President Rajapaksa referred to the Kolonnawa mini-war as a ‘little blemish’
| by Tisaranee Gunasekara
Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it”.- US Judge Learned Hand (The Spirit of Liberty ed. Irvin Dilliard)
(October 23, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Tamil victims of human rights violations will not receive justice, so long as the Rajapaksas rule; that is a foregone conclusion. Justice will be denied to those Rajapaksa-critics, who were attacked, abducted or murdered; that too is equally indubitable.
|The Rajapaksas seem to believe that they, and only they, can save Sri Lanka from danger and guide her to prosperity.|
The questionable conduct of the Kolonnawa quadruple murder-investigation indicates that injustice, born of impunity, has begun to infect even the upper-echelons of the SLFP.
According to Lakshman Hulugalle, the head of the Media Centre for National Security, parliamentarian Duminda Silva is innocent because “there is no evidence at all to make him a suspect” (Sri Lanka Mirror – 16.10.2011). But an eye-witness has already informed the police that Mr. Silva did shoot Mr. Premachandra.
Accepting or rejecting this statement is the responsibility of the judiciary. By declaring Mr. Silva’s innocence, Mr. Hulugalle has usurped the powers of the courts, interfered in the judicial process, and subverted justice.
Two years ago, the Defence Secretary publicly railed against the news director of MTV for making ‘unpatriotic’ statements. Within hours, a CID team was searching for the news director, who escaped arrest by fleeing the country.
Now a mouthpiece of the Defence Secretary has proclaimed Duminda Silva’s innocence. In that context, is it likely that the police will move against him? Unless there is very strong SLFP and societal pressure, Mr. Silva will escape being charged for murder, just as he escaped child-rape and abduction charges.
The regime renamed the Fourth Eelam War a humanitarian offensive with zero-civilian casualties. This blanket-immunity encouraged rather than discouraged human rights violations by Lankan Forces. After all, why practice restraint, when one has been declared not-guilty, ipso facto? This message was reinforced when the regime allowed those responsible for the murder of five students in Trincomalee and the Muttur aid worker-massacre to escape. The signal was that any crime, however heinous, would be permissible, within the context of the war.
A similar signal will be sent if Mr. Silva is not arrested. Other Rajapaksa-acolytes too will be emboldened into using violence to settle their political rivalries and personal disputes, safe in the knowledge that the Siblings will protect them from punishment. This would make life extremely unsafe for those SLFPers who are not Rajapaksa-stooges. It is therefore in the interests of SLFP old-timers to demand an impartial investigation and a fair trial for the Kolonnawa-murders. If they remain mute to protect their powerless-portfolios, they will find themselves at the mercy of marauding Rajapaksa-acolytes searching for political and electoral bases. If they fail to resist the cancer of impunity, today, they will find themselves in the same unprotected-state as Mr. Premachandra, tomorrow.
The New Morality
President Rajapaksa has given his verdict on the Kolonnawa mini-war: it is a ‘little blemish’. In the Presidential-eyes, a public gun-battle between two SLFP heavyweights which caused four deaths was not a crime or a disgrace or even a big blemish; it is a ‘little blemish’ (ibid).
Clearly the regime is as blasé about the crimes of its acolytes in the South, as it was about human rights violations by the Lankan Forces in the North. This dismissive attitude is indicative of the moral-ethical commonsense of the Rajapaksa era.
Soon after contesting the Presidential Election as the joint-opposition candidate, Gen. Fonseka was arrested, for a minor financial irregularity.
The lesson was obvious: challenging Rajapaksa Rule is an unpardonable-crime in Rajapaksa Sri Lanka.
The immediate cause of the Kolonnawa mini-war was the abusive behaviour of Duminda Silva towards the wife of Prasanna Solangaarachchi (Premachandra-loyalist cum UPFA candidate). When Mr. Silva asked Mrs. Solangaarachchi who she voted for, she replied that she voted for her husband. Furious that Mrs. Solangaarachchi did not vote for his nominee, Mr. Silva attacked her. Juxtapose this outrageous-conduct with the official persecution of the elderly grandmother of Danuna Tilakaratne (Gen. Fonseka’s son-in-law) for sheltering her fugitive-grandson: the obvious conclusion is that mindless obedience to the Ruling cabal, even at the cost of betraying one’s own kith and kin, is a primary virtue in Rajapaksa Sri Lanka.
The Tigers used to punish parents for trying to save their children from conscription.
The Rajapaksas seem to believe that they, and only they, can save Sri Lanka from danger and guide her to prosperity.
The LTTE believed that it and it alone could turn the dream of Eelam into reality.
The LTTE believed it could do no wrong and that it was the inescapable-duty of all Tamils to accept its orders unquestioningly. These beliefs paved the way for many of the Tiger’s crimes – from the murder of political opponents to child conscription, from the expulsion of Muslims to attacks on civilian-targets, from the murder of Rajiv Gandhi to the scuttling of three peace processes. They also caused the transformation of ‘Eelam’ from a safe-haven for all Tamil-speaking people to a Tiger monopoly; from Tamil Eelam to Tiger Eelam.
The twin myths of infallibility and impunity precluded the existence of any error-correcting mechanism. The belief in impunity caused crimes to proliferate while the belief in infallibility turned crimes into non-crimes. That path led to Nandikadal lagoon.
The Rajapaksas too believe in their right to impunity and their own infallibility. The policies and deeds informed by these twin myths are driving Sri Lanka not only towards international-isolation, but also towards financial bankruptcy and societal instability.
For instance, Sri Lanka’s public debt has topped Rs. 5 trillion (an increase of Rs. 555 billion in just one year).
For what purpose is Sri Lanka risking a Greece-type debt crisis? It is not on popular wellbeing, because the Education Ministry will get a measly Rs. 33 billion and Health Ministry a modest Rs. 73 billion. It is not on peace-building because the Ministry of Resettlement will get a paltry Rs. 481 million, less than almost every other ministry, even though most displaced Tamils still lack basic facilities. It is not on economic development, because the regime wants “unemployed people to seek jobs overseas due to the inability to meet the demands for jobs in Sri Lanka” (The Bottom-Line – 28.8.2011).
So why do we sink ever deeper into a debt-quagmire? For the protection and greater glory of Rajapaksa Rule.
More than two years after the victorious end of the war, defence remains Sri Lanka’s top money-guzzler. The newly renamed Ministry for Defence and Urban Development has been allocated an astronomical Rs. 230 billion in the 2012 budget. Plus the Rajapaksas are planning to spend billions of dollars on building facilities for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
This is not rational; this is not sustainable. Rajapaksa Rule will collide explosively with economic and financial reality, just as Tiger Rule collided with political and military reality.
Most Tamils, out of a mistaken sense of national-loyalty and fear, failed to oppose Tiger misdeeds. They are still paying for that political and moral failure.
Most Sinhalese remain mute vis-à-vis Rajapaksa depredations, out of a misplaced sense of patriotism. That silence too will extract a heavy price, in the form of economic devastation, social collapse and personal humiliation. Non-resistance is not the safest-option.