Colombo Telegraph

CM East Tirade, Tri Forces, Media Responses & Repercussions

By Arun Kumaresan

Arun Kumaresan – Air Vice Marshal (Ret’d)

This incident and subsequent reaction on media needs scrutiny. The issues involved are;

  • Related to Protocol
  • CM abusing navy office
  • Role of the Governor
  • The reaction of the media and,
  • Response by the Tri Forces.

Protocol – In an event attended by the Chief Minister Nazeer Ahamed (CM) in his own province he should be afforded due recognition and courtesies. In a similar event happened in a province outside North and East and, were – CM not being allowed on the stage – we may have witnessed responses anything between similar to the words used in the parliament or a walkout in protest by the said CM.

CM abusing navy officer – Totally unwarranted but he still could have maintained his stand and remained on stage whilst maintaining the decorum and take it up subsequently or showing his displeasure to the governor for the latter’s intervention. If he has done this and not used the word ‘idiot’, he would have stamped the authority of a Chief Minister not only in his province but the province adjacent to him. CM should not shy away saying sorry to the Navy Officer for using the word ‘idiot’, whilst maintaining his stand and escalate his concerns for arbitration by the relevant authority who have privy to all facts.

A military officer in uniform at a civilian function with politician on stage – Civilian rule has returned and there is no role for military. They should not be allowed to compere or sell vegetables; a Yahapalanaya promise. In peace time they should sharpen their core competencies and should only come out in aid to civil power or during calamities. If the Navy officer was thrust into this job or an event organised by Navy and he was the Master of Ceremony; he should have pre briefed the CM of the program and told his position in this function. If CM was a non invitee then situation should more cautiously handled to a avoid embarrassment.

The general reaction – The reaction revolves around to the ethnicity of the CM and capitalise nationalistic emotions making military as scapegoats. Unfortunately, in a nation where politicians assault and use of filth of barbaric nature and where politicians protect rapists and murderers, the CM’s act is nowhere close to what we have seen both in the parliament and outside. MP Harin Fernando after making a barbaric comment remains as an honourable member in the parliament. If it had been any other CM from other seven provinces we would have seen a section of clergy and laity justifying the stand of our beloved Hon. Chief Minister. ( Garu Mahaa Ameti Thuma!!!).

Role of Governor – We never hear the very existence of the Governor in the seven provinces outside North and East. This may be due to the period of transition and hope not for the showmanship of the remaining two. The resultant effect is the public sector, Police and Military are having greater dealing with the Governor than the elected Chief Ministers. This counters the Government’s efforts towards reconciliation and building foundations of partnerships. By Governors own admission he had given the green light for him to come by road. In such an event Governor too has to take the major blame as he should have gracefully invited the CM on stage. At least when CM protested at first instance he should have promptly responded and called the CM to be his side or have the guts tell him please go and sit down. What appears on the clip appears to indicate Governor preferred to be alone with the US Ambassador.

Responses by Tri Forces – In this incident the responses by Tri Forces is an overreaction. It only adds fuel to the anti ethnic and anti government forces. Navy Commander too should take some blame for exposing his officer to such environment. But he has the right to escalate the issue of abuse for further investigation by the civilian authority who will tackle the issue in hand and resolve and give due guidelines to prevent recurrence. The arbitrary announcements such as Tri Forces To Boycott Eastern Province Chief Minister ‘‘is not called for. As the constitution of Sri Lanka – the control of military is exercised by the civilian authority – not vice versa.

Military uniform should be given the same sanctity as the robes of the clergy. The day clergy forgot this and entered parliament we saw what happened. Without even giving the respect to men in robes our elected political thugs assaulted and squeezed the genitals of a priest on the floor of the parliament and sent him to hospital. The robe was disgraced by the very priest who thought it fit to hold a political office. Hope, the same fate does not befall the military uniform. Communiqués on this issue purported by Secretary Defence; and the stand taken by Tri Forces has been pre judgmental. This only aided fuelling ethnic centric emotions by persons with vested interests. Since then the Secretary Defence has backtracked and reworded his stance – in the best interests of both sides decisions were taken in not taking part in events attended by CM. Prime Minister too, has advised both parties to remain silent until the return of the President.

This whole episode however miniscule it may be in the conduct of affairs of a nation epitomises emotions, passions, currents and under currents, which needs serious attention by the Government. If we believe in the provincial council system as a viable model we have to gracefully hand over the reins to CM without pulling it from another direction. Here it is clearly evident there has been smoke under the carpet in the working relationship between both the Governor and the CM. Central Government cannot encourage such situations and has to address the issues as and when it occurs.

Social media has shown overwhelming support to the concerned Navy Officer and the use of the word idiot is seen as a grave unpardonable crime. Unfortunately, filth spoken by legislators in parliament is forgotten with an apology and it had lukewarm response on the social media.

Military should re posture itself to be a viable entity in peace times. They are professionals and they do not require sympathy or empathy from anyone; may it be the politicians, clergy or the general public. Military should shun events of this nature including so called ‘Upahara Ulelas’ politicians organise to promote themselves. This will make the commemoration day held once a year more meaningful where the entire nation joins in saluting those who made the supreme sacrifice.

May this episode help the political authority to give direction and resources to re posture Sri Lankan Military to face future challenges both nationally and globally.

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