1 November, 2020

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Back To Barracks Necessary For Free And Fair NPC Elections

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

After an end of a war or a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA), ‘decommissioning and demobilization’ are considered crucially important for sustainable peace. These are universally accepted principles although the Sri Lankan ‘rulers,’ though elected formally, have some contempt about them, for reasons best known to them.

Instead of asking as far as ‘decommissioning or demobilization,’ the TNA Parliamentary Group Leader and the President of ITAK, R Sampanthan, has requested the President “to take steps to confine the military to the barracks and remove the biggest obstacle to the conduct of a free and fair poll on the 21st of September” for the Northern Provincial Council (NPC).

The government may be commended for holding the elections to the NPC, at last, although it should have been done ‘soon’ after the end of the war in May 2009. This is what was done in the Eastern Province, after the area was cleared from the LTTE menace. Even ‘how soon’ could have been flexible, but holding it long after almost four and half years is not good for reconciliation or sustainable peace. If it was held within a year, the situation could have been entirely different.

It is possible that the extreme chauvinist forces such as the JHU within the government was holding back the President, perhaps connivance with the Defense Secretary, not to hold the elections as clear from their stance on the now aborted 19th Amendment to abolish the 13th Amendment altogether. Now they have withdrawn from the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) in finding a ‘constitutional solution’ to the controversy. The decisive factor in holding the NPC elections undoubtedly is the international pressure whether one likes it or not.

Same goes for the military control of the North, not to speak of ‘decommissioning and demobilization’ for a moment. The ‘defense establishment’ takes considerable pains to explain to the international community and/or the UN about the military withdrawals from the North. However, the two terms – decommissioning and demobilization – have never entered into their vocabulary. ‘Decommissioning’ means the withdrawal of the military from active engagement in public affairs (i.e. law and order) and ‘demobilization’ means the gradual reduction of armed forces from a war situation to a peace situation.

If the government had seriously believed that there was a risk of the LTTE being resurrected for another war or subversion within few years, then at least armed forces could have been ‘demobilized’ from the North in readiness for deployment as necessary. This is not a difficult task given the logistical situation in the country or the technical capabilities of the present military. What has happened instead is not only the active deployment of the army ostensibly in ‘law and order’ matters, of course of reduced numbers, but also the involvement of them in administrative and civilian matters. This has amounted to a virtual military rule in the North. This was most conspicuous symbolically, the Governor of the Province being a former military officer, a retired Major General.

At least after the announcement of the elections, the situation should have been changed. Given the extreme ethnic sensitivity of the NPC elections and the past history such as the fraudulent 1981 Jaffna Development Council Elections, complete free and fair election is of paramount importance. Any military interference in the election process is a gross violation of Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). To the former, Sri Lanka has adhered its commitment, and of the latter, Sri Lanka is an obligatory national party. There is no escape on the basis of ‘sovereignty or patriotism.’

In his letter to the President dated 9 September 2013, Mr. Sampanthan has pointed out the following, which are serious allegations:

“The rumor that the military has nominated some candidates on the Government Party, i.e., UPFA list is fuelled by soldiers pasting posters promoting those candidates and guarding such posters from being torn down even by election officials. There was at least one instance when we made a written complaint that the army was distributing building materials to the voters at Navanthurai, Jaffna, with hoardings of some candidates kept in the background. A photograph showing a candidate physically participating in this event with the army was published in a newspaper. The election officials who visited the scene found the allegation to be true but were not able to stop it. These are only but a few glaring examples of the blatant manner in which the military is now engaged in the election campaign for the Government Party, UPFA. It is also a matter of record that at least three of our candidates were threatened by the army on the day we submitted our nominations.”

It is also disturbing to note what former Justice C. V. Wigneswaran, the Chief Ministerial Candidate of the TNA, has revealed although I must add that both a former Major General being the Governor and a former Supreme Court Judge possibly becoming the Chief Minister in the NPC are not good for democracy or independence of the public service (including the military) even if the army is withdrawn (hypothetically) from active engagement in the North after the election. If not, there is sure to be a confrontation or contradiction between the informal military rule in the North and the elected NPC. This goes completely against any expectation of reconciliation.

What is more worrying is not so much of the role of the Governor at present but the role of the Army Commanding Officer for the North, also interfering in political and election matters quite blatantly. There is a specific Commanding Officer for the North, as if there is still a war even after four years of its conclusion. The following is what Mr. Wigneswaran has said on the military interference as reported by the Colombo Telegraph on 10 September which is my main concern in this article.

“Last  few meetings I have been referring to the undue interference visible from the Armed Forces resident in the North  in relation to our Northern Provincial Council Election. I chanced to find a good example of it today. Today’s Sunday Thinakaran [8 September], a pro-government paper, carries a news item wherein the Commanding Officer of the Army in the North, Mr. Mahinda Hathurusinghe, is reputed to have given an interview to the Thinakaran stating that he strongly objects to Mano Ganesan who had come into the North as a Tourist venturing to criticize  interference from the Army at the local polls. He went on further to say that I am [Wigneswaran] looking at the Northern politics through my Colombo glasses and that he is surprised at my Supreme Court judgments.”

A serving army officer has no business in giving a political interview to a newspaper, a pro-government or otherwise. He has no business to criticise a politician, a former judge or not, and after all Mr Wigneswaran has now opted to become a politician although my opinion says that he should not have done so, whatever the good intentions, for the reasons of integrity and principles of good governance in general.

When Mr Sampanthan’s letter was published in the CT, there were some valuable comments highlighting the ‘other side of the coin’ and I wish to highlight what Dr Rajasingham Narendran said. He made two main points as far as I am concerned, and the first was that “Please also advice some of your platform speakers, including MPs to moderate their words. They are undoing what you are apparently trying to achieve. Moderation in words and acuity in a workable program are the need of the hour.

Second was that “Please also set an example to change the nature of politics in Sri Lanka. The south is waiting with an abated breath to see what the TNA and the Tamils will do with a NPC they control. Answer them with a positive and principled but determined approach, both in the prelude and the aftermath of the elections.” On the second point, I must also say that the TNA Manifesto was a disappointment on which I might return at least mildly on a later occasion from the point of view of reconciliation.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    back to barracks not just for elections …but for human rights

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    The army is in the spotlight of a fiercely contested election in the north,and is shocked that people actually dare to criticise its actions – after it held the power of life and death over the nothern tamils,decimated a good number of them, and got away with it.
    They are seething with anger at their actions being spotlighted.
    Navanturai is the place where,during the Grease Yakka incidents,the army and police dragged out more than one hundred civilians at midnight,and brutally assaulted them,for having objected to two ‘yakkas’ handed over were seen by them going out of the army camp in uniform.
    The army is sure that Navanturai villagers would vote en mass for the TNA – hence the distribution of building materials to woo them,which is an election offence.
    Will the President have the courage to order the army to barracks till the election is over – this will show the world whether he is sincere in conducting a free and fair election.
    He would be aware that the whole world is watching – in view of Ms Pillay’s report at the UNHRC.
    Any army transgressions will have international audiance. He should tell Hathurusinghe to allow a free and fair election.
    But I suspect that the president will be unable to control the army for reasons well known.

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      Dont challenge H.E. MR – he did withdraw the Army to Barracks during the
      Pillay visit week sureptiously but will not for a free and fair elections!!

  • 0
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    Elections unleash the worst forms of ethno racial nationalism among the Sinhala Modayas and Tamil yakos!
    Good questions Dr. Laksiri: Why has the Sinhala academic community and intelligentsia (except FUTA) not demanded decommissioning and de-moblization of the military which Gota the Goon is turning into a NEW HIGH CASTE with lots of perks and impunity to run amok.. ?

    In post-war Lanka the military is also being funded by various international donors – the racist Aussi Govt (that is funding the Navy that is involved in military business and people smuggling to prevent refugees from Lanka going to Aussi – ha, ha, ha!) and the World Bank funding the Ministry of Defense via UDA.
    DO NO HARM is a principle of AID dis-bursment observed in the breach in post-war Sri Lanka by international donors and they must be held accountable.
    In the context, hardly surprising that TNA manifesto is a MIRROR IMAGE of the Sinhala Nationalist agenda on display at election times – extreme and virulent grand standing with little substance or plan to do good for the people.
    What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander – the Moda Sinhalay nationalist should remember this – the Tamils are fully entitled to their nationalism as long as the barbaric Sinhala Balu sena and JHU are given free reign to attack minorities and the cowardly Muslims cringe in corner!

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    Charles Evan Hughes resigned as a supreme court judge of the US to contest against Woodrow Wilson in 1916. He lost the elections and several years later was appointed chief justice. He is one of the most respected judges in US history. Wigneswaran contesting elections 8 years after retirement has no bearing on democracy. To think or claim that Wigneswaran planned his move to politics 8 years ago would make him a man of unbelievable foresight. He should them become finance minister so that Sri Lanka can reverse its economic downturn!

    What is disturbing is the appointment of judges and military personnel as governors soon after their retirement. Gubernatorial appointments are made at the will of the executive. This means the appointees would have sucked up to the executive during their career. In Sri Lanka, the appointment of military personnel is a cause for additional concern because of the increased militarization. This is worse when it comes to the northern province.

  • 2
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    All the major Tamil diaspora orgs – GTF, BTF, CTC & USTPAC disagree with Laksiri Fernando’s statement:- ” a former Supreme Court Judge possibly becoming the Chief Minister in the NPC are not good for democracy or independence of the public service”.

    There should be a law in Sri lanka that Supreme court judges, Senior militry officers, senior civil servants and others, can contest elections only after a certain time period (for each category of persons) has elapsed.

    Justice C. V. Vigneswaran retired from the Supreme court of Sri lanka 9 years ago!!! His time delay after retirement is MORE than adequate!!!

    Why is Laksiri Fernando whom Sri Lankans view as a moderate Sinhalese, trying to find excuses to oppose Justice C.V.V. from contesting the post of Northern Province Chief Minister??? His action does not portend well for a united Sri lanka.

    The Sinhalese public also needs to be informed that SL military intelligence have obtained the membership lists for GTF, BTF, TGTE and USTPAC. And they intend to harass those members when they next visit Sri Lanka.

    Nanthini Balakrishnan Seharaseyon. USA.

    • 0
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      Nanthini, Sinhala never allow Tamils live in their own land, worse live in their own home. Its Sinhala Buddhist evil blood. Dr.Laksiri not exceptional…He also a Sinhala Buddhist……

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    4 1/2 years is a long time and enough to ensure that the LTTE has been eradicated. There is no justification for continued militarisation and interference in the civilian administration.

    At this point of time when the PC elections are being held it is opportune for the army to withdraw from civilian activities and allow democracy and the political system to function. The continued interference of the Army in the election process and thereafter would certainly be injurious to the democratic functioning of the PC and political system.

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    If military is confined to barracks then NGO/INGO mafia would start their dirty games again to revive LTTE terror & bring misery to people of North.

    Further, NGO mafia [Edited out] too would camp out in North & work hand in glove with murderous NGO/INGO mafia & conspire against Northerners & southerners again.

    So it’s of paramount importance to keep vigil by Military 24/7 .

    • 0
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      Ane JOHN BASS GONO,[ COMMENTING FOR A FEE]?.

      If there were No N G OS,

      How could your JARAPASSA accumulated Billions Of Rupees to Loot away from the Tsunami fund,
      ” HELPING MYSELF AND MY FAMILY, HAMBANTHOTAAAAAAAAAA”.

      Tell those “KOnde Bendapu Hambanthota CHEENNUNTA”

  • 0
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    After the LTTE that was running amok in Lanka was destroyed in May 2009, the corrupt and criminal Rajapassa family, politicians and the military have taken the place of the LTTE and are running amok!

    State terrorism and Rajapassa military dictatorship is the name of the game today! The military need to be put in barracks and the parliament of clowns purged!

  • 0
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    Thank you Laksiri. Please keep on writing. Instead of Rajapakse family blocking colombotelegraph they should read the articles on CT and accordingly.

  • 0
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    Hello Laksiri.

    Its clear you have no clue what is going on there. The Army is engaing people doing a number of social services work. Its not policits for the army.

    TNA do not like it because they cannot play the race card. Its not depend on what the TNA nazi take at face value. There is almost always something insidious going on behind the scenes with everything they say.

    • 0
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      I thought the same.

      Writing articles while living inside a cocoon.

    • 0
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      Vibhushana

      What do you mean by TNA nazi?

      • 0
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        Its Sinhala fascism, never allow Tamils breath freely…..

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    You object to Judge Vigneswaran contesting election. You say “it is not good for democracy or independence of the public service.” Did you ever expressed such sentiments when during Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government Felix Dias Bandaranaike appointing a former SLFP MP as a judge of the Supreme Court. If your can’t remember what I am referring to, does the name Jaya Pathirana ring a bell? He was a former SLFP MP for Kurunegala appointed to the Supreme Court by Felix with the blessings of Mrs. B. Now don’t say he was a fine judge. It is not to find out how good a judge he was or what he did as a Supreme Court judge, but it is the principle that’s involved should be considered. If a former MP (of the ruling party) could be a judge of the Supreme Court, why wouldn’t a former judge of the Supreme Court aspire to become a Chief Minister (or for that matter contest an election.) Either your memory is short or for you it could be a trivial matter. Isn’t appointing a politician to Supreme Court a worse thing than a former judge contesting an election? Did you ever think or said anything about Jaya Pathirana’s appointment that “it is not good for democracy or independence of the judiciary.” I cannot understand your double standard. The whole problem I see is that those who attack Justice Vigneswaran coming forward as TNA candidate is, that the ruling UPFA’s failure to put forward candidates of the calibre of Justice Vigneswaran (TNA) and Justice Warawewa (UNP for Kandy District.) UPFA has filled their nomination lists with relatives of their Parliamentary colleagues and no one of any significance is included. They fear that NP Council administration will be an example to all other (corrupt) PCs, so they hope and pray that they (NPC) fail from the start.
    Please don’t take this as an attack, but I have expressed my thinking purely based on facts at hand. If what I have stated is not correct you could point those out. Also wishes to state that I am neither a Tamil nor a supporter of TNA, and therefore, no one should bring any communal overtone to what I have stated.

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      Dear Mr. Pandith,

      I appreciate your expression of views. I don’t take your questioning as an attack. On your specific question, “Did you ever express such sentiments when during Mrs. Bandaranayake’s government Felix Dias Bandaranaike appointing a former SLFP MP as a judge of the Supreme Court?” Yes I did. Those days I was with Edmond Samarakkody politically. Even in recent times, I have said this in respect of the independence of the judiciary.

      I am not objecting to the good intentions of Mr. Wigneswaren but I am highlighting a major implication as a result. In the case of Mr. Werawewa, I even don’t see any ‘good intentions.’ Coming into politics immediately after holding a key judicial position is completely unacceptable. The UNP has done a major mistake, if they want to stand for the independence of the judiciary. I hope my view is clear.

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      Pandith, thank you for highlighting the issue where Laksiri takes high ground against the TNA and the UNP for fielding Judges of Impeccable Character as Candidates at a time when the MR govt is unable to find a suitable Candidate to match.

      Laksiri claims that he objected the appointment of an SLFP MP as a Judge of the Supreme Court and cites that he was with Edmond Samarakkody. I wonder whether Laksiri objected when Felix Dias got Jaya Pathirana to his house to write Judgements in cases to fix opponents. I think the life and times of these scoundrels were portrayed well in Gamini Fonseka’s film Sagarayak Meda. This is the same Laksiri today, who denounces the TNA and the UNP for having nominated Vigneswaran and Warawewa, two individuals of high repute, after he has rendered his services then to have the Parliaments to be filled with the riff raff.

  • 0
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    Laksiri’s agenda is clearly to discredit the Buddhists of this country .His subtlety and guile are not adequate to conceal his true motive.

    • 0
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      In the same manner your guile is not adequate to cover your motive of supporting the Olcott Buddhists on the rampage and the Corrupt and Murderous MR regime. The pot trying to call the kettle black.

  • 0
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    i would say send them to hell .

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