisherman was killed7 and another three were serious injured in pre-planned shooting by the security forces last week during a peaceful demonstration.
4. At the beginning of this week (20 February) a well-known business man was hacked to death8 at one of his estates in Colombo.
The interesting factor is that those crimes were reported to have occurred when the delegates from the State Department of the United States of America were on an official visit to Sri Lanka. What then is the real meaning of Mr. President saying, “We (the government) have protected all kinds of human rights in Sri Lanka?”
Sri Lanka is not only a country where crimes have become part of daily life but has become one of the countries where custodians of the law are undermining themselves to gain personal benefits to the family or group of people who in power and no one there would dare to question this kind of breakdown of the law and take a serious interest in the country. Let me quote the informative and emotional speech delivered by the former Attorney General of the United States, Mr. Tom C. Clark, “In a recent FBI report by director J. Edger Hoover it is estimated that in 1948 the total number of major crimes reached 1,686,670. This was an increase of 1.3 percent over the 1947 crimes statistics.”
“The arrests numbered 759,698, the highest figures ever recorded in one year. Among these were 115, 940 males and females under 21 years of age, or more than 15 percent of the total.”10
He even counted crimes on daily basis saying that, “Last year serious crime was committed on average, every 18.7 seconds.”11
These are real facts and figures relating to the United State of America just six decades ago, where two members of President Rajapaksha’s family have taken citizenship. No doubt that there are many crimes still happening in the US but compared to the past it is much less because the US authorities made constructive efforts to implement proper institutional measures to prevent crimes and other forms of unlawful activities. No one was seen to be above the law. But in Sri Lanka we are not able to see any signs of such mechanisms in place towards prevention of crimes and restoration of the basic freedom of the public. It looks as if the regime itself is threatening the public. In these circumstances, ‘Vox Papuli’ in Sri Lanka is nothing but the regime’s voice.
For how long more are we are going to take charconite as a valuable gem in a land where real gems are found but are out of reach of the public and declared as the sole property of the regime?
1. An Address by Tom C. Clark Attorney General of the United States, Prepared for Delivery before Y. M. C. A. Banquet, Skirvin Tower Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on May 5, 1949.
2. A report quoted from the Dinamina, government’s own Sinhala medium daily newspaper ( )
3. Ibid.
4. A report quoted from the Daily News, government own English medium daily newspaper. ( )
5. Address delivered by the Former President JR Jayawardhane, at the 77th Convention of the All Ceylon Moors’ Association on February 14, 1993, at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, Colombo.
6 Address delivered by the Former President JR Jayawardhane to the members of the Rorary club of Colombo on May 20, 1994.
7. AHRC’s statement entitled; SRI LANKA: The DIGP Ravi Wijegunawardena should be held responsible for the shooting of a fisherman engaged in a peaceful demonstration ( )
8. A detail report of killing a businessman was published by the Divaina, daily newspaper in Colombo. (
9. An Address by Tom C. Clark Attorney General of the United States, Prepared for Delivery before Y. M. C. A. Banquet, Skirvin Tower Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on May 5, 1949.
10. Ibid
11. Ibid


Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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