28 May, 2017

Accountability For The Past Is Part Of Accountability In The Present & Future 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The May Day performance of the government’s two main parties, the UNP in Colombo and the SLFP in Galle, will be reassuring to the leaders of the government. The large turnouts at their respective May Day rallies will give them the confidence that the mobilization capacity of their local level organizers is strong to meet the demands of electoral politics. Although the dissident faction of the SLFP led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa also posted an impressive turnout it could not match those of the government parties. The impression they attempted to create that despite being outside of the government they could mobilize people on the same scale if not better was shown to be unrealistic. President Maithripala Sirisena who, as leader of the SLFP, had warned the dissidents of strict action against those who held a rival May Day rally is now likely to feel confident enough to take the action against them that he has threatened.

But it is not only on the dissident faction that the President needs to focus. He also needs to take action along with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe against those within the new government who deviate from the norms of good governance they have been promising. On the morning of May 1, one of the red clad members of the JVP who was supervising the arrangements for its May Day rally in Colombo recognized me and wished to speak. He said that the corrupt and inequitable system of government and economy needed to be changed. He did not see much of a difference between the present and previous governments, though he acknowledged that political activists like him felt safer these days to express their views. What he said was similar to the views I hear at the community level civil society meetings I attend out of Colombo, which focus on the post-war inter-ethnic reconciliation process.

On April 30, the day before May Day, I was in Polonnaruwa, the home district of President Sirisena to attend a meeting on the reconciliation process and explain the needs and requirements for reconciliation within the country, and with the international community, in the aftermath of the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. During the period of the previous government, Polonnaruwa was seen as a stronghold of Sinhala nationalism, in part due to it being on the border with the war zones of the North and East, and where numerous massacres of civilians had taken place. It was generally regarded as an inhospitable place for peace organizations to work in, as they could face the wrath of the nationalists, and even be subjected to physical assault and be left to fend for themselves due to police inaction.

Broader Meaning 

But on this occasion I found that the participants in Polonnaruwa, ranging from Buddhist and other religious clergy, local government officials and leading members of civil society, did not get agitated when discussing either the history of the conflict or the government’s proposed response to the UNHRC resolution. Instead there was a positive sense of appreciation about the need for a mutually acceptable solution that brought the ethnic and religious communities together. It was also significant that in Polonnaruwa the main issue on which the participants wanted to comment on their own volition, was the need for the political leaders and the government to work for the country without being corrupt and siphoning away resources to themselves to the detriment of the people. This popular desire is in accord with the government own stated aspiration, as expressed in its election manifestos, of instituting good governance and taking exemplary action against those who have engaged in illegal and corrupt activities.

The term accountability has taken on a restricted meaning in the aftermath of the international focus on war time human rights violations and war crimes. Accountability is not only a matter of seeking the truth about human rights violations and war crimes. It also concerns general crimes in society and also economic corruption. During the previous government those who were its members, whether at the national or local level, enjoyed a great deal of immunity from the law, whether in regard to violent crimes or financial ones. Indeed, the government started off in an exemplary manner with the near unanimous passage of the 19th Amendment to the constitution in April last year, where it reduced the powers of the presidency that had been subjected to gross abuse previously, and strengthened the independence of key state institutions like the police, judiciary and public service.

The government thereafter followed up on this by appointing commission of inquiry into major acts of financial corruption and set up the Financial Crimes Investigation Department (FCID) of the Police. At the beginning the government’s commitment to tackling corruption appeared to be so high, and the FCID so active, that there were complaints by businesspersons that they could not get government officials to approve their plans or give them necessary permits as they all started to go by the rule book for fear of being accused of corruption for not abiding strictly by the government bureaucracy’s financial and administrative regulations.

Regain Thrust 

Unfortunately in the past several months, the government appears to have run out of steam in regard to pursuing general crimes and economic corruption of those who held and who hold high positions in government. The zeal with which it was seen to be pursuing corruption has been seriously undermined by incomplete and partial investigations into past acts of corruption and due to allegations of new ones committed by those appointed by the new government also. In addition, Western diplomats stationed in Colombo have also begun to complain about apparently inexplicable government decisions relating to trade and investment which can have negative consequences on Sri Lanka’s access to those markets and to investments from them.

One of the basic problems appears to be lack of transparency in the government’s decision making, which is not a positive sign of good governance. The terms and conditions under which projects with China have been restarted are also not entirely known, which is not helpful in generating the trust needed for investments in the country. The other is the slow pace of investigations that is constantly given as the reason for the failure of the law enforcement agencies to act. Whether it is the care taken by the investigators to get all their facts right, or whether it is the entrenchment within the systems of government of those from the past who have a vested interest in stalling the investigations is a point to be considered. However, with the passage of time and the promotion of new persons into positions of authority, such as the new Inspector General of Police, there is the possibility of change.

It is also possible that the government has found it difficult to take action against those who are miscreants, and to be more transparent, due to the threat posed by the division within the SLFP. One of the questions in the minds of the general population has been whether the President can keep his control over his own party or whether the former President will stage a comeback. Unbowed by their two successive election defeats, and unprepared to wait their turn till the next presidential and general elections, they have been making their case to come back to power soon by claiming to be the true leaders of the SLFP. Before they do so they need to be held accountable for what happened in the past, both in regard to human rights violations and economic corruption, because accountability in the present and future is dependent on how accountability in the past is handled. Now that the May Day rallies have shown the true strength of the government and its opponents, the time has come for the government to live up to its promises of good governance.

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  • 4
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    Jehan Perera The Peace Activist. You were spot on and well said. Accountability of the Past and the Present should be addressed, before our country move forward with the help of Right thinking people, not with the help of people who are only ready to protect one side of the equation. There are 2 sides to this , the interests and well being of the Majority and the interested and well being of the Minority too should be addressed and protected. We have seen so much of national struggle , Blood let , poverty due to the Plundering of state wealth , ect. Haven’t we had enough the general Public.?? The Politicians are only interested in what they can get from the country not what they can DO To the country. Even the present day politicians have plundered and still plundering and living in Luxury and stashing away the state wealth in foreign countries buying mansions for their immediate families. Accountability be the tool to keep in check , How anyone can imagine the fallen dictator behind so many cases Pending against him , still in the notion of getting into POWER?? Isn’t it the Resposible of the Present government to STOP THIS MAFIA CONNING THE DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED GOVERNMENT AND THE PEOPLE VOTED FOR THE GOVERNMENT , BEING CONNED HERE. The President and the government have they been Naive in encouraging the thieves and having Tête-à-tête ?? Why the Thieves , the Drug Runners, and the Murderers are still allowed to walk freely and Talk freely Publicly??
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    That’s what I have been arguing for Americans too. Accountability for war crimes, chemical weapons and rapes and massacres by white christians in Vietnam, excesses including use of White Phosphorous in Falluja in Iraq, civilian deaths by Drones etc. Jehan, as a christian funded by the USA please write openly and strongly about the USA too. Crimes such as these know no boundaries. If the US can lead by proof and example it can really help Sri Lanka. Afterall, Kerry admitted to war crimes in Vietnam and another former Senator and war hero Bob Kerrey admitted to massacring 25 innocent civilians in a hamlet in Vietnam. They are both white christian americans.
  • 2
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    It is called the “International Workers Day” the world over. In Sri Lanka, it has been made a “political parties” day – but also called May Day. In Sri Lanka, there are the highly paid/pampered workers eg. in Sri Lankan airline & top rungs of other “state enterprises”, and the lowly paid workers in government departments, tea estates etc. UNHRC resolution demands investigation and justice in respect of War Crimes by both sides of the civil war – NOT “reconciliation” – whatever that means. One side has been severely punished in great measure, but even now the ‘punishment’ goes on. https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/fresh-concerns-as-authorities-resort-to-unlawful-arrests-in-the-north/ One of the chief perpetrators of the ‘other side’, shielded until now, has fled to USA. Inquiries into financial crimes are slowly grinding to a halt, due to political pressure/survival. The May Day serves to ‘whitewash’ political parties, all by themselves. The public are not fooled. Most of them attend mainly for entertainment, except those who have, or want, political favours.
    • 3
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      Mayday workers day is celebrated by the workers unions all over world. In Srilanka is a Pathetic Political Drama Power Show. As usual the Meaningless May Day in S L. for the future generations to follow their stupid show as well. Shame.
  • 6
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    Well Jehan is upset the Chinese are back and Yahapal Maya has gone back on good governance. He talks about the strength of the government by looking at the crowds. Well he has surely missed the crowed that came to Kirulapona.
  • 2
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    The next circus act will be the SL names in Panama Papers, to keep the media occupied. Why does not the media put pressure to pursue the Court Cases already filed? The US made a Grant of USD 45 Mil. to fight corruption. Should not the Govt. set a special Court to try the following 27 cases to commence with: 1. Case No. 474/2015 at Fort M.C. dealing with Hedging Fund and involving A.N.Cabraal, PB Jayasuendra, A de Mel, L.Karunaratne (Rs.200-700 Million ) 2.$ Case No. 24327/2015 at Chief M.C.(3) In the matter of Lanka Hospital shares and connected to G. Rajapakse, Roshini ,Cabraal, N.Godahewa, D.Jayaweera, M. Medihewa, W.Amunugamuwa, D.P.Y. Wijesinghe. (Rs. 600 million) 3.$** B26907/3/15 at Colombo M.C re Housing deals connected with W.Weerasena,B.K.J.K.Perera. 4 $.** B/40/2015 at Kaduwella M.C. re Land purchases, involving Mrs. W.Weerasena, C.S.Ranasinhe. 5. B323/15 in Tangalle M.C. about Carlton Pre-school construction involving State Eng. Corporation Staff (Rs. 35 million) 6. 8674/15 in Pugoda M.C. re Development works, involving B.Rajapakse, N. Thirukumar 7.* B22467/1/15 at Colombo Chief M.C. re Money Laundering by M. Aluthgamage (Rs. 3 – 27 million) 8. B22468/1/15 in Colombo Chief M.C. on Wealth acquired of Dr.P.B. Wickrema. 9. B25389/1/15 at Colombo C.M.Court re Money Laundering by G.Senarath. 10. B25166/3/15 at Colombo Ch M.C. Teleshan TV Network with A.Pilapita S.Wickremasinghe, and Sil Reddi with L.Weeratunga and Ven.V.Somananda Thero. 11.***** B9823/15 at Kaduwela M.C. re CSN Channel involving ITN Directorate & Staff. (5 Remanded in Jany.2016) 12.$ B 25389/15 at Kaduwela M.C. re ownership of Marriot Hotel in Dubai with N.Lokuwitharne and M.Rajapakse ( Rs. 48 to 190 million) 13. B27453/1/15 at Hultsdorf M.C. about Lanka Logistics Arms importing connected to G.Rajapakse, P.B.Jayasundera, Mohan Peiris, J.Wickremasinghe. 14. B/663/15 at Fort M.C. on Bank of Ceylon, Seychelles by M. Rajapakse & family 15. Greek Bonds purchase with names of Cabraal & Rajapakse in Petition Colombo M.C of 15.8.15 involving Rs. 1257 million 16. Sajin Vass Gunewardena in abuse of Public property, at Fort Magistrate Court, remanded since May, 2015. Also at Bribery Com. for questionable Assets. 17. Petition accepted in Supreme Court on 6.8.15 re Vehicle Permits abuse 18. Case No. 50/10 at High Courts, Kandy: Captain Wickremasinghe`s activity in Giritale Army Camp re Torture Chambers – under G. Rajapakse`s directions? 19. On Bail – Rohita Bogollagama 20. B/C Case – BC/2370/2011/B1 – 1 Billion heist: Pradeep Gunawardana (C`man State Trading Corporation) 21.$ B 586/15 in the Fort Magistrate’s Court on June 5, 2015 re Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation & SMB payments . 22.$ B1171/15 – Fort Magistrates Courts re MILCO Officials/ex-Ministers in a Rs.600 Mil. Fraud 23. Champika Karunaratne –Former Coordinating Secy.of MR remanded over Fraud (10 million) 24. M.C Nuwara Eliya Case of Prof. Dharmasiri in fraud of David Paynters Art work worth Rs.37 Million ? 25, **** Lankaputra Development Bank re release of Rs. 2000 million as loans to 14 parties. CID Report now in the hands of the AG.. 25. Ethanol Imports, involving a former Minister and 2 current Deputy Ministers, – FCID investigations ongoing. 26. Paddy Marketing Board involved in the sale of 234000 tons Paddy to 3 selected mill owners & loss thereof to be reported to FCID. 27. Colombo Commercial High Court Case for Rs. 142 million due to SLTB on bus hires for 2015 PE, against M.Rajapakse & 6 others.
  • 4
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    How wonderful!! All the Modayas can only put Thumbs down very quickly. Their education is so limited of course. The Drama Queen does cut and paste the others know to tick down. Pathetic.
  • 2
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    Accountability for past crimes have to be addressed and the accused prosecuted to prevent the repeat of those crimes, we all know that. From corruption to war crimes to anti-Tamil pogroms, Sri Lanka has a long history of not holding anyone accountable for serious crimes. With the change of government, there was some hope that things could turn for the better in terms of accountability, but the signs are not good. Corruption and violence towards Tamils is far too entrenched within the Sri Lankan state to end with a simple change in government.
  • 1
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    Accountability is for the Rajapaksas and members of the JO only! See the following fellows who are now with Yahapalanaya! 1. Mervyn Silva (Attacked a media institution and journalists; tied a Samurdhi officer to a tree); he is singing hosannas for Ranil and My3. 2. Sajin Vaas Gunewardena (assaulted Dr. Nonis, swindled billions) is the chief organizer of the Prez Sirisena’s Galle rally. 3. Nisantha Muthuhettigama (set fire to a Ranil+My3 stage in Vanduramba during Election time) is now a minister of Ranil+My3 cabinet 4. Kamal Indika (attacked artists of Nava Parapura): was appointed chief SLFP organizer of Hiriyala electorate by Prez Sirisena few days ago. It is a shame to see these fellows reading bedtime stories of the Rajapaksa rule to sleepy Yahapalna leaders!
  • 0
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    Nihilist …….. What art thou asking of Jehan?….. [Edited out] He even has ignored the Hidus of the North. To him (jehan) they don’t exists. Its nalla income sans robbing through bonds. request for Rs. 10b bonds and end up with issueing 29b with Wisckramasingams/Mahendrans of the yahapalanaya @ 14.23% Then the W’singam/Mahendrans and/or buyers offer to EPF for 12% Nalla sellam………….. Why did percy mahndran’s men struggle so much to make money when there were these easy way outs ?? PUNCHINILAME….. Had they known how to make money from issue of bonds as the Yahapalanaya do, then all these would have been averted. YAHAPALANAYA = SMART THIEVES.
  • 0
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    Nepotism must also go. Bensen
  • 1
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    Dr.Jehan Perera, The role of the army intelligence and its partnership with former LTTE leaders and cadres, is another specter that is unfolding before us. It is the ‘Deep State’ at work. Intelligence gathering using former LTTEers is legitimate , but using them to forment disaffection and commit crimes, is criminal. Further, what is the certainty that the loyalty of former LTTEers to the army/government, is not a pretense, considering how the LTTE spun its web. The assassination of Premadasa carried out with extreme cunning after a prolonged incubation of the plan, is an example. Are these former LTTErs like the proverbial eel, showing their tails to the snake and heads to the fish- a very clever act of preconceived and well orchestrated duplicity, aimed at yet pursuing the objectives of their former incarnation? Should the government purge army intelligence of all former LTTEers? The following article by Dharsha Bastians unfolds a whose vista of poossibilies and dangers inherent in this covert and increasingly visible link. http://www.ft.lk/article/540008/A-crisis-of-the–deep-state- Dr.RN

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