By Hilmy Ahamed –
Rumours abound that President Sirisena’s men have saved the violent racist monk Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero from the clutches of the law. Four police teams were deployed on the orders of the Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka to search and arrest the fugitive monk. Many believe that a top VIP provided the safe house for the Venerable Thero to hide in when numerous police teams were deployed to bring him to justice. This has severely demoralised the Police and the credibility of the Inspector General of Police is in question.
Did the President know about the VIP conspiracy to save the venerable Thero from imprisonment? The President himself has softened his stand of stern action against hate speech prior to his Australian tour, to a need for discussion and compromise when it comes to religious conflict. It is unfortunate that almost all of President Sirisena’s decisions on hate mongering seem to waver from time to time. Is the President worried about the people power of Venerable Galagoda Atte Gnanasra Thero who contested the last general election and harnessed a mere 27,000 votes island wide when he received 6,217, 162 votes at the January 2015?
But wait! Was the Thero’s arrest ordered for hate speech in the first instance? Was not the wanted for contempt of Court? Many in the legal fraternity too have questioned the independence of the Judiciary when the Court of Appeal accepted a Counsel’s submission that Ven. Gnanasara Thero was indisposed on the 24th of May 2017 even without a medical certificate from a recognised medical professional or hospital. The Contempt of Court case came up before a bench comprising Justices Rohini Walgama (CA President) and S. Thurairaja. The Court directed Counsel Anusha Perusinghe, who appeared for Ven. Gnanasara Thero, to produce him on the next date with a medical certificate. Will a lesser mortal be allowed to go scot-free without even a medical certificate in the Court of Appeal? Just only the day before, Ven Gnanasara Thero was spearheading the hate campaign against Muslims, in the best of health. What is even worse is that there was no warrant issued even when he failed to appear on May 31, 2017. The Counsel submitted that Ven. Gnansara Thero was hospitalized. Was the Court provided evidence of his hospitalization or a valid medical certificate? Unless and until transparency is maintained, the independence of the Judiciary would be questioned and the independent commissions set up by Yahapalanaya would be another farce ?
In another travesty of justice a motion on Cancellation of bail of Dan Priyasad was not considered on 03/06/2017. A lengthy legal submission was made under Sec 14 (1) ii,ii, & iii of Bail Act no 30 of 1997 to cancel the bail granted to Don Prasad at the MC Fort Case B/3720/16 citing three complaints of breach. Surprisingly, Police informed courts that they were unaware of any complaint against Dan Priyasad. Notices were given to the Police with copy of complaint prior to the case. The Hon. Judge directed the Police to investigate into complaints made and whether the suspect has engaged in similar offences and to report to Courts under Sec 14 (1) of Bail Act to take appropriate action. Justice and Rule of Law for Muslims seem to be very so difficult to reach. Will a complaint to the Police Commission on Police irresponsibility help? The much-hyped independent commissions carry serious questions of credibility; will the Police Commission be more credible than the police officers who misled the Court claiming that there were no complaints?
In an unprecedented show of solidarity with the Muslim community, the Ambassadors of the European Union headed by its Chief, Ambassador Tung Lai Marque and like-minded top diplomats and Heads of Missions from Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Turkey, Japan, USA and South Africa visited the Devatagaha Mosque in Colombo and expressed their strong condemnation and disappointment at the inaction of the Government to prosecute hate mongering and violence by some Buddhist extremists against a minority community, attacking their mosques and setting fire to their businesses. They called for freedom of religion and rule of law to be respected. There have been over 34 acts of violence against the Muslim community and more than double that figure against the Evangelical Christians this year, where law enforcement has not prevailed during this year; No arrests have been made despite ample evidence.
The International Community’s strong condemnation has come as a shock to the Government. Earlier, the US Ambassador, High Commissioner of the UK and the United Nations expressed their disapproval of the Government’s handling of the racist campaign by extremist Buddhist elements.
Alan Keenan in his tweet posts “To my knowledge this public diplomatic intervention is unprecedented in Sri Lanka. Unnecessary if government enforced the law”. Alan Keenan is International Crisis Group’s (ICG) Sri Lanka Senior Analyst based in London. He coordinates and contributes to the organization’s research, publications, and advocacy on Sri Lanka.
The European Council approved granting the Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) tariff concession to Sri Lanka last month allowing our Nation to export its products tax-free to the European market. It was granted as Sri Lanka ratified and implemented measures contained in a number of international conventions on human and labor rights, environment protection and good governance. Like all other GSP+ beneficiaries, Sri Lanka committed to maintain its ratification and effective implementation of the 27 conventions when it applied for the scheme. Will the current wave of Buddhist extremism have any impact on the newfound relief for the Yahapalanaya Government?
Sri Lanka lost the GSP plus concessions during the regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa when it was denied preferential access to the EU market in August 15, 2010. The decision to withdraw the preferential tariff system GSP+ was taken by the Council of Ministers of the European Union in February 2010 due to the failure of the then Government to adhere to international conventions, which affected at least 30% of our total exports that went to the European Union.
If Yahapalanaya is to succeed, and more importantly, if Sri Lanka is to succeed, equality, justice and rule of law has to be established and maintained without fear or favour.